Senators 'More Troubled' After Meeting With Rice



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U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, touted as a possible successor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with a small group of Republican Senate critics. They are unhappy with comments Rice made on TV shortly after the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where the ambassador and three others died. They say she incorrectly characterized the violence as a response to an anti-Islam video. After the closed-door meeting, the senators said they were more troubled than ever, and one promised to block her potential nomination. But it's unclear whether their views are gaining momentum.

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U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice met today behind closed doors with three Republican senators who are among her harshest critics. The senators are unhappy with comments that Rice made after the September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack resulted in the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

After today's meeting, the senators say they're more troubled than ever. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: The senators met with Rice at the U.N. ambassador's request. She's been in the Republicans' crosshairs since appearing on a number of Sunday TV talk shows five days after the Benghazi attack. In those appearances, she said the violence was in response to an anti-Islam video, rather than being a terrorist attack. Speaking with reporters after the 90-minute session with Rice today, Arizona Senator John McCain said he was not mollified by the meeting, which also included the acting CIA director, Michael Morell.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get.

NAYLOR: South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham said he has similar concerns.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before that the 16th September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice, I think, does not do justice to the reality at the time and in hindsight clearly was completely wrong.

NAYLOR: As U.N. ambassador, Rice had no direct involvement in security at the Benghazi consulate and has said she relied on CIA-drafted talking points when she made the rounds of the Sunday morning shows. Rice is thought to be a potential nominee for secretary of state when Hillary Clinton steps down as expected. The other senator attending this morning's session with Rice was New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte, who also pronounced herself more troubled after the meeting.

SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE: Clearly, the impression that was given, the information given to the American people was wrong. In fact, Ambassador Rice said today absolutely it was wrong.

NAYLOR: And in a statement today, Rice said the talking points provided by the intelligence community and the initial assessment upon which they were based were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi. The statement continues: Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people. What this means for a possible Rice nomination is unclear. Graham said he would place a hold on the nomination of anyone involved in Benghazi. But it's uncertain how widespread that sentiment is among Senate Republicans. At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney called the Republicans' continued focus on the matter an obsession. Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.