​Benghazi returns: Hillary Clinton agrees to testify before Congress again, talk email scandal

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (Reuters / Brendan McDermid)
Hillary Clinton is ready to appear before Congress once again to testify about the 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, the former secretary of state’s lawyer said in a letter to the panel’s chairman.

The 2016 presidential frontrunner is prepared to answer questions about the attack – which left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens – as well as her use of a private email account during her time as secretary of state, lawyer David Kendall said in the letter, the Associated Press reported.

However, Kendall added that Clinton will only appear before the panel once. Originally, panel chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) wanted her to appear twice and answer questions about Benghazi and her emails separately.

"Respectfully, there is no basis, logic or precedent for such an unusual request," Kendall wrote, according to the AP. "The secretary is fully prepared to stay for the duration of the committee's questions on the day she appears."

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"She will stay as long as necessary to answer the Committee's questions, but will not prolong the Committee's efforts further by appearing on two separate occasions when one will suffice," he added, according to NBC News.

In a statement, Gowdy’s communications director, Jamal Ware, said the congressional panel will consider Clinton’s letter.

"The committee has consistently shown it is interested in getting the facts and doing so in a deliberate and diligent manner," Ware said to NBC. "As a result of the Benghazi Committee's efforts, the American people now know about Secretary Clinton's unusual email arrangement with herself, something that would not be known had the committee rushed to call the former secretary in November as Committee Democrats pushed."

Republicans have routinely used the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack to criticize the Obama administration and Clinton for failing to properly secure America’s diplomatic compound and for allegedly misrepresenting the attack as a protest that escalated into violence. Investigations into the incident found merit in the complaint that the government did not provide enough security for its diplomats, but also conclude that the administration generally responded to the attack properly.

Democrats, meanwhile, continue to argue that conservatives want Clinton to testify twice only in order to influence the 2016 presidential race.

"Chairman Gowdy should take 'yes' for an answer and finally schedule the hearing," wrote Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in a statement. "Dragging out this process further into the presidential election season sacrifices any chance that the American people will see it as serious or legitimate."

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While the controversy surrounding the Benghazi attack has not substantially damaged Clinton, the fact that she used a personal email account as secretary of state – and deleted thousands of emails without turning them over to the government – seems to have hurt her standing with the American public, according to a new poll conducted on behalf of the AP.

Clinton claimed that the 30,000 emails she deleted were personal in nature, but the poll found that a majority of Americans “believe she used a private address to shield her emails from transparency laws and they think she should turn her server over to a third party for further investigation,” the AP reported.

Additionally, 61 percent said the word “honest” describes Clinton “slightly well” or “not at all.”

A new NBC/WSJ poll also found Clinton taking hits to her favorability rating, with 42 percent of the public having a favorable impression of her and 42 percent with an unfavorable impression.

The good news for Clinton is that she still beats all of her potential GOP rivals in a head-to-head poll.