Senate confirms nominee caught up in Benghazi

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By DONNA CASSATA, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Victoria Nuland, President Barack Obama's choice as chief U.S. envoy for Europe who was widely criticized for her role in the talking points created after last year's deadly assault in Benghazi, Libya.

By voice vote and with no debate, the Senate approved the nomination of Nuland, who had served as State Department spokeswoman during Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's tenure.

U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. In the days after the assault, Obama administration officials put together talking points to be used by then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice for a series of appearances on the Sunday talk shows and for briefing members of the House Intelligence committee.

Rice blamed the attack on extremists who hijacked a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video. The widely debunked remarks scuttled her chances of replacing Clinton as secretary of State.

Republicans accused the administration of misleading Congress and the American people in the immediate aftermath of the attack, trying to play down an act of terrorism that would reflect poorly on Obama weeks before the 2012 presidential election.

Emails sought by congressional Republicans showed that Nuland expressed concern that any mention of prior warnings or the involvement of al-Qaida in the talking points would give congressional Republicans ammunition to attack the administration in the weeks before the presidential election.

She had sought removal of a reference to a CIA warning about the potential for anti-American demonstrations in Cairo and jihadists trying to break into that embassy.

Testifying at her confirmation hearing in July, Nuland said she objected to some of the administration's talking points in the days after Benghazi because they were inconsistent, inaccurate and risked prejudicing the FBI investigation into those responsible for the attack.

"It was not for me to decide what we knew or what we could declassify," Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Nuland is a career foreign service officer who has held senior positions in the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. She also has served as a foreign policy adviser to former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney.

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