Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) on Wednesday made a strong claim about the Obama administration's handling of the Sept. 11 anniversary terrorist attack on an American compound in Benghazi, Libya, declaring that it was a conspiracy of historic proportions.
"This is gonna go down as the biggest coverup in history," Inhofe predicted during an appearance on Fox News. "The administration deliberately covered this up and misrepresented what happened in Benghazi."
He later stood by his claim when pressed by Fox News' Bill Hemmer.
The attack, which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, has received extensive scrutiny in the past months. Republican lawmakers have contended that the Obama administration failed to protect its personnel adequately after neglecting to address key issues and intelligence in the lead-up to the attack.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, thought of as a top pick to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, has recently taken the brunt of the criticism from Republicans. The administration rolled her out in September to address the incident, which she repeatedly and, as she's now admitted, incorrectly characterized as the result of a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video.
Rice met with some of her most vocal critics during a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill Tuesday to address their concerns about the incident and her subsequent appearances attempting to explain what happened. She reportedly conceded that she'd been incorrect in her initial accounting of the attack, but said she had based her comments on the intelligence at the time. Rice also stated that there had been no deliberate attempts by the administration to mislead the public.
Ultimately, however, the senators proved unsatisfied by Rice's responses. GOP Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) addressed the media afterwards, declaring that they were "more disturbed" after speaking with Rice.
Inhofe, while not a part of the meeting, released a statement afterwards claiming that his colleagues' comments had given him reason to believe that Rice had "willingly mislead the American public five different times in the days after the attack."
Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) also spoke on Wednesday about the administration's handling of the attack and its potential effect on Rice's chances at becoming the next secretary of state. The senator acknowledged that his colleagues should be wary not to "shoot the messenger" in their opposition to Rice, noting her claim that she had operated on the intelligence given to her. But Isakson also said that lingering questions among his fellow Republicans would make Rice difficult to confirm.
"Frankly, if we don't get some resolution to the events of Benghazi and the death of Chris Stevens, I doubt she will be confirmed," Isakson said on CNN. He lauded Rice's credentials but suggested that Republican support for her would hinge upon the administration providing them with more concrete answers.
"The administration needs to come forward with the top down, beginning with the president, have a timeline that makes sense, find out what we really did know, what we did wrong and make sure we never do it again," Isakson said.