Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday accused the White House of telling a “bald-faced lie” about the importance of an email that shows the White House ignored evidence that the 2012 Benghazi attacks were carried out by terrorists.
That email was released to Judicial Watch in response to the conservative watchdog group’s request for documents related to how the White House reacted to Benghazi. But White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the email is a reaction to the broader violence seen in the Middle East at the time, and should not be seen as relating to Benghazi.
On the Senate floor Thursday, Graham said the email itself shows that the White House explanation is not true. He noted that the email says the Obama administration will do all it can to help the families of those who were hurt.
Graham said the only people who were hurt at the time were the four Americans in Benghazi.
“So that’s just a bald-faced lie,” Graham said of the White House explanation. “That’s insulting our intelligence, and it really is disrespectful to those who died in the line of duty to suggest this email they would not give us without a court order had nothing to do with the death of four Americans.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also lashed out at Carney for trying to downplay the email.
“Yesterday, Mr. Carney says, well, that this … ‘release of this information had nothing to do with the attack on Benghazi.’ My friends, I’ve seen a lot of strange things in my time, but that has to be the most bizarre statement that I have ever observed,” McCain said.
The email has reinvigorated Republican attacks against the Obama administration for failing to come clean about the circumstances of the attack, and for its lack of progress in finding out who was involved in the attack. McCain renewed his call for a special investigation into the administration’s reaction, and said White House officials used propaganda to keep the truth away from Congress, the press and the American public.
Both stressed that the email would not have come to light at all if it weren’t for Judicial Watch’s Freedom of Information Act Request, as the White House did not agree to give it to Congress earlier.
“You would not know today about an email on 14 September setting goals for Susan Rice to meet on 16 September to change the whole narrative if it were not for an independent judiciary and a private organization,” Graham said. “This White House has stiffed the Congress, mostly the media has been AWOL.”
McCain went out of his way to thank certain media outlets for pursuing the story when many others dropped it as a phony conspiracy.
“I’d like to say thanks to Fox News,” McCain said. “I’d like to say thanks to some in CBS. I’d like to say thanks to Charles Krauthammer and the handful of people who kept this alive when the ‘mainstream media’ not only wanted to bury it, but subjected… as Senator Graham just mentioned, he and I to ridicule.”
McCain noted that Congress believed it already had the pertinent information on Benghazi through earlier requests.
The email shows that a communications official at the White House, Ben Rhodes, urged officials to work on talking points downplaying the idea that terrorism was behind the attack, and playing up the idea that it was a spontaneous response to a video.
“I tell my colleagues, that that was not a fact. That was not a fact,” McCain said. “That’s all about the presidential campaign. It’s not about trying to find out who perpetrated that heinous crime.”
Graham agreed that the administration was motivated by politics to hide the truth.
“This email … is devastating,” he said. “It’s devastating because it shows that three days after the attack, their goal was not to inform the American people of what happened, but to shape the story to help the president get re-elected, and I hope and pray that matters to the American people.”