I mentioned yesterday that the sudden CBS scoop that got them Susan Rice’s talking points from the CIA seemed a little too coincidental — and too self-serving — to be the full story. This morning, CNN answers with a scoop of its own before former CIA Director David Petraeus briefs a Senate committee on what he knows about the Benghazi debacle. Not only did Petraeus conclude “almost immediately” that the attack on the consulate was a well-planned terrorist attack, the talking points published by CBS didn’t come from Petraeus. According to CNN, Petraeus will tell the Senate committee that those talking points “came from somewhere other in the administration than his direct talking points”:
David Petraeus is going to tell members of Congress that he “knew almost immediately after the September 11th attack, that the group Ansar al Sharia, the al Qaeda sympathizing group in Libya was responsible for the attacks,” CNN reports.
In his closed door meeting on the Hill, “[Petraeus] will also say he had his own talking points separate from U.N. ambassador Susan Rice. [Hers] came from somewhere other in the administration than his direct talking points,” Barbara Starr of CNN reports, referencing a source close to Petraeus.
The former CIA director will move to further himself from comments that didn’t accurately characterize the terror attack that Rice made 5 days after on national television shows.
“When he looks at what Susan Rice said,” CNN reports, “here is what Petraeus’s take is, according to my source. Petraeus developed some talking points laying it all out. those talking points as always were approved by the intelligence community. But then he sees Susan Rice make her statements and he sees input from other areas of the administration. Petraeus — it is believed — will tell the committee he is not certain where Susan Rice got all of her information.”
If this is what Petraeus tells the Senate committee, he’ll tell the House committee the same thing. Expect immediate demands for Obama administration officials to testify on how Susan Rice got those talking points, who crafted them, and for what purpose.
Update: Petraeus testified for 90 minutes to the House committee first (not the Senate as I wrote above), of which the panel spent “ten seconds” on his affair with Paula Broadwell, according to Rep. Peter King. However, King and Petraeus had a dispute about his initial briefing to Congress, which turned at least contentious:
King said that Petraeus maintained that he said early on that the ambush was a result of terrorism, but King added that he remembered Petraeus and the Obama administration downplaying the role of an al Qaeda affiliate in the attack in the days after Stevens was killed. The administration initially said the attack grew out of a spontaneous demonstration against a video that lampooned the Prophet Mohammed.
“That is not my recollection” of what Petraeus initially said, King said today.
The congressman suggested that pressing Petraeus was awkward at times.
“It’s a lot easier when you dislike the guy,” King said.
Petraeus moved from that hearing to the Senate Intelligence Committee for more testimony.