Former ambassador Thomas Pickering says he was willing to testify last week to a House panel looking into the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya last year but that he was blocked from doing so.
Pickering, on NBC's “Meet the Press” today, took issue with a claim from the committee chairman, Republican Darrell Issa, who said Pickering “refused to come before our committee.”
Sitting next to Issa, Pickering responded, “That is not true.” He said in a separate interview that he had asked, through the White House, to appear — and that he could have answered many of the questions lawmakers raised. Those questions included whether U.S. military forces could have saved Americans if they had dispatched F-16 fighter jets to the consulate.
Pickering and former Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen produced a report critical of security in Benghazi. They did not question Clinton at length but they concluded that the decisions about the consulate were made well below the secretary's level and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wasn't to blame.
Their report did find that “systematic failures and leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels” of the State Department meant that security was “grossly inadequate to deal with the attack that took place.”
Meanwhile, there's still a focus on the talking points used by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the days after the attack, when she said it stemmed from a protest over an anti-Islamic video. A series of emails between the State Department and the CIA led to the erroneous description. And Republican Sen. John McCain tells ABC it was a “cover-up.” He's again calling for a select committee to investigate.