Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said on Tuesday that he expected Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to testify on the Libyan attacks on Jan. 22.
“I had some very good conversations with her chief of staff,” Corker, the ranking GOP member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told MSNBC
. “My sense is, her hearing probably will take place the morning of the 22nd.”
The Sept. 11 assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The attack has raised serious questions about the adequacy of security in far-flung posts.
Republicans have criticized the Obama administration for its flawed early public explanations of the attack, and then for shifting explanations of why talking points given to U.S Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice were changed to delete a reference to al-Qaida.
: Should Kerry and Hagel Be Confirmed ?
Clinton, 65, had pledged to testify on the hearings last month, but later sustained a concussion after fainting and was hospitalized for treatment of a blood clot that resulted from the incident.
“She’s anxious to want to come up and testify on Benghazi, and I think that’s an important thing both for her but obviously for our country,” Corker told MSNBC on Tuesday.
He also said that he believed that President Barack Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, may face a tough confirmation fight.
“I start all these hearings with an open mind. I served with Chuck and knew him for a couple of years. We served on the Foreign Relations Committee.
“I do have concerns,” Corker told MSNBC. “The meetings and the hearings are going to be very, very important as it relates to Senator Hagel.
“One issue that I want to probe in particular is where he is on our nuclear policy. Some of the things he’s said in the past as to where we need to be as a country in our nuclear posture are very troubling to me — especially at this point in time when we are supposed to be investing in nuclear modernization as a part of the START treaty and we’re not doing that.
“A lot of times, you hear people expressing concerns — and you can see through it and know that it’s about politics or it’s about some other personal concern that’s happened in the past.
“On Hagel’s part, I actually think there are serious policy concerns — and these hearings are going to make a great deal of difference in whether he is confirmed or not,” Corker added.
When asked whether Hagel would be confirmed, he responded: “I don’t know. I really think there are legitimate policy concerns that people are going to have. I’m going to start out in a neutral place. I’ve heard some of these arguments put forth, but I’ve not heard his side and his response.
“It’s going to be a lively process. This is going to be one of those processes that is real,” Corker said.
The Tennessee senator also said he had concerns about President Obama’s other nomination on Monday, John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan has worked for the agency for 25 years.
“For Brennan, the White House has portrayed him as a priestly figure who sits in a room in the White House with no windows and decides each day who he is going to execute around the world with drones,” Corker told MSNBC. “I think the Left is going to have an interesting time interviewing him.
“The intelligence community in general has not served us well. The kinds of briefings that we receive on the Hill are close to useless. I’m better off watching a [television] program or reading one of the major publications,” Corker added. “And I do think that the intel — and how we receive it, how we’re able to utilize it for policy-making decisions — is going to be an important aspect of what he’ll be testifying about.”
Specifically referring to the Benghazi attacks, Corker said: “The country needs to understand really some of the shortcomings that no doubt occurred. I’ve seen the security tapes; I’ve seen the drone tapes. It is pretty surreal to see how much lack of security occurred at that time.
“No doubt, there were some intelligence breakthroughs before the incident occurred — but also in just discussing it with us on the Hill, in fairness, what really happened, it really breaks down your confidence in the intelligence community when the kind of answers they give are non-answers.
: Should Kerry and Hagel Be Confirmed ?
“Most of what we get in Washington is pablum,” Corker added. “That really hurts us. It’s really a liability as it relates to good policy-making. That’s one of the things that I want to talk to Brennan about that personally.
“Our intelligence community really needs to be shaped up — and, hopefully, this will be one step along the way to making it happen.”
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