(CNN) - The most politically charged testimony of Wednesday’s House hearing on the deadly terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, energized Republican claims that there is more to the story.
An expectation ahead of the GOP-led hearing on the attack last September 11 centered on Republican efforts to more closely scrutinize actions of State Department officials serving under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton, a witness at previous Benghazi proceedings on Capitol Hill, did not factor much in Wednesday’s questioning. But Republicans brought her into focus through testimony about her top deputy.
Following the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, traveled to Libya as part of a congressional investigation.
Stevens’ deputy, who at the time of the Chaffetz visit was the top U.S. diplomat in Libya, told the committee that senior State Department attorneys told him and other officials that the lawmaker could not interview them.
“So the people at state told you, ‘Don’t talk to the guy who is coming to investigate?’” asked Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican.
“Yes, sir,” replied Gregory Hicks, adding that the request was highly unusual.
Hicks said he subsequently received a call from Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff.
Hicks said Mills was not happy a State Department lawyer was not permitted to attend a briefing that included Chaffetz.
Hicks, who testified as a “whistleblower” said the briefing was classified and the lawyer did not have the proper clearance.
She demanded a report on the visit, Hicks said, adding that a call from such a high-ranking official was often not good news and her tone conveyed unhappiness.
Hicks has been "praised by everybody who counts, the president, the secretary, everyone above him," Jordan said. "And yet now, they're obstructing - because he won't - he won't help them cover this up."
But Philippe Reines, Clinton’s former spokesman, responded strongly to the assertion and said in a statement that no one was told to prevent Chaffetz from speaking with anyone.
“That's completely at odds with the cooperative approach the department has taken with the Congress – all eight of the committees looking into this – from day one, until today,” he said.
He also said Mills at the time wanted the officials in Libya to know that the State Department in Washington supported them, including Clinton.
“Cheryl Mills did everything she could, round the clock for months on end, right up until our very last day in February, to support our personnel in Tripoli,” he said.
Critics have questioned the validity of continued congressional scrutiny of Benghazi, especially Democrats, who say Republicans are only interested in discrediting the administration and hurting Clinton's chances if she were to run for president in 2016.