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Republicans to Press Benghazi Issue With National Security Nominees

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Making clear they are not relenting in trying to hold the Obama administration accountable for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, a trio of Republican senators said Friday they’ll continue to press the matter at nomination hearings for Obama’s national security nominees.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., released a list of questions they said are still “unanswered” about Benghazi, noting, “As the U.S. Senate considers President Obama’s key national security nominations in the coming weeks,” the questions must be addressed.

President Obama has had to replace key members of his outgoing national security team. The nominees, including John Brennan for CIA director and former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Department of Defense, all need to be confirmed by the Senate.

The senators have hinted that they won’t move the nominees through unless their questions about Benghazi are answered.

Graham has threatened to delay Brennan’s nomination until the senators are satisfied with the answers from the White House on Benghazi.

“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary, action to get information from this administration,” Graham said in a statement. “I have tried – repeatedly – to get information on Benghazi, but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.”

The questions, as outlined by the senators, are as follows:

1. “Was the president made aware of the classified cable that, according to published media reports, Ambassador Chris Stevens sent on Aug.15, 2012, stating that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault from one or more of the threatening militia groups that were operating in eastern Libya?

2. Was the secretary of state made aware of that cable and its contents?

3. Did the president’s national security staff make him aware of the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that occurred in April and June of last year and the assassination attempt on the British ambassador in Benghazi around the same time?

4. If so, what actions did the president and secretary of state take?

5. When was the president first informed about the attack on Sept. 11, 2012, and what actions did he take?

6. What were the president’s activities during the seven hours the attack went on?

7. What were the secretary of state’s activities during this time?

8. On the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in American history, after multiple attacks this year on U.S. and Western interests in Libya, and with rising insecurity in countries across the Middle East, why were U.S. military units and assets in the region not ready, alert and positioned to respond in a timely fashion to what should have been a foreseeable emergency?

9. Why were the testimonies of the U.S. personnel who were evacuated from Benghazi on Sept. 12 – eyewitnesses who knew there never was a demonstration outside the consulate – not shared in a timely way with, and immediately factored in to the judgments of, our intelligence community?

10. Does this failure reflect obstacles that still exist to the free sharing of information across executive branch agencies, which was a key concern of the 9/11 commission?

11. Why has the administration refused to provide the full text of emails regarding the deletion of references to al Qaeda and terrorism in the talking points on which Ambassador Rice relied several days after the attack?

12. Considering that the president now labels the Benghazi attack as an act of terrorism, why has he designated the search for those responsible as a criminal investigation led by the FBI?

13. Has the FBI-led criminal investigation in any way impeded the ability of other government agencies to investigate and assist in identifying those responsible for the attack?

14. Why did the administration not do more to support and assist the new Libyan government that took power after the fall of Gadhafi as al Qaeda, affiliated groups and local militias established sanctuaries in the ungoverned spaces of eastern Libya – a development that directly implicates U.S. national security interests, and which is the real explanation why four Americans lost their lives in Benghazi?”

President Obama has called for a speedy confirmation hearing for his nominees.

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