WASHINGTON, DC — President Barack Obama defended U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice from Republican criticism Wednesday, saying attacks on her credibility because of her statements on the Benghazi attacks are "outrageous."
"She gave the best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her," Obama said of Rice's statements on the five Sunday morning shows following the deaths of four Americans in Libya in which she blamed the attack on an anti-Islamic video.
Naming Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who held a press conference today to call for an independent investigation into the attack, Obama said the buck stops with him.
“If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham want to go after somebody, they should go after me," Obama said in his first press conference since winning reelection last week.
“When they go after the U.N. ambassador because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me," he added.
Asked whether he would be deterred from nominating Rice because of the Republican senators' pledges to do everything in their power to oppose her, Obama said he would not.
Saying that if he determined that Rice is the best person to lead the State Department, Obama emphatically stated, "Then I will nominate her.”
UPDATE: Sen. Lindsey Graham responded to President Barack Obama's attack on their criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice over her comments on the Benghazi attack with a harshly-worded statement of his own.
“Mr. President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi," Graham said in a statement distributed to reporters as Obama concluded his first press conference since he was elected. "I think you failed as Commander in Chief before, during, and after the attack.
“We owe it to the American people and the victims of this attack to have full, fair hearings and accountability be assigned where appropriate," Graham continued. "Given what I know now, I have no intention of promoting anyone who is up to their eyeballs in the Benghazi debacle.”