Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (shown here on Jan. 23, 2013), speaking in separate interviews with CNN and Fox News, said Tuesday she was still seeking information on the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans and led to numerous investigations. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP)
WASHINGTON — Hillary Rodham Clinton says many unanswered questions remain about the deadly 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, even as U.S. authorities have captured their first suspect in the case.
Clinton, speaking in separate interviews with CNN and Fox News, said Tuesday she was still seeking information on the attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans and led to numerous investigations. But she defended the Obama administration’s response to the incident and said the State Department tried to respond to the fast-moving attacks that have become a focal point of criticism from Republicans.
“We want to know who was behind it, what the motivation of the leaders and the attackers happened to be. There are still some unanswered questions,” Clinton said on CNN. “It was, after all, the fog of war.”
The potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate addressed the Benghazi investigation and a range of issues in the two interviews as part of a promotional tour for her new book, “Hard Choices,” about her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.
Clinton urged the Obama administration to remain cautious about working with Iran to combat fast-moving Islamic insurgents in Iraq. And she said it was unclear whether it would have turned the tide in Syria if the U.S. had tried to help moderate rebel forces there, as she once advised.
The former first lady’s appearances came hours after the Obama administration announced the capture of a Libyan militant suspected in the Benghazi attacks. Clinton said the capture showed the U.S. has an “an unwavering commitment” to go after anyone who would attempt to harm Americans.
A significant portion of the Fox News interview focused on Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attack, reflecting criticism among Republicans that Obama and Clinton were disengaged during the incidents and later misled voters about the causes of the attacks. A new GOP-led House select committee on Benghazi could extend the issue into the next presidential campaign.
The probe could figure into Clinton’s political future if she seeks the White House again; Clinton said during the Fox interview that “I know you and your viewers have a lot of questions.” But she said the U.S. often sends people into dangerous places to represent its national security interests and she didn’t think that should change. “I don’t think we should be retreating from the world,” she told CNN.
The interviews also touched on several issues brewing in Congress, including investigations into the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of political groups seeking tax-exempt status and efforts to curb gun violence and reform immigration laws.
Clinton suggested the IRS case could benefit from a “fair-minded” investigation, even though Obama has called it a “phony scandal.” Clinton said, “Anytime the IRS is involved, for many people, it’s a real scandal.”
Clinton reiterated her support for expanding background checks for firearm purchases and reinstating the ban on assault weapons.
“We cannot let a minority of people — and that’s what it is, it is a minority of people — hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people,” she said on CNN.
On immigration, Clinton touted the need for comprehensive reform and expressed concern for the influx of Central American immigrant children and teenagers. She said many of the children should be sent back once they can be reunited with family members, cautioning against sending “a message that is contrary to our laws, or we’ll encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
Clinton took a wait-and-see attitude on medical marijuana and the legalization of the recreational use of pot in Washington state and Colorado. Asked whether she would partake, Clinton laughed. “I didn’t do it when I was young. I’m not going to start now.”
Associated Press writer Philip Elliott contributed to this report.