The ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said whether or not U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice lied about Benghazi is “not an issue.”
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) told CNN before this morning’s closed-door hearings, at which Rice was not a witness, “to get more questions answered about this whole situation, Benghazi and some of the issues involving General Petraeus.”
In addition to getting these hearings under way, though, Democrats were also defending Rice from the vow of Republicans such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that they would block any nomination she might receive for the secretary of State position.
At issue is the string of appearances Rice made on the Sunday news shows five days after the Sept. 11 attack, blaming an anti-Muhammad video for the assault.
That threat from lawmakers invoked the most impassioned response on any issue from President Obama at his press conference yesterday.
“Information Rice received, she received from the administration. That information is what she knew at that time,” Ruppersberger said.
“Whether or not she knew other information and whether or not she told the truth, that is not an issue here. So I think the president made a comment about that yesterday that she received information from his administration and that’s what she went forward with,” he said. “That is one of the issues and one of the concerns we had because we, on the Intelligence Committee, received the same information initially. Since the interviews and the meetings we had yesterday, a lot of that is being cleared up.”
Ruppersberger wouldn’t say whether he would support a Rice nomination.
“I’m the ranking member on the Intelligence Committee. I don’t vote on that. As far as I know, she’s doing a good job. That’s up to the president whether he’s going to nominate her. That’s up to the senators on what information comes out about her, about her conduct and about her job,” he said.
If he had an opinion, the congressman said, “I’m not going to give it.”
“I don’t think it’s relevant at this point,” Ruppersberger said. “I’m focused on Benghazi and I’m focused on the investigation, where it’s going to go, and national security. So at this point that’s not where my focus is going to be.”