Congressman Mike Pompeo is a member of the House Select Committee on Benghazi and he joined me today to discuss the massive document dump on the Committee by the Department of State and plans for the appearance of former Secretary of State Clinton before the Select Committee:
HH: Joined now by Congressman Mike Pompeo representing Kansas’ 4th Congressional District. You can follow the Congressman @RepMikePompeo on Twitter. Congressman, thank you for joining me. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
MP: It’s great to be with you, Hugh. How are you today?
HH: Good. It’s a busy day, I’m sure, on the Intelligence Committee with a massacre in Egypt and I mean, the Hezbollah attacking Israelis and a coup in Yemen. I don’t know if you’ve had any time to spend on the Benghazi Select Committee today. Was that anything going on there today?
MP: So we had a hearing this week where we basically were calling the administration to task for having continued to refuse to provide us documents. And it won’t surprise you, Hugh, a handful of days before the hearing, all of a sudden, they started turning over all kinds of stuff. And so we did get some documents, 15,000 pages of documents that so far as we can tell, no member of Congress has seen before. I don’t know why they were kept from previous committees. We are now plowing through those. But the list is not yet complete. We’ve got lots of witnesses left to talk to, and go over a whole bunch of documents that have not been turned over.
HH: One of those witnesses, according to news reports yesterday, including CNN, will be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Has she confirmed, in fact, to the committee that she will appear before it?
MP: Oh, I’m confident that she’ll speak with us. We’ll need to get that information, right, Hugh, to get the facts about what happened to these four men, for their families, so this thing doesn’t happen again. We’ll need that. We can’t do it until we have all the information. No good investigation can just proceed without having the documents and all the materials, all the things that were going on around it. And so when we have that, we’ll call her, we’ll call all the witnesses that we think have relevant information, and we will do our best to present a finished, complete story of what happened that night and why the administration refused to call this act of radical Islamic terrorism something else for so long.
HH: Now Congressman Pompeo, I am most interested with regards to the former Secretary of State as to what she was doing and where she was doing it that night. And the most complete account I have read, which is HRC by Amie Parnes and Jon Allen, has her leaving the State Department at 1:00, and a couple of other cameos at various places. Do you have a good idea of the former Secretary of State’s movements that night?
MP: Hugh, I’d rather not say anything about that at this point. I’m still, there are so many rocks to turn over, and I’d beg you to wait a little bit. We will turn the rocks over, and we will share with you and everyone else how the events went down that evening, both just prior to the time of the attacks and then for the duration.
HH: Then let me ask more generally. As a former prosecutor, as a lawyer, a Harvard Law grad, a timeline is everything, isn’t it? In any case, don’t you always start with a timeline of everyone who’s involved?
MP: It is the foundational document. You want, in this case, events on the ground, and then you want to go match that against where are all the actors were, the communications that those actors had, both voice and email, and then all the documents that surround that. So that is the case the core organizational principle we’ll use. It helps organize, helps us think, and also forces folks to recall things that they might otherwise not be able to quite remember.
HH: You know, that is, I have trouble explaining to the radio audience sometimes. Timelines are everything to lawyers, and they are painstaking in their reconstruction of them. That’s what discovery is all about. That’s what permitting is all about. I’m sure that’s what Congressional investigations are all about. Do you think we are at 50% of the timeline for everything, or at 25% of the timeline, or at 90% of the timeline, Congressman?
MP: It depends on how you think about it. In some sense, we’ve now seen videos, and so we have some of the timeline pretty complete in terms of what actually took place. With respect to other information, where folks were, who were surrounding it, whether that was folks at CentCom and those places, still many, many gaps. I’m not sure it’s worthy to present a percentage. It is fair to say that we still have an awful lot of work to do. The Democrats this week tried to tell us that all the questions had been asked and answered, and those 15,000 pages belie that fact quite plainly.
HH: Now I want to talk about those 15,000 pages of documents. What is Mike Pompeo’s role vis-à-vis those 15,000? Do you have to actually sit down and read them? Are they classified? Or can your staff go through them and hopefully vet the documents for your identification of what a significant and not significant, because 15,000 documents, they could be 14,999 pages of duplicated material that no one’s ever seen, and wants to see.
MP: They absolutely could be. I hope that’s not what we find. The committee staff, who does have security clearances, will begin immediately, indeed, has already begun to unpack what was provided to us. They will sort and organize it. They will do so with all of the members, Republican, Democratic members alike, saying hey, these are the things we’re looking for, these are the relevant points of entry we want to make sure we see. So we’ll see all of those. And then of course, they’ll provide us how those fit into our timeline, as you described earlier, as well as any other documents they think are significant to lead us to actually pursue additional documents or additional witnesses.
HH: Was there any explanation why first look documents, we are documents never provided to Congress before, no one’s seen them before, have not previously been produced to Chairman Issa’s committee in the last Congress, or to any other committee in the Senate?
MP: None given.
HH: What could be the answer for that, other than cover-up? Give me some explanation other than cover-up.
MP: You have to see what they are. I suppose it’s possible that some inquiry didn’t exactly ask for the right documents, and so they were somehow not called for. The explanation will be no one asked for them. We’ve got to see what they are, Hugh, before we go to thinking other things, but it is very surprising at this point that there remain documents out there, although we know there remain additional documents that we still don’t have that we don’t think anybody has seen, either.
HH: And I am curious whether or not the committee will be interested in the custodian of the documents. And this is highly technical, but it interests me as a lawyer. Someone made the decision not to give Congress those documents under prior requests. Someone had to have direction not to do so, because the spirit of the inquiry was capacious. I mean, everybody wanted everything. So someone made the decision not to turn them over. Do you know who that person was?
MP: I do not.
HH: Is there any way to…
MP: We will certainly, I will say this, we will certainly pursue that. If we conclude, you saw with an email from Ben Rhodes that had been fought over, and lots of documents that were fought over by my committee, the Intelligence Committee and others before, we will follow that to where the logic leads as well, not only so that we can make sure that we’ve got the Executive Branch behaving properly, but so that we can find out who, if anyone, gave instructions not to provide those documents. It’s absolutely relevant to our legislative duties.
HH: I agree with that. Now I want to close by talking about your colleague, former colleague, Mike Rogers. And the Intelligence Committee issued a report at the end of the last Congress saying we couldn’t find anything. Does it not stand to reason if there are 15,000 new documents, that conclusion is inoperative?
MP: Well, I actually don’t think that’s what that Intelligence report said. The Intelligence Committee’s report said, I didn’t think it said it couldn’t find anything. It was a much narrower inquiry than we’re engaged in. For example, the documents that we received this past week were documents from the State Department. The Intelligence Committee’s inquiry didn’t extend to that. It extended only to the narrow band of documents that came out of America’s intelligence community. So it is absolutely the case that there have been previous reports completed, both by the Intelligence Committee, by Chairman Issa’s committee. That does not mean at all that this fully, the full accounting has yet taken place. That’s why Chairman Gowdy and I, and other members on the committee, are still engaged in this process.
HH: Are your colleagues on the Democratic side helping you or hindering you?
MP: They have proven to play defense for the administration. And I’m deeply disappointed in that. I know some of them. And if you go back when you and I talked at the formation of the committee, I was very hopeful that they, too, would share our interest in getting to the bottom of it. But to date, I’ve seen very little evidence of that.
HH: I look forward to continuing conversations, Congressman Pompeo, as that timeline comes together, and especially as the former Secretary of State heads towards her date with the committee. I hope you become more available, not less, but I’ll bet you it’s the latter. Thank you, Congressman.
End of interview.