Rice answered questions Tuesday from Sens. John McCain, Graham and Ayotte about her explanations about the cause of the September attack.
At the hour-plus, closed-door session, Rice conceded that her initial account was wrong, but she insisted she had not been trying to mislead the American people when she made her comments five days later.
“The talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: There was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi,” Rice said in a statement after the meeting. “While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case the intelligence assessment has evolved.”
She was joined in the meeting by Acting CIA Director Michael Morell.
Rice failed Tuesday to mollify the three senators — her most outspoken critics — and they indicated they would try to block her nomination.
“We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn’t get concerning evidence that was leading up to the attack on the consulate,” McCain told reporters after a session with Rice that he described as candid.
Said Graham, “Bottom line, I’m more disturbed now than I was before that 16 Sept. explanation.” He said in a later interview that Rice went “far beyond the flawed talking points” and should be held accountable.
“I’m more troubled today,” said Ayotte, who argued that it was clear in the days after the attack that it was terrorism and not a spontaneous demonstration.
Rice’s unusual visit to Capitol Hill — typically only nominees meet privately with lawmakers — reflects the Obama administration’s campaign for Rice as Clinton’s replacement against some strenuous GOP opposition.
The White House remained defiant in its support for Rice, arguing that she was relying on an assessment from the intelligence community and had no responsibility in compiling the information on the cause of the attack. It dismissed what it characterized as a fixation on her national television appearances five days after the raid.