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Live updates: Hillary Clinton testifies before Benghazi committee

October 22, 2015

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton is testifying before the House select committee investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. We’re bringing you live updates all day.

  • Terri Rupar
  • ·

Anne Gearan, Karen Tumulty and Elise Viebeck wrap up a long hearing day:

Clinton unscathed from the high-stakes hearing with a smooth and sometimes poignant account of her role in the event that has loomed as among her largest political liabilities.

Just over a year before the 2016 general election, the long-anticipated showdown was suffused with presidential politics — though neither Clinton nor members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi mentioned her position at the top of the Democratic field.

Both she and her Republican questioners claimed the high ground, insisting that they were focused on learning what went wrong when militants overran two U.S. compounds in the restive Libyan city in September 2012, just months before Clinton left office as secretary of state.

Democrats defended Clinton’s leadership and repeatedly accused Republicans of using the special investigative panel to hunt for damaging information about her. … Republicans sought to establish a link between Clinton’s decision-making — before and during the attacks — and the four deaths, but they clearly struggled to build a theory of the case that she was directly responsible or negligent.

Keep reading here.

A transcript of the hearing can be found here.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

The Benghazi Select Committee’s hearing adjourned right at 9 p.m.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

How do conservatives feel about the Benghazi Select Committee hearing? From inside the Longworth House Office Building, comes this dispatch from The Post’s David Weigel and Ben Terris:

Tom Fitton slipped through the gauntlet without a single flash going off. The president of Judicial Watch could take credit — and did — for Thursday’s circus. It was Judicial Watch that had sued the State Department for e-mails that found White House aides collaborating on talking points about the attack, and it was those e-mails that had prodded the Republican majority to create the select committee.

Fitton looked upon his work — and despaired. It was a good day for Judicial Watch’s special Benghazi Snapchat filter (“This message will disappear just like Hillary Clinton’s e-mails”), but a mixed day in his battle for accountability.

“It’s disappointing that a year and a half plus after the committee was appointed, we’re finally having a significant public hearing,” Fitton said after a few hours inside the room. “I don’t think that’s what people expected when the select committee was appointed.”

Read their entire story here.

  • Karoun Demirjian
  • ·

To no one’s surprise, Hillary Clinton’s hearing has now been running for longer than that of anyone else on her team who appeared before the committee. We think.

Clinton’s attorney Cheryl Mills spent nine hours testifying before the Benghazi committee in September, the former Secretary of State recalled on Thursday to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) during a testy bout of questioning.

Aides Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin, and friend and informal adviser Sidney Blumenthal also logged long hours testifying before the committee — but none quite so long as Clinton, it appears.

Clinton just hit hour 10.

Okay, so it hasn’t exactly been 10 hours. They’ve taken breaks for lunch, leg-stretching, and paused for over an hour to go attend votes.

Since Mills’ testimony took place behind closed doors, we can’t quite be sure what kind of breaks they did or didn’t take then.

But maybe we can take it from members of the committee.

“Madam Secretary, I don’t know how you’re doing but I’m exhausted,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said to Clinton, opining that he thought Clinton’s testimony had gone on longer than all the other witnesses combined.

That’s hyperbole. But longer than any other witness’ testimony? It sure looks like it.

And given that the committee is barely into its third round of questioning, this could keep going a while longer.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

After more than nine hours, a member of the Benghazi Select Committee got to the topic that has dogged Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign for months: her use of a private e-mail account and server while secretary of state.

Still, after aggressive questioning from Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), little new was learned about Clinton’s e-mail practices. Jordan pressed Clinton about ways her explanation for the system has shifted since March, when the private account was first revealed publicly. He noted that Clinton said in March that she had turned over all Libya-related e-mails to the State Department when she gave 55,000 pages of work-related correspondence in December 2014.

But in September, Clinton acknowledged that political advisor Sidney Blumenthal had provided the committee e-mails she had not. She also in March insisted that she had not sent or received any classified material on the account. Later, she said there was no material marked classified.

“If your story about your e-mails keeps changing, then how can we accept your statement that you’ve turned over all your work related e-mails?” Jordan asked, indicating he believes the question is important for ensuring the record on Libya is complete.

In response, Clinton merely repeated what she has said on the topic many times before. “I have said repeatedly that I take responsibility for my use of personal e-mail,” she said. “I’ve said it was a mistake. I’ve said it was allowed but it was not a good choice.”

Jordan did manage to draw one tricky footstep from Clinton when he noted that she has boasted of her transparency on the issue and then asked if she would allow a neutral third party, like a retired federal judge, to review e-mails that her team deleted as purely personal, should any be recovered by the FBI. The FBI is currently conducting a forensic analysis of the server she used as secretary of state. Clinton has indicated that more than 30,000 of her e-mails were deleted because they did not include discussion of public business.

Clinton responded merely that the FBI will “do whatever is appropriate to reach their conclusion.”

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Again, The Post’s Ann Telnaes has been sketching scenes from the hearing. Here are a few more:

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

As the questioning has continued past 7 p.m., Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) asked Clinton about her whereabouts during the night of the attack:

Roby: “Were you alone?”
Clinton: “Yes.”
Roby: “The whole night?”
Clinton: “… Yes.”

At this point, Clinton and others throughout the hearing room chuckled. Roby responded, “I don’t think it’s funny.”

Clinton said the eruption was “a little note of levity at 7:15.”


  • Karoun Demirjian
  • ·

Did Hillary Clinton ever call to check up on her Libya ambassador? And would it have made a difference?

Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) thinks so – and also thinks Clinton never bothered to pick up the phone.

“We have no record of you ever talking to him,” Brooks challenged Clinton, at least not after the former Secretary of State swore Chris Stevens in as ambassador in May of 2012. “Am I wrong? Did you ever talk to Ambassador Stevens when all of this was going on in the hotbed of Libya?”

“That is a yes or no question,” she added.

Clinton said “yes, I believe I did.” But when Brooks asked her to say when she spoke to him, Clinton answered: “I don’t recall.”

Does it matter if a boss calls to check in on her employees? Brooks would argue that yes, it does, especially if the security environment in which an ambassador is working is deteriorating.

“Had he talked to you in July, he would have told you that he asked to keep the security that he had,” Brooks said, noting that they had no call logs or any other indication from the ops center records that Clinton and Stevens had spoken directly during his time in Libya. “He was told ‘no’ by your State Department.”

Clinton retorted that she was responsible for several people working in dangerous war zones, and had ambassadors in 270 countries. But she did not ever say she had placed a phone call to Stevens.

“Chris Stevens had an opportunity to reach me directly any time he thought there was something of importance,” she said.

  • Karoun Demirjian
  • ·

Hillary Clinton’s leadership style while at the helm of the State Department has been on trial during her Benghazi committee hearing. And while none of the Republican members of the committee like it, one has been objecting to it with particularly dramatic flair.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a former member of House GOP leadership, is near the end of the Republicans’ committee roster. But he’s been using his time to grill Clinton derisively about “the Clinton doctrine” – suggesting she tried to use Libya for personal political gain – and charging that she didn’t care much about the security needs of her diplomatic teams.

“Here’s basically what happened to their requests. They were torn up,” Roskam said, as he did this:

Clinton had “created an environment,” Roskam charged, where cables bearing requests from ambassadors simply couldn’t get through.

Clinton tried to dismiss Roskam’s accusations, explaining that millions of cables are processed and sent, and that she isn’t part of every communication chain – but Roskam was not satisfied.

“They didn’t get through! They didn’t make any difference,” Roskam insisted. “They couldn’t break into the inner circle of decision-making.”

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

The Benghazi hearing has an estimated two hours to go, but just after 5 p.m., one network dropped its live feed of the committee: Fox News.

From The Post’s Erik Wemple:

Even the network that ran almost 1,100 segments on Benghazi in the 20 months after the attack appears to be conceding that today’s marathon congressional hearing on the topic is going nowhere. In the 5 p.m. hour, when competing networks CNN and MSNBC stuck closely to live coverage of the all-day hearing, the Fox News program “TheFive” started to drift.

While the Benghazi committee was churning along, the flamboyant co-hosts of the roundtable program — Eric Bolling, Greg Gutfeld, Juan Williams, Dana Perino and Kimberly Guilfoyle — were trading thoughts not about what former secretary of state Hillary Clinton was doing on that fateful night; not about why on earth her private e-mail account did so much business with an e-mail account of friend Sidney Blumenthal; not about whether this whole special Benghazi committee is a “partisan witch hunt,” as some partisan has said at one point or another. They were talking about Donald Trump!

The Benghazi hearing came back on Fox at some point; it’s currently airing on the channel.

  • Karoun Demirjian
  • ·

Members of the Benghazi committee took a quick moment to stretch their legs. But the clock is still ticking.

If the committee sticks to their guns about going for four rounds of questioning in which each member gets ten minutes to pose questions, this hearing may go deep into the night. They’ve barely made it through two rounds.

But members may be trying to wrap things up a little early. In an interview on CNN, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said his understanding was that the committee would continue for another two and a half hours of questioning.

“They are covering the same ground over and over again,” Cummings said.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·
  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Democrats failed at their effort to release the transcript of Sidney Blumenthal’s deposition. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) alleged that the reason the seven Republican members rejected their motion was not because of what Blumenthal said.

“What [the Republicans] really don’t want the American people to see is what he asked,” Schiff said, who then went on to list the numbers of questions Blumenthal was asked. According to Schiff, those questions included:

* 160 questions about his relationship and communication with the Clintons.

* “More than 50 questions about the Clinton Foundation.”

* “More than 45 questions about David Brock, Media Matters.”

Schiff said fewer than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks were posed to Blumenthal, and he was asked four about security in Benghazi.

  • Karoun Demirjian
  • ·

The Benghazi committee laid into Hillary Clinton on Thursday for telling the country, at first, that the Benghazi attacks were a spontaneous reaction to a video many Muslims found offensive — a charge she denies.

But Clinton staged a passionate defense of why she spoke about the video, arguing that it is important to look at “the totality” of the situation, and “for the United States to be on top of what people themselves are reacting to.”

“I spoke about [the video] because I wanted it to be clear to every government around the world that we were going to look to them to protect our facilities,” Clinton said.

The video in question was a trailer for a film that depicted the prophet Muhammad as a fool who made up Quranic verses for his own convenience, a womanizer and potentially gay. The video inspired protests across the Middle East from Muslims angered by the production — and some of those protests turned against U.S. diplomatic missions, particularly in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan.

Clinton recalled pleading with Tunisia’s president to send his presidential guard to prevent the protesters from breaching the embassy compound.

And she argued that the video was relevant to what transpired in Libya.

“Several of you have raised the video and dismissed the importance of the video, and I think that is unfortunate,” Clinton said, arguing that leaders of the Benghazi attack were “reputed to have used the video as a way to gather up the attackers.”

“It’s like that terrible incident that happened in Paris,” Clinton continued, making a comparison to the Charlie Hebdo affair this year. “Cartoons sparked two al-Qaeda-trained attackers who killed nearly a dozen people.”

“You look at the totality so we can learn the best lessons,” Clinton said.

  • Abby Phillip
  • ·
(Abby Phillip/The Washington Post)

(Abby Phillip/The Washington Post)

The Benghazi committee hearing has now stretched on for some seven hours, including two breaks of roughly an hour each.

So far, under the pressure of relentless questioning, Clinton appears to be all smiles.

That isn’t inconsequential: As the hearing carries on, fatigue becomes more of a factor, and that increases the risks for Clinton (as well as her questioners, though to a lesser extent.)

As The Post’s Janell Ross has noted, experts say that it is in her best interest to avoid seeming exasperated and creating another “what difference does it make?” moment.

So far, both coming in and out of the committee room during recent breaks, Clinton has been cheerful, even joyful, greeting supporters, friends and Democratic lawmakers seated in the room. It’s unclear how much longer she’ll need to keep it up.

(Abby Phillip/The Washington Post)

(Abby Phillip/The Washington Post)

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) just played a clip of former Oversight chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) who, at a 2014 fundraising event in New Hampshire, suggested that Clinton told then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down” during the Benghazi attack. Here are his comments:

“We need to have an answer of when the secretary of defense had assets that he could have begun spinning up. Why there was not one order given to turn on one Department of Defense asset? I have my suspicions, which is Secretary Clinton told Leon [Panetta] to stand down, and we all heard about the stand-down order for two military personnel. That order is undeniable. They were told not to get on — get off the airplane and kind of stand by — and they’re going to characterize it wasn’t stand down. But when we’re done with Benghazi, the real question is, was there a stand-down order to Leon Panetta or did he just not do his job? Was there a stand-down order from the president who said he told them to use their resources and they didn’t use them? Those questions have to be answered.”

The Post’s Fact Checker examined Issa’s comments shortly after he made them. Here is the conclusion:

It is correct that Issa poses a series of questions, but his repeated use of the phrase “stand down” and his personalizing of the alleged actions (“Secretary Clinton;” “Leon”) leave a distinct impression that either Clinton or Obama delivered some sort of instruction to Panetta to not act as forcefully as possible. He even incorrectly asserts that not a single order was given to use any DOD asset. One could argue the response was slow, bungled or poorly handled. But Issa is crossing a line when he suggests there was no response — or a deliberate effort to hinder it.

Read the Fact Checker’s entire post here.

  • Karen Tumulty
  • ·

Ironic indeed. When Blumenthal was in the Bill Clinton White House, his nickname was “Grassy Knoll” — a reference to one of the most infamous Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories. It was one of the reasons that David Axelrod and others blocked Hillary Clinton from installing Blumenthal at the State Department. Another was the fact that he was known to harbor animosity toward the Obama team, a leftover from the bitter 2008 Democratic primary campaign.

  • Abby Phillip
  • ·

Hillary Rodham Clinton and staffers have the benefit of sitting in some swanky — and fairly comfortable — leather chairs inside the House Ways and Means Committee room. But she also has something extra: a comfy pillow.

The small throw pillow was revealed when Clinton and members of the committee went on a break due to votes on the House floor.

And since these tables and chairs don’t adjust, it also has the added benefit of giving her a boost up to the microphone during what has already been a long hearing.

  • Elahe Izadi
  • ·

  • Michelle Ye Hee Lee
  • ·

THE FACT CHECKER | Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the United States did not investigate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks “with the length and depth” of Benghazi. This is misleading, and it’s unclear exactly what he means by “depth.”

Smith’s statement appears to be based on an article by the left-leaning Think Progress. It shows there have been eight separate committees and the Accountability Review Board investigating the September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, compared with two fact-finding investigations (a joint congressional investigation and the 9/11 Commission investigation) for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Think Progress article also showed that congressional committees have held 32 public or private hearings related to Benghazi, compared with 22 on the 2001 attacks. There also was a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the joint committee report findings.

An important caveat: “There were certainly more congressional hearings regarding 9/11 aside from that, but like the committees investigating it, they do not appear to be about investigating the attack itself. Other 9/11-related hearings instead appear to be about policy issues, like how to improve airport security,” the article says.

The congressional committee hearings into the Benghazi attacks have taken place over a longer period of time (May 2013 through the current date) than the 9/11 Commission’s investigation. But this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Different committees have held hearings throughout that time, while also investigating other issues (i.e., the House Oversight Committee is not only focused on the Benghazi attack).

The 9/11 Commission, on the other hand, was a more concentrated investigation and was given an 18-month period to complete its investigation. The commission ultimately took 20 months, after being granted a two-month investigation.

How about in terms of cost? The House Select Committee on Benghazi’s cost clock currently places the tab at $4.8 million. The 9/11 Commission’s budget totaled $15 million, and it had nearly 80 full-time employees, contractors and employees on staff, according to a CNN fact sheet.

For its approximately 570-page report, the 9/11 Commission took testimony from 160 witnesses — just over three times the number of witnesses the House Select Committee on Benghazi has interviewed so far.

However, there have been more congressional hearings and investigations into the deaths of four Americans in the Benghazi attacks than any other attacks or deaths of American diplomats since 1973, according to the Center for American Progress.

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