POLITICS: PennAve

Sen. Lindsey Graham: Congress should consider contempt charge for former CIA deputy chief

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Sen. Lindsey Graham says Congress should consider holding former CIA Deputy Director Michael Morell in contempt for repeatedly misleading Congress regarding the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

"Yes, we need to think about that," the South Carolina Republican told a small gathering of reporters at the Capitol Wednesday.

The Obama administration initially said that the Sept. 11, 2012, assaults that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were spontaneous, and linked to protests earlier that day in Cairo against an American-made video denigrating the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Graham and other congressional Republicans have accused Morell of pushing the White House's version of the story while ignoring intelligence reports that showed the attacks were planned in advance by an organized terrorist group.

Morell, who appeared before a House committee last week, has denied he changed the CIA's talking points on the cause of the attacks. But Republicans say agency emails and other evidence suggest Morell is lying, and that he bowed to political pressure to frame the message to the White House's liking.

"Yes, I think that is a breach of faith" by Morell, Graham said.

But House Democrats called the Republican-led investigation into the attacks a partisan "witch hunt" and said it should end.

Graham added that the process of using congressional committees to hold administration officials accountable is "disjointed" and should be revisited.

"The worst possible way to gain information is to use the committee process where you have five-minute rounds" of questions, he said. "There should be a professional counsel conducting the investigation.

"We're trying to get information. The process we're using doesn't allow us to get information and it stovepipes the results, and I think Mike Morell's testimony last week is a great example."

Graham and other Republicans, notably Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, have been pushing Senate Democratic leaders, who control the chamber, to set up a special select committee to investigate the Benghazi attack. But Graham said their requests haven't been heeded.

Contempt of Congress is a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and fines of up to $100,000.

Graham's contempt comments follow two votes in the Republican-controlled House this week to hold former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner accountable for her role in the agency's targeting of conservative groups.

The Ways and Means Committee voted Wednesday to ask the Justice Department to consider criminal charges against Lerner, and on Tuesday, the Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report recommending the full House find Lerner in contempt for her refusal to answers questions about the scandal.

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