Sen. John McCain and two other GOP senators said they were “significantly troubled” after a private meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice about her erroneous explanation of the deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
And the senators left open the possibility they could try to block Rice’s promotion if President Barack Obama nominates her as secretary of State. Acting CIA Director Michael Morell also joined Rice at the meeting.
“The concerns I have are greater today than they were before, and we’re not even close to getting the basic answers,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), joined by McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.), told reporters after the closed-door meeting.
“I would place a hold on anybody who wanted to be promoted for any job who had a role in the Benghazi situation.”
Rice came under fire from Republicans after she took to five Sunday morning talk shows on Sept. 16 and incorrectly described the attack as the result of a spontaneous demonstration spurred by an anti-Islam Internet video. In fact, the Sept. 11 assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans was determined to be a premeditated terrorist attack.
Rice, the frontrunner to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has stated she was simply following administration talking points that had been approved by the intelligence community. The GOP trio, who all serve on the Armed Services Committee, have said the Obama administration was trying to mislead the public about the terrorist attack because it would look bad before the election.
McCain and Graham appeared to temper their criticism of Rice over the weekend, but the hour-and-a-half long meeting Tuesday only seemed to reignite their fury.
“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get,” said McCain, an Arizona Republican. “It is clear the information that [Rice] gave the American people was incorrect when she said it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video. It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case.”
Graham was more blunt, saying Rice’s explanation included “bad information.”
“If you don’t know what happened, just say you don’t know what happened,” he said. “The American people got bad information on 16 September. They got bad information from President Obama, and the question is should they have been giving the information at all?”