U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice said Thursday that she is withdrawing her name from consideration for Secretary of State.
“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 Obama obtained by NBC News. “That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country…Therefore, I respectfully request that you no longer consider my candidacy at this time.”
Rice had been viewed as a front-runner to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State . Her candidacy came under fire from Republicans over remarks she made on Sunday television shows following the September 11 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Speaking from declassified talking points, Rice said preliminary intelligence showed the attack was a spontaneous reaction over an anti-Islamic film posted to YouTube. Later intelligence revealed that the attack, which killed four Americans, was planned. Rice said she relied “solely and squarely on information provided by the intelligence community” in her Sunday show statements at the U.N. on November 21.
After meeting with Rice and acting CIA Director Mike Morrell less than a week later, Republican Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said they were “more troubled” than they were before and vowed to block her nomination until and unless their remaining questions were answered. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who later met with Rice, echoed the sentiment.
McCain thanked Rice for her service and vowed to “continue to seek the facts” about the Benghazi attacks in a statement Thursday, as did Graham, who charged the Obama administration with “stonewalling when it comes to providing the relevant information.”
President Obama called Rice “an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant” in a statement Thursday.
“While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character, and an admirable commitment to rise above the politics of the moment to put our national interests first,” Obama said. “The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.”
Sources close to Rice told MSNBC.com that her withdrawal was her own decision, not a result of White House pressure. They said she received no promises about future positions and will remain in her current role as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for now. They added that she would have gotten enough votes to be confirmed by the Senate, but instead took herself out of the running because of the inevitable negative impact of a long confirmation battle.
Rice’s withdrawal leaves Senate Foreign Relations Chair John Kerry (D-Mass.) as a likely nomination for Secretary of State. Kerry said in a statement Thursday “As someone who has weathered my share of political attacks and understands on a personal level just how difficult politics can be, I’ve felt for her throughout these last difficult weeks, but I also know that she will continue to serve with great passion and distinction.”
Rice’s Republican critics have voiced support for Kerry’s nomination.