The Cable

Clinton on Benghazi Hearing: ‘I Really Don’t Know What to Expect’

Hillary Clinton will testify before the House Benghazi Committee on Thursday, but said Sunday she has no idea what to expect from the Republican-controlled panel.

Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tours a localÊInternational Union of Painters and Allied Trades training center during a visit October 14, 2015 in Henderson, Nevada. Clinton continued to campaign in the Las Vegas area one day after the first Democratic presidential debate.
Democratic U.S. presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton tours a localÊInternational Union of Painters and Allied Trades training center during a visit October 14, 2015 in Henderson, Nevada. Clinton continued to campaign in the Las Vegas area one day after the first Democratic presidential debate.

Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton will testify before the Republican-controlled Benghazi committee on Thursday in what the former secretary of state has called a politically motivated probe into the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed four Americans, including Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

But on Sunday, Clinton told CNN’s Jake Tapper that she has no idea what the panel will ask of her when she sits down in front of them this week.

“I really don’t know what to expect,” she said. “I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don’t really know what their objectives are right now.”

Calling the committee “a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee,” Clinton added that this is the eighth investigation into the 2012 attack and said there is “an overwhelming focus on trying to … down [her] poll numbers.”

The deadly attack on the consulate has long been at the center of a bitter political fight between Republicans, who say Clinton bears responsibility for not sending more security personnel to Libya and then trying to cover up the administration’s mishandling of the incident, and Democrats, who have accused Republicans of trying to exploit a tragedy for political gain.

Democratic lawmakers have said they were vindicated by recent comments from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said the Benghazi committee’s work directly impacted a decline in her poll numbers. “Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable,” he said in September. “But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

Those comments infuriated many Republicans and are thought to have sunk McCarthy’s chances to succeed John Boehner as speaker of the House.

Pushed by Tapper in the CNN interview to explain why the requests for increased security weren’t fulfilled before the deadly attack on the consulate, Clinton said it was a decision that had been left to the department’s professional staff, not to the secretary of state.

“The security professionals in the State Department had to look worldwide and had to make some tough decisions. That’s why we don’t inject politics into it,” she said.

But she also conceded that the State Department needs to improve how it helps those security professionals, who are not political appointees, make tough decisions to the best of their abilities. “We have to do a better job with the professionals charged with making the decisions so that the information can all be evaluated and the resources that are needed can be asked for and deployed to the best extent,” she said.

Clinton’s highly anticipated appearance before the committee will come just days after a commanding performance in the first Democratic presidential debate quelled, at least for now, the growing fears within the party about her candidacy.

In a stark reminder of how the tragedy of Benghazi continues to commingle with raw politics, it will also come less than a week after Huma Abedin, Clinton’s longtime personal aide at both the State Department and in her presidential campaign, spent eight hours testifying to the committee behind closed doors on Friday. Clinton’s presidential campaign spokesman, Nick Merrill, labeled that hearing as proof that the committee was politically motivated.

“The committee’s focus on Huma (as opposed to numerous intelligence and defense community officials still outstanding) is additional evidence that the actual attack in Benghazi, and its lessons about how we might better protect diplomats serving in dangerous places, are the last things on the committee’s mind,” he said in a statement.

Photo credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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