President Obama, assuming a tough-talking tone, warned Republicans Wednesday to lay off U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice over her controversial Sept. 16 comments on the Libya consulate attack — and at the same time opening his administration up to questions about why, if she “had nothing to do with Benghazi,” the White House chose her to explain it to the public.

At issue is Rice’s claim, on five Sunday shows five days after the attack, that the assault was “spontaneous.”

Calling Rice an “easy target,” Obama challenged Republican lawmakers during his press conference to “go after me” instead — a challenge quickly picked up by Sen. Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican fired back: “Mr President, don’t think for one minute I don’t hold you ultimately responsible for Benghazi. I think you failed as commander in chief before, during and after the attack.”

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