Benghazi Committee Bombshell: Clinton Knew ‘Attack Had Nothing to Do with the Film’

by Brendan Bordelon

It took two and a half hours, but Republicans members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi just dropped a bombshell on former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

In the course of his questioning of Clinton on her conduct surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attack, Ohio Republican congressman Jim Jordan revealed several new, previously overlooked e-mails indicating the Obama administration, the State Department, and Clinton herself all knew the assault was driven by al-Qaeda-linked terrorists — even while they all told the American people and the families of victims that a riot sparked by an anti-Islam YouTube video was responsible.

Jordan began by revisiting Susan Rice’s televised claim in the days after the attack that the tragedy was “a spontaneous reaction as a consequence of a [Youtube] video.” At the time, Republicans cast doubt on the idea that an anti-video demonstration had spiraled out of control. With a tough White House re-election vote just weeks away, they charged that the Obama administration was deliberately shifting the narrative in order to avoid questions over their anti-terrorism policy. And as news continued to trickle out of Libya, it became clear that the attack was a planned by Ansar al-Sharia, an al-Qaeda linked group, and that there had been no demonstration at all.

Clinton also parroted the YouTube statement in the days after the attacks, even telling family members of the victims that the pastor who made the video would be brought to justice. But on Thursday, Ohio representative Jim Jordan revealed that State Department experts knew the administration’s line on Benghazi was bogus — and that it was driven entirely by politics.

In a series of e-mails shown by Jordan, experts in the State Department’s Near East Affairs Bureau are shown reacting dubiously to Rice’s claim. “I think Rice was off the reservation on this one,” one wrote. “Off the reservation on five networks!” another responded. Another e-mail said the “WH [was] very worried about the politics. This was all their doing.”

E-mails and phone transcripts unveiled by Jordan show that Clinton herself knew the attacks were driven by terrorists, even while she continued to tell the American people it was a spontaneous, video-driven assault. Approximately one hour after she signed off on a State Department release blaming the video on the night of the attack, Clinton e-mailed her family. “Two officers were killed today in Benghazi by an al-Qaeda-like group,” she wrote.

The night of the attack, Clinton also called the prime minister of Libya, explaining that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility. And in a call with Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil, Clinton deliberately rejected the video idea. “We know the attack had nothing to do with the film,” she says. “It was a planned attack, not a protest . . . Based on the information we saw today, we believe that the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al-Qaeda.”

Jordan confronted Clinton about the discrepancy. “I’m reading what you said, plain language,” he said. ‘“We know the attack had nothing to do with a film.’ That’s as plain as it can get. Why didn’t you just speak plain to the American people?”

“I did,” Clinton said. “If you look at my statement, as opposed to what I was saying to the Egyptian prime minister, I did state clearly. And I said it again in more detail the next morning, as did the president. I’m sorry that it doesn’t fit your narrative, congressman.”

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.