Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is testifying Thursday before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, which is investigating the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.
And before she even got a word in during the event, which is being televised live, the top Republican and top Democrat on the committee gave lengthy and passionate speeches about its work.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), the committee chairman, started with a fiery statement ripping into Clinton and rejecting her accusation that his investigation is a partisan sham to try and tear down her presidential campaign.
“Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods served our country with courage and with honor. They were killed under circumstances most of us could never imagine. Under cover of darkness, terrorists poured through the front gate of our facility and attacked our people and our property with machine guns, mortars and fire,” Gowdy began, according to his prepared remarks.
Gowdy called particular attention to Clinton’s controversial and exclusive use of a personal email server at the State Department, which he said had hindered previous investigations into the 2012 attack.
“This committee is the first committee, the only committee, to uncover the fact that Secretary Clinton exclusively used personal email on her own personal server for official business and kept the public record — including emails about Benghazi and Libya — in her own custody and control for almost two years after she left office,” he said.
“You made exclusive use of personal email and a personal server. When you left the State Department you kept those public records to yourself for almost two years. You and your attorneys decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not ours.”
“They set up this select committee with no rules, no deadline, and an unlimited budget. And they set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president,” Cummings declared.
“Clearly, it is possible to conduct a serious, bipartisan investigation,” the Democrat added, according to his prepared remarks. “What is impossible is for any reasonable person to continue denying that Republicans are squandering millions of taxpayer dollars on this abusive effort to derail Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”
Cummings pointed to the heated rhetoric of some Republican presidential candidates on the topic, including former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).
“Carly Fiorina has said that Secretary Clinton ‘has blood on her hands,’ Mike Huckabee accused her of ‘ignoring the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,’ Senator Rand Paul said ‘Benghazi was a 3:00 a.m. phone call that she never picked up,’ and Senator Lindsay Graham tweeted, ‘Where the hell were you on the night of the Benghazi attack?'” he recalled.
Clinton, who spoke next, took a more measured and soft-spoken approach in her opening statement.