WASHINGTON — The Republican senator whose aggressive line of questioning prompted an eruption Wednesday from Hillary Clinton during a hearing on the Benghazi attacks suggested her angry outburst was just a dodge.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson pressed Clinton on why her office wasn't able to immediately discover whether the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya were executed by terrorists or spontaneous protesters. He repeatedly asked her why she didn't pick up the phone that day and find out the facts, to which Clinton eventually responded sharply, "With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. What difference, at this point, does it make?"
"I'm not sure she had rehearsed for that type of question," Johnson told BuzzFeed Wednesday afternoon, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. "I think she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions. It was a good way of getting out of really having to respond to me."
He said it was clear, at other points during the hearing, that Clinton was working off a set of talking points, but that his questions "got under her skin" because "they're just so common sense."
"I just don't think she had an answer to that," he said. "Maybe it embarrassed her. Maybe she hadn't thought of it that way."
He went on to criticize Clinton for ostensibly taking "full responsibility" for the State Department's handling of the attacks, but then continuing to avoid questions with "theatrics."
"She allowed politics to trump getting to the facts," he said.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Benny Johnson at benny.johnson+DONE@buzzfeed.com.
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