WASHINGTON (TIP): Republican lawmakers spent more than eight hours aggressively questioning Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday, seeking to build a case that the former secretary of state had been derelict in her duty to secure the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in the months before the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans.
- Clinton was questioned about about the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in the months before the 2012 terrorist attacks that killed four Americans.
- The marathon hearing began at 10am and, with breaks, lasted until 9pm.
- The questioning gave Mrs Clinton her first opportunity since early 2013 to respond directly to her fiercest critics.
Billed by Republican leaders of the select House committee investigating the Benghazi attacks as a critical moment in its inquiry, the long-awaited appearance by Mrs Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, served largely as a replay of highly contested arguments from previous congressional hearings, press examinations and Sunday-morning talk shows.
“Why were there so many requests for security equipment and personnel, and why were those requests denied in Washington?” Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, the committee chairman, demanded to know as he opened the hearing on Thursday morning. “What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when?”
But the long day of often-testy exchanges between committee members and their prominent witness revealed little new information about an episode that has been the subject of seven previous investigations, and that Republicans have long seen as a blemish on Mrs Clinton’s record that could be exploited as she sought the presidency.
Held in the ornate room that is home to the House Ways and Means Committee, the marathon hearing began at 10am and, with breaks, lasted until 9pm. It provided Republicans with a national audience as they questioned Mrs Clinton, often using her own words from thousands of pages of emails obtained by the committee. But it also gave Mrs Clinton her first opportunity since early 2013 to respond directly to her fiercest critics, and she used the platform to offer lengthy explanations of her diplomatic efforts around the world and her actions before and after the Benghazi attacks.
Perhaps stung by recent admissions that the pursuit of Mrs Clinton’s emails was politically motivated, Republican lawmakers on the panel for the most part avoided any mention of her use of a private email server. Still, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio did raise the issue late in the hearing, accusing her of repeatedly changing her account of the server and why she had used it. In a heated exchange, Mrs Clinton repeated that she had made a mistake in using a private email account, but maintained that she had never sent or received anything marked classified and had sought to be transparent by publicly releasing her emails.
But committee Republicans focused mostly on accusations that Mrs Clinton had ignored security needs in Benghazi in the months before the attacks, a charge she repeatedly rejected.
Throughout the day, Democrats on the committee portrayed Republicans as the leaders of a partisan crusade against Mrs Clinton, while Republicans responded angrily that Democrats were seeking to block a legitimate inquiry into fatal security lapses at an American diplomatic outpost. Shortly before the committee broke for lunch, a shouting match erupted between Mr. Gowdy and two Democrats, Adam B. Schiff and Elijah E. Cummings, over the focus on Mrs Clinton’s email exchanges with Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to her husband and a friend.
Late in the evening, Mrs Clinton had a coughing fit that stopped testimony for two minutes. Hoarse and visibly tired, she responded testily to comments by Mr. Gowdy questioning the independence of a Benghazi review led by Thomas R Pickering, a retired diplomat, and Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.