There have been so many Benghazi Bombshells that the non-obsessive might naturally wind up confused. The March 2013 CNN report on CIA agents who were not talking? Bombshell. The April 2013 House report that portrayed Hillary Clinton's State Department as incompetent? Bombshell. The May 2013 hearing at which three veterans of the State Department said they immediately classified the Sept. 11, 2012, events as an attack, by terrorists? Bombshell. This month's Fox News special, in which three security contractors said they were told to "stand down"? Bombshell.
Maybe it's because the two words are alliterative; maybe it's because one of these stories inevitably is going to change everything. Today, former CBS News reporter and current contributor to the Heritage Foundation's Daily Signal Sharyl Attkisson has a "bombshell" interview with former Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell, who was placed on "administrative leave" after a review of the attacks. In March 2013 the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin nabbed an interview with Maxwell, in which he attempted to clear his name amid charges that he was laid off for incompetence.
He believes that Clinton’s staff, not the ARB, was in charge of the review of the attack that took place during her watch.
“The flaws in the process were perpetrated by the political leadership at State with the complicity of the senior career leadership,” he said. “They should be called to account.”
In May 2013, Maxwell granted an interview to the House Foreign Affairs Committee; weeks later he talked to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The gist of the story each time was that Maxwell, who was not culpable, was scapegoated to protect the careers of others.
That's what makes the new story so baffling. If it's true, Maxwell has been sitting for at least 18 months on a story that puts Hillary Clinton's political advisers at the center of a conspiracy to conceal documents that could be damaging to the 2016 presidential frontrunner. They did it in a basement, on a Sunday, and Maxwell butted in in time to have the scheme described by "a State Department office director" who was close to the Clintonites.
“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,’” says Maxwell. He says “seventh floor” was State Department shorthand for then-Secretary of State Clinton and her principal advisers.
“I asked her, ‘But isn’t that unethical?’ She responded, ‘Ray, those are our orders.’ ”
A few minutes after he arrived, Maxwell says, in walked two high-ranking State Department officials.
In an interview Monday morning on Fox News, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, named the two Hillary Clinton confidants who allegedly were present: One was Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff and a former White House counsel who defended President Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial. The other, Chaffetz said, was Deputy Chief of Staff Jake Sullivan, who previously worked on Hillary Clinton’s and then Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns.
“When Cheryl saw me, she snapped, ‘Who are you?’” Maxwell says. “Jake explained, ‘That’s Ray Maxwell, an NEA deputy assistant secretary.’ She conceded, ‘Well, OK.’”
Holy ... what the ... why not mention that sooner? Previously, this was a story of a guy who was railroaded in order to protect the Clintons. It could have been a story about a guy who witnessed Clinton allies hiding evidence. You could compare this to Watergate, but Maxwell, unlike the members of the Nixon administration asked for evidence, was no longer on the team and already giving interviews about how his former bosses screwed up. Now, he says "he couldn’t help but wonder if the ARB—perhaps unknowingly—had received from his bureau a scrubbed set of documents." Why hold off on the "scrubbing" until now?
If for some reason Maxwell did hold off, this is 1) an incredible story, one that Ridley Scott should be trying to adapt, and 2) the strangest rollout of a bombshell I've ever seen. Attkisson mentions that Maxwell wrote poems that darkly hinted at the revelations he would share one day. He previously shared those poems with Attkisson in May 2013; he had declined an interview and offered verse instead. So, a year and a half ago, he let the world read a poem—on his WordPress blog, now deleted—that ended with this:
the more they talk, / the more they lie, / and the deeper down the hole they go… Just wait…/ just wait and feed them the rope.
Well, that would explain it. And if this particular Benghazi revelation falls to bits, it's nothing the GOP investigators haven't seen before.