National Security

Clinton dismissed criticism over ‘What difference does it make’

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Hillary Clinton and her top aides were dismissive of criticism about her 2013 appearance in a Senate committee hearing regarding the terror attack on Benghazi, Libya, in a new email released on Monday evening.

Some political pundits pounced on one exchange from the high profile hearing at the time, in which then-Secretary of State Clinton appeared to shut down questions about the motivations of the attackers, who left four Americans dead in the Libyan city. 

{mosads}“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Clinton told Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), in an exchange that was replayed endlessly on cable news. “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?”

Emails released by the State Department on Monday show a virtually unanimous chorus of support for Clinton following that hearing, with many aides passing along glowing reviews of her performance.

However, there was at least one exception.  

“I don’t think the emotion in the hearing works to your advantage — looks more like they rattled you on something no one outside the crazy right blamed you for anyway,” Mark Penn, Clinton’s former top political strategist, wrote to Clinton the day after the hearing.

“I think you either let it lie and say I think I’ve said everything that needs to be said on this or if asked why so emotional you might explain that you were just frustrated with the apparent high level of partisanship on this issue — we should be pulling together here and not losing our focus on the fight against terrorism which has always been a bipartisan issue and focusing on the big questions that confront us,” he added.

In a subsequent email chain with her top aides Philippe Reines and Jake Sullivan, Clinton largely brushed off the advice.

“i say this as someone who has never had a problem with Mark or held him as accountable as other people do – but…




Break,” Reines wrote.

“You did not look rattled. You looked real,” he added. “There’s a difference. A big one.”

“My problem with Mark’s analysis is that it repeats the same flawed assumption that underpinned his advice in 2008,” added Sullivan, “namely, that being yourself is risky.”

“BINGO!!” Clinton responded.

The emails were released by the State Department on Monday as part of a court order to make public all 55,000 pages of the emails Clinton claimed were work-related by the end of January.

Tags Hillary Clinton Mark Penn

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