CLINTON IN TROUBLE

The Washington Times on January 23, 2013, reported that Clinton teetered on the verge of tears and laughed out loud. She pounded a table with her fists and snapped at lawmakers performing in Congress.

And once again, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton accepted blame for the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya…

…moments later, Mrs. Clinton clashed with a string of Republican senators as she tried to explain and defend the Obama administration’s inaccurate initial characterization that the Benghazi attack began as a protest to a U.S.-made Internet video that denigrated Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.

Her voice rising in anger and frustration, Mrs. Clinton challenged Sen. Ron Johnson directly when the Wisconsin Republican questioned what he said were the administration’s shifting accounts of the attack and its genesis.

“Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?” Mrs. Clinton said, her hands chopping the air at the witness table.

The Wisconsin Republican had asked why, five days after the Benghazi attack, the Obama administration’s ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, appeared on a string of news talk shows with assertions that the attack began as a protest against the YouTube video “Innocence of Muslims.”

Mr. Johnson — who pushed what has for months been a Republican charge that Mrs. Rice had been “purposefully misleading the American public” with her appearances on the talk shows — asked Mrs. Clinton directly why “we were misled that there were supposedly protests” outside the Benghazi mission before the attack.

“With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans,” Mrs. Clinton shot back as the exchange grew heated.

State Department officials did not immediately question survivors of the attack about whether there had been a protest, Mrs. Clinton said, adding that the FBI was preparing to investigate the assault.

In some of the most pointed exchanges of the day, Rep. Jeff Duncan, South Carolina Republican, accused Mrs. Clinton during the House hearing of letting the consulate in Benghazi “become a death trap, and that’s national security malpractice.” Mr. Duncan was one of a number of GOP lawmakers who noted that no one at the State Department had been fired for the failures at Benghazi.

As far back as the night of the attack, when smoke was still clearing over the Benghazi compound, Republicans have raised questions about the relatively light security at the post in a town known to have large numbers of armed militants. On Sept. 11, it was guarded by five armed diplomatic security officers, four armed members of a friendly Libyan militia and a small force of unarmed local security guards.

The State Department internal report said that was totally inadequate in the face of dozens of heavily armed extremists who attacked that night.

Benghazi — the cradle of the 2011 Libyan revolution that toppled dictator Moammar Gadhafi — had become in the months before the attack a hotbed of Islamic extremism and the site of a number of small or unsuccessful terrorist attacks against Western diplomatic and aid targets.

In a series of increasingly urgent electronic messages, U.S. diplomats on the ground in Libya asked for more security, but their requests were turned down or ignored in Washington.

The State Department report said that constant congressional cuts to the State Department annual budget requests caused senior managers to deny requests for additional funding.

Republicans noted that State Department officials had testified repeatedly during recent months that their decisions in the months preceding the Benghazi attack were not based on budget concerns.

“Robert Baldre, your chief financial officer for diplomatic security, stated, and I quote, ‘I do not feel that we have ever been at a point where we have sacrificed security due to lack of funding,’” Rep. Steven Chabot, Ohio Republican, told Mrs. Clinton.

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