WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Susan Collins is the latest Republican senator who has doubts about Susan Rice serving as secretary of state.
Following her meeting with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, the Maine senator said she has more questions about Ambassador Rice, but stopped short of saying she would block Rice’s nomination because the comments she made following the Benghazi terror attack.
“I continue to be troubled by the fact that the U.N. ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of the presidential election,” Collins said.
Rice originally said that the attack on the U.S. compound that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three Americans was not terrorism but a protest of an anti-Muhammed film.
Collins brought up Rice’s time as assistant secretary of state for African affairs while serving under President Bill Clinton, questioning whether Rice ignored threats before the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya that killed more than 200 people.
Collins did say, though, that she would back Democratic Sen. John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton for the position.
“I think John Kerry would be an excellent appointment and would easily be confirmed by his colleagues,” Collins said.
Sen. John Barasso, R-Wyo., also has backed Kerry for secretary of state.
Collins’ comments come a day after Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Kelly Ayotte voiced their displeasure with Rice.
“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,” McCain told reporters Tuesday after meeting with Rice.
Said Graham, “Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before.”
“I’m more troubled today,” said Ayotte, who argued that it was clear in the days after the attack that it was terrorism and not a spontaneous demonstration.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Rice conceded that her initial account – that a spontaneous demonstration over an anti-Muslim video triggered the attack – was wrong, but she insisted she had not been trying to mislead the American people when she made her comments five days later.
“The talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: There was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi,” Rice said in a statement after the meeting. “While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case the intelligence assessment has evolved.”
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