John McCain (R-Ariz.) is pushing for a special congressional panel after… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
WASHINGTON — Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pressed Sunday for a special congressional committee to investigate the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, last year, insisting that questions about former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s role remain unanswered.
“I don’t know what level of scandal, unquote, this rises to, but I know it rises to the level where it requires a full and complete ventilation of these facts,” McCain said on ABC's “This Week.” “We’re still uncovering information which frankly contradicts the original line that the administration took.”
His comments came after the disclosure that administration emails on talking points about the deadly attack showed that the original CIA document underwent several revisions, including one pushed by the State Department to delete a reference to warnings about the terrorist threat around the facility.
PHOTOS: The controversy over Benghazi
McCain, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), first called for such a special panel on Benghazi last November. But the demand has gathered new backers this week since the emails appear to contradict initial claims by White House Spokesman Jay Carney that changes to the talking points in the days after the event were minor ones.
At least 139 House members are now backing a plan by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) to name a special committee. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has so far resisted the appointment of a special panel, arguing that multiple committees already looking into the attack can handle the job.
The head of a panel of retired diplomats and ex-military officers, which investigated the attack, said Sunday that there was no reason to conduct another probe into what happened at Benghazi and the U.S. response in the hours and days that followed.
“I don’t see yet any reason why what we did at the accountability review board should be reopened,” said retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
He noted that the panel had a narrow mandate to look at security arrangements at the facility. But he acknowledged that the panel had not questioned Clinton, who was still secretary of State, and other top State Department officials about their actions.
“We didn’t believe that was necessary, and I don’t see any reason to do so now,” he said.
Instead, he said, when they met with Clinton, they briefed her on their findings.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he has asked Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, who co-chaired the investigation, to answer questions after State Department officials criticized their review in hearings last week.
McCain said Clinton’s role was one issue still to be examined. “I think the secretary of State has played a role in this,” he said. “She had to have been in the loop some way, but we don’t know for sure.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), also appearing on “This Week,” said there was “absolutely not” a coverup by the administration but acknowledged that the talking points became a “consensus document that avoided all of the difficult issues.”