McCain misses Libya briefing while criticizing lack of info

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), holds a news conference on the Benghazi terrorist attack at the U.S. Capitol November 14, 2012 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

While Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was leading a press conference Wednesday to condemn the administration's lack of transparency regarding the attacks in Benghazi, Libya, it turns out he could have been attending a classified briefing on the subject.

Due to what his office called a "scheduling error," McCain accompanied Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., at 11:30 a.m., Wednesday to demand before reporters a select committee of Congress to investigate the violence in Libya, rather than attend the scheduled 11 a.m. closed-door briefing for members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. At his press conference, McCain continued to rail on the president and his administration - including U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice - for botched handling of information in the aftermath of the attack.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the ranking Republican on the committee, reneged slightly from a report today that she was critical of McCain for missing the meeting, but maintained it's important he's fully briefed on intelligence, and disagreed with his call for a select committee.

"All I was trying to point out is that he's a very valuable member of our committee," she told CBS News. "He would be involved in all the briefings and the hearings and the investigation, and thus I don't think that it's necessary to create a whole new separate committee."

McCain told CBS News he hadn't yet viewed the thousands of pages of classified emails, telegrams, and intelligence reports that the State Department made available to the committee. As a member, he can access the documents by visiting a secure room on the Hill. Collins hasn't requested that viewing either but attended the briefing and viewed whatever documents were presented there.

When asked Thursday about the briefing, McCain reportedly grew angry and told a CNN producer, "I have no comment about my schedule, and I'm not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media." Pressed on why he wouldn't comment, McCain said, "I have the right as a senator to have no comment. And who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?"

Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., another member of the Homeland Security committee, also missed the briefing, but did an interview on CNN the same day attacking Mr. Obama for his handling of the Benghazi attack, and, at one point, admitting, "I don't know enough of the details." 

Margaret Brennan and John Nolen contributed to this report.

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