In one ofthe most-watched hearings in historuy on Capitol Hill, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faces one of the biggest tests of her career – not to mention her presidential campaign – as she testifies before the Select Committee on Benghazi in the House of Representatives. This, of course, is not the first time, but one wonders if she will come out swinging with her "what difference does it make" persona, or be buried in the minutia of her private email server.
Why is there still so much dispute about what happened three years ago? (Via The Wall Street Journal)
The national response to the attacks that killed four Americans in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, was complicated by secrecy, tragedy and national politics.
The presence and role of the Central Intelligence Agency in the area - the U.S. effort there was primarily a CIA operation—was not understood for months.
The confusion in the aftermath of the attacks – What triggered the attack? Why wasn’t more done to rescue the Americans? Why didn’t they have more protection? – led to years of blame and recrimination. Many now agree that security at the consulate was inadequate despite requests from those on the ground, but disagreements persist on who is responsible for that.
Complicating matters, the attack occurred less than two months before a presidential election, so it became caught up in the national political debate. And three months after the attack, Mrs. Clinton fainted and suffered a severe concussion, delaying her Senate hearing on the events.
Republicans on the panel are likely to challenge Mrs. Clinton on two key points.
First, they will probably focus on her involvement in any decisions regarding the security of Mr. Stevens at the Benghazi outpost.
Documents released so far suggest Mrs. Clinton received emails from top aides before the 2012 attacks warning about the poor security conditions in Benghazi, particularly at a hotel used by U.S. officials. This was seen as a central concern for Mr. Stevens, something he discussed with Libyan officials.
These emails are not necessarily a smoking gun proving Mrs. Clinton was somehow at fault — they were sent more than a year before the attack, and before the death of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi plunged the country even further into chaos.
Republicans could question her over why the State Department didn’t do more to boost security for Mr. Stevens, though these are questions she has faced before.
Mrs. Clinton has taken responsibility for the deadly assault at the Benghazi compound, but she has also said that security decisions were handled by other State Department officials, not herself.
The second main line of questioning is likely to concern Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state from 2009 until 2013. She has said that in retrospect using this private email server was a mistake.
There’s confusion about the nature of some of the emails she received and replied on this server. Her critics have alleged that some of the emails contained classified and even “top secret” information, but Mrs. Clinton and her aides have insisted that none of the information was marked classified at the time it was received or sent.
It is unclear how much time Republicans will spend focusing on the server, but based on her recent debate performance, she may likely be ready for those questions.
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Live Feed (via The Select Committee on Benghazi)... due to begin at 10amET
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Who will be the key figures at the hearing?
1) Mrs. Clinton: For her, the stakes are immense. She had a strong performance at the Democratic presidential debate last week, but little time was spent focusing on the Benghazi deaths. Still, when she faced questions about Benghazi or her personal email server she didn’t get rattled or turn defensive. If she makes it through this hearing without major revelations or stumbles, she could solidify her position at the top of the polls in the Democratic primary campaign. If she falters, a misstep could reshape the presidential race. Mrs. Clinton has testified before Congress on the Benghazi attacks once before – in January 2013.
2) Trey Gowdy: The Republican congressman from South Carolina leads the Benghazi committee, which he has hinted in recent days has become a miserable experience. A longtime prosecutor, his panel has conducted dozens of interviews about the terror attacks. But much of that work has been tainted in recent weeks, as two House Republicans have suggested that the committee’s work is in part aimed at hurting Mrs. Clinton’s White House chances. Mr. Gowdy has angrily denied the committee has a partisan motivation, but the suggestions have cast a cloud over the process.
3) Elijah Cummings: Mrs. Clinton will likely be careful not to broadside the Republicans on the panel, but she won’t have to. That’s because Mr. Cummings, the committee’s senior Democrat, will be there, and he has spent several months chastising the panel’s Republicans and bemoaning the way they have handled the investigation. He has much to gain or lose based on the hearing as well – he is running for the U.S. Senate in 2016, and his performance at the hearing could help or hurt him in the polls.
4) Christopher Stevens, Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, and Glen Doherty: The committee’s work is supposed to focus on these men and the circumstances of their deaths in two separate attacks in Benghazi on that day. Mr. Stevens was the U.S. ambassador to Libya at the time. Mr. Smith was a foreign service information management officer, and Messrs. Woods and Doherty were contractors with the Central Intelligence Agency.
Who will be missing?