Former US secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton will appear before a congressional committee Thursday to answer questions about the 2012 attack on a US compound in Benghazi, Libya, that could have consequences for her presidential ambitions.
The Select Committee on Benghazi will question Clinton in what is expected to be an eight-hour hearing about the September 11, 2012, attack that killed four Americans, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Clinton and Democrats have said questions about the attack have already been answered in previous investigations and allege that the hearings are politically motivated to damage Clinton’s presidential bid. Republican committee chairman Trey Gowdy denies those charges and insists he is focused on getting to the bottom of the attack.
“She’s a witness, she was the secretary of state, you have to talk to her,” he told CBS News on Sunday, stressing that he is more interested in witnesses to the actual attack.
“What I want to know is while violence in Libya was going up, why was security going down,” he said.
Two Republicans, including majority leader Kevin McCarthy, have in recent weeks noted the investigation has damaged Clinton politically, but were later forced to backtrack.
The State Department and Clinton have faced years of questions about security in Benghazi and the lack of response to requests from diplomats to beef up security.
The congressional inquiry brought to light Clinton’s exclusive use of private email for official business while serving as secretary of state.
The emails had become a liability in her presidential campaign, raising questions about transparency, judgement, technical security and the handling of sensitive communications relating to the attack on the US mission in Benghazi.
The email issue has evoked voters’ memories of the scandals and secrecy that often plagued her husband, President Bill Clinton, during his 1993-2001 administration.
Islamist militants attacked US facilities in Benghazi, killing Stevens and another diplomat and two CIA employees. US officials initially characterized the attack as the result of a spontaneous anti-American protest against an anti-Muslim film.
Questions about when US officials dubbed the attack terrorism plagued the administration even as Obama referred to “acts of terror” in remarks the day after the attack.
The long-running inquiry has tested Clinton’s patience, prompted a testy exchange during her previous testimony on Benghazi in 2013.
“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?” she asked, in response to questions about whether the attack arose spontaneously or was a planned attack.
The phrase “what difference does it make” has since been used repeatedly by Clinton’s critics to accuse her of callousness.