Hillary Rodham Clinton firmly defended her record before and during the Benghazi attacks as she came face-to-face Thursday with the Republican-led special investigation of the 2012 violence in Libya, hoping to put to rest the worst episode of her tenure as secretary of state and clear an obstacle to her presidential campaign.
Clinton, the front-runner to win the Democratic nomination, kicked off a long day of questioning with a plea that the United States maintain its global leadership role despite the threat posed to U.S. diplomats. She hailed the efforts of the four Americans who died in the attacks, including the first ambassador in more than three decades, but told the House Benghazi Committee that the deadly events already have been exhaustively scrutinized.
“We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad, leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology,” Clinton said in her opening remarks, the closest she came to directly rebuking her GOP investigators.
The hearing comes at a moment of political strength for Clinton. On Wednesday, a potential rival for the Democratic nomination, Vice President Joe Biden, announced he would not join the race. Clinton also is riding the momentum of a solid debate performance last week. The Benghazi panel’s Republican chairman says he won’t call Clinton to appear a second time.
But Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina started the hearing with a series of questions that he said remained unanswered: Why was the U.S. in Libya, why were security requests denied, why was the military not ready to respond quickly on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 and why did the Obama administration change its story about the nature of the attacks in the weeks afterward?
“These questions linger because previous investigations were not thorough,” Gowdy said.