A "devastated" Hillary Rodham Clinton worked late into the night on Sept. 11, 2012, trying to protect her people caught in an attack on a diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, that ultimately killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, a close Clinton aide said in testimony released Wednesday.
But the former secretary of state was "deeply engaged" in ensuring the others made it home, added Cheryl Mills, Clinton's former chief of staff, who spoke to the GOP-led House Benghazi committee last month. Democrats on the committee released the full, 307-page transcript of Mills' remarks a day ahead of Clinton's appearance before the panel, saying Republicans were making out-of-context and misleading leaks.
Clinton's potentially lengthy appearance before the committee starts Thursday and could shine a national spotlight on its members, including two suburban lawmakers.
Republican Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates could both ask questions of Clinton at a time when both have faced high-profile questions about their political futures. Duckworth is running for U.S. Senate and Roskam has faced speculation he could move into the House leadership team with the retirement of Speaker John Boehner.
Nothing in the testimony released Wednesday appeared to shed new light on the deadly violence that already has been scrutinized by an independent review board and seven previous congressional probes. Instead, the 9½ hours of back-and-forth served primarily to preview the partisan atmosphere and vastly divergent questioning that will greet Clinton, the Democratic front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination.
Jamal Ware, a spokesman for the committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, said the transcript showed that for Democrats, once again, "this is all about Hillary Clinton -- and not about the four brave Americans who were killed by terrorists in Benghazi."
Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the panel's top Democrat, said that Democrats "are now correcting the record" by releasing the entirety of Mills' testimony. He and other Democrats say the $4.5 million investigation is a taxpayer-funded campaign to damage Clinton's bid for president. After 17 months, it has now gone on longer than the 1970s Watergate probe.
Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department employee Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty died in Benghazi that night.
Occurring in the heat of a presidential campaign, the attack immediately became the source of political disagreement.