Fact check: False claim draws comparison between Clinton and Benghazi, Biden and Afghanistan – USA TODAY

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The claim: Hillary Clinton ‘slept as Benghazi burned’ and Joe Biden ‘vacationed as Afghanistan fell’ 

During the presidential race in 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly claimed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slept through the 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Trump eventually acknowledged he had no evidence to support this assertion, telling NBC in an interview, “who knows if she was sleeping … she might have been sleeping.”

Now, in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan, the narrative has resurfaced in a post by the former president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is attempting to draw a comparison between Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack and President Joe Biden’s reaction to the situation in Kabul

“Hillary slept as Benghazi burned. Joe vacationed as Afghanistan fell,” reads an Aug. 22 Instagram post from Trump Jr. that accumulated more than 274,000 likes within a day.

“You guys noticed a pattern with Democrats and work ethic here?” Trump captioned the text meme. “Then again maybe just better off on vacation because I can only imagine how much worse he would make it if he was actually at the helm and in charge.”

The same meme has been shared to iFunny and the Instagram page Unapologetic Patriot. It’s also appeared on various  merchandise websites that are selling T-shirts and sweaters with the phrase printed on them. 

But evidence shows Clinton was not asleep during the Benghazi attack, contrary to the claims made over the years.

Meanwhile, Biden cut his Camp David vacation short amid the Taliban takeover and returned to Washington. 

Fact check roundup: What’s true and what’s false about the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Trump and the Unapologetic Patriot did not return requests for comment. 

Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks

Clinton’s emails and phone calls and numerous congressional investigations found she was not sleeping while the attack in Benghazi occurred.

“I had secure phones. I had other equipment that kept me in touch with the State Department at all times,” Clinton said in her congressional testimony on Oct. 22, 2015. “I did not sleep all night. I was very much focused on what we were doing.”

The first attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi took place on Sept. 11, 2012, at approximately 3:42 p.m. ET, 9:42 p.m. in Benghazi, according to a timeline from the House Select Committee on Benghazi. 

In her book “Hard Choices,” Clinton writes that she was in her office when she received the news from the department’s executive secretary Stephen Mull, and her first action was to pick up a secure phone on her desk “and hit the button that instantly connected” her to National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.

The State Department and the White House Situation Room were informed about the attack at about 4:06 p.m., receiving an “ops alert” that said, “mission under attack. Armed men. Shots fired. Explosions heard.” 

In her book, Clinton said she directed the State Department operations team to work with the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli to “get our people to safety.” She also called CIA Director David Petraeus “since the Agency maintained the nearby post with a heavy security force,” and got ready for the possibility of other attacks.

At 8 p.m., Clinton called Gregory Hicks, deputy chief of mission at the Embassy, who said in testimony that he “briefed her on developments” and discussed “what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi.” 

A little after 11 p.m., Clinton emailed her daughter, Chelsea, and informed her that two officers were killed in Benghazi, per news reports. She emailed colleagues at 11:38 p.m., asking if Stevens’ death should be announced that night or the next morning. 

Fact check: Image does not show Ronald Reagan meeting with the Taliban at the White House

Biden’s vacation cut short

Trump’s claim that Biden “vacationed as Afghanistan fell” is misleading and a similar claim was rated partly false by USA TODAY. While Biden planned to take a two-week vacation starting the week of Aug. 9, his public schedule shows that he cut his trip short. 

A day after the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Aug. 15, Biden departed Camp David in Maryland and returned to the White House, where he delivered remarks on the situation in Afghanistan

After his speech, he returned to Camp David, arriving there at around 5:30 p.m. ET. Biden’s vacation ended on Aug. 17, one day earlier than planned. 

Fact check: Biden didn’t take full vacation during Afghanistan withdrawal

While Biden was at Camp David, he was receiving briefings from his national security team through a secure video conference, according to news reports

This morning, the President and Vice President held a video conference with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to draw down our civilian footprint in Afghanistan. In addition, the President and Vice President were briefed on the earthquake in Haiti. pic.twitter.com/7BKSdJ8OKo

— The White House (@WhiteHouse) August 14, 2021

When questioned on Aug.17 why Biden was not at the White House while the events in Afghanistan unfolded, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, “I was intimately familiar with his working habits over the course of the weekend, because I was on the phone with him constantly.” 

Sullivan added that Biden was “monitoring developments hour by hour,” making decisions about troop deployments. He said Biden “has been deeply engaged” in the situation in Afghanistan.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Clinton “slept as Benghazi burned” and Biden “vacationed as Afghanistan fell.” Congressional investigations, testimonies, phone calls and email exchanges prove Clinton was engaged and working late into the night on Sept. 11, 2012. It’s misleading to claim Biden “vacationed as Afghanistan fell,” as he cut his trip short and delivered remarks at the White House. Biden also was working from Camp David.

Our fact-check sources: 

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