WASHINGTON – Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the Muslim religion in her opening remarks at the House Benghazi Committee hearing Thursday.
Clinton pointedly cited the existence of some signs at a rally in Libya after the Benghazi attack that read “Thugs don’t represent Islam” and “This is not the behavior of our Islam or our prophet.”
Clinton noted in her remarks that she personally asked Ambassador Chris Steven to “go to Libya as our envoy” but noted that she did not meet fallen Foreign Service official Sean Smith. Clinton notably appeared to confirm that Stevens’ mission was to buy back American missiles from jihadist groups.
Clinton said that it was a priority to make sure that missiles “did not fall into the wrong hands” so close to Israeli government targets. Clinton also acknowledged in her response that terrorism was responsible for the four Benghazi deaths, but she did not cite the Youtube video “Innocence of Muslims.”
Clinton also made a subtle reference to her own presidential campaign, citing the need for “leadership at home” and bipartisanship on foreign policy.
She took the stairs entering the Committee room, clad in a dark blue sportcoat. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee and a friend chatted and occasionally laughed in the gallery behind Clinton as Rep. Trey Gowdy delivered his opening remarks. Clinton nodded as top Committee Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings railed against supposed Republican partisanship with respect to the case, calling the Committee itself a “taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.”
Though Clinton cited the findings of “a a nonpartisan,-hard hitting Accountability Review Board,” which did not find wrongdoing on Clinton’s part, Rep. Trey Gowdy pre-emptively dismissed that board’s findings in his own opening remarks.
“You will hear a lot about the Accountability Review Board today,” Gowdy said.
Secretary Clinton mentioned the ARB more than 70 times in her previous testimony before Congress. But when you hear about the ARB you should also know State Department leadership handpicked members of the ARB, the ARB never interviewed Secretary Clinton, the ARB never reviewed her emails and Secretary Clinton’s top advisor was allowed to review and suggest changes to the ARB report before the public ever saw it. There is no transcript of ARB interviews, so it is impossible to know whether all relevant questions were asked and answered. And because there is no transcript it is impossible to cite ARB interviews with any particularity at all. That is not independent. That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation.
Gowy also disparaged previous congressional investigations.
You will hear there were previous congressional investigations into Benghazi. That is true. It should make you wonder why those previous investigations failed to interview so many witnesses and failed to access so many documents. If those previous congressional investigations really were serious and thorough, how did they miss Ambassador Stevens’ emails? If those investigations were serious and thorough, how did they miss Secretary Clinton’s emails? If those previous congressional investigations were serious and thorough, why did they fail to interview dozens of key State Department witnesses including agents on the ground, who experienced the terrorist attacks firsthand?