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Sen. Collins: Rice played 'political role' in Benghazi response

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) emerged from an almost two-hour meeting with Susan Rice Wednesday morning unconvinced by her explanation of her role after the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi and concerned about her role in denying security requests prior to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa.

“I continue to be troubled by the fact that the UN ambassador decided to play what was essentially a political role at the height of a contentious presidential election ... by agreeing to go on the Sunday shows to present the administration's position,” the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee said.

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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 to the United Nations' 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. 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. Republicans have blamed the Obama administration for turning 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.”

For more on Collins's comments, click here.