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Hillary Clinton’s showdown with GOP over Benghazi kicks off

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WASHINGTON -- Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Thursday makes her long-awaited appearance at a hearing on Benghazi in a confrontation with Republicans that could mark one of the pivotal moments of her campaign.

Clinton will be cross-examined in the hearing of the House Select Committee on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four Americans in the attacks on State Department and CIA compounds in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. The hearing begins at 10 a.m. ET and could last eight hours.

The hearing is the latest twist in a long-running political saga ignited by the attacks, with the GOP claiming Clinton has been negligent after security lapses that happened on her watch as secretary of state and led to the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.

Clinton's team has charged that the committee represents a naked political attempt by Republicans to derail her presidential ambitions and point to seven previous congressional investigations as they argue the current inquiry will turn up no new evidence.

"She will be prepared. It's questions she has all answered before, I presume, because she has testified on Benghazi before," Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri said Wednesday on "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer."

But she added that the former secretary of state took the hearing -- which is also expected to cover the private email account she used while at the State Department -- very seriously.

Republicans clearly feel it's an extremely grave event.

Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas, who sits on the select committee, said on Wednesday that the Benghazi controversy was more serious than the conspiracy that felled President Richard Nixon.

"In many dimensions this is worse than Watergate," Pompeo said. "Remember, we had four Americans killed here. Remember, too, we had a secretary of state who had a private server and then erased 30,000 of those emails without any third party having a chance to look at them."