- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 16, 2012

Republican lawmakers said over the weekend that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton eventually will have to testify before Congress about the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, despite her having canceled an appearance this week owing to ill health.

The timing of the medical announcement, which followed two days last week during which officials appeared to waffle about whether Mrs. Clinton would testify as scheduled, prompted some Republicans to question privately whether her health was a convenient excuse to avoid tough questions about the attack, according to a congressional staffer.

Mrs. Clinton, 65, fainted at her home, fell and sustained a concussion earlier last week, according to her spokesman, Philippe Reines.

She had skipped an overseas trip the previous week because of a stomach virus, the State Department said Saturday.

Mr. Reines said that Mrs. Clinton’s doctors have recommended that she work from home this week. “She is looking forward to being back in the office soon,” he said.

But the statement gave no details about the timing of the fall, leading Republicans to speculate it might have happened as early as last Monday.

A State Department official told The Washington Times on Sunday that the department is not issuing any more details about the incident this weekend.

In public, Republican critics were clear they expect to hear from Mrs. Clinton personally in due course.

Answering tough questions about the attack “requires a public appearance by the secretary of state herself,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican and chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Deputy Secretaries of State William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides will testify to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Mrs. Clinton’s place on Thursday, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen added.

“Although I respect Bill and Tom, we still don’t have information from the Obama administration on what went so tragically wrong in Benghazi,” she said.

Republicans have been probing the Benghazi incident and asking tough questions of administration officials about their actions before, during and after the attack.

Senior Republicans such as Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Rep. Darrell E. Issa of California have said the consulate lacked sufficient security and have been highly critical of the administration’s response to the attack.

Last Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan E. Rice withdrew her name from consideration to replace Mrs. Clinton as secretary of state. Mrs. Rice was the official who stuck longest and hardest to the administration’s initial and inaccurate claims that the attack on the consulate was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam video made in America, rather than a hastily planned assault by al Qaeda supporters and other extremists.

Mrs. Clinton’s testimony was to have been the climax of a week expected to begin Monday with the delivery of a report of the State Department investigation known as an Accountability Review Board.

The board, chaired by retired Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, has a mandate to examine the roles played by all parts of the U.S. government in preparing for and responding to the attack. The board also has retired military and intelligence officials on it as well.

On Wednesday, Mr. Pickering and fellow board member retired Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, will give a classified briefings to lawmakers about the conclusions of their report.

The assault on the U.S. consulate occurred on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. Dozens of heavily armed extremists overran and set on fire the consular compound and later attacked a nearby CIA annex.

U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, both of whom were working as security contractors for the CIA, were killed in the attack.

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