Hillary Clinton confidante Sidney Blumenthal quickly became the flashpoint in the House Benghazi Committee’s public hearing with the former Secretary of State, prompting numerous outraged questions from Republicans.
After several hours of questioning—and little new information learned about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi—the topic of Blumenthal brought forward passionate questions and bickering from both Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans on the committee were keen to press Clinton on why Blumenthal, who was denied an official position in the Obama administration, had access to Clinton’s private email, while Ambassador Chris Stevens, who perished in the attacks, had no direct way to reach her to ask for additional security.
Sidney Blumenthal is a close friend of Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. But he was reportedly prevented from working for Clinton at the State Department by the White House, who blamed him for harsh attacks leveled at President Obama over the course of the 2008 presidential campaign.
In the years surrounding the Benghazi attacks, Blumenthal sent dozens of emails to then-Secretary of State Clinton’s private email account. Republicans pressed on this matter, asking why he had such direct access to Clinton, when the late Ambassador Chris Stevens had no ability to contact her to request more security.
“Can you tell us why security requests from your professionals, the men… trained in the art of keeping us all safe, none of those made it to you,” Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Republican, pressed Clinton. “But a man who was a friend of yours, and who’d never been to Libya, didn’t know much about it… every one of those records he sent on to you that had to do with situations on the ground in Libya, those made it to your desk.”
“He’s a friend of mine. He sent me information he thought might be of interest,” Clinton responded. “He had no official position in the government. And he was not at all my adviser on Libya. He was a friend who sent me information that he thought might be in some way helpful.”
What had been a relatively calm hearing descended into chaos in the hearing’s fourth hour, when the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. Elijah Cummings, thundered that the committee should immediately hold a vote on releasing the transcript of Blumenthal’s private interview with the committee, which took place earlier this year. It was a request that Gowdy declined to approve.
“That way the world can see it!” Cummings exclaimed, gesturing with his arms. “Why don’t we just put the entire transcript out there, and let the world see it? What do we have to hide?”
Democrats have indicated that if the testimony were to be released, it would show that Republicans were far more interested in asking Blumenthal's relationship with the Clintons than the Benghazi attacks themselves.
“Republicans asked more than 160 questions about Mr. Blumenthal’s relationship and communications with the Clintons, but less than 20 questions about the Benghazi attacks,” Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said, regarding Blumenthal’s private interview. Clinton pressed back on questions of why Stevens didn’t have her personal email account, saying that there were alternative ways to reach her through State Department channels.
“[Stevens] had regular contact with my aides. He did not raise security with me,” Clinton said. “And the security questions and requests were handled by the security professionals.”
Midway through a contentious hearing, Clinton exhorted the committee to “get back to those times” when Congress would rise “above politics” to work across the aisle after national security crises.
“I’m hoping that that will be the outcome of this and every other effort, so that we really do honor not only those we lost, but all those who, right as we speak, are serving in dangerous places, representing the values and the interests of the American people,” Clinton said. “I would imagine I’ve thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I’ve lost more sleep than all of you put together. I have been wracking my brain about what more could have been done or should have been done.”