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House Committee Members Grill Hillary Clinton On Benghazi


Today on Capitol Hill, marathon testimony from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also marathon grilling by the members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. At issue is the security situation in Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, died there in 2012. Democrats argue the hearing is more about damaging Clinton's presidential ambitions than preventing terrorist attacks. NPR's Carrie Johnson has been following all the action. She joins us here in the studio.

Hey, Carrie.


SHAPIRO: Let's start with any new information today about the problems in Benghazi or Clinton's role there before the attacks that took place on September 11, 2012.

JOHNSON: Ari, there don't appear to be any major revelations. Of course, this is the committee that discovered earlier this year that Hillary Clinton had been conducting her State Department business on a personal, private email server. Here's Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, talking about that.


ADAM SMITH: In this age, there - I don't think there's ever an end to the emails. We could probably go on for another two years, and we'd find more. But the question is, have we found anything, substantively, that tells us something different about what happened in Benghazi? And the answer to that question is no.

JOHNSON: So Ari, instead, Republicans really tried to use their time to tie Clinton to the administration's overall strategy in Libya and weaknesses to security in Benghazi which contributed to those devastating attacks there three years ago. Let's take a listen to Trey Gowdy. He's the Republican chairman of the committee from South Carolina. Here he is talking about the late ambassador Chris Stevens.


TREY GOWDY: He needed security help. He didn't need help messaging the violence. He needed help actually with the violence.

SHAPIRO: And, Carrie, how did former Secretary Clinton respond to that?

JOHNSON: Hillary Clinton accepted responsibility for the lapses in security in sometimes really personal terms. Here she is talking.


HILLARY CLINTON: I've lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been racking my brain about what more could've been done or should've been done.

JOHNSON: But she also made clear, Ari, that the ambassador wanted to have presence in Libya and that he, all the time, all along, understood the security risks there. Clinton also said she relied on security personnel in the State Department to make those tough calls about how much security the compound in Benghazi should receive. Republicans again and again, all day long, have been raising questions though about whether she paid enough attention to security there.

SHAPIRO: Carrie, as I was tuning in to these hours of hearings today, it seemed that some of the biggest fireworks were between Republicans and Democrats on the committee. Let's listen to an exchange now about Clinton emailing her longtime friend Sidney Blumenthal.


GOWDY: Why is it that you only want Mr. Blumenthal's transcript released? Why don't you want the survivors...

ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I'd like to have all them released.

GOWDY: The survivors, even their names?

CUMMINGS: Let me tell you something.

GOWDY: You want that? You want that released?

CUMMINGS: Let me tell you something. Right now...

GOWDY: The only one you've asked for is Sidney Blumenthal.

JOHNSON: That's Gowdy, the chairman, and Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, squabbling at high volume. Clinton was all but on the sidelines. At one point, she rested her chin on her hsnds and had a big smile on her face. But as the questioning went into the night, Ari, the lawmakers started to get a little bit testier with each other and with Clinton, too.

SHAPIRO: And late in the hearing, something that came up was Clinton's unusual email arrangement, that home server. What did she say about that?

JOHNSON: So Ohio Republican Jim Jordan demanded that Clinton show some transparency. He asked her why her statements about the email had changed so much this year. And he asked her if the FBI is able to recover emails from her server, which had been wiped clean, whether she'd let a third party review them in case lawmakers need to see any. Here she is.


CLINTON: Congressman, as you point out, there is a security inquiry being conducted by the Department of Justice, and I trust that they will do whatever is appropriate to reach their conclusions.

JOHNSON: In other words, Ari, Clinton did not commit to any other scrutiny of those emails, and she didn't lose her cool.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thanks, Carrie.

JOHNSON: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.