WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday lashed out at the special U.S. House committee investigating the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, calling it a partisan political exercise designed to “exploit” the deaths of four Americans.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent comments that the Benghazi panel can take credit for the Democratic front-runner’s diminished public standing prove Republicans are going after her for political reasons, Clinton said in a televised interview. The presidential contender told NBC television’s “Today” show that if she were president, she would have “done everything” in her power to shut down such a partisan investigation.
“Look at the situation they chose to exploit, to go after me for political reasons: the death of four Americans in Benghazi,” Clinton said in an interview before an appearance in the early voting state of New Hampshire. “This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan, political issue out of the deaths of four Americans,” Clinton said.
Clinton was secretary of state during the 2012 attacks. She stopped short of calling for the Benghazi panel to be disbanded, as some Democrats have urged.
“That’s up to Congress,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to testifying before the Benghazi panel on Oct. 22 “to explain what I’ve done.”
Clinton’s comments came as Democrats on the Benghazi panel released a partial transcript of a closed-door interview with Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, in response to what they called selective and inaccurate Republican leaks.
Release of the transcript is “the only way to adequately correct the public record,” the Democrats said in a letter to the panel’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, a Republican. They said they would release the full transcript in five days, in order to give Gowdy time to identify any specific information in the transcript he believes should be withheld from the American people in the interest of national security.
The Democrats said Mills rebuffed several Republican allegations about the Benghazi attacks, which killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Democrats released comments by Mills in which she rejected a claim that Clinton issued a “stand down” order blocking U.S. troops from rescuing those trapped at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. The stand-down order has been widely debunked.
Clinton “said we need to be taking whatever steps we can, to do whatever we can to secure our people,” Mills said, according to a partial transcript released by Democrats.
Mills also said Clinton was “very concerned” on the night of the attacks and “worried about our team on the ground in Benghazi” and State Department personnel throughout Libya.
Clinton was especially concerned about Stevens, a friend and “someone she had lot of confidence and respect for,” Mill said, according to the partial transcript.
McCarthy, a Republican who is considered likely to become House speaker following John Boehner’s surprise resignation, said last week, “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
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