Gingrich: A “reliable Senator” tells me two networks have stand-down e-mails from Donilon’s office

posted at 12:01 pm on October 31, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Via the Daily Caller, Newt Gingrich thinks that the Benghazi scandal might blow wide open over the next two days, thanks to e-mails that he claims two networks now possess from the office of the National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon.  According to a “reliable Senator” who tipped him to the information, Gingrich says that the e-mails came in response to the request to aid the consulate in Benghazi after the attack began, and asserted that the attack wasn’t a terrorist action and therefore didn’t need a response:

“There is a rumor — I want to be clear, it’s a rumor — that at least two networks have emails from the National Security Adviser’s office telling a counterterrorism group to stand down,” Gingrich said. “But they were a group in real-time trying to mobilize marines and C-130s and the fighter aircraft, and they were told explicitly by the White House stand down and do nothing. This is not a terrorist action. If that is true, and I’ve been told this by a fairly reliable U.S. senator, if that is true and comes out, I think it raises enormous questions about the president’s role, and Tom Donilon, the National Security Adviser’s role, the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who has taken it on his own shoulders, that he said don’t go. And that is, I think, very dubious, given that the president said he had instructions they are supposed to do everything they could to secure American personnel.”

That may not be the only scandal that Gingrich thinks will go prime time this week, either:

After noting that the rumor, if true, would have a substantial impact on the presidential election, Gingrich pointed to another possible “October surprise” in the coming days.

“The other big story, I think, that is going to break is on corruption and extraordinary waste in the solar power grants and direct involvement by the Obama White House, including the president, in the solar panel grants involving billions of dollars, and I suspect that’s going to break Wednesday and Thursday of this week,” Gingrich added.

Well, why won’t the “reliable Senator” speak up about the e-mails directly?  I’d guess that the e-mails have been kept close to the vest at the White House end, but that someone on the other end in the intel community gave them to the “reliable Senator” either simultaneously as they were sent to the two networks, or the “reliable Senator” passed them along himself.  It’s all about plausible deniability on the leak, especially since we won’t see any action in the Senate on Benghazi until after the election — not because it’s Democratic-controlled, but because they’re all back home with Congress out of session for the election.

Gingrich could be fishing, but specifying that two networks have the e-mails makes it sound like Gingrich got some inside dope.  If these e-mails surface, it will create a huge headache for Barack Obama and the White House, which insisted that it didn’t deny assistance to Benghazi during the attack.  Donilon works in the White House, directly answering to Obama himself.  While Donilon would probably fall on his sword (or have an underling do so) if these e-mails say what Gingrich claims, there’s little chance that anyone will buy that Donilon or his staff took that decision on their own shoulders.

CNS News has another piece of the puzzle.  At the time that the consulate in Benghazi came under attack, Obama and Leon Panetta were in a meeting together.  What did they discuss?  The White House refuses to say:

President Barack Obama met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden at the White House on Sept. 11, 2012 at 5:00 PM—just 55 minutes after the State Department notified the White House and the Pentagon that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi was under attack.

The meeting between Obama, Panetta and Biden had been scheduled before the attack took place, and the Department of Defense is not commenting now on whether the three men were aware when they met that day of the ongoing attack or whether Obama used that meeting to discuss with his defense secretary what should be done to defend the U.S. personnel who at that very moment were fighting for their lives in Benghazi.

“Secretary Panetta met with President Obama, as the White House-provided scheduled indicates,” Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman, told on Tuesday. “However, neither the content nor the subject of discussions between the President and his advisors are appropriate for disclosure.”

It’s impossible to imagine that the subject of the attack on the consulate didn’t come up in this discussion.  It’s also impossible to imagine that Donilon would have made the decision to “stand down” on his own while both the President and the Secretary of Defense were meeting in the White House after being notified of the attack.  It’s equally impossible to imagine that Panetta would have made that decision without checking with Obama during the meeting that we know they had an hour into the attack.

This leak, if it occurs, would show that the intel community has no intention of taking the fall for this debacle.  That leaves a very small number of people who could have made that decision — and who need to start explaining themselves ASAP.

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