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Clinton was unscathed in Benghazi hearing

Washington (CNN)The House Benghazi committee took its best swings at Hillary Clinton in a day-long hearing Thursday -- but the former secretary of state remained mostly calm throughout the hearing, save for a few animated moments in which she struggled to mask her contempt for her Republican inquisitors.

The panel's seven Republicans tried to prove Clinton ignored U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens' requests for additional security before the September 11, 2012, attacks during which Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

But Clinton -- seeking an October trifecta after delivering a strong performance in the first Democratic presidential debate last week and then watching Vice President Joe Biden decide to sit out the race, bolstering her chances at the party's nomination -- gave them little new fodder.There would be no moment of exasperation like the one Clinton had made at a Benghazi hearing two years ago, when she asked of the attackers' motives: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

Clinton spoke slowly in a measured tone -- careful to keep any anger or frustration in check even as Republicans attacked her.

She even tugged at the heartstrings of those who were watching the hearing on television, saying that insinuations that she deliberately blocked requests for increased security are "very personally painful."

"I would imagine I've thought more about what happened than all of you put together. I've lost more sleep than all of you put together," Clinton said.Much of the focus in the lead-up to the hearing hasn't been on Clinton at all, but on the panel's chairman, Trey Gowdy.

The former prosecutor's carefully laid plans for the hearing were thrown into a tailspin when Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy put Gowdy on defense by claiming the committee was scoring political points by dragging Clinton's poll numbers down. Gowdy spent weeks trying to show that the work is only focused on getting the truth -- not Clinton.

But Gowdy's lines of questioning -- hitting Clinton about her friends and her emails -- will do little to erase doubts about his committee, especially as Democrats continue their threat to pull out altogether.At the end of the 11th hour -- and after a brief coughing fit -- Clinton could no longer hide her contempt for the Republican-led committee, and particularly Gowdy.

"I really don't care what you say about me. It doesn't bother me a bit," she said while defending Admiral Michael Mullen, who helmed a previous Benghazi investigation.

She added: "I can't help, Mr. Chairman, that you all don't like the findings" of previous reviews.

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