Top Republican: Susan Rice Should Resign for Misleading on Benghazi
Peter King (R-NY), Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, called on US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice to resign Friday evening.
King told CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
I believe that this was such a failure of foreign policy message and leadership, such a misstatement of facts as were known at the time and for her to go on all of those shows and to in effect be our spokesman for the world and be misinforming the American people and our allies and countries around the world, to me somebody has to pay the price for this… I can see why if they wanted to say it's too early to say it's definitively terrorism but to rule out terrorism, to say it was not terrorism at that time was a -- to me, a terrible mistake to make whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally and to show the significance of that, I believe she should resign, yes.
In an unusual move, the Obama administration had called on Ambassador Rice, who had no specific reason to be familiar with the details of State Department operations in Libya, to appear on NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week on Sunday, September 16 -- five days after the American mission in Benghazi, Libya was attacked and four Americans, including American Ambassador Chris Stevens, were murdered.
On both programs, Rice boldly asserted several facts about the attacks which were known to be untrue at the time and which have subsequently been widely debunked. Specifically, Rice claimed that the attacks were "a spontaneous -- not premeditated -- response to what had transpired in Cairo," where earlier on September 11, 2012 mobs purportedly angry at an obscure Anti-Muslim film made in the United States stormed the American embassy and burned the American flag. ABC's This Week host Jake Tapper was skeptical of Ambassador Rice's claims from the outset:
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi last week was not premeditated, directly contradicting top Libyan officials who say the attack was planned in advance. (emphasis added)
“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,” Rice told me this morning on “This Week.”
“In Cairo, as you know, a few hours earlier, there was a violent protest that was undertaken in reaction to this very offensive video that was disseminated,” Rice said, referring to protests in Egypt Tuesday over a film that depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud. Protesters in Cairo breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy, tearing apart an American flag.
“We believe that folks in Benghazi, a small number of people came to the embassy to – or to the consulate, rather, to replicate the sort of challenge that was posed in Cairo,” Rice said. “And then as that unfolded, it seems to have been hijacked, let us say, by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons… And it then evolved from there.”
Late Friday, the White House Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, Jr., admitted the Benghazi attack was not spontaneous but was, in fact, a highly coordinated and planned attack headed up by Al-Qaeda operatives. As the Washington Post reported:
The release from the office of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. came as lawmakers sought more details about the siege in Benghazi. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the State Department on Thursday posing questions about intelligence in the period leading up to the attack and the adequacy of the security at U.S. compounds.
Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Clapper, said U.S. agencies have altered their assessments based on intelligence that has emerged through an ongoing investigation.
“In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo,” Turner said. That information was conveyed to administration officials as well as members of Congress.
But analysts have since “revised our initial assessments to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists,” Turner said. “Some of those involved were linked to groups affiliated with, or sympathetic to al-Qaeda.”
Ambassador Rice has not yet responded publicly to Congressman King's call for her resignation.