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May 12. 2013 6:39PM

NH Sen. Ayotte calls for full-scale Benghazi investigation

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, repeated her call Sunday for a full-scale investigation by a select congressional panel into the Obama administration's actions before, during and after the attack on the U.S compound in Benghazi, Libya last October.

Appearing on the CBS broadcast Face the Nation, Ayotte suggested that the investigation should include an examination of allegations that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have approved a waiver of security requirements for the Benghazi compound.

Four Americans, including ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, died in the attack.

In congressional testimony last week, Eric Nordstrom, who served as a State Department regional security officer in Libya at the time of the attack, said all legally-mandated protective measures for the Benghazi complex were not in place at the time of the attack. Nordstrom said that under federal law, exceptions to the security requirements can only be made with the approval of the Secretary of State.

Appearing with Ayotte, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, said Republicans are zeroing in on Clinton to harm her chances in the 2016 presidential election.

Ayotte said further investigation of Clinton's role is appropriate, denying that the questions being raised are grounded in partisan politics.

"The fact that facility requirements for the consulate in Benghazi, the waiver of those requirements, by law, apparently, have to come from the Secretary of State — was she involved in that decision making," Ayotte said. "This is about getting to the bottom line of the truth — not about what happens in 2016."

Asked by program moderator Bob Schieffer whether she believes there was a cover-up by the Obama administration or an attempt to politically protect Clinton following the attack, Ayotte said numerous revisions to so-called talking points about the attacks resulted in "very important" information being deleted.

"All you need to do is hold up the original version and then what was actually released to the public," Ayotte said. "I believe that the real question is were they manipulated ... in the middle of an election to not tell, really, the full story, give the picture to the American people. I think that's a serious question."

Durbin dismissed the talking point controversy as the product of a "squabble" between the State Department and the CIA.

"The person representing the State Department happened to be Victoria Nuland, who has worked for Democrats and Republicans alike, at one time worked for Vice President Cheney," Durbin said. "She's certainly not a partisan in this exchange."

Ayotte and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, first proposed a select committee shortly before the 2012 presidential election.

bsmith@unionleader.com


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