Sen. Lindsey Graham signaled Thursday that he plans to use John O. Brennan’s nomination for CIA chief as leverage to demand more answers from the White House on last year’s lethal attack at a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya.
The South Carolina Republican said he particularly wants information from the administration on its talking points in the days after the attack. Republicans on the Hill have blasted the White House for its initial refusal to label the incident, which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others, as a terrorist attack.
“We’re going to figure out who changed those talking points or die trying,” Graham said at a news conference.
He and other Republicans earlier effectively sank the nomination of Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to head the State Department over a series of Sunday television talk show appearances about the Benghazi attack. She described it as a more spontaneous attack that grew out of anti-American protests, an assessment that came from unclassified talking points provided by the CIA.
Graham and GOP allies Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire also threatened to hold up Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be Pentagon chief until the White House provided details on whether President Barack Obama personally reached out to Libyan leaders the day of the attack.
The White House responded in a Feb. 14 letter, stating that then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke with the Libyan president the day of the attack. Obama spoke with him the next day.
On Thursday, McCain said the threatened hold was a “time-honored practice” in the Senate.
“It’s a way for us to get information,” he said.
The Senate Intelligence Committee was originally scheduled to vote Thursday on Brennan’s nomination, but the vote was delayed until after the congressional recess.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.