The eighth investigation of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi ended like all the many investigations targeting Hillary Clinton over more than two decades. Millions in taxpayer dollars were spent with next to nothing accomplished. Clinton’s political opponents advertised her guilt for years but in the end, couldn’t prove she’d done anything wrong.

The latest House probe, led by Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, was transparently political and partisan. Democrats on the committee weren’t even allowed to see its report before it was released to the press. The Gowdy committee’s report found fault, notably with the Defense Department and the CIA, but generated little new information — despite spending two years and $7.1 million.

The sad and rarely-spoken truth is that the person ultimately responsible for a U.S. ambassador’s security is the ambassador himself. Ambassador Chris Stevens knew Benghazi was dangerous and that security was inadequate. He had years of experience serving in global hotspots and had taken chances before with his personal safety. He should have stayed at the embassy in Tripoli, which was better protected; going to Benghazi was his decision.

His family understands this truth. “The Benghazi Mission was understaffed,” Stevens’ sister, Dr. Anne Stevens, told the New Yorker. “Chris knew that. It wasn’t a secret to him. He decided to take the risk to go there. It is not something they did to him. It is something he took on himself.”

Some of the news stories announced that the House Benghazi committee had found “no smoking gun,” an unfortunate cliche meaning there was no evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton.

But there is a smoking gun in Benghazi, several of them, in fact. They were in the hands of the Libyan rebels who stormed the consulate and murdered four Americans. Laying the blame for those murders on the Secretary of State is obscene.

Yet that’s exactly what is being done by political hacks for whom no libel is too extreme if it suits their political ends. Michael Cohen, a top adviser to Donald Trump, this week circulated a statement saying Clinton “murdered an ambassador.”

Such smears are nothing new for Clinton. Her political enemies have recklessly tossed libels and conspiracy theories at her since her husband first ran for president. Scandal-mongers have bedeviled her for decades, turning molehills into mountains: The cattle-futures business, the White House travel office, the Rose Law Firm billing records, the Whitewater real estate development and now, the private emails. In each case, her accusers demanded ever more information and Clinton often resisted. Her defensive secrecy seemed to validate the accusations, and over time, millions of Americans concluded that with so much smoke, there must be a fire somewhere.

With those scandals, as with Benghazi, the full facts revealed no wrongdoing by Clinton. But the damage has been done. All the smoke blown by her adversaries has left a scent of untrustworthiness around Clinton she can’t seem to shake. It’s not fair, but that’s politics.