WASHINGTON — Republicans on Capitol Hill grilled former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday about the attacks in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including a top diplomat, in 2012 while Democrats on the same committee questioned why they were even there.
South Carolina Rep. [crscore]Trey Gowdy[/crscore], the chairman of the House Benghazi Select Committee, begun Thursday’s hearing with Clinton by defending the integrity of the committee’s investigation.
“Madam Secretary, I understand there are people frankly in both parties who have suggested that this investigation is about you,” Gowdy said during his opening remarks. “Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This investigation is about four people who were killed representing our country on foreign soil.”
Meanwhile, most of the Democrats on the committee spent their question time with Clinton arguing the hearing was a big waste of time.
“Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign,” Democratic Rep. [crscore]Elijah Cummings[/crscore], the ranking member, said at one point.
Clinton struck a similar note in her opening. “Despite all the previous investigations and all the talk about partisan agendas, I’m here to honor those we lost and to do what I can to aid those who serve us still,” she said.
Gowdy argued, though, that the committee has accessed new information not reviewed by the other congressional hearings, including 50,000 pages of documents, emails to and from Ambassador Chris Stevens and emails from Clinton’s personal account to conduct official business.
Among noteworthy moments so far during the hearing, Kansas Rep. [crscore]Mike Pompeo[/crscore] asked Clinton why no one was fired after the Benghazi attacks.
“Why didn’t you fire someone?” Pompeo asked. “In Kansas, Madam Secretary, I get asked constantly, why has no one been held accountable? How come not a single person lost a single paycheck, connected to the fact that we had the first ambassador killed since 1979?”
Clinton replied that, “It is my position that in the absence of finding dereliction or breach of duty, there could not be immediate action taken.”
Alabama Republican Rep. [crscore]Martha Roby[/crscore] referenced a February 2012 email — months before the attacks — between two state Department staffers where one wrote: “The secretary also asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi. I think she would be upset to hear, yes, we do, but because we don’t have enough security, they are on lockdown.”
Asked to explain how she didn’t know about the presence of diplomats there, Clinton disputed the contents of the staffer’s email: “Of course, I knew we had a presence in Benghazi.”
Speaking about her email habits at one point, Clinton said: “I did not conduct most of the business that I did on behalf of our country on e-mail.”
“If you were to be in my office in the State Department,” she said, “I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast is majority of the work on my e-mail.”
Gowdy said Clinton was sworn-in before the hearing started, meaning the presidential candidate was able to avoid potentially embarrassing-looking photos had she done that in front of the cameras.
After more three hours worth of hearings, the committee took a break for lunch. Clinton avoided the crowd of cameras as she ducked into a nearby committee room for the brief recess before returning for more questions.