Continued from page 1

Mrs. Nuland also addressed the illness that prevented Mrs. Clinton from testifying Thursday to Congress, as scheduled, and the timing of the health announcement, which led some Republicans to question privately whether health concerns were a convenient excuse to avoid tough questions at a public hearing.

“Without getting into all of the back-and-forth between her and her doctors,” the spokeswoman said, “it was on Saturday morning that we concluded that the secretary needed to follow doctors’ advice and rest this week, so the [congressional] committees were made aware and as you know, we put out a statement to that effect in literally hours thereafter.”

Briefings and testimony ahead

Mr. Pickering and Adm. Mullen plan to brief the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday in closed sessions, Mrs. Nuland said. Their briefing will be followed Thursday with public testimony by Mrs. Clinton’s deputies, William Burns and Thomas Nides.

The press and public “probably” would be allowed to see the unclassified portions of the report Wednesday, Mrs. Nuland said, adding, “but I’m just not in a position to completely confirm all those details at the moment.”

Mrs. Ayotte’s questions about the role of the White House and the military go to the heart of Republican criticisms of the administration’s preparations for, handling of and response to the attack, in which dozens of armed extremists overran and set fire to the consulate and later attacked a CIA compound nearby.

The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, State Department official Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, who were working as security contractors for the CIA.

Republicans have noted that State Department bureaucrats in Washington rejected requests for additional security from diplomats in Libya, have questioned why military assets were not scrambled to attempt a rescue and have accused the administration of blaming the attack on an anti-Islam video to support the president’s re-election narrative that al Qaeda had been decimated.

Administration officials have said additional security would not have prevented the compound from being overrun, that there was too little information about conditions on the ground to deploy U.S. forces in time and that the exact nature of the attack — which took place amid a wave of protests against the video across the Arab world — did not become clear until later.

Guy Taylor contributed to this report.