Stephen Hayes follows up on ABC’s scoop this morning by introducing some names. We already knew that State Department mouthpiece Victoria Nuland was unhappy with the passage in the talking points emphasizing that the CIA had warned the administration before about jihadi activity in and around Benghazi. But Nuland, per ABC’s update, wasn’t even in the meeting where the talking points were eventually changed. Who was? Hayes claims he knows.
Coming soon to a congressional subpoena near you:
[O]ne previously opaque aspect of the Obama administration’s efforts is becoming somewhat clearer. An email sent to Susan Rice following a key White House meeting where officials coordinated their public story lays out what happened in that meeting and offers more clues about who might have rewritten the talking points…
Nuland wrote that the changes did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” She did not specify whom she meant by State Department “building leadership.” Ben Rhodes, a top Obama foreign policy and national security adviser, responded to the group, explaining that 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. The Deputies Committee consists of high-ranking officials at the agencies with responsibility for national security—including State, Defense, and the CIA—as well as senior White House national security staffers…
According to the email, several officials in the meeting shared the concern of Nuland, who was not part of the deliberations, that the CIA’s talking points might lead to criticism that the State Department had ignored the CIA’s warning about an attack. Mike Morell, deputy director of the CIA, agreed to work with Jake Sullivan and Rhodes to edit the talking points. At the time, Sullivan was deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department’s director of policy planning; he is now the top national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Denis McDonough, then a top national security adviser to Obama and now his chief of staff, deferred on Rhodes’s behalf to Sullivan…
The sender of the email spoke with Sullivan after the meeting, reminding him that Rice would be doing the Sunday morning shows and needed to receive the final talking points. Sullivan committed to making sure Rice was updated before the Sunday shows.
Petraeus was, according to Hayes, shocked to see references to “al Qaeda, Ansar al Sharia, jihadists, Islamic extremists” etc. mysteriously gone from the rewritten talking points. Which we already knew, kinda sorta, based on what Peter King revealed about Petraeus’s closed-doors testimony to the House Intelligence Committee last November. At the same hearing, though, DNI James Clapper and acting CIA director Mike Morell — who, per Hayes, agreed to work with Sullivan and Rhodes to rewrite the talking points — told the House that they … didn’t know how the talking points got changed. Really? Morell couldn’t figure it out, huh? A senior administration official also told Hayes that Sullivan was blameless, but I think Sullivan will end up having to tell Issa’s committee that himself. If he was deputy chief of staff at State, that means he worked directly under longtime Clinton apparatchik Cheryl Mills, who, allegedly told Greg Hicks not to talk to GOP congressmen about Benghazi unless a State lawyer/minder/chaperone was present. Let’s hear from him, and let’s hear from Rhodes too. I’m eager to know why a top Obama advisor was eager to tweak the CIA’s version of talking points to remove terrorism references two months out from an election.
Via the Standard, here’s NBC reporter Lisa Myers noting that various Democrats spent the day yesterday calling her to challenge Hicks’s testimony, specifically his claim that he was demoted. Another Democrat, Elijah Cummings, told MSNBC that Hicks somehow “changed his story” about whether Cheryl Mills had pressured him. Should be easy for the media to get to the bottom of this and find out who’s lying. How about it?
Update: Good catch by Ron Fournier:
Throw Hillary under the bus? In a statement to ABC, Carney notably insulates the West Wing and not the State Department by saying “the only edits made by anyone here at the White House were stylistic and nonsubstantive.”
Your thoughts, Mr. Sullivan?