John McCain ‘troubled’ by Susan Rice’s Benghazi explanation at meeting
By SCOTT WONG | 11/27/12 11:55 AM EST Updated: 11/27/12 1:15 PM EST
Sen. John McCain and two other GOP senators said they were “significantly troubled” after a private meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about her erroneous explanation of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
And the senators left open the possibility they could try to block Rice’s promotion if President Barack Obama nominates her as secretary of State. Acting CIA Director Michael Morell also joined Rice at the meeting. Continue Reading
Graham: 'More disturbed'
“The concerns I have are greater today than they were before, and we’re not even close to getting the basic answers,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined by McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), told reporters after the closed-door meeting. “I would place a hold on anybody who wanted to be promoted for any job who had a role in the Benghazi situation.” Rice came under fire from Republicans after she took to five Sunday morning talk shows on Sept. 16 and incorrectly described the attack as the result of a spontaneous demonstration spurred by an anti-Islam Internet video. In fact, the Sept. 11 assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was determined to be a premeditated terrorist attack.
Rice issued a statement later Tuesday after the meeting with Republicans and subsequent negative news coverage.
“Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved,” Rice said.
Rice, the frontrunner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has stated she was simply following administration talking points that had been approved by the intelligence community. The GOP trio, who all serve on the Armed Services Committee, have said the Obama administration was trying to mislead the public about the terrorist attack because it would look bad before the election.
McCain and Graham appeared to temper their criticism of Rice over the weekend, but the hour-and-a-half long meeting Tuesday only seemed to reignite their fury.
“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get,” said McCain, an Arizona Republican. “It is clear the information that [Rice] gave the American people was incorrect when she said it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case.”
Graham was more blunt, saying Rice’s explanation included “bad information.”
“If you don’t know what happened, just say you don’t know what happened,” he said. “The American people got bad information on 16 September. They got bad information from President Obama, and the question is should they have been giving the information at all?”
Ayotte vowed to hold up an Ayotte nomination until the administration provides clearer answers.
“Absolutely, there will be a hold,” Ayotte told reporters Tuesday afternoon after her meeting with Rice.
Ayotte, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said she still wants to know why Rice referenced an unclassified report, when she had also seen a classified briefing that said individuals linked to al Qaeda were involved in the Sept. 11 attack.
“There’s a judgment issue about why would you go on every Sunday show and leave a different impression, and I think that is a judgment issue that is a fair issue of inquiry,” the New Hampshire senator added. “My view is that we should hold on this until we get information, sufficient information, produced by the administration because these are questions that need to be answered. Let’s not forget secretary of state has a significant piece in this. It’s not insignificant. It’s not unrelated.”
Stephanie Gaskell contributed to this report.Latest on POLITICO
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