“Yesterday, it seemed possible that Susan Rice had been unwittingly used by the Obama administration to misrepresent to the American people what really happened in Benghazi,” Inhofe said in a written statement released Tuesday evening. “After her meeting today on Capitol Hill with some of my colleagues, it is now clear that she willingly [misled] the American public five different times in the days after the attack.”
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.