WASHINGTON -- As Republicans are increasingly calling the Obama administration's response to the Benghazi attacks a cover-up worse than Watergate and even floating impeachment, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged a note of caution on Sunday, saying he wasn't yet willing to go that far.
"With all due respect, I think this is a serious issue," said McCain on ABC's "This Week." "I will even give the president the benefit of the doubt on some of these things. We need a select committee."
On Thursday, Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe (R-Okla.) accused President Barack Obama of overseeing "the most egregious cover-up in American history." He added that "people may be starting to use the 'I word'" before long.
Former Arksansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) also said on his radio show this week, "I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term. As bad as Watergate was because it broke the trust between the president and the people, no one died. This is more serious because four Americans did in fact die. And President Obama has yet to explain why did they die.”
McCain also defended Obama against impeachment during a late February town hall, saying, "I do not believe that the president has committed impeachable offenses -- that's high crimes."
Still, the senator did tell ABC's Martha Raddatz on Sunday that he does believe the Obama administration's response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, constituted a "cover-up" because "there was willful removal of information, which was obvious."
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was similarly reluctant to back impeachment talk during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.
"I don't at this point, I will say," she said when asked if she supported it. "But that doesn't mean that these allegations aren't serious."
The Benghazi issue was reignited last week after House Republicans held a hearing on the attacks and ABC News published a story showing that administration talking points offered immediately after the attacks went through several rounds of editing by officials, including in the State Department.
While many Republicans have charged political interference, others -- including longtime State Department reporter Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post -- have noted that it seems more like a case of bureaucratic in-fighting.
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have used the Benghazi affair to argue that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now unfit to be president -- should she ever decide to run. McCain, however, was less willing to come to the same conclusion on Sunday.
"She had to have been in the loop some way, but we don’t know for sure," he said, adding that he would like to see Clinton back on Capitol Hill to testify again.
"We need a select committee that interviews everybody," he said. "I don’t know what level of scandal, unquote, this rises to, but I know it rises to the level where it requires a full and complete ventilation of these facts."
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