John Brennan confirmation: Sen. Lindsey Graham pushes back, urges Libya answers

Politics in Washington is best exemplified by the most recent pushback by lawmakers against President Barack Obama’s appointment of John Brennan for the Director of the CIA post and Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary.

Quickly after it became clear that Hagel became Obama’s top pick for the Defense post, GOP lawmakers began sharply questioning the former Nebraska Republican’s commitment to Israel and his willingness to take a hard line with Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The White House has defended Hagel, saying his comments and views have been misrepresented and that as a Vietnam veteran, his nomination and approval, would even be “historic.”

Now, lawmakers are speaking out, loudly, over the nomination of John Brennan as the director of the CIA—a nomination that was made official by the president at the White House on Monday.

Most notably, Lindsey Graham, the Republican Senator from South Carolina, on Tuesday issued a statement saying “I do not believe we should confirm anyone as director of the CIA until our questions are answered,” on Libya and the attacks in Benghazi. Graham pointed directly to comments U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice made in a series of Sunday show appearances after the attacks, linking the violence to protests against an American-made anti-Muslim film. Graham said he wants answers on who changed Rice's talking points and deleted references to al-Qaida, before he supports Brennan's confirmation.

He said lawmakers were told that the director of national intelligence deleted the references, then were told it was the FBI. Hours after a meeting with Rice in late November, Congress was informed that the CIA had changed the talking points.

The White House on Tuesday pushed back against Graham’s claims, saying “it would be unfortunate I think if in pursuit of this issue, which was highly politicized, the Senate would hold up the nomination of John Brennan to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”

“The process was one of declassifying classified information and in that process the talking points that were provided to Ambassador Rice, to members of Congress, and to others including myself in the executive branch, were written in the way that was presented by Ambassador Rice,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in defense of Rice’s comments following the attacks.

"The president is focused on those issues, not what seems to be the continued political fascination with appearances on Sunday shows," Carney added.

The resistance from Capitol Hill against Susan Rice over the issue of Libya led to her withdrawing her name from consideration for the post of Secretary of State—a post which Obama had strongly considered her for.

"If nominated, I am now convinced that the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive and costly - to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities," Rice wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama in December.