McCain confirms he'll attend Libya hearings after missing one

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Thursday said he would attend both of the Senate Intelligence panels' classified hearings on the Libya attacks after missing a lower-level hearing on the assaults.

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His absence from a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday raised eyebrows among some of his colleagues — including Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the panel’s ranking member — and the White House. The former GOP presidential candidate has been a strong critic of the administration’s handling of the attack, which killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

McCain told The Hill that missing the Wednesday hearing was accidental. "It was a scheduling mistake," McCain said as he walked into the Senate Intelligence hearing. 

McCain’s office on Thursday said the senator would be in attendance at a closed afternoon  hearing with the Senate Intelligence Committee and another panel meeting on Friday with ex-CIA Director David Petraeus.

While lawmakers at Wednesday’s hearing, which McCain missed, heard details from State Department, Department of Defense, FBI and intelligence officials about the attack, Thursday’s hearing will be with higher-level officials.

Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, Undersecretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy and National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen are all expected to testify.

McCain’s scheduling mix-up was amplified by a dust-up on Wednesday between the senator and President Obama. McCain promised to block U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as a nominee if the administration put her forward to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of State because of Rice’s comments that characterized the Libya attack as the result of a protest that got out of control, as opposed to a planned terrorist attack.

Obama on Wednesday shot back at McCain — and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has also pledged to block Rice’s nomination — during his first press conference since winning reelection.

“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me,” Obama said. “And I’m happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”

— This report was originally posted at 12:06 p.m. and last updated at 3:02 p.m.