The White House held an off-the-record briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon to discuss recent revelations about the Benghazi investigation, sources familiar with the meeting tell POLITICO. The meeting began around 12:45 p.m. and postponed the daily, on-the-record White House press briefing to 1:45 p.m. White House press secretary Jay Carney did not respond to a request for confirmation of the meeting. The off-the-record session was announced to reporters in the wake of an ABC News report showing that White House and State Dept. officials were involved in revising the now-discredited CIA talking points about the attack on Benghazi.
Just how "over" is the Benghazi saga? Not very, it seems. Oh boy:
The CIA’s talking points, the ones that went out that Friday evening, were distributed via email to a group of top Obama administration officials. Forty-five minutes after receiving them, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland expressed concerns about their contents, particularly the likelihood that members of Congress would criticize the State Department for “not paying attention to Agency warnings.” CIA officials responded with a new draft, stripped of all references to Ansar al Sharia. In an email a short time later, Nuland wrote that the changes did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” She did not specify whom she meant by State Department “building leadership.” Ben Rhodes, a top Obama foreign policy and national security adviser, responded to the group, explaining that Nuland had raised valid concerns and advising that the issues would be resolved at a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee the following morning. The Deputies Committee consists of high-ranking officials at the agencies with responsibility for national security?—?including State, Defense, and the CIA?—?as well as senior White House national security staffers.
Credibility: The White House has long maintained that the talking points were drafted almost exclusively by the CIA, a claim that gave cover to both President Obama and his potential successor, Clinton. “Those talking points originated from the intelligence community,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in November, adding that the only editing by the White House or the State Department was to change the word "consulate" to "diplomatic facility." The emails prove him wrong. Significant edits were made to the talking points after a meeting at the White House the day before Rice's appearance on five Sunday shows, said the official familiar with Nuland's thinking, who added that she did not attend the meeting. As I wrote yesterday (“Why Benghazi is a Blow to Obama and Clinton"), Obama has earned the trust of most Americans but credibility is a fragile thing.
Throw Hillary under the bus? In a statement to ABC, Carney notably insulates the West Wing and not the State Department by saying “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive.” And, with no apparent regard to hypocrisy, Carney criticized the GOP for attempting to “politicize the talking points.”
Drip, drip, drip: There is almost certainly more to come....
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