Hillary Clinton told Egypt’s prime minister that the attack on the Benghazi consulate had "nothing to do" with an anti-Islam film just one day after the attack, according to testimony at the House Benghazi committee hearing on Thursday.
Clinton also told Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil that it was pre-planned and not part of a protest, according to notes from their phone call on Sept. 12, 2012, that were turned over to the House select committee.
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"We know that the attack in Libya had nothing to do with the film. It was a planned attack—not a protest," said Clinton. "Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for this was affiliated with al Qaeda."
Clinton's comments indicate that she did not initially believe the attack was spontaneous and related to a protest against the low-budget YouTube clip titled "The Innocence of Muslims," which was the narrative pushed by the State Department and the White House in the days after the attack.
At the time Clinton spoke to Kandil, she had already publicly linked the film to the attack and had yet to describe it as pre-planned.
"Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet," said Clinton in a statement on the evening of Sept. 11, 2012. "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. … But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
A week after the attack, then-U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice went on ABC News This Week and said the attack resulted from a spontaneous protest against the movie.
"Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous—not a premeditated—response to what had transpired in Cairo," said Rice.
According to an email obtained by the House Benghazi select committee, Clinton also told her family the evening of the attack that the Americans had been "killed tonight by an al Qaeda-like group."
Republicans have accused the Obama administration of intentionally obscuring the fact that the assault was a planned terrorist attack for weeks due to political calculations. The attack occurred less than two months before the 2012 presidential election, and President Obama had been campaigning on his success at targeting al Qaeda.
Clinton told the committee that she was dealing with conflicting information in the days after the attack and was not intentionally trying to mislead the American people.
Clinton also said uring the first round of questions at Thursday’s hearing that she did not believe Ambassador Stevens knew her personal email address, which she used exclusively at the State Department. Stevens and other State Department officials in Libya had been requesting additional security at the U.S. diplomatic compounds, but many of these appeals were rejected. Clinton said she did not see the requests.
The Democratic presidential candidate also said she asked aides to pass on intelligence information about Libya to other administration officials that was sent to her by her long-time confidante Sidney Blumenthal, but to remove his name from the documents. At the time, Blumenthal had personal business interests in Libya.
Clinton told the committee that she asked for his name to be omitted so that officials could evaluate the information objectively.
"I thought it would be more important to just look at the substance," she said.