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The most revealing paragraph in the House Benghazi report

Select Cmte On Benghazi Holds Press Briefing On Hillary Clinton Emails
Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi.
(Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images)
Zack Beauchamp is a senior correspondent at Vox, where he covers ideology and challenges to democracy, both at home and abroad. Before coming to Vox in 2014, he edited TP Ideas, a section of Think Progress devoted to the ideas shaping our political world.

The Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi has been investigating the attack on the US diplomatic mission in Libya since May 2014. The committee's report, released on Tuesday morning, contains several new details about the attack but finds no new evidence of wrongdoing by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, nor any new evidence of the administration plotting to hide the truth from the American people. Yet the report spins the evidence as harmful for the administration regardless.

For example, a big question in the highly partisan fight over the Benghazi attack has been whether the Obama administration could have stopped the attack with nearby US military assets but simply chose not to. This has been a theory, in some right-wing circles particularly, for a long time.

The House Select Committee’s report finds that there were no American forces in range, the same conclusion as previous reports. Yet it positions this fact as evidence of the Obama administration’s failures:

The assets ultimately deployed by the Defense Department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the Annex. The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond; or why the urgency and ingenuity displayed by team members at the Annex and Team Tripoli was seemingly not shared by all decision makers in Washington.

In other words: The facts find the administration wasn’t responsible for failing to stop the Benghazi attack, but the report tries to spin this evidence in a way that’s bad for Team Obama anyway. You see similar attempts to spin non-damning facts as damning in other parts of the report as well.

This shouldn’t be surprising. In an era of hyperpartisanship and presumptive presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Republicans have a big incentive to further the anti-administration Benghazi narrative in this kind of report, whether or not the underlying facts support their claims.

Yet nine different bodies have investigated Benghazi: the State Department's Accountability Review Board and eight separate congressional committees or staff reports. Each report has identified problems with the way the incident was handled by US government agencies — which are serious and worth raising — but none has uncovered real evidence of an administration cover-up or failure to properly respond to the attacks.

It would have been shocking if the House Select Committee had found new facts to support this narrative.

It didn’t.

Benghazi attack and the scandal, explained