House Republicans' report sheds new light on Benghazi attack

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A long-awaited report on the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi details an array of bureaucratic miscues and inter-agency blunders but does not specifically blame former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for events that led to the deaths of four Americans.

The 800-page document represents the end of a costly, politically charged investigation led by House Republicans who sought to understand the how the attack unfolded, and how the Obama administration — including Clinton — responded. But after more than two years and an estimated $7 million, the report, released Tuesday, instead paints a more nuanced portrait of incompetence.

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It details a misunderstanding of America's allies, a mistaken belief that fighting had subsided and breakdowns that delayed the military's attempts to save Americans from the diplomatic compound — including the inability to decide whether Marines should wear their uniforms.

The report also offers new details about why U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of the casualties, was at the compound in the Libyan city with only two State Department bodyguards, months after the British and others had evacuated the area.

NBC News obtained the first 175-page section of the full 800-page House Select Committee on Benghazi report. The full report was released later Tuesday morning. The Democratic minority released its own report Monday.

Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, said in a news conference that the report did not focus on Clinton, but sought a true and complete accounting of the events that led to the four Americans' deaths, and the government's response. He stressed a gaping disconnect between what was happening on the ground in Benghazi and what was happening in Washington.

RELATED: Benghazi Attacks during and after

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Benghazi Attacks during and after
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Benghazi Attacks during and after
A car vehicle burns after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
A vehicle sits smoldering in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
A vehicle and the surrounding area are engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi late on September 11, 2012. An armed mob protesting over a film they said offended Islam, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and set fire to the building, killing one American, witnesses and officials said. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/GettyImages)
(FILES) This file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows a vehicle and the surrounding area engulfed in flames after it was set on fire inside the US mission compound in Benghazi. A long-awaited inquiry into a deadly militant attack on the US mission in the Libyan city of Benghazi late on December 18, 2012 slammed State Department security arrangements there as 'grossly inadequate.' But the months-long probe also found there had been 'no immediate, specific' intelligence of a threat against the mission, which was overrun on September 11 by dozens of heavily armed militants who killed four Americans. AFP PHOTO / FILES (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. is doggedly pursuing the question of whether military personnel were told to âstand downâ during the 2012 deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, despite the insistence of military leaders and other Republicans that it never happened. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows glass, debris and overturned furniture are strewn inside a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The Pentagon says a Libyan militant accused in a deadly attack on Americans in Benghazi, Libya, is in U.S. custody. The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala marks the first time the U.S has apprehended one of the accused perpetrators in the 2012 attack. Khattala is a senior leader of the Benghazi branch of the terrorist group Ansar al-Sharia. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows a man walking through a room in the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. The State Department promised Wednesday to cooperate with the House special committee looking into the deadly 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, expressing hope the new investigation is conducted in a fairer and more bipartisan manner than previous Republican-led probes. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
FILE - This Sept. 12, 2012 file photo shows Libyans walking on the grounds of the gutted U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. An independent panel appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is opening its inquiry into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, amid demands from Congress for speedy answers to questions about the security of the mission and concerns that the FBI investigation into the incident has been delayed. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri, File)
A burnt car is seen after an attack on the U.S. Consulate by protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad in Benghazi, Libya, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
FILE - This Sept. 13, 2012 file photo shows a cameraman filming one of U.S. consulate burnt out offices after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The U.S. has identified five men they believe might be behind the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last year, and have enough evidence to justify seizing them by military force as suspected terrorists _ but not enough proof to try them in a U.S. civilian criminal court, the process the Obama administration prefers, U.S. officials said. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
FILE - This Sept. 13, 2012, file photo, shows a Libyan man walking in the rubble of the U.S. consulate after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. The testimony of nine military officers severely undermines claims by Republican lawmakers that a âstand-down orderâ held back military assets who could have saved those killed in the attack. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
An empty bullet is seen on the ground near one of the burnt out cars of the U.S. Consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Arabic writing reads " Villa of Jamal al Beshary". which was written by the original owner to protect the property from another attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
A picture shows the damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
A picture shows damage inside the burnt US consulate building in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
FILE - This Sept, 14, 2012 file photo shows a Libyan military guard standing in front of one of the U.S. Consulate's burnt out buildings during the visit of President Mohammed el-Megarif, to the U.S. Consulate to express sympathy for the death of the American ambassador, Chris Stevens and his colleagues in the deadly attack on the Consulate. The Pentagon says Congressâ multiple investigations of the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, have cost the department millions of dollars and thousands of hours of personnel time. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon, File)
A Libyan man explains that the bloodstains on the column are from one the American staff members who grabbed the edge of the column while he was evacuated, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens on the night of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it in outrage over a film that ridicules Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Arabic writing reads, " Villa of Jamal al Beshary". which was written by the owner to protect the property from another attack. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
An armchair and parasol float in the swimming pool of the US consulate in Benghazi on September 13, 2012, following an attack on the building late on September 11 in which the US ambassador to Libya and three other US nationals were killed. Libya said it has made arrests and opened a probe into the attack, amid speculation that Al-Qaeda rather than a frenzied mob was to blame. AFP PHOTO/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/GettyImages)
President Mohammed el-Megarif, center visits one of the wounded Libyan guards of the U.S. Consulate, who was injured in the deadly attack on the Consulate last Tuesday Sept.11, at Benghazi Medical Center, in Benghazi, Libya, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012. The American ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when a mob of protesters and gunmen overwhelmed the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, setting fire to it. Ambassador Chris Stevens, 52, died as he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff as a crowd of hundreds attacked the consulate Tuesday evening, many of them firing machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades.(AP Photo / Mohammad Hannon)
FILE - This Sept. 14, 2012, file photo shows carry teams at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. moving flag draped transfer cases during the Transfer of Remains Ceremony of the four Americans killed in an attack on a diplomatic outpost and CIA annex Benghazi, Libya. The testimony of nine military officers severely undermines claims by Republican lawmakers that a âstand-down orderâ held back military assets who could have those killed in the attack. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
Libyans and Americans stand with wreaths, a poster and a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on it as they gather in front of the U.S. consulate gate to pay their respect to the victims of the Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. Arabic reads, "no room for extremism among us." (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
A Libyan girl places flowers at the gate of the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. The U.S. Ambassador, Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on the consulate Tuesday Sept. 11, 2012, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. Arabic reads, "private property." (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
Libyan and American children carry a wreath with a photo of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on it as the gather to pay their respect to the victims of the Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate, in Benghazi, Libya, Monday, Sept. 17, 2012. Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, part of a wave of assaults on U.S. diplomatic missions in Muslim countries over a low-budget movie made in the United States that denigrates the Prophet Muhammad. (AP photo/Mohammad Hannon)
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But other Republican committee members criticized Clinton more directly, accusing her of prioritizing America's relationship with Libya over security at the Benghazi compound, and of trying to spin the attack for political gain. Members Jim Jordan of Ohio and and Mike Pompeo of Kansas wrote their own report, labeled "additional views," focuses on Clinton, accusing her of missing opportunities to protect American lives.

In that sense, the committee's findings could underscore accusations that the Obama administration — and Clinton's State Department — were more concerned with public perception than with acting decisively to save American lives.

Public skepticism of Clinton's trustworthiness continues to dog her presidential campaign, even as she leads Donald Trump overall in national polling. In a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released this week, only a quarter of voters judged her to be more honest and straightforward than her GOP rival, while 41 percent favored Trump on questions of trust.

One section of the report seems to allege that U.S. officials fundamentally misunderstood who their allies were at the time. The Republican majority's report found that 35 Americans were saved not by a "quasi-governmental militia" as previous reports concluded, or even a group the U.S. saw as allies. Instead, the report determines that the Americans were saved by the "Libyan Military Intelligence," a group composed of military officers under the Moammar Khaddafy regime, the Libyan dictator who the U.S. helped topple just one year earlier.

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The February 17 Martyr Brigade, "recommended by the Libyan Government and contractually obligated to provide security to the Mission Compound," had fled, the report found. "In other words, some of the very individuals the United States helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution were the only Libyans that came to the assistance of the United States on the night of the Benghazi attacks," the report states.

Last fall, Clinton testified before the Benghazi committee that Stevens had originally chosen to serve in Benghazi because "he understood America had to be represented there at that pivotal time."

In previously unreported details, the Republican majority of the committee found that Stevens traveled to the U.S. mission that week to both fill a temporary staffing gap and to spearhead an effort to make Benghazi a permanent diplomatic post.

Witnesses told the committee Stevens was laying the groundwork for a visit by Clinton just one month later and "the hope was to establish a permanent consulate in Benghazi for the Secretary to present to the Libyan government during her trip."

Discussions were already underway in Washington for how to fund the upgrades, and one month before the end of the fiscal year there was pressure to assemble a package before available funds were lost.

The report highlights the military's failure to carry out Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's order to deploy forces to Benghazi and the lengthy delay that prevented the military assets from arriving at the embassy in Tripoli until 2 p.m. the day after the Benghazi attack.

"What was disturbing from the evidence the Committee found was that at the time of the final lethal attack at the Annex, no asset ordered deployed by the Secretary had even left the ground," the report states.

Previous accounts blamed the "tyranny of time and distance" plus the failure to have airplanes ready for the significant delay in moving military assets. But the report states conflicting orders from State Department and Pentagon officials over whether Marines should wear military uniforms or civilian attire also played a role.

The State Department argues their agency did not cause any delay.

"We received diplomatic clearance, as is standard, to send a flight into Tripoli to evacuate our personnel. The process of gaining clearance did not delay or cancel any asset going to Libya," said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner. "Concerns about what they wore had no bearing on the timing of their arrival."

In a newly revealed two-hour secure video conference on the night of the attacks led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and attended by Clinton and others, State Department officials raised concerns about the diplomatic sensitivities of the attire to be worn by assets launched.

RELATED: Hillary Clinton testifies on Benghazi

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Hillary Clinton testifies on Benghazi 10/21
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Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, to testify before the House Benghazi Committee. After months of buildup, Hillary Rodham Clinton finally takes center stage as the star witness in the Republican-led investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton waits to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, left, walks past members of the media as she arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, to testify before the House Benghazi Committee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, arrives to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, before the House Select Committee on Banghazi. After months of buildup, Hillary Rodham Clinton finally takes center stage as the star witness in the Republican-led investigation into the deadly 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton arrives to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 22: Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes her seat prior to testifying before the House Select Committee on Benghazi October 22, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The committee held a hearing to continue its investigation on the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2012. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton waits to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton looks toward the dais as she settles into her seat on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, prior to testifying before the House Benghazi Committee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Former Secretary of State and Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton arrives to testify before the House Select Committee on Benghazi on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, October 22, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton takes her seat on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015, prior to testifying before the House Benghazi Committee. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, speaks during a House Select Committee on Benghazi hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Clinton said that she accepted responsibility for a lethal 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya and that she sought afterward to improve security for State Department workers abroad, as the House Benghazi panel investigating the incident began a hearing that may prove a turning point for her presidential campaign. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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In an interview with the Committee, Patrick Kennedy, the under secretary or Management at State, described the department's sensitivity as wanting to "make sure that the steps we were taking would enhance the security of our personnel, not potentially diminish the security of our personnel."

According to one commander, the report states, as forces prepared to deploy, "during the course of three hours, he and his Marines changed in and out of their uniforms four times."

Further, several witnesses told the committee that despite Panetta's orders, the operating plan was not to insert any asset into Benghazi. "Their understanding was that the assets needed to be sent to Tripoli to augment security at the Embassy, and that the State Department was working to move the State Department personnel from Benghazi to Tripoli."

Republicans on the committee were critical of high-level officials in Washington for mistakenly thinking that the attacks were over and the crisis had passed by the time the emergency video conference convened, which the report alleges contributed to the confusion.

The report also finds that then-Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral James Winnefeld, did not participate in the secure call because "he had left to return to his residence to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries." He received one update during the dinner on the attacks.

Clinton on '13 Hours' Movie: 'Yes' Everything Possible Was Done to Save Americans During Benghazi Attack

The section of the report devoted to the Benghazi assault concludes "the response to the attacks suffered from confusion and miscommunication circulating between agencies."

A total of 107 witnesses were interviewed for the report, including 81 never before questioned by Congress and 9 eyewitnesses to the attacks, Republicans on the committee told NBC News. The committee also received and reviewed more than 75,000 new pages of documents.

Democrats on the House Select Committee on Benghazi had a sharply different view even before seeing the Republicans' report. The minority version released Monday concludes that "the U.S. military could not have done anything differently on the night of the attacks that would have saved the lives of the four brave Americans killed in Benghazi."

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings early Tuesday called the Republican report "partisan" but could offer no additional comment because "we haven't read it because Republicans didn't want us to check it against the evidence we obtained."

Democrats also attacked Republicans over the committee's process, including what they describe as "grave abuses," such as excluding Democrats from interviews, concealing exculpatory evidence, withholding interview transcripts, leaking inaccurate information, issuing unilateral subpoenas, sending armed Marshals to the home of a cooperative witness, and even conducting political fundraising "by exploiting the deaths of four Americans."

The Democrats chastised committee chairman Trey Gowdy ,who they said "personally and publicly accused Secretary Clinton of compromising a highly classified intelligence source."

Democrats did acknowledge, as had been previously determined, that "security measures in Benghazi were woefully inadequate as a result of decisions made by officials in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security." But their report concluded, "Secretary Clinton never personally denied any requests for additional security in Benghazi."

Reacting to the GOP report early Tuesday, State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said: "We have made great progress towards making our posts safer since 2012. We have been working to respond to the extensive findings and recommendations of the independent Accountability Review Board, closing out 26 out of its 29 recommendations."

A Select Committee spokesman dismissed the Democrats' report as "rehashed, partisan talking points" aimed at defending Hillary Clinton.

Appearing on Morning Joe on Tuesday, Gowdy dismissed Democrats' charge that the report targeted Clinton for political reasons rather than investigating the reasons for the loss of American lives in the attack.

"They will be shocked when they read the report, if they do bother to read the report," Gowdy said. "It is a series of heroic acts by our fellow Americans and what we can do to prevent the next [attack.]"

"Yes, Hillary Clinton was secretary of state at the time," he added. "I can't get around that fact, but the focus of this report is on exactly what the families asked us to focus on."

NBC News was awaiting comment from the White House Tuesday on the report released by the Republican majority on the committee.

Clinton, for her part, has repeatedly denounced the committee's purpose. "There have been seven investigations led mostly by Republicans in the Congress and they were non-partisan and they reached conclusions that, first of all, I and nobody did anything wrong but there were changes we could make," Clinton said during a TODAY town hall on Oct. 5, 2015. "This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans. I would have never done that."

The Clinton campaign continued to attack the committee's credibility Tuesday — calling it "a partisan sham since its start."

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