The long awaited hearing with Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi attacks produced a familiar partisan divide on the matter, as Democrats denounced what they charge is a political witch hunt, while Republicans pressed the former Secretary of State for details on what she did about security in Libya for American diplomats.
“So, I’m here,” Clinton said somewhat dismissively in her opening statement, “despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas.”
Republicans bored in on what Clinton did before, during and after the Benghazi attacks on September 11, 2012, repeatedly asserting that Clinton had personally ignored requests for extra security in Libya, a charge she has again and again denied.
“You’ve testified that you had none of those requests reach your desk?” asked Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS).
“That’s correct,” Clinton said, saying the requests went to lower level State Department officials, and not to her desk.
“I did not see them, I did not approve them, I did not deny them,” said the former Secretary of State, repeating her testimony to Congress from just over two years ago.
As the first three hour chunk of the hearing progressed, the tone became more and more sharp, as Clinton defended her overall record on Benghazi, parrying a series of GOP attacks.
“I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, Congressman. I can only tell you what the facts were,” Clinton said to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) at one point.
The first part of the hearing ended with what was basically a shouting match between Democrats and the Chairman of the panel, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) over whether transcripts should be released of a question and answer session with Clinton confidant Sidney Blumenthal.
During the exchanges, Clinton sat glumly at the witness table, her chin resting in her hand.
Republicans spoke ominously of how Blumenthal was able to email and contact Clinton at will, while the embattled U.S. Ambassador in Libya was unable to get her attention about security needs – that was swiftly picked up by GOP operatives outside the hearing room.
“I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together,” Clinton said in a somber voice as she described her feelings about the attack.
“I have been racking my brain about what more could have been done,” she added.
For Republicans, the answer was – a lot more.
“Why has no one been held accountable?” asked Rep. Pompeo (R-KS), who put Clinton on the defensive as he repeatedly asked why she did not add security personnel in Libya.
As for Democrats, they argued repeatedly that this was nothing but a political exercise, with the goal of damaging Hillary Clinton for the 2016 election – this is Clinton’s campaign spokesman:
“The reality is that after seventeen months, we have nothing new to tell the families,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).