Politics
Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., President Barack Obama Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., President Barack Obama's nominee to become secretary of state, gives a 'thumbs-up' as he arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, to testify before his confirmation hearing before the committee to replace Hillary Rodham Clinton. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)  

Kerry stands by Clinton on Benghazi answers

Photo of Alexis Levinson
Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State nominee Sen. John Kerry defended current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s answers about the Benghazi terror attack at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday.

Sen. Ron Johnson had a heated exchanged with Clinton Wednesday on the subject of the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi last year, pressing her on why U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice appeared on the Sunday shows and attributed the attacks to protests over an anti-Muslim film, an explanation that was quickly proven to be false. Clinton responded that why the attack happened makes no difference at this point, and the important thing is to make sure that such attacks never happened again.

The Wisconsin senator asked Kerry if he agreed with Clinton or if he would be “willing to work with” Johnson to clarify the timeline.

“If you’re trying to get some daylight between me and Secretary Clinton, that’s not going to happen,” Kerry said.

Kerry politely suggested that Johnson and Clinton were “talking past each other.”

“Should the American people get the truth and does it matter? I think Hillary Clinton would say yes, and I say yes, but that’s not what I think she was referring to,” Kerry said.

He said he believed she was referring to “the question of the sequencing and the timing of how particular info came in with respect to the talking points and the public statements that were made, and there’s a difference of opinion, in my judgment, as to how you saw that and how she saw that.”

Kerry said he believed there was no further investigation needed into what exactly happened at the consulate that day.

“I think, senator, in all fairness, I think we do know what happened,” Kerry said, saying that at a classified briefing last year where members of the committee were shown footage from drones and the security cameras in the consulate, the footage shown “made it crystal clear.”

Kerry politely noted that Johnson had not attended that briefing.

He disputed Johnson’s characterization that the American public was “misled” by Rice’s statements.

“I don’t want the American people to be left with a mixed impression here. When you say ‘why we were misled,’ that implies an intent to actually mislead you somehow. I think there was a description in a variance in talking points” Kerry said, saying that was not the case.

Pressed further by Johnson, who repeatedly asked whether he, as secretary of state, would work with the committee to get to the bottom of what happened with Benghazi, Kerry concluded: “The State Department will continue to cooperate as it has in every respect in any request of this committee.”

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