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News Wrap: Obama Rejects Republican Claims of a Benghazi Cover-Up

May 13, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama today rejected Republican claims that his administration covered up details about last fall’s attack in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, died in the assault on the diplomatic mission there. Much of the focus has been on talking points composed just after the attack.

It turns out that senior officials pushed to delete references to al-Qaida and prior warnings. But, today, the president insisted there was no intent to deceive.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The whole issue of this — of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.

Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So, the whole thing defies logic. And the fact that this keeps on getting churned out, frankly, has a lot to do with political motivations.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Republicans are seeking more details from veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, authors of an independent review of the Benghazi incident.

Today, California Congressman Darrell Issa requested they discuss their findings with congressional investigators in private. Democrat Elijah Cummings of Maryland called for public testimony.

The president also said today the U.S. is working with Britain to keep pressure on Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, to force an end to his regime. In turn, British Prime Minister Cameron said there is — quote — “no more urgent international task than ending the Syrian civil war.”

Meanwhile, in Syria, Assad’s troops made new gains in a counteroffensive that began in recent weeks. A Syrian human rights group said government forces took full control of a strategic town near the highway that links Damascus with Jordan. Rebels withdrew from the area after days of fighting.

The suspect in last summer’s movie theater shootings in Colorado formally asked today to change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity. James Holmes appeared at a court hearing in Centennial. He’s accused of killing a dozen people and wounding 70 more last July at a theater in the town of Aurora. The judge now must decide whether to accept the new plea before the next hearing in the case set for May 31st.

Minnesota’s state legislature has given final approval for legalizing gay marriage, making it the third state this month to do so. The governor indicated he would sign the bill after it cleared the state Senate. All told, Minnesota joins 11 states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage. Rhode Island and Delaware joined the list earlier in May.

Wall Street began the week on a lackluster note. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 26 points to close at 15,091. The Nasdaq rose two points to close at 3,438.

Those are some of the day’s major stories — now back to Judy.