Lindsey Graham: Rice's Benghazi Story Has 'Totally Collapsed'

Thursday, 15 May 2014 11:41 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte charged Thursday that National Security Adviser Susan Rice's initial account of the 2012 Benghazi attacks has "totally collapsed" in light of new scrutiny of her comments about the level of security at the U.S. compound where four Americans were killed.

"She's frustrated this won't go away," Graham, of South Carolina, said on Capitol Hill, Fox News reports. "She's frustrated that she appeared on national television and told a story about Benghazi that has absolutely collapsed."

Besides falsely linking the attacks to protests over an anti-Muslim video, Rice also wrongly said the United States "obviously did have a strong security presence" at the consulate as it was being attacked by the hardline Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia.

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

Rice, who was U.N. ambassador at the time, made the comments on five Sunday talk shows five days after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2012, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, information management officer Sean Smith, and former SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.

For instance, Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday," asked Rice during her Sept. 16 appearance: "Should U.S. security have been tighter at that consulate given the history of terror activity in Benghazi?"

"Well, we obviously did have a strong security presence," Rice responded. "And, unfortunately, two of the four Americans who died in Benghazi were there to provide security."

She was referring to Woods and Doherty, erroneously linking them to consulate security. They had been killed in a mortar attack eight hours after the CIA annex was overrun by militants.

The Obama administration or the State Department must explain who briefed Rice on the consulate's security status, Graham and Ayotte charged, according to Fox. Whoever did so, the senators said, should be fired — and if Rice was basing the statement on her own knowledge, she should step down, they said.

"They're completely incompetent, or they were misleading her about the level of security because we were six weeks before an election, or she made it up on her own," Graham said. "And if she just made this up and talked about the level of security without any information and just wanted to portray strong security, then she should resign."

Graham and Ayotte, who sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee, were among 37 Republican senators who called on Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid to form a select committee to investigate Benghazi.

The letter comes a week after GOP House Speaker John Boehner formed a select panel of House members to investigate the Libyan attacks. That committee, which includes seven Republicans, is chaired by Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

In response to the House committee, Rice said Wednesday that she was "danged if I know" whether its investigation would turn up any new evidence on the attacks.

Ayotte said that White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes should testify in any investigation, Fox reports.

A Sept. 14, 2012, email released last week by Judicial Watch showed Rhodes encouraging Rice to link the attacks to the YouTube video in talking points to protect President Barack Obama's re-election bid.

Judicial Watch obtained the email in April in a lawsuit the group filed against the State Department last year. The email was not included in documents subpoenaed last year by congressional investigators. The State Department has since turned over the document.

"Where did Ben Rhodes get these? Right? Ben's not the intel officer right?" Ayotte charged at the news conference, Fox reports. "One of the important reasons he needs to testify is what's the source of all these talking points what happened at that Saturday meeting and who came up with this?"

The email released by Judicial Watch referenced a Sept. 15 "prep call" with Rice in which Rhodes outlined the talking points, with the advice "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy."

In addition, Rice told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Sunday that she was appearing on the talk shows because then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "had had an incredibly grueling week dealing with the protests around the Middle East and North Africa," Fox reports.

Graham questioned the truthfulness of Rice's statement and said it spoke to Clinton's fitness as president.

"So the reason, according to Susan Rice, that Secretary Clinton was not on television was because she had a grueling week," he said at the news conference. "That to me is incredibly important and must be answered."

Clinton was succeeded in January by former Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, who was subpoenaed again on Thursday to testify before the House Oversight Committee on why the department had not provided Benghazi documents in response to its original request last year.

Fox also noted a news release on Sept. 11, 2012, at 10:07 p.m. from Clinton after Smith's death was confirmed — saying that it is believed to be the first effort by the White House to link the Benghazi attacks to the YouTube video.

Both Graham and Ayotte questioned whether Clinton issued the release on her own or consulted with Obama — and on what intelligence it was based, Fox reports.

Another email released to Judicial Watch included a short wire service article describing "an armed mob protesting over a film" — and that document was circulated widely within the State Department and to U.S. officials at the United Nations.

The five-sentence AFP article does not link the claim to a named, credible source, Fox reports.

Urgent: Do You Think There is a Cover-up on Benghazi? Vote Now in Urgent Poll

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