Under scrutiny for her handling of the Benghazi attacks and her use of a private e-mail server, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday plans to invoke the memory of slain U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens to defend her approach to diplomacy, saying they shared a common belief in the need for America to lead.
The Democratic presidential front-runner's goal in appearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi is to honor the memory of Stevens and the three other Americans killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city, she will say in her opening statement, according to a preview offered by a campaign official who asked not to be named.
Clinton's approach recalls her 2013 congressional testimony about the attack, when she chastised Republicans over accusations the Obama administration had been misleading about the source of the violence, at one point saying, “The fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night and decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?”
The campaign didn't say how Clinton plans to respond to any questions about how quickly help was sent to the besieged outpost, about the administration's initial explanation for the attack—or about her e-mail.
“We think there's some missing pieces, and the request for diplomatic security” is one example, said Representative Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican on the committee, on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Thursday.
Clinton plans to say that while Benghazi was a tragedy from which the U.S. must learn, the country must continue to lead around the globe, which means continuing to send diplomats to dangerous places. The best way to honor the legacy of the four Americans who died in Benghazi, she contends, is to ensure that the U.S. government does all it can to protect its diplomatic corps, even if they're in regions where there's no American military presence.
Thursday's hearing was more than a year in the making, as Republican Chairman Trey Gowdy's staff grappled with Clinton's lawyers over how many interviews she would do with the panel and whether her testimony would be in public or private. Clinton's team insisted on a single public hearing, and Gowdy agreed to those terms in late July.
Clinton's team is hoping to use her testimony as an opportunity to lay out more of her foreign policy vision and to demonstrate that she has the fortitude to be commander-in-chief. She will talk up the notion of “expeditionary diplomacy”—that diplomats must do their work in the unstable regions where policy is happening, even if there is no U.S. military presence in those places, according to the preview from the official.
She heads into the meeting after a relatively sunny stretch for her campaign. She turned in a strong performance against Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the first televised Democratic debate on Oct. 13, and on Wednesday, Vice President Joe Biden put months of speculation to rest by announcing he wouldn't join the race for the party's nomination.
(Contributing: Toluse Olorunnipa)