Republican senators more troubled after meeting with Rice

  • U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn), center, leaves after meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn), center, leaves after meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
  • U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • ** FILE ** Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)** FILE ** Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice leaves after meeting with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) in the Senate Visitors Center on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, November 28, 2012. (Andrew Harnik/The Washington Times)
  • Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a closed meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and acting CIA Director Michael Morell. Rice is considered a likely choice to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, but she has been sharply criticized by GOP lawmakers about comments she made following the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. speaks with reporters on Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a closed meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice, and acting CIA Director Michael Morell. Rice is considered a likely choice to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state, but she has been sharply criticized by GOP lawmakers about comments she made following the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee, center, accompanied by fellow Senate Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.,, right, gestures while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, after a closed-door meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee, center, accompanied by fellow Senate Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.,, right, gestures while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, after a closed-door meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • Senate Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., right, accompanied by fellow committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., center, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice . Rice met with lawmakers to discuss statements she made about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that left the ambassador and three other Americans dead. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Senate Armed Services Committee member, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., right, accompanied by fellow committee member, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., center, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice . Rice met with lawmakers to discuss statements she made about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that left the ambassador and three other Americans dead. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012,  for a closed-door meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice who could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Rice has been criticized by some GOP senators for her comments following the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Acting CIA Director Michael Morell, center, arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, for a closed-door meeting with UN Ambassador Susan Rice who could find her name in contention as early as this week to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of state. Rice has been criticized by some GOP senators for her comments following the deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • UN Ambassador Susan Rice arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, with Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine and Sen. Corker, R-Tenn., to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack. Rice continued her fight Wednesday to win over skeptics in the Senate who could block her chances at becoming the next U.S. secretary of state, while Republican lawmakers said they were even more troubled after face-to-face meetings with her over the handling of the Sept. 11 deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.  (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)UN Ambassador Susan Rice arrives for a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, with Sen. Susan Collins, R- Maine and Sen. Corker, R-Tenn., to discuss the Benghazi terrorist attack. Rice continued her fight Wednesday to win over skeptics in the Senate who could block her chances at becoming the next U.S. secretary of state, while Republican lawmakers said they were even more troubled after face-to-face meetings with her over the handling of the Sept. 11 deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
  • Sen. John McCain (center), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, flanked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (left) and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who are fellow committee members, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Ms. Rice met with the lawmakers to discuss statements she made about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that left the ambassador and three other Americans dead. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)Sen. John McCain (center), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, flanked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (left) and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who are fellow committee members, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012, following a meeting with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. Ms. Rice met with the lawmakers to discuss statements she made about the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that left the ambassador and three other Americans dead. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
  • **FILE** Carry teams move flag-draped transfer cases of the remains of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, from a transport plane during the Transfer of Remains ceremony on Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington. (Associated Press)**FILE** Carry teams move flag-draped transfer cases of the remains of the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, from a transport plane during the Transfer of Remains ceremony on Sept. 14, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base in suburban Washington. (Associated Press)
  • Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, leans near Syria's desk space as she takes a call before voting on a draft resolution backing an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, which was vetoed by Russia and China, during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council at the world body's headquarters on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. The unusual weekend session came as Syrian forces pummeled the city of Homs with mortars and artillery in what activists are calling one of the bloodiest episodes of the uprising. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, leans near Syria's desk space as she takes a call before voting on a draft resolution backing an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, which was vetoed by Russia and China, during a meeting of the U.N. Security Council at the world body's headquarters on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012. The unusual weekend session came as Syrian forces pummeled the city of Homs with mortars and artillery in what activists are calling one of the bloodiest episodes of the uprising. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
  • Libyan civilians celebrate the raiding of the Ansar al-Shariah Brigades compound by hundreds of Libyans, the military and police in Benghazi, Libya, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. The recent attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has sparked a backlash among frustrated Libyans against the heavily armed gunmen, including Islamic extremists, who run rampant in their cities. More than 10,000 people poured into a main boulevard of Benghazi, demanding that the militias disband as the public tries to do what Libya's weak central government has been unable to. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)Libyan civilians celebrate the raiding of the Ansar al-Shariah Brigades compound by hundreds of Libyans, the military and police in Benghazi, Libya, on Friday, Sept. 21, 2012. The recent attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans has sparked a backlash among frustrated Libyans against the heavily armed gunmen, including Islamic extremists, who run rampant in their cities. More than 10,000 people poured into a main boulevard of Benghazi, demanding that the militias disband as the public tries to do what Libya's weak central government has been unable to. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
  • U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) and Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to United Nations, listen as President Obama addresses the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly at the world body's headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (left) and Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to United Nations, listen as President Obama addresses the 67th session of the U.N. General Assembly at the world body's headquarters on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Emerging from a closed-door meeting, three Republican senators said Tuesday they are more troubled than ever with comments made by SusanRice, the U.N. ambassador and President Obama’s possible choice for secretary of state, days after the deadly Sept. 11 raid in Libya.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire met privately with Ms. Rice and acting CIA Director Michael Morell for more than an hour on her much-maligned explanations of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Ms. Ayotte said Ms. Rice told the lawmakers that her comments in a series of national television interviews five days after the attack were wrong. However, that failed to mollify the three lawmakers, who have talked about blocking her nomination if the president taps her to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that was leading up to the attack on the consulate and the tragic death of four brave Americans and whether Ambassador Rice was prepared, or informed sufficiently, to give the American people the correct depiction of the events that took place,” Mr. McCain told reporters.

Said Mr. Graham: “Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before that 16 September explanation.”

The three insisted that they need more information about the Libyan raid before they even consider Ms. Rice as a possible replacement for Mrs. Clinton.

“I’m more troubled today,” said Ms. Ayotte, who argued that it was clear in the days after the attack that it was terrorism and not a spontaneous demonstration prompted by an anti-Muslim video.

Despite lingering questions over her public comments after the Benghazi attack, Ms. Rice has emerged as the front-runner on a short list of candidates to succeed Mrs. Clinton, with Sen. John F. Kerry, Massachusetts Democart, seen as her closest alternative.

The strong statements from the three senators clouded Ms. Rice’s prospects only two days after Republican opposition seem to be softening. Ms. Rice planned meetings on Wednesday with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who is in line to become the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican.

Mr. Corker said Tuesday that he had concerns with a possible nomination.

“When I hear Susan talk, she seems to me like she’d be a great chairman of the Democratic National Committee,” Mr. Corker said. “There is nobody who is more staff supportive of what the administration does. That concerns me in a secretary of state.”

Ms. Rice’s series of meetings on Capitol Hill will be a critical test both for Republicans, who will decide whether they can support her, and the administration, which must gauge whether Ms. Rice has enough support to merit a nomination.

A senior Senate aide said the administration was sounding out moderate members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, such as Mr. Corker and Sen. Johnny Isakson, Georgia Republican. Assessing the prospects for Ms. Rice before Mr. Obama makes any announcement would avoid the embarrassment of a protracted fight with the Senate early in the president’s second term and the possible failure of the nominee.

On talk shows the weekend following the attack, which took place on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, Ms. Rice was given talking points that described the attack as a spontaneous protest of the film, even though the Obama administration had known for days that it was a militant assault.

Republicans called her nomination doomed, leading to a vigorous defense of her by Mr. Obama in his first post-election news conference. Since then, GOP lawmakers had appeared to soften their views. Mr. McCain, who said earlier this month that would he do everything in his power to scuttle a Rice nomination, said Sunday that he was willing to hear Ms. Rice out before making a decision.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican, who is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had issued a statement highly critical of Ms. Rice on the day of Mr. Obama’s news conference. He indicated Monday that perhaps she didn’t know what had transpired in Benghazi on the day of the attack.

“I assumed she had full knowledge of everything that went on. I’m not at all convinced of that now. She very well could have been thrown under the bus,” Mr. Inhofe said in an interview. He said she hadn’t requested a meeting but he would be glad to meet with her.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the administration appreciated Mr. McCain’s latest comments about Ms. Rice, but he wouldn’t say whether the president saw them as an opening to make the nomination.

“Ambassador Rice has done an excellent job at the United Nations and is highly qualified for any number of positions,” Mr. Carney said.

Several diplomats currently serving with Ms. Rice said that what she lacked in Mrs. Clinton’s star power, she could make up with a blunter approach that demands attention and has marked her tenure thus far at the United Nations.

Ms. Rice, who at 48 is relatively young, has been known to covet the job for years but was passed over for Mrs. Clinton in 2009. Since arriving in New York, she can point to a series of diplomatic achievements — most notably the NATO-led air campaign that toppled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and tougher sanctions against Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs.

But Ms. Rice has also been criticized — along with other Security Council leaders — for the failure of the U.N.’s most powerful body to take action to end the 19-month civil war in Syria.

Associated Press writers Matthew Lee in Washington and Edith M. Lederer in New York contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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