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Thursday, January 24, 2013

 1:54 PM 

Johnson backs off suggestion Clinton faked emotion, but stands by questions

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson today backed off his suggestion that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have planned her emotional response to his inquiries during a Senate hearing as a way to avoid answering a question.

But the Oshkosh Republican continued his criticism of Clinton’s response to the attack on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi and the administration’s original explanation that it stemmed from a protest. Appearing on CNN, he accused the administration of playing election year politics.

“I believe the American people deserve to be told the truth. I believe the American people need to understand what happened, and I really think the American people do have an expectation this president, this administration is honest with them,” Johnson said. “I think it makes a great deal of difference.”

The exchange between Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and Clinton at yesterday’s hearing went viral after the lawmaker continued to push the secretary of state why she didn’t do more to find out the motivation behind the attack, which the administration initially blamed it on a spontaneous protest.

Clinton’s angrily responded, "What difference at this point does it make?"

In an interview with BuzzFeed afterward, Johnson said, “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."

CNN host Soledad O'Brien pushed Johnson on that remark several times, and he said he probably speculated when he shouldn’t have. But he said the American public deserves to know what happened and said he agrees with Clinton that the most important thing going forward is ensuring something like that doesn’t happen again.

Johnson’s exchange with Clinton came up again today as the lawmaker questioned Sen. John Kerry during a confirmation hearing for the Massachusetts Dem to replace Clinton as secretary of state.

Johnson asked Kerry if he was willing to work with him on finding out why the administration initially said the attack was part of a protest of agreed with Clinton “that’s yesterday’s news and move on.”

“If you’re trying to get some daylight between me and Secretary Clinton, that’s not going to happen,” Kerry answered.

Johnson continued to press Kerry, who said “I think we do know what happened” and asked Johnson if he attended a briefing on the attack. Johnson said he had not.

“Well, there was a briefing with tapes, which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear,” Kerry said. “We sat for several hours with our intelligence folks who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw all of the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.”

But Johnson countered “What we don’t know is why were we mislead?” and pressed Kerry to work with him on that.
The exchange begins about the 1 hour, 58-minute mark of this video.

UPDATE: Johnson issued a statement this afternoon about the briefing Kerry asked him about, which Johnson said was made available to members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"I became a member of the Committee quite recently, and so was not invited to the briefing offered last year," Johnson said. "I have participated in multiple classified briefings on Benghazi, and others that were unclassified. I attended briefings offered to all Senators, and to members of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs."

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