Andrew C. McCarthy’s Advice For The New Benghazi Select Committee On Who Should Be Chief Counsel
HH: I being this hour with Andrew C. McCarthy, former prosecutor of the Blind Sheikh, senior fellow at the National Review Foundation, author of Willful Blindness. He has a new book coming out as well about impeachment, and whether or not a case could have been made to impeach President Obama. I want him to be the chief counsel of the new select committee to which Trey Gowdy was named as chairman by John Boehner today, and he has written a piece over at National Review saying no, not me, no mas, no mas, but for good reason. Andrew C. McCarthy, welcome, my friend, great to have you.
AM: Hugh, notwithstanding your efforts to get me demoted, I’m delighted to be with you.
HH: Yeah, I do want you go to work endless hours for less money and be abused by the entire elite commentariat, because you know how to prosecute. And that’s what we need here, isn’t it?
AM: Yes, but you know, look. You’re…I’m flattered more than I can say, and I think, what you’re hitting on is absolutely right. This hire, whoever it is, whoever the special counsel is, I think other than Congressman Gowdy himself, who I thought was an excellent choice to lead the committee, the counsel that they choose, and they should absolutely get on that quick, will be the most important hire, and most important in terms of the direction of the committee, number one. And number two, it should absolutely be a former prosecutor who has experience building and bringing criminal cases that have to be, that ought to be prosecuted and that are high profile in the sense that you know that you’re going to have detractors in the media who are deriding the case at the moment it’s been built. I think that you know, one of the big problems with the Lewinsky investigation, the Clinton impeachment days, was as much as I admire Judge Starr, and I think that you know, if ever you needed somebody to go into the Supreme Court and defend that investigation, he’s your guy. He’s not a kind of where the rubber meets the road prosecutor. And you really need more of a Rudy type than a Judge Starr type to pull this one off.
HH: You know, I also was talking with Pete Sessions last hour. David Schippers was the worst choice ever for the impeachment committee, because he didn’t understand media. He didn’t understand politics. And he wasn’t, to my mind, the kind of prosecutor who’s done national security cases. This is, A) it’s going to take forever to get someone cleared up, and I assume your full field background investigations might need to be updated, but they have to be pretty doggone good given what you’ve done in the past. But they’ve got to find someone who we’re not going to wait three months to get cleared.
AM: Yeah, you’re exactly right about that. I’m a poor choice because I’ve publicly taken a kind of a conclusive position on what happened in Benghazi. And consequently, I think you don’t want, in my view, the facts of what happened in this case are so damning that they ought to be allowed to sing for themselves. And people ought to put their egos and their ambitions aside and let’s just get down to the bottom of what happened here. The last thing you want is somebody who can be, the other side is going to attack, obviously, whoever it is.
AM: And it’s already clear they’re trying to delegitimize the whole investigation as an exercise in partisan hackery. I think it would play into their hands to pick somebody who’s been doing public commentary on this very issue such that they could say you know, look, this guy’s already made up his mind, and now he’s just looking to find evidence to back up the conclusions he’s already drawn. There are a lot of very find prosecutors out there who haven’t been doing public commentary, who know how to investigate this kind of a case, and who know that the most important thing in investigating it, and actually, the Congressional setting is much easier for this than, say, the grand jury setting, but who know that the important component here is to continue to push out information into the public domain so that people on the outside who want to see a good investigation done here have ammunition to fight off the Carvilles and the Begalas who are going to be making a counter-case.
HH: Let me come back to those possible chief counsel names in a second. I was talking with, I was lobbying Pete Sessions, who I expect to be on this committee along with Devin Nunes as sort of the Boehner guys on the committee.
AM: Let’s hope so.
HH: And Pete’s a good man, and Devin’s a good man. But I want Pompeo and DeSantis on, because they are our two military veterans, DeSantis of this war, Pompeo of Desert Storm, who are also Harvard Law grads. And there’s a military component to this, Andrew McCarthy, about who didn’t do what when, and why weren’t things done that ought to have been done, and why didn’t they begin to move to the sound of the gunfire to quite General Lovell from last week. What do you think about Pompeo and DeSantis as veterans, that we need people who actually know chain of command and military stuff on this committee?
AM: I really think, Hugh, that one of the…I think that’s totally right, and I think that one of the big problems with the 9/11 Commission, for example, was that they really staffed the commission with a bunch of lawyers and Washington political players, and did not include real national security professionals. I mean, there weren’t a lot of people on that commission, as ballyhooed as it was, who had real first-hand intelligence experience, real first-hand military experience. All the things that they were making policy for, those areas of expertise were kind of left on the side. And it’s critically important here that the military component be addressed, because if, as people like I have been arguing, there have been derelictions of duty here on the part of the Commander-In-Chief, you can’t weight that allegation unless you have people who can really speak to what the military protocols were, what assets were available, what orders should have been given, who had the authority to give orders, etc. So I’m with you on that. I think it’s absolutely important that there be a military component on this, and that there be an intelligence component on this, because the other aspect of it, you know, the back end aspect of it after the massacre occurred has been the contortion, distortion of intelligence as it’s been presented to the American people. So I think that part of it is very important, too.
HH: Yeah, I would have recommended Mike Rogers, except he’s retiring, and I think this thing’s going to, it’ll have Phase 1 before this Congress is over, but there’ll be Phase 2. So Andrew McCarthy, it might be the kiss of death, but I’ve got to know anyway. If you were the king of the forest, not queen, not duke, not earl, who would you name as chief counsel and deputy chief counsel and staff investigator? Who occurs to you as either, if not the right skill set, then even a name to do these jobs?
AM: Well, the name that immediately leapt to my mind is George Terwilliger, who was the, I think, the deputy attorney general in the first George H.W. Bush administration, a former U.S. Attorney, terrific investigator, and the kind of guy who I think has both the intellect, the credibility and the skill set to do something like this.
HH: Now I don’t know George. How is he…
AM: Other names that have occurred to me are, you know, people like Miguel Estrada…
AM: …who everybody knows Miguel as a great Appellate lawyer. I happen to have served in the U.S. Attorney’s office with him and know that he’s also a superb investigator.
HH: Yes, and very accomplished.
AM: He’s another guy who would really bring the skill set.
HH: Yeah, I’m looking for who can, you know the new media environment, because you work on it. You work on social media, you work on NRO, internet, blog, you write for the Wall Street Journal, you write books, you do Book Notes, you know the whole deal. I know Estrada’s competent in that world. Is Terwilliger?
AM: Oh, yeah, absolutely, without question. And he’s another guy who’s been, you know, he’s very good on policy. He knows the national security end of it well. He was probably among the country’s most eloquent commentators in terms of the issues that came up with respect to the Patriot Act. If I was in trouble, I think George would probably be the first person I’d pick up the phone to talk to, not to write me an appellate brief, although I think he could do a fine job at that, too, but you know, to be a real lawyer in an investigation.
HH: Now the last part is who’s going to speak for this committee? And obviously, the chairman will and the members will, but you’ve got to have someone who does the day to day spokesperson. I like Rick Grinell and people like that, but who do you think ought to be out there, and I mean, really engaged, because you’re right. The Carvilles, Begalas, the whole industrial complex of the left is going to descend on this committee.
AM: Well, they need somebody with a Dana Perino type skill set. I’m not trying to foist this on Dana, but I have a lot of respect for her ability both to master complex facts and put them out in a way that’s comprehensible to the public, and also in a way that given what the attack is going to be here, which is that it’s going to be a wild-eyed, partisan attack, somebody like Dana, just by her demeanor and the way she carries herself, tends to negate that. And I think that’s going to be a very important component to…
HH: 30 seconds, Andrew. How much do they need to know…
AM: And you’re quite right. The public face is not only important, Hugh, on its own, it’s going to be important to compare and contrast with Jay Carney, who’s really, you know, done himself no good in the last several weeks and months on this.
HH: Yeah, quick question. How important will the knowledge of radical Islam be to the staff?
AM: I think it’s critical, but that’s another reason why you know, maybe I’m not the best person in the world. I believe that the key to understanding what happened in Benghazi goes back to President Obama’s decision to go to war against what we were then being told was an American counterterrorism ally, the Qaddafi regime, in a way that absolutely, predictably empowered Islamic supremacists and al Qaeda elements in the region, the very ones that are ultimately responsible for this attack. I think if you’re afraid to take on that piece of it, we’re never going to get to the bottom of it. And frankly, it’s also why I’ve argued that it’s a real mistake for Republicans to let Senator McCain and Senator Graham be the face of their opposition in the Senate, because you know, I think they were on the wrong side of where this whole problem begins.
HH: Andrew McCarthy, always a pleasure, thank you, my friend.
End of interview.