Hannity Invites GOP Activist Toensing To Spout Debunked Myths Ahead Of Hillary Clinton's Testimony To Benghazi Committee
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A Republican activist, attorney, and key player in the Benghazi hoax accused a former congressional staffer of harassing Benghazi eyewitnesses during congressional testimonies before going to work for Hillary Clinton -- but the staffer in question actually left Congress months before the interviews of those eyewitnesses took place. The false claim is just the latest in a long line of fictions from the Benghazi hoaxster, who has been discredited by Republicans members of the House Intelligence Committee and Benghazi CIA contractors alike.
Victoria Toensing appeared on the September 9 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends to aid the network in reviving the myth of a "stand down" order in Benghazi. Going even further, Toensing claimed that Michael Allen, former chief of staff for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, orchestrated the harassment of three CIA contractors giving their eyewitness testimony on the Benghazi attacks before Congress, even speculating that Allen purposefully prohibited the Committee from getting answers before leaving to join a "Hillary organization":
STEVE DOOCY (co-host): When these three operators and the others came back and they testified behind closed doors to the House Intel Committee, I understand they were harassed by the House Intel Committee that we thought were trying to get all the answers. What was up with that?
TOENSING: Republicans. And they were told, they were accused that they were not telling the truth. They were threatened with "the committee is not going to pay your travel expenses," which committees always do for witnesses who come in from out of town, "because you're writing a book and you're going to make money, and by the way, you shouldn't be writing a book."
Now you say why would that happen with the Republican-dominated House Intelligence Committee? Well, that chief of staff, the head of that staff that harassed these three brave men, a few months later went to work for Beacon Global Strategies. That is a Hillary organization.
Please do not listen to Victoria Toensing. She does not represent us in any way shape or form
-- Kris Paronto (@KrisParonto) September 9, 2014
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) called out Fox News' favorite Benghazi lawyer, Victoria Toensing, for her "unfortunate" and untrue allegations about the 2012 attacks and subsequent investigations.
Fox & Friends invited Toensing on its September 9 program to weigh in on the network's latest attempt to revive the repeatedly debunked myth of a "stand down" order issued to three CIA security personnel in Benghazi.
Toensing dismissed the fact that both the House Intelligence Committee and various investigations determined that no such stand down order was issued, claiming the State Department had worked to undermine and "vilif[y]" the security personnel and Benghazi witnesses. According to Toensing, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee "harassed" the security contractors when they gave their testimony on Benghazi, pressuring them not to write about their experiences.
Rep. Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, shot down Toensing's accusations in a later segment on Fox & Friends. Rogers debunked the notion of any stand down order, and though he refrained from mentioning Toensing by name, he called out "lawyers who have a financial interest in this, certainly making allegations that are far from true." Rogers went on:
ROGERS: As I said, I hope everybody buys [the security contractors'] book, because these are very brave souls who served their country proudly, who ended up driving into unknown circumstances and saved them. That's all really good. And so, the only way that people buy the book is with some inflammatory comments. These are attorneys who have a financial stake in this. And it's unfortunate. The facts will -- we've asked that these transcripts be released, and I think that'll tell the truth. I think Americans can look at that and find out what was the real truth.
Toensing is well-known to be an unreliable source, previously criticized as lacking "impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism."
A coalition of Islamophobes, birthers, and conspiracy theorists led by a prominent supporter of impeaching President Obama will assemble at the Heritage Foundation this afternoon to discuss the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
The event, titled "Benghazi: The Difference It Makes Is Accountability!" will be co-hosted by the Benghazi Accountability Coalition. In a post at National Review Online, Andrew McCarthy, a conservative commentator and former federal prosecutor, identifies himself as the chairman of that new "volunteer organization."
McCarthy is the author of a new book that seeks to build "the political case" for President Obama's impeachment. The book includes a draft Articles of Impeachment detailing "The Benghazi Fraud." According to McCarthy, the talking points used by former Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to discuss the terrorist attacks on Sunday morning political talk shows constituted a deliberate effort "to defraud the American people in connection with matters of great public importance, in violation of [President Obama's] duty to execute the laws faithfully and his fiduciary duty to be truthful in his statements to the American people."
At National Review Online, McCarthy promises that today's forum will "feature some speakers with tremendous insights into the relevant issues about the Benghazi Massacre." James Jay Carafano, Heritage's vice present of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, will participate, lending the organization's imprimatur to the proceedings. Here are some of those notables who will appear alongside him:
Earlier this week Fox News hosted the "professional dirty trickster" who founded an anti-Hillary Clinton group with the acronym "C.U.N.T." The day before, it was the attorney who pushed fabricated anti-Clinton stories in the 90s. Last month, it was the woman who has suggested the Clintons may have had her husband killed.
Fox has never had particularly high standards for who they put on air, and it appears there's no source too incredible for Fox to host as long as they are willing to smear the Clintons. And that list is long.
As Joe Conason and Gene Lyons detailed in their book The Hunting of the President, in the 1990s, an array of conservative operatives, right-wing journalists, and opportunists sought to drive the Clintons from the White House. Their backgrounds were often shady, their methods deceitful, and their claims fraudulent.
So who might be the next guest for a network with no standards and an urge to stop a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run? Some of these figures have gone on to extensive careers in the conservative media, while others haven't been in the public eye for decades.
But all have literally unbelievable stories to tell.
Gary Aldrich is a former FBI agent who wrote a 1996 book about his time inside the White House during the first three years of the Clinton administration. CNN described the book, produced by a right-wing publisher and flacked by a Republican operative, as filled with "second-hand, unsubstantiated sexual rumors about and bitter attacks against President and Mrs. Clinton," including ludicrous claims that President Clinton was regularly ditching his Secret Service detail for trysts at a downtown hotel (Aldrich later said that allegation was a "hypothetical"). Aldrich also wrote that on "orders from the First Lady's Office," the White House Christmas tree was decorated with crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia as well as sex toys and condoms (unsurprisingly, the White House denied the charge).
Aldrich used the notoriety from his book to become a professional conservative. He founded the right-wing Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty in 1997 to support federal whistleblowers (Linda Tripp was among the organization's first clients), but the bulk of the group's spending soon focused on raising money and paying Aldrich's salary. The group was largely silent during the Bush administration, but re-emerged to support tea party groups in 2010. Aldrich has written op-eds for TownHall and the Daily Caller.
Larry Nichols spent years at the heart of the conservative campaign to smear President Clinton. A former jingle writer who became a marketing consultant for the State of Arkansas, he was fired from the Arkansas Development Finance Authority in 1988 for making hundreds of phone calls to Nicaragua contra leaders and their American political supporters on the taxpayer's dime, and apparently held a grudge. Shortly before Bill Clinton's 1990 re-election as governor of Arkansas, Nichols held a press conference announcing he was suing Clinton for allegedly using state funds to conduct affairs with five women. All five women subsequently signed affidavits denying the claims and threatened to sue Nichols, who later issued a statement saying he had wrongfully issued the accusations because he was mad about being fired. But the incident nonetheless ushered in the right-wing focus on Bill Clinton's sex life.
Nichols, who described himself as "smut central" in a 1998 interview, spent years tracking down sketchy rumors about women who had had affairs with the president and trying to peddle them to everyone from supermarket tabloids to major newspapers. Last year, he offered a new explanation for why he had spent years trying to destroy the Clintons -- he claimed to have "beat up women and beat up husbands to protect the Clintons" and even "killed people" for them for money until they turned on him and he had to defend himself.
Wednesday morning, Benghazi whistleblower attorney Victoria Toensing appeared on Fox News' Fox & Friends as part of a long standing campaign among conservatives to discredit the findings of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the Benghazi attacks, authored by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen.
Toensing delivered what has become the standard conservative myth -- the claim that the ARB report was a "corrupt cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton." She asserted:
Because they were not thorough. There are all kinds of people they didn't interview. They made false statements and they framed four State Department employees to take the blame away from the higher-ups. They did not interview Hillary. They did not interview her top deputy for security, Pat Kennedy.
That is a lie. Pat Kennedy was interviewed by the ARB, a fact Pickering, one of the authors, has made clear. On May 12, Pickering explicitly told CNN's Candy Crowley, "We interviewed Pat Kennedy." This was also pointed out during the May 8, 2013 House Oversight hearing on Benghazi. Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA) addressed the room, stating:
By the way, defend in statements that Undersecretary Kennedy was not interviewed by the ARB by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen. That is a misstatement of fact. He most certainly was. You can look it up. It is documented. He was interviewed, and he provided evidence. And that evidence was evaluated.
So it is not true that Undersecretary Kennedy was not part of that process. He most certainly was, and I would ask Mr. Chairman that the record so reflect.
In fact, Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren tweeted out this exchange:
So why tell such a blatant lie?
Because Toensing thinks she can get away with it and the right needs to discredit the ARB. Prepared in the aftermath of the attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, the report detailed more than two-dozen recommendations on improving security for our State Department personnel overseas. It did not cast blame on then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Barack Obama nor did it conform to the narrative conservatives and their allies on Capitol Hill -- namely Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) -- have been selling to the media about Benghazi.
Because both Pickering and Mullen are public servants with reputations beyond reproach, the right has had to work overtime trying to discredit their report.
The simplest way to attack the ARB is to claim their work was incomplete because they failed to interview specific witnesses.
And because the complete list of witnesses who spoke with the ARB remains classified, most often there is no way to respond to these accusations, unless a name was at sometime placed in the public record. Conservatives will continue to make claims about the ARB process, but without citations, the media should keep a watchful eye on which sources they trust.
Fox gave conspiracy theorist and Republican attorney Victoria Toensing a platform to revive repeatedly debunked myths about what happened after the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
On the August 21 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Toensing's claims included questions about the legitimacy of the independent Accountability Review Board's (ARB) report on the attacks as a "corrupt cover-up to protect Hillary Clinton" and the myth of Benghazi "whistleblower" and diplomat Gregory Hicks' demotion.
Toensing has propped up claims that have been proven false or misleading, misinformation that Fox News continues to peddle.
Her efforts to question the legitimacy of the ARB report are neither new nor credible. Toensing argued in a May 12 Weekly Standard blog post that the "report was purposefully incomplete and willfully misleading," and she claimed that the investigation did not include interviews with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This claim has been debunked, notably by ARB chairman and career diplomat Thomas Pickering, who said he did speak with Clinton and that their conversation about the Benghazi investigation was "more than sufficient for the preponderance of evidence that we had collected to make our decisions."
During a May 10 interview with radio host Steve Malzberg, Toensing stated that Hicks, her client and Benghazi "whistleblower," was "effectively demoted" as a result of what happened during and after the attacks. This story conflicts with Hicks' own statement during congressional testimony that concerns for his family kept him from returning to Libya.
Fox News Sunday selected Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, attorneys who represented witnesses at a Republican-led hearing on the attacks at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, for its "power players of the week," an unfortunate choice given that both individuals misled Fox News and its viewers about allegations of threats and intimidation against their clients and about efforts by the administration to prevent their clients from testifying.
Though Fox News Sunday aired certain aspects of Toensing and diGenova's biographies, the segment neglected to mention that the two have a history of poor professional conduct, including criticism from a Democratic congressman for inappropriate behavior and actions while they worked as congressional investigators due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. They were also accused of having a conflict of interest for representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation while simultaneously serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation. More recently, Toensing pushed the false claim that outed CIA agent Valerie Plame had not been covert, in addition to other falsehoods.
On April 29, Fox's Special Report aired video of Toensing claiming that people who wanted to testify on Benghazi "have been threatened," which Fox & Friends aired the following morning. Toensing was also cited by Special Report on April 29 in reporting the allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence" and that possible witnesses were having their careers threatened. And a May 6 FoxNews.com article by Fox Washington correspondents James Rosen and Chad Pergram sourced a claim that a witness named Mark Thompson "has been subjected to threats and intimidation by as-yet-unnamed superiors at State, in advance of his cooperation with Congress" to diGenova, who was representing Thompson.
But testimony by the witnesses at a GOP-led hearing on May 8 and subsequent interviews of their attorneys on Fox News revealed that Toensing and diGenova misled the network by claiming that their clients had suffered threats, intimidation, and orders to keep quiet. When asked on Fox's Your World on May 9 about claims that Thompson had been threatened, diGenova replied that Thompson "actually hasn't said that," and explained that his client "didn't feel intimidated."
Gregory Hicks, another witness at the hearing -- represented by Toensing -- explained under questioning that he had not been told not to speak to congressional investigators, only that he was required to have a State Department attorney present while doing so. Hicks also explained that, in contrast to claims that the administration tried to silence him, he was interviewed twice by the State Department's independent Accountability Review Board that was created to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Hicks' testimony further contradicted Toensing's April 29 claim to Special Report that careers were being threatened when he explained that "the overriding factor" in his determination to not return to his post in Libya was to remain with his family in the United States.
Continued Investigation Used To Help GOP Fundraise
The right-wing's Benghazi witch hunt is turning its attention to Thomas Pickering, a career diplomat, and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, in a campaign to discredit their non-partisan report on the Benghazi attacks and push for a permanent, partisan investigation -- an investigation Republicans are actively using to raise money and campaign against Democrats.
Pickering and Mullen led the State Department Accountability Review Board, which in December issued its findings as to what went wrong in Benghazi, Libya, surrounding the September 11, 2012, attacks on a diplomatic facility that led to the deaths of four Americans. The Wall Street Journal reported in a May 12 article that Pickering and Mullen would be the next targets of the right-wing campaign to politicize those attacks:
House Republicans on Monday plan to take another step in a widening Benghazi investigation, by asking leaders of an independent review board to agree to be questioned about their investigation of last year's attacks in Libya.
The formal request, to be submitted in letters on Monday, comes as GOP lawmakers move to discredit the investigation by the Accountability Review Board, a panel appointed under federal law last year by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to size up the adequacy of U.S. security measures and preparations at the diplomatic mission that was overrun in the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist assault.
This move to discredit the Accountability Review Board and push for a permanent investigation comes after Victoria Toensing, a Republican lawyer who represented a "whistleblower" who on May 8 testified for the third time about the attacks, penned a Weekly Standard blog post challenging Pickering and Mullen's report:
The White House has touted the Accountability Review Board (ARB) investigation of the Benghazi massacre as a review "led by two men of unimpeachable expertise and credibility that oversaw a process that was rigorous and unsparing." In fact, the report was purposefully incomplete and willfully misleading.
The two men in charge of the ARB, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen, a diplomat and military man respectively, have no meaningful investigative experience. Instead of letting the facts lead the direction of the investigation, the report appears designed to protect the interests of Hillary Clinton, the State Department higher ups, and the president.
But Toensing's criticism, the foundation of the attacks on the ARB, itself is incomplete and misleading.
According to Toensing, a fatal flaw in Pickering and Mullen's investigation was their failure to interview then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Pickering addressed that decision during a May 12 appearance on Meet the Press, saying that he did speak with Clinton and that the conversation was "more than sufficient for the preponderance of evidence that we had collected to make our decisions."
Toensing also built her call for further investigation on the discredited claim that the State Department's counterterrorism bureau was cut out of the decision-making process while the attacks were underway:
Mark Thompson, my husband's client, testified that he asked twice to be interviewed by the ARB and was not. Mr. Thompson was the deputy assistant secretary in charge of coordinating the deployment of a multi-agency team for hostage taking and terrorism attacks. Yet, he was excluded from all decisions, communications, and meetings on September 11 and 12, 2012. Why?
But during his May 8 Congressional testimony, Thompson, an assistant secretary of state for counterterrorism, acknowledged that the counterterrorism bureau was involved. That acknowledgement supports an earlier statement from the head of the State Department's Counterterrorism Bureau, who said: "at no time was the Bureau sidelined or otherwise kept from carrying out its tasks."
At this point, the indictment of Pickering and Mullen amounts to little more than criticizing the length of their conversations with Clinton and manufactured outrage over how far down the chain-of-command a meeting invite went.
These and other already answered questions are the basis of the right's continued push for yet another hearing. As the Wall Street Journal reported:
Interest in the Benghazi attacks was rekindled by a hearing last week in which the former No. 2 U.S. diplomat in Tripoli, Libya, testified about his experiences the night of the attacks. The diplomat, Gregory Hicks, testified as a whistleblower, criticizing administration statements in the first days after the attack that it had grown out of a demonstration.
As a result of Mr. Hicks's testimony, Republican lawmakers said Sunday that additional whistleblowers are likely to emerge. They also are pushing for the appointment of a special select committee to probe the attacks, bringing together investigations now under way at five different GOP-controlled panels.
Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) has called the administration's response to Benghazi--including inaccurate "talking points" used as the basis for early public statements--a "coverup" and endorsed the idea of a select committee, as did Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.). Mr. Inhofe predicted last week that the Benghazi investigation would lead to an impeachment debate.
A hint as to why the right continues to ask questions that have already been answered came May 10 with the revelation that Republicans were using the endless Benghazi investigations to raise money. Benghazi is more than just a fundraising opportunity for the right. It's also, and perhaps more importantly, an early attack on Hillary Clinton in advance of the 2016 election cycle, a fact driven home by conservative ads pivoting off Benghazi and by Fox News' graphics team:
One of the big bits of news to come out of the May 8 House Oversight Committee hearing was the claim that "whistleblower" Gregory Hicks felt he had been "effectively demoted" within the State Department for speaking out about the September 2012 attacks on the diplomatic facility in Benghazi. Hicks' attorney, Victoria Toensing, is making the right-wing media rounds, telling radio host Steve Malzberg that Hicks was forced out of his post in Libya after the State Department told him he could either take a desk job or lose his job altogether. Toensing's story, however, does not comport with what her client told Congress. Hicks testified that family considerations were the key factor in his decision not to return to Libya.
Here's the relevant portion from Toensing's appearance on Malzberg's May 10 program:
MALZBERG: So he got demoted, correct?
TOENSING: He did get demoted and you know what? That nasty State Department who has no integrity, shame on John Kerry for not taking charge of this, puts out "well he still has the same pay." And they lied this morning in the Washington Post, telling somebody who just prints what they said, that he sought the desk job that he describes as a demotion. No, he did not. Here's what happened. People need to know this. He was offered a choice: no job, or this job that doesn't mean anything. It's a desk job. It's like going from the -- like a co-anchor to the copy desk.
MALZBERG: So he was given two choices, you're saying, either "take a hike, you're fired," or "take this desk job."
TOENSING: I say it's like telling a starving man, "hey , you get this choice: You can either have no food or you get this rotten steak. What would you like? Would you like a rotten piece of beef or no food at all?"
And here's what Hicks said during the House Oversight Committee hearing (emphasis added):
REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS (R-TN): So when you came back to the United States, were you planning on going back to Libya?
MR. HICKS: I was. I fully intended to do so.
REP. DESJARLAIS: And what do you think happened?
MR. HICKS: Based on the criticism that I received, I felt that if I went back, I would never be comfortable working there. And in addition, my family really didn't want me to go back. We'd endured a year of separation when I was in Afghanistan 2006 and 2007. That was the overriding factor. So I voluntarily curtailed -- I accepted an offer of what's called a no-fault curtailment. That means that there's -- there would be no criticism of my departure of post, no negative repercussions. And in fact Ambassador Pope, when he made the offer to everyone in Tripoli when he arrived -- I mean Charge Pope -- when he arrived, he indicated that people could expect that they would get a good onward assignment out of that. [transcript via Nexis]
As Toensing noted (and disputed), the Washington Post reported on May 8 that the State Department challenged Hicks' version of events. Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the department successfully worked with Hicks to find a new temporary position, that Hicks has the same rank and salary, and was under consideration for future assignments. As Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson succinctly put it, Hicks "asked to come home, understandably, and the department parked him in a desk job -- with the same pay and rank -- until something more to his liking comes open."
Leading up to yesterday's House Oversight Committee hearing on Benghazi, the conservative media worked diligently to drive home the idea that the "whistleblowers" who testified had been silenced and were unable to make their voices heard to Congress or other investigative authorities. Much of that narrative was driven by Republican attorney Victoria Toensing, who portrayed her own struggles with bureaucratic red tape as evidence of an administration cover-up. Fox News' Special Report cited Toensing on April 29 in reporting on allegations that "the Obama administration is trying to intimidate potential whistleblowers into silence."
But the testimony of Gregory Hicks, one of the three witnesses at yesterday's hearing, put lie to the notion that the administration was suppressing his voice and opinion. Hicks, we learned, had already spoken with Congressional investigators in Libya. And he had been interviewed -- twice -- as part of the State Department's independent internal investigation. That, combined with the fact that other Benghazi survivors and witnesses have spoken to the FBI, the State Department, and Congress, dismantles the idea that the administration worked to keep Hicks or his cohorts from being heard.
Hicks caused a brief stir yesterday when he testified to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that he had been told by the State Department "not to allow the [regional security officer], the acting deputy chief of mission, and myself to be personally interviewed" by Rep. Jason Chaffetz when the Utah Republican led a Congressional delegation to Libya to investigate the Benghazi attacks. Some conservatives misinterpreted Hicks' testimony to mean that Hicks had been ordered not to speak to Chaffetz, period. Hicks, however, later clarified his remarks when questioned by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-NY), explaining that he had been told not to speak to Chaffetz without a State Department attorney present.
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Victoria Toensing and her husband and legal partner Joseph diGenova are pushing claims that anonymous State Department and CIA "whistleblowers" have been blocked and threatened by the Obama administration to prevent their testifying on the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Toensing and diGenova are longtime Republican activists, and Toensing has a history of pushing dubious claims and falsehoods into the media.
The buzzy new story on Fox News and conservative blogs involves Republican attorney Victoria Toensing and her claim that anonymous State Department and CIA "whistleblowers" have been blocked and even threatened by the Obama administration to prevent their testifying on the September 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Fox News' Ed Henry even asked President Obama about the story at today's press conference (the president said he had no idea what Henry was talking about).
It's worth noting that this is not Victoria Toensing's first foray into Benghazi "cover-up" allegations. Back in November 2012, Toensing wrote an op-ed for Fox News (of course) attempting to draw a sinister link between the Benghazi attack and the abrupt resignation of former CIA director David Petraeus. "Something is rotten in Benghazi-Petraeus," wrote Toensing, who laid out an intricate conspiracy tying the two events together which ultimately fell completely apart.
Toensing's argument was -- like most conspiracies -- dense and winding. According to Toensing, the fact that Petraeus supported the White House's initial indications that an anti-Islam video had incited the Benghazi attackers was "strange," given that Petraeus, in her view, must have known otherwise:
Because if an administration pushes a political agenda that applauds the killing of Bin Laden as the ultimate act for eradicating the radical Islamic threat, then that same administration ignores its Ambassador's urgent pleas for more security for fear it will appear Bin Laden's demise was not the answer to that threat. Our country's chief spy is supposed to know which theory is held up by the evidence.
The question, as Toensing saw it, was what motivation Petraeus had for going along with the White House. One explanation she came up with was that Obama was blackmailing his own CIA director with knowledge of the extramarital affair that ultimately led to Petraeus' resignation. And not only was Petraeus being blackmailed, per Toensing, but the administration had likely concealed knowledge of the affair it so it could be used against him at a later date.
Consider: All candidates for CIA employment must take a polygraph. Doesn't the nominee for DCI have to do so also? And that nasty little catch-all embarrassment question is always asked by the polygrapher. Usually, the polygraphee is thinking back to college and confessing to smoking pot. In 2011, it would not take a sterling memory for Petraeus to remember a 2011 affair.
Why is the administration's handling of the affair significant? Because sloppy vetting of the country's top spy and not giving timely notice to the oversight committees was either gross incompetence or a deliberate evasion of law. Or the sticky situation was used to pressure the DCI into backing the White House theory. Or there was a much bigger secret at Benghazi that all involved were (and still are ) trying to cover up.
Fox News is using the claims of discredited Republican lawyers famous for their attacks on Democrats to accuse unnamed Obama administration officials of issuing threats to witnesses to prevent their testimony on the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Former Reagan administration official Victoria Toensing and her husband and legal partner Joseph diGenova have claimed that they represent one of four "whistleblowers" to the Benghazi attack, and that those witnesses have been threatened by administration officials to prevent their testimony. Fox is portraying these allegations as part of a federal "cover-up," a claim that belies the fact that witnesses to the Benghazi attack have spoken to the FBI and an independent State Department investigation, and that some senators received their testimony. The State Department has said it is not aware of any employees claiming to be whistleblowers or attorneys attempting to gain security clearance to represent them.
On the April 30 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy cited allegations from the Republican lawyers to claim that unnamed Benghazi witnesses have been "threatened" by the Obama administration and are scared of speaking out. An on-screen graphic from Fox implied the State Department is preventing witnesses from giving testimony about the attacks:
But Toensing and diGenova are not merely unbiased advocates for whistleblowers, but rather GOP partisans who have been discredited from their unprofessional conduct and lies in earlier investigations.
A 1998 Washington Post profile of the couple reported, "Name a high-profile investigation in this city and chances are the prosecutorial pair is involved," pointing out their roles defending Republicans and investigating Democrats. Their actions came under fire with Democratic Congressman Bill Clay criticizing Toensing and diGenova for "relinquish[ing] the air of impartiality, non-partisanship, and professionalism" required when they were working as congressional investigators for a House Education and Workforce subcommittee, due to their constant media appearances attacking President Clinton. The pair were also accused of having a conflict of interest for serving representing a Republican committee chairman under Justice Department investigation at the same time they were serving as special counsel to the committee in a separate investigation.
More recently, Toensing pushed the falsehood that covert CIA agent Valerie Plame, who was outed to the media in 2003, did not have covert status. She has continued to make media appearances pushing false attacks on the Obama administration and has written columns for FoxNews.com attacking their response to Benghazi and calling for a special counsel to investigate other matters.
The claims by Fox and others that these witnesses are being prevented from testifying about the attacks as part of a government "cover-up" is undermined by the fact that witnesses have been interviewed by the FBI for its on-going criminal investigation into the attack and spoken to investigators from the State Department's independent review of the event. The Senate Intelligence committee reportedly received redacted transcripts from the FBI interviews of the survivors and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has said he's spoken with some of the survivors.
Furthermore, Fox's own guests have explained that government employees engaged in intelligence and other clandestine work, or witnesses in an on-going criminal investigation, simply wouldn't be able to talk about their experiences in public.