Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton largely maintained her composure while fielding hours of tough questions from Republican lawmakers Thursday during her highly-anticipated hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. To no one’s surprise, however, there were several did-that-just-happen moments. Here are five of them:
Sorry, did you need more time to consult your talking points?
In a testy exchange at the start of Thursday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Illinois appeared concerned that he did not have Clinton’s full attention. During a lengthy question about a 2011 memo that described her as “the public face of the U.S. effort in Libya,” the former secretary of state began flipping through her notes, prompting an irritated reaction from Roskam.
“I can pause while you’re reading your notes from your staff,” he said in a somewhat patronizing suggestion that Clinton was relying heavily on rehearsed talking points.
Clinton quickly looked up from her notes. “I can do more than one thing at a time, Congressman,” she replied.
A congressional hearing doesn’t exactly make for an obvious forum to introduce a beloved piece of children’s literature. But Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland made it happen.
Citing a claim made by Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California that Clinton “outright denied” sending security to Libya in a cable, Cummings noted that the Washington Post Fact Checker gave the allegation “Four Pinocchios” – a rating reserved only for “whoppers.” The column’s “Pinocchio Test” was inspired by the iconic children’s story about a wooden boy whose nose grows when he tells a lie.
“It turns out Republicans had a copy of that cable,” Cummings said, “but they didn’t tell the American people that your so-called signature was just a stamp that appears on millions of cables from the State Department every single year. Is that right?”
“That’s correct,” Clinton said.
Piles full of emails
In an attempt to challenge Clinton’s assertion that she had never received a cable regarding security in Benghazi prior to the 2012 attack, Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana pulled out nearly 1,000 sheets of paper and divided them into two piles – one large, and one small.
“This pile represent the emails that you sent or received about Libya in 2011,” Brooks said, pointing to the larger pile. She later noted that it included 795 emails.
“This pile represents the emails you sent or received from early 2012 until the day of attack,” Brooks said of the pile with 67 emails in it. “I can only conclude by your own records that there was a lack of interest in Libya in 2012.”
Clinton later pushed back against the accusation, saying that she “did not do the vast majority of [her] work on email.”
Have you read my book?
Clinton swatted down an accusation from Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan that the Obama administration intentionally misled the American people to believe that the 2012 attack was a protest-gone-wrong over an anti-Islam video, rather than a carefully orchestrated act of terrorism. At the same time, she seamlessly worked in a book plug.
“I wrote a whole chapter about this in my book, ‘Hard Choices.’ I’d be glad to send it to you, Congressman,” said Clinton. “Because I think the insinuations that you are making do a grave disservice to the hard work that people in the State Department, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the White House did during the course of some very confusing and difficult days.”
“There is no doubt in my mind that we did the best we could with the information that we had at the time,” she said.
Clinton: Don’t mind me
In one of the most heated moments of the hearing, Rep. Cummings exploded at Republican committee chairman Trey Gowdy for selectively releasing parts of the testimony from longtime Clinton friend and former aide Sidney Blumenthal, who had been sending her unverified intelligence from a source in Libya.
“I move that we release, put into the record, the entire transcript of Sidney Blumenthal,” Cummings said. “We’re going to release the emails, let’s do the transcript. That way the world can see it.”
“Well, we’re not going to take that up at a hearing,” Gowdy said.
Cummings shot back that he had consulted with a parliamentarian and was told the committee had a right to a recorded vote on his motion.
“You know, you ask for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, well that’s what we want to have,” Cummings exclaimed. “Let the world see it!”
The two bickered for about another minute. Clinton, meanwhile, stayed silent the entire time.