The White House, Graham suggested on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” “would withhold information to prevent [Obama] from looking bad.”
Democrats called that charge unfounded and countercharged that Republican criticism surrounding the Benghazi incident was politically motivated from the outset. The issue “was stoked up because it was indeed in the midst of a presidential campaign,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
All sides concurred that security had been inadequate at the Benghazi site, where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other officials were killed, and that investigations and hearings were needed to get to the bottom of the matter and prevent similar incidents in the future.
Views also coincided on the patriotism of former CIA director David H. Petraeus and that his resignation after revelations of an extramarital affair was regrettable but necessary.
But even with that issue, the still-sensitive matter of the presidential election resonated nearly two weeks after voters gave Obama a second-term victory.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House intelligence committee, indicated that Obama might have known about the FBI investigation that led to Petraeus’s departure long before he has said he did. The White House and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. have said that Clapper was informed by the Justice Department on Election Day, that Clapper told Obama’s senior staff the next day, Nov. 7, and that the staff told Obama on Nov. 8.
“I’m not sure the president was not told before Election Day,” Rogers said on NBC. “The attorney general said that . . . the Department of Justice did not notify the president [earlier], but we don’t know if the attorney general [did].”
Asked to clarify what “Meet the Press” host David Gregory called the “news” that Obama might have known earlier than the White House has indicated, Rogers said: “I didn’t say that. I said I didn’t know.”
Later in the day, Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler called Roger’s comment “partisan speculation” and said it was “unwarranted and simply untrue. As FBI and Justice Department officials have briefed Congress — and as the attorney general has said — this investigation was handled the way these types of matters are routinely handled” in order to protect privacy and prevent political contamination. “The director of national intelligence was the appropriate entity notified at the appropriate time,” Schmaler said.