The Cable

Clinton urges Morsy to share power in Egypt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr Monday and told him the United States wants to see President Mohamed Morsy share power in Egypt, following his decree last week placing his decisions above judicial review.

Reports from Egypt Monday said that Morsy was considering limiting his decree that the judiciary has no right to review his decisions to only "sovereign" matters -- although the meaning of that is unclear -- following widespread international criticism and protests on the streets of Cairo. Morsy's original decree declared that he was above review until a new constitution was written and a new parliament was elected.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said today that Clinton urged Morsy to be inclusive.

"She took that opportunity to reiterate some of the points that you saw in our statement [last week], that we want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protection of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld, et cetera," Nuland said.

In that statement, Nuland said, "One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution."

"Our understanding from the Egyptian side is that there are now discussions ongoing among a number of the stakeholders, that President Morsy is conducting consultations with various groups, including with the judiciary. We had called for that in our statement, and the secretary underscored that, the importance of settling these disputes in a democratic manner," Nuland said.

Nuland declined to characterize Morsy's decree as "undemocratic." The State Department says its position is consistent with U.S. calls for inclusive and democratic processes that have been communicated since the start of the Egyptian revolution last year.

"They are operating in a very unclear political environment now, as they try to get a constitution drafted, approved, put forward to referendum. So there are a number of things at play, but our enduring principles on which our support is based haven't changed through any of this," Nuland said.

Morsy didn't warn Clinton he was planning the move, even when she was there and met with him personally, Nuland said. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today that Morsy's power grab was completely unrelated to his role in brokering and enforcing the Gaza ceasfire.

"We see those as separate issues. The president's interest was in working with the parties involved," Carney said.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said Sunday that U.S. foreign aid to Egypt could be at stake if Morsy continues to consolidate power outside of the democratic process. He urged the Obama administration to more forcefully condemn Morsy's move and directly threaten an aid cutoff.

"This is not what the United States and American taxpayers expect and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy, which you promised the people of Egypt, when your party and you were elected president," McCain said. "Our leverage, obviously, is not only the substantial billions in aid we provide, plus, debt forgiveness, plus an IMF deal, but also the marshalling world public opinion is also against this kind of move by Mr. Morsy."

Nuland said that the IMF makes its own decisions about political conditionality on its loans, but emphasized that the agreement between the IMF and Egypt on $6 billion in assistance is still supported by the U.S. government -- for now. "We think that Egypt needs IMF support. It also needs to be on the reform path that it and the IMF have now agreed to," she said.

U.S. administrations have been reluctant to explicitly link aid to Egypt to political developments. In March, Clinton decided to use a national security waiver to allow more than $1.5 billion of U.S. aid to Egypt, bypassing congressional restrictions even while the Egyptian government's assault on NGOs in Cairo continued.

But Nuland hinted that Congress might have other ideas. "With regard to U.S. [economic support funds], as we made clear, we support clearing this through the Congress, but the Congress is also watching democratic developments in Egypt."

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Clinton called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy

The Cable

Clapper did not change the Benghazi talking points

James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, did not change the talking points on Benghazi that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice used on several talk shows days after the Sept. 11 attack.

"It was not Director Clapper who personally modified the talking points," ODNI Spokesman Shawn Turner told The Cable. "The reporter who originally wrote that does not cover the IC [intelligence community] so she thought that since Clapper heads the IC, it would be OK to say he modified the talking points."

Turner was referring to this Nov. 20 CBS report, which has since been revised to say that the changes, which included removing references to al Qaeda and terrorism, were made at the Office of the DNI but not necessarily by Clapper himself. The report now states that the talking points were passed from the CIA to ODNI, where some edits were made, and then on to the FBI, where further edits were made.

The original reporting saying that Clapper himself made the edits was "frustratingly wrong and several others have picked it up," Turner said. "The talking points were debated and edited by a collective of experts from around the IC."

The clarification helps explain why Clapper told Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in a classified hearing earlier this month that he didn't know who deleted the references to al Qaeda and terrorism from the talking points, according to McCain.

McCain, speaking on Fox News Sunday  yesterday, again expressed frustration that Clapper claimed to have no idea where and when the talking points were edited. McCain also opened the door to the possibility he could be persuaded to going along with the possible nomination of Rice to be the next secretary of state.

"I think she deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself and her position, just as she said. But she's not the problem. The problem is the president of the United States, who, on -- in a debate with Mitt Romney, said that he had said it was a terrorist attack. He hadn't," McCain said.

McCain had previously said he would do everything in his power to prevent Rice from becoming secretary of state. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who also had pledged to oppose a Rice nomination, said Sunday on ABC's This Week that he is simply not convinced Rice had gotten all of her information from the intelligence community. But Graham also opened the door to Rice potentially getting confirmed.

"When she comes over [to the Senate], if she does, there will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others," he said. "But I do not believe the video is the cause -- when 14 September -- when Secretary Clinton told the families, ‘We're going to put in jail the man who made this video,' she should have said, ‘I'm sorry we left the consulate open and it became a death trap. I'm sorry we couldn't help your family for over seven hours.'"

"I don't believe the video is the reason for this. I don't believe it was ever the reason for this. That was a political story, not an intel story, and we're going to hold people accountable," Graham said.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) came to Rice's defense on ABC.

"Well, I can just tell you, if this were an NFL football game, the critics of Ambassador Rice would be penalized for piling on," he said. ‘For goodness's sake, she got the report from the intelligence community. She dutifully reported it to the public, just exactly what we expect her to do. They had decided not to include the al Qaeda reference so we wouldn't compromise our sources in Benghazi and in Libya."

"This has just been a dance-fest to go after Ambassador Rice. That should come to an end," Durbin said. "Let's get down to the basic issues, as the State Department is doing. Find out how to keep our people safe who are representing us around the world and stop making this a personal attack on Ambassador Rice."