President Barack Obama on Monday expressed frustration that Republican lawmakers had doubled down on what he indicated was a witch hunt to smear current and former members of his administration over terrorist attacks in Benghazi last year.
At a press conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the president said that focus on 12 edits to "talking points" that were used by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice on Sunday shows following the attacks had been a "sideshow."
"The emails you allude to were provided by us to congressional committees," he told The Associated Press' Julie Pace. "They reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, that there was nothing afoul in terms of the process that we had used. And suddenly three days ago, this gets spun up as if there's something new to the story."
"There's no there there."
Obama pointed out that only three days after Rice had gone on the Sunday morning talk shows and had incorrectly said that the attacks were the result of an anti-Muslim video, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen had correctly informed Congress that it had been terrorism.
"So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened, to try to tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing [if] three days later we end up putting out all the information that, in fact, has now served as the basis for everybody recognizing that this was a terrorist attack and that it may have included elements that were planned by extremists inside of Libya," the president said. "Who executes some sort of cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? So the whole thing defies logic."
"We've got a whole bunch of people in the State Department who consistently say, 'You know what, I'm willing to step up, I'm willing to put myself in harm's way because I think this mission is important in terms of serving the United States and advancing our interests around the globe.'"
He added: "And so we dishonor them when we turn things like this into a political circus."
Watch this video from the CNN, broadcast May 13, 2013.