The House Benghazi Committee Chair Has a Familiar Question for Hillary Clinton

PHOTO: Pictured from left, Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton.Getty Images
Pictured from left, Trey Gowdy and Hillary Clinton.

Thursday may be déjà vu for Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of state returns to Capitol Hill Thursday to answer questions about the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Some of the questions lawmakers are expected to ask her may sound very familiar.

“What I want to know is while violence was going up in Libya why was our security profile going down?” Benghazi Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy told CBS News in an interview Sunday. “It wasn't even staying the same, it was going down.”

That question is nearly identical to the first question Clinton was asked by House and Senate Republicans when she testified in front of Congress about the terror attack almost three years ago.

Chairman Ed Royce of the House committee asked Clinton the first question of the afternoon session. “They knew that our security was insufficient. But instead of adding security, in this case they took it away,” Royce said. “So if senior officials knew that our diplomats weren't safe and weren't adequately staffed, then why did they continue to withdraw security? I think that's the first question.”

Sen. Bob Corker made a very similar comment in his first round of questions on the Senate side. “These officials were screaming out for more security,” Corker said. “I’m just wondering if you might mention one reform that would be helpful so that you would have known of the needs there of security that went undone.”

Republicans have alleged that Clinton and the State Department failed to adequately respond to requests for more security at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in the months and weeks leading up to the September 2012 attack. Clinton has admitted that the State Department could have done more, but said she was not personally aware of the requests. Clinton has denied any wrongdoing.

Republicans have said her answers are insufficient and Gowdy says he's obtained emails from Ambassador Chris Stevens' account that pose additional questions. Specifically, Gowdy says he wants to know why Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton adviser, was able to email her directly while an ambassador who needed security was not.

"I want to know why certain things made it to your inbox, Madam Secretary, but the...pleadings of our own Ambassador that you put in place for more security never bothered to make it to your inbox. I think that's a fair question," Gowdy said Sunday.

The lead-up to this Thursday’s testimony has become politically heated. Democrats on the Benghazi Committee are accusing Republicans of partisan attempts to derail Clinton’s presidential campaign, releasing today a 124-page report they said summarizes closed-witness testimony that refutes many of the claims made by Republicans against Clinton. A spokesman for the Republican side of the committee shot back, calling the report "premature" and saying “the past 18 months of the investigation conducted by the majority Members has not been about Clinton, it has been about the four brave Americans we lost in Benghazi.”