Muslim Brotherhood envoys met with White House officials in DC

White House officials met this week with envoys from the Muslim Brotherhood, in the latest sign that the Islamist group is returning to prominence in post-Mubarak Egypt after years in political exile.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said representatives from the organization met with "mid-level" officials from the National Security Council in Washington.

The meeting was held Tuesday, though it's unclear whether they met at the White House or elsewhere in the capital.

The Obama administration cast the decision to meet with Brotherhood representatives as a reflection of political reality in the country, since the group will play a "prominent role" in Cairo going forward.

"We have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors," Carney said Thursday. "Because of the fact that Egypt's political landscape has changed, the actors have become more diverse and our engagement reflects that. The point is that we will judge Egypt's political actors by how they act -- not by their religious affiliation."

He also noted that Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with the Brotherhood on a visit to Egypt.

The Brotherhood was officially banned under Hosni Mubarak before he was overthrown, though it continued to be a force in Egyptian politics. The Brotherhood has past ties to terror group Hamas and espouses the implementation of Shariah law.

But the Brotherhood, which says it is committed to nonviolence, returned to win control of the country's parliament in post-Mubarak elections.

And despite saying earlier it would not put up a presidential candidate, the Brotherhood over the weekend nominated a prominent businessman to run.

The United States, though, has not condemned the move. Administration officials have told The New York Times they were actually optimistic about the nomination -- as he could pose a challenge to another hard-line Islamist candidate now leading the race.