White House National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice predicted Wednesday that the House’s new investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack won’t uncover any new information, saying the ground has already been thoroughly explored.
“House and Senate committees have pronounced on this repeatedly, so it’s hard to imagine what further will come of yet another committee,” said Ms. Rice, who played a key role in the administration’s early public relations push to characterize the attacks as mob violence spurred by an anti-Islam video, rather than a coordinated assault on the U.S. facility.
Wednesday’s remarks were her first extended comments following the decision by the House Republican leadership last week to create the select committee to investigate all aspects of the Benghazi controversy.
Ms. Rice said the focus going forward should be on safety at diplomatic posts, not to point fingers over mistakes in the past.
“What is lost in all of this discussion about Sunday shows and talking points is that we lost four brave Americans on that day, and their families and those of us who work with them continue to grieve, and the last thing we need to do is to lose any more,” she said at a luncheon hosted by the Women’s Foreign Policy Group.
Ms. Rice, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, may be called to testify to the new investigation, which House Republicans formed after deciding the administration hadn’t been forthcoming with information about the lead-up to the attack and the way the attacks were portrayed in the immediate aftermath.
An email released last month showed the White House tried to coach Ms. Rice ahead of a round of Sunday political talk shows. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said that she should emphasize that anti-U.S. protests then breaking out in the Muslim world were in response to the anti-Islam video, not a failure of administration policy.
Defense and intelligence community sources at the time had already disregarded the video as the reason for the Benghazi attack, which claimed the lives of four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
Democrats are still weighing whether to take part in the new investigative committee, with some arguing that if they boycott altogether, it would leave Ms. Rice or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton open to having to testify before an all-GOP committee, with no defenders on the panel.
For her part, Ms. Rice said Wednesday it would be better if lawmakers spent less time on Benghazi and more time on approving administration requests for more funds to beef up security at other U.S. diplomatic sites in dangerous spots around the globe.
“We have a budget request on the Hill for $4.6 billion that is necessary, in the administration’s judgment, to make the kind of upgrades and provide the kind of security that our facilities need. Let’s focus on that,” she said.
The select committee’s chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, has promised an unbiased investigation. In February, he did say he would “love” the chance to ask follow-up questions of Ms. Rice after she said on “Meet the Press” that month she had no regrets about repeating the talking points about the video.
“She was fabulously wrong when she said it the first time and stunningly arrogant in her refusal to express any regret for lying to our fellow citizens,” Mr. Gowdy told Fox News.
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