ABC: Petraeus called final Benghazi talking points "useless" the day before Rice's full Ginsburg; Update: Transcript added

One of the mysteries in the Benghazi scandal has been the role of David Petraeus, who was then the Director of the CIA but was forced to resign in a personal scandal shortly thereafter.  While the White House and State Department tried to cobble together talking points to explain away the terrorist attack that took four American lives, what did Petraeus do?  According to new information reported for the first time by Jonathan Karl on ABC News’ This Week earlier this morning, Petraeus rejected the final version as “useless” — and then threw the issue to the White House:


We already knew that Petraeus was stunned by the revisions; now we know he rejected them personally.  “I would just as soon not use them, but it’s their [the White House] call.”  That would contradict the meme over the last few days that this was an intramural fight between State and CIA with the White House just serving as bystanders.  The CIA Director called the “demonstration” talking points useless the day before Susan Rice went on five Sunday talk shows, but the White House apparently disagreed.  They, evidently, found the false narrative very useful.

Earlier on today’s show, John McCain demanded a select committee to investigate the cover-up, and specifically called for Hillary Clinton to return to testify:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., this morning described the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi controversy as a “cover up,” following exclusive reporting by ABC News that showed the State Department was involved in editing the CIA’s Benghazi talking points used in the days after the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Libya last year.

“I’d call it a cover-up,” McCain said this morning on “This Week.” “I would call it a cover-up in the extent that there was willful removal of information which was obvious.” …

McCain also singled out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who he suggested would have been aware of the State Department’s emails requesting changes to the talking points.

“I think the secretary of state has played a role in this,” McCain said. “She had to have been in the loop some way, but we don’t know for sure.”

McCain said Clinton should return to Capitol Hill to testify again, calling for a Congressional select committee to further investigate the issue.


House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers told Fox News Sunday that she won’t be alone in offering testimony, because more whistleblowers are asking to step forward:

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said Sunday he believes “more whistleblowers” will come forward with information on the deadly attack last year on diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya.

“I do think we are going to see more whistleblowers. I know certainly my committee has been contacted, I think others committees [have been contacted] as well,” Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” …

“I will tell you, we have had people come forward because of the testimony and say, we would also like to talk, we feel a little bit intimidated by this, but have information we think is valuable,” Rogers said.

Maybe a select committee should hear more from David Petraeus.  How did his deputy end up approving talking points he himself would have rejected? Who in the White House decided to run with them anyway?

Update: Here’s the transcript from the brief exchange, courtesy of ABC News:

JON KARL, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, you know, clearly, there’s a credibility question that the White House has to deal with because this directly contradicts what they have said about this.  But you, you know, Martha, mentioned in the interview with Senator Reed that the White House has had tried to have it both ways, both saying that they immediately called it an act of terror and saying they couldn’t do that in these talking points because they couldn’t prejudice the investigation.

You know, there’s problems on both sides with this.  But there is one very important point here, which is in all 12 revisions of these talking points originally drafted by the CIA, they begin by saying that the attack in Benghazi started as a spontaneous reaction to Cairo.  That was demonstrably false.

RADDATZ:  And took out all of the al Qaeda references–

KARL:  That was never true.  And then they went on and took out all of the al Qaeda references–

RADDATZ:  But they would say they didn’t know that at the time.

KARL:  Right.

RADDATZ:  About those. How about CIA Director David Petraeus?  How did he respond to these talking points?  And I know you have new information on that.

KARL:  Yeah, this is fascinating.  Because Mike Morrell, who was the deputy director, was the one that ultimately signed off on this one.  Petraeus finally saw the final version of the talking points.  This is the Saturday afternoon before Susan Rice’s appearances on the Sundayshows.  He looks at these and says they’re essentially useless.  And direct quote from his e-mail.  He says, I would just as soon not use them.  But it’s their call, meaning the White House’s call.

RADDATZ:  And they got the talking points out there.


Who overruled Petraeus on the talking points?  Who thought they knew better than the Director of the CIA, whose annex was overrun in the second attack, what happened on the ground?  I doubt very seriously that the overruling was done by Morrell or anyone at State except Hillary Clinton — and her personal briefing from Hicks during the attack should have put her in Petraeus’ camp on the uselessness of the talking points.

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