Hillary Clinton addresses Benghazi controversy
Amidst Republican challenges, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified to Congress about the September Benghazi attack for six hours on Wednesday. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, suggested Clinton should have been fired over her role in the incident.
(Page 2 of 2)
The unclassified version of the "Accountability Review Board" report also faulted poor coordination and unclear lines of authority in Washington. Four lower-level officials were placed on administrative leave following the release of the inquiry, which did not find Clinton personally at fault.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Clinton is expected to step down in the coming days once her designated successor, Senator John Kerry, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
Originally due to testify on Dec. 20, Clinton had to postpone after she suffered a concussion when she fainted due to dehydration. Doctors later found she had a blood clot in her head and hospitalized her for several days.
Several senators, noting the vehemence of Clinton's defense, said she appeared to have fully recovered.
While many senators warmly praised her four-year tenure as secretary of state, and several hinted at the possibility of her running for president in 2016, some Republicans were scathing.
They pressed Clinton about what they described as an Aug. 16, 2012 cable from Stevens saying that the Benghazi mission could not withstand a coordinated attack.
"That cable did not come to my attention," Clinton replied, saying that the State Department receives 1.43 million cables a year.
"Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables ... from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable," Paul, a Kentucky Republican, told Clinton.
'As combative as ever'
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, told Clinton it was "wonderful to see you in good health and as combative as ever," before going on to say that he categorically rejected one of her answers and found others unsatisfactory.
While clouding Clinton's tenure at the State Department, the controversy over the Benghazi attack also cost Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, her chance to succeed Clinton as secretary of state.
Republicans in Congress blasted Rice for her comments five days after the attack in which she said it appeared to be the result of a spontaneous protest rather than a planned assault.
Rice, who has said her comments were based on talking points from the U.S. intelligence community, eventually withdrew her name from consideration for the top U.S. diplomatic job.
"We were misled that there were supposedly protests and then something sprang out of that, an assault sprang out of that," Senator Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, told Clinton, referring to Rice's appearance on Sunday television talk shows.
Clinton rejected the charge.
"People have accused Ambassador Rice and the administration of, you know, misleading Americans," she said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
Earlier in her testimony, Clinton appeared to try subtly to distance herself from Rice's comments.
"The very next morning, I told the American people that heavily armed militants assaulted our compound, and I vowed to bring them to justice. And I stood with President Obama in the (White House) Rose Garden as he spoke of an act of terror," she said.
Clinton's voice cracked as she spoke of comforting families who lost relatives in the incident, the first since 1988 in which a U.S. ambassador was killed.
"For me, this is not just a matter of policy - it's personal," Clinton told the Senate panel.
"I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews," she added, her voice breaking as she described the ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland when the men's remains were brought home.
"I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters and the wives left alone to raise their children," she said.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Will Dunham and David Brunnstrom)