United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice is meeting with senators on Capitol Hill today to answer questions about the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya. Her appearance will include a morning meeting with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who have been among her biggest critics since her initial remarks on the attack.
Rice has come under fire from Republicans for her initial account of the attack five days after it took place, when she suggested that there was no evidence the incident was an act of terrorism. On CBS News' "Face the Nation," in one example, she said the "assessment at present" was that "based on the best information we have to date...it began spontaneously in Benhgazi as a reaction to what had transpired some hours earlier in Cairo, where of course as you know there was a violent protest outside our embassy sparked by this hateful video." She added that "extremist elements" then joined the effort.
The White House later said the assault was a preplanned terror attack, and some Republicans have suggested that they would block Rice's possible nomination to become Secretary of State for her role in what some say was a cover-up by the administration. Rice and her allies said she was merely repeating talking points given to her by the CIA and approved by the wider intelligence community. She said she "made clear that the information was preliminary, and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers."
In recent days, top Republicans have seemed to soften their criticism. McCain said on "Fox News Sunday" that he could change his mind about blocking her potential nomination, saying he would "give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took." He added that Rice is "not the problem." Graham - who last week called Rice "so disconnected to reality I don't trust her" - said Sunday he places the blame for the account on "the president above all others" and declined to say outright he would oppose Rice's nomination to become Secretary of State.
Rice is being accompanied on Capitol Hill by acting CIA Director Mike Morell. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., will also attend Rice's meeting with McCain and Graham, which was requested by Rice's office following the Republicans' criticism. On November 14, President Obama defended Rice from the criticism from GOP senators, saying that "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me." He added that to "besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
CBS News' Margaret Brennan and Jill Jackson contributed to this report.
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