- (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
An emotional and frustrated Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traded barbs with legislators on Capitol Hill in her appearances Wednesday before Senate and House committees searching for answers in the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed a U.S. ambassador and three security personnel.
Clinton's day began first thing on Wednesday morning when she appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will end later in the day before the House committee.
"I take responsibility," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Nobody is more committed to getting this right. I am determined to leave the State Department and our country safer, stronger and more secure."
But soon after making her statement claiming responsibility, Sen. Rob Johnson (R-Wis.) seemed to back Clinton in a corner when he suggested "a simple phone call" to sources in Benghazi might have determined there was no protest at the American Embassy. "Why wasn't that known?" asked Johnson.
Clinton initially said it was not policy to make inquiries before the FBI investigation was completed, but fired back at the GOP senator when she was pressed on the issue. "With all due respect, what difference at this point does it make?" she said. "We have four dead Americans. It's our job to figure out what happened and make sure it never happens again. People were tying in real time to get to the information."
She also said the deaths were extremely "personal" to her.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also pressed the secretary on why additional security was not in place. He also revealed that he had met with Ambassador Chris Stevens approximately two months before his death and that he expressed "his deep and grave concerns about security in Benghazi."
Clinton said those concerns never reached her desk.
"I did not see these requests. They did not come to me. I did not approve them. I did not deny," she said.
However, a review by an independent board concluded that "systemic failures" resulted in the consulate being at risk to attacks and that no organized protest were planned or were in place at the time of the attacks.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the son of former presidential candidate and House member Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), further pressed Clinton by criticizing her for not reading the cables requesting more security. "Had I been president and found out you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post," said Paul. "I think it's inexcusable."
However, neither members of the House or Senate asked Clinton why the initial attacks were blamed on an amateur video that insulted Islam.
Clinton's appearance was postponed for several weeks due to her health. She is expected to step down from her post in the coming days and will most likely be replaced by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), and who, like Clinton, ran unsuccessfully for the White House.
Prior to her being appointed as Secretary of State during President Obama's first term, Clinton served as the first lady when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, served two terms in the White House. She went on to be elected as a U.S. Senator from New York prior to serving as the nation's top diplomat.
She is also mentioned as a potential 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.