In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Rep. Chaffetz, Rep. Lynch on Benghazi whistleblowers; Sen. McCain talks US action in Syria
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Well, this week, the long, slow investigation into the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi may take a dramatic turn when government workers with new information testify before Congress.
Joining us now are two members of the House Oversight Committee that will conduct the hearing, Republican Jason Chaffetz, and from Massachusetts, Democrat Stephen Lynch.
And, Congressmen, welcome to “Fox News Sunday.”
CHAFFETZ: Thanks for having us.
WALLACE: Congressman Chaffetz, we know at least two whistleblowers with direct knowledge of Benghazi are going to testify before your committee on Wednesday. Gregory Hicks, who was the deputy chief of mission in Libya, and Mark Thompson, an officer in the state’s counterterrorism bureau.
What will they add to our understanding of the attack, and is anyone else going to come forward either Wednesday or later?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we’ve had other people come forward. And I think you’ll see other hearings as well, but these two gentlemen are in a unique position. Mr. Hicks became the chief of mission when Ambassador Stevens went missing. He has a unique insight.
When I went to Libya, about three weeks, 3 1/2 weeks after, I was able to talk to him. I think he’s patriotic, he’s not partisan. I think he’s being suppressed a little bit, and we need to hear about him exactly what happened and didn’t happen that night. He was the chief of mission in Libya when this went down.
WALLACE: Suppressed by whom?
CHAFFETZ: Well, that’s what we want to have a hearing about, because, you know, we heard things, for instance, that there was no military option. There was no ability to get any military personnel there. I think you’re actually going to hear some testimony that says we did have some military options. We could have gotten some people there, and they were told to stand down.
That’s the kind of thing we need to be exploring in this hearing.
WALLACE: And Mark Thompson, the officer in the state’s counterterrorism bureau, what’s he going to tell us?
CHAFFETZ: Well, he oversees what’s called the FEST, the Foreign Emergency Support Team. This is the unique group that is supposed to be the quick, rapid response interagency team when a terrorist type of activity, a hostage situation goes down. They were never called into action.
Why was that? Why were they never engaged in this? That’s exactly what they stood out for.
WALLACE: Now, you said, then I’m going to bring in Congressman Lynch in a moment, but you said earlier that these are the only people who are going to testify, along with Eric Nordstrom, who testified earlier, but you said there are a lot of other potential witnesses out there watching.
Watching for what?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I think these people are afraid of retribution. They’re afraid of what the State Department may do to them. They’ve had trouble getting an attorney. The State Department hasn’t given us the documents they want. I mean, every single turn, the State Department and White House has impeded this investigation. It’s why it’s continued to go on so long. There are other people on the ground with firsthand knowledge that want to testify, and I think will testify at some point.
WALLACE: Congressman Lynch, how do you explain the fact that eight months after Benghazi, we have still not heard from a single witness on the ground that night in Benghazi?
REP. STEPHEN LYNCH, D – MA: We had an accountability review board that went through this led by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen. They’ve actually interviewed over 100 witnesses on the ground, some on the ground obviously, and many who were involved peripherally, and they made a review that there was no breach of duty here.
They made a determination that the critical element here was that host country forces committed to protecting the consulate in Benghazi walked off the job basically, and that created, you know, a security profile that was totally insufficient on September 11th.
WALLACE: But if I may, Congressman, why is it we have not heard in public from a single person who was on the ground in a congressional hearing?
LYNCH: Well, the Republicans control the House. We’ve had — we’ve had investigations. Nordstrom came forward. We’ve had other witnesses.
You had hearings prior to the recent elections. The House — you could ask Mr. Chaffetz have they haven’t brought up people, if you want to know that.
We don’t have the ability to hold a hearing. The Democrats have been completely kept out of this whole process. This has been a one- sided investigation, if you want to call it that. There’s been no sharing of information in a significant way with the Democrats staff members who usually conduct this type of investigation. And I think it’s disgraceful, to be honest with you.
WALLACE: OK. Let’s get to this question because this has been one of the charges, that there’d been threats, intimidation, and threats of retaliation. So, let’s discuss that.
This week, a lawyer for one of the witnesses said that the State Department has threatened officials who wanted to testify. State responded and said they don’t know of anybody who has requested to testify. Let’s watch that exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VICTORIA TOENSING, ATTY FOR STATE DEPT EMPLOYEE: I’m not talking generally. I’m talking specifically about Benghazi, that people have been threatened, and not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA. PATRICK VENTRELL, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We repeatedly have this person saying that they had a whistleblower who’s been held back from telling their story, and we’re not aware of this individual, anyone who’s asking to tell their story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Congressman Chaffetz, has the Obama administration blocked potential witnesses from testifying or not.
CHAFFETZ: Absolutely and more than one. We’ve asked for the non-classified version of how do these people get an attorney that has a degree in classified information and they still haven’t given us that. No. There are people out there that want to testify that have been suppressed.
WALLACE: But you hear the State Department just say nobody, neither a lawyer nor a witness, has requested to testify?
CHAFFETZ: Because they’re scared to death of what the State Department is doing to them. And that’s what — look, we’re the other branch of government. They’re supposed to be able to come to Congress and be able to share this type of information. That has not happened, because the administration has suppressed them (ph).
We have a person who was injured eight months ago, who’s still in the hospital. They changed his name on the medical records.
This is a story of the State Department doing things that haven’t been in any other case.
WALLACE: Are you saying — and, again, I want to bring in Congressman Lynch. Tell me, a direct threat — a direct act of intimidation against a potential witness?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, and I think we’ll probably —
WALLACE: Tell me why.
LYNCH: Completely false, completely false.
WALLACE: Let me — before he — go ahead. Tell me what’s been said.
CHAFFETZ: Yes, there are people — more than one — that have felt intimidation from the State Department. They can’t even go through the process of getting an attorney to be able to represent them with a degree of classified information that they have.
WALLACE: Congressman Lynch, your turn.
LYNCH: The only reason that the attorneys — and there have been two attorneys involved here — the only reason they haven’t received information is they haven’t asked for it yet. They haven’t asked for it. There has not been a request for these documents from these attorneys to the State Department. The State Department is more than willing to cooperate, but they haven’t asked for this.
The only retaliation I’ve heard of here is that one of these witnesses wants a reassignment and promotion. He hasn’t gotten the promotion that he wanted, and he’s saying that that’s somehow retaliation. So, you know, hasn’t got it yet. It’s actually in the process.
That’s the — that’s the level of threats of intimidation? He hasn’t got the promotion he wants yet?
CHAFFETZ: Let me give you another example. The State Department will not release to the committee, to the United States Congress, unclassified documents. Here we are eight months after, we should be able to look at the same information the Accountability Review Board wants to see. We wanted the Accountability Review board to come before Congress. That hasn’t happened.
When we went to actually go see documents, they’ve given us eight types (ph) of documents over a multi-month process. They sent a State Department person in there to look over my shoulder to see what I’m looking at. We’ve had Democratic staff in there. There is not a single Democrat on that panel that has ever come down to look at those documents.
I’ve been down there, but I’ve never seen a Democrat down there, and it’s totally open to them, the entire process.
WALLACE: Congressman Lynch?
LYNCH: Sure. Every time I’ve given those type of documents, I have somebody from the State Department over my shoulder as well.
CHAFFETZ: That’s not right. That’s not right. An unclassified document —
WALLACE: Go ahead, Congressman Lynch.
LYNCH: Look, I find it incredible — look at this whole situation. We’re talking about — including my colleague, Mr. Chaffetz, when Secretary Clinton and the State Department asked for additional funding for embassy security, they all voted no. They all voted no.
WALLACE: Wait a minute. We’re getting a little bit of —
LYNCH: Come on now. We’ve already admitted (ph) to this on CNN.
WALLACE: This I understand that there’s an issue about security. It’s a little bit off the track. I want to try to stay on course here.
LYNCH: No. This is the point. They’re complaining about a lack of security at the embassies after they voted against for funding for security at the embassies. That’s what they’re complaining about, is a lack of security at the embassies when they all voted to cut a half a billion dollars on security. Is that not — is that not related?
CHAFFETZ: The CFO has said in an email —
WALLACE: Let’s use real words.
CHAFFETZ: The chief financial officer for the State Department said in an email that finances had nothing to do with the decisions about funding at the facility. The security personnel were paid from the Pentagon budget. They weren’t paid from the State Department budget.
This is a facade. It’s a distraction. There are four people dead here, Chris. Come on.
WALLACE: And I want to talk about let’s talk beforehand, because there are sort of three stages to this, before, during and after, the attack.
Two weeks ago the Republican chairs of five House committees — I grapefruit league agree with congressman lynch here — just the Republicans, not the Democrats, issued an interim report on Benghazi in which they charged that then-Secretary of State Clinton misled Congress when she said that she had never seen any request for more security in Libya.
Let’s take a look at what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The specific security requests pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department. I didn’t see those requests. They didn’t come to me. I didn’t approve them. I didn’t deny them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now, the House report by the five Republicans made a big deal of the fact that in April, after she’d gotten the request, last April, that a cable went out from the State Department under the name of Hillary Clinton, in fact not only not granting more security, but saying the security draw-down would continue.
Congressman Chaffetz, it turns out that every cable that goes from the State Department has Hillary Clinton’s name — hundreds of thousands of cables, millions of cables. The Washington Post looked into this and called the allegation by the House Republican chairman a whopper.
CHAFFETZ: Well, I would hope that Steve Lynch would join me in calling for the release of this document. It’s an unclassified document. My understanding is that Hillary Clinton’s name is on that line.
CHAFFETZ: Now, hold on here.
Hillary Clinton claims to take full responsibility for this, and yet at the same time pleads ignorance. Four months —
WALLACE: No, no, but there were utterly documents to go after the —
LYNCH: Chris, can I get here at some point?
WALLACE: nbsp; Yes, sure. Can I get in here at some point? Look, could I, please? Look, these are the same allegations. These are Jason Chaffetz, and the Republican chairs’ allegations that she signed off on a reduction in force at Benghazi. It got four Pinocchios from The Washington Post. That’s hard to do even in Washington.
I mean, you know, people say that Washington is the place where shame goes to die. This is — this is an exact instance of that. It’s shameful. We lost good people in Benghazi.
WALLACE: Congressman, may I get a word in here, please?
WALLACE: I want to talk to you about a controversy — a continuing controversy about the talking points that came out afterwards that led some people say to a lot of disinformation. These are the talking points the administration put out after the attack. Steve Hayes of The Weekly Standard reports that the first draft by the CIA on September 14th said this, “The crowd almost certainly was a mix of individuals from across many sectors of Libyan society. That being said, we do know that Islamic extremists with ties to al Qaeda participated in the attack.”
This was the first draft of talking points for the CIA on September 14th. But after objections from State and after the White House had a meeting, you can see the talking points — a little hard to see on the screen — there are lots of lines drawn through them. They were heavily edited, and all mentioned Islamic extremists were taken out.
Congressman Lynch, weren’t the talking points the administration put out in advance of Susan Rice’s appearances on those five Sunday shows, weren’t those talking points scrubbed?
LYNCH: They certainly weren’t accurate. I don’t know what the process was there, but absolutely they were false, they were wrong. There were no protests outside of Benghazi compound there.
This was a deliberate and strategic attack on the consulate there. So any statements that this was sort of like the — you know, the — the other protests that we saw in Cairo and other embassies, that was not this type of case.
WALLACE: So briefly, and we’re running out of time, Congressman lynch, how do you explain the fact that that Sunday, U.N. Ambassador Rice came on this show and four other Sunday shows, never mentioned the Al Qaeda extremists, which had been scrubbed from the — from the talking points, but did mention a reaction to the anti-Islam video which had never been in any of the talking points?
LYNCH: Well, it was scrubbed. It was totally inaccurate. You’re absolutely right. There’s no excuse for that. It was false information. And what they try to do is harmonize what happened in Benghazi with what happened everywhere else across the Middle East.
WALLACE: And do you think part of that because — do you think it was scrubbed because of the fact that that didn’t fit into the president’s narrative that al Qaeda was on the run?
LYNCH: Well, yes, I think it was a victory of hope over reality, to be honest with you. They were hoping that this wasn’t the case.
WALLACE: Hope over reality?
CHAFFETZ: I wouldn’t call it a victory of hope over reality. I mean, that’s — look, at the end of the day, we’ve got four dead Americans. We’ve got a kid who’s still in the hospital. We’ve got hundreds of embassies and consulates, we’ve got thousands of people serving overseas.
We haven’t had the truth 4 1/2 months after the incident.
LYNCH: How about we work together on that, then?
CHAFFETZ: That would be great.
LYNCH: How about we work together?
WALLACE: All right. Gentlemen, we’re going to give you —
LYNCH: — twenty-four hours to go to Benghazi, you know?
WALLACE: And we’re going to give you an opportunity to work together off camera before Wednesday’s hearing.
Congressman Chaffetz and Congressman Lynch, we want to thank you both for giving us a very spirited preview of Wednesday’s hearing. We’ll stay on top of this story, gentlemen. Thank you very much.
CHAFFETZ: Thank you.
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