Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, testifying Wednesday in a politically charged Senate hearing was at times emotional and defensive on the administration’s response the deadly assault on a diplomatic post in Benghazi Libya.
Clinton challenged Republican lawmakers to focus on meaningful ways to make diplomats safe instead of engaging in partisan attacks.
Four months after the assault, Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made clear that they hold Clinton personally responsible for the attacks that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, at a diplomatic outpost and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi.
Clinton said she took responsibility, but she argued that the exact trigger for the terrorist attack — be it a protest that boiled over, as the administration wrongly suggested at first, or “guys out for a walk one night” — no longer matters.
“What difference, at this point, does it make?” Clinton asked during a testy exchange with one Republican. “It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”
Clinton’s long-awaited testimony, her last on Capitol Hill as America’s top diplomat, reflected the enduring divide over the administration’s response to the Sept. 11-12 attacks in Benghazi, and over whether more could have been done to prevent them.
For Clinton, still widely seen as a contender for the Democratic nomination for president, the appearance also carried both personal and political weight. The Benghazi attacks have posed one of the most difficult challenges she has faced in her four years as secretary of state.
At one point Wednesday, Clinton’s voice broke as she described receiving the caskets of the slain Americans at Joint Base Andrews a few days after the attacks.