This has been brewing for a while. CIA Deputy Director Morell had been fingered as the man who altered the Benghazi talking points.
Morell produced what became essentially the final version of the talking points, removing references to known terrorist groups and identifying a non-existing demonstration as the cause. Outrageously, the official talking points contradicted the known facts.
Morell’s transition from the CIA to a firm connected to Hillary Clinton didn’t help matters any.
Some speculate Morell may have higher political ambitions considering his employment at Beacon Global Strategies, a government relations firm founded by close Hillary Clinton confidante Philippe I. Reines.
Reines was Hillary’s image man, senior advisor and spokesman and very much involved in covering up what happened in Benghazi. Reines became infamous when he cursed out a BuzzFeed correspondent who was asking questions about Ambassador Stevens’ diary.
Beacon is all Hillaried up. Its other co-founder and managing director, Andrew Shapiro, was Hillary’s Senior Advisor.
Now Senators are accusing Morell of having lied to them over and over again.
The allegations of misconduct are serious. In the “additional views” portion of the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report, six Republican members accuse Morell of lying in sworn testimony to Congress. Several Republican senators tell The Weekly Standard that Morell misled them in one-on-one or small-group meetings about the talking points. Morell—now counselor to Beacon Global Strategies, a consultancy close to Hillary Clinton—did not respond to a request for comment.
Three aspects of the controversy are drawing particular interest: (1) Morell’s obfuscation of his central role in rewriting the talking points, (2) Morell’s contention that the FBI rewrote the talking points, and (3) Morell’s false claim that the talking points were provided to the White House merely as a heads-up and not for coordination.
In private meetings with lawmakers, on Capitol Hill and at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, Morell denied that he had played any significant role in writing or revising the talking points.
The first question of the meeting was simple: “Who changed the talking points?” Morell responded, telling the senators that the FBI had made the revisions. “He told us that the FBI made the changes because they were the ones on the ground talking to people, and they didn’t want to jeopardize their investigation.”
Perhaps the most serious charge against Morell comes in the “Additional Views” section of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Benghazi. The authors, six Republican senators who sit on that panel, report for the first time that in his testimony on November 15, 2012, Morell “emphatically stated” that the talking points were provided to the White House “for their awareness, not for their coordination.”
That is not true, according to the 100 pages of emails between administration and intelligence officials released last May. In fact, in one of the emails that began the flurry of communication among top officials, a CIA spokesman tells a White House spokesman that the talking points are being provided to the White House “for coordination.” That email, sent on September 14 from the chief of media relations at the CIA to the White House’s National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, reads: “You should be seeing some ‘White Paper’ talking points from us this afternoon for coordination.” Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy and national security adviser to President Obama, was copied on the email. So from the very beginning, top White House officials were involved in coordinating the discussion of what would go into the talking points, with heavy input from senior officials at the State Department and the intelligence community.
In June, Morell resigned. Soon he joined the consulting firm Beacon Global Strategies, cofounded by four men: Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff to Leon Panetta, who was secretary of defense during the Benghazi attacks; Michael Allen, former staff director of the House Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, which helped investigate Benghazi; Andrew Shapiro, former assistant secretary of state for political and military affairs; and Philippe Reines, recently described by New York magazine as Hillary Clinton’s “most visible spokesman and the guardian of her public persona.”
Senator Chambliss notes that before leaving government, Morell “ultimately did own up to the fact that he made the changes. But,” he adds, “if he’d have said that early on, it would have solved a lot of problems and answered a lot of questions.”
“I went back and reviewed some of his testimony the other day and he’s gotten himself in a real box,” says Senator Saxby Chambliss, the highest-ranking Republican on the committee. “It’s really strange. I’ve always thought Mike was a straight-up guy, gave us good briefings—factual, straightforward. I mean, this has really been strange the last few weeks—all this now being uncovered.”
But as Morell’s real boss likes to say, “What difference does it make anyway?”