Update: White House press secretary Jay Carney reaffirmed his previous statement that the only edits the White House made to the Benghazi talking points was "a matter of non-substantive factual correction." ABC News had reported Friday morning that 12 revisions were made to the initial CIA talking points about the Benghazi attacks, but Carney maintained that the White House's only directive was that the word "consulate" was changed to "diplomatic post," he said. There was no attempt to make it look like it wasn't a terror attack, as some Republicans allege, Carney said. "This is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something that we did not hide," he said, pointing to instances when administration officials had said extremists were involved in the attack.
Carney said the emails showing the 12 revisions to the talking points were provided to Congress months ago, and that at the time Republicans were satisfied. Carney called the controversy over Benghazi part of "ongoing attempts to politicize a tragedy that took four American lives." Republicans are ignoring "the basic facts," Carney said, which is that at the time the "intelligence community provided the information it felt comfortable providing to the public." The revisions reflect an attempt at accuracy, Carney said: "The concern was the points not provide information that was speculative." Carney repeatedly said that it was only speculation that Ansar al Sharia was involved -- the administration did not know that "concretely."
"Hours after the attack," Carney said, Mitt Romney issued a press release "to take advantage of the attacks... From that day forward there has been an effort to politicize these attacks." Accusations that Susan Rice and other administration officials did not say the attacks were committed by an al Qaeda-affiliated group in order to downplay that it was an terror ring "hollow," he said. "The president has always said this was an act of terror."
White House press secretary Jay Carney's press conference on Friday is going to be really interesting, if it ever happens. Not only were there new revelations about how the White House crafted its talking points on Benghazi immediately after the attack, but Carney himself was sure to be asked about his previous assertion that the White House had only made "stylistic" changes to the talking points that came from intelligence agencies. But Friday's press conference was delayed multiple times, and the White House held an off-the-record briefing with reporters about the Benghazi investigation, Politico's Dylan Byers reports. We don't know what as said.
On Wednesday, Carney said the edits to Benghazi talking points were "stylistic and non-substantive," but the 12 revisions to the CIA's initial draft include removing references to terrorist activity in Libya in the months before the September 11 attack. In particular, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in the emails between bureaucracies that references to al Qaeda-linked groups should be deleted, because they "could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings."
It's likely the off-the-record meeting was the White House explaining its version of the story behind the emails. What would that be? That this wasn't about election politics, but bureaucratic infighting. That's a theory floated by The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, who writes, "the final version of the talking points may have been so wan because officials simply deleted everything that upset the two sides. So they were left with nothing." ABC News posted an update to its article about the 12 revisions earlier Friday, saying:
UPDATE: A source familiar with the White House emails on the Benghazi talking point revisions say that State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland was raising two concerns about the CIA’s first version of talking points, which were going to be sent to Congress: 1) The talking points went further than what she was allowed to say about the attack during her state department briefings; and, 2) she believed the CIA was attempting to exonerate itself at the State Department’s expense by suggesting CIA warnings about the security situation were ignored.
Watch Carney's press conference here:
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