Congressman Jason Chaffetz On The New Benghazi Select Committee, And A Lot Of Unanswered Questions
HH: One of the few individuals in America who has actually been to the scene of the Benghazi terrorist attack is my guest now, Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Congressman, welcome, it’s great to speak with you.
JC: Hugh, thanks for having me on. I’ve been to Libya. Haven’t been to Benghazi. Not even the FBI could get there when they wanted to get there.
HH: All right, would you walk us through, first, your reaction to the appointment of the special committee, because you’ve been doing yeoman’s work on this. You went to Libya at the request of Darrell Issa, and you talked to the Libyan officials. And you’ve been on this at the hearings every day. What’s your reaction to having a special committee?
JC: Well, you know, I think the four committees have done good work, but you need somebody to tie it all together. There’s nobody better than Trey Gowdy to do that. I mean, he’s argued over a hundred cases as a prosecutor, never lost a case. He knows what he’s doing. It’s going to be a small, select group, and get to the truth. That’s all we ask.
HH: Now on Wednesday, Chairman Ryan of the Budget Committee joined me, and I asked him about the threats of Democrats to boycott the select committee. Here’s what the chairman said.
PR: We do not have answers. Four Americans are dead, including our ambassador. They were killed in a terrorist attack. We know that civilian and military authorities within 24 hours of the attack knew that this was a terrorist attack, and yet this narrative continue to be spun. And now we know that the White House was involved in pushing this narrative. We also have unanswered questions about security beforehand. We had all of these security problems surrounding this embassy, this consulate and others, and there were repeated requests for more security. And not only did they not get those requests honored, they had reduction in security. So there are a lot of questions that are still begging for answers. And for these victims and their families, justice requires that we get to the bottom of this. And so for a person in Congress, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it really shouldn’t matter. To not want to get to these answers, now that we have evidence that information has been withheld, it’s just not right. And I disagree with them, and I think they are making a mistake.
HH: He emphasized that again and again, Congressman Chaffetz. Do you agree with him on that? And do you think the Democrats will follow through on their threat to boycott this?
JC: I don’t know. I mean, for the Democrats to say look, we prefer to be ignorant, that when they can’t answer the most basic questions, I mean, we have questions about what happened before, during and after the attack. The reporters in Washington, D.C. can’t answer those questions. The Democrats cant. And so if you just want to live in ignorance, I just see that totally counter to who we are as a nation. You learn from your mistakes. We are self-critical. There is a check and a balance on the executive branch. That’s just good government, no matter who is in office.
HH: So what are the great unanswered questions, in your mind, Jason Chaffetz, as to what we need to know from the Gowdy hearings?
JC: So when…our facility in Benghazi was attacked on April 6th, 2012. It was attacked again on June 6th, 2012. The British ambassador on June 11th was, had an assassination attempt. What did Secretary Clinton and the President, and the White House, do about it? Because as best I can tell, they didn’t do anything other than shrink the security profile. We went from 30 individuals there with a role of security down to 9. That’s a fundamental, big, gaping hole question. What was the Ambassador doing in Benghazi at that time? Was Secretary Clinton truly planning to expand the presence there? It sounded like she was going to come visit at the end of the year. Once the attack started, who did what and how? What did the State Department ask? Why did it take our military so long to get there? You could have gotten on a plane in Orange County, gotten to John Wayne and flown over to JFK airport in New York and then caught a connecting flight, gone on to Tripoli, and you would have been there faster than the military. Why is that? Isn’t anybody else worried about that? And then why is it that the State Department told the Libyan government that it was Ansar al-Sharia Islamic extremists that committed this attack, and yet told the American people that it was this YouTube video? And why did that continue on for weeks when you had literally the State Department, the CIA, the Department of Defense all knowing that it was not, not a video, did this continue on in perpetuity?
HH: When you saw the Ben Rhodes memo that had been concealed from your committee for so long, were you shocked that they had not produced it?
JC: I’m still shocked that we’re 20 months after the fact and they still cannot assure the Congress that they’ve given us all the documents. What Trey Gowdy, I love him, what he says is so right. He said what percentage of the truth do you want to know, because if you want to know 100%, we’re going to have to have 100% of the documents. And the White House has long denied personal involvement. Remember, we had a dust up on this many, many months ago, and they produced these hundred emails, and I was out there barking and saying there are more emails than that. But they tried to convince the White House Press Corps that there’s nothing here, time to move on, see, this is all the information we had. But obviously, that wasn’t true.
HH: It obviously wasn’t. The Rhodes email changes everything, and I think resets the table. Now the question becomes, is Trey Gowdy and your colleagues on this select committee for what I’ll call the Starr treatment. Ken Starr was one of the most respected people in America when he took on the task of investigating Bill Clinton in the 90s. And the Begala machine spun up, and at the end of it, he was pretty badly bruised. He’s back at Baylor now doing great stuff, but he was savaged. And I think Trey Gowdy and everyone on that committee is going to get the same treatment. Is everyone ready for it?
JC: You know, the Democrats, their usual method is the one of personal destruction. Trey Gowdy is as tough as they come. I think he’s here for all the right reasons. He’s got respect on both sides of the aisle. His record is impeccable. And mostly, I think he cares about his family. He cares about his faith. He cares about his country. I don’t think he’s much worried about what some pundit, you know, is going to say to him on some radio or television show. I don’t think it much matters to him.
HH: How about, Jason Chaffetz, staffing for this? The chief counsel will be important. I hope the comms director is very competent. I hope there’s a director of social media, just so that the committee’s work is accurately and timely made available to the public. Do you know if Chairman Gowdy is thinking in those terms?
JC: I know the Speaker’s office will be intimately involved in every step, but yeah, this has got to be the A game with the right people in place at every level. This small committee, which I think is the right decision, I think to keep it nice, small and tight is good, and it’s going to take some time. You know, everybody’s going to expect it to take two, three weeks, and now let’s have our first hearing. But I don’t know exactly how it will roll out, but my guess is it’s going to take a lot longer than that.
HH: Well, I wouldn’t expect a hearing, actually, until the second week in July, given clearances, etc. And I’m hoping that that first hearing is about Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith and Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, and who they were, so that everyone gets recalibrated as to why we’re doing this. But that, I wouldn’t be surprised if this takes up most of July and August, would you?
JC: Oh, and it can easily spill into next year. It’s just, remember, you have a White House and a State Department and a Department of Defense that are very possessive of these materials. You’re right. The security clearances for staffing and those types of things is going to be a big issue, so it’s moving in the right direction. I’m proud of the Speaker for putting this together. But it’s going to take a lot of work.
HH: Last question, very few people are as associated with the Benghazi investigation as you are. And I’m wondering if you think the interest level in the country is as intense as I think it is. I’m not sure if it gets past the Potomac. I don’t know if the Beltway-Manhattan media elite get it, but wherever I go, people want to talk about Benghazi. What do you find, Jason Chaffetz?
JC: Oh, it doesn’t matter where in the country you go. Even if I’m walking through airports, or go to a meeting or some other…you just listen to members as they come back from their town hall meetings. Somehow, some way, even though the so-called mainstream media doesn’t appreciate this story and report on it, America cares. They care about our troops. When a man goes down, they want to know that we’re going to take care of them. That didn’t happen in this case, and they want answers.
HH: Congressman Jason Chaffetz from Utah, thank you.
End of interview.