It's Official: Those Bogus Email Leaks Came From Republicans

| Thu May 16, 2013 9:59 PM EDT

It's not as if we didn't know this already, but today Major Garrett made it official: last week's leaks that misquoted the Benghazi emails came directly from Republicans. Here's the report on the CBS Evening News:

On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote from Rhodes: "We must make sure that the talking points reflect all agency equities, including those of the State Department, and we don't want to undermine the FBI investigation." But it turns out that in the actual email, Rhodes did not mention the State Department.

....Republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an email written by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland. The Republican version quotes Nuland discussing, "The penultimate point is a paragraph talking about all the previous warnings provided by the Agency (CIA) about al-Qaeda's presence and activities of al-Qaeda." The actual email from Nuland says: "The penultimate point could be abused by members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings."

The CIA agreed with the concerns raised by the State Department and revised the talking points to make them less specific than the CIA's original version, eliminating references to al Qaeda and affiliates and earlier security warnings. There is no evidence that the White House orchestrated the changes.

So here's what happened. Republicans in Congress saw copies of these emails two months ago and did nothing with them. It was obvious that they showed little more than routine interagency haggling. Then, riding high after last week's Benghazi hearings, someone got the bright idea of leaking two isolated tidbits and mischaracterizing them in an effort to make the State Department look bad. Apparently they figured it was a twofer: they could stick a shiv into the belly of the White House and they could then badger them to release the entire email chain, knowing they never would.

But it was typical GOP overreach. To their surprise, the White House took Republicans up on their demand to make the entire email chain public, thus making it clear to the press that they had been burned. And now reporters are letting us all know who was behind it.

This has always been the Republican Party's biggest risk with this stuff: that they don't know when to quit. On Benghazi, when it became obvious that they didn't have a smoking gun, they got desperate and tried to invent one. On the IRS, their problem is that Democrats are as outraged as they are. This will force them to make ever more outrageous accusations in an effort to find some way to draw a contrast. And on the AP phone records, they have to continually dance around the fact that they basically approve of subpoenas like this.

A sane party would take a deep breath and decide to move on to other things. But the tea partiers have the scent of blood now, and it's driving them crazy. Thus the spectacle of Michele Bachmann suggesting today that it's time to start impeachment proceedings.

The GOP's adults can't keep their lunatic fringe on a leash, which means it's only a matter of time until they make fools of themselves on all three of the pseudoscandals that are currently lighting up the airwaves. The Republicans have met the enemy, and it is them.

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