Carney on Benghazi: Republicans Trying to ‘Politicize a Tragedy’

By Melanie Arter | May 1, 2014 | 3:47 PM EDT

White House spokesman Jay Carney (AP File Photo)

( – White House spokesman Jay Carney on Thursday continued to blame Republicans for trying to “politicize” Benghazi, repeating the claim that the newly declassified e-mail sent by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes on Sept. 14, 2012 had nothing to do with the attacks on the U.S. consulate.

“When Darrell Issa gets up and says what he said today, I don’t know, you guys be the judge,” Carney said in response to a reporter challenging Carney’s assertion that the congressional investigation into the Benghazi attacks was politically motivated.

During a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Thursday on the successes and failures of U.S. intervention in Libya, Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) called it “disturbing and perhaps criminal that these documents – that documents like these – were hidden by the Obama administration from Congress and the public alike.”

The Rhodes e-mail, which was sent three days after the attack on the consulate and declassified and released recently, was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request and should have been turned over a year and a half ago, Issa said at the hearing.

The e-mail listed four goals, one of which was "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure or policy.”

Carney insisted that the protests Rhodes referred to were “the protests happening in Tunis and Khartoum and Cairo – everywhere.”

“What we have seen since hours after the attack beginning with a statement by the Republican nominee for president is an attempt by Republicans to politicize a tragedy,” Carney. “And that continues today and yesterday.”

“How much time has been spent focused on talking points that could have been spent on moving forward to help create jobs in this country and grow the economy?” Carney said as reporters laughed.

Carney read CIA talking points that were released shortly after the attack that claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

“So in this, CIA talking points, it said, ‘The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the U.S. consulate and subsequently its annex,’” Carney said.

“That language comes from the CIA produced talking points that have been the focus of discussion now for some time that produced another dry hole in the effort to prove a conspiracy by Republicans,” he said.

As reported, retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, an intelligence officer with the U.S. Africa Command on the night of the attacks, testified at the hearing Thursday that he realized “very very soon” after the attack that “an Islamic extremist group” – Ansar al-Sharia – was responsible.

According to Carney, then Deputy CIA Director Mike Morrell and others have testified that the CIA talking points were based on what was suggested by the information available at the time.

“The fact that some of it, I mean a lot of it was murky then, that some of it turned out to be different from what an analyst thought was the case at the time is something that we’ve discussed repeatedly, right?” Carney said.

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