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Sen. Lindsey Graham says he wants answers on the intelligence community’s response to the terrorist attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya before John O. Brennan is confirmed as CIA director, suggesting he could slow the nomination.
“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary action to get information from this administration,” the South Carolina Republican said in a written statement released Tuesday.
His office did not respond to a question about whether Graham intends to put a formal hold on the nomination, but the threat is implied.
Specifically, Graham said he wants information on “who changed Ambassador Susan Rice’s talking points and deleted the references to al-Qaeda,” a reference to the unclassified talking points about the Sept. 11 attack that the intelligence community circulated to public officials in the days after it occurred. Rice used those talking points as the basis for her comments on a series of Sunday news programs five days later, in which she said that the attack grew out of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Muslim video, an assessment that was later debunked.
“We were first told the Director of National Intelligence deleted the al-Qaeda reference in the talking points because they did not want to let al-Qaeda know we were monitoring them. We were then told the FBI changed the talking points so as not to compromise an ongoing criminal investigation. Finally, during a meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting CIA Director [Michael] Morrell, I was told it was the FBI who changed the talking points. However, later in the day the clarified it was the CIA who had changed the talking points,” Graham said in his statement. “This ever-changing story should be resolved.”
Republicans cited Rice’s Sunday show comments as their main rationale for their fierce opposition to her candidacy for secretary of State. She withdrew her name from consideration for the post last month, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., was subsequently nominated.
“I have tried — repeatedly — to get information on Benghazi but my requests have been repeatedly ignored,” Graham said Tuesday. “I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered.”