A meeting between U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and three of her most vocal critics in the Senate, Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Kelly Ayotte, ended poorly, with the senators saying many questions remain.
“The bottom line is that I’m more disturbed than I was before … about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya,” Graham said, and USA Today reported.
“It is clear the information she gave the American people was incorrect when she said that it was a spontaneous demonstration triggered by a hateful video,” McCain said. “It was not, and there was compelling evidence at the time that that was certainly not the case.”
Rice has drawn criticism for her statements on the Sunday shows following the attacks, when she said that the September 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens was the result of a spontaneous demonstration against an anti-Muslim video, and not terrorism.
Gen. David Petraeus, who was director of the CIA at the time of the attacks, told the House and Senate Intelligence committees last week that intelligence officials had, in fact, known it was a terrorist attack shortly after it took place.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee last week told reporters that Rice was reciting the declassified talking points, and that she was not able to call it a terrorist attack because much of the information was still classified at the time of her television appearances.
McCain said they came out of the talks unsure why Rice had been asked to go on television, and “whether Ambassador Rice was prepared or informed sufficiently in order to give the American people a correct depiction of the events that took place.”
Rice is being considered as the next Secretary of State, and Ayotte said they would hold her nomination until more questions had been answered.
“Right now, where I’m at is, there are still so many questions that need to be answered related to the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi, including, I think there will still be follow-ups to Ambassador Rice,” Ayotte said, according to Roll Call. “So I will hold her nomination until I have additional answers to questions and then I will render judgment.”
In a statement released after the meeting, Rice acknowledged that “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.”
“While, we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved,” Rice went on. “We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved.”