Hillary Clinton was trapped by aggressive questioning Thursday by Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) at the Benghazi Select Committee on her rhetoric initially blaming an anti-Muslim video for the Benghazi terrorist attack, with Jordan showing emails revealing Clinton knew immediately the video wasn't involved and telling her family it was an attack by an “al Qaeda-like group.”
The matter went to why Benghazi was such a hot topic during the 2012 election cycle. The Obama administration repeatedly touted having al-Qaeda “on the run” at the time, and Republicans challenged that a terrorist attack of this magnitude would undermine Obamas's re-election campaign narrative.
Jordan showed an email Clinton sent her own family, in which she said officers were killed in Benghazi by a group like al Qaeda.
“You tell the American people one thing. You tell your family an entirely different story,” Jordan said.
On the night of the attack, Jordan said, Clinton had a phone call with the president of Libya where she told him Ansar al-Sharia was claiming responsibility.
The next day, Jordan said, Clinton told the Egyptian prime minister something “significant,” where she acknowledged they knew the attack in Libya had nothing to do with any video.
“We know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film,” Jordan read out from Clinton's email. “It was a planned attack. Not a protest. Let me read that one more time. We know, not we think, not it might be, we know the attack in Libya had nothing to do with a film. It was a planned attack. Not a protest. State Department experts knew the truth. You knew the truth, but that's not what the American people got. Again, the American people want to know why. Why didn't you tell the American people exactly what you told the Egyptian prime minister?”
“Well, I think if you look at the statement that I made, I clearly said that it was an attack, and I also said that there were some who tried to justify it on the basis of the video, congressman,” Clinton said.
“Real quick, calling it an attack is like saying the sky's blue. Of course it was an attack,” Jordan said. “We want to know the truth. The statement you sent out was a statement on Benghazi and you say vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material on the internet. If that's not pointing as the motive being a video, I don't know what is, and that's certainly how the American people saw it.”
“Well, congressman, there was a lot of conflicting information that we were trying to make sense of,” she said. “The situation was very fluid. It was fast-moving.”
Jordan showed with other emails that her top staffers were already discussing the political ramifications of the attack and how to respond. He said Clinton picked the option of a “video narrative” “with no evidence” because she wanted the Libya situation to be a key success story for the Obama administration.
“You did it because Libya was supposed to be this great success story for the Obama White House and the Clinton State Department, and a key campaign theme that year was GM's alive, bin Laden's dead, al-Qaeda's on the run,” Jordan said. “Now you have a terrorist attack, and it's a terrorist attack in Libya and it's just 56 days before an election. You can live with the protest about a video. That won't hurt you, but a terrorist attack will. So you can't be square with the American people.”
Clinton replied that Jordan should read her memoir Hard Choices.
“I would be glad to send it to you, congressman, because I think the insinuations that you are making do a grave disservice to the hard work that people in the State Department, the intelligence community, the Defense Department, the White House did during the course of some very confusing and difficult days,” she said. “There is no doubt in my mind that we did the best we could with information that we had at the time.”
Jordan replied later that he was not “insinuating anything” as Clinton had charged but rather simply reading out what she had said.
“Why didn't you just speak plain to the American people?” Jordan asked.
“I did state clearly and I said it again in more detail the next morning, as did the president,” Clinton said. “I'm sorry that it doesn't fit your narrative, congressman.”