In a blow to the credibility of the ongoing Benghazi hearings, Democrats cited an Army lieutenant general who concluded "nothing could have affected what occurred in Benghazi."
That officer, Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman, served as chief counsel for Republicans on the committee investigating the September 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya. The attack claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty.
The ongoing hearings have been a point of contention between Republicans and Democrats, with the latter accusing the former of extending the inquiry solely for the purpose of trying to dredge up damning information on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who a Democratic presidential candidate.
The hearings have lasted for more than two years, and Democrats leaked partial transcripts of Chipman's comments in their latest attempt to get Republicans to back down.
In a letter, Democrats quoted transcripts showing Chipman agreed that the State Department could not have reacted in time to save Stevens and the three others who were killed.
“I would posit that from my perspective, having looked at all the materials over the last 18 months, we could not have affected the response to what occurred by 5:15 in the morning on the 12th of September in Benghazi, Libya,” Chipman said, per the transcripts.
In an interview with Leon Panetta, the former secretary of defense, Chipman said American officials did everything they could when the main diplomatic compound was assaulted by as many as 150 militants armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and artillery.
“I think you ordered exactly the right forces to move out and to head toward a position where they could reinforce what was occurring in Benghazi or in Tripoli or elsewhere in the region,” Chipman told Panetta, according to The Associated Press. “And, sir, I don’t disagree with the actions you took, the recommendations you made, and the decisions you directed.”
In a letter to the Benghazi panel's Republican chairman, South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Adam Smith of Washington chided Republicans for continuing the hearings despite consistent testimony showing U.S. forces could not intervene in time to stop the attacks.
"The conclusions of your former chief counsel match almost exactly the findings -- from more than two years ago -- of the House Committee on Armed Services, which conducted its own investigation into the attacks in Benghazi," Cummings and Smith wrote.
But Gowdy says there's more to learn, and disputed the Democrats' assertion that the ongoing investigation is political, according to USA Today.
“Talking to the generals and the admirals is important. So too is talking to the service members actually on the ground making preparations to carry out orders," Gowdy wrote to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on May 6. "I would rather risk interviewing a witness in good faith, who ultimately produces little probative information, than risk not interviewing one who does.”