CNN | Republicans are not baseless when they argue that al Qaeda was connected to the 2012 attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday. Those claims are rooted in intelligence gathering – not pulled out of thin air to advance a Republican storyline, he told CNN.
His comments come in response to a New York Times article that states al Qaeda had no role in the assault, countering a narrative that the Times' says has been pushed primarily by Republicans as investigations unfold.
But Rogers took issue with the Times' investigation, saying intelligence shows al Qaeda was involved in the planning stages of the deadly attack, which left four Americans dead, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
"I don't think this is only a Republican stance that it was an al Qaeda attack," the Michigan Republican told CNN shortly after his appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "The body of intelligence from the raw reports - the 4,000 of them leading up to the day of the attack, to the events of the day of the attack, to the post-attack – all lead to the conclusion that al Qaeda was involved in the attack."
"That's not a Republicans position - that's a facts-based investigative position," he said.
While Congressional Republicans have been the loudest in finding blame for the Benghazi attack, some administration officials and Congressional Democrats have also linked al Qaeda or its affiliates to the event.
"To have this narrative change is curious to me," Rogers said. "We've been in a very thorough investigation of the House Intelligence Committee that certainly paints a different picture based on the intelligence reports."
"I candidly do not believe that this should be a partisan issue," he added.
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who sits on the House Intelligence Committee with Rogers, said Sunday on Fox News that intelligence reports show al Qaeda or affiliates have been linked to the Benghazi attack. But, he added, the terrorist group is not entirely behind the assault, as other militant groups in the area were also involved.
Obama's former national security spokesman, Tommy Vietor, however, was quick to pounce on Republicans after reading the Times' report. He unleashed a series of tweets, including these, condemning Republicans:
- "If Rs spent 1/50th as much time as @ddknyt learning what really happened in #Benhazi, we could have avoided months of disgusting demagoguery."
- "Republicans inflated the role of al Qaeda in #Bengazi to attack Obama's CT record. They were wrong, and handed our enemy a propaganda win."
- "Credit to @ddknyt but also disconcerting that his #Benghazi article offered more insight into what happened than all Congressional hearings."
Responding to Vietor's tweets, House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, whose panel has held several hearings on the Benghazi attack, said the investigations were not a waste.
"It's never a waste to try to find out how to make sure American lives are not lost again," he told reporters in Washington after his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press."