Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday sought to absolve the Obama administration of influencing her response in the wake of the deadly 2012 siege on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya. She downplayed the idea that an anti-Muslim internet video inspired the attack--the reason the administration originally claimed was responsible for terrorism.
The impetus for the assault that left four Americans dead, including U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens, has been a source of contention for years between the administration and congressional Republicans, especially after then-ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk show circuit and blamed the incident on the video.
The GOP has argued the White House wrote up talking points that cited the video to save President Obama the embarrassment of admitting the assault was a terror attack just weeks before the presidential election, something Clinton vehemently denied.
“I never felt any political pressure or did I feel any political reason to do anything other than what we tried to do, which was to immediately deal with the problems that were coming at us,” she said during an interview on CBS’s Face the Nation.
The attack’s motivation is bound to brought up next month when the 2016 Democratic candidate testifies next month before the House Select Committee on Benghazi, something Clinton herself acknowledged on Sunday when she mentioned her upcoming, highly-anticipated appearance.
To that, she elaborated on what exactly happened that night.
“There were two things going on simultaneously. I and others said that we were attacked. There was no doubt about that. That video, which was still spinning through the world, was being mentioned on social media. We had people climbing the walls at our embassy in Cairo even before the attack in Benghazi,” according to Clinton.
She added that “we had a lot of other attacks. I had to call the president of one of our neighboring countries, Tunis … to get them to help protect our embassy. So, I was worried about everything that was going on and how people were responding to that from North Africa to Pakistan, all the way to Indonesia.”
Clinton also again addressed her use of a private email sever while acting as the nation’s top diplomat. The “home brew” email arrangement, uncovered by the Benghazi panel earlier this year, has dogged Clinton’s White House bid.
The months-long drip of bad news surrounding the arrangement, including if she transmitted classified information via her personal email address, has hurt her public opinion numbers to the degree that Vice President Joe Biden is openly weighing a run for the presidency and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has begun to overtake in early voting state polls.
“This was is done by prior government officials including --” she began, at which point host John Dickerson interrupted.
“But not at this level. Not solely server just for you,” he said.
An annoyed Clinton replied, “You know, it was done by others. Let me just say that, yes, when I did it, it was allowed, it was above board. Now I’m being as transparent as possible more than anybody else ever has been.”