Friday, May 25, 2018

Rice concedes error on Benghazi attack; Republicans dig in

WASHINGTON — Susan E. Rice may have hoped that paying a conciliatory call on three hostile Senate Republicans on Tuesday would smooth over a festering dispute about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, and clear a roadblock to her nomination as secretary of state.

But the senators seemed anything but mollified, signaling instead that they would still oppose Rice, the ambassador to the United Nations, if she is nominated by President Barack Obama, even after she conceded errors in the account of the assault she gave on Sunday morning television programs shortly after it occurred in September.

Two of the Republicans, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, said they would seek to block Rice, who according to administration officials remains Obama's preferred choice to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. The third Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, said on Fox that he would be "very hard-pressed" to support Rice.

"Bottom line, I'm more disturbed than I was before," Graham said after the tense, closed-door meeting.

The continued criticism of Rice, 48, a diplomat with close ties to Obama, deepens an already-bitter and unusually personal feud between the White House and Republicans over Libya. Responding to a question about criticism of Rice at a news conference two weeks ago, Obama said: "If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me."

It also raises the prospect of a confirmation battle if the president goes ahead with nominating Rice. To some extent, that battle is already under way, even before he has submitted her name. Rice's visits to senators, which will continue today, bear all the hallmarks of a presidential nominee seeking to win over reluctant legislators.

A senior administration official said the harsh reaction to her appearance Tuesday would have no effect on Rice's chances for secretary of state.

"They've been saying the same thing for months," he said.

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, is the other leading candidate for the post. Several senators, including McCain, said they would prefer Kerry and predicted he would sail through a confirmation hearing.

In a statement after the meeting, Rice said she incorrectly described the attack in Benghazi — which killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans — as a spontaneous protest gone awry rather than a premeditated terrorist attack. But she said she based her remarks on the intelligence then available — intelligence that changed over time.

"Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in the process," said Rice, who was accompanied in the meeting by the acting CIA director, Michael J. Morrell.

Rice had requested the meeting amid signs that McCain and Graham were softening their criticism. "She deserves the ability and the opportunity to explain herself," McCain said Sunday.

Assuming the White House had the support of every Senate Democrat, it would have to win over only five Republicans to gain a filibuster-proof majority.

Comments
Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

Rare red wolf pups born at ZooTampa

The pups are an important addition to the populations of this rare Florida species, and the first red wolf births at the zoo since 1993.
Updated: 3 minutes ago
Increased scholarships aim to boost college access in Pinellas County

Increased scholarships aim to boost college access in Pinellas County

A handful of new scholarship opportunities and initiatives will aim to boost local access to higher education in Pinellas County, state representatives and higher education officials announced this week.The goal is to help local students make it all ...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Updated: 9 minutes ago

Top 5 at noon: Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay; can group that advocates for LGBT rights make itself heard in today’s GOP? and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com:SUBTROPICAL STORM ALBERTO FORMS IN CARIBBEAN, THREATENS TO DRENCH TAMPA BAYThe first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean and threatens to drench the Tampa...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay

Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Caribbean, threatens to drench Tampa Bay

TAMPA— The first tropical system of the 2018 hurricane season has formed in the Caribbean and threatens to drench the Tampa Bay area with heavy rains and potential flooding over the Memorial Day weekend.The National Hurricane Center says Subtropical ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

FSU football fans: How do you remember Jimbo Fisher?

Former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher should be back in the state next week for the SEC's spring meetings in Destin. It is, to my knowledge, his first big trip back to Florida since leaving for Texas A&M in December.With that in mind, my questi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Where lava meets the sea

Where lava meets the sea

Associated Press photographer Jae C. Hong has spent much of the past few weeks in Pahoa, Hawaii, documenting the explosive eruption of the Kilauea volcano. Below, Hong recounts a rough and awe-inspiring trip on a bobbing boat to make images of the si...
Updated: 1 hour ago
This conservative group advocates for LGBTQ rights. Can it make itself heard in today’s GOP?

This conservative group advocates for LGBTQ rights. Can it make itself heard in today’s GOP?

A small crowd of Tampa Bay-area Republicans met last week in Tampa to advocate for a cause not typically associated with the party: LGBTQ rights.Six elected officials, including state representatives, Hillsborough County commissioners and a state sen...
Updated: 1 hour ago
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Updated: 1 hour ago