U.N. ambassador Susan Rice told senators she was wrong when she attributed the Benghazi attack to a spontaneous protest that was a reaction to an anti-Islam video on television on Sept. 16, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told The Cable.
Rice, however, immediately contradicted McCain's readout of the meeting and said that the intelligence community was wrong on one detail of the day's events: the notion that there was a protest outside the U.S. mission in Benghazi.
Rice met with McCain, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) in the Capitol this morning along with acting CIA Director Mike Morrell. McCain, in a short interview following the meeting, said that he was troubled by several of her answers. He also said that Rice clearly stated she was wrong when she made her original statements on the attack, and McCain called on Rice to repeat that admission publicly.
"It's one thing to tell me; it's something else to tell the American people," McCain said.
McCain said he was unhappy with several of Rice's answers on how the State Department handled the issue before, during, and after the attack.
"There are a number of issues, such as previous intelligence reports that the situation was unraveling," McCain said.
Rice's potential nomination to be secretary of state was not discussed in the meeting, but McCain said he was not ready to support a potential nomination.
"I certainly am not convinced," he said.
Speaking briefly with reporters at the Capitol after the meeting, both Graham and Ayotte said they too had several ongoing problems with Rice's accounting of events.
"I'm more convinced than ever that it was bad, it was unjustified, to give the scenario presented by Ambassador Rice and President Obama three weeks before an election," Graham said.
"I'm more troubled today, knowing ... having met with the acting director of the CIA and Ambassador Rice," Ayotte said, "because it's certainly clear from the beginning that we knew that those with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attack on the embassy."
In a statement, Rice defended her Sept. 16 statements as based on the best intelligence available at the time but acknowledged that the information she gave was wrong in the sense that there was no protest outside the U.S. mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11 before the attack.
"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. We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved," she said.
Rice will meet with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) later this afternoon.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.