The State Department told the Libyan government that the fatal attacks on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi were carried out by a terrorist group the day after the attacks, even though the White House continued for some time afterward blaming it on a spontaneous riot over an anti-Muslim video, says Rep. Jason Chaffetz.
Chaffetz, appearing Sunday on “Meet the Press,” said he is in possession of an internal State Department document from Cheryl Mills, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, that blames the attacks on Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist group.
“So why is that we told the Libyans the truth and told the American people a lie?” asked the Republican Utah Congressman, a member of the House Oversight Committee.
The document is dated Sept. 12, 2012, Chaffetz said, one day after the attacks that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Republicans have been focusing during the past week on a newly released email showing that it was the White House that was behind talking points suggesting blame for the attacks came from the video. Members of the intelligence community did not point to the video in the Benghazi attacks, though it was blamed for protests around the same time in other places, including Cairo.
But nobody, in real time, thought that the Benghazi attack was caused by a protest over a video, Chaffetz said.
“I think that was a false narrative from the beginning,” he said. “It was perpetuated over the course of time. In my mind, that became a lie. It was never true in Libya.”
Critics have said the White House was looking for something besides terrorism to blame the attacks on because President Barack Obama was in a tight race for re-election and was making the case on the campaign trail that al-Qaida was “on the run” after the killing of its leader, Osama bin Laden.
It is also seen as a potential millstone for Clinton, who is the presumed Democratic frontrunner for president in 2016.