Clinton was first choice to go on Sunday shows after Benghazi

Clinton was first choice to go on Sunday shows after Benghazi
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Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' Fighter pilot vs. astronaut match-up in Arizona could determine control of Senate Progressive Democrats' turnout plans simply don't add up MORE was the White House's first choice to go on Sunday political talk shows in the immediate aftermath of the 2012 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya, according to testimony revealed by House Select Committee on Benghazi. 

But her office passed on the opportunity.

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Ultimately the job fell to then-United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, who gave a widely panned performance that helped prevent her from succeeding Clinton as secretary of State.

“I recall reaching out to Secretary Clinton first” about the Sunday shows, White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told the GOP-led committee. “I don’t remember hearing back.”

Officials within Clinton’s office at the State Department said that the then-secretary was too busy responding to the violence, which left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead, to consider appearing on TV.

“Candidly, the secretary was so focused on what had happened to our team and what was happening in the region that I don't know that there was a moment's thought about it,” Clinton's former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, told the committee.

“We had a pretty full set of priority phone calls that we needed and that the secretary wanted to — both responsive and proactive phone calls that she needed to make throughout the weekend,” added onetime deputy chief of staff Huma Abedin, according to a transcript released by committee Democrats. “I was much more focused on just getting done what she needed to have done.”

After Clinton, Rhodes said he turned to then-national security adviser Tom Donilon. But Donilon declined, and Rice ultimately accepted the assignment.

Rice was raked over the coals for her performance, where she falsely called the Benghazi attacks spontaneous and appeared to link it directly to an anti-Muslim YouTube video that had caused protests elsewhere in the Arab world.

On NBC'S "Meet the Press," the report notes, Rice called Benghazi a "copycat" of demonstrations in Cairo, even though there were no protests at the Benghazi compound the night of the attacks.

According to the Benghazi committee, the White House set Rice up for the criticism by putting her on the shows without enough information.

In choosing her, "the administration selected someone to talk to the American people about the Benghazi attacks who was neither involved in the security of any U.S. facilities in Benghazi nor involved in any way with the operational response to the attacks,” committee Republicans wrote.

No one from the FBI, Pentagon or CIA participated in a briefing call to prepare Rice for the talk show appearances, the report said. Instead, the call “apparently consisted of just a small circle of Rice’s advisors and communications staffers from the White House.” The call included David Plouffe, the manager of President Obama's 2008 campaign who was a senior White House adviser at the time, according to the report. 

Among other points, the committee noted that Rice was unaware at the time that the CIA had an annex in Benghazi, which is where U.S. officials went to after the temporary diplomatic compound was overrun by extremist militants. During the interviews, Rice also repeatedly referred to the Benghazi outpost as a consulate, which it was not.

After her appearance, officials within the State Department expressed immediate concern that her remarks were not grounded in the truth.

“I think Rice was off the reservation on this one,” the senior Libya desk officer wrote in an email.

“Off the reservation on five networks!” responded another official.