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View from the Hill

A primer on the Benghazi investigation, the emails and Clinton’s House testimony

Bernie Sanders’ now notorious quip about Hillary Clinton’s “damn emails” is a sentiment that people — Hillary fans or not — across the board probably share.

On Thursday, Clinton spoke to the House of Representative’s Select Committee on Benghazi with a testimony (quite blatantly) shrouded in political plodding and centered on emails.

But how, exactly, does a House Benghazi investigation become about emails?

To explain this, let’s begin with a refresher on the Benghazi attacks. 

First off, Benghazi is a city (former capital) in Libya, which is a state in northern Africa, next to Egypt. On Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic militants killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, at a U.S. diplomatic mission.

This was the first time since 1979 that a serving U.S. ambassador was killed, and Clinton was serving as secretary of state during President Obama’s first term in office.

The attacks were attributed to poor security at the Benghazi U.S. mission — security concerns that were brought several times to the U.S. Department of State but never properly addressed. The Benghazi attacks prompted the U.S. to heighten security at their embassies. Clinton, both yesterday and many times before, has accepted responsibility for the attack and the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi.

On May 8, 2014 the House established a select committee to get to the bottom of the Benghazi attack — to understand fully what happened and how to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Clinton had already testified at a House hearing in 2013 when she defended the White House, saying they had not put out misinformation about the attacks. And since this testimony, new facts haven’t really emerged about the attacks.


It was discovered last March that Clinton was using a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state. This revelation raised many questions — was she declassifying the State Department’s top-secret list of names and information? Clinton turned over thousands of emails from the private server she used during office, and the emails turned out to be pretty mundane. Like, really boring, as she told Jimmy Fallon.

The email misstep has hindered Clinton’s campaign. People are concerned: What if Clinton used the wrong email address as president of the United States?

Her private email account has since become a main focus of the investigation and a point of attack from the GOP at the committee, which was originally established to understand what happened in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four Americans.

Furthermore, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy R-Cal recently admitted that the committee shifted focus from Benghazi to Hillary for political reasons. He told Fox news:

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee.”

His statement implied that the Benghazi Committee was a Clinton-witch hunt, which damaged the committee’s efficacy and has left Clinton defending herself against the committee’s apparently ulterior motives.

Her testimony Thursday could mean a lot for her campaign. David McLennan, professor of political science at Meredith College, said her tone could change how much people trust her. The two possibilities are:

A) “If she successfully answers all the questions posed by Chairman Gowdy and the rest of the committee and is able to make the committee appear that it was on a partisan witch hunt, as opposed to a search for truth about what happened in 2012, this may help Clinton boost public perceptions of her as trustworthy and honest,” McLennan said, or,

B) “If, on the other hand, Clinton comes across as less-than-forthright in her answers or defensive in her style, questions about her honesty might continue to plague her campaign.”

McLennan also said the testimony surely won’t satisfy everyone’s questions, and the questions about her email use will be answered later through an FBI investigation.

After watching the opening part of the testimony, Brad Crone, president of Campaign Connections, said the committee’s out-of-control demeanor and partisan agenda were already evident — and would ultimately favor Clinton.

“The voters are going to say that it is basically a partisan debacle,” Crone said. “I think that people see it as an attack — the Republicans trying to rough up Hillary. You’ve seen the majority leader basically say that on national television. There are just way too many inconsistencies. From all the appearances, it’s more about politics than finding out what happened in Benghazi.”

Right now, it seems more internal investigations are needed for the Benghazi investigation, which, as UNC knows so well, doesn’t boost anyone’s reputation.

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