Graham threatens to hold up CIA director confirmation
January 8th, 2013
01:21 PM ET
1 year ago

Graham threatens to hold up CIA director confirmation

(CNN) – Saying he has "not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle," Sen. Lindsey Graham called for a delay in the confirmation process of John Brennan, the president's choice for CIA director, as investigations still continue surrounding the September 11, 2012 U.S. consulate attack in Libya.

"I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered," Graham said in a statement.

The Republican senator from South Carolina has helped lead congressional efforts to address the deadly attack in Libya. He was one of several Republican senators who sharply questioned U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice and her role in the aftermath of the violence.

Days after the incident, Rice appeared on television news shows and described on the violence as a spontaneous attack spurred by outrage over an anti-Islam film. The intelligence community, however, later called it a terrorist attack.

Rice used unclassified talking points from the intelligence community in her television appearances, which apparently went through multiple drafts before landing in her hands. In briefings to Congress, intelligence officials said the initial draft was more specific in linking individuals to 'al Qaeda.' But when the document was sent to the rest of the intelligence community for review, there was a decision to change 'al Qaeda' to a broader term of 'extremists' for the final version.

While some members of Congress said the reason for changing the term was unclear, a senior U.S. official familiar with the drafting of the talking points said the change was made for legitimate intelligence and legal reasons, not for political purposes.

"First, the information about individuals linked to al Qaeda was derived from classified sources," the official said. "Second, when links were so tenuous – as they still are – it makes sense to be cautious before pointing fingers so you don't set off a chain of circular and self-reinforcing assumptions. Third, it is important to be careful not to prejudice a criminal investigation in its early stages.

When former CIA director David Petraeus testified, he also said the unclassified talking points did not make mention of extremist elements because it was still classified – and could have compromised intelligence sources, according to several Democrats who were briefed.

While Rice withdrew her name last month from consideration for secretary of state, questions from Capitol Hill continue and Hillary Clinton, the nation's top diplomat, is expected to testify before she leaves her job as secretary of state.

She was scheduled to so in December but canceled after suffering a concussion. Clinton was later hospitalized with a blood clot but was discharged last week. She returned to work Monday.

As for Brennan, an intelligence committee staffer said the hearing is expected to be held late January or early February. The upper chamber is currently in recess until January 21.

Graham's communications director, Kevin Bishop, said the senator has "not placed a hold on the nomination yet" but added it was "a real possibility." He said Clinton's testimony is separate from the issue and reiterated Graham's call for a select committee to be set up to investigate the Benghazi incident.

The decision, Bishop said, is contingent upon Graham getting the information he has requested.

"Who changed Ambassador Susan Rice's talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda?" he said, adding the various answers he has thus far received (Read the full statement below).

"This ever-changing story should be resolved. It is imperative we understand who changed the talking points just weeks before a presidential election and why. The stonewalling on Benghazi by the Obama Administration must come to an end," he said.

Graham, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, stressed that a delay is "not directed" at Brennan but that such a step may be "necessary action" to get more details from the administration about its handling of the aftermath.

– CNN's Pam Benson, Kate Bolduan and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.

Statement on the Confirmation of the Director of the CIA

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) released the following statement on the confirmation of John Brennan as Director of the CIA.

Graham said:

"I have not forgotten about the Benghazi debacle and still have many questions about what transpired before, during and after the attack on our consulate.

"In that regard, I do not believe we should confirm anyone as Director of the CIA until our questions are answered – like who changed Ambassador Susan Rice's talking points and deleted the references to Al-Qaeda? My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary action to get information from this Administration.

"I have tried – repeatedly – to get information on Benghazi but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.
"We were first told the Director of National Intelligence deleted the Al-Qaeda reference in the talking points because they did not want to let al Qaeda know we were monitoring them. We were then told the FBI changed the talking points so as not to compromise an ongoing criminal investigation. Finally, during a meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting-CIA Director Morrell, I was told it was the FBI who changed the talking points. However, later in the day the clarified it was the CIA who had changed the talking points.

"This ever-changing story should be resolved. It is imperative we understand who changed the talking points just weeks before a presidential election and why. The stonewalling on Benghazi by the Obama Administration must come to an end."


Filed under: John Brennan • Libya • Lindsey Graham • Senate • Susan Rice
soundoff (66 Responses)
  1. n, tx

    Republicans you all are playing dirty politics, American will remember you when we vote for the next person

    January 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Anthony in California

    Hey Graham.. we havent forgotten about the real "9-11" either... you know, the one Bush had intel about but ignored, and (not 4) but 3000 Americans lost their lives on US soil.

    Another threat? DO YOUR JOB.
    At what point do American people realize this new breed of Republican isnt in office to help the people or solve any of the problems we're facing as a nation to move forward.

    ALL these guys do is find more and more things to whine and complain about.
    They gum up the system, obstruct and slow down the process, and then turn around and complain about nothing being fixed fast enough. Lindsey.. go to H3LL.

    January 8, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Yawn. Twinkletoes is just desperately trying to keep the conspiracy theories alive for the rabid, drooling, undereducated, tinfoil-hatted GOP/Teatroll basers that literally eat this crap for breakfast. It's going nowhere and nobody with a brain in their head buys this nonsense anymore. Hey, Teatrolls, keep dreaming of impeachment hearings...we'll just keep laughing ...at you.

    January 8, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Mike from CO

    Advise and consent Senator, that is your role. Confirm the President's nominee as qualified.

    January 8, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Disgusted_Republican

    Why do the American people have to suffer fools?

    January 8, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Graham, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, stressed that a delay is "not directed" at Brennan but that such a step may be "necessary action" to get more details from the administration about its handling of the aftermath
    -------------------------------------------------
    Translation:
    "Nothing personal Brennan, but you gotta understand this might be our last chance to make the Black President a one-termer. Take a shot for the Team, we will make this up to you later boy".

    January 8, 2013 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. The REAL Truth...

    Graham needs to get off his high horse and let the nomination proceed. The ongoing political grandstanding over such an unfortunate incident in Benghazi reflects the intended partisan nature of the inquiry. Where were these RW zealots during these attacks that happened during the Bush 43 era ???
    DC Sniper Terrorist Shootings
    3. Anthrax attacks
    4. Shoe bomber (albeit, i failed)
    5. Center for Urban Horticulture destroyed. ELF members plead guilty.
    6. Tacoma, Washington abortion clinic bombing
    7. Attack at LAX against El Al ticket counter
    8. Hughes & Dunahoe firebomb abortion clinic
    9. Women’s Health Clinic bombed in Palm Beach burned
    10. SUV attack at UNC
    11. Seattle Jewish Federation shooting, Egyptian shoots six
    12. McMenemy abortion clinic arson attempt. Not an actual clinic, he was mistaken.
    13. IEDs tossed at Mexican Consulate in NYC.
    14. Altman & Baca arrested for the abortion clinic arson
    15. Planned Parenthood arson in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
    16. IED attacked attempted at women’s health clinic in Austin
    17. Virginia Tech Shootings
    18. Dr. Nicholas Barth right-wing terrorism in NY
    19. Dr. Tiller is murdered by Bill O'Reilly fanatic (H/T magnolialover)

    Hmmm... if the shoe fits ?

    January 8, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  8. Evergreen

    These people never cease to amaze me. They can't do the right thing because they no longer know what's right. With the middle east situation and other hot spots, how can he talk about holding up the CIA Director appointment.

    January 8, 2013 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    we all become a hostage for this old man and his boy mcCain

    January 8, 2013 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  10. marshall

    Graham just can not get over the elections. So sad.

    January 8, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  11. plain&simple

    Mr Graham is putting politics ahead of country and It's wrong... Good people are waiting to serve our country and do their jobs and fulfill their duties. Mr. Graham is not counted with those patriots!

    January 8, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  12. Justin

    Bubba makes a stink for a change.

    January 8, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Malcolm in St Louis

    He is in the business of blocking the country's business. First State now CIA. What a waste of space he is.

    January 8, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. proudcanadian

    Graham.You are soo full of yourself and your views are no longer relevant.Beghazi issue is a non starter.

    January 8, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  15. 2012liberal

    Graham and mccain r irrelivate. They r grumpy old men, who have no clout!

    January 8, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  16. kayla

    why must we all behave like children

    January 8, 2013 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  17. mgctampa

    And what exactly does this have to do with Brennan? So lets hold up his confirmation because I want information on something he had nothing to do with, really. Also never mind that congress severly cut the funds for security for the state department, no one is talking about that.

    January 8, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  18. The Elephant in the Room

    The opposition to Susan Rice, the opposition to Chuck Hagel, the opposition to John Brennan are ALL ROUTED in the GOP seeking to continue to de-legitamize President Obama as a man, as a leader, and as Commander-in-Chief. It goes so far as having a superiority complex that they need to sanction his decisions as the President because of his race. This as much about wanting to take Barack Obama down a peg or two as it is about anything else.

    January 8, 2013 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  19. bigdog

    How much is AIPAC paying this guy?

    January 8, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  20. Wake up People!

    If the republicans could actually do some work it would be shocking. This is getting ridiculous. Did Willard win the election??

    January 8, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  21. norma jean

    Since when has Lindsey Graham become so important that he can question an appointee by the president ?...President Obama does not need his or his cronies approval for choosing someone for any position!!! These little men jjust can't stand it that they are so unimportant that OBAMA DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE THEIR APPROVAL!!! Don't they have some kind of job to do ?? somewhere???

    January 8, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  22. Boomer in Mo

    I agree with Graham sometimes. In this instance, he is being a petty little man. I prefer a defense secretary who has been on the front lines in war, and is not a fan of war. Too many who have never served jump at the chance to send others to the front lines.

    January 8, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  23. Chumlee

    Old man, go away. You are an insult to America.

    January 8, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  24. jinx88

    Graham needs to go away. Sick of him already. Obama should be able to pick whoever in the h@ll he wants. Everyone knows Bush wouldnt give a crap what Dems would have thought on his picks, example Dick Cheney case closed.

    January 8, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. daniel ogbovoh

    Please can somebody enlighten/educate me on this question? does a single senator or congressman has the power under the law withhold or stop the nomination of an individual for a post even if that senator and the party he or she belongs to is not in majority?

    January 8, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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