WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday lashed out at the special 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 her diminished public standing prove Republicans are going after her for political reasons, Clinton said in a televised interview. The Democratic presidential front-runner told NBC’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 a town hall appearance in 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 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 the Congress,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to testifying before the Benghazi panel on Oct. 22 “to explain everything we’ve done, everything that I asked to happen.”
Laying the groundwork for the testimony, Clinton’s campaign released a new 30-second ad that says the Republicans “finally admit it” and points to McCarthy’s remarks. “The Republicans have spent millions attacking Hillary because she’s fighting for everything they oppose,” the ad says.
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, R-S.C. 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.
A spokesman for Gowdy said the committee has not released transcripts from witness interviews in order to “gather all facts” and avoid tainting the recollections of future witnesses.
“By selectively leaking” parts of the transcript from Mills’ daylong interview last month, “Democrats have shown their nakedly political motivation, willingness to violate the letter and spirit of House rules and their desire to defend Secretary Clinton without regard for the integrity of the investigation,” Gowdy’s spokesman, Jamal Ware, said.
House Democrats said Mills refuted several GOP 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 supposed 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. 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, Mills said.
McCarthy, R-Calif., 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. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.”
McCarthy called Clinton “untrustable” and said, “No one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
McCarthy later retracted the comment and said he regrets it.
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the senior Democrat on the Benghazi panel, called it “shameful” that Republicans have “used the tragedy … for political gain.”