(WASHINGTON) — In a bid to clear the way for a vote on Chuck Hagel’s delayed nomination to be Defense Secretary, the White House has turned over more information on the president’s activities during the 24 hours after the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, ABC News has learned.
Among other things, the letter points to an accountability review conducted by the State Department which found the response from Washington to the attack was “timely and appropriate.” The letter argues the “intensive response” was “directed by the President.” On the day of the attack — Sept. 11 — then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the Libyan President Magariaf. President Obama called Magariaf the next day, Sept. 12, according to the White House.
The information on the President’s involvement in the response to the Benghazi attack comes in the form of a letter from the White House Counsel addressed to Senators McCain, Ayotte and Graham — who had demanded it.
Here is a key passage from the White House letter:
This intensive response, which was directed by the President, included 13 meetings of interagency Principals and Deputies within a week of the attack and involved continuous outreach by senior administration officials to the Government of Libya, including by the President and members of his Cabinet. As to the specific question in your February 12 letter, Secretary Clinton called Libyan President Magariaf on behalf of the President on the evening of the September 11, 2012 to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya and access to the Libyan territory. At that time, President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation. The President spoke to President Magariaf on the evening of September 12th.
Hagel was not in government service when the consulate was attacked, but Republicans lead by Sen. Lindsey Graham have used the Hagel nomination as a way to further investigate the Benghazi attack.
Graham insisted that outgoing Defense Sec. Leon Panetta testify on Capitol Hill with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey about the reaction to the attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including Amb. Chris Stevens.
At that hearing, Graham asked Panetta and Dempsey if they had personally heard from President Obama on the night of the attack and implied that the President was not enough engaged in the response.
It is unclear if this new disclosure by the White House will clear the way to a vote on the Hagel nomination, but it is an effort to do just that.
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