Live

Watch CBSN Live

Hillary Clinton's Benghazi testimony: A viewer's guide

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Capitol Hill Thursday to testify about the 2012 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead.

Dickerson on Clinton's Benghazi testimony, Biden's 2016 decision

This will be the second time Clinton goes to the hill to field lawmakers' questions about that night. She first appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees in 2013. Now, she's no longer secretary of state, but she is a Democratic presidential candidate who has been dogged by accusations of wrongdoing for more than two years.

Here's what to expect:

When is it happening? The committee meets at 10 a.m. Thursday.

How long will it last? The testimony could take eight hours or more. There are 12 members on the special committee created last year to investigate the attacks. There will be up to four rounds of questions in which members get 10 minutes each to ask questions. Plus, there could be opening statements, lunch breaks, brief breaks to vote and extra time for the top Republican and Democrat on the committee that could drag things out even further. Clinton has promised to stay until all questions are answered.

Who is on the committee? The chairman is Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, and he is joined by fellow Republicans Susan Brooks of Indiana, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Marth Roby of Alabama, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia. The top Democrat is Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, and the others are Adam Smith of Washington, Adam Schiff of California, Linda Sanchez of California and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

What should you expect to hear from the Republicans? The committee has come under fire of late, accused of being created solely to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when the attacks took place. That view was bolstered when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, suggested in an interview that there was a political connection between the Benghazi Select Committee and Clinton's poll numbers, which began to drop after the committee was created.

Rep. Gowdy: GOP colleagues not on Benghazi committee should “shut up”
Rep. Gowdy: This investigation is not all about Hillary Clinton

Gowdy has been working to undo that perception, saying on CBS' "Face the Nation" last weekend that his Republican colleagues who aren't on the committee should "shut up about things that you don't know anything about."

He also said on "Face the Nation" that the committee recently received the emails of Christopher Stevens, the ambassador who was killed during the attacks. Gowdy has expressed particular interest in asking why Stevens' requests for more security in Libya went ignored, and why he was asked to respond to emails from Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal and help the State Department with public messaging advice.

Schiff, a Democrat on the committee, told CBS News, "I think there will be a lot of pressure on the GOP in the latter half of the meeting to produce something" that amounts to new information uncovered by the committee.

What should you expect to hear from the Democrats? Democrats have long maintained that the committee was motivated by politics and considered boycotting it entirely. They ultimately chose to participate in order to "defend the truth," as Cummings said last year.

In an appearance on "Face the Nation" over the weekend, Cummings said Clinton does bear some responsibility for the attacks. When she testifies Thursday, he said, "I want her to tell us how we can best protect our diplomatic core and our embassies. And I wanted her to tell us exactly what we can do as a Congress to address these issues also."

Rep. Elijah Cummings on Benghazi investigation: “It’s a sad day for all of us”

But they are fully expecting Republicans to make untrue accusations against Clinton during the hearing. On Monday, the Democrats released excerpts from some of the committee's closed-door interviews that they say help exonerate her from accusations that she ordered the military to stand down on the night of the attacks, personally approved a reduction in security before the attacks, or attempt to scrub or destroy documents related to the attacks, among other things.

"It will be our job, as well as the secretary's, to try to make sure she understands the context of what she's being asked," Schiff said.

He also said the Democrats will be looking "for any area that can add value and add to understanding what happened in Benghazi," he said. "We'll also be trying to make sure it's fair. As I mentioned earlier, given the...pattern and practice of the committee I think we can expect that they will - if not misquote from documents and emails - they will selectively quote. They will read one portion of the email, but not the other part which contradicts the earlier portion."

But he said his larger concern is about making sure Congress' investigative power is not abused.

"I don't feel it's my job to defend her politically," he said.

The Democrats may also try to highlight the fact that the committee has not yet interviewed former top officials from the CIA, Defense Department or Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cummings charged that Gowdy had a plan to interview those top officials but "threw that away" in an attempt to focus on Clinton.

What should you expect to hear from Hillary Clinton?

Clinton's last testimony on the Hill focused on the security situation in Libya and who the administration blamed in the wake of the attacks. At one point, she grew so frustrated with the questions that she said, heatedly, ""We had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or because of guys out for a walk one night and decided to go kill some Americans? At this point what difference does it make, Senator?"

Hillary Clinton: Benghazi is my “biggest regret”

But this time, many of the questions are likely to be focused on her use of a private email address and server while serving as secretary of state. The biggest revelation to come out of the committee's work is the fact that Clinton did not use an official government email address. That has sparked a massive release of Clinton's emails from her tenure as well as investigations over whether she ever emailed classified information (Clinton maintains any classified material was given that designation after she emailed about it). The former secretary has said the use of a personal email address was a matter of convenience, and while she is sorry for the confusion it has caused, she insists she did not break any rules.

Democratic strategist David Axelrod said on "Face the Nation" Sunday that the stakes for Clinton have been "reduced by the kind of circus around this committee."

"I think it was going to be a very pressure-filled moment for Hillary Clinton, it probably still will be. But now, there's a lot of pressure on Chairman Gowdy to prove that this whole thing isn't merely a political escapade," he said.

What's next?

Especially in light of McCarthy's recent statements about the committee, some Democrats have said it's time to disband the whole committee.

Additionally, Schiff said leaving the committee is "something we should consider," referring to the five Democratic members. He has some misgivings about remaining on the committee. "The fact that we are there gives it a sheen of responsibility that it probably doesn't deserve," he said.