By Julian Pecquet - 11/28/12 05:02 PM EST
Sen. Susan Collins (Maine) on Wednesday became the latest GOP senator to raise questions about Susan Rice.
After an almost two-hour meeting with the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Collins said she's unconvinced by Rice's explanation of her role after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Collins, a centrist Republican who would be a key vote for Rice if President Obama nominates her as his next secretary of State, also said she is concerned about Rice's role in denying security requests prior to the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa.
Collins's statement comes after three key Senate Republicans said Tuesday they were “more troubled” than ever after meeting with Rice, who had been seen as a front-runner to get the nod for secretary of State. The U.S. ambassador's apparent failure to win over any Republicans during her two-day visit to Capitol Hill has thrown that nomination into serious doubt.
Collins said Rice told her she ignored statements from Libya's own president linking the attack to al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists because she was relying on U.S. intelligence.
“I don't understand why she wouldn't have at least qualified her response” on the Sept. 16 Sunday shows, Collins said. Rice said on Sept. 16 that the attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans appeared to have spun out of a peaceful protest against an anti-Islam video but that the intelligence was preliminary.
Collins also raised new questions about Rice's role in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, when she was then-President Clinton's assistant secretary of State for African Affairs — tying it with GOP concerns that the Obama administration turned down Stevens's requests for more security prior to the attack.
“What troubles me so much is the Benghazi attack in many ways echoes the attacks on both embassies in 1998, when Susan Rice was head of the African region for our State Department,” Collins said. “In both cases, the ambassador begged for additional security.”
Collins said Rice told her “she was not involved directly in turning down the requests.”
“But surely,” Collins added, “given her position .. she had to be aware of the general threat assessment and the ambassadors' repeated requests for more security ... [h]er actions — and whether or not lessons were learned from the 1998 attacks on our embassies in Africa — are important questions.”
“I would need to get additional information before I could support her nomination” to be secretary of State, Collins concluded.