Donald Trump invited the mother of a Benghazi victim to sit in a prominent position at the next debate
And Pat Smith, the mother of a State Department IT consultant who was killed in the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks, is planning to accept the Republican nominee’s invitation to the debate, which will be held Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
During a Monday interview at her home in San Diego, Calif., Smith told Yahoo News that the Trump campaign reached out to her earlier that day and invited her to the debate. The Trump campaign confirmed the invitation.
“I think I’m going to be in the front row. But I’m not sure,” said Smith.
Smith spoke in July at the Republican National Convention, where she delivered an emotional speech laying blame for her son’s death squarely at the feet of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
“I blame Hillary Clinton personally for the death of my son,” Smith said then. “Personally.”
In her convention speech, Smith accused Clinton of lying to the families of the four Americans, one of whom was her son Sean Smith, who were killed in the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya. Smith said Clinton, secretary of state at the time, falsely attributed the attacks to a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islamic video rather than a planned assault. The speech, which left some Republican convention delegates in tears, concluded with Smith saying Clinton should go to prison.
In a statement sent to Yahoo News about Smith’s attendance at the debate, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn,a top Trump campaign adviser and surrogate, suggested that Smith’s presence at the debate might push Clinton to give the families of victims a “solid answer” as to why the U.S. government did not successfully rescue all of its personnel in Benghazi.
“Hillary said ‘what difference does it make’ — the difference was four lives were lost in Benghazi, and the families have still never had a solid answer from Hillary Clinton as to why we allowed this to happen. Hopefully Wednesday these families will get their answer,” Flynn said. (During a 2013 congressional hearing, Clinton had said “what difference does it make” while discussing the back and forth over whether the attacks were coordinated.)
During a Democratic primary debate in March, Clinton was asked about Smith’s accusation of lying and called it “absolutely wrong.” Clinton and her campaign have repeatedly defended her handling of the attack and dismissed a Republican-led congressional investigation into it as a “purely partisan exercise” that “found no wrongdoing” by Clinton.
In her conversation with Yahoo News, Smith said she had one goal for the debate.
“I want to look in Hillary’s eyes, and have her lie to me again,” said Smith.
Both campaigns tried to use guests to throw off their rivals in prior debates, but Trump has more aggressively tried to rattle Clinton with the tactic.
Clinton’s campaign invited billionaire Mark Cuban, a relentless Trump critic, to the first debate on Sept. 26. At the second debate on Oct. 9, Trump brought three women who accused Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, of sexual abuse or harassment. Trump also brought Kathy Shelton, who as a child, was the victim in 1975 a case in which Clinton defended a man who was convicted of unlawfully fondling Shelton. The four accusers participated in a press conference, spoke to reporters in the spin room and sat in prominent positions during the debate.
“We’re not surprised to see Donald Trump continue his destructive race to the bottom,” Clinton’s campaign said at the time in response to Trump bringing the four women to the debate.
In conversations with Yahoo News last week, a high level Trump campaign source cited Shelton and said they planned to bring out other figures from the Clintons’ past in the final weeks of the election.
“They’re probably going to be introduced to some people who have met them,” the source said, adding, “Who knows who’ll be introduced to the American public.”