Three top Republican senators are scheduled to meet Tuesday with Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, as Rice continues to be discussed as one of the top candidates to replace Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when Clinton steps down next year.
Rice, after facing intense Republican scrutiny and criticism for her initial comments on the deadly attack in September on a U.S. consulate in Libya, is expected to meet with Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.
McCain and Ayotte told Fox News that Rice had requested the meeting.
Ayotte said she isn’t sure if the discussion will stick to Libya, but she thinks this could help her reassess her reservations about Rice as President Obama’s potential secretary of state nominee.
Clinton has said she will step down as soon as her replacement is ready. Rice and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have been the top names discussed for the job.
McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has demanded Rice be held accountable for her public explanation of events following the fatal Sept. 11 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. He wouldn’t say Monday whether she could allay his concerns.
“I’m not going to go into the whole tick tock, but it’s clear what my concerns are,” he told Fox News. “She told the American people things that were patently untrue … As I said at the time people don’t go to demonstrations with mortars and rocket propelled grenades.”
Rice, while making the rounds on five Sunday show appearances Sept. 16, five days after the attacks, said they were “spontaneous” violence that seemed to grow out of a protest of an anti-Islamic video. But further scrutiny revealed no evidence of a protest outside the consulate on the night of the attacks, and U.S. intelligence officials later said it appeared to be a pre-planned terrorist attack.
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. A local Libyan extremist group that sympathizes with Al Qaeda is suspected of carrying out the attack, though it remains unclear how much planning was involved and how much the anti-Islam video served as a motivating factor.
Rice has said only that she was working off talking points given to her.
She said on Wednesday that she had “great respect” for McCain and his service to the country and that she looks forward to discussing with him the entire issue, including some “unfounded” statements he made about her.
McCain, who vowed to block any attempt to appoint Rice as the next secretary of state, hinted Sunday that he might be moving away from his hard-line approach.
“She deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “She’s not the problem. The problem is the president.”
Fox News’ John Brandt and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
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