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Clinton comes under fire in Benghazi hearing

The long awaited Benghazi hearing turned into a fierce partisan debate during a nearly 11-hour aggressive questioning as Hillary Clinton strove to close the book on the worst episode of her tenure as Secretary of State. Battling Republican questions in a marathon hearing, Democratic presidential front-runner defended her record while seeking to avoid any mishap that might damage her presidential campaign. For weeks, Republican members of the select House committee have defended their special investigation into the deadly 2012 attack on a diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. The hearing did not appear to include any major new revelations on what happened in Benghazi or Washington on the night of the attack.

Billed by Republican leaders of the committee as a critical moment in its inquiry, the long-pending appearance of Mrs. Clinton served largely as a replay of highly contested arguments that turned into a political endurance test. In three rounds of contentious questioning, House Republicans grilled Clinton on her advisors, her management of security of the embassy and her push for the U.S. military involvement in Libya. Pressed about events before and after the deaths of four Americans, Mrs. Clinton had confrontational exchanges with several GOP lawmakers but also fielded supportive queries from Democrats.

It was the eighth Congressional hearing and the third time Clinton has testified on the death of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who arrived in Benghazi in April 5, 2011 to establish U.S. presence there. Mrs. Clinton gave her first testimony in January 23, 2013 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Roughly a week later, she officially stepped down as Secretary of State. The House Intelligence Committee, after two years of investigation, submitted its report but unable to find any wrongdoing on behalf of President Obama or Secretary Clinton.

Not satisfied with the previous seven committees found no major indiscrepancies in the management other than the failure to respond to a deteriorating security situation in Benghazi, the House of Representatives voted to form a special committee to investigate Benghazi and Clinton. The select House Benghazi Committee held its first hearing in September 17, 2014. Earlier in March, the committee found that Clinton used her own personal email account and not the email issued by the State Department. After a month, Clinton announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The October 22’s Congressional hearing began at 10AM and with breaks, lasted till 9PM. The Republicans, however, managed to bring Mrs. Clinton in front of a national audience while questioning her, often using her own words from thousands of pages of emails obtained by the committee. But it also gave Mrs. Clinton her first opportunity since 2013 to respond directly to her rebellious critics, and she actually used the platform to put some lengthy explanations of her diplomatic efforts around the world and her actions before and after the Benghazi attacks.

Republicans pressed Clinton on poor security at the State Department’s outpost in Benghazi, despite rising violence and requests for more protection. Throughout the day, Democrats on the committee portrayed Republicans as the leaders of a partisan crusade against Mrs. Clinton, while Republicans responded aggressively that Democrats were looking to block a legitimate inquiry into fatal security lapses at the outpost. Shortly before the committee broke for lunch, a heated argument erupted between committee chair Trey Gowdy and two democrats, Adam B. Schiff and Elijah E. Cummings, over the Mrs. Clinton’s email exchanges with Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to her husband and a friend.

One of the most intense moments of the hearing came when Clinton was asked about her contact with Stevens, which she denied having talked to him after having sworn him in as ambassador, though she believed they had spoken. Speaking in measured tones, Clinton avoided any serious missteps and appeared cool in much of the hearing. But as the day wore on, she seemed to be a bit impatient with the Republican line of questioning and with constant interruptions from the GOP members on the panel. At one moment, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio accused Clinton of deliberately misleading the public by linking the Benghazi violence at first to an internet video insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

But the long day of intense arguments between the committee members and their witnesses revealed little new about the event that has been the subject of seven previous investigations, and there were no smoking-gun moments proving Mrs. Clinton orchestrated any attempt to cover up misconduct despite exposing shortcomings in Clinton’s leadership of the State Department. A series of unfortunate events culminated in a rough day for the committee, leaving Conservative to believe they’ve lost their most potent political weapon against Mrs. Clinton.

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