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Hillary Clinton 'still looking for answers' after Benghazi suspect arrest

"I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time,” she said on Tuesday.
Hillary Clinton speaks at The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC.Image: 2014 Naturalization Ceremony Hosted By The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History
Hillary Clinton speaks at The Smithsonian's National Museum Of American History on June 17, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Hillary Clinton kicked off a town hall meeting on Tuesday reacting to the news that one of the suspected ringleaders of the Benghazi terrorist attack had been nabbed in a secret raid.  

The former secretary of state, who has come under fire for her role in the lead up and aftermath of 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, said she was “very pleased” at the Q&A, hosted by CNN at the Newseum in Washington D.C. Clinton added that she is “still looking for answers.”

The arrest of Ahmed Abu Khattala, who was captured by U.S. forces on Sunday in Libya demonstrated the United States’ “unwavering commitment to bring to justice those who are responsible for attacks on Americans, no matter where they are, no matter how long it takes.” Clinton acknowledged that “there’s still a lot we don’t know” about the attack, including who exactly was behind it and what the motivation was.

“I’m still looking for answers, because it was a confusing and difficult time,” she told moderator Christiane Amanpour. “I would hope that every American would understand number one, why we were there, because we need to be in dangerous places and number two that we’re doing the best we can to find out what happened. I hope that fair-minded people will look at that seriously.”

"There are still some unanswered questions. It was, after all, the fog of war," she added. "But I'm absolutely convinced that the United States and all of our various agencies with all of our professionals including the Congress, is, you know, piecing together the best information we can find."

Many Republicans, of course, have long argued that the White House was involved in a cover up. After it was made public Khattala was arrested on Tuesday, some conservatives began to speculate about the timing of the arrest, pointing out the fact that Clinton – a Democratic frontrunner in the 2016 presidential race – is out promoting her new memoir “Hard Choices.”

Clinton has faced a series of missteps since her book hit bookshelves one week ago. She remarked she was “dead broke” when she and her husband left the White House and got testy when asked about her “evolution” on gay marriage during an interview with Terry Gross on NPR. The recent escalation of violence in Iraq is a reminder of her 2002 Senate vote to green light military action in that country.

The former first lady, seemingly, tried to smooth over her rough week—repeatedly saying she was grateful for her life in public service. Clinton was again asked on changing her stance on gay marriage, insisting like many Americans, she changed her view. NPR’s Gross wanted to know if Clinton hanged her views on same-sex marriage or if the American public evolved on its views, which allowed Clinton to state her true feelings last year.

“It really became very clear to me that if we’re going to support marriage in our country, it should be available to everyone regardless of who they love and that this marriage quality issue is a great human rights issue. So yes, I evolved over time, and I’m very, very proud to state that I’m a full supporter of marriage equality right now,” said Clinton at the town hall.

On Iraq, Clinton said: “I am not prepared to say we go in with Iran right now until we have a better sense of what we’re getting into.” Clinton’s predecessor, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested Monday that the United States could end up working with Iran to stop militants in Iraq.

Clinton has previously said she’ll make a decision on running for president by the end of the year, but she certainly weighed in on key issues that will be brought up on the campaign trail. That includes gun control -- Clinton said we cannot let a minority of people “terrorize the majority of people,” immigration -- Clinton said the country needs “comprehensive reform” and voter ID laws -- she “deplores” efforts to make it more difficult for Americans to cast ballots.

One person asked on Tumblr why Clinton would run for president when she has her first grandchild on the way. She acknowledged that consideration is “on the ledger,” adding: “I don’t want to be looking past it. I don’t want to be meeting my new grandchild and someone calling me and say ‘you have to do this, that or the other’… I will make this decision on how I feel and what I believe I can do. But I’m not going to be rushed into it.” 

Clinton was also interviewed by Fox News on Tuesday, and much of the Q&A with hosts Greta Van Susteren and Bret Baier focused on Benghazi. At one point, Baier brought up the fact that Clinton has said she takes “responsibility” for the attack and pressed her on what exactly she's “taking responsibility for."

Clinton said she takes responsibility for being head of the state department at the time. “That doesn’t’ mean I made every decision, because I obviously did not,” she said. As the leader, she added she has a “responsibility to find out what happened and put in place changes to prevent anything like that from happening again.”

Baier also questioned why it took two years to arrest Khattala when his general whereabouts were known, unlike Osama bin Laden. Clinton argued that the raid was not easy, insisting the plan was in the works for some time and that there were “different challenges” the U.S. faced. 

During the Fox interview, Van Susteren asked Clinton about the controversial swap of captive American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in exchange for five Taliban commanders. Clinton had told NBC News earlier this month that the five prisoners released from Gitmo—who are to be held in Qatar for at least a year -- were “not a threat to the United States.”

Clinton reiterated her stance, but noted she was working on a “bigger deal” during her time as secretary of state. “Those five men, they are right now not a danger if they are kept where they are supposed to be kept,” Clinton told Van Susteren.