As hearings probing the Benghazi terrorist attacks gear up to begin Wednesday, the plot is definitely thickening.
Hillary Clinton confidants spent a Sunday afternoon trying to scrub Benghazi documents of any incriminating information about the former secretary of state before they were reviewed by a board investigating the deaths of an American ambassador and three other men during the attacks of 2012.
That’s the bombshell story told to former CBS News reporter Sharyll Attkisson by a former diplomat who took the fall in the wake of the attack that came in the heat of President Obama’s re-election campaign, and made his whole claim to being on top of threats to American security look as hollow as it was.
According to Attkisson, who wrote the report for The Daily Signal, a news outlet for the Heritage Foundation, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Maxwell said he went to the State Department headquarters on a Sunday afternoon in the months after the Benghazi attack after being told there was activity going on with records about Benghazi.
In the building’s basement, where the department maintains an operations center for use in emergencies, he found an office director who technically reported to him but had been assigned to work without him being told.
“She told me, ‘Ray, we are to go through these stacks and pull out anything that might put anybody in the [Near Eastern Affairs] front office or the seventh floor in a bad light,’” Maxwell told Attkisson.
The “seventh floor” was State Department jargon for the offices of then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers.
“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’” Maxwell said. “She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’”
Where did the orders come from? Attkisson’s account doesn’t say, but a hint might come from the fact that shortly after he arrived, Clinton’s chief of staff Cheryl Mills and her deputy, Jake Sullivan.
“When Cheryl saw me, she snapped, ‘Who are you?’” Maxwell told Attkisson. “Jake explained, ‘That’s Ray Maxwell, an NEA deputy assistant secretary.’ She conceded, ‘Well, OK.’”
The material Maxwell claims was being searched was supposed to be sent to the Accountability Review Board, the State Department unit investigating the Benghazi attack.
That same board ended up finding Maxwell and three other lower level State Department employees to be responsible for the Benghazi fiasco — but never formally accused of wrongdoing.
Former Secretary Clinton was cleared of any fault.
So, was the scrubbing mission accomplished?
Here’s the most telling quote in Attkisson’s story. After he’d been placed on administrative leave, Maxwell said he went to a State Department ombudsman to see where he stood.
“She told me, ‘You are taking this all too personally, Raymond. It is not about you,’ ” Maxwell told Attkisson.
“I told her that ‘My name is on TV and I’m on administrative leave, it seems like it’s about me.’ Then she said, ‘You’re not harmed, you’re still getting paid. Don’t watch TV. Take your wife on a cruise. It’s not about you; it’s about Hillary and 2016.’ ”
The House Select Committee on Benghazi, chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., will hold its first televised hearings on the Accountability Review Board’s findings on Wednesday.
Attkisson’s account of Maxwell’s story could liven things up considerably.
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