He also said that “there are more reasons to oppose a potential Rice nomination beyond the Benghazi issue,” citing her tenure at the United Nations and the United States’ inability to convince Russia and China to join them on U.N. initiatives on Iran and Syria.
On Monday, Inhofe told reporters he would not necessarily oppose Rice should Obama tap her as secretary of State. If Rice was simply repeating information she had been given by the administration or intelligence officials, “then she was thrown under the bus, and yeah, I’d feel different about it, if that’s the case,” he said.
McCain said the meeting with Rice on Tuesday raised questions about whether she “was prepared or informed sufficiently in order to give the American people a correct depiction of the events that took place.”
Graham added that “with a little bit of inquiry and curiosity, I think it would have been pretty clear” that the attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, was part of a coordinated terrorist attack.
The group, along with some other Republicans, say this suggests a cover-up by the Obama administration, which they contend did not want to acknowledge it had failed to repel a terrorist attack.
“The storyline that the best current information was that this was a spontaneous event, spurred by a video, was an unbelievable stretch,” Graham told reporters later in the day Tuesday. “And the difference between spontaneous and pre-planned was significant. The difference between a mob and an organized militia is significant. And the motivation — we’re mad about a video versus we’re mad about America being in the Mideast — is significant.”
He also suggested that there were political reasons that the intelligence community dropped a reference to possible connections the attackers had with terrorist group al-Qaida in the unclassified talking points on which Rice based her public comments.
“We’ve had two reasons given thus far,” said Graham. “One is that we didn’t want to tip al-Qaida off. Please. Please. I think they know we’re onto them. No. 2, that it was a tenuous connection. . . . The question is, is there is a third reason?”
Rice rebutted the Republicans’ charges in her statement, saying she and Morell stressed in the meeting “that neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process.”
Rice did manage to satisfy one senator who has often been allied with McCain and Graham on matters relating to Libya.
Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., said that his meeting with Rice was productive and that she has answered all of his questions.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., also defended Rice on Tuesday.
“To say somehow or other that she misled the American people using the very notes that were asked for by the House Republicans and to accuse her of anything other than doing her homework, I think, is very, very unfair,” said a visibly agitated Levin. The language used in those talking points was “not her decision; that was the intelligence community’s decision.”
Levin said he had discussed the matter with former CIA Director David H. Petraeus and confirmed that Petraeus had signed off on the language.
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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