Thursday November 15, 2012 | 02:17 PM

WASHINGTON -- Senator-elect Angus King is already wading into political scuffles on Capitol Hill, telling MSNBC on Thursday morning that he believed it was "premature" for some Senate Republicans to be writing off Susan Rice as the next potential Secretary of State.

King spent most of the interview on MSNBC's Morning Joe program talking about his decision to caucus with the Democrats and his hope for a more bipartisan Senate. But early into the segment, NBC's Andrea Mitchell asked King about statements from Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina -- two senior Republicans -- challenging Rice's suitability as Secretary of State.

“I watched some of those comments yesterday and I don’t really like starting out my Senate career – I’m not even sworn in yet – getting crosswise with some of the leaders of the other party,” King said. “But I thought it was a bit premature.”

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Rice, who is currently the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is one potential contender to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But Rice is under fire for suggesting in television interviews days after the Sept. 11 attacks on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that the violence may have been linked to anger over an anti-Muslim video. Officials have since concluded the attacks – which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens – were pre-planned by militant groups.

McCain and others have suggested Rice’s statements – whether uninformed or purposefully deceitful – should disqualify her for the post. But King said “there needs to be a little more of a factual basis for that.”

“If all she did was provide that briefing based upon the intelligence she was given then it strikes me taking a hard-line position against a pretty distinguished diplomat was a bit premature,” King said. “I’ll leave it at that.”

King's statement on Rice, who has Maine ties, took up roughly one minute of the 6-minute segment.


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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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