Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that President Barack Obama is part of a "cover-up" over the nature of the terrorist attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
Obama administration officials "lied," Cheney told Sean Hannity on Fox News. "They claimed it was because of a demonstration video, so that they wouldn’t have to admit it was really all about their incompetence,” he said. "They ignored repeated warnings from the CIA about the threat. They ignored messages from their own people on the ground that they needed more security."
He added, "The cover-up included several officials up to and including President Obama, and the cover-up is still ongoing."
Republicans have also accused former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of a "cover-up," but coming from a former vice president, Cheney's allegation was an unusually strong charge.
Obama rejected the notion that he was involved in a "cover-up" at a press conference Monday. "If this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened ... that would be a pretty odd thing that three days later we ended up putting out all the information that now serves as the basis for everybody recognizing this was a terrorist attack," he said. "Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? The whole thing defies logic."
The State Department's talking points on Sept. 14, released by ABC News, initially said that the attacks were "spontaneously inspired" by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo over an anti-Muslim video and "evolved" into an attack. They also mentioned a "crowd" with a "mix of individuals across many sectors of Libyan society." Talking points the next day, however, mention "demonstrations" in Benghazi -- something the State Department later said did not happen. Initial press reports also said the attacks stemmed from a mob protesting the video.
Cheney also said that the United States is prepared for such attacks, particularly since 9/11 and on the anniversaries of that day. "In my past experience when we got into these situations — especially after 9/11 — we were always on the step, locked and loaded, ready to go on 9/11," he said. "We have specially-trained units that practice this sort of thing all the time. They are very good at it and they are chomping at the bit to go.”
Cheney then asked why there were no forces available to counterattack the Benghazi attacks. Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Libya and the top witness at a hearing on the Benghazi attacks held Wednesday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that he asked the same thing. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who served with Cheney under President Bush and also for President Obama, said Sunday that the idea that a fighter jet could have been scrambled in response to the attacks shows a "cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces."