VIDEO: Hillary Clinton Defends Her Legacy as Secretary of State at Benghazi Hearing
Update: As of 9:01 PM EST, Rep. Gowdy thanked Clinton for her patience and participation, and the hearing was adjourned.
Here’s a video clip from The Washington Post of one of the more fraught discussions that occurred during Thursday’s session:
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Update: 8:55 PM EST: Yes, they’re still talking about those emails. Rep. Trey Gowdy isn’t letting the subject go, begging to differ with Rep. Elijah Cummings’ earlier argument against dragging out the process further, given the $20 million price tag Cummings estimated it has already cost American taxpayers. Gowdy, the chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, countered that there should be no price tag on the four American lives lost in the attacks and went into surgical detail with Clinton about the work-related emails she sent and received during her tenure at the head of the State Department.
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Update: Shortly after 7:00 p.m. EST, California Rep. Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat, started her gently delivered inquiry into Clinton’s actions in the Benghazi crisis by stating, “I want to apologize for my Republican colleagues” who, she said, seemed interested in answering their questions for Clinton as they asked them in an effort to ensure the discussion fit into “their outlandish narratives.”
Sanchez’ change of tune came after Clinton’s frequently tense exchange with Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who seemed determined to characterize Clinton’s behavior toward Ambassador Stevens as negligent and unresponsive.
“We have no record of you ever talking to him,” Brooks said to Clinton, calling into question whether Clinton had communicated with Stevens after swearing him in as the U.S.’ ambassador to Libya in May 2012.
“I appreciate, and I really do, the passion and the intensity of your feelings about this,” Clinton responded, adding:
“I was the boss of ambassadors in 270 countries. I am very well aware of the dangers that are faced by our diplomats and our development professionals. There was never a recommendation from Chris Stevens or anyone else to close Benghazi. Sitting here … t’s easy to say, “Well, there should have been. But that was not the case. And it is a very difficult choice with respect to any of these facilities given the level of threat and instability that we confront around the world today, and it’s deeply deeply distressing when any of our facilities or personnel are in danger. And I think we can do better, which is why I’ve implemented all the ARB recommendations, which we’ve barely talked about.
Once again, here’s the link to The Washington Post’s transcript of Thursday’s hearing.
And here’s Rolling Stone’s roundup of “5 Absurd Moments from the Hillary Clinton Benghazi Hearing.” It should be noted that at press time, the hearing was still ongoing, so that list may grow longer.
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Update: At 5:45 p.m. EST, Hillary Clinton calmly described the “heroic efforts” of the security team guarding the Benghazi embassy and admitted that “even when we try to get it right, and we do try, sometimes there are unintended consequences, and there are examples out of this tragedy.” The former secretary of state emphasized actions the State Department has taken to improve security for the country’s envoys, including the installation of “safe havens” and “safe rooms in diplomatic buildings.” There was a safe room in the Benghazi complex, she noted, where Ambassador Chris Stevens was taken during the attacks.
At 5:25 p.m. EST, The Washington Post weighed in that the Repubican-led Benghazi panel had yielded “few new details” about the 2012 attacks and “no clear victory” for GOP operatives hoping to knock Clinton off balance.
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Update: The Benghazi hearing resumed after lunch with — no surprise here — more talk about Clinton’s emails (per The Washington Post):
“Help us understand how Sidney Blumenthal had that kind of access to you, madam secretary, but the ambassador did not,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the chairman of the House committee set up to investigate those attacks. Blumenthal was a friend of the Clinton family, though hardly an expert on Libya, who repeatedly sent reports about that country to the private e-mail address that Clinton used to conduct State Department business.
“Sid Blumenthal was not my adviser, official or unofficial, about Libya. … On occasion, I did forward what he sent me to be sure that it was in the mix,” Clinton said. She compared Blumenthal to other friends who would buttonhole her at parties or pass her newspaper articles, trying to be helpful.
That line of questioning typified the course of the entire hearing, which began at 10 a.m. Thursday.
It has revealed little new information about the attacks that killed the American Ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens, and three others on the night of Sept. 11, 2012, and early the next morning. Instead, Republicans on the committee have focused more broadly on questions about Clinton’s judgment, using Blumenthal — and Clinton’s willingness to listen to him — as evidence that she gave friends access that she did not give to her own officials.
Clinton’s response was that e-mail records, which served as the committee’s primary sources, were not enough to understand whom she listened to.
“You didn’t need my e-mail address to get my attention,” she said.
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Update: As The Washington Post reported, two congressmen got caught up in a heated discussion about Clinton’s emails that was only (temporarily) broken up by the lunch bell:
The argument was between Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the committee’s chairman, and Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Adam Schiff (D-Calif.). It began when Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asked for Gowdy to release a transcript of past testimony by a friend of Clinton’s – Sidney Blumenthal – who had sent e-mails about Libya to the private e-mail account Clinton used to conduct government business.
“Let the world see it!” Cummings shouted, after Gowdy had questioned Clinton about how – and why –she forwarded on Blumenthal’s e-mails to State Department officials. Cummings pushed for a vote to release the transcript, saying that a House “parliamentarian” (an in-house staffer who advises congressmen on congressional procedure) had said that was allowed.
“The parliamentarian told me that your motion would actually not be in order,” Gowdy replied. He then said that there would be more about Blumenthal coming: “If you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal so far, wait ‘til the next round. We’re adjourned,” Gowdy said, and the committee broke for lunch.
Read the Post’s live blog of the panel proceedings here.
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Update: The Washington Post has published a transcript from the Benghazi hearing here.
Watch the hearing from the beginning by clicking on this link (via C-SPAN).
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Hillary Clinton’s congressional foes have been particularly determined in their efforts to make sure the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the American Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, remains an active issue — both for Clinton as she gains traction in her latest bid for the White House and for voters who might consider backing her.
On Thursday, Clinton settled in for hours of questions before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to defend her actions as secretary of state during the two waves of assaults on the Benghazi compound, during which four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were killed and 10 others were injured.
The Democratic presidential hopeful came prepared for Thursday’s session, setting the tone in her exchange with the panel’s GOP members by claiming responsibility for not just those members of the State Department lost in Libya but also elsewhere in the world during her watch:
As secretary of state, I had the honor to lead and the responsibility to support nearly 70,000 diplomats and development experts across the globe. Losing any one of them as we did in Iraq, Afghanistan, Mexico, Haiti, and Libya during my tenure was deeply painful for our entire State Department and USAID family and for me personally.
I was the one who asked Chris to be our envoy. I was the one who recommended him to be our ambassador to the president. After the attacks, I stood next to President Obama as Marines carried his casket and those of the other three Americans off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base. I took responsibility. And as part of that, before I left office, I launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chance of another tragedy happening in the future.
The New York Times summarized the earliest exchanges in the Benghazi hearing as follows:
Testifying in the ornate and cavernous assembly room that is home to the House Ways and Means Committee, Mrs. Clinton hailed the memory of J. Christopher Stevens, the ambassador to Libya, and the three others who died at the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi and again took responsibility for the attacks in which they died.
But the Democratic presidential candidate said that as secretary of state she had not personally approved or denied requests for extra security for the facility where they were based. And she insisted that the United States must not back away from diplomacy because of the incident.
“Retreat from the world is not an option,” Mrs. Clinton told lawmakers.
Mrs. Clinton’s comments followed an aggressive opening statement from Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, the chairman of the committee, who assailed the former secretary of state for having failed in her duty to safeguard American lives.
“Why were there so many requests for security equipment and personnel and why were those requests denied in Washington?” Mr. Gowdy demanded as Mrs. Clinton sat before the committee, staring with thinly veiled disgust. “What did our leaders in Washington do or not do, and when?”
The Times also noted that the issue of Clinton’s State Department emails also comprised one of the talking points on the menu for the hearing.
CNNgo is streaming coverage of the Benghazi panel throughout the day on Thursday, here.
–Posted by Kasia AndersonWait, before you go…
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