Hillary Clinton shows grief at the deaths, anger at GOP accusations as she testifies in front of Congress on Benghazi attack

0
236

January 24, 2013

The outgoing secretary of state said security improvements are needed at U.S. embassies across globe following attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

January 24, 2013

The outgoing secretary of state said security improvements are needed at U.S. embassies across globe following attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

During questioning about the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded forcefully when Republicans such as Sen. Ron Johnson attacked U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice for “purposely misleading the American public.”  “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Clinton shot back. “The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s voice broke as she testified about the four Americans killed in Libya during a dramatic Senate hearing Wednesday about the White House’s response to the attacks.

“It’s personal,” said Clinton, fighting back tears as she described watching the victims of the Benghazi assault return to the United States.

“I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews,” she said. “I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.”

Clinton, whose testimony was one of her final acts in her role as America’s top diplomat, frequently sparred with Senate Republicans, who offered withering criticism of the administration’s response to the Sept. 11th raid that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pounds her fists as she responds to intense questioning on the September attacks on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya, during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing January 23. As for GOP charges of a White House cover-up. “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton said angrily. She ripped Johnson for focusing on Rice’s so-called “talking points” instead of death of four Americans.

She pounded the witness table in response to Sen. Ron Johnson (R—WI), who slammed U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice for “purposely misleading the American public” about the hours surrounding the Benghazi raid.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Clinton said. “The fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information.”

In interviews just after the attacks, Rice said that the attacks grew out of a spontaneous protest about a controversial anti-Muslim film. The siege was later deemed a coordinated terror attack, and the initial confusion has sparked GOP charges of a White House cover-up.

“What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton said angrily. She ripped Johnson for focusing on Rice’s so-called “talking points” instead of death of four Americans.

Clinton was scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in December but her appearance was postponed after she collapsed in her Washington home. It was later revealed that a blood clot had former near her brain, requiring her to spend several days in the hospital and remain away from the office for a month.

She is set to step down in the coming weeks and President Obama tapped Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as her replacement. But the hearings – which were televised on all of the cable news networks – thrust her into the spotlight again and could impact her rumored 2016 White House run.

“I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews,” she said. “I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters.” 

She exchanged verbal blows with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who charged that her “answers are not satisfactory to me.”

He claimed that the State Department missed warning signs about rising militant activity in Libya and did not have adequate security in place at the consulate in Benghazi.

"It's been a cover-up from the beginning," McCain said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) went one step further, saying that if he were President he would have asked Clinton to resign after the attack.

"I think with your leaving, you accept culpability for the greatest tragedy since 9/11," Paul said.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) hugs Senator John McCain (R-AZ) as she arrives to testify on the September attack on U.S. diplomatic sites in Benghazi, Libya.

Republicans tried in vain to turn the Benghazi attack into a referendum on Obama during his re-election bid last year.

Their criticism of Rice, however, forced her to withdraw from consideration to replace Clinton as Secretary of State.

Clinton warned against turning the tragedy into “a political football” and stressed that the violence in Benghazi should not prompt the U.S. to withdraw from dangerous diplomatic posts overseas.

“We have come a long way in the past four years, and we cannot afford to retreat now,” Clinton said. “When America is absent, especially from unstable environments, there are consequences. Extremism takes root, our interests suffer, and our security at home is threatened.”

She said that no one was more committed to “getting this right” than her and said she ordered the implementation of 29 recommendations made by an independent review board that was critical of the State Department.

Clinton was the sole witness scheduled to testify before the Senate and House foreign relations committees on Wednesday.

It was likely her last appearance on Capitol Hill before returning to private life. She has said she will take some time off before deciding about her political future.

Clinton says she is determined to leave the department and country "safer, stronger and more secure."


Courtesy: NYDN