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Hillary Clinton: I won’t play politics with Benghazi

According to an excerpt obtained by Politico and published Friday, Clinton gives a detailed account of the incidents around the 2012 deaths in a chapter titled “Benghazi: Under Attack.”

“Those who exploit this tragedy over and over as a political tool minimize the sacrifice of those who served our country,” Clinton writes.

Clinton’s account of her role in what she calls “the horror” of Benghazi is among the most anticipated elements of her memoir, set for release on June 10.

Sources close to Clinton confirmed the contents of the chapter reported by Politico are accurate. Politico did not publish the entire chapter but quoted heavily from it. The excerpts are the first look at how Clinton addresses substantive policy issues in the book, which she has described as both a memoir of her four years as secretary and an examination of how people and nations approach difficult decisions.

Democratic political operatives, Clinton supporters and foreign policy experts met Friday to coordinate strategy for discussing the Benghazi attacks as Clinton begins the rollout of her book. Longtime Clinton message manager Philippe Reines spoke to the group, which gathered for a “much broader focus on national security, because it has bubbled up as an issue,” according to a participant in the meeting. The participant spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the closed-door session.

The Benghazi attacks marred Clinton’s record as secretary and almost immediately became a deeply divisive political issue. Republicans accused the Obama administration, and Clinton in particular, of failing to protect diplomats overseas and hiding facts about the attacks and the role of the White House in managing and explaining the crisis.

A year and a half after the deaths, Libya has spiraled into chaos that borders on civil war, and Benghazi has become the rallying cry of many Republican leaders and partisan Clinton opponents.

House Republicans recently established a special investigative committee to reexamine the attacks and the administration’s actions. Secretary of State John F. Kerry has agreed to testify, but administration spokesmen have said there is nothing new to say.

Messages posted on a Facebook page established to promote the Clinton book called her a “murderer” and demanded answers about what posters insisted was negligence and a coverup.

“Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me,” Clinton writes, in a tone reminiscent of her angry outburst under Republican questioning before Congress several months after the assault.

Clinton has retained Tommy Vietor, who worked with Clinton in the Obama administration as a National Security Council spokesman, to assist with publicity and messaging surrounding the book release.

“I had the privilege of working with Secretary Clinton and her team as she traveled around the world working to restore and strengthen our alliances and advance critical administration priorities,” Vietor said. “I’m excited to help tell the story of that work when she releases her book.”

Clinton’s spokesman, Nick Merrill, declined to comment on the Benghazi chapter.

“Until the book is released, there’s nothing to say,” Merrill said. “And once it’s released, it will speak for itself.”

Republicans quickly attacked Clinton over the published account Friday. In a statement, Republican National Committee spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said she made “wrong choices” on foreign policy.

“Team Hillary leaked the Benghazi chapter from her book continuing the company line — blaming Republicans,” Kukowski said. “The White House and Democrats including Hillary Clinton have been less than forthcoming with information from the very beginning — emails prove Democrats coordinated to put the White House and politics before the facts — and Republicans are going to continue getting answers for the families of those lost but also the rest of America so it doesn’t happen again.”

A conservative group unveiled a new TV ad campaign Thursday hitting Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones for praising Clinton in the months after the deadly attacks.

The commercial from Veterans for a Strong America includes a clip of Clinton’s now-famous line from her congressional testimony on Benghazi in early 2013: “What difference at this point does it make?” Clinton said during a back-and-forth with a Republican senator over what role an anti-American video and supposed protest may or may not have played in the attack.

The narrator of the ad follows with, “It made no difference to Christine Jones” and then mentions two instances in which Jones praised Clinton on her blog.

In her book, Clinton writes that the video did play a role in the attacks.

“There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives,” she writes. “It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.”

Clinton also addresses questions about rescue attempts at the American compound in Benghazi, according to the Politico excerpt, writing that Obama “gave the order to do whatever was necessary to support our people in Libya. It was imperative that all possible resources be mobilized immediately. . . . When Americans are under fire, that is not an order the Commander in Chief has to give twice. Our military does everything humanly possible to save American lives — and would do more if they could. That anyone has ever suggested otherwise is something I will never understand.”

On Thursday, Clinton was in Washington, where she had a private lunch with President Obama at the White House. In a television interview broadcast on Friday morning, Obama praised Clinton, his 2008 campaign rival, and said she would be “very effective” if she decides to run for president in 2016.

“I don’t know what she’s going to decide to do, but I know that if she were to run for president, I think she’d be very effective at that,” Obama said on ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael.”

Karen Tumulty and Vincent Bzdek contributed to this report.

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