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Biden sets himself apart from Clinton in speech

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he knew about Osama Bin Laden's compound months before most of the cabinet, and claimed Hillary Clinton wasn't 100% firm on going after the terrorist leader.JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he knew about Osama Bin Laden’s compound months before most of the cabinet, and claimed Hillary Clinton wasn’t 100% firm on going after the terrorist leader.

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden hasn’t joined the White House race — but that didn’t stop him from drawing some contrasts with Hillary Clinton and contradicting her version of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Biden used his time on a panel with former Vice President Walter Mondale to rebuke Clinton’s account of the raid that killed the terror big, disputing claims he opposed it and suggesting the Democratic front-runner wasn’t as adamantly in favor as she claims.

The vice president, who’s expected to make a decision on a White House run in the coming days, said he knew about Bin Laden’s Pakistan compound months before most of the cabinet, and claimed Clinton, then the secretary of state, wasn’t 100% firm on going after the terrorist leader.

That contradicts Clinton’s version — and changes his own account by adding that he’d intentionally avoided taking a stand while meeting with the cabinet before privately backing it so he wouldn’t undercut Obama’s decision.

Biden said then-CIA Director Leon Panetta was the only person in the room who unequivocally supported the raid. The vice president claimed that he personally supported a “third option” of more surveillance in the meeting before privately telling Obama to go through with the raid.

“I didn’t want to take a position to go if that was not where he was going to go. So as we walked out of the room and walked upstairs, I said, I told him my opinion that I thought he should go, but to follow his own instincts,” Biden said.

Biden’s new details make him out to be a supporter of the high-stakes 2011 raid that killed Bin Laden — a big shift from the narrative that he even once described, one Clinton’s allies have hinted could be a main attack line if Biden does jump into the race.

“I said, ‘We owe the man a direct answer. Mr. President, my suggestion is, don’t go. We have to do two more things to see if he’s there,'” Biden told House Democrats in January 2012.

Clinton regularly mentions her support of the raid on the campaign trail as a way to showcase her mettle.

During a December 2013 speech in New York she described it was a “very personal journey that I made in coming to my conclusion to recommend that there was sufficient grounds for the President ordering the SEAL raid.”

“The President’s top advisers were divided. The intelligence was compelling, but far from definitive. The risks of failure were daunting,” Clinton wrote in her memoir “Hard Choices.”

And she’s contrasted her view to Biden’s in private speeches.

A local Georgia lawmaker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in late 2013 that in describing the raid, Clinton “put it to Biden … without turning the knife too deeply.”

Bill Daley, Obama’s chief of staff at the time of the Bin Laden raid who was also in the meeting, told the Daily News after the Mondale panel that Biden’s new version of events was “totally accurate.”

“Some have spun that he was against it. The way that he articulated it was the absolute truth,” he said. “Walking up the stairs, he absolutely did that, he walked out with the President that day.”

Biden took some other veiled shots at Clinton throughout the event at George Washington University, repeatedly emphasizing his close relationship with Obama and arguing he’s the man who can reach across the aisle to end D.C.’s partisan gridlock.

“We’ve had two great secretaries of state, but when I go, they know that I am speaking for the President. There is nothing missed between the lip of the cup, that whatever I say, the President is saying,” Biden said at one point.

“I still have a lot of Republican friends,” he said for the second time in as many days, alluding to Clinton’s comments during last week’s debate that Republicans were one of the enemies she’s most proud of.

“I don’t think my chief enemy is the Republican Party. This is a matter of making things work,” Biden said.

He said he agreed to join Obama’s presidential ticket because “I was simpatico with the President-elect” and because “we had a genuine relationship,” before claiming Obama gave him a veto over any potential cabinet members, implying he had to approve Clinton as secretary of state. 

Tags:
joe biden ,
hillary clinton ,
2016 election

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