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State Dept: Clinton may not testify on Benghazi next week

State Dept: Clinton may not testify on Benghazi next week

The House and Senate foreign relations committees have already announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will testify on Benghazi next week, but the State Department said today that’s not a done deal.

Moreover, the State Department may not even share the report of its own internal review on Benghazi with Congress, a top State Department official said today.

Congress expects Clinton to testify Dec. 20 about the results of the Accountability Review Board, State’s internal review on the events leading up to and during the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. But the State Department said today that the work of the ARB, led by Tom Pickering and Adm. Mike Mullen, isn’t complete yet and so the State Department can’t confirm she will testify next week.

"We ask our diplomats and development personnel to operate in some of the most dangerous places on the planet," Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement today announcing the hearing.  "We owe it to them, and we owe it to the memory of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his three fellow Americans who lost their lives in Benghazi to get past the politics and focus on the substance of what happened and what it tells us about diplomatic security going forward."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee has also already announced its Dec. 20 hearing featuring Clinton’s testimony. The title of the HFAC hearing is "Benghazi Attack, Part II: The Report of the Accountability Review Board"

But State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today that the ARB is not complete, might not be complete by Dec. 20, and Clinton has not agreed to testify on Dec. 20.

"The Hill has talked about a planning date on the calendar. That presumes that the ARB is finished," Nuland said. "That’s dependent on all of the work getting done between now and then… The ARB is continuing to do its work, to my knowledge it has not yet completed its work."

Clinton has agreed to brief the House and Senate foreign relations committees on how she interprets the ARB report, whenever it surfaces.

"After the ARB reports to the Secretary, then she will have consultations with Congress in terms of the conclusions that she draws about how we need to go forward from there," Nuland said. "I don’t have any dates to announce until we have firm dates on when the ARB is coming forward."

The Cable asked Nuland if the State Department will share the ARB with Congress at all. Nuland responded that they may not decide to give the actual report to Congress.

"The ARB’s responsibility is to brief the secretary. The secretary has said she will be transparent to Congress," Nuland said. "What is required, Josh, is that the secretary’s response to the ARB’s conclusions has to go to Congress within 90 days of her receiving the report."