Hillary Clinton opened Thursday’s hearing before a House committee by casually flipping through her notes and shaking her head as the panel’s top Republican read out the names of four Americans who died in the 2012 terror attack on a State Department outpost in Benghazi, Libya.
Cable TV broadcasts showed Clinton, who was secretary of state when heavily armed Islamists laid waste to the Benghazi facilities, paying no attention to Rep. Trey Gowdy as he intoned the names of Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.
They ‘served this country with courage and with honor,’ Gowdy said. ‘And they were killed under circumstances most of us could never imagine.’
‘Terrorists poured through the front gate of an American facility attacking people and property with machine guns, mortars and fire.’
Clinton stared forward wordlessly through most of Gowdy’s opening salvo after shuffling through her papers as he began the day’s circus-like proceedings.
When it was her turn to speak, Clinton turned the atmosphere into a memorial to the fallen.
‘I’m here to honor the service of those four men … and the work their colleagues do every single day all over the world,’ she intoned.
‘I took responsibility’ for the attacks, she claimed, saying she had ‘launched reforms to better protect our people in the field and help reduce the chances of another tragedy happening.’
Clinton’s staff live-tweeted her statement as she read it, following her presidential campaign’s standard practice when she gives political speeches.
Clinton referenced an Accountability Review Board that she cooperated with, as well as the fact that the Benghazi attack has been probed in seven prior investigations.
But Gowdy, in his opening statement, sneered at the panel, noting that it did not even interview Clinton herself.
‘That is not accountability. That is not a serious investigation,’ he said.
Clinton smiled and nodded as Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee’s top Democrat, rebutted Gowdy and blamed him for running an investigation with ‘no rules, no deadlines and an unlimited budget.’
Cummings claimed Republicans amassed a staff of hatchet men and ‘set them loose, Madam Secretary, because you’re running for president.’
At another point, Cummings called the committee ‘a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition.’
Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican, had wasted no time in going after Clinton.
‘Why did the State Department compound in Benghazi not even come close to meeting proper security specifications? What policies were we pursuing in Libya that required a physical presence in spite of the escalating violence?’ Gowdy said, according to his prepared opening remarks, obtained by DailyMail.com before the hearing.
‘Who in Washington was aware of the escalating violence in Libya? What special precautions, if any, were taken on the anniversary of 9-11?’
Wearing a solemn look and a dark blue suit, Clinton arrived crisply at 10 a.m. and briefly posed for photographers before beginning to listen to Gowdy.
She was spared the public spectacle of standing, raising her right hand, and swearing to tell the truth – a moment that might have become the centerpiece for Republican attack ads.
‘Chairman Gowdy offered to swear her in, in private, because this is not about politics,’ a committee spokesman told DailyMail.com. ‘It’s about the four brave Americans we lost.’
Anticipating a discussion of the public relations beating the committee has taken in recent weeks, Gowdy took pains to paint his panel as non-partisan and not intended to damage Clinton’s presidential prospects.
Read more: dailymail.co.uk