As part of a multi-front attack against the Republican-led Benghazi Select Committee, the super PAC backing Hillary Clinton’s campaign will release a 140-page book of opposition research Wednesday, obtained exclusively by CNN, that impugns the character of Republicans on the committee.
David Brock, the founder of the group – Correct the Record – will also give a speech Wednesday lambasting the committee as his super PAC readies a rapid response team of 30 employees to staff a war room during Clinton’s testimony Thursday, expected to last several hours.
The Clinton campaign has armed surrogates with talking points, instructing them to characterize the hearing as “a partisan charade whose main goal is attacking Hillary Clinton.” Another suggests Clinton supporters stress that Clinton agreed to testify “because she wants to honor the memory of the four brave Americans who died at Benghazi by making sure we do everything possible to learn from this tragedy.”
Earlier this week, the campaign released a five-minute video detailing her accomplishments while secretary of state. It features testimonials from former secretary of state Madeleine Albright and former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who heralds Clinton for “restor[ing] the credibility of the United States.”
As Clinton enjoys the afterglow of her performance in the first Democratic debate, at which, she was widely viewed as the winner, the hearing threatens to slow her momentum if she stumbles in her testimony.
Clinton has kept a low profile for several days, preparing for her appearance to answer questions about the 2012 terrorist attack in Libya that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Anticipating questions from Republicans about warning signs that Libya was unsafe for diplomats in the months ahead of the attack, Clinton is expected to make a case for expeditionary diplomacy, the practice of dispatching US representatives to engage countries where there are security risks, a Clinton aide told CNN.
She is expected to argue the need for “smart power,” diplomacy as a supplement to the “hard power” of the threat of military force, including the inherent risks of the approach.
Clinton has tried to capitalize on recent gaffes by Republicans, including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who said last month, “Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee. A select committee. What are her numbers today?”
That quote is featured inside the cover of Correct the Record’s opposition research book, called “The Complete Guide to the Benghazi Select Committee,” which the super PAC is distributing to media outlets Wednesday. It spells out the millions of dollars in costs associated with the committee’s investigation and takes aim at individual Republican members of the committee — highlighting one GOP member’s ethics probe, accusing another of giving credence to suggestions that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and listing examples of Republicans fundraising off the committee’s work.
Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, the chairman of the Benghazi committee, defended the panel’s work ahead of Clinton’s politically charged appearance this week.
He said comments from top Republicans like McCarthy are wrong and that the panel isn’t interested in denting Clinton’s poll numbers, telling other Republicans to “shut up” about Clinton.
Republicans on the committee are preparing for their chance to grill Clinton on an issue that resonates with a segment of their base, trying to follow on a closed-door hearing last week with top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, which Democratic and Republican sources described as respectful.
And opponents to Clinton have their own groups preparing to get their message out ahead of Thursday’s hearing. One such example, Stop Hillary PAC, attacked Democratic members of the committee who were defending Clinton in a press release out Tuesday.
Even as some GOP lawmaker aim for an evenhanded approach, worried a contentious hearing could backfire on them, Democrats are banking on a circus atmosphere that will leave watchers empathizing with Clinton.
“They won’t be able to help themselves,” one Democrat on the Benghazi committee told CNN.