ABC News reports that John Boehner’s staff was already briefed by the White House on the now-controversial Benghazi emails and talking points back in March, but judging by their lack of public statements about them, saw nothing amiss:
News of the Obama Administration’s role in the extensive editing of CIA talking points on Benghazi rocked the political world last week and prompted a demand from Speaker of the House John Boehner for the release of all related White House emails, but it should not have been a revelation to the Speaker.
The White House first briefed the House leadership on the talking point revisions on March 19. The briefing was given to the House Intelligence Committee, but the White House also invited Speaker Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to attend or to send a senior staff member. Boehner did not attend, but he did send staff, according to the Speaker’s office. Those attending the closed briefing were permitted to view the emails, but not to copy them.
The Speaker made no public reference to the emails — or the news of the State Department’s role in removing references to terror warnings in Benghazi — until the story became public last week.
If anything, that understates what may have happened. Asked for clarification of this briefing, a senior administration official emails me this:
On March 19, the General Counsel of the ODNI, Robert Litt, went up to the House to brief members and staff. All members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, staffers for the Committee, and Boehner and Pelosi were invited.
The senior administration official also says there was a separate briefing by Litt on the Senate side that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee were invited to.
There are a dozen House Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee and seven Republican Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The White House claims they were all invited to briefings on the talking point revisions delivered by Robert Litt of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The White House didn’t say which Republicans attended and which didn’t. But obviously reporters might ask those dozen Republicans if they attended — or sent staff — and if so, why they didn’t sound the alarm about the revisions previously.
It also needs to be established a bit more clearly what, specifically, the Republicans were briefed on. If they were shown all of the dozen talking point revisions reported on by ABC News last week, as well as the controversial emails about them — which seems like it may be the case — and didn’t see them as problematic at the time, then the plot thickens.
UPDATE: I changed “White House” to “Obama administration” in the headline for the sake of accuracy.
UPDATE II: A second White House official says that all of the dozen revisions of the talking points, and all the controversial email traffic reported on lately, was made available to both intelligence committees. This is something that could easily be checked with those GOP officials who attended these briefings.