Obama Aide: 'Irrelevant Fact' Where President Was During Benghazi Attacks
May 19, 2013 9:48 AM
Obama aide Dan Pfeiffer said it's an "irrelevant fact" where the president physically was during the Benghazi terror attack on September 11, 2012:
Host Chris Wallace reminds Pfeiffer that Obama didn't really talk with Secretary Clinton, Secretary Panetta, or Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that night. "He was talking to his national security staff," Pfeiffer insists.
Asked about whether the president entered the Situation Room, Pfeiffer says, "I don't remember what room the president was in on that night, and that's a largely irrelevant fact."
Pfeiffer then argues that Wallace's questions about the president's handling of the Benghazi terror attack are "offensive."
UPDATE: Here's a full rush transcript of the exchange:
WALLACE: let's turn to benghazi. he had a meeting with panetta in the afternoon, heard about this on an unrelated subject, wanted them to deploy forces as soon as possible. the next time he shows up, hillary clinton says she spoke to him at around 10:00 that night after the attack at the consulate, not the annex, but the attack at the consulate had ended. question, what did the president do the rest of that night to pursue benghazi?
PFEIFFER: the president was kept up to do throughout the entire night, from the moment it started till the end. this is a horrible tragedy, people that he sent abroad whose lives are in risk, people who work for him. i recognize that there's a series of conspiracy theories the republicans are spinning about this since the night it happened, but there's been an independent review of this, congress has held hearings, we provided 250,000 pages of -- 250,000 pages of documents up there. there's been 11 hearings, 20 staff briefings. everyone has found the same thing. this is a tragedy. the question is not what happened that night. the question is what are we going to do to move forward and ensure it doesn't happen again? congress should act on what the president called for earlier this week, to pass legislation to actually allow us to implement the recommendations of the accountability review board. when we send diplomats off into far-flung places, there's inherent risk. we need to mitigate that risk.
WALLACE: with all due respect, you didn't answer my question. what did the president do that night?
PFEIFFER: kept up to date with the events as they were happening.
WALLACE: he didn't talk to the secretary of state except for the one time when the first attack was over. he didn't talk to the secretary of defense, he didn't talk to chiefs. the chairman of the joint who was he talking to?
PFEIFFER: his national security staff, his national security council.
WALLACE: was he in the situation room?
PFEIFFER: he was kept up to date throughout the day.
WALLACE: do you know know whether he was in the situation room?
PFEIFFER: i don't know what room he was in that night. that's a largely irrelevant fact.
WALLACE: well --
PFEIFFER: the premise of your question, somehow there was something that could have been done differently, okay, that would have changed the outcome here. the accountability roof board has looked at this, people have looked at this. it's a horrible tragedy, and we have to make sure it doesn't happen again.
WALLCE: here's the point, though, the ambassador goes missing, the first ambassador in more than 30 years is killed. four americans, including the ambassador, are killed. dozens of americans are in jeopardy. the president at 4:00 in the afternoon says to the chairman of the joint chiefs to deploy forces. no forces are deployed. where is he while all this is going on?
PFEIFFER: this has been tested to by --
WALLACE: well, no. no one knows where he is, who was involved, the --
PFEIFFER: the suggestion of your question that somehow the president --
WALLACE: i just want to know the answer.
PFEIFFER: the assertions from republicans that the president didn't take action is offensive. there's no evidence to support it.
WALLACE: i'm simply asking a question. where was he? what did he do? how did he respond in who told him you can't deploy forces and what was his president?
PFEIFFER: the president was in the white house that day, kept up to date by his national security team, spoke to the joint chiefs of staff earlier, secretary of state, and as events unfolded he was kept up to date.