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Republicans Vow To Keep Pressure On Benghazi Probe

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

On a Thursday, it's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Renee Montagne is reporting from Afghanistan. I'm Steve Inskeep.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

The events of September 11th, 2012 remain of intense interest to Congress. On that day last year, a U.S. ambassador was among four Americans killed in an attack on the consult in Benghazi, Libya. A State Department investigation has identified lapses in security before that attack, but House Republicans say they want to know more about the details of that battle. They have sought to trace responsibility to President Obama, or to his secretary of state at the time, Hillary Clinton.

Yesterday, a House committee took emotional testimony from a top U.S. official who was on the ground at the time.

NPR's David Welna has the story.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: For many Republicans, Benghazi is a scandal that makes Watergate and Iran -Contra look puny. And many of them hope yesterday's hearing by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would get a lot more people - including Democrats - furious about the Obama administration's handling of Benghazi.

Chairman Darrell Issa gaveled in the nearly six-hour hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Issa called the three State Department employees at the witness table whistleblowers. So did the panel's top Democrat, Maryland's Elijah Cummings.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: But Cummings was not so happy about a media buildup to the hearing with what he called unfounded accusations aimed at smearing public officials.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Just one of the witnesses was actually in Libya the day of the Benghazi attacks. Gregory Hicks was the number-two diplomat at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Hicks told of getting a phone call from Ambassador Chris Stevens, who had traveled to the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: The line then went dead. Several hours later, Hicks got a call from Libya's prime minister.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Hicks said he tried to no avail to scramble U.S. fighter jets to Benghazi. He also tried sending four special operations troops in Tripoli to Benghazi on a Libyan cargo plane, but the regional commander told them to stay put.

Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz wanted to know more.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: And Chairman Issa wanted to know what then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Hicks when she called him on the night of the attacks.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Republicans on the panel also replayed angry testimony from Clinton, who's now seen as a possible presidential contender. She appeared before a Senate hearing on Benghazi in January.

(SOUNDBITE OF SENATE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: South Carolina Republican Trey Gowdy had an answer.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: For New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney, there was no doubt what this hearing was really about.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: And Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan called the hearing a bust.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: Still, Chairman Issa left clear there's more to come.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING)

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.