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Confirmation Hearing Turns into Grilling on Benghazi

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Former State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was put through the ringer on Thursday during her confirmation hearings for assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs.

Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee used the occasion to ask Nuland pointed questions about her role in helping to craft the talking points used by the Obama administration following the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last Sept. 11 that left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

At the time, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice parroted the talking points’ contention that the siege was not necessarily an act of terrorism -- a point immediately disputed by Republicans.  The White House later acknowledged that the mission attack was committed by terrorists.

GOP Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming made it clear that Nuland was going to be in for tough questioning when he said, “I’m concerned about your willingness to provide truthful and relevant information to the American people.”

Florida Republican Marco Rubio also chimed in that “These talking points may have been typed by the intelligence community, but these talking points were dramatically changed directly at the input of non-intelligence community individuals primarily in the State Department.”

For her part, Nuland claimed that her role was actually pretty limited, arguing, “I never edited these talking points, I never made changes” and that her chief concern was that the CIA version of events may have been misleading and would have presented an inaccurate picture of the State Department’s role in the run-up to the siege and its aftermath.

When emails were made public by the White House last May in response to GOP demands for more transparency, one of them included a message from Nuland about how CIA warnings “could be abused by members” of Congress “to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that?”

Despite the grilling, Nuland’s nomination for the post as an assistant State Department secretary appears assured, chiefly because of her three decades of experience that includes a stint in the previous Bush administration as a national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

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