Today was a big day on Capitol Hill as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally appeared before both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the deadly attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi last September. Our own Lynn Sweet followed the testimony and you can read her coverage here. The testimony has been heated and passionate, even emotional at times as when Clinton described seeing the caskets of the dead Americans arrive at Andrews Air Force Base. Said Clinton, "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."
Perhaps one of the most fiery moments came in an exchange between Clinton and Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, the video and transcript of which are below.
Johnson : But Madame Secretary, do you disagree with me that a simple phone call to those evacuees to determine what happened wouldn't have ascertained immediately that there was no protest? That was a piece of information that could've been easily, easily obtained?
Clinton : But Senator again--
Johnson : Within hours, if not days?
Clinton : Senator, you know, when you're in these positions, the last thing you want to do is interfere with any other process going on, number one--
Johnson : I realize that a good excuse.
Clinton : Well no it's the fact. Number two, I would recommend highly you read both what the ARB said about it and the classified ARB because even today, there are questions being raised. Now, we have no doubt they were terrorist, they were militants, they attacked us, they killed our people. But what was going on and why they were doing what they were doing is still unknown--
Johnson : No, again, we were misled that there were supposedly protests and that something sprang out of that - an assault sprang out of that - and that was easily ascertained that was not the fact, and the American people could have known that within days and they didn't know that.
Clinton : With all due respect, 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 who decided that they'd they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again Senator. Now honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has a process I understand going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear it is from my perspective less important today looking backwards as to why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we'll figure out what was going on the meantime.
Later, Rand Paul called the Benghazi attacks, "the worst tragedy since 9/11."
Check out full video of Clinton's testimony in front of the Senate Panel below. Full video of her appearance in front of the House panel will be added at its conclusion.