Republican Senator Lindsey Graham on Sunday fought back against attempts by George Stephanopoulos to cover for the Obama administration's handling of the terrorist attack in Libya. The This Week anchor and former aide to Bill Clinton pushed Graham, a vocal critic of the President, to retreat on opposing the elevation of UN Ambassador Susan Rice's elevation to Secretary of State.
Stephanopoulos pushed, "All of the evidence is that Ambassador Rice was using the information given to her by the intelligence community." After playing a clip of Rice insisting she was only repeating intelligence information, Stephanopoulos cajoled, "Do you accept the explanation of Ambassador Rice?" Graham aggressively fought back against's Stephanopoulos' spin: "There was an al Qaeda storm brewing for months. I blame the President above all others! And we'll get to the bottom of this." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: Here is what I want to know: Have the intelligence community, not the deputies, the people on the ground, put in one pile all the evidence of a preplanned, coordinated, terrorist attack with al Qaeda militia in one pot and put in the other pot the evidence that this was a spontaneous mob created by a hateful video. I have seen no evidence.
After the Republican's complaints, Stephanopoulos defaulted, "So, do you still oppose Ambassador Rice's elevation to Secretary of State, if that's what President Obama chooses to do?"
A transcript of the November 25 exchange follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Graham, let me ask you about the fallout from the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and UN Ambassador Susan Rice. You've been highly critical of Ambassador Rice. And this week, for the first time this week she responded. Take a look.
SUSAN RICE: When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Graham, we also learned also this week from the director of National Intelligence that references of al Qaeda and terrorism in talking points she were given were taken out for security reasons not by political officials for political reasons. Do you accept the explanation of Ambassador Rice?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: [Shakes head] I don't believe that the best intelligence assessment on the 16 September that there was a spontaneous event in Benghazi that led to a mob that became a riot. The CIA station chief on the day of attack, reported in real time, "we're under attack by al qaeda affiliates." The president in Libya said said on the day of the attack– excuse me on 16 September, al Qaeda was involved. We got drones. Release the video. We all know what a mob looks like in the Middle East. I'm increasingly convinced– the FBI interviewed the survivors in Ramstein, Germany the day after– I'm increasingly convinced that the best, current intelligence assessment on 16 September went against a video. The video was a political smokescreen. The actual facts were, this was a coordinated preplanned terrorist attack. When the President said on Letterman, we're not going to let some hateful video turn the Mid East that they're not relying on the best intelligence assessment. They're pushing a political story.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Senator, all of the evidence is that Ambassador– All of the evidence is that Ambassador Rice was using the information given to her by the intelligence community.
GRAHAM: I don't believe that! Here is what I want to know: Have the intelligence community, not the deputies, the people on the ground, put in one pile all the evidence of a preplanned, coordinated, terrorist attack with al Qaeda militia in one pot and put in the other pot the evidence that this was a spontaneous mob created by a hateful video. I have seen no evidence. What did the FBI get from the survivors? They said there was never a mob to begin with. There were mobs– there were riots in the Middle East, but none of them had mortars and why for seven hours could we not help these poor people? Where was the department of defense? And when you look at the history of Benghazi, George, August 16th, there was a report coming out of Benghazi, saying that there are ten al Qaeda militias roaming around Benghazi. We can't withstand a coordinated attack. This was on 16, August. The British closed their consulate in Benghazi. The Red Cross left. We kept our consulate open unreinforced. There was an al Qaeda storm brewing for months. I blame the President above all others! And we'll get to the bottom of this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You're as forceful as ever. So, do you still oppose Ambassador Rice's elevation to Secretary of State, if that's what President Obama chooses to do?
GRAHAM: When she comes over, if she does, there will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others, but I do not believe that the video is the cause, when 14 of September, when Secretary Clinton told the families we're going to put in the jail the man who made this video, she should have said, "I'm sorry we left the consulate open and it became a death trap. I'm sorry we couldn't help your family for over seven hours. I don't believe the video is the reason for this. That was a political story, not an intel story, and we're going to hold people accountable for a major national security breakdowns three weeks before the election. That is our job and we will do our job.