Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony was sprinkled with heated exchanges

January 23, 2013

Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate about the response to the Sept. 11, 2012, Benghazi attack. Anne Geran and William Branigin reported:

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying Wednesday in a Senate hearing that was politically charged and at times emotional, defended the Obama administration’s response to last year’s deadly assault on a diplomatic post in Libya and challenged Republican lawmakers to focus on meaningful ways to make diplomats safe instead of engaging in partisan attacks.

Four months after the assault, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made clear that they hold Clinton personally responsible for the attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, at a diplomatic outpost and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi. Clinton said she took responsibility, but she argued that the exact trigger for the terrorist attack — be it a protest that boiled over, as the administration wrongly suggested at first, or “guys out for a walk one night” — no longer matters.

“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton asked during a testy exchange with one Republican. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”

(To watch live video of Secretary Clinton’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, click here.)

Clinton’s long-awaited testimony, her last on Capitol Hill as America’s top diplomat, reflected the enduring divide over the administration’s response to the Sept. 11-12 attacks in Benghazi, and over whether more could have been done to prevent them.

For Clinton, still widely seen as a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, the appearance also carried both personal and political weight. The Benghazi attacks have posed one of the most difficult challenges she has faced in her four years as secretary of state.

Rand Paul told Clinton that if he were president, he would have fired her. Rachel Weiner wrote:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) bluntly told Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday morning that if he were president, he would have demanded her resignation over the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya.

“One of the things that disappointed me most about the original 9/11 is that no one was fired,” Paul said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly assault.  “The people who make judgment errors need to be replaced, fired and no longer in a position to make judgment calls.”

“Had I been president at the time” and known that Clinton had not read cables from Libya asking for more security, “I would have relieved you of your post,” Paul said. “I think it’s inexcusable.” Paul has said he is interested in running for president in 2016.

The White House is defending Clinton’s statements on Benghazi, Felicia Sonmez wrote:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday defended Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that it doesn’t make a difference what administration officials first said in explaining how Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were slain in last September’s attack in Benghazi, Libya.

Carney told reporters at the daily press briefing that there has been an “obvious political obsession over a series of talking points” that bears no relevance to the essential issues at stake.

“No one took more seriously the fact that we lost four American lives in Benghazi than the president of the United States and the secretary of state of the United States,” Carney said.

“And whatever was said — based on information provided by the intelligence community  — on a series of Sunday shows bears no ultimate relevance” to the question of what happened and who was responsible for the attack, he added.

The talking points — long a focus of conservatives skeptical of the administration’s changing explanation of the Benghazi attack  — were at the center of a heated exchange between Clinton and freshman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) during Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

Related:

The 4 memorable moments from Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi testimony (VIDEO)

Clinton appears before Congress over Benghazi attack

Clinton’s showstopper at Benghazi hearings

White House defends Secretary of State Clinton on Benghazi

Clinton testimony challenges Haniity claims

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