Screen grab of White House spokesman Jay Carney.
Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET
In a twice-delayed press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday that requests by House Republicans to release memos about the administration’s response to last year’s attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were an attempt to politicize the deadly event.
The information was provided months ago to members of Congress during the confirmation hearings for John Brennan to become CIA director in February, said Carney, and lawmakers who reviewed the documents said they had what they needed to confirm Brennan.
He attributed the resurfacing of the documents this week to “ongoing attempts to politicize a tragedy that took four American lives.”
ABC News, which obtained and released the documents, said references to al-Qaida were deleted from the final version of the talking points, which U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice used on Sunday talk shows following the Sept. 11, 2012, attack. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, asked the White House to release all documents related to the administration’s response to the Benghazi incident.
Reporters asked Carney whether deleting the references to al-Qaida was an attempt to keep it from lawmakers who could use it against the State Department. Carney responded that the State Department raised concerns about preserving the integrity of the investigation, and the agencies weighing in on the talking points wanted to present only what was known at the time.
“We did not, and the intelligence community did not, and others within the administration did not jump to conclusions about who was responsible before we had an investigation to find out the facts,” he said.
He said President Barack Obama did call it an “act of terror” from the beginning. “This is an effort to accuse the administration of hiding something that we did not hide,” said Carney.
The only talking point that was wrong, Carney continued, was attributing the attack to a demonstration, which he said was corrected once the administration knew it was a preplanned act of terrorism.
Revelations of the IRS admitting to giving conservative and tea party groups’ tax records extra scrutiny also came up at the briefing. Reporters asked whether it put the tax agency’s credibility at stake.
Carney said the Inspector General at the IRS is investigating the matter. It seems to be “inappropriate action that we would want to see thoroughly investigated,” he said. He also pointed out that the IRS is an independent enforcement agency.
Reporters also asked about the House’s vote on Thursday to overturn the president’s health care law. Carney said this 40th vote by the House to repeal the act was “a waste of time.” Congress passed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it, and “we are implementing” it, he said.
- Gregory Hicks, former deputy chief of mission in Tripoli, Libya, testified at a House hearing Wednesday that U.S. jet fighters should have scrambled to protect the U.S. compound in Benghazi as it was under siege. Military officials said the jets wouldn’t have gotten there in time. Watch the full hearing.
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