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Obama on Benghazi: 'This was a huge problem'

President Barack Obama calls the attacks on U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice "politically motivated" and says they are unacceptable.

President Barack Obama on Sunday called security issues that led to the deaths of four Americans in the Benghazi consulate attack "a huge problem," although he continued to defend U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice as a victim of political scapegoating by Republicans who have suggested an administration coverup of the situation. 

"We're not going to be defensive about it," Obama said of the State Department review of the attacks during an exclusive interview on NBC's Meet the Press. "We're not going to pretend that this was not a problem.  This was a huge problem.  And we're going to implement every single recommendation that's been put forward." 

Read the full transcript

Saying that some State Department officials "have been held accountable," Obama said that the review of the September 11 attack showed there was "sloppiness" in terms of security measures but that mistakes were not intentional. 

In an exclusive interview with Meet the Press, President Barack Obama tells David Gregory he's optimistic the fiscal cliff can be averted, lays out the goals for his second term, and also discusses the Benghazi attack and how it was handled by the administration and those on Capitol Hill.

But he defended U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, who withdrew from consideration to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after Republicans vigorously opposed her for her role in discussing the attacks after the raid.

"She appeared on a number of television shows reporting what she and we understood to be the best information at the time," Obama said. "This was a politically motivated attack on her.  I mean, of all the people in my national security team, she probably had the least to do with anything that happened in Benghazi."

Obama indicated that intelligence officials have "good leads" as to who carried out the attack.

"With respect to who carried it out, that's an ongoing investigation," he said. "The F.B.I. has sent individuals to Libya repeatedly.  We have some very good leads, but this is not something that I'm going to be at liberty to talk about right now."