The 13 top moments from Clinton’s Benghazi testimony

The former secretary of state’s showdown with the GOP-led committee has produced a few fireworks and smart-aleck lines.
By Nick Gass

The first hours of Hillary Clinton’s marathon testimony before the House Select Committee on Benghazi provided a few fireworks and even a bit of levity from both the former secretary of state and her interrogators. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner in the presidential race, is facing a high-stakes grind in the hot seat and so far has shown off her ability to ably confront the Republican lawmakers probing the 2012 attacks that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

Here is POLITICO’s collection of the top quotes and exchanges from Thursday’s showdown:

1. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.): “… Because you faced considerable opposition, and I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff.”

Clinton: “I can do more than one thing at a time, congressman.”

Shortly after, questioning Clinton about a March 2011 email: “Now, we’ll come back to that in a minute. But you overruled those career diplomats. I mean, they report to you and you’re the chief diplomat of the United States. Go ahead and read the note if you need to.”

Clinton: [laughter] “I have to– I have to…”

Roskam: “I’m not done with my question. I’m just giving you the courtesy of reading your notes.”

Clinton: “That’s all right.”

Roskam: “All right.”

2. Clinton, in response to questioning from Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.) about a lack of emails in 2012 regarding Benghazi: “Well, congresswoman, I did not conduct most of the business I did on behalf of our country on email. I conducted it in meetings, I read massive amounts of memos, great deal of classified information, I made a lot of secure phone calls, I was in and out of the White House all the time,” Clinton responded. “There were a lot of things that happened that I was aware of and that I was reacting to. If you were to be in my office in the State Department, I didn’t have a computer, I did not do the vast majority of my work on email.”

3. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash): “Mr. Roskam’s questions, I found to be the most interesting, basically, I don’t know, it was like he was running for president. He wanted to debate you on overall Libya policy and why we got in there in the first place. And that’s debatable, and I think you will argue that quite well, but that’s not about the attack on Benghazi.”

4. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.): “You got a lot emails from Sidney Blumenthal, and you say that Mr. Blumenthal was a friend of yours, and he had your personal email address. You say Chris Stevens was a friend of yours. He asked numerous times for extra protection, and if I had been Mr. Stevens, and I think anybody watching this would agree, if I had been Mr. Stevens and I had had a relationship with you and I had requested 20 or more times for additional security to protect not only my life but the people that were there with me, I would have gotten in touch with you some way. I would have let you know that I was in danger and that the situation had deteriorated to a point I needed you to do something. He didn’t have your personal email?”

Clinton: “Congressman, I do not believe that he had my personal email. He had the email and he had the direct line of everybody that he worked with for years. He had been posted with officials in the State Department. They had gone through difficult, challenging, dangerous assignments together. He was in constant contact with people. Yes, he and the people working for him asked for more security. Some of those requests were approved, others were not. We’re obviously looking to learn what more we could do, because it was not only about Benghazi, it was about the embassy in Tripoli.”

5. Clinton, responding to a question from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on the idea that Republicans want to give the impression that she deliberately interfered with security in Benghazi that resulted in the death of a friend (Stevens): “It’s very personally painful accusation. It has been rejected and disproven by non-partisan, dispassionate investigators but nevertheless having it continued to be bandied around is deeply distressing to me. I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done, and so when I took responsibility, I took it as a challenge and an obligation to make sure before I left the State Department that what we could learn as I’m sure my predecessors did after Beirut and after Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and after all of the attacks on our facilities, I think all of them, Republican and Democrat alike … said, ‘OK, what must we do better?'”

6. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), responding to Clinton: “I’m not insinuating anything. I’m reading what you said. Plain language. We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film … Why didn’t you just speak plain to the American people?”

Clinton: “I did. … I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman. I can only tell you what the facts are.”

7. Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.): “One thing I can tell already, there will be nothing final about this report. … There won’t be anything definitive about the work of this committee…it’s unlikely that the majority here will even consult with us…those who want to believe the worst will believe the worst…it’s the actions of this committee that are most damning of all, because they are singularly focused on you.”

8. Clinton to Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), inquiring about Blumenthal’s emails: “You know, Mr. Chairman, if you don’t have any friends who say unkind things privately, I congratulate you, but from my perspective, I don’t know what this line of questioning does to help us get to the bottom of four deaths of Americans.”

9. Gowdy on Blumenthal’s emails, in back and forth with ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.): “We just heard email after email after email about Libya and Benghazi that Sidney Blumenthal sent to the secretary of state. I don’t care if he sent it by Morse code, carrier pigeon, smoke signals, the fact that he happened to send it by email was irrelevant. … What is relevant is that he was sending information to the secretary of state. That is what’s relevant. Now with respect to the subpoena, if he bothered to answer the telephone calls of our committee, he wouldn’t have needed a subpoena.”

10. Gowdy: “If you think you’ve heard about Sidney Blumenthal’s emails so far, wait till the next round. We’re adjourned.”

11. Clinton on the response on the night of the attack: “I want not just the committee members but any viewers in the public to understand that this was the fog of war, that the diplomatic security officers and later the CIA officers responded with heroism, professionalism, as they had been trained to do. We thought things would be safe once they took refuge in the CIA annex, and as we know, even thought it was a highly fortified, much more secured facility than our diplomatic compound … it turned out also to be a target for the militants, which is where the two CIA contractors Mr. Woods and Mr. Doherty died …”

12. Clinton on recovering the body of Stevens: “One of the horrors of the hours after the attack was our failure to be able to find where the ambassador was. We hoped against hope that he had somehow gotten himself out of the compound and that he was alive somewhere, maybe in the back.”

13. Asked by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) on whether she believed she had complied with the 1998 Accountability Report Board investigation’s recommendations to personally ensure safety: “Yes, I do. I believe that I had established a process and I said earlier today State Department and our security professionals have to be 100 percent right, and I think what happened in Benghazi was a tragedy and something that we all want to prevent from happening again. But there were many, many situations, security issues … “It’s been my experience that you want to find people that are dedicated 100 percent to security. You don’t want a secretary dipping in and out.”

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