When it emerged that ABC News had been handed misleading summaries of internal Obama administration emails hashing out post–Benghazi attack talking points, we asked who burned the network's White House correspondent, Jonathan Karl. Somewhat unexpectedly, Karl's CBS News counterpart, Major Garrett, provided us an answer: Congressional Republicans. (Watch above.)
Karl had strongly suggested that he was quoting actual emails from White House official Ben Rhodes and State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland that he had personally reviewed, instead of summaries passed on by partisan sources. According to Garrett, that's because "Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes" and "also provided what they said was a quote from an email written... by Nuland."
Whoa, says Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo. Garrett just "did something I don't feel like I've seen in a really long time or maybe ever on a network news cast." Reporters are fed leaks from "partisan, tendentious sources" all the time, and for a host of reasons — "some good or somewhat understandable, mostly bad" — nothing is ever done about it. Well, Garrett just did something.
Passing off the doctored quotes "was typical GOP overreach," says Kevin Drum at Mother Jones.
Here's what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week's Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: They could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.... To their surprise, the White House took Republicans up on their demand to make the entire email chain public, thus making it clear to the press that they had been burned. And now reporters are letting us all know who was behind it. [Mother Jones]
That doesn't mean this is the last we've heard about the deadly September 2012 attacks in Benghazi, says The Associated Press' Donna Cassata. "Eight months after the attack, the issue remains a political winner with the Republican base as conservatives have been ferocious in assailing Obama." No fewer than five House committees are pursuing separate Benghazi inquiries, and they all pledge to hold hearings.
The next big show should be public testimony before Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Mike Mullen, who led an independent review of what went wrong in Benghazi. And if the 100 emails the White House released didn't work out, Republicans are unfazed. "Why not release all of the unclassified documents?" says Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).