Obama’s Europe Envoy to Face Benghazi Questions

Amb. Victoria Nuland, Nominee for Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

From Bradley Clapper, AP:  President Barack Obama’s choice as chief American envoy for Europe [Victoria Nuland] faces the Senate Thursday in a confirmation hearing that could go far beyond issues of trans-Atlantic diplomacy to questions about the administration’s handling of the Benghazi attack and its plan to arm Syria’s rebels. . . .

"There are still some things that need to be known," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who told [Hillary] Clinton earlier this year he would have fired her after Benghazi. Paul told The Associated Press he hoped to learn at the confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee whether weapons used in the Sept. 11 Benghazi had any connection to U.S. intelligence operations in Libya or Syria. . . .

Leading Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina have come out in favor of Nuland despite accusations by some in their party that she helped State Department superiors water down the now-infamous talking points used by the administration to inform Americans about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission.

"There are many questions still unanswered," McCain told reporters Wednesday. He said he saw nothing wrong with how Nuland acted but he still wants the administration to provide more information about those who survived the attack and those who ultimately signed off on the talking points.

It’s unclear whether everyone shares that view.

Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the senior Republican on the committee, said he wouldn’t raise the issue Thursday.

But Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., who had a heated exchange with Clinton at her final Senate hearing in January, said only some of his Benghazi concerns were allayed in private discussions with Nuland. "We’ll see what happens at the hearing," he said. . . .

As the talking points were being edited, Nuland insisted on removing a reference to a CIA warning about the potential for anti-American demonstrations in Cairo and jihadists trying to break into that embassy. In emails released by the administration, she warned that such wording "could be abused" by lawmakers to criticize her department. She specifically cited the concerns of her "building’s leadership."

Few accuse the three-decade-long foreign service officer — a one-time adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney and a former NATO ambassador — of instigating any sort of cover-up. But with Clinton weighing a possible run at the presidency in 2016, some Republicans want to hear more about why the points were edited and at whose insistence. . . .

Kerry’s spokeswoman, Jen Pskai said, he "has been impressed with not only her extensive career as a foreign service officer, but with her superior level of talent, intellect and commitment to working on behalf of the United States."

A group of more than two dozen former Cabinet members, senators, ambassadors and senior officials in Republican and Democratic organizations also voiced support for Nuland, calling her one of the nation’s "most outstanding career diplomats."

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations European affairs subcommittee, said he’d focus on U.S.-European trade talks, rebalancing the military burden among NATO allies, instability in Turkey and Russia’s crackdown on civil society groups. But he added, "I’m resigned to the fact that the Republicans are going to use any and every opportunity to talk about Benghazi."   (photo: Department of State)

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