Sen. Bob Corker, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, will participate in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Wednesday that will include the long-awaited testimony of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, who had postponed her appearance before the committee because of health reasons, is expected to testify for at least 90 minutes. Wednesday afternoon, she will appear before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she will also testify on Benghazi.
Although Corker’s tone toward the terrorist attack-which claimed the lives of a U.S. ambassador and three American staffers-has mellowed in recent months, the senator said Tuesday he was expecting the biggest issue in the hearing to be the State Department’s handling of security itself. In a Politico report, Corker said he did not expect any “bombshells” to be brought forth during Wednesday’s hearing.
“There will be a lot of focus just on the State Department and the systems and the internal accountabilities, and, it feels to me, like a lot of this was because of just a State Department that is stove-piped,” Corker was quoted saying. “It is almost full of sclerosis and unable to really attend the issues of security and make decisions that need to be made in this regard.”
In a conference call with Tennessee reporters Tuesday, the senator acknowledged that much of the criticism regarding Benghazi had come at a time when the country was focusing on an upcoming election. The senator suggested that a campaign narrative purported by administration officials that al-Qaida had been suppressed was undermined after the attack.
“This all happened through a political lens,” Corker said. “. There was a campaign underway, and what was pretty evident in the campaign was that al-Qaida had been dealt with. And as we can see now, nothing could be further from the truth . I have a feeling that Secretary Clinton is going to speak to affirm that this is a tremendous challenge to our country.”
Corker, who traveled to Libya on a fact-finding trip last fall, voiced similar concerns regarding the threat of al-Qaida, particularly in portions of northern Africa. The senator said Tuesday he had seen the security tape of the attack on the Benghazi facility, describing it as “surreal” to see how easily attackers were able to enter the compound, which he called at one point “a death trap.”
When asked what questions he planned on posing to Clinton, Corker said he did not see his role in the hearing as working to place the secretary in a “gotcha” scenario. The senator, who was named ranking member to the Foreign Relations Committee Tuesday, said he was sure his colleagues would be asking tough questions regardless.
In all, Corker said his focus would be on seeking to understand how to best shape future policies so that an event similar to the Benghazi attack would not happen again.
“This is very personal to me in may ways, and I want to make sure that, as we go forward, there are policies that are in place for the men and women who are there making sacrifices on our behalf,” he said.