White House blames GOP for Rice-Keystone flap

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The White House accused Republicans on Thursday of digging up information that U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice owns stock in the company seeking to build the Keystone pipeline, and wouldn’t say whether it might harm her potential nomination as Secretary of State.

“I would commend Republican opposition researchers for the intellectual bandwidth that is required to read a financial disclosure form, because this was all documented in a financial disclosure form, entirely appropriately, legally, and by the book,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said, although the disclosure was actually first reported on an environmentalist group’s Web site.

Mrs. Rice, who is under fire from Republican lawmakers who accuse her of misleading the public about the lethal terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, owns as much as $600,000 worth of shares of TransCanada, whose proposed Keystone pipeline is being reviewed by the State Department.

President Obama is said to be leaning toward nominating Mrs. Rice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who is leaving the post.

Mr. Carney said the president hasn’t nominated Mrs. Rice to be secretary of state, and rejected suggestions of a possible conflict as hypothetical. He said the disclosure of her stock ownership is more “politics” from Republicans.

“What this represents, I think, in vivid fashion, is what I’ve been talking about for a while now, which is that none of this has anything to do with the tragedy that occurred in Benghazi,” Mr. Carney said. “This is about politics. And that’s a shame.”

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee declined to comment.

The information about Mrs. Rice’s stock ownership was originally disclosed on the web site of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Mr. Carney said reporters are “not so naïve [as] to believe that we’re not seeing these articles because of the continued assault that’s been taking place on Ambassador Rice that has all started with the nonevent of her appearances on Sunday shows.”

Mrs. Rice has spent the last two months in the hot seat over her initial statements on the Sunday news shows that the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi was a spontaneous event arising from protests over an anti-Islam film rather than a premeditated terrorist attack.

On Tuesday, Mrs. Rice met for about an hour GOP critics on Capitol Hill, Republican Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte, who threatened to block her nomination if Mr. Obama chooses her for secretary of state or another top post in his second-term Cabinet. She later met with Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, who also said she had more concerns about Mrs. Rice’s statements.

In the closed-door session on Tuesday, Mrs. Rice conceded delivering an inaccurate account about the nature of the assault. The senators said the meeting raised more questions than it answered.

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