Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the House Select Committee on Benghazi Thursday. For those of you keeping track at home, the hearing marked the eighth Congressional investigation into the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.
A CNN/ORC poll released the morning of the hearing found an overwhelming majority of Americans — 72 percent — believe the House committee is politically motivated.
That impression was no doubt bolstered by remarks by two Republican Congressmen — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who proudly claimed the committee drove down Clinton’s poll numbers, and Rep. Richard Hanna, who said the committee was “designed to go after” Hillary Clinton — and one of the committee’s own ex-investigators, Major Bradley Podlisa, who described it as “a partisan investigation” earlier this month.
Such comments prompted the chairman of the House committee, Rep. Trey Gowdy — whose ties to an anti-Clinton super PAC were reported by the Washington Post earlier this week — to tell fellow Republicans to “shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about.”
This is all to say: There remained little doubt in most Americans’ minds that the purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to do as much political damage possible to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Riding high after a widely praised performance in the first Democratic debate and, no doubt, Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that he would not challenge her in the Democratic primary, Clinton was ready for every question committee members lobbed her way.
Here were some of the key moments from the marathon hearing.
1. Early in the hearing, Rep. Susan Brooks plopped two stacks of paper down on the dais. The first pile, the Congresswoman said, represented the 795 Libya-related emails Clinton received between February and December 2011, and the second pile represented the 67 emails she received about Libya between January and September 2012. You do the math, people. If you can’t or don’t care to, Brooks will do it for you: “I can only conclude by your records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012,” she said. (Clinton responded that, of course, not all communications happen via email.)
2. But the moment that probably best summed up the affair was when Rep. Brooks produced a map of Libya as she admitted, “Most of us don’t know much about Libya.”
Brooks’ comments, unwittingly or not, echoed her fellow committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, who told NBC’s Meet the Press earlier this week, “We don’t know what we’re looking for, we can’t put an end date on it because we don’t know what this committee is supposed to look for. Apart from damaging Hillary Clinton, it has no reason for existence.”
3. At one point, Rep. Mike Pompeo produced a possible smoking gun — State Department employees met with Al Qaeda fighters prior to the attacks — only to be forced to admit he didn’t actually know who those State Department employees were. Clinton suggested it was unlikely any State Department members were there to have such a meeting.
4. Rep. Peter Roskam tried a different tack, using his alotted time to try scold Clinton for reading notes from her staff while he spoke, suggesting she wasn’t taking the process seriously.
“I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff,” Roskam said, passive aggressively.
Clinton smiled and answered that she could “do more than one thing at a time, Congressman. Thanks.”
5. Moments later, Roskam bristled again: “Go ahead and read the note if you need to,” he said, curtly.
She laughed, and began to respond before he cuts her off: “I’m not done with my question, I’m just giving you the courtesy of reading your note.”
For the record, here’s what Roskam looked like as Clinton was speaking.