WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama Monday denied Republican criticism that his White House was trying to cover up information about the deadly assault in Benghazi, Libya, last year, as undeterred GOP lawmakers pressed ahead with their investigation.
Responding to questions about the talking points used by UN Ambassador Susan Rice days after the attack, Obama insisted that the assessment of the cause of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission matched the information he was receiving in his daily briefings.
Obama dismissed the GOP focus on the talking points as a politically driven "sideshow," pointing out that he said "act of terror" on Sept. 12.
The latest Republican focus is the independent review that slammed the State Department for inadequate security at the installation before the twin nighttime attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, asked the two authors of the investigation -- veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering and retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- to meet privately with committee staff to answer questions about their review.
Republicans insist the Obama administration misled Congress and the American people in the immediate aftermath of the attack, trying to play down an act of terrorism that would reflect poorly on Obama before the 2012 presidential election.
Obama noted that Matt Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told Congress that Benghazi was a terrorist attack with potential links to al-Qaida three days after her appearance on Sunday talk shows.
"So if this was some effort on our part to try to downplay what had happened or tamp it down, that would be a pretty odd thing that 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?"