Hillary Clinton, in an interview Monday with TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie, voiced her frustration with the process surrounding the Benghazi committee, lambasting the panel for turning the hearing into a "partisan political issue."
“The real issue here is what happened to four brave Americans,” the White House hopeful said from New Hampshire, just minutes before joining TODAY's Pancakes & Politics town hall.
A visibly agitated Clinton discussed an upcoming congressional hearing on Benghazi, which House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested was created with political motivations. When asked if she would have gone after Republicans such as former Vice President Dick Cheney if tables were turned, Clinton insisted: “I would never have done that.”
“This committee was set up, as they have admitted, for the purpose of making a partisan political issue out of the deaths of four Americans,” she said. “I would never have done that, and if I were president and there were Republicans or Democrats thinking about that, I would have done everything to shut it down.”
She pointed out that seven investigations, led mostly by Congressional Republicans, have looked into the issue and cleared her of any wrongdoing.
During the live town hall, she discussed details of her sweeping gun control proposal that she promised would close a critical “gun show loophole.”
“I really do want to push hard to get more sensible restraints on gun ownership in the wrong hands and then to try to keep track of people who shouldn’t have guns,” she said, adding that she wants to “work with Congress” to do so.
But her proposal would allow her to take administrative action to tighten gun control laws if lawmakers do not.
“We need universal background checks. We know that they will work. We need to close what’s called the Charleston loophole,” she said, referring to a provision in law that allows potential gun buyers to purchase weapons if background checks aren’t completed within three days. Clinton pointed out that’s how South Carolina church shooter Dylann Roof purchased the gun he used in his rampage despite his criminal record.
Earlier, Savannah brought up Clinton's appearance on “Saturday Night Live” in a political skit, playing a bartender who served up drinks and comfort to a pretend version of herself. The skit poked fun of Clinton's problem of being seen as likable, trustworthy and driven by public opinion.
The routine did not directly address Clinton's biggest problem with voters recently, her use of a private email server while secretary of state. The issue has plagued her campaign and led many voters to question her trustworthiness.
The town hall with Clinton is the first of this political season hosted by TODAY, which invited the frontrunners in both political parties to participate. Republican candidate Donald Trump has agreed to take part in the next discussion.
Clinton currently trails Democratic rival Bernie Sanders among New Hampshire voters, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, holds a 9-point lead over Clinton, 48 percent to 39 percent.
The poll found Clinton leads in Iowa, where she gets support from 47 percent of Iowa caucus-goers, while Sanders gets 36 percent.
In both New Hampshire and Iowa, Clinton saw her numbers shrink with the addition of Vice President Joe Biden to the field.
During her town hall, Clinton addressed several issues including:
“Raising incomes is the issue, the top priority. That is what I’m going to spend all my time on,” she said.
Clinton said she wants to raise the minimum wage so that full-time workers living off of it won’t be stuck in poverty. She also plans to increase “infrastructure” jobs such as construction and transportation-related positions. Clinton also believes that jobs that help combat climate change will also help the economy thrive.
“Those are good jobs that can’t be exported, because we’re going to be putting solar panels and wind turbines up,” she said. “We’re going to be doing things right here at home.”
Asked about her recent call for a no-fly zone over the war-torn nation, Clinton said she advocates for compiling a coalition of countries that have a stake in curbing a flood of refugees from Syria and that can "try to find safe spaces so people could actually stay in their homes.”
She stressed that the key to resolving the Syrian conflict would be, first, to remove President Bashar al-Assad, whom she blamed for the current conflict, and then to “seek a diplomatic solution.”
Asked about her “favorite celebratory drink,” Clinton made a pop culture reference.
“A martini, a vodka martini,” she said, clarifying a second later: “In the James Bond way, shaken.”
First pink slip
Clinton said that following her college graduation, she and friends headed to Alaska, where they picked up random jobs. Among them, working at a cannery where she helped pack salmon for export to Japan.
She said one day she noticed the fish being packed appeared discolored and smelled funny.
“They were green and black and they looked horrible,” she recalled. But when she reported it to her supervisor, "he just yelled at me.”
Something must have happened, however, because the next day when Clinton showed up for work, the whole operation was gone.
"I think that was the equivalent of being fired.”