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Clinton’s Accountability Review Board Was Hardly Independent

- October 22, 2015

Clinton And The State Department Appointed The ARB’s Members

ARB Co-Chair Admiral Mike Mullen Acknowledged That Clinton Appointed Four Out Of The Five Members Of The Accountability Review Board (ARB). REP. JOHN MICA (R-MI): “You didn’t interview the Secretary of State. She appointed four out of the five members, is that correct, of the Board?” ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN. “She did.” (Admiral Mike Mullen, Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Testimony, 9/19/13)

Clinton Counsel Beth Jones Acknowledged Close, Professional Relationships With An ARB Co-Chair And Its Executive Director. “Also, the committee identified several conflicts of interest between the ARB and the people it was investigating. Jones admitted to the committee that she had close personal and professional relationships with both Pickering and the executive director of the ARB staff, Uzra Zeya.” (Josh Rogin, “Congress: Hillary’s Benghazi Investigation Let Top Officials Escape Blame,” The Daily Beast, 9/15/13)

The ARB Gave A Top Clinton Aide A “Heads-Up” Of Embarrassing Testimony About The State Department

The ARB Notified A Top Clinton Aide Of The Embarrassing Testimony About The State Department. REP. JORDAN: “All right. In that same interview with committee staff, you were asked, did you update the State Department in the course of the ARB? You replied, quote, ‘Shortly after we interviewed Ms. Lamb, Charlene Lamb, I initiated a call to Ms. Mills to give her a heads up because at this point, Ms. Lamb was on the list to come over here to testify.’ Now, is the ‘over here to testify’ -- is that in reference to when Ms. Lamb testified in front of this committee?” MULLEN: “In October.” JORDAN: “In October?” MULLEN: “Yes, sir.” (House Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, Reviews Of The Benghazi Attack And Unanswered Questions, 9/19/13)

  • Admiral Mike Mullen: I Gave Clinton’s Aide “A Heads-Up That I Didn’t Think That Charlene Lamb Would Be A Witness At That Point In Time That Would Represent The Department Well.” JORDAN: “So, what day did you interview -- what day did you interview Charlene Lamb, do you know?” MULLEN: “Between the 3rd and the 10th.” JORDAN: “OK. And then when did you talk to Cheryl Mills, right after that?” MULLEN: “No, not right after that. I’d say within 24 hours. And specifically to give her a heads-up that I didn’t think that Charlene Lamb would be a witness at that point in time that would represent the department well.” (House Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, Reviews Of The Benghazi Attack And Unanswered Questions, 9/19/13)

The ARB Gave Clinton And Her Top Aide A Copy Of ARB Report Before It Was Made Public. REP. JIM JORDAN: “Did Cheryl Mills -- two last questions, if I could, Mr. Chairman. Did Cheryl Mills get to see this report before it went public?” MIKE MULLEN: “We had a draft report when it was wrapped up. We specifically briefed the secretary of State...” JORDAN: “Also...” MULLEN: “... for a couple of hours, and Ms. Mills was in the room.” JORDAN: “So, both Cheryl Mills and Hillary Clinton got to see this report before it went public?” MULLEN: “It was submit -- we were -- the report was...” JORDAN: “Let me ask you the last one.” MULLEN: “The report was submitted to her. The secretary of State made a decision...” JORDAN: “So, before December 18th...” MULLEN: “... to release it.” JORDAN: “... they both got to see it?” (Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 9/19/13)

Former Obama Homeland Security Official: The ARB Report Doesn’t Fit “Anyone’s Definition Of Being Fiercely Independent”

Former Obama Department Of Homeland Security Official, Todd Keil: The Benghazi ARB Report Doesn’t Fit “Anyone’s Definition Of Being Fiercely Independent.” REP. JIM JORDAN: “Mr. Keil, what’s your – what’s your overall impression of the ARB report?” TODD KEIL: “Mr. Sullivan and I testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Ambassador Pickering referred to the ARB as being fiercely independent. In that same hearing Admiral Mullen admitted to Oversight and Government Reform that he was reporting on ARB proceedings to the senior staff of the State Department outside of the precepts and the requirements of being a member of the ARB. I don’t think that fits anyone’s definition of being fiercely independent.” (Select Committee On Benghazi, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 9/17/14)

Clinton Wasn’t Even Interviewed By The ARB

A State Department Spokesperson, Patrick Ventrell, Confirmed That The Accountability Review Board Did Not Interview Clinton For The Benghazi Report. QUESTION: “It was five hours, and she did not. I checked the transcript this morning. She never discloses in there whether she talked to the ARB or Accountability Review Board. If you search it by text, it’s not in there. But they did not have access to her, correct?” VENTRELL: “Again, she spoke to this. I’d be happy after the briefing to get you the exact transcript.” QUESTION: “I’m asking you a very simple question, Patrick: Did they have access to her? Did they interview her?” VENTRELL: “Again, the ARB –” QUESTION: “They did not, correct?” VENTRELL: “Mr. Rosen.” QUESTION: “Correct?” VENTRELL: “Mr. Rosen, the ARB is an independent body. They can choose who they want to interview. We have two of the most respected people in Washington – chose who they wanted to interview and needed to interview for the information that they needed. I will get you –” QUESTION: “So they decided they didn’t need to talk to Secretary Clinton?” VENTRELL: “Let me finish. Let me finish. I will find you the quote where Secretary – former Secretary Clinton talks about this and her willingness, if the ARB needed to talk to her, to do so. They didn’t, and that was their decision.” (Patrick Ventrell, State Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 5/6/13)

  • Ventrell: “They Didn’t [Interview Clinton], And That Was Their Decision. And They Felt That, Based On The People That They Were Able To Talk To, They Had A Complete Picture.” QUESTION: “So they decided they didn’t need to talk to Secretary Clinton?” VENTRELL: “Let me finish. Let me finish. I will find you the quote where Secretary – former Secretary Clinton talks about this and her willingness, if the ARB needed to talk to her, to do so. They didn’t, and that was their decision. And they felt that, based on the people that they were able to talk to, they had a complete picture.” (Patrick Ventrell, State Department Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 5/6/13)

Clinton: The Accountability Review Board Did Not Think I Was “Relevant” To Their Investigation. CLINTON: “The specific issues they were looking at regarding the attack on Benghazi were handled by security professionals in the department. And that is where the ARB focused. Obviously, if they had thought that I was relevant or had information that would have helped the investigation, I would have gladly discussed that with them at their request.” (Secretary Hillary Clinton, Committee On Foreign Affairs, U.S. House Of Representatives, Testimony, 1/23/13)

A Former Regional Security Officer In Tripoli, Eric Nordstrom, Testified “That Top People In Clinton’s State Department… Were Allowed To Escape Any Accountability For The Failures That Preceded The Benghazi Attack.” “Eric Nordstrom, a former regional security officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, testified to Issa’s committee that top people in Clinton’s State Department, including Kennedy, were allowed to escape any accountability for the failures that preceded the Benghazi attack. The ARB interviewed Kennedy, but not Clinton, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, or Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides. ‘It’s an accountability of midlevel officer review board, and the message to my colleagues is that if you are above a certain level, no matter what your decision is, no one is going to question it. And that is my concern with the ARB,’ Nordstrom testified May 8.” (Josh Rogin, “Congress: Hillary’s Benghazi Investigation Let Top Officials Escape Blame,” The Daily Beast, 9/15/13)

  • Nordstrom: “It’s An Accountability Of Mid- Level Officer Review Board. And The Message To My Colleagues Is That If You’re Above A Certain Level, No Matter What Your Decision Is, No One’s Gonna Question It. And That’s My Concern With The ARB.” ERIC NORDSTROM: “And this might also address Congressman Connolly’s question. My -- my concern with the report is not that Undersecretary Kennedy was or was not interviewed. I don’t know who was interviewed. And, again, that’s part of the confidentiality of it. But there’s been a lot of discussion of how many people were supposed to be there or not supposed to be there. Those things are not driven by regulations and law. That’s a subjective opinion. Obviously, I made (ph) -- that was quite a bit of my testimony in October. I go back to who authorized embassy employees, U.S. government employees, to go into facilities that did not meet legal requirements. I don’t know who made that decision. And the reason why is because, as Ambassador Pickering said, he has decided to fix responsibility on the assistant secretary level and below. How I see that is, that’s fine. It’s an accountability of mid- level officer review board. And the message to my colleagues is that if you’re above a certain level, no matter what your decision is, no one’s gonna question it. And that’s my concern with the ARB.” (Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 5/8/13)

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