The day after his highly publicized exchange with outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson was back at it with her designated successor.
The topic – Johnson’s concerns that initial State Department talking points regarding last year’s deadly attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya may have been a deliberate attempt to deceive, rather than a lack of sufficient facts – resulted in a heated exchange between Clinton and the Wisconsin Republican during a hearing into the Benghazi attack on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Johnson took a similar tack with Senator John Kerry, the White House nominee to succeed Clinton, at a confirmation hearing. Kerry turned the questioning back on Johnson.
AUDIO: Johnson, Kerry (2:45)
Kerry: Senator, in all fairness, we do know what happened. I think it is very clear. Were you at the briefing with the tapes?
Kerry: Well, there was a briefing with tapes, which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear. We sat for several hours with our intel folks who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw all of the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.
Johnson replied that he still wants to know more about the initial talking points, which ascribed the attack that killed four Americans to spontaneous protests. Only later did officials at the State Department report that Ambassador Christopher Stevens and the others killed had been victims of coordinated terrorist attacks.
Johnson: We know what happened in Benghazi now, because we have the reports. What we don’t know is why we were misled. I’m just looking to make sure that you as Secretary of State will work with me, so we actually do find out what the administration knew.
Kerry: Senator in fairness, I don’t want the American people to be left with a misimpression here. When you say ‘why we were misled,’ that implies an intent to actually mislead you somehow. I think that there was a description of a variance of talking points. I don’t know why that happened, but there was a description of that.
Johnson: And all I’m asking, will you help us to get to the bottom of why that happened, and then we can move on.
Kerry: The State Department will continue to cooperate – as it has – as it has in every respect to any request of this committee, or any committee of relevant jurisidiction.
Johnson: Great, and I appreciate that commitment.