By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Thursday, October 22, US Representative Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) questioned former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) about what she called a “troubling” email exchange between State Department employees regarding Clinton’s awareness of the American presence and security situation in Benghazi, Libya months before the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the consulate at Benghazi that left four Americans dead including our ambassador to Libya.
Congresswoman Roby (who is an attorney) referenced an email dated February 9, 2012, Alyce N. Abdalla said the following to State Department colleague Evyenia Sidereas:
“Also, the Secretary asked last week if we still have a presence in Benghazi – I think she would be upset to hear that yes we do but because we don’t have enough security they are on lockdown.”
Abdalla was the Libya Desk Officer and Sidereas was Deputy Director of the Office of Maghreb Affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Both worked directly for then- Assistant Secretary of State Jeffery Feltman.
Congresswoman Roby asked Sec. Clinton: “How could this be that two of your staffers are emailing about whether or not you even knew that we had a presence in Benghazi in 2012 with all your interest in Libya in 2011?”
Former Secretary of State Clinton said she “couldn’t comment on what has been reported,” about the emails and insisted “of course I knew we had a presence in Benghazi.” Clinton insisted she was aware of the situation in Benghazi.
Representative Roby followed: “I hear what you’re saying but this email says something very, very different.”
The former First Lady responded: “I can’t speak to that. I can just tell you what I was doing and I was doing a lot.”
Roby followed up: “Sure, but this was your staff and it has to make me wonder if they had this conversation with you, why they would make it up.”
After Clinton said she had no recollection of the conversation, Roby twice asked Clinton to look at the email in the binder in front of her to refresh her memory.
“Please turn to Tab 31 because it’s right there,” Roby offered.
Twice, Clinton declined.
The questioning by members of the Select Committee on Benghazi continued for hours on Thursday.
Chairman Trey Gowdy (R from South Carolina) said in his opening statement, “Madame Secretary, I understand some people – frankly in both parties -have suggested this investigation is about you. Let me assure you it is not. And let me assure you why it is not. This work is about something much more important than any single person. It is about four US government workers, including our Ambassador, murdered by terrorists on foreign soil. It is about what happened before, during, and after the attacks that killed these four men. It is about what this country owes those who risk their lives to serve it. It is about the fundamental obligation of our government to tell the truth – always – to the American people. Not a single member of this Committee signed up for an investigation into you or your email system. We signed up because we wanted to honor the service and sacrifice of 4 people sent to a foreign land to represent us – who were killed – and do everything we can to prevent it from happening to others.”
Chairman Gowdy continued, “Our Committee has interviewed half a hundred witnesses, not a single one of them has been named Clinton until today. You were the Secretary of State for this country when our facility was attacked. So, of course this Committee is going to talk to you. You are an important witness, but you are just one important witness, among half a hundred important witnesses. I understand you wanted to come sooner than today so let me be clear why that did not happen. You had an unusual email arrangement with yourself, which meant the State Department could not produce your emails to us. You made exclusive use of personal email and a personal server. When you left the State Department you kept those public records to yourself for almost two years. You and your attorneys decided what to return and what to delete. Those decisions were your decisions, not ours. It was only in March of this year we learned of this email arrangement. Since we learned of your email arrangement we have interviewed dozens of witnesses, only one of whom was about your email arrangement, and that was a very short interview because he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Making sure the public record is complete is what serious investigations do.”
On September 11, 2012, the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and stormed by heavily armed terrorists. Four Americans including Ambassador Chris Stevens were killed in the attack and another dozen or so were wounded. The Secretary of State at the time was Hillary Clinton.
Congresswoman Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She is one of seven House Republicans on the twelve member select committee.