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Graham: Clinton must testify on Benghazi before Kerry's nomination process

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FILE: June 12, 2012: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department, in Washington, D.C. (AP)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must testify before Congress on the Benghazi issue before the Senate begins confirmation hearings on likely replacement Sen. John Kerry, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

Graham told “Fox News Sunday” that Kerry, D-Mass., agrees.

“He needs to know what (Clinton) says,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Clinton has yet to testify before Congress about the deadly Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

The attacks in which U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed have raised questions and major concerns about security and intelligence prior to the attacks and the Obama administration’s public response.

Clinton was scheduled to give open testimony before House and Senate committees, but canceled her appearances Dec. 15 after getting a stomach virus, fainting and hitting her head, which resulted in a concussion.

Clinton is scheduled to return to work this week and resign from her post in the coming weeks.

“She has said she will (testify) and I know she will,” Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in joining Graham on Fox.

President Obama nominated Kerry after U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew from the running for the job. She would have faced a difficult nomination process as a result of her public response to the Benghazi attacks. She said six days later they were “spontaneous” and part of a large reaction to an anti-Islamic video.

Officials later said the attacks were terror related. Rice said her response was inaccurate and that she was working on official talking points amid a fluid situation.

President Obama on Sunday repeated his assertion that the Rice criticism was really “politically motivated attacks” and added he was “puzzled” about why Republicans and others would come after her.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the president also said the State Department’s independent review of the incident accurately identified “severe problems in diplomatic security” and that “every single recommendation” would get implemented.

Though some mid-level officials have been removed in the aftermath of the report, Obama characterized the lack of security in Benghazi as “sloppiness” and “unintentional.”

He said FBI investigations and other intelligence reports have produced some “very good leads” on who or which terror-related group committed the attacks, but he did not further discuss the issue.

Graham also told Fox he expects that former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel will have a difficult Senate hearing process should Obama nominate him to be the next secretary of defense.

Graham said that Hagel not getting Senate Republican support is “very likely” because there are “deep concerns about his politics” – including his views on Israel.

“The hearings will matter,” Graham said.   

Obama said Sunday he has strong support for Hagel to replace outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, but has yet to decide on a nominee.

Hagel, R-Neb., also has come under fire for a 1998 comment about  how being openly gay could be a problem for an ambassador. He has since apologized.

``I think it's a testimony to what has been a positive change over the last decade in terms of people's attitudes about gays and lesbians serving our country” Obama said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”