Why Did Obama’s Campaign Manager Brief Susan Rice Ahead Of Benghazi TV Show Appearances?
The day before Susan Rice appeared on five separate Sunday morning TV talk shows to blame the Sept. 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks on a YouTube video, the then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations participated in a telephone conference call with David Plouffe, the manager of President Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
That revelation, which is laid out in the House Select Committee on Benghazi’s report, released on Tuesday, lends more evidence to support the claim that the White House blamed the YouTube video for political purposes. (RELATED: Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi Committee Releases Full Report On Attacks)
In addition to Plouffe and Rice, Obama’s controversial deputy national security advisor Benjamin Rhodes took part in the call.
Rhodes is the guru who crafted the administration’s Iran nuclear deal sales pitch. In a recent New York Times profile, the former aspiring novelist acknowledged manipulating the media in order to spin the deal, which removes sanctions against Iran.
On the Sunday morning talk show circuit, Rice claimed that the attacks, which left four Americans dead, were “spontaneous” and not premeditated.
“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous — not a premeditated — response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice said during an appearance on ABC News.
“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated.”
That claim was panned almost instantaneously. Administration critics saw it as political spin intended to protect Obama ahead of the November 2012 election. And as emails cited in the Benghazi Committee’s report show, State Department officials saw it as an overreach as well.
One press official working in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs said Rice was “off the reservation” with her claims. Another said that Rice’s comments showed that “[The White House is] very worried about the politics.” (RELATED: Emails: Susan Rice Was ‘Off The Reservation’ For Blaming Benghazi Attacks On YouTube Video)
“This was all their doing,” he wrote in an email to colleagues cited in the Benghazi Committee’s final report.
The report also notes that while Rice met with Plouffe and Rhodes to go over talking points, “nobody from the Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI], Department of Defense, or Central Intelligence Agency participated in the call.”
The teleconference “apparently consisted of just a small circle of Rice’s advisors and communications staffers from the White House.”
Rice considered Plouffe’s participation in the prep call unusual, according to Benghazi Committee Republicans, who authored the final report.
“While Rhodes testified Plouffe would ‘normally’ appear on the Sunday show prep calls, Rice testified she did not recall Plouffe being on prior calls and did not understand why he was on the call in this instance,” the 800-page document reads.
“Do you have any understanding of why Mr. Plouffe was on this call in particular?” Rice was asked in her interview.
“I don’t,” she said.
“I don’t recall David being on other calls, but I remember other White House communications people being on the calls,” she said.
Rice also said that a State Department official who she could not recall took part in the call.
Asked if that person was then-State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, Rice said: “Honestly , I don’t remember. But she would’ve been the logical person.”
Nuland is the official who told Fox News reporter James Rosen during a 2012 press conference that the Obama administration was not conducting bi-lateral nuclear negotiations with Iran. But the New York Times profile of Rhodes, the Obama advisor, revealed that negotiations had been underway at that point.
During a Dec. 3, 2013 State Department press briefing, Rosen asked spokeswoman Jen Psaki whether Nuland had not lied about the negotiations. A State Department official ordered that exchange scrubbed from a video of the press briefing.
The editing of the video has been cited as another example of the Obama administration attempting to cover up politically inconvenient information.