“Emails” and “Benghazi” have been the two buzzwords nipping at Clinton’s heels (and poll numbers) throughout her presidential campaign, and on Thursday, she’ll appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi to try once again to put it all behind her.
While the eight-plus hours of hearings are shaping up to be highly partisan theater, Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, predicts her mom will be “remarkable” on the witness stand. Here’s a primer to catch you up before the big showdown:
• Republicans tipped their hand
Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy seemingly revealed the true motivation for the Benghazi committee during an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this month, when the California representative said, “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. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen.”
(He later apologized for the gaffe, which many believe led him to drop out of the race to succeed House Speaker John Boehner.)
Since then, other GOP lawmakers have made similarly incriminating comments, including a former committee staffer who said the panel was conducting a partisan probe – although “Republicans have dismissed the ex-investigator’s comments as the rumblings of a disgruntled former employee,” ABC reports.
Republican New York Rep. Richard Hanna said last week on New York’s WIBX 950, “Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth.”
“This may not be politically correct, but I think that there was a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and an individual, Hillary Clinton,” said Hanna, who, like McCarthy, is not a member of the committee. “After what Kevin McCarthy said, it’s difficult to accept at least a part of it was not. I think that’s the way Washington works. But you’d like to expect more from a committee that’s spent millions of dollars and tons of time.”
And Clinton’s campaign press secretary, Brian Fallon, said Hanna’s comment showed that “House Republicans aren’t even shy anymore about admitting that the Benghazi committee is a partisan farce. Hillary Clinton will still attend next week’s hearing, but at this point, [Chairman] Trey Gowdy’s inquiry has zero credibility left.”
• Clinton declared the Benghazi committee a "partisan arm of the Republican National Committee"
In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday she said of the committee, “I think it’s pretty clear that whatever they might have thought they were doing they ended up becoming a partisan arm of the Republican National Committee with an overwhelming focus on trying to – as they admitted – drive down my poll numbers. I already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don’t know that I have very much to add. This is after all, the eighth investigation.”
And at the Democratic debate last week, Clinton told the nation the committee “is a partisan vehicle, as admitted by the House Republican majority leader, Mr. McCarthy, to drive down my poll numbers. Big surprise. And that’s what they have attempted to do.”
“But I’ll be there,” she added later. “I’ll answer their questions.”
• Chairman Trey Gowdy told Congress members to "shut up" about the Benghazi committee
As committee chair, Gowdy’s credibility has been called into question, leading him to tell Politico that, “in some ways, these have been among the worst weeks of my life. Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000 times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically – at least it is for me.”
In an apparent attempt to protect himself and the committee, Gowdy told House Republicans not on the Benghazi committee to “shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found,” he said Sunday in an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation.
Gowdy added that McCarthy and Hanna “don’t have any idea what they’re talking about.”
Gowdy’s comments on the committee over the years:
In a 2014 interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Gowdy referred to the select committee as a “trial,” saying, “If an administration is slow-walking document production, I can’t end a trial simply because the defense won’t cooperate.”
In a 2013 interview with Fox News, he accused the Obama administration of a cover-up in the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. The administration is “changing names, creating aliases” of U.S. agents who were in Benghazi during the attacks, he said. “Stop and think, what things are most calculated to get at the truth? Talk to people with first-hand knowledge. What creates the appearance or perhaps the reality of a cover-up? Not letting us talk with people who have the most amount of information, dispersing them around the country and changing their names.”
And in 2012, he told Fox Business he could hold Benghazi hearings “until the Lord comes back.” “We’re going to find out what happened in Benghazi with or without the voluntary help of the people who have knowledge. We’re going to find out, and we’ll have committee hearings until the Lord comes back, if that’s what it takes!”
• One GOP lawmaker is already eager to impeach "President Hillary"
If the Benghazi committee fails, there’s always impeachment? Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama said on The Matt Murphy Radio Show last week that “the day [Clinton]’s sworn in is the day that she’s subject to impeachment because she has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.” The real issue with Clinton using a private email server, he said, is “how many lives she put at risk.”
• Democrats are going on the offense ahead of the hearings
Democrats on the Benghazi committee on Tuesday released a 124-page report declaring there’s “no evidence to support top Republican allegations about Secretary Hillary Clinton.”
And Senate Democratic leaders sent a letter to the RNC, calling for the party to reimburse the Treasury and U.S. taxpayers for all expenses incurred by the House Select Committee on Benghazi. According to Bloomberg, the letter – signed by Sens. Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray – read, “We firmly believe the committee should be disbanded, and that every penny of taxpayer money that has financed this purely political committee ought to be repaid.”
The RNC’s Allison Moore responded: “Harry Reid’s pathetic attempt to inject politics into the final, definitive account of the 9/11 terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed four Americans dishonors their memory.”
Democrats have one goal: “To make this look like a crazy, 17-month witch hunt,” wrote the Washington Post‘s James Hohmann and Elise Viebeck. “Democrats say the idea of ‘correcting the record’ sums up their strategy,” Viebeck said.
• Chelsea Clinton is her mom’s biggest supporter
Chelsea said Tuesday in an appearance on CBS This Morning: “I think every opportunity my mom has, she proves again and again why she should be our next president. I know I’m very biased, and I actually think I’m even more biased now as a mom than as a daughter because I feel like I have a different stake in the future because of my daughter, Charlotte.”
“And so, I have no doubt on Thursday she will be remarkable and that Americans will really see why I so strongly believe that she should be our next president.”
And for those not inclined to curl up with C-SPAN all day Thursday (or those who have too many Scandal episodes maxing out the memory on their DVRs) to hear what Clinton has to say on Benghazi, Simon & Schuster is helpfully making available for free online the 34-page chapter on Benghazi from Clinton’s latest memoir, Hard Choices.