The hearing was already highly anticipated because of the former secretary of State’s status as the Democratic presidential front-runner. But now, given the questions swirling around whether Republicans are using the panel more to target Clinton politically than to investigate the 2012 attacks, her testimony and exchanges with lawmakers are likely to get even more attention.
So how will the day proceed? Here’s what we know, according to multiple aides briefed on the plans.
The hearing will take place in room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building, an expansive chamber used by the House Ways and Means Committee. It is just off the lobby, in a hallway that can easily become crowded and chaotic. Knowing the kind of attention Clinton’s presence will attract, the chances for a media circus are high.
Starting at 10 a.m., the hearing will proceed with at least four rounds of questioning with Republicans and Democrats alternating time.
Each round includes 10 minutes allotted to each member of the committee. There are twelve members, including Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), so that’s two hours per round and eight hours total, if everything runs with perfect efficiency. It won’t, since there will be a break for lunch and possibly for House votes, which leads to the anticipated ending time of 7 p.m. or later. Clinton is expected to come with an entourage and the group will be assigned a room where they can gather during breaks.
Will Clinton hold a news conference outside the chamber room? It’s possible, according to aides, but nothing is firmly planned.
As for strategy, Republicans are expected to hold off on questions about Clinton’s email server and other issues of potential political sensitivity until later in the hearing to avoid the impression they are targeting Clinton as opposed to digging into the details surrounding the 2012 attacks, when heavily armed Islamist militants launched an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya and four Americans were killed.
“I think each member’s questions will fall in line with what phase of the attack they were assigned to,” wrote one Republican aide in an email. “They’re trying to avoid duplicative questions so they have been in communication with each other as they work on their line of questioning.”
Democrats, meanwhile, say they’re planning to “correct the record” in response to what they characterize as selective GOP leaks designed to paint Clinton in a negative light.
“We have plenty of substantive questions planned, and we hope to give [Clinton] a chance to respond to GOP accusations,” said a Democratic aide.