Today Rep. Trey Gowdy's ongoing Benghazi investigation finally, at long last, reached a much-planned for day of questioning Hillary Clinton. Some highlights and lowlights from the long, long
- Chairman Trey Gowdy kicked things off with a speech denying that his investigation was political, which was necessary because his Republican colleagues of late keep bragging that his investigation has been political. Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings disagreed, and let Rep. Gowdy know that.
- Much of the questioning, indeed, revolved around who was emailing Hillary Clinton and how often. Gowdy himself focused primarily on the emails Clinton friend Sid Blumenthal sent Hillary Clinton, emails that were frequently "unsolicited," and what the definition of "unsolicited" might be. This led to the unquestioned highlight of the hearing, a shouting match between Cummings and Gowdy when Cummings demanded a vote releasing the transcripts of Blumenthal's own testimony to the committee so that the public could see what, if anything, the committee obsession with Blumenthal was supposed to be based on. After a hastily called break, the committee returned to vote against releasing those transcripts on a party line vote, after which Gowdy continued questioning Clinton over those same Blumenthal emails.
- A great deal of Republican committee questioning revolved around why Sid Blumenthal sent many emails to Hillary Clinton over the years and Ambassador Stevens sent relatively few. This was because, Clinton explained to multiple committee members, as a sitting ambassador Stevens had and used channels other than personal emails for State Department communication, as was policy. She testified that while Stevens was in regular contact with her staff, Stevens did not raise security concerns with them but instead directed security issues to the department's security officials.
- And the Sid Blumenthal questions just wouldn't stop. Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo wanted to know why Sid Blumenthal had Hillary Clinton's personal cell phone number and had been to Hillary Clinton's house before and Ambassador Stevens did not and had not. A very, very patient Clinton again explained that as a sitting ambassador, Stevens not only had a 24-hour hotline with which to reach Clinton herself or other key members of the State Department if needed but confirmed that no, Ambassador Stevens had never visited her house.
- After that, I have to say things on the Republican side broke down a bit, with Reps. Pompeo, Roskam and Jordan all getting shouty in the seventh and eighth hour (!) of testimony as they offered up theories on whether Clinton inflated the damage done by an anti-Muslim video that had caused regional protests and a particularly loathsome theory by Roskam that perhaps Clinton didn't want more security for Benghazi because it would ruin her pro-Libya "victory lap." The rest of the committee, frankly, seemed to charitably ignore each of them.
By 6pm-ish, Fox News had bailed from its live coverage of the hearings, which should summarize how the network thought things were going. The hearing however, would continue long after that, finally ending at 9pm after eleven marathon hours of testimony. Amazing.
The summary? There were a few speeches, there were a few shouty bits here and there offered up by Republican backbenchers perhaps looking for a bit more screen time, and there was indeed absolutely not one new fact or previously unknown revelation, or even the hint of one. Long before it even ended, even conservative pundits were declaring the hearing a bust.