Hillary Clinton said Sunday night that she "took responsibility" as secretary of state following the attacks on the diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and found that "appropriate," but there have now been nine separate investigations that did not find "any such culpability" that made her responsible for the incident that left four Americans dead.
"What I was determined to do is to find answers as to what actually happened, not what people claim, and what we could do to try to prevent that," said the presumptive Democratic nominee, who appeared with running mate Tim Kaine for their first joint interview on CBS' "60 Minutes."
There was a significant difference between the Benghazi investigations and those following other incidents, however, Clinton said told CBS' Scott Pelley.
"We had horrible losses in Beirut when Ronald Reagan was president, and when one of my favorite former predecessors, George Shultz, was secretary of state," said Clinton. "We had a Democratic Congress. They didn't politicize it. So when this happened in Benghazi, I immediately stood up in an independent committee, with distinguished Americans, military and civilian experts.
"They came out and they said, 'You know, the ball was dropped in security. And, you know, some of the decisions that were made probably should have been rethought.'"
But, Clinton said, that was "not my ball to carry."
"Read all of the reports, all many hundreds of pages of them, including this latest one, which was a political exercise from the very beginning," she told Pelley. "Those never reached me. Those never came to my attention."
Instead, the State Department has security experts, Clinton said, and she is "not going to substitute my judgment for people who have been in the field, who understand what our men and women are up against."
Clinton said she agrees with Kaine's opinion about the repeated investigations: "'It didn't get the result that some of the Republicans wanted, so they kept at it.' And I feel very sorry that they have politicized it unlike any prior example. And I just think the most important challenge we face is learning from it and doing everything we can to keep our people safe."
Clinton and Kaine went on to address several other issues in the lengthy interview, including talking about why she picked Kaine, a Virginia senator who is not well known outside his state, as her running mate; and those calls to "lock her up" that rang through last week's GOP convention.
The GOP Convention and the emails:
During last week's GOP convention, the chants of 'lock her up" range out while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lined up charges against Clinton for her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Clinton said she wasn't watching the convention and didn't hear the calls directly, and that she didn't feel threatened by them: She felt sad.
"I don't know what their convention was about, other than criticizing me," said Clinton. "I seem to be the only unifying theme that they had."
Clinton has freely admitted she made a mistake by using a private server, and on Sunday she told Pelley she takes "responsibility for that," but she argued that other secretaries of state and high-ranking administration members had used such servers and recommended them as being convenient.
"I thought it would be," Clinton said. "It's turned out to be anything but."
And no, there will be no such server in the White House, said Clinton, but "I am quick to add, there's no evidence that it was ever hacked. And unfortunately, you can't say that for a lot of the government."
"The most important qualification is that the person I pick be ready to become president if something were to happen," Clinton said. "He's been a mayor, a governor, a senator. Secondly, he's a progressive who likes to get things done. That's how I describe myself. And I look at his record, his civil rights record, his education record, his taking on tough issues like gun safety, climate change. The whole picture is one that I find, you know, very appealing. And then, finally, I want somebody who will be candid and will tell me, "Hey, I don't agree with this," or, "Could you think about it somewhat differently?"
Kaine agreed that he is ready to lead the nation.
"I'm ready first to be a supportive vice president so that the presidency of Hillary Clinton is a fantastic one," he said. "But if something were to put that in my path, as much as any human being would be ready, I'd be ready."
On dealing with a Republican Congress:
"I know, and Tim knows, because we both have heard from many Republicans, how distressed they are at the direction that Donald Trump is taking their party. I worked with Republicans. I came from a Republican home. My father was a rock-ribbed Republican. I think the first Democrat he voted for was my husband, best I can remember. So we know that there are Republicans who share our concerns and want to be part of the solution, not just peddling fear and bigotry."
Kaine, as a senator, said he does not think bills from a Democratic administration would necessarily be dead on arrival with a Republican Congress.
"It's actually maybe going to be easier than it's been in the past, a little bit," said Kaine. "I do think we're going to take a Senate majority for the Democrats. I think the House is going to remain in Republican hands. I think the margin will be narrowed. Some of the big things that we
have to do: Immigration reform, tax reform, mental health reform, criminal justice reform, they're only going to get done with a divided house scenario where each side's got to give on something."
On gun violence:
Kaine described the murders of 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech, when he was the state's governor, as "the worst day of my life," and described how he pushed for reform because "our public wants us to fix this. Gun owners want us to fix this. NRA members want us to fix this.
And I thought how hard it is to do something that makes sense. So, you know, you mourn falling short, but we [have] just got to keep trying."
Clinton said the the issues of mass murders, like at Virginia Tech, should be considered separately.
Mass shootings "are rooted in the much too readily available weapons of mass killings, mostly the assault weapons, and usually some kind of underlying motivation," Clinton said, while the others are from people who have become radicalized.
"We've got to have better gun safety rules, comprehensive background checks, closing the gun show loophole and the online loophole," she said, including "changing the speed at which you get real time information, including mental health information, to be part of that background check, and not selling the gun until the background check is completed, which was one of the problems in Charleston."
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