McCain, Graham defend Obama State. Dept. nominee linked to Benghazi

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Friday offered a preemptive defense of President Obama's nominee to head European affairs at the State Department amid concerns about her role in the Benghazi talking points.

Obama nominated former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland for the post on Thursday, just as news broke that House Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) had asked that she be deposed by his committee. In a joint statement praising Nuland, the two longtime critics of the administration's handling of Benghazi highlighted Nuland's experience serving as principal deputy foreign policy adviser to then-Vice President Cheney and U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush.

“Ambassador Victoria Nuland has a long and distinguished record of service to our nation in both Republican and Democrat Administrations,” they wrote. “She is knowledgeable and well-versed on the major foreign policy issues as well as respected by foreign policy experts in both parties. We look forward to her upcoming confirmation hearings in the United States Senate.”

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The statement comes as Nuland's role in crafting the talking points that cost U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice a shot at becoming secretary of State has only recently come to light. Other vocal critics of the administration's response to last year's terrorist attack – notably Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) – may yet decide to block her long-expected nomination.

According to internal documents released by the White House last week, Nuland raised concerns about blaming the attack on al Qaeda linked militants, saying she had “serious concerns” about lawmakers “making assertions to the media that we ourselves are not making because we don’t want to prejudice the investigation.”

She also urged the talking points' drafters to remove references to warnings of past attacks on the mission, saying those references could be used by lawmakers to attack the State Department.

“The penultimate point,” she wrote, “could be abused by Members to beat the State Department for not paying attention to Agency warnings so why do we want to feed that either? Concerned…"

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