Clinton takes on critics over Benghazi at tense Hill hearings
Published January 23, 2013 FoxNews.com
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Rubio ‘On the Record,’ Pt. 1: Benghazi and Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began her long-awaited testimony Wednesday on the Benghazi terror attack by taking “responsibility” — but she used the full day of hearings to repeatedly deny involvement in key controversies and pointedly reject the allegations of Republican lawmakers.
The at times heated testimony before House and Senate committees, likely to be the outgoing secretary’s last, elicited praise from Democrats and frustration from Republicans. Far from putting the issue to rest, the testimony further fueled a debate that has raged on Capitol Hill for four months.
Though she said officials are following some “very promising leads” on the terrorists, Clinton herself acknowledged there are still several open questions about what prompted the attack that night.
The secretary battled tough criticism from lawmakers throughout the day. In one of the final jabs of the session, Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., told her, “Madame Secretary, you let the consulate become a death trap.”
The biggest flash point Wednesday came during morning testimony.
Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson claimed the department could have “easily” determined what happened that night by interviewing staffers who were evacuated. He was referring to the administration’s initial claim that the attack sprung out of a protest. It was later determined there was no protest on the ground in Benghazi. Diplomatic security agents said as much to the FBI during interviews on Sept. 14, despite administration claims to the contrary two days later.
“We were misled that there were supposedly protests and something sprang out of that,” Johnson said. “The American people could have known that (there was no protest) within days, and they didn’t know that.”
At that point, Clinton began to raise her voice.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” she said.
“I understand,” Johnson said.
Clinton continued to speak, raising her voice and gesturing: “Was it because of a protest or is it because of guys out for a walk one night and they decide they go kill some Americans?
“What difference, at this point, does it make?”