Congressman Jim Jordan Previews The Benghazi Hearing On Wednesday
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HH: On Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee is going to bear down on Benghazi. And they are going to try and hear from three key witnesses – Mark Thompson, Greg Hicks, and Eric Nordstrom, as to what happened and whether or not a cover up is underway at the highest levels of the American government. Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio’s 4th Congressional district is a member of the Oversight Committee. Congressman, welcome back, great to have you.
JJ: Good to be with you today, Hugh….
HH: What do you want to ask on Wednesday?
JJ: Well, I want to pick up where, you know, the only hearing we’ve had prior to the election was clear back a month after the incident took place, back in October. I want to pick up where we left off there. You know, if you remember in that hearing, Eric Nordstrom, who will be in front of the committee again on Wednesday, he was the chief security guy for the Department of States in country there, in Libya. He ended that hearing by saying there were times he was so frustrated by the lack of help they received from Washington that he actually said sometimes, I thought the Taliban were the folks in Washington. He called his own government, his own State Department, that’s on the record, he said in those, so I want to pick up there, and say you know, do you stand by that statement? I think he will. What kind of treatment has he received since he was willing to come forward a month after this terrible event that took place in Benghazi? What kind of treatment has he received from the Department of State relative to his career? And then go right into I think who will be the main witness tomorrow, and that’s Mr. Hicks, who was deputy chief of mission in Tripoli when all this terrible stuff took place. So I think pick up right there, and find out frankly, if Mr. Hicks received the same kind of treatment as Mr. Nordstrom? Has he had an impediment to his career now that he’s been willing to come forward and offer up the truth that this administration seems not to be able to do?
HH: Yeah, Congressman Jordan, my I be so bold as to suggest a question?
HH: I would love to hear asked repeatedly of the three witnesses, but especially Mr. Hicks, whether they have heard any U.S. official make remarks to the media that led them to feel that those officials were lying, because that’s a subjective statement. That can’t be proved true or false, but it certainly gives us an understanding of what the people in the best position to understand what was going on feel about how Washington, D.C. has been presenting this.
JJ: Good point.
HH: Have you folks had a chance to coordinate how to ask? I mean, you’re the lawyer, but a lot of your colleagues on the committee are not, and if you ask open-ended questions, or you know who this goes. You know how people can walk around these things.
JJ: No, no, I think there is coordination. We’re working closely with our staff, and as you know, we have great staff at the Oversight Committee. And so we are planning and coordinating who’s going to go in what order, what you’re going to focus on. And of course, my focus is going to be, I believe, on this idea. Have you been, since you’ve come forward, what kind of treatment, how have you been perceived, how have you been handled by the folks in Washington, D.C? And I think Mr. Hicks is going to testify, if you look through his transcript, he’s going to testify that everything changed. Now think about this, Hugh. On September 18th, he gets a call from the president of the United States praising his conduct and his performance in that terrible night of September 11-12, and how he handled things in the days shortly thereafter. And on the 18th, he gets a call from the President saying Mr. Hicks, Greg, we want to thank you for the good work you’re doing. And then two days later, it all changes. And it all changed when Mr. Hicks said why did Secretary Rice go on TV and say the things she did? She didn’t even talk to me. I was in country with all of this unfolded. No one at Washington asked my opinion about what they had her say on five different TV shows that Sunday morning. So from September 18 to September 20th, it all changes. And then, if you read the transcript of Mr. Hicks and what we’ll try to bring out in the hearing on Wednesday, is then everything changes for Mr. Hicks. He’s no longer given the respect and the ability to run the operation there in Libya the way that he, that the deputy chief of mission should be able to operate. And so that’s some of the things that we’re going to try to bring out as well this Wednesday.
HH: Well, I really hope if someone has a chance to say to him, did you watch Secretary of State Clinton testify, and what did you feel, again, subjective, when she said what difference does it make, because I just can’t imagine having gone through that ordeal, and hearing your former boss say what difference does it make, Mr. Congressman.
HH: It’s flabbergasting, actually.
JJ: No, it’s a great question for Mr. Hicks, who lived through that night in Libya, and had close friends, he was very close to the ambassador and was working well with the ambassador, close friends who lost their lives. And I will tell you, Hugh, I have had the chance to sit down with Tyron Woods’ father, and he told me, he said you know what, I don’t know anything more today than I knew, you know, seven months later than I knew when it all happened. So for the Secretary to make those kind of statements, you know had an impact on people like Mr. Hicks who lived through it and who was trying to run things and operate things, and do the best he could under the circumstances that he had, and people like Mr. Woods, who lost a son.
HH: And the American public responds to feelings, not necessarily dry facts. They want the feelings, because in those feelings, they intuit truth. Let me ask you, Congressman, the interim progress report for the House Republican Conference, which you used to send these things in from the Study Group, and I know how important they are.
HH: I’ve read it three times.
HH: There’s one line, actually, two sentences on Page 11. Ambassador Stevens traveled to Benghazi on September 10th, 2012, to fill staffing gaps between principal officers in Benghazi, and to allow him to reconnect with local contacts. He also planned to attend the establishment of a new American corner at a local Benghazi school.
HH: This seems to me to be right in Mr. Hicks’ wheelhouse. That does not answer for me the idea that you would go to that station on September 11th with that little security. There are of course lots of speculation about weapons for the Syrian rebels. Will that be brought out in the hearing?
JJ: I don’t know that, but I do know they were very concerned. You look through the statements that Mr. Hicks has made, he was very concerned about the ambassador traveling to Benghazi, particularly, as you rightly point out, on that date, on September 11th. So there was real concerns. And as you go back, remember what took place, remember the hearing we had in the Oversight Committee on October 12th, a month after this terrible event. The hearing we had there, remember the fact pattern. 230 security incidents in Libya in the thirteen months prior, twice they’d breached the actual walls of the consulate there in Benghazi, they tried to assassinate the British ambassador, repeated requests for additional security, help from the United States, not relying on the Libyan people there, we need help from America. We need America to do it. We need Marine Corps, we need SEALs, we need American security forces there, repeated requests for that help, not only denied, but what they had was reduced. And that’s what led Eric Nordstrom to make the statement he did that concluded our hearing on October 12th, that he was so frustrated with the lack of help they received from Washington, and the failure of Washington to recognize how serious the situation was. And so of course, when the ambassador travels to Benghazi on September 11th, of course everyone is nervous, and Mr. Hicks expresses that in his transcript that the staff has, that we’ve read.
HH: Now I want to hope to get some Buckeye bluntness here. I have talked today with Congressmen Mica and Lankford, with Congresswoman Lummis, with Mike Turner from Dayton, with Blake Farenthold, and with, coming up afterwards, Paul Gosar will follow you.
HH: And you know, some people are better at this than others. You’re real good. You bring the energy that makes it move along. Other people are a little bit more laid back, and perhaps not as experienced. Is the staff, is the chair drilling down how not to waste time on long statements and verbose questions, Jim Jordan?
JJ: OH, you know, look, we hope so. We hope we all do a good job, and we’re trying to focus and hone this in. I know the Chairman has done an outstanding job, and always does an outstanding job when he’s questioning witnesses.
JJ: He has made that point very clear, that we want to focus this, we want to do the best job we possibly can, because this is so important, that the American people, and specifically those families who lost a loved one, know the truth. And the facts just, the facts need to just come out, and you’re right. We need to do it in a compelling and articulate way. I think our witnesses are going to be good. I will tell you Mr. Nordstrom, I thought, was a very good witness when he was in front of the committee six months ago last fall, and so I’m looking forward to questioning him as well again here this Wednesday.
HH: There’s one other question in the report. It says that they did not use the laser sighting in effort to bring in air assets. It states bluntly, your colleagues over at Armed Services, have come to the conclusion that there were no air assets in the sky. Every special operator I have talked to about this have told me you never use that laser stuff as a display of force. Are you buying that conclusion?
JJ: All I will tell you is what Mr. Hicks has stated to committee staff, which I have read, which says he felt that if there had been some air presence just fly over, almost like a flyover, that that could have made some kind of difference, in light of the fact that the Libyans were nervous about any type of air support that would be there. Even if they couldn’t get what was needed to actually do the job, just the fact that they could have had something to fly over, he felt that would be helpful. He makes that clear in his transcribed interview.
HH: You know, in Rorke Denver’s book, he talks about calling in an F-18 Super Hornet that had no ordinance left, but they flew close to the ground, and scared a bunch of al Qaeda in the Iraq theatre away.
HH: Is that what he’s talking about?
JJ: It seems to be that’s what Mr. Hicks alludes to in his, or not just alludes to, but points out in his transcribed interview with Oversight staff.
HH: Well, how much time are you going to get on Wednesday, Congressman?
JJ: Well, you know, you get five minutes, but there will be several rounds. I anticipate this will be a long, long hearing, because you know, in simple terms, the American people deserve the facts. And more importantly, the families who lost loved ones deserve the truth, and that’s what we’re trying to get to. And I think it should take as long as is necessary to get to those key facts.
HH: Now I’m also an advocate for a select committee.
HH: Is that going to happen? 30 seconds.
JJ: Well, I don’t know. I’ve actually co-sponsored legislation, too. Frank Wolfe’s been leading that. What I’m after is we need more hearings, and we’re getting that first step this Wednesday, and I want to applaud Chairman Issa and my colleague, Jason Chaffetz, and the others who worked hard to make this happen.
HH: Congressman Jim Jordan, thank you.
End of interview.