Did Petraeus Toe Obama's Line Today? Legislators Say 'No'
Gen. David Petraeus, the tarnished war hero who resigned as CIA director this week over an affair with his biographer, testified before Congressional Intelligence Committees today over the 9/11 attacks in Libya. Many wondered if he would continue to support the president or confirm new reports that he argued against covering up missteps in Benghazi that resulted in the death of a U.S. ambassador and three others.
According to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who serves on the House Intelligence Committee, the retired four-star general was clear that he believed the attacks were the result of terrorists and not demonstrators.
He also pointed out that testimony from the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell indicated they did not know who changed the agency's initial talking points. Options include the State Department, National Security Council, Justice Department or the White House.
"Now, he clearly believes that it did not arise out of a demonstration," King told reporters. "It was not spontaneous, and [there was] clear terrorist involvement."
One key point that King emphasized was the account of the attacks given by the CIA immediately following the events differed from what Petraeus testified to on Friday.
"The original taking points were much more specific about al-Qaida involvement," King reiterated to reporters. "The clear impression was given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence was that it rose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack."
What legislators – mainly Democratic legislators – took away from the Petraeus testimony was that it did not toe the line espoused by the White House.
Democratic members took a stance more in line with what Obama officials said after moving away from the theory that the attack was promulgated by a YouTube video to one of possible terrorist activity.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) maintained that any talking points may have been changed was "completely wrong."
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said, "The general completely debunked the idea there was some politicization of the process."
But the issue that has irked Republicans the most is U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice's appearance on five Sunday television news shows where, speaking on behalf of the president, she said the attacks were motivated by the anti-Islamic YouTube video that had been posted to the site months earlier. GOP members insisted the White House was trying to minimize any indication of terrorist activity so it would not be an election issue.
Rice has taken severe criticism over her statements and when the White House suggested she could be nominated to replace Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) threatened to oppose the nomination.
During a White House press conference on Tuesday, Obama defended his ambassador and fired back at the two Republicans, telling him if they had an issue with Rice they could take it up with him instead.
Yet Obama's comments didn't deter Graham. "Mr. President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack."