Hillary gets defensive on Benghazi

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton aggressively defended her handling of the 2012 Benghazi attack and declined to offer any evaluation of what, if anything, she would’ve done differently.

“No,” Clinton said, when asked by ABC’s Diane Sawyer if she “missed the moment” to prevent the attacks. 

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She admitted that, “as the independent board that investigated every aspect of this, including all the cables, concluded, there was a lack of appreciation and response to the level of threat” but pressed on whether that included her, Clinton again said, “no.”

“That was never brought to me,” she said.

The 2012 attacks on the American diplomatic annex in Benghazi, Libya, resulted in the deaths of four Americans and have been an ongoing source of attacks from Republicans on the potential presidential contender. That's sure to intensify with a special committee investigation. 

The GOP sees the attacks as a major failure of leadership on her part and have accused her and Democrats of orchestrating a cover-up in the aftermath.

In the wide-ranging interview, Clinton said she feels “crushed” and “overwhelmed by grief,” when she thinks about the American deaths in Benghazi.

She also admitted that she was aware of the significant security threats facing the mission there, pegging Benghazi in “the top 25 … maybe in the top, upper 10,” when pressed but adding, “there were places where we had much more concern.” 

Still, Clinton said she felt that relying on security personnel to guide her on fortifying Benghazi was the right choice.

"I'm not equipped to sit and look at blueprints, to determine where the blast walls need to be or where the reinforcements need to be," Clinton said. "That's why we hire people who have that expertise.”

And asked whether there was anything she wishes she could've done differently, Clinton said she was confident in the decisions she made.

"I certainly would give anything on Earth if this had not happened, and I certainly wish that we had made some of the changes that came to our attention to make as a result of the investigation," she said. 

Clinton added, "But I also am clear in my own mind that we had a system and that system, of course, ended with me. I take responsibility, but I was not making security decisions."

Indeed, she said it would be a "mistake" for a secretary of State to make security decisions in all of the country's diplomatic outposts.

"That, to me, is inappropriate, where the experience and the expertise lies elsewhere."

Clinton also stood by her outburst during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in 2013, when she cried, “What difference at this point does it make?” in response to GOP questioning on the origins of the talking points that erroneously pegged the cause of the protests as an anti-Islam video.

She said she wouldn’t have changed the wording of the statement, which has drawn fire from Republicans.

“Because, the point of what I said at the time was, ‘You know, if you're gonna stay fixated on things like talking points, or fixated on whether or not everybody was effected or not by the video, you're missing the larger picture.’”

Republicans pounced on the interview, with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweeting out his displeasure.

"Why won't @HillaryClinton own up to her #Benghazi failures?"

Foreign policy and Clinton’s time at State will be a central focus of her campaign if she does run for president as is expected.

And Clinton weighed in on some developing national security issues in the Monday interview, offering a pessimistic view of the chances of a nuclear deal with Iran and expressing skepticism that military action against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression and annexation of Crimea is possible.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult, but it’s a lot better than what we inherited,” she said of a deal with Iran, as U.S. and Iranian officials meet for talks in Geneva this week.

In responding to Putin, Clinton said that while she doesn’t think “we are in a position to advocate making him [back down] through military action,” she’s a “strong supporter of tough sanctions that create an economic cost for Russia and for him personally and his cronies.”

In sum, Clinton said, in responding to global threats, “I think there is no perfect outcome. It’s a constant effort that we’re all engaged in.”

— This post was updated at 11:04 p.m.