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“Unfortunately, to date, much of the discourse about the events surrounding the deadly attack against our facilities in Benghazi has focused on the preparation and dissemination of unclassified talking points,” Mr. Levin said.

While he said the talking points issue may be “relevant,” Mr. Levin argued that more important issues center on the questions of who carried out the Benghazi attack, why they carried it out, and how the United States can bring them to justice and prevent future attacks.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and the committee’s ranking member, asserted otherwise.

“What I think is worse is the cover-up,” Mr. Inhofe said, adding that even as the events in Benghazi were unfolding, there could be no denying that the second wave of the attack, on the annex near the diplomatic post, was “unequivocally a terrorist attack.”

Mr. Inhofe said that Mrs. Rice knew this but went on a string of Sunday morning talk shows anyway to say “something that was completely false.”

“That’s something that can’t be ignored,” he said. “We sit around all day long and talk about the resources that we should have and don’t have. … [But] the big problem here is the cover-up, and nobody talks about it, and that’s a tragedy.”

⦁ Kristina Wong contributed to this report.