Hillary Clinton grilled on Benghazi attacks

Hillary Clinton joked about her “long day”, the morning after her 11-hour grilling by House Republicans.

Clinton says she tried to “rise above partisanships and reach for statesmanship” in her testimony before a Republican-led congressional committee probing her handling of the 2012 fatal attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

She also noted that she has “recovered her voice” after the long day of testimony.

She was addressing Democratic women at a party breakfast in Washington, where she was greeted with a loud wave of cheers. Later, she travelled to Virginia for a rally with long-time ally Governor Terry McAuliffe.

Clinton firmly defended her record under scrutiny from the committee while seeking to avoid any mishap that might damage her presidential campaign.

Democrats accused the Republicans of using the investigation as a ploy to derail Clinton’s White House bid, noting that it was the eighth congressional investigation into the attacks.

But the hearing came at a moment of political strength for Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. On Wednesday, a potential rival for the nomination, US vice president Joe Biden, announced he would not join the race and Clinton is also riding the momentum of a solid debate performance last week.

Pressed about events before and after the deaths of four Americans, Clinton had confrontational exchanges with several Republicans but also fielded supportive queries from Democrats.

The hearing ended at 9pm US time, some 11 hours after it began. But five hours into the hearing, Republicans had yet to ask Clinton a single question about the night of September 11, 2012, itself.

The House of Representatives committee chairman Trey Gowdy portrayed the panel as focused on the facts after comments by fellow Republicans describing it as an effort designed to hurt Clinton’s presidential bid.

Democrats have pounced on those earlier remarks and have pointed out that the probe has now cost US taxpayers over $4.5m (€4m) and, after 17 months, has lasted longer than the 1970s Watergate investigation. Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, said the Republicans’ efforts were not a prosecution.

Contradicting him, Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington, told Clinton: “The purpose of this committee is to prosecute you.”

In one tense moment, Republican Jim Jordan accused Clinton of deliberately misleading the public by linking the Benghazi violence at first to an internet video insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

Clinton, stone-faced for much of the hearing, smiled in bemusement as Jordan cut her off from answering. Eventually given the chance to comment, she said only that “some” people had wanted to use the video to justify the attack that killed US ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans, and she rejected that justification.


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