All-Star Panel: Ammunition for critics of White House response to Benghazi

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 29, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It has been repeatedly said by some of the critics on this issue on the Hill that the White House provided talking points. That has been categorically refuted not just by us but by the intelligence community, and yet it's still periodically said on the air, and it's just wrong. The White House involvement in any changes that were made to the so-called talking points was extremely minimal and non- substantive.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The whole issue of talking points, frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The notion that somehow I or anybody else in the administration misled the American people is patently false, and I think that that's been amply demonstrated.


SHANNON BREAM: All right, a newly released e-mail is raising questions now about some of what you just heard. So let's talk about it with our panel, Charles Lane, opinion writer for the Washington Post, Dana Perino, co-host of "The Five" and Jasper's mom, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Good to have you all with us tonight.

And Dana, I want to start with you, because you've worked inside an administration, inside a White House. You know how things are rolled out.  What do you make of this new e-mail that we see? It's from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser and with the line saying "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video and not a broader failure of policy," talking about prepping Ambassador Rice for the Sunday shows.

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST, "THE FIVE": So the way the White House works is that you have the communication strategy gets together, figures something out, and then they night before a Sunday show or the day, you talk to the principle involved, make sure you answer any questions, offer suggestions, and then the next morning they go on and do the shows and hopefully you never talk about it again.

It's almost two years ago now, and this is deserving of talking about, because the question at the heart of all this is who pushed the video. We certainly know exactly who pushed the video. The thing that I think is interesting about Ben Rhodes in this case, I don't consider him necessarily the villain. I consider him the messenger, because unless he is the most powerful deputy communications adviser ever in the history of the universe, there is no way that he came up with this strategy on his own. So this e-mail confirms what everyone assumed for a long time, that obviously they were trying protect the president and possibly Hillary Clinton on a policy and a political standpoint, and now they've been caught out. It's like in that show when the lawyer turned around and he'd say, there's one last thing. This is their one last thing.

And I think it's professionally repugnant. And you cannot behind a suggestion that, well, maybe a reporter didn't ask that specific question. These e-mails were redacted, sent to this committee, and the only reason that we know about them today is because Judicial Watch actually sued the administration and got the actual document.

BREAM: Yeah. You are exactly right. Charles, do you think this is a game changer or, as some are saying today, it's just overblown, it doesn't conflict with what the White House has told us thus far and it's meaningless?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's wrong on all of those counts. It is in conflict with what we've been told, with what Jay Carney has been saying, and that is their story has always been this stuff all came from the CIA, from intelligence, so it was completely clean. Now we know from Morell who testified under oath, he at the time was the deputy director of the CIA that he never brought up the video so it didn't come from him. That leaves only the White House and the State Department.

We now have the smoking document which is the White House saying we're pushing the video because we don't want to blame it on the failure of our policies, which is what anybody who is looked at this assumed all the way through. Before an election, Obama is saying Al Qaeda is dead, GM is alive, Al Qaeda is dead. He's running essentially the foreign policy issue on which the whole campaign is based is one that says that he killed bin Laden, Al Qaeda is on the run. So this undermines the whole narrative. Therefore, they have to invent the video.

I think this is extremely important. I know what's going to happen, the mainstream media say, oh, it's so complicated and they are not going to look into this, and without it, it's going to be quite a struggle. I think the Republicans have something here that really ought to be looked at, I just don't know if there's going to be any interest in the mainstream media. They should because this exposes a cover-up of a cover-up. The fact that it was redacted when the documents were asked for and only revealed by a court order is telling you this is a classic cover-up of a cover-up, and that is a serious offense.

BREAM: Chuck, what do you think? Do you think the White House is worried about this tonight or do you think that they think it's not going to gain any traction, as Charles said, some will say it's too complicated in connecting the dots and who these players were, and is it truly in conflict which what they said up to this point. What do you make of it?

CHARLES LANE, EDITORIAL WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: Far be it from me to read their minds about how worried they are. Let me -- at the risk of being part of the cover-up, let me see if I can offer a non-scandalous explanation for what Ben Rhodes is saying here about underscoring that these are rooted in internet video, not a broader failure. He might have at that time believed that in good faith. He might actually have believed that the video caused it and that there was no failure of policy.

Of course, the question is who gave him that idea? Right? Who gave him the idea that the video was the cause of the problem? And you are quite correct that Morell has said I didn't do it. So it must have come from somewhere. This will be resolved, if it's ever going to be resolved, when we find out the ultimate source, because I do agree with Dana. I don't think Ben Rhodes came up with that idea on his own.

But they are not guilty of anything scandalous in my view if these talking points were drafted in the good faith belief that the talking points were good.

KRAUTHAMMER: But on the basis of what evidence? The CIA never talked about --

LANE: That's just what I said. Where did he get the idea?

KRAUTHAMMER: He either, as you say, invented or got it.

LANE: I didn't say he invented it.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm saying he either invented it or got it from somewhere, which means they were creating a cover story. That's the plain meaning of what happened.

BREAM: Dana, do you ever think that we'll ever get the answers? I mean, as we've all noted here, the documents that went to the committee that's trying to investigate were so heavily redacted they never would have been able to ferret this out. It was impossible. This is the result of a lawsuit. Senator Graham, a Republican out of South Carolina, said today if this isn't a smoking gun there will never be one; that there was something else going on.

PERINO: The White House has been given wide deference by the media to give them a lot of rein to say it was complicated, it was difficult. The thing I've never understood is how could any of them have actually believed for one second that a video caused the death of four Americans? How is it that in America that we actually put somebody in jail for making a video? That -- it's never been explained and it was a tale that was swallowed whole by the media.

So I think now one of the questions will be, why was it redacted? Who in the counsel's office thought it was appropriate to redact this information? What and who were they trying to protect? And if it's not Ben Rhodes, then it has to be somebody else, because it's just impossible for me to believe that Ben Rhodes didn't have some sort of direction from somebody. I would never have had audacity to suggest something like this, which it basically was a policy decision to put a cabinet member on the line, lying to the American people, put her out there and put her career on the line without actually having some sort of check-off from a higher-up within the White House. I never would have done that.

LANE: That's exactly why I say I don't think Ben Rhodes made up this story. Somebody told Ben Rhodes this was the true story.

KRAUTHAMMER: I find the most scandalous element of this, from purely just a human point of view, is the fact that the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the bodies of the dead lying in front of her and with the families there brought up the video and said a video with which he had nothing to do, and then according to one of the family members when she went over to console that family member, she said we're going to get the guy who did the video. Now that, to me, if she knew that this was a phony story, and I'm not sure I can understand how it would be otherwise, is a form of deception that I think is truly scandalous.

BREAM: Thank you, panel. Stick around, though. Next up, approval numbers go down and costs go way up for ObamaCare.

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