Nightly News   |  May 13, 2013

Obama defensive on Benghazi

On Monday President Obama appeared, at times, defiant over his administration’s handling of Benghazi. The State Department looked at key White House emails months ago, Obama said, adding that this has been “spun up” as though there’s something new to the story. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> this is just one of two growing scandals that got the president energized today. the other includes criticism of the administration's handling of the attacks in benghazi . the president took the opportunity to hit back hard over accusations of some sort of a cover-up saying that defies logic. our political director chief white house correspondent chuck todd with us from the front lawn tonight. chuck, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. it was quite a turn. the president, a scathing critique of the irs. then he got defensive over the criticisms of his administration on those benghazi attacks and what happened in the the hours and days after the attack. the president was defiant at times and even called the republican-led investigation into his administration a political circus. a defiant president today responding after a weekend of criticism from republicans over his administration's handling of benghazi .

>> the whole issue of talking points , frankly, throughout this process has been a sideshow.

>> reporter: he was dismissive of republican critiques of how the white house , state department and cia edited talking points noting congress looked at key white house e-mails months ago.

>> they reviewed them several months ago, concluded that, in fact, there was nothing afoul in terms of the process we had used and suddenly three days ago this gets spun up as if there is something new to the story. there's no there there.

>> reporter: the president mocked the cover-up charge noting that a few days after u.s. ambassador susan rice went on the talk shows and placed the blame primarily on an inflammatory youtube firm another member of the administration briefed congress days later and called it terrorism.

>> who executes a cover-up or effort to tamp things down for three days? so the whole thing defies logic.

>> reporter: many republicans didn't find the president's explanation satisfactory. today congressman darryl issa who chaired last week's hearing said he doesn't accept the notion that during the seven-hour attack a military response was impossible.

>> you can take off from washington, d.c. on a commercial flight and practically be in benghazi by the end of seven hours.

>> reporter: former defense secretary robert gates disagreed.

>> to send some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, i would not have approved that. we just don't -- it's a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces .

>> reporter: and while the white house isn't dismissive of what capitol hill hill is doing, they are moving on with the investigation. later this week they will hear from ambassador tom pickering and mike mullen . these are the men that led the internal review at the state department . the main question congress has, brian, why didn't these gentlemen interview secretary of state hillary clinton . and we go on.

>> chuck todd with the second front at the white house today.