President Obama didn’t make any phone calls the night of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, the White House said in a letter to Congress released Thursday.
“During the entire attack, the president of the United States never picked up the phone to put the weight of his office in the mix,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who had held up Mr. Obama’s defense secretary nominee to force the information to be released.
Mr. Graham said that if Mr. Obama had picked up the phone, at least two of the Americans killed in the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi might still be alive because he might have been able to push U.S. aid to get to the scene faster.
The White House has said Mr. Obama was kept up to date on the attack by his staff, though after being alerted to the attack in a pre-scheduled afternoon meeting he never spoke again with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin E. Dempsey or then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Mr. Panetta told Congress last week that he knew immediately the attacks were a terrorist assault, though the White House downplayed that notion in the first five days after the attack.
Republican senators said they will still push for more information on who changed the talking points given to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who went on the Sunday talk shows after the attacks and blamed protests against an anti-Islam video.
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Mr. Graham said he will block the president’s nominee to head the CIA until he hears more details about what Mr. Obama was doing.
Sen. John McCain said the White House’s reticence in releasing information contrasts poorly with the flood of details the White House put out about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, which has spawned two movies.
“We still don’t know what the president of the United States was doing the night of the attack and who he was talking to. We know who he wasn’t talking to,” Mr. McCain said.