President Obama's pick to head the CIA was involved in crafting controversial talking points about last year's attack in Benghazi, Republicans said Tuesday after viewing intelligence documents.
Lawmakers had vowed to block John Brennan's nomination unless they got to see internal communications about how to describe the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Several said the email chain of several pages, which they'd been seeking for months, doesn't change how they plan to vote either way.
“Brennan was involved,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice-Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) said after the briefing. “It's pretty obvious what happened.”
“At the end of the day it should have been pretty easy to determine who made the changes and what changes were made.”
He described an “extensive, bureaucratic and frankly unnecessary process” that led to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations publicly linking the attack to a peaceful protest gone awry. Republicans have accused the White House of twisting the talking points to avoid harming Obama's national security reputation ahead of the November elections.
Several lawmakers said they still had concerns.
“It did not alleviate my concerns,” said Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), who has said he'd vote against Brennan because of accusations that he leaked damaging national security information to the media.
“I wouldn't use the word alleviate,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “I think it raises other questions with regard to process. But we may have more to say about that in the next couple days.”
“I still have many concerns and believe there's still gaps in the information,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
“The information today is unrelated to my personal decision on Brennan,” she said. She is expected to vote to confirm.
Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said he didn't think the administration misled anyone with its talking points but that many other questions about the events of last September remain.
“We've got a lot more documents and requests to be fulfilled,” he said. “It answers a lot, if not all, of the questions that the committee from an oversight standpoint. This only related to talking points and there's a tremendous amount more documents that deal with the days leading up to and the day preceding Benghazi.”
Jeremy Herb contributed