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“An ‘In-Kind Contribution’ To The RNC”: The Benghazi Committee’s Final Report Proves Nothing But Its Own Real Purpose

The GOP-lead Benghazi Committee released their final report on Tuesday morning, claiming that with 81 new witnesses and 75,000 new pages of documents, it “Fundamentally Changes the Public’s Understanding of the 2012 Terrorist Attacks that Killed Four Americans.”

Well… not really. The report offers no game-changing information — there are no “bombshells.” Instead, “new details” attempt to paint the Obama administration as a failing bureaucratic machine that allowed the attack to happen despite knowing about possible threats. By being vague on the details, the committee is letting Republican voters fill in the blanks.

Some of the “new details” include:

What officials discussed at a two-hour White House meeting after the attack. (White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that a House Intelligence committee investigation has already “debunked” allegations that the military was too slow to act, and that the report is so obviously a partisan effort that it should be disclosed as an “in-kind contribution” to the RNC.)

The fact that the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wasn’t at the meeting, even though he usually would be, “because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries.” (According to the Democratic report on Benghazi, there was nothing the Pentagon could have done differently that night to prevent the attack.)

A Fleet Antiterrorism Security operatives in Spain changing in and out of their uniforms four times because officials weren’t sure about the right protocol for introducing U.S. forces. (State Department spokesman Mark Toner said “Concerns about what they wore had no bearing on the timing of their arrival.”)

What the new details do not include is any evidence at all that Hillary Clinton, or the State Department, could have done anything differently to prevent the deaths of four Americans. Instead, it suggests that Clinton and other officials did not properly address possible threats in intelligence reports, and finds that Ambassador Chris Stevens, one of the four victims, was responsible for securing his post.

In this latest episode of the Benghazi Committee show, Republicans also failed to justify the committee’s own existence as anything other than a source of anti-Democrat propaganda. GOP congresspeople have urged voters to “read the report and make their own conclusions,” knowing full well that likely no one will read the inscrutable 800-page report. By leaving this opening, they leave an empty space for GOP conspiracists to fill.

In a news conference, Gowdy tried to appear somber and unbiased, denying that the partisan investigation had political motives, and refusing to blame Clinton.

The other members of the committee were left to do that. “This was something Hillary Clinton pushed for and got done,” said Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio of the U.S. presence in Libya. He, along with Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, did not think 800 pages were enough, so they released yet another analysis of the attack, called “additional views” where they go after Clinton and Obama more directly, blaming the attack on “a tragic failure of leadership.”

The committee has been using the Benghazi tragedy for two years as a vehicle to attack Clinton and the Obama administration. All seven Republican committee members released statements and took turns speaking at the press conference, expressing outrage at the four lives lost in the attack, before relating it to Clinton’s morality and judgement.

These same representatives have pulled dirty tricks like leaking sworn depositions to conservative media, sending federal marshals to serve  subpoenas to witnesses who weren’t involved with the events on September 11, and perhaps most notoriously, questioning Clinton for 11 straight hours last October without any material findings to show for it.

You would think the Committee would hang up the cleats after that hearing. If only. The Benghazi committee’s investigation is estimated to have cost $7 million over two years.


By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Benghazi Committee Chair Finds Himself In The Hot Seat (Again)”: The Stop Hillary PAC And Gowdy Appear To Be Close Allies

The Republicans’ Benghazi Committee has unraveled to an extraordinary degree in recent weeks, as the entire effort is reduced to a taxpayer-financed election scheme. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the beleaguered chairman of the controversial panel, told Politico the other day, “I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life.”

At least the controversies surrounding the committee couldn’t get much worse, right? Wrong.

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank today flagged an overlooked angle that deserves to be added to the broader indictment against the Benghazi witch hunt.

As that mess was being cleaned up, Gowdy was dealing with another, courtesy of my Washington Post colleague Mike DeBonis. Gowdy has spoken piously about keeping his investigation above politics and about refusing to raise money from it. But DeBonis reported that Gowdy’s campaign had returned three donations after the Post inquired about the money’s ties to a political action committee that ran an incendiary ad during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. Three $2,000 contributions had been made to Gowdy by groups affiliated with the treasurer of Stop Hillary PAC. Stop Hillary PAC had spent $10,000 on robocalls last month to boost Gowdy in his district, and its treasurer had been involved with Gowdy’s former leadership PAC. […]

Could such a skilled prosecutor and his experienced staff really be so hapless? Or are the mistakes more purposeful?

The Stop Hillary PAC, which exists to “ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes president of the United States,” made headlines last week for running a rather disgusting attack ad during last week’s debate, prominently featuring Ambassador Chris Stevens’ grave, against his family’s wishes.

The Post reported, however, on the alliance between Gowdy’s political operation and the political action committee: the congressman’s leadership PAC and the Stop Hillary PAC shared a top official, an anti-Clinton operative named Dan Backer; the Stop Hillary PAC spent $10,000 on robocalls a month ago in support of Gowdy; and Gowdy received campaign contributions groups the Stop Hillary PAC’s treasurer helped run.

Gowdy, realizing that this doesn’t look good, quickly returned the contributions, but the damage – or more accurately, the additional damage – was already done.

TPM ran a related item yesterday, showing an image of its email inbox “when you search the StopHillaryPac email and Gowdy’s name.” The takeaway isn’t subtle: the Stop Hillary PAC and Gowdy appear to be close allies.

It’s against this backdrop that the Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter to the Republican National Committee yesterday, asking the RNC pick up the tab for the party’s Benghazi Committee, since it’s unfair to ask taxpayers to pay for “a political inquisition.”

The top four Senate Dems added, “Due to the political nature of the committee, we believe it is inappropriate that a reported 4.7 million taxpayer dollars were used to finance its operations and that the RNC subsequently orchestrated numerous fundraising opportunities in its wake.”

The RNC responded fairly quickly, declining the Democratic request.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 21, 2015

October 22, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Contemptible Congeries Of Con Men”: Ambassador Chris Stevens’s Friends Are Tired Of This Benghazi Nonsense

My friend Sid Blumenthal was deposed yesterday by the House Benghazi committee. Yep, my friend. For 20 years or so, since before he joined the Clinton White House. You have a right to know that as I say that he had no business whatsoever being dragooned before that contemptible congeries of con men, because he was a private citizen who had absolutely nothing to do with the events that led to the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other Americans who died in that consular attack, the investigation of which is—or, as we’ll see, was—the ostensible reason the body was empanelled.

I know what much of Washington thinks of Sid. But I don’t go around dumping friends of longstanding because they get thrown headlong into the news cycle, so yes, you bet I will defend him. He had no “business interests” in Libya, and all he did was pass on intelligence assessments—not just about Libya, but about all kinds of places—from a friend of his who once ran the CIA’s European operations to another friend of his who happened to be the secretary of state.

But here’s the thing: You don’t have to like Blumenthal. In fact for all I care you can think he’s Rasputin and Albert Bacon Fall (look him up) and Bobby Baker (look him up too) all rolled into one. But the fact is he went before that committee for one reason and one reason only: because its real job is not to investigate those four deaths, which in any case have been investigated eight times by seven congressional committees and once by a State Department review board, none of which found any wrongdoing on Hillary Clinton’s part.

No, this committee’s real job is to get Clinton.

Let’s mention high up what is the main point here. This “investigation” now constitutes openly and defiantly urinating on the grave of Amb. Stevens. Many diplomats and friends of Stevens’s are aghast at this. “It’s a desecration of Chris’s memory,” says his old friend Daniel Seidemann, the American-born and Jerusalem-based peace activist who got to know Stevens during the latter’s time in Israel. “That this should be the ‘reward’ for the finest American public servant I ever met is a sad commentary on the decay of political culture in the United States. Shameless.”

Robert Ford, the courageous former ambassador to Syria, told me: “Chris Stevens cared deeply about the people of the Middle East and North Africa, and about helping them build better futures for themselves and their families and about building better relations between them and the United States. Those goals weren’t Republican or Democratic. Using his tragic death, and the deaths of his dedicated colleagues, for partisan, tear-down political gain minimizes the importance of their deaths and the issues with which they were grappling. It’s really an insult to demean them this way.”

Daniel Serwer, who was a special envoy to Bosnia in the 1990s, didn’t even know Stevens but feels similarly. “There really isn’t anything to be investigated about the incident itself until they get someone who was personally responsible for the attack on the U.S. facilities,” Serwer says. “In the meanwhile, they are going after Hillary Clinton. Does anyone think they would be doing that if she were not a candidate for president?”

The committee’s motivation has always been obvious, but it became undeniably so on Monday, when Politico ran a piece  headlined “Beyond Benghazi.” The gist of it was that committee chairman Trey Gowdy has now expanded the scope of the probe to include “the administration’s entire policy toward Libya, not just the brief period before and after the Benghazi attacks of September 11, 2012.” Why would Gowdy be doing this? Gowdy told Politico, referring to the White House and State Department: “They believe we’re supposed to be Benghazi-centered, looking at a couple of days on either side of the Benghazi attacks. But the language of the [House] resolution is pretty clear: We’re to examine all policies and decisions that led to the attacks.” “All policies” can include virtually anything—the decision under NATO’s banner to intervene in Libya in the first place, and everything that happened thereafter.

In other words—Gowdy’s investigators have come up empty on the consular attack itself, but their assignment, undoubtedly never spoken but equally undoubtedly always understood, is to find something that will keep Clinton out of the White House. And so the net will now be cast far more widely.

It wasn’t so long ago that Gowdy was singing from a very different songbook. Here is an April 15, 2015, letter, made public by the committee’s Democrats, from an assistant secretary at State to Gowdy. Click on it and jump to page seven. There, you will see that the letter quotes from a letter Gowdy had written to Clinton attorney David Kendall on December 2, 2014, in which Gowdy wrote that the “Committee has no interest in any emails, documents, or other tangible things not related to Benghazi.”

More recently, in March of this year, Gowdy said on Face the Nation: “We’re not entitled to everything. I don’t want everything…There are three tranches [of what we need to know]…Why did we have a facility that didn’t meet any security specification whatsoever?…Our military response, where were our assets located?…And then, thirdly, the aftermath. I continue to naively believe that people have a right to expect their government to tell them the truth in the aftermath of a tragedy.”

As I said above, and as Serwer noted, those three questions have already been answered many times over. We know exactly where our military assets were, and everything else. But the answers to these questions have not been to Republicans’ liking, so Gowdy wants different answers. And now, fearing that he’s not going to get them, he’s changed the whole basis of the probe.

Now, all of Libya policy is fair game. Did Clinton make a policy recommendation—even one—that turns out to have been bad in retrospect, thus proving her utter lack of foreign policy clairvoyance? Did she make any misjudgments? Why, this of course would be unforgiveable; after all, Libya is a very easy country to apprehend and master, so there’s no excuse for misjudgments of any sort! The thinking now is clearly this: Well, if we can’t nail her to the wall on the attacks, at least we can raise questions about her foreign policy judgment.

Which returns us to Blumenthal. He spent nine hours—nine hours—being deposed yesterday. About half an hour was spent on the Benghazi attack. He wasn’t even asked by Republicans about the attacks until around 6 p.m., seven-and-a-half hours after he sat down in the chair.

The Republicans didn’t even seem to know that Blumenthal didn’t write these intelligence assessments, that they were written by the former CIA operative, Tyler Drumheller, not Blumenthal, who was just passing them along. At one point, Darrell Issa—not a member of the committee—sauntered in, but not being a member of the committee was escorted out by Gowdy himself. “It seems obvious that my appearance before this committee was for one reason and one reason only,” Blumenthal told me Tuesday night. “And that was politics.”

The point of all this was obvious: It was to see if they could lure Blumenthal into saying one thing that might in some way contradict anything Clinton has said publicly or will say to the committee. The committee’s staff knows very well that the media will pounce on any inconsistency, happily keeping the grassy-knoll narrative about Blumenthal as the Clinton whisperer bouncing along, without pausing for a moment to examine Gowdy and the committee’s actions and motivations, or God forbid to demand that these people stop spending taxpayer money—$3.5 million so far, with an estimate that it could run up to $6 million—on this obviously political hunt for scalps, or one particular scalp.

There’s a scandal going on here all right. It’s just not the one the press thinks.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 17, 2015

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Little To Show For The Significant Rabbit Hole Expenditure”: Benghazi Investigation Spends Fortune To Harass Hillary Clinton

The Benghazi Select Committee moves slowly but spends quickly, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee.

On June 16th, the Benghazi Select Committee, meeting behind closed doors, questioned Hillary Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal for nine hours about emails he sent to the then-Secretary of State containing privately gathered intelligence reports from inside Libya.

The release of new emails from Mr. Blumenthal marked a milestone for the committee, characterized committee chairman, Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, as “noteworthy,” because no Congressional committee that “has previously looked into Benghazi or Libya has uncovered these memos.”

Yet there was no explanation as to how these emails contained any new insights or information about the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound and CIA base in Benghazi, Libya that resulted in the murders of Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.

Mr. Blumenthal himself noted “my testimony has shed no light on the events of Benghazi—nor could it—because I have no firsthand knowledge.”

This has been a consistent theme of the House’s investigation—a frenzy of media fireworks, with little substantive progress made in pursuit of the committee’s actual mandate. (The majority staff of the Benghazi Select Committee did not respond to requests for comment).

Led by a an 18-member Republican staff, whose full time employees are paid an average of $128,750 per year, the Benghazi Select Committee has proceeded at a plodding pace. Thus far, it has held only three hearings and by the end of this week will have interviewed just 29 witnesses. In comparison the Congressional investigation into the Iran Contra scandal lasted 10.5 months, during which time investigators conducted 500 interviews along with 40 days of public hearings.

The lack of progress is especially striking considering seven Congressional committees and a State Department Accountability Review Board already conducted inquires into the attack. Most recently the findings of the Republican led House Intelligence Committee found no evidence for many of the accusations hurled at President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and other government officials.

Over 13 months the Benghazi Select Committee has spent more than $3,500,000, exceeding the budget of the entire House Intelligence Committee. This figure does not include significant expenditures made by the State Department and Defense Department to find and declassify material requested by the committee or the expense of witness travel for those who work for the government.

While exact dollar amounts spent by federal agencies are unavailable, details released about other declassification processes shed light on these costs. In March 2014 the Defense Department informed Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, they had spent “millions of dollars” and “thousands of man-hours to responding to numerous and often repetitive Congressional requests regarding Benghazi.” Currently the State Department has 12 full-time staff members paid between $63,700 and $150,000 reviewing Hillary Clinton’s emails “a process that could cost more than $1 million” according to the National Journal. The total cost for these document queries could run well into the eight figures. For example, the IRS spent $14 million responding to Congressional investigations into accusations it politicized the tax-exemption application process.

The Benghazi Select Committee has little to show for the significant expenditure—aside from a trail of unfulfilled promises by its Chairman. “We will have hearings in January, February and March,” Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) announced in December.

That never happened.

The committee held a single hearing in January, focused on berating State Department legislative liaison Joel Rubin about the production of documents. CIA representative Neil Higgins escaped with a mild talking to.

Two days after his December announcement, Rep. Gowdy told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren the committee would hold a hearing in January to explore why the State Department was in Benghazi. That hearing never occurred.

In February, Rep. Gowdy sent a letter to the committee’s ranking Democratic member Elijah Cummings (D-Md) informing him that “beginning as early as April I intend to start interviewing” a list of twenty prominent members of the Obama administration including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Clinton State Department Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills among others.

According to a Democrat committee staff member, “The committee has yet to interview a single person on Gowdy’s list.”

In April, Gowdy again appeared on Van Susteren’s show claiming, “we’re doing four witness interviews a week, whereas we were doing two.”

A Democratic committee, who requested anonymity, aide told the Observer, “The Select Committee has never done four interviews a week.”

Rep. Gowdy now states the committee will continue its work into 2016 raising its cost to taxpayers to more than $6,000,000, casting his inaction as the result of the Obama administration’s slow pace at producing requested documents, a questionable premise. Rep. Gowdy began receiving documents in August. The committee did not make its first request to the State Department until mid-November, six months after beginning its work. His document request to the Department of Defense was only delivered in early April of this year.

Rep. Gowdy has proceeded in a similar vein while attempting to schedule Hillary Clinton’s appearance before the committee. In early September Stop Hillary PAC, which was “created for one reason only—to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States,” delivered a petition with 264,000 signatures demanding Gowdy call the Secretary of State to testify.

The next day, he asked Rep. Cummings to reach out to Ms. Clinton on his “behalf to determine whether she would testify.” On a November 12 phone call with majority and minority committee staff, Clinton’s team confirmed she would be willing to testify before the committee in December. Rep. Gowdy recently moved the goal posts, asking she appear for a private transcribed interview, as opposed to a public hearing.

Recently, the committee has shifted some of its focus from investigating the actual attack in Benghazi, to reviewing policy decisions made by Hillary Clinton regarding Libya more than nineteen months prior to the attack. Rep. Gowdy, confirmed this to Politico, which reported that “broader problems with the Obama administration’s Libya policy—could prove to be an ugly albatross weighing on the Clinton campaign.”

Rep. Cummings believes these efforts are part of “a fishing expedition for anything they can use against Secretary Clinton in her presidential campaign.” He continued, “After a full year, it now seems obvious that this investigation is being dragged out in order to attack Secretary Clinton and her campaign for president—squandering millions of taxpayer dollars in the process.”

In May of 2014 it was reported that Republicans worried that if they created a Benghazi Select Committee it would fail to produce tangible results. “Investigate and find nothing new, and the committee looks like a bunch of tin-hatted obsessives,” wrote Eli Lake. One House member told Lake, “This could be a rabbit hole.”

It has turned out to be an extremely deep one.


By: Ari Rabin-Havt, Featured Post, The National Memo, June 18, 2015; This piece originally appeared in The New York Observer

June 19, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Hillary Clinton, House Select Committee on Benghazi | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Sad And Pathetic”: The Lost Soul Of Mitt Romney

The nation has suffered a death in the family.

This morning we learn that our Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was among four Americans killed yesterday in a violent attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. It was an attack carried out by a mob deeply upset by a film made by an American-Israeli, California-based real estate developer that ridicules Mohammed, the central figure in Islamic religious belief.

While the Romney campaign chose to turn yesterday’s events in Cairo and Benghazi into a political opportunity by criticizing the Obama Administration for a statement issued by our embassy in Cairo earlier in the day (more on that in a moment), a check of Twitter and other communications sources reveals that, as of the time of publication of this piece, Governor Romney has not yet seen fit to so much as express his condolences to the families of Ambassador Stevens and the other Americans who lost their lives in service to their country. Now, if I’ve somehow missed Romney’ issuance of condolences, I’m sure that there are many readers who will gladly point this out. I, in turn, will be more than willing to correct the record if this is the case—however a close search of all sources reveals that no such statement has been forthcoming from the Romney camp.

The Romney condemnation—issued prior to official confirmation of Ambassador Steven’s death—stated, “I’m outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt and by the death of an American consulate worker in Benghazi. It’s disgraceful that the Obama Administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

These words were uttered at the time when the families of our fellow countrymen were being notified of the terrible fate that had befallen their loved ones.

Is this really how leadership works?

A leader waits until all the facts are available and the impact of one’s words can be more fully assessed. In speaking out before he was fully aware of the situation on the ground, Governor Romney chose the path of the impulsive politician rather that the road taken by a measured leader—and all in the quest of political gain.

And then there is the Twitter posted by GOP Chairman, Reince Priebus, which simply says, “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic.”

Apparently, there is nothing sufficiently sad and pathetic about the violent loss of American lives to merit so much as a follow-up Tweet from Chairman Priebus mourning these terrible deaths.

What was the transgression that led the GOP candidate and party chairman to attack the President for ‘sympathizing’ with the protestors or— as many right-wing voices are today saying—“apologizing” (a favorite trigger word of the right these days) to the protestors?

It was a statement issued earlier yesterday by staffers at the American embassy in Cairo—a statement containing words that sought to defuse a situation quickly getting out of hand as Muslims protested the offending film outside the embassy gates. That statement, issued without the prior approval of either the State Department or the White House, was one that we can reasonably assume was the result of frightened embassy employees—employees under siege and attempting to keep a bad situation from getting dangerously out of control.

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Maybe I’m experiencing another one of those hemorrhages in that pesky left-side of my brain, but it’s a real struggle to find anything approaching an apology in those words.

What I do see is a reminder to the Muslim protestors that the United States of America, while defending the right of free speech even when that speech is deeply offensive to some, is not a nation that stands for anyone disrespecting the religious beliefs of another. Indeed, as the communiqué noted, this religious tolerance is a cornerstone of American democracy.

At least it used to be.

Governor Romney should understand this better than most as the founder of Romney’s own LDS religion, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a violent mob whose own religious beliefs had been offended by Smith. Ironically, that mob violently stormed the jail in which Smith was being detained and killed the man in cold blood.

I’m sure the irony of our Ambassador’s death at the hands of such a mob is completely lost on Governor Romney who has now cashed in the decency I have always ascribed to the man in exchange for his willingness to do anything—and say anything—if it helps him capture the prize he so intensely seeks. No doubt, the Romney campaign tells itself that trading their souls is the price they must pay for the greater good. No doubt, they convince themselves of some wisdom they find in speaking first and thinking later if that is what must be done to save the American people from themselves.

Yet, I think all Americans know how that storyline ends.

In point of actual fact—not that the facts have ever stood in the way of Romney campaign rhetoric—President Obama has condemned the actions of the mob in the harshest possible terms— as has Secretary Clinton.

Indeed, the only apologizing I can find is the apology issued today by Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, who said on behalf of his country, “We extend our apology to America, the American people and the whole world.”

I suppose this will now put the leader of the Libyan government at risk with the extremists in his own country as, apparently, apologies are offensive to extremists everywhere.

While there is certainly nothing that has been said or done that would suggest that any American official has apologized for the heinous behavior of the mob—at least, not here in the real world—there is an apology that I would like to offer.

On behalf of a few of my fellow Americans who have behaved in an insensitive and inappropriate manner, I would like to apologize to the families and friends of my countrymen who died so tragically in Benghazi. I’m sure that if a presidential campaign was not clouding their judgment, they would have shown a bit more consideration, compassion and class.

At least I’d like to believe that this would be the case.


By: Rick Ungar, Contributor, Forbes, September 12, 2012

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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