Emails show State Department toned down Benghazi memos - ABC report

WASHINGTON, May 10 (Reuters) - Obama administration

officials edited memos about last year's killing of the U.S.

ambassador in Libya to omit reference to a CIA warning of a

threat from al Qaeda, ABC News reported on Friday in a story

that could fuel Republican attempts to prove a cover-up.

Emails between the State Department, White House and

intelligence agencies show extensive editing by the

administration as it went through 12 different drafts of the

memos explaining the Benghazi attack.

The so-called "talking point" memos were used to prepare

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice before she

appeared on television talk shows to discuss the Sept. 11, 2012,

attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi in which Ambassador

Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

In one exchange, the State Department's top spokeswoman at

the time, Victoria Nuland, objected to including the CIA's

reference to intelligence about the threat from al Qaeda in

Benghazi and eastern Libya.

That "could be abused by members (of Congress) to beat up

the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so

why would we want to feed that either? Concerned," Nuland wrote

in one email obtained by ABC News.

The report came as Republicans in Congress stepped up their

efforts to hammer Democrats over the Obama administration's

response to the attack by suspected Islamist militants,

including the role of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Email traffic is central to what Republicans say is the

administration's attempt to diminish the seriousness of the

assault in Benghazi because it came at the height of the U.S.

presidential campaign and might have made Obama look weak on

national security before the November election.

Congressman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat who sits on

the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform

Committee, said the Republican accusations were an attempt to

damage Clinton in case she decides to run for president in 2016.

"It is so much an effort ... to harm her before she even

makes a decision and then to make sure they've got some material

after she decides to run for president, assuming she does," he

told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Jackie Frank)