At a press conference this morning with other members of Congress, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) defended U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice against several recent attacks from Republicans in Congress. In her statement, Norton offered documented evidence that Ambassador Rice's remarks on Benghazi were based on the only intelligence available to the administration at the time.
"We will not allow a brilliant public servant's record to be mugged, to cut off her consideration to become Secretary of State," Norton said.
Norton's full opening remarks follow.
Opening Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton
Press Conference Supporting Ambassador Susan Rice
As Prepared for Delivery
November 15, 2012
Some members of the Senate have been unable to contain themselves while we await two ongoing investigations into the tragic attacks in Benghazi, Libya, which took the lives of four Americans, including the ambassador. Instead, they have rushed forward to try to shoot the messenger, prejudge the investigation, and block consideration of Ambassador Susan Rice to be considered for Secretary of State.
They are following the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on which I sit, which called a rare hearing on Benghazi in the middle of our recess -- and of the presidential campaign -- where Republicans scoffed at the irrefutable evidence that Ambassador Rice relied on intelligence from the Office of the National Director of Intelligence. At the hearing, I introduced the statement on the intelligence from the Office of the National Director of Intelligence. which said, "In the immediate aftermath, there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously, following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo. We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress, who used that information to discuss the attack publicly and to provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation, we continued to emphasize that the information gathered was preliminary and evolving." I then asked Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, who testified at the hearing, whether he had any reason to doubt that Ambassador Rice had relied on the information from the National Intelligence Director. He replied, "No, Ms. Norton. When I came up to give a briefing earlier that week, followed I think a day or two later by Ambassador Rice, both of us were relying on the same information. If I, or any other senior administration official, career or non-career, would have been on that television show other than Susan Rice, we would have said the same thing, because we were drawing on the intelligence information that was then available to us. This has been, as you all know, very much an evolving situation. What we knew that first week and that first weekend has evolved over time, so we know much more now than we knew then."
We have no report from the ongoing investigations, but have the accusatory Senators bothered to look at the existing record? What motivates their preemptive judgment of a brilliant woman who has been a career diplomat, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, the youngest Assistant Secretary in our history, whose record led to her presidential appointment as U.N. Ambassador. In both these positions, she has been independent and undeterred by ideology to offer advice she believed in the best interest of the United States. Most recently, she advised the President that the United States should go into Libya on the side of the rebels.
Susan Rice has more than earned every office, and even honor, she has received, striving for and achieving top honors in high school academics and athletics here in Washington, as a Phi Beta Kappa Truman Scholar graduate from Stanford University, as a Rhodes Scholar, as a prize-winning Ph.D. from Oxford and as a brilliant, tough-minded diplomat.
We do not intend to stand by while Ambassador Susan Rice, who had nothing to do with the Benghazi attack and its aftermath, is made the scapegoat of the tragedy because she relayed to the public the only official intelligence that was available to the administration at the time. The rush to judgment against the Ambassador is particularly unprofessional and reckless, considering that the intelligence irrefutably documents her public remarks. We will not allow a brilliant public servant's record to be mugged, to cut off her consideration to become Secretary of State.