Colin Powell on Clinton and Benghazi: ‘We'll Have to Wait and See How the Testimony Goes’

By Terence P. Jeffrey | January 13, 2013 | 5:06 PM EST


Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Barack Obama on Dec. 1, 2010. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - Former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today that he did not think the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, would affect Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s political future, even though he admitted that he “didn’t know what she knew about it” or “where she was” or “whether the Congress in their examination of Mrs. Clinton will find something that they find distasteful.”

"So, we'll have to wait and see how the testimony goes," he said.

Clinton is now planning to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee sometime shortly after President Barack Obama is inaugurated to a second term on Jan. 20. The Senate committee is currently chaired by Sen. John Kerry, whom Obama has nominated to replace Clinton as secretary of state. Kerry reportedly will recuse himself when Clinton testifies.

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory asked Powell: “Do you think that Benghazi episode is a blot on her record as secretary of state? Do you think it will affect her political future?”

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“No I don't think so,” said Powell. “I don't know what she knew about it or didn't know about it or where she was, and, so, we'll have to wait and see how the testimony goes.

“But I think she has had a distinguished record,” said Powell, “and I don`t think that this one incident, which is one of these things that those of us in government have been through many, many times--where suddenly an action happens late at night, you’re surprised. Somebody gets killed. Something gets blown up.

“And then the after-action reports start and everybody wants to know who was at fault, who was responsible?” said Powell. “Why didn’t we keep this from happening? Well, you can’t keep everything from happening. Benghazi was a very, very difficult one in a difficult situation and maybe they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Powell said he thought the review of how the State Department dealt with security in Benghazi and reacted to the attack, which was conducted by Amb. Thomas Pickering and Adm. Michael Mullen (who were appointed by Clinton), was a good one.

“And I think that we have had a good review of that by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen,” said Powell, “and I don`t know whether the Congress in their examination of Mrs. Clinton will find something that they find distasteful. But I don`t think it is a blot on her record.”

The report produced by Pickering and Mullen did not explain what actions or decisions Secretary Clinton personally took either before or during the Benghazi attack relevant to security of the diplomatic compound  and the safety of the State Department personnel assigned there.

Even though Powell did not know whether Congress would find something “they find distasteful” about the way she handled the Benghazi terror attack, Powell suggested he thought she could be a good president.

“Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?” Gregory asked.

“I think she would be good at whatever she does; whether she is interested in it or not, I will let her opine on that,” said Powell.