Obama zeroed in on Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who said U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice's statements about the Sept. 11 deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, should disqualify her from consideration as a potential secretary of state. U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.
"She made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her," Obama said. "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. And I'd be happy to have that discussion with them.
"But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi? And was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received?" Obama said. "And to besmirch her reputation is outrageous."
Obama said he didn't think it was debatable that "that when you have four Americans killed, that's a problem. And we've got to get to the bottom of it and there needs to be accountability. We've got to bring those who carried it out to justice."
"But when they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me," he said.
Obama said he would nominate Rice "if I think that she would be the best person" to succeed Hillary Clinton when she steps down as secretary of state as she said she would.
However, he said, "that's not a determination that I've made yet."
"Mr. President, don't think for one minute I don't hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi," Graham said in a statement. "I think you failed as commander in chief before, during, and after the attack."
Graham said the American people and the victims of the attack were owed "full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate."
"Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle," he said.
McCain expressed similar sentiments in a statement, saying comments Obama and others made at various times soon after the Sept. 11 attack were contradictory.
"Those statements clearly did not comport with the facts on the ground," McCain said in a statement. "We owe the American people and the families of the murdered Americans a full and complete explanation .... ."
CSPAN reported Graham, McCain and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., announced Wednesday they would introduce a resolution to form a temporary Select Committee to look into the timeline and what happened in the Benghazi attack.
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