Mitchell Reports | November 28, 2012
>>> two more republican senators are raising tough questions about susan rice 's qualifications to be secretary of state. among them, in a meeting yesterday, senator kelly ayotte republican from new hampshire, she and mccain and graham met with the ambassador yesterday. senator, thanks very much for joining us. i wanted to ask you --
>> thank you, andrea .
>> you said you had a number of concerns, chief among them, do you think she's not qualified to be secretary of state? because your office then indicated that you would put a hold on her nomination at this stage.
>> i've said from the beginning that at this point there's still substantial questions that need to be answered and until they were answered, as to what happened and yesterday we had another changing story on the talking points unfortunately, that certainly if she were nominated -- she's not been nominated yet -- i would put a hold until those questions were answered. then i would pass judgment. i do have serious concerns about what i heard. first of all, i think there was an impression left that somehow she just went on and repeated the unclassified talking points . bear in mind, that that's not the case. she did review the daily intelligence briefings as part of her position in the u.n. and, in fact, reviewed the briefings that contained the references to al qaeda that individuals with ties to al qaeda were involved. and then yet, went on the sunday show and left a very different impression. let's not forget that on those sunday shows on "meet the press" as well as "face the nation" she also made the statement that al qaeda was decimated. and so it left a misleading impression to the american people . i was also troubled that they knew by the 21st the acting director of the cia said that the information about the reaction to the video and the protest was wrong and that no one corrected it, including ambassador rice, even though she had left that impression on every single network, op every sunday show. that left me very concerned about that as well.
>> did she say to you that she had reviewed intelligence specifically about benghazi, that had the additional information? she couldn't say so publicly. had she reviewed that intelligence? did she affirm that to you or are you assuming that she had?
>> she did review it.
>> so, in other words, she knew better than what you're saying that she knew better?
>> yes. that's one of the questions i have and one of the questions that i didn't feel i got a satisfactory answer to, which is if you knew that even though the classified version, obviously, had references to al qaeda in it being involved or individuals with ties to al qaeda involved in it, how could you not know when you go on every sunday show and not include that fact that it would leave a very different impression to the american people , particularly on two of those networks where she also said in answer to another question, that al qaeda had been decimated.
>> senator, senator lieberman met with her separately yesterday and here is part of what he said yesterday afterwards.
>> i would not feel that her appearances and anything she said on those sunday morning talk shows september 16th would disqualify her for appointment to any other office.
>> does his judgment give you any pause?
>> i have great respect for senator lieberman , but on this issue, i'm making my own judgment. i'm very concerned about the judgment that she used in going on every single sunday show and making the representations that she made and then when she knew them to be wrong not correcting them. and in addition to that, these are important questions for someone that may be nominated to the important position of such stature as secretary of state. in addition to that, i think my colleague from maine raised some very important questions about her role in the 1998 embassy bombings as well that i appreciated senator collins with her experience those are questions that should be answered as well.
>> she -- are you persuaded are or is senator collins from what she said persuaded she had line authority back in 1998 , 14 years ago? she was the assistant secretary for african affairs then?
>> as i understand it, you know, senator collins raised the questions about what her role was there. she has asked for answers about what her role was with respect to embassy security and embassy security requests that were made prior to those two -- the attacks on our embassies there and so i don't know that those questions have been answered but i think they're important questions that were raised by senator collins and i certainly respect her experience in this area.
>> senator, some have suggested that she is being treated differently because she's a woman and a woman of color. that white men who come to the senate as potential nominees don't get grilled this way. can you respond to that?
>> i think that that's absolutely false. you know, one of the nominations that they should look back on is the nomination of john bolton , but in addition to that, what disappoints me most when those types are claims are made is that it really does diminish real issues of sexism and racism that exists. so we're looking purely at her qualifications and also really actions that she took and i think that is our responsibility as senators and what we should be doing.
>> there's another suggestion that has been made that this is a republican attempt to get her so wounded that john kerry is nominated instead, which would then open up a vacancy and lead to a special election in massachusetts that scott brown would then be teed up for. is there an effort here that has to do with senate politics, raw politics?
>> absolutely absurd, andrea . i would remind you, this is an issue i was pursuing and others long before the election, before we knew whether scott brown was going to win that election. i think that claim is absurd.
>> and finally, do you have any concerns about weakening her? she is now the u.n. ambassador. there's an important debate tomorrow on palestinian statehood in the general assembly . this is being played out before the entire world. if she does get nominated and does get confirmed and your questions are answered, and even now in her current job are we weakening her as the representative of the united states ?
>> andrea , i think that those issues will be decided on their own, but let me put it this way -- it was really the administration that has floated her name for this incredibly important position. it was the white house who asked her to go on every single sunday show in which she made the misrepresentations. and also, they knew by the 22nd that what she said was wrong and no one came forward and corrected it. so i think that these are important questions to ask, but let's not forget who has offered her name out there for the important position of secretary of state.
>> and what would your advice be to the president?
>> my advice to the president, and i don't presume to give him advice, it's his nomination, that he would make on his own decision, but obviously these are very important questions that have not been answered and i would expect that he would want answers to them before making this nomination.
>> senator kelly ayotte, thank you very much for joining us today.
>> thank you.