Susan Rice withdraws name for secretary of state, citing GOP attacks

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. speaks on "Face the Nation" in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.
Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. speaks on "Face the Nation" in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012.
AP Photo/CBS News/ Chris Usher Files

Susan Rice has withdrawn her name for consideration to be nominated for secretary of state.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, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., 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,” she added.

Here’s the full letter.

Rice will talk to NBC’s Brian Williams on Rock Center tonight at 10pm EST.

“While I deeply regret the unfair and misleading attacks on Susan Rice in recent weeks, her decision demonstrates the strength of her character,” President Obama said in a statement.

Sources close to Rice told that the move was her decision, not the result of White House pressure. They added that she received no promises about future positions in the administration—already there’s speculation that she might take over as National Security Adviser.

And they said Rice would have been confirmed by the Senate, but was concerned about the political cost to the president of a drawn-out confirmation battle.

Republicans, led by Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, had opposed Rice for the post, citing her role in putting out incomplete information about the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya in September. McCain called her “not qualified.” Some Democrats charged that race and gender played a role in the attacks.

In a statement Thursday, McCain thanked Rice for her service and vowed to “continue to seek the facts” about the Benghazi attacks, as did Graham, who charged the Obama administration with “stonewalling when it comes to providing the relevant information.”

Obama had expressed support for Rice in the face of the attacks from McCain and Graham“They should go after me,” he said at his first press conference after his re-election.

Speaking from declassified talking points in the wake of the attacks, Rice said preliminary intelligence showed they were 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, McCain, Graham, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte 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, who later met with Rice, echoed the sentiment.

The news leaves Sen. John Kerry as the likely frontrunner for the job. 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.”

Here’s President Obama’s full statement:

Today, I spoke to Ambassador Susan Rice, and accepted her decision to remove her name from consideration for Secretary of State. For two decades, Susan has proven to be an extraordinarily capable, patriotic, and passionate public servant. As my Ambassador to the United Nations, she plays an indispensable role in advancing America’s interests. Already, she has secured international support for sanctions against Iran and North Korea, worked to protect the people of Libya, helped achieve an independent South Sudan, stood up for Israel’s security and legitimacy, and served as an advocate for UN reform and the human rights of all people. I am grateful that Susan will continue to serve as our Ambassador at the United Nations and a key member of my cabinet and national security team, carrying her work forward on all of these and other issues. I have every confidence that Susan has limitless capability to serve our country now and in the years to come, and know that I will continue to rely on her as an advisor and friend. 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. The American people can be proud to have a public servant of her caliber and character representing our country.