What we heard at CNN's Clinton town hall

What we heard at CNN's Clinton town hall

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CUIABA, BRAZIL - JUNE 17: Igor Akinfeev of Russia fails to save a shot by Lee Keun-Ho of South Korea (not pictured) for South Korea's first goal during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group H match between Russia and South Korea at Arena Pantanal on June 17, 2014 in Cuiaba, Brazil. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)


by Dan Merica


Posted on June 17, 2014 at 8:20 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 17 at 8:20 PM

Washington (CNN) -- Hillary Clinton took questions Tuesday from CNN International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and a studio audience at the Newseum as well as from Tumblr as she tours the country and promotes her memoir "Hard Choices."

As she has been in the public eye for the better part of three decades, it might seem that we know everything there is to know about the former first lady, secretary of state, U.S. senator and 2008 and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

But there was much left for her to comment on: new developments in the Benghazi terror attack, the rise of al Qaeda-inspired militants in Iraq, the legalization of marijuana and immigration.

Here's what we heard at the town hall meeting:

Benghazi attack

Clinton said she's "very pleased" that the U.S. captured Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a militia leader alleged to have been a mastermind of the deadly 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

But she said she's "still looking for answers" on the armed assault that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens in September 2012.

Asked specifically what she still wants to know, Clinton said "there's a lot we don't know," such as who was behind the attack and what was their motivation.

Asked if she should have ordered Stevens to leave Libya, given that it was the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Clinton said "If any of us had known, we would have certainly cautioned and maybe even direct people to shelter in place ... and wait to see what was going to happen."

Chaos in Iraq and Syria

Should the United States get involved militarily in Iraq with Iran with Sunni militants making stunning advances and threatening Baghdad.

"I am not prepared to say we go in with Iran right now until we have a better idea of what we're getting ourselves into," Clinton said.

Clinton favored arming Syrian rebels while she was secretary of state, but the Obama administration turned her down. Now the United States is engaged in helping rebels with some aid.

Asked if she believes the administration should have done this more than two years ago, Clinton said, "It's very difficult in retrospect to say that would have prevented this--there were a lot of forces at work."

"It is important for us to know what's happening on the ground in these places," she said. "Unless you build relationships with these people...you lose content."

"If we had gone in earlier and tried to help the so-called 'moderates,' I'm not sure that it would have turned the tide," she later said.

Gun control and kids at the border

An audience member asked Clinton if she thinks a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines would help curb gun violence in the United States?

Clinton responded: "Yes, I do."

"We cannot let a minority of people, and that's what it is, it is a minority, of people hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people."

Asked separately if the immigrant children from Central America who have recently flooded into the United States should be allowed to stay, Clinton said, "It may be safer but that's not the answer."

She argued the United States should provide emergency care to the children, but stressed they should be reunited with their families back at home.

Clinton said the United States needs to "send a clear message that just because your child gets across the border doesn't mean your child gets to stay."

"We don't want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey," she said.

Legalizing pot, mandatory voting

Asked if there should be mandatory voting, Clinton "no," but argued "there should be automatic registration."

"When a young person turns 18, that young person should be registered to vote," she said. "And I deplore the efforts by some to restrict the right to vote."

She also said she wouldn't support a return to the military draft.

Clinton also encouraged young people not to get disenchanted with politics because of the partisanship.

Asked about her thoughts on legalizing marijuana, Clinton weighed in for the first time on the subject. "At the risk of crating radical candor, I think we need to be very clear about the use for marijuana for medicinal use," she said. On the recreational use of the substance, she said "states are the laboratories of democracies."

"I want to wait to see what the evidence is," she said.

Running for president

Asked if she's getting closer to making a decision, Clinton said, "No, but I try to answer the question in real time."

She said part of her thinking-process involves the fact that she's already gone through a presidential election in 2008, which she described as a difficult experience.

"One of the common grounds of that relationship was our common experience of running for president," she said, referring to her growing friendship with Obama.

"It does give you a sense of your stamina, your resilience and flexibility," she said.