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McCain eases up on Rice

Says he’s willing to hear her explanation

WASHINGTON – The top Republican to oppose a nomination of Susan Rice as new secretary of state softened his opposition and said Sunday he was open to hearing her explain why she declared the burning of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was part of a protest rather than a terrorist attack.

“I’d give everyone the benefit of explaining their position and the actions that they took,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I’d be glad to have the opportunity to discuss these issues with her.”

Also Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a critic of how the administration handled fallout from the Benghazi attack, said President Barack Obama more than Rice is responsible for her television comments claiming the Sept. 11 Libyan attack was a spontaneous eruption from protesters angry over an anti-Islam video.

“I blame the president above all others,” Graham said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But if Obama sends Rice’s nomination to the Senate for confirmation as secretary of state, Graham said, “There will be a lot of questions asked of her about this event and others.”

Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, appeared on several Sunday talk shows after the consulate attack and said that the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, were prompted by the video. Republicans immediately suggested the administration was trying to cover up the incident in the weeks before the presidential election.

Last week, Rice said she had relied “solely and squarely” on preliminary information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.