Government & Politics

The Company Clinton Keeps

Benghazi, Blumenthal and Clinton's BIG Lie

Sid Blumenthal has been a snake in Hillary Clinton's ear for a long time.

Dan Gilmore · May 20, 2015

If one of the marks of a good leader is the ability to choose and then keep good advisers, then let Hillary Clinton be known for the company whose advice she seeks.

Longtime Clinton lackey Sidney Blumenthal made The New York Times this week when the paper reported on leaked information that the House Select Committee on Benghazi may issue a subpoena for his role in the events surrounding the attack on the Benghazi consulate Sept. 11, 2012. Indeed, the House followed up that leak by issuing the subpoena that day. Blumenthal will appear before the committee June 3.

We don’t know who leaked the information and supporting emails to the Times. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Elijah Cummings, was quick to pin blame on Republicans for an illegal witch-hunt. “[T]he latest abuses by the Committee are just one more example of a partisan, taxpayer-funded attack against Secretary Clinton and her bid for president,” he said in a grammatically challenged statement. But it’s hard to see how Republicans would gain by leaking news of their own subpoena.

Still, Cummings is defending a diehard Clinton loyalist, nay, hatchet man. Denied a position in the Obama State Department in 2009, Blumenthal scored a job at the Clinton Foundation. It was from there that he advised then-Secretary of State Clinton on the deteriorating situation in Libya, all the while working with a group of business partners who wanted to build schools, hospitals and shelters in the war-torn North African nation. Say, what’s that definition for “conflict of interest” again?

The story of Hillary Clinton and Blumenthal begins in the ‘90s. Bill and Hillary were in the White House and Blumenthal was a journalist at The New Republic. Blumenthal dropped all appearance of objectivity and pledged his heart to the Clinton Machine. In a 1998 profile, The Baltimore Sun described Blumenthal as someone who played both journalist and political player, and who craved the power networking and slinging ink brought.

During his time as a Clinton staffer, Blumenthal earned the nickname “GK” — or “Grassy Knoll” — for his penchant for floating conspiracy theories. He was the person who pinned the Clinton’s ills on a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” He was the one who dismissed Monica Lewinsky as a stalker.

When Hillary Clinton needed to dig up dirt on Barack Obama in the 2008 Democrat primary, Blumenthal took the shovel.

Naturally, when Obama appointed Clinton as secretary of state, Clinton wanted to hire Blumenthal. But Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, shot the idea down. The New York Times reported in 2009 that Blumenthal’s attacks against candidate Obama cut too deep and there was bad blood. That and Blumenthal’s security clearance might have been affected after he was charged with a DWI when he was stopped for driving 70 mph in a 30 mph zone while campaigning for Clinton in 2008.

So, instead, Blumenthal went to work at the Clinton Jobs-for-Hacks Program Foundation.

When it came to gathering information on Libya, Clinton found she had limited intelligence. Investigative nonprofit news outlet ProPublica reported, “According to State Department personnel directories, in 2011 and 2012 — the height of the Libya crisis — State didn’t have a Libyan desk officer, and the entire Near Eastern Magreb Bureau, which covers Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, had just two staffers.”

And who should Clinton turn to but her old friend “GK” Blumenthal. From 2011 to 2013, he passed on reports from his “very sensitive sources” to Clinton’s private email account. But Blumenthal, a wonk based inside the DC Beltway, couldn’t have done this research by himself.

In its story on Blumenthal’s involvement with Clinton in Libya, the Times reports, “Much of the Libya intelligence that Mr. Blumenthal passed on to Mrs. Clinton appears to have come from a group of business associates he was advising as they sought to win contracts from the Libyan transitional government. The venture, which was ultimately unsuccessful, involved other Clinton friends, a private military contractor and one former C.I.A. spy seeking to get in on the ground floor of the new Libyan economy.”

On top of Blumenthal’s self-interested dealings, he fired off half-baked conspiracies. In a March 8, 2012, email marked CONFIDENTIAL, Blumenthal alleged that France’s and Britain’s intelligence agencies were working to destabilize Libya by encouraging groups in eastern Libya to create a semi-autonomous zone. Clinton forwarded this report to her then-deputy chief of staff Jacob Sullivan and wrote, “This one strains credulity.”

Sullivan offered to forward Blumenthal’s report — just like he forwarded the other reports to Clinton’s staff, including Ambassador Chris Stevens — but he agreed: Grassy Knoll’s report “seems like a thin conspiracy theory.”

Clinton could have asked for more information and staff from the State Department. She was the secretary, after all, and she needed it. Instead, like her email system, she created a homebrewed intelligence network.

Then on Sept. 11, 2012, terrorists attacked the Benghazi consulate. Chris Stevens was killed, along with three other Americans. The day after, State released a secret memo pinning the blame on a premeditated terrorist attack. But that’s not the script Blumenthal wrote for Hillary. ProPublica reported: “On September 12, 2012, the day after the Benghazi attack, Blumenthal sent a memo that cited a 'sensitive source’ saying that the interim Libyan president, Mohammed Yussef el Magariaf, was told by a senior security officer that the assault was inspired by an anti-Muslim video made in the U.S., as well as by allegations from Magariaf’s political opponents that he had CIA ties.” (Mark Alexander has covered the Clinton/Obama BIG Lie on Benghazi since the day after the attack, and provided a detailed summary in his column, “Benghazi – ‘What Difference Does It Make?’,” last year.)

Grassy Knoll’s fiction became the official story for a couple of weeks, and that is why the Benghazi committee wants to speak to him.

Update May 21: It appears Blumenthal corrected himself on Sept. 13, but the administration didn’t follow suit.

Blumenthal’s story isn’t over. He has been with Clinton since the beginning. If she wins the presidency, “Grassy Knoll” will be somewhere in the upper reaches of her administration, whispering in her ear.

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