CNN has refuted a key point of last week’s bombshell ABC News report about the edits to the Benghazi talking points — specifically, the role of a key White House figure wanting to protect the State Department’s interests.
CNN’s Jake Tapper obtained an email from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes that contains no mention of the State Department.
Here’s the relevant portion of the email CNN obtained:
“Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.
There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.”
And here’s what ABC reported Rhodes wrote:
“We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.”
Separately, The Weekly Standard similarly reported that Rhodes “responded to the group, explaining that [then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria] 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.”
Tapper, who previously worked at ABC, reports that “whoever provided those accounts seemingly invented the notion that Rhodes wanted the concerns of the State Department specifically addressed.”
ABC’s Jonathan Karl responded to Tapper’s report Tuesday by saying he quoted verbatim a source who had seen the original emails but was not permitted to make copies of them.
Karl said he contacted his source, who said that Rhodes’ reply “was after a long chain of email about State Dept concerns. So when WH emailer says, take into account all equities, he is talking about the State equities, since that is what the email chain was about.”
Karl noted that the White House has refused multiple requests to release the full email exchange, which would clear up the confusion.
According to ABC’s initial report, the widely-discredited talking points used by United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice in the days after the Benghazi attack underwent 12 edits, including removing references to an Al-Qaeda affiliated group and that the CIA had previously warned about a terror threat.