Hillary's Benghazi Scapegoat

Guy Benson

5/21/2013 10:26:00 AM - Guy Benson

Another State Department whistle-blower of sorts has come forward, this one with an axe to grind -- and it looks like Hillary's inner circle handed him the axe:

Following the attack in Benghazi, senior State Department officials close to Hillary Clinton ordered the removal of a mid-level official who had no role in security decisions and has never been told the charges against him. He is now accusing Clinton’s team of scapegoating him for the failures that led to the death of four Americans last year...“The overall goal is to restore my honor,” said Maxwell, who has now filed grievances regarding his treatment with the State Department’s human resources bureau and the American Foreign Service Association, which represents the interests of foreign-service officers...“I had no involvement to any degree with decisions on security and the funding of security at our diplomatic mission in Benghazi,” he said. 


The State Department declined to comment on the reasons that Maxwell and the other officials were placed on administrative leave, or on what the four were told about the reasons for the decision. It did confirm that the ARB did not recommend direct disciplinary action because it didn’t find misconduct or a direct breach of duty by the officials...Since the leave is not considered a formal disciplinary action, Maxwell has no means to appeal the status, as he would if he had been outright fired. To this day, he says, nobody from the State Department has ever told him why he was singled out for discipline. He has never had access to the classified portion of the ARB report, where all of the details regarding personnel failures leading up to Benghazi are confined. He also says he has never been shown any evidence or witness testimony linking him to the Benghazi incident.


The Daily Beast's Josh Rogin reports that Maxwell's non-firing firing "seems to conflict with the finding of the ARB that responsibility for the security failures leading up to the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi should fall on more senior officials." (Hyperlink mine). Maxwell is a mid-level career employee who was planning to retire in September.  Now he's mired in disciplinary limbo; still drawing a paycheck, but not permitted to enter the building.  He now believes Sec. Clinton's allies selected him as a suitable fall guy for their mess.  He says they've been trying to get him to agree to "go away," reportedly going so far as to withdraw an initial arrangement to effectively reinstate him once the Benghazi controversy "blew over."  Is this what "accountability" looks like?

Soon after being removed from his job, Maxwell was visited at his home late one evening and directed to sign a letter acknowledging his administrative leave and forfeiting his right to enter the State Department. He refused to sign, responding in writing that it amounted to an admission he had done something wrong.  “They just wanted me to go away but I wouldn’t just go away,” he said. “I knew Chris [Stevens]. Chris was a friend of mine.” The decision to place Maxwell on administrative leave was made by Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills, according to three State Department officials with direct knowledge of the events. On the day after the unclassified version of the ARB’s report was released in December, Mills called Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Beth Jones and directed her to have Maxwell leave his job immediately...One State Department official close to the issue told The Daily Beast that Clinton’s people told the leadership of the NEA bureau that Maxwell would be given another job at State when the Benghazi scandal blew over. Maxwell said Jones assured him he would eventually be brought back to NEA as a “senior advisor,” but that Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, reneged.


Yes, that would be the same Cheryl Mills who dressed down whistle-blower Greg Hicks after he defied State Department (read: her) orders not to meet with Congressional investigators in Libya.  And that would be the same Cheryl Mills who served as Sec. Clinton's chief of staff.  Mills appears to be responsible for felling this sacrificial lamb, and I'd be willing to bet she was also involved in orchestrating Hicks' demotion after he complicated State's efforts at misdirection by asking pesky questions.  Was Mills freelancing, or following direct (or tacit) orders to protect her boss?  Hopefully Darrell Issa and company will get a chance to ask her under oath.  Speaking of Congressional Republicans, they're getting fairly strong marks from the public on their handling of inquiries into the Benghazi matter.  CNN's latest numbers, fresh this week (via Ed Morrissey):

A CNN/ORC International survey released Sunday morning also indicates that congressional Republicans are not overplaying their hand when it comes to their reaction to the three controversies that have consumed the nation’s capital over the past week and a half. And the poll finds that a majority of Americans take all three issues seriously…According to the poll, 44% say statements made by the Obama administration soon after the attack were an attempt to intentionally mislead the public. Half of those questioned say those statements reflected what the Obama administration believed, at the time, had occurred. But 59% now say that the U.S government could have prevented the attack in Benghazi, up 11 points from last November. And only 37% say that congressional Republicans are overreacting in their handling of the matter, with 59% saying they’ve reacted appropriately.

That's +22 spread for Issa's crew; not bad at all, especially considering Republicans' polling problems on other fronts.  The positive reviews are also deserved, too. House Oversight Republicans were sober and sharp during the latest round of Benghazi hearings.  Committee Democrats, for the most part, were not.  As House investigators continue to pursue the truth, it would behoove the White House to stop shrugging off substantive and serious questions as "irrelevant."


UPDATE
- The White House earns Three Pinocchios from WaPo for their latest spin that the Benghazi emails exonerate the administration, and that Republicans "doctored" emails to paint an inaccurate picture.  A majority in the new ABC News/Washington Post poll believe the White House is covering something up on Benghazi.  But Howard Dean seems to think it's all just a "laughable joke:"