By Justin Sink
Republican lawmakers on Tuesday charged that newly released emails showing a White House official discussing how then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice should discuss the terror attack in Benghazi demonstrated definitively that the administration was concerned with shaping the surrounding political narrative.
A set of documents obtained by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group through a Freedom of Information Act request, included an email from deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes to other senior White House and administration officials outlining “goals” for Rice’s Sunday talk show appearances following the attack.
In the email, Rhodes says Rice should “underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."
He also says the White House hoped the appearance would “reinforce the president and administration's strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges."
The White House came under fire for Rice’s appearance, in which she suggested that the violence in Benghazi grew spontaneously out of protests over an anti-Islam YouTube video. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, died in the attack.
The administration later said intelligence indicated the Benghazi attack was deliberate and organized. At the time, Republicans charged that the White House had deliberately obfuscated information about the attack to boost the president’s chances at reelection.
On Tuesday, GOP lawmakers argued that the Rhodes email validated their criticism.
"This email is a smoking gun," Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamClinton, Trump sharpen attacks Graham: Let special prosecutor probe Clinton emails The Trail 2016: Clinton’s ups and downs MORE (R-S.C.) told Newsmax. "It shows political operatives in the White House working to create a political narrative at odds with the facts.
"Their goal was not to tell the truth about what actually happened," Graham continued. "They did not want to provide the best information available. Instead, we were provided the most beneficial political story for President Obama."
Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteSanders to campaign for Clinton on Labor Day Republicans slam Biden remarks on closing Gitmo GOP: Ship harassment shows US-Iran relations aren't warming MORE (R-N.H.), another member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Fox News the email was evidence the suggestion that the attack came in response to the YouTube video “came from the White House.”
Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, downplayed the email in a statement to USA Today.
"There were protests taking place across the region in reaction to an offensive Internet video, so that's what these points addressed," Meehan said.
A representative for House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) accused the State Department of “hiding this email and other documents” requested by the committee in August of last year.
“It is disturbing that this highly important email showing a White House role in pushing a false narrative was only turned over after it was discovered by the Department’s FOIA office in response to a specific request. While he had promised cooperation, by hiding subpoenaed documents from Congress, Secretary Kerry is failing to meet his legal obligations,” said committee staff director Frederick Hill.