(WASHINGTON) MEDIA GENERAL – Hillary Clinton faces a full day of tough questioning Thursday from the House Select Committee on Benghazi – possibly eight hours or longer.
The committee, comprised of seven Republicans and five Democrats, is tasked with investigating the September 2012 attacks in Libya which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
But, the committee’s declared mission on paper, and its practices over the last 18 months, suggest the hearing could involve far more than the who, what, where, when and why of the tragedy. It could very well feature fireworks of the first order, from both sides.
Here are the topics to watch for:
- Clinton’s private email server
- Terrorism vs. YouTube video
- Insufficient security in Benghazi, Libya
- Committee partisanship
From Republicans: Emails, YouTube and Security
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-SC) will give each member ten minutes to make statements and ask questions of Clinton. CBS News reports there will be four rounds in total (12 members x 10 minutes x 4 rounds).
In other words, plenty of time to lob accusations that Clinton intentionally misled the public about the events leading up to the attacks of September 11, 2012. Republicans suggest Clinton knew that terrorism, not a controversial YouTube video, spurred the attack but publicly said the opposite.
Furthermore, Rep. Gowdy claims emails from deceased Ambassador Stevens, which his committee recently uncovered, reveal an unwillingness by Clinton’s State Department to properly protect America’s human assets and endangered property.
And then there are the emails.
Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of private email to conduct official State Department business during her tenure will no doubt enter the discussion. By now it’s no secret that all of her emails – private and official — were routed through her own private server. However, that wasn’t always publicly known, and Republicans are expected to question the legality and ethics of such a setup.
Rep. Gowdy has insisted previously that State Department officials stonewalled requests to access Clinton’s emails. Eventual releases of her State Dept. emails – again, from the private server – revealed that her private account did, in fact, transmit classified information, counter to her adamant claims otherwise.
Benghazi Committee member Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) asserted on NBC’s Meet The Press that Clinton also received the bulk of her intelligence information as SOS from longtime loyal aide, and informal adviser, Sidney Blumenthal.
These accusations have been rebutted by Democrats, but will almost certainly factor prominently in Republican talking points Thursday.
From Clinton: Professionalism, Partisan Hit Job
Chairman Gowdy insists his committee’s work is “fact-centric” and unswayed by external political forces. However, Hillary Clinton and committee Democrats will make their best case that the GOP-led committee is an elaborate conservative “hit job,” as Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) described it.
Clinton, who once worked as a lawyer on the congressional Watergate investigation, is widely expected to keep her cool but construct her counterarguments using Republicans’ own words.
Last than a month ago on Fox News, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) attributed Clinton’s flagging poll numbers to evidence dug up by the Benghazi Committee. He later walked back his statement, but it was too late; Clinton ran with the claim and McCarthy withdrew from the race to be speaker of the house.
Fellow House Rep. Richard Hannah (R-NY) told a talk radio host that he believed the committee was at least partially constructed to damage Hillary Clinton.
Gowdy defended his committee’s investigative process on political shows, telling his colleagues to “shut up.”
Meanwhile, a former investigator for the committee, Bradley Podliska, claimed that Republicans turned the Benghazi investigation into an anti-Clinton endeavor. Podliska is no longer with the committee, and his claims have been disputed by Rep. Gowdy.
Empowered by these recent flaps, Clinton is expected to maintain her composure but will be prepared to hammer home the issue of partisanship if necessary – a move that could put the committee’s GOP members on their heels.
The hearing begins at 10 A.M. ET and is expected to last all day.