In an email to Clinton’s top staffers and advisors, speechwriter Dan Schwerin offers a draft of opening remarks for Hillary Clinton to deliver to the House Committee on Benghazi in October 2015 where the cost of Clinton’s actions during the Benghazi incident was measured in “dead Americans.” Those copied in the email exchange include John Podesta, David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, Jennifer Palmieri, Huma Abedin, Brian Fallon, Mandy Grunwald, and Philippe Reines.
The email is one of thousands released by WikiLeaks
from the email account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign director, John Podesta.
The first to answer in the email thread was attorney David Kendall, of the prominent Williams & Connolly law firm. He quibbled over the use of “independent” to describe the review board enlisted to examine the events of the Benghazi fiasco. Referring to her “Hard Choices” memoir, Kendall wrote that Clinton had not referred to the review board as ‘independent’, and added, “since it’s appointed by and responsible to the Secretary, I think we open an avenue of attack by calling it ‘independent’”. He also advised that she bring up the deaths of other Americans in diplomatic service since the 1970s.
Further up the thread, Jennifer Palmieri wrote that she was not happy at all with a reference to the “backs of dead Americans,” fearing that using it would “splash back on her as appearing to exploit their deaths.”
Mandy Grunwald -- a Democratic Party media advisor -- then responded, “I also think it's strong. I don't mind the ‘backs of dead Americans’ because we need a bit of moral outrage. I suppose we can dial the language back, but the sense of outrage should remain.”
From there, the trail led back to Schwerin who admitted the “backs of dead Americans” was taken from Clinton’s “Hard Choices” memoir, and offered to “tweak” the statement for the hearing before the committee and thus offer alternative language. Ultimately, in the attachment to the email with the draft statement, the resulting language was as follows:
“To those who seek to exploit the tragedy of Benghazi for political gain, let me be clear: I will not be a part of a partisan slugfest disrespecting the memories of dead Americans. It’s wrong, and it’s unworthy of our great country.
“So my challenge to you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, is the same challenge I put to myself.
“Let’s be worthy of the trust the American people put in us. They expect us to lead. To learn the right lessons. To rise above partisanship and reach for statesmanship.
“That’s what I tried to do every day as Secretary of State. And it’s what we should all strive for here today and in the future.”
Hillary Clinton wrote in her memoir, “Hard Choices,” that she had no regrets over stonewalling the Senate’s hearings on her conduct of the crisis in Benghazi, Libya, that yielded the deaths of four Americans. It was there that she pounded the table before her and cried out, “What difference does it make?” She wrote in her memoir, "There is a difference between unanswered questions, and unlistened to answers...I will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans.... Those who insist on politicizing this tragedy will have to do so without me."