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WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama on Monday again defended his administration’s response to an attack on a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and called a Republican-led investigation politically driven and a “sideshow.”

Mr. Obama’s comments come as Republicans are widening their probe into whether election-year politics drove the White House to meddle with intelligence information. The investigation, along with a growing Internal Revenue Service scandal, are overshadowing the White House’s attempts to drive through Mr. Obama’s second-term agenda.

Mr. Obama said “nobody understood exactly” what was going on in the first few days following the assault on the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012.

“Keep in mind, by the way, these so-called talking points that were prepared for Susan Rice, five, six days after the event occurred, pretty much matched the assessments that I was receiving at that time in my presidential daily briefing,” which is considered to have the best and most up-to-date information from the U.S. intelligence community.

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