Backfire: ABC, CNN, NBC Call for White House to Release Benghazi Emails
***UPDATE: NBC's senior White House correspondent joined the chorus Wednesday. On his MSNBC show, "The Daily Rundown," Chuck Todd looked into the camera and said, "Attention White House: Release all the emails." The headline has been updated to add NBC.
Assuming they are the ones who leaked to CNN an email written by Ben Rhoades (a Deputy National Security Advisor close to the President), the White House might have been too clever by half Tuesday. An act that was obviously meant to pour water on the Benghazi fire started by an ABC News report, has only ended up being gasoline. Now both CNN and ABC have joined conservative media in calling for the White House to release all the emails surrounding the editing of the CIA talking points.
Friday, in a bombshell report that blew the long-simmering Libya scandal wide open and right into the arms of the mainstream media, ABC's Jonathan Karl reported that an email written by Rhoades specifically mentioned the State Department's concerns about the CIA talking points. Here is how Karl transcribed the Rhoades email:
We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don’t want to undermine the FBI investigation. We thus will work through the talking points tomorrow morning at the Deputies Committee meeting.
Though this point wasn't the main focus of Karl's report, it was important because it showed that the White House was backing State in pushing inconvenient facts out of the talking points. This included the fact that terrorists were behind the attack and that State had been negligent when it came to providing security for our diplomatic mission.
In the end, as we now know, and apparently due to the prodding of Hillary Clinton's right hand woman at State, Victoria Nuland, the talking points ended up being completely wrong, which resulted in the American people being misled by the Obama Administration, straight through to a speech the President gave at the United Nations almost two weeks after the attack.
Yesterday, though, CNN's Jake Tapper received what he was told by a source is the actual transcript of Rhoades' email, which reads this way:
Sorry to be late to this discussion. We need to resolve this in a way that respects all of the relevant equities, particularly the investigation.
There is a ton of wrong information getting out into the public domain from Congress and people who are not particularly informed. Insofar as we have firmed up assessments that don’t compromise intel or the investigation, we need to have the capability to correct the record, as there are significant policy and messaging ramifications that would flow from a hardened mis-impression.
We can take this up tomorrow morning at deputies.
What is important about this version is that it does not directly mention the State Department, which gives the White House some cover when it comes to its role in shaping the talking points. And whether they leaked the email to Tapper or not, there is no question the White House was excited about the leak. White House spokesman Jay Carney made sure to mention the news of Tapper's report in yesterday's White House briefing.
But things aren’t exactly turning out the way the White House likely hoped.
Though he didn’t see the original Rhoades email and was reporting off what a source told him the email said, Karl stands by his original reporting:
I asked my original source today to explain the different wording on the Ben Rhodes e-mail, and the fact that the words “State Department” were not included in the e-mail provided to CNN’s Tapper.
This was my source’s response, via e-mail: “WH reply was after a long chain of email about State Dept concerns. So when WH emailer says, take into account all equities, he is talking about the State equities, since that is what the email chain was about.”
Karl then called for the White House to release the full transcripts of the full email chain surrounding the shaping of the CIA talking points:
The White House could still clear up this confusion by releasing the full e-mail transcripts that were provided for brief review by a select number of members of Congress earlier this year. If there’s “no ‘there’ there,” as President Obama himself claimed yesterday, a full release should help his case.
On his verified Twitter account, Tapper quickly agreed and added that, "If there's 'no "there" there,' as POTUS said, [this] shouldnt be a problem."
Wednesday morning the National Journal's Ron Fournier also agreed:
Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, who first reported on the Rhoades email, has been calling for the White House to make these emails available to the media for some time, and added an important point about context Tuesday night:
We don’t know who provided the Ben Rhodes email to CNN, but the leak did not include the earlier emails in the chain among top administration officials. If it had, we would know more about a curious reference on page 20 of the House GOP report. The report describes an email we now know was written by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who wrote to the group that earlier edits to the Benghazi talking points did not “resolve all my issues or those of my building leadership.” And then, according to the House report, Nuland’s email reported “that the Department’s leadership was consulting with [national security staff].’”
Is this characterization from the House report accurate? Did the consultation happen? If so, who in the State Department leadership spoke with the White House’s national security staff? Why weren’t they satisfied with the earlier edits? What were the remaining “issues” with the talking points?
If the goal was to bail Obama out of the brewing Benghazi mess, tactically, whomever released the Rhoades email to Tapper just made a huge error.
Now the media wants to see them all.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC