Republicans hoping for a smoking gun to hurt Hillary Clinton's presidential bid from a House of Representatives panel investigation into the 2012 deadly attack on an outpost in Benghazi, Libya, will be left disappointed by its findings.
Republicans on the select committee on Benghazi released a long-awaited report finding that the Obama administration had failed to protect ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in the September 11th attack but no fresh evidence of wrongdoing by Mrs Clinton, then US secretary of state.
The two-year investigation – the 12th into the terror attack and the eighth by a congressional committee – faulted the slow response to US military forces being sent to Libya to protect the Americans in Benghazi, despite orders coming from President Barack Obama and then secretary of defence, Leon Panetta.
No American military troops were deployed to Libya until almost eight hours after the attacks began, said committee chairman, Republican Trey Gowdy.
“The [military] assets ultimately deployed by the defence department in response to the Benghazi attacks were not positioned to arrive prior to the final lethal attack on the annex,” the Republicans said in their 800-page report.
“The fact that this is true does not mitigate the question of why the world’s most powerful military was not positioned to respond.”
The state department was criticised for not realising the danger posed to the outpost in Benghazi and found that Mr Stevens was planning for a scheduled visit by Mrs Clinton the month after the attack, as part of a plan to open a permanent consulate in Benghazi after the fall of dictator Muammar Gadafy.
The Libyan attack has been the source of political rancour and intense Republican focus, coming just before Mr Obama’s re-election in 2012 and putting Mrs Clinton centre stage during her presidential election campaign.
She testified before the committee during a 11-hour hearing in October.
The committee discovered Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, leading to an FBI investigation into her handling of classified information – a controversy that has cast a shadow over her campaign.
Democrats on the committee who dismissed the panel as a political witch-hunt set up to damage Mrs Clinton released their own findings in a report on Monday after they were not allowed to co-author the committee’s report.
Likely Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has used the Benghazi attack as campaign fodder in his attacks against Mrs Clinton.
Her campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said that the report had not found anything to contradict the conclusions of multiple previous investigations.
The report confirms the committee’s chief goal, he said – “to politicise the deaths of four brave Americans in order to try to attack the Obama administration and hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign”.