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Mr. Cummings suggested that Mrs. Jones‘ email was intentionally mischaracterized by Republicans in an attempt to “generate an entirely new controversy out of nothing.”

In a statement Thursday evening, Mr. Cummings said “five different congressional committees have had access to this email for months.”

“The email refers to reports that Ansar al-Sharia took credit for the attacks in a Facebook posting, but shortly after the email was sent, the group publicly denied that it was involved in the attack,” he added.

A congressional source on the Democratic side of the House said Ansar al-Shariah denied involvement well before Mrs. Rice said in TV appearances that the attack likely grew out of a protest similar to those at the same time in other Middle Eastern cities.

A final version of the talking points made no mention al Qaeda or Ansar al-Shariah, and instead referred to the Benghazi attackers as “extremists” and in one place even protesters rather than terrorists.

In reference to the talking points Thursday, Mr. Boehner said: “You can characterize it any way you want, but somebody clearly decided they didn’t like the references to Islamic terrorism and made changes in this document.”

Speculation appeared to swirl among Democrats that the goal of House Republicans with regard to Benghazi is to damage former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the event she runs for president in 2016.

Mrs. Clinton has not said whether she intends to run, but a veteran Clinton strategist told The Associated Press on Thursday that “the Republicans are pulling out the stops to manufacture a scandal, but it’s not likely to stick on Hillary Clinton or Democrats in general.”

Also Thursday, former Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly suggested to House Republicans that they subpoena Mrs. Clinton to get the answers they seek. According to Fox News, he said during a Thursday meeting that “I think Hillary should be subpoenaed if necessary.”

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, stopped short of accusing the Obama administration of outright lying about Benghazi, but he said serious questions remain over why senior officials attempted initially to pin the incident to spontaneous protests rather than terrorism.

“The whole line of the presidential campaign to re-elect Barack Obama was bin Laden is dead, al Qaeda is decimated no terrorist attacks anywhere,” Mr. McCain said during an appearance on Fox News as Wednesday’s hearing was winding down. “Then, of course, this thing happened and it had the capability of disrupting that narrative at a really crucial time in a presidential campaign. That explains some of these inexplicable actions” by the administration.

Momentum continued to mount among Republicans for the creation of a select committee to deepen congressional probes into what occurred in Benghazi and how the administration managed the aftermath.

Congressional aides said 143 House Republicans, but no Democrats, have signed on as co-sponsors to a bill introduced by Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, that would create such a committee.

Shaun Waterman, Seth McLaughlin and Jerry Seper contributed to this report.