The Washington Post

Too many questions remain about Benghazi attacks, Hillary Clinton says

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discusses the capture of the Benghazi suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala. Diplomatic correspondent Anne Gearan adds her context and commentary to Clinton's interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour during a town hall event. (Divya Jeswani Verma/The Washington Post)

There are still too many unanswered questions about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday, even as she welcomed the capture of a suspected mastermind of the assaults.

“There are answers, not all of them, not enough, frankly,” she said of the September 2012 attacks on a diplomatic and CIA compound that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others.

“I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time,” Clinton said.

Her remarks, delivered during a CNN interview in Washington to promote her new book, appeared to lend credence to a central claim by Republicans that there is more to learn about the Benghazi tragedy. The Obama administration has said that after multiple investigations, there is little new to say about the attacks.

The assaults badly marred Clinton’s record as the United States’ top diplomat and represent one of her biggest potential political vulnerabilities should she run for president in 2016.

In the CNN interview, she put off questions about her potential candidacy, saying she is trying to focus on other things, including the forthcoming birth of her first grandchild.

Clinton also gave unqualified support for same-sex marriage, said gun laws need to be stricter and said states should be free to experiment with liberalizing laws on marijuana.

On Benghazi, Clinton said the U.S. capture of suspect Ahmed Abu Khattala in Libya over the weekend may help the United States better understand what prompted the attacks.

“We want to know who was behind it, what the motivation of the leaders and the attackers happened to be,” she said. “There are still some unanswered questions. It was, after all, the fog of war.”

The Obama administration’s initial assertion that the attacks were spawned by an anti-Muslim Internet video is a main tenet of ongoing Republican claims that the administration may have tried to cover up the terrorist nature of the attacks.

Clinton’s tone when discussing Benghazi was much milder than in her new book, “Hard Choices,” in which she denounces the politicization of the deaths.

She said that her views on same-sex marriage have changed over the years. “I evolved over time, and I’m very proud to state that I’m a full supporter of marriage equality right now,” she said.

The response was notably smoother than one she delivered on NPR last week, when she accused the interviewer of “playing with words” in a combative back-and-forth over her stance on same-sex marriage.

On CNN, Clinton was asked for the first time on her book tour about legalizing marijuana, an emerging cause for many liberal Democrats. She said that there is not enough research to show the impact of legalizing marijuana, whether for medicinal or recreational use, and that the issue should be decided by state governments as “laboratories of democracy.”

Asked whether she would try marijuana, she said with a laugh, “I didn’t do [it] when I was young, I’m not going to start now.” Her husband, former president Bill Clinton, famously acknowledged during the 1992 campaign that he had tried marijuana but “didn’t like it and didn’t inhale.”

An audience member asked Hillary Clinton what she would do about immigrants who are in the country illegally, noting that many Hispanics call President Obama the “deporter in chief” for his heavy rate of deportations.

Clinton said that Congress should have passed comprehensive immigration reform “yesterday” and that the federal government should provide a path to citizenship. She also said some deportations are an affront to U.S. values.

On gun control, Clinton said stricter laws — such as a ban on so-called assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — could help stem gun violence in schools and other public places.

Noting widespread popular support for tougher background checks, she added, “We cannot let a minority of people hold a viewpoint that terrorizes a majority of people.”

Clinton sidestepped some questions, declining to say where she and her husband differ on policy matters. (Clinton, a lawyer, cited “marital privilege.”)

She also declined to directly state whether she believes some of the political opposition to Obama is because he is black.

“Here are people who have trouble with ethnicity, with race, with gender, with sexual orientation — you name it,” Clinton said, but added that she could not say whether racism motivates some people’s views of the president.

Later Tuesday, Clinton made similar comments about Benghazi in an interview with Fox News Channel and, when asked about the accord to rescue American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from the Taliban, said she supported “a bigger deal” than the Obama administration reached. Five Taliban commanders were released from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in return for Bergdahl’s freedom.

Clinton also discussed controversy surrounding the National Security Agency surveillance programs. She said she thought the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls was “absolutely uncalled for,” adding that that kind of spying should be “off limits.”

Anne Gearan is a national politics correspondent for The Washington Post.
Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

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