POLITICS

On contentious Benghazi committee, Clinton finds friend in Rep. Sanchez

During a contentious congressional hearing Thursday on the 2012 Benghazi attacks, Democratic Representative Linda Sanchez emerged as one of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's biggest allies during her testimony in front of a Republican-led committee.

Rep. Sanchez (D-CA), who is chairwoman of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus, attempted to discredit her fellow committee members, questioned their political intentions in attacking Clinton and all while Sanchez tailored questions to the Secretary which cleared a path for Clinton to defend herself.

On Thursday Clinton, the front-runner to win the Democratic presidential nomination, testified for long hours before the Benghazi Special Committee about her role and actions as Secretary in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the Sept. 11th, 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Clinton said emphatically that she never told Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to order the military to "stand down" during the deadly attacks and that U.S. officials did everything they could to protect the U.S. compound. She said the military began moving Marines and special forces toward Libya, but the surviving American personnel were evacuated before they could arrive.

"Logistics and distance made it unlikely they could be anywhere near Benghazi in any reasonable time," Clinton said.

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Sanchez called out Republicans on their attacks that asserted that Clinton did not act quick enough the night of the Benghazi attack. She said Mike Huckabee accusation that Clinton “ignored the warning calls from dying Americans in Benghazi,” or Senator Rand Paul’s claim that Benghazi “was a 3 a.m. phone call that [Clinton] never picked up” were not accurate because the testimony received by the committee, which some have said is politically motivated and partisan, states that Clinton was “deeply engaged the night of the attack.”

Sanchez has been representing California’s 38th congressional district since 2003, serves on the powerful Ways and Means Committee and is the ranking member of the Ethics Committee.

During one particular line of questioning, Sanchez took issue with the Republican assertion that as Secretary Clinton relied mostly on her personal friend and political confidant Sidney Blumenthal for unvetted intelligence reports about Libya and the events that transpired leading to the attack.

Sanchez, who wrote an opinion piece in January calling on Latinos to support Clinton, fired back with questions asking Clinton if Blumenthal was her primary policy advisor or primary source of information about Libya, to which Clinton answered, "No, of course not."

Then Sanchez went on to play a clip from NBC's Meet the Press in which her Republican committee colleague Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is seen saying released emails showed that Clinton "relied on Mr. Blumenthal for most of her intelligence." In the clip, NBC's Andrea Mitchell is seen telling Pompeo that he is "factually incorrect."

"That clip for me just defies all logic," said Sanchez saying that it proved that the committee was partisan and politically motivated. "When I see clips like that it sort of supports the theory that this panel is not really interested in investigating what happened just prior to the evening of and immediately in the aftermath of September 11th, 2012, but that in fact there is another motive behind that."

Sanchez went on to add that the Washington Post fact checker gave the assertion that Clinton relied mostly on Blumenthal for Libya intelligence, four Pinocchios, which is the worst rating on the newspaper's fact scale.

Sanchez went on to serve up a question in which she wanted to give Clinton "her time to debunk myths generated over the last months" about Benghazi.

Then Sanchez took on Committee Chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC), who devoted much of his time on Clinton's personal e-mail correspondence with Blumenthal. The questioning focused on whether the emails she received from her friend Blumenthal were "unsolicited" or not. Gowdy said the questioning on emails from Blumenthal was relevant because it seemed as though Blumenthal had "unfettered access" to Clinton but there's "not a single solitary e-mail to or from" Ambassador Stevens.

To that Sanchez fired back: "We spent almost 5 million dollars and we interviewed about 54 witnesses and when the chairman finally got his chance to question you, he asked you, he quibbled actually, over the definition of the word ‘unsolicited.’ As if that wasn't bad enough then he doubled downed on this idea that Sydney Blumenthal was your primary advisor on Libya."

She went on to say that Gowdy's concentration on questioning Clinton from everything from the Clinton Foundation to Media Matters had her stunned. "My own sense of incredulity was, ‘Really, really? Is this why we've asked you to come to testify? The overwhelming sense that I get from the Republican side of the aisle is that they seem to be arguing somehow that Sydney Blumenthal had access to you while Ambassador Stevens did not," Sanchez said before asking Clinton, "Do you think that is an accurate statement?"

Clinton responded, "Of course not, congresswoman."

Bryan Llenas currently serves as a New York-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). Click here for more information on Bryan Llenas. Follow him on Twitter @BryanLlenas.