By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House rejected criticism of President Barack Obama's decision to attack Libya, saying on Thursday he had briefed Congress and the public extensively before military action began last weekend.
Four senior administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, will also brief House members on Libya next Wednesday, a House leadership aide said on Thursday.
The aide said the closed-door, classified briefing, which will also involve Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came at the request of House Speaker John Boehner, who asked Obama in a letter on Wednesday how he would measure success in Libya and whether Muammar Gaddafi had to depart as its leader before the U.S. military involvement ends.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters the administration had consulted repeatedly with Congress and read off a long list of meetings and briefings that the administration had already held for lawmakers.
"It's part of his responsibility as president on an issue like this to consult with members of Congress, and he has done that. He has instructed senior staff here to do that, and we have in a very substantial way consulted with Congress and will continue to do that," Carney said.
He refused to let reporters interrupt him, saying, "It's important that the American people understand how much consultation there has been."
Obama would be commenting publicly on Libya "with relative frequency and relatively soon," Carney added.
Criticism of Obama for not consulting more with lawmakers before launching the Libyan operation has come from across the political spectrum.
Many liberals in Obama's Democratic Party oppose a third war in the Muslim world on top of U.S. troop commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Republicans say the White House did not adequately explain the mission before it began.
Carney said Obama could not have waited for Congress to return from a recess because he needed to act quickly to prevent a massacre of Gaddafi's opponents in Benghazi.
"American military action, international military action has saved an enormous number of lives in the past five days, and that is something that Americans should be very proud of," Carney said.
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Peter Cooney)