President Obama took questions on Benghazi after his presser with British PM Cameron on Monday. When asked if his administration misled the public about the talking points, the President firmly said, “The whole issue of talking points has been, frankly throughout this process, a side show.” He tore into the Republican conspiracy theories, asking, “Who stages a cover up for three days?”
When asked about the news that the IRS may have targeted conservative groups, Obama said he learned about it during same news reports as others on Friday. He said that if IRS personnel engaged in these practices and were intentionally targeting conservative groups, then that’s outrageous and they have to be held fully accountable. He said you should feel that whether you are Democrat or Republican, “Either way, you don’t want the IRS to be perceived as biased, as anything less than neutral… If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than neutral and non-partisan way, it’s outrageous and people have to be held accountable… I will not tolerate it.”
Asked if the White House misled the public about its involvement in the Benghazi talking points, the President responded, “On Benghazi, we’ve now seen this argument that’s been made by some folks on Capitol Hill for months now. Here’s what we know: Americans died in Benghazi. Clearly they were not in a position where they were adequately protected. The day after it happened, I acknowledged that it was an act of terrorism.”
Obama explained that he said we needed to figure out what happened and that’s exactly what they have done. He said he would hold those responsible accountable. At the time, the government did not know who was responsible, or what was taking place. He pointed out rather irritably that the emails referred to by the reporter were provided by the White House to congressional committees months ago. Those committees concluded nothing wrong had happened. Then, three days ago, they were “spun up”.
Obama called it out, “The whole issue of talking points has been, frankly throughout this process, a side show. We have been very clear that we were not sure how it had been carried out, who was responsible… Nobody understood exactly what was taking place during the course of those first days. The emails you referred to were provided by us to congressional committees.”
“There’s no there, there. Keep in mind, these so called talking points, five-six days after the attack occurred pretty much matched the assessment I had.” He said that 2-3 days after Susan Rice appeared on TV shows with the talking points, he sent out the information that became the basis for assuming it was terrorism. If this was an effort to downplay what was happening, it would be odd for the White House to put out the information showing it was a terrorist attack. He asked, “Who stages a cover up for just three days?”
The President said we should be focusing on protecting diplomats, not on playing these kind of political games. That is what he has been trying to do. We dishonor them when we turn problems like this into a political circus. He referenced Tom Pickering’s report, and the recommendations that the review board came up with after determining “harsh judgments” on how the government protected consulates, which are being implemented.
Obama said that political motivations are behind this. Opponents have challenged the integrity of Hillary Clinton and others in his administration. He said it is not surprising they are challenging Obama’s integrity too, but he’s used to it. “It’s a given that mine (integrity) gets challenged by these folks. They’ve used it for fund-raising.”
Obama says he has taken responsibility for the fact he could not prevent these four deaths.
Obama challenged Republicans by saying if anyone out there wants to actually focus on how we focus on how to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again, he would be happy to do anything he can to make that happen.
When the former President Bush’s administration was found to have told at least 935 public lies based on false talking points unsupported by the intelligence in the lead up to the Iraq War, Republicans were not very interested in investigating it. They put off the investigations for years, conveniently postponing them until after elections, and then failed to release all of the findings.
So, to answer the President’s question about who stages a cover up for three days, well, no one, because that’s no kind of cover up. But if you ask who successfully stages a cover up for years and then declares the truth unimportant after 100,000 plus deaths, the answer is the Republican Party.
*Note: Quotes were taken during the live event and are as exact as possible. Video will be added when available.