Congressman Mike Pompeo, a member of both the House Intelligence Committee and the Select Committee on Benghazi joined me to start Friday’s program, and we discussed his visit earlier in the day to CIA headquarters as well the status of the Benghazi investigation, the motives of Senator Feinstein in releasing the report, and the possibility of Congress taking up legislation to assist any American or ally who ends up dragged before the International Criminal Court as a result of the release of the senate report:
HH: I begin today’s program, though, amidst the wild weather on the West Coast where it’s raining like it hasn’t in a decade, thank God, with Congressman Mike Pompeo from the great state of Kansas. Congressman, merry Christmas, it’s great to have you.
MP: Great to be with you, Hugh, glad you’re getting some rain.
HH: Oh, we need it. Now I am not happy that the Senate passed this afternoon the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, because it cuts the military pay in benefits, and their housing allowance. But Jim Inhofe said on this show last week that that’s going to be put right in the new Congress. What do you think about that?
MP: Well, I voted for the NDAA over on our side as well, Hugh, with the commitment that we’re going to get it fixed. I know we ought to. I know we must, and I’m confident that we will. We talked about this, we talked about this maybe six or seven months ago when there was a budget bill that also had an impact, and I was able to vote against it. And we did get it fixed. I’m confident we’ll get it fixed this time as well. It’s not right to do this to our men and women in uniform, and I’m confident we’ll get it fixed.
HH: All right, now moving on to the other news of the day, stories are surfacing today, and I believe they originated with Carl Levin that Bush knew everything, that he’s charging that there was a lot of purposeful misleading by the President and the CIA. You’ve been on the House Intelligence Committee for a long time. What’s your reaction both to the Senate report this week, the new charges about President Bush, and this whole spiral into the world of long ago as the Democrats prepare to give up power in the Congress?
MP: Well, Hugh, let me take a look at it this way. I spent today, actually, out at Langley, out at CIA headquarters, talking with the folks, the warriors who are tasked with defending us each and every day. And what I can tell you about this report is two simple things. One, it has made America less safe, that is this release will ultimately cause Americans to be killed. And second, there was no good rationale for putting forth this report. There was literally no news, save for some salacious details that actually put these very warriors at risk. They and their families now are in jeopardy because one senator decided this was such an important thing for her self-cleansing, her amnesia, to be rewarded, and put this report out and put America on a footing that is now less secure, and put those men, those men and women that we ask to keep us safe, we ask them to do really hard things in the aftermath of 9/11. They were largely successful, and now all these years later, for nothing but political mischief, we put these folks at risk. It is unconscionable, Hugh.
HH: Congressman, any doubt in your mind that Senator Feinstein was in fact briefed about these practices at the time they were underway, something she denies, but something that the agency asserts firmly and with great confidence.
MP: You know, I don’t know the details of when precisely she came on the committee, or when precisely she learned about these things. But I will tell you, I’ve only been on the committee now for two years, and I have watched this committee brief members of Congress, and invite us down to seek additional information. And if for some reason she personally wasn’t in a room where some briefing took place at some particular time, it was not because the CIA did not make that information available to Congress. They have now spoken about that, they’ve bene clear, and frankly, no one has actually refuted the factual assertions that Congress had that knowledge. It is remarkable to have a senator who many times has been good on this set of issues now act out in such a way as to put the folks who she asked to do these hard things to keep the citizens of California safe to now dump on them.
HH: How do you, how does the report make America less safe, Congressman Pompeo?
MP: Well, let me give you two good examples. So imagine you’re a CIA warrior, and you get asked to do something really hard six months from now that you know might be controversial, and that five years down the road, some politician might decide they didn’t like it anymore. Or some lawyer in the Justice Department might decide you know, I just don’t think that makes any sense. I assure you that these folks will think twice about that knowing that someday, there’ll be a report, and there’ll be a black line through my name, but that anybody with two cents of energy and time can find out where I live, who my family is, and they can decide I behaved unlawfully, and they can come after me. So we have now made those men and women we’re asking to do something very difficult think twice before they go out and do it. In the same vein, imagine now that we ask another country to help us. We ask them to provide us by helping, giving us information, more intelligence, or helping us with a particularly program or project. We tell them you know, we’ll make sure that your country is never identified as helping us, because we know that’s important to you. Any chance they’re going to believe that? Those are two fundamental tasks that our intelligence community undertakes, and we’ve now made it incredibly more difficult for them to do it. That absence makes America more at risk.
HH: Now Congressman, I spent yesterday huddled with one of my colleagues who studies this issue extensively. My law firm has a pretty vast white collar crime department. And we were talking about the fact that this exposes some of our allies to prosecution before the International Criminal Court. We are not a signatory to that treaty, so it will be very hard, although not impossible, for Americans to be caught up by overaggressive, overzealous, headline-seeking prosecutors abroad and dragged before the ICC. I would think it would be a good thing for Congress to do to pass a law saying to any of our allies who do find themselves before the ICC because of this report, that we’ll pay for the cost of their defense, and we will come to their defense. Any chance of getting that out of the Congress?
MP: You know, I think that’s an excellent idea. I haven’t really explored it, and I know a little bit about this. You’re right. I think prosecution would be difficult to succeed, but not hard to begin. Imagine you’re traveling there, and you find yourself in the hands of the gendarme or the policemen from a particular nation, and the cost and the burden of defending yourself would be enormous. I think that makes sense, and I think we ought to do that for our men and women here as well. I think we ought to tell them that they did what they were told to do. So long as they were behaving in a way that even the United States Justice Department had signed off on, that we’ll do everything to support them, we’ll do everything to get them back. And if you’re an allied country, we’re happy to provide your assistance in defending yourself in front of any tribunal anywhere in the world.
HH: Because I think that would have not only the good effect of adding a layer of protection to our people, but sending a signal to our allies, thank you for their help, but also putting before Senate Democrats who created this outrageous situation this week a very early choice in 2015 about whether or not they’re going to make it right, and then make the President sign on, because I watched the Brennan press conference yesterday, and he all but said, he didn’t come out and say it, because he didn’t want to contradict some of the Democrats, that we needed this information to get bin Laden and the other bad guys.
MP: Yeah, I watched it, too. I think Director Brennan made it very clear if you were watching at all that he had confidence that the information we learned from the enhance interrogation program was important, and led directly to the capture of Osama bin Laden. It’s remarkable that our President would, he’d show us the photo of the Situation Room the night that this capture of this man who killed 3,000 Americans took place, but then turns around and won’t defend the warriors who undertook the actions to make that all happen. I agree, I think this would send a good signal, and I think it would also force the President to own up to the fact these folks were acting in a way that he knows served America well.
HH: And I just, I want to tell the audience, if you fall into the hands of the International Criminal Court, you’re going to spend a half million dollars in about three weeks, because, defending yourself. It’s one of those classic cases where it’s a bureaucracy in Europe that will sweep up our friends and our allies. So let me conclude by asking you about the Benghazi Select Committee on which you serve as well as the Intelligence Committee, Mike Pompeo. What have you heard from the Senate about whether or not the jurisdiction of the committee will be joined with that of a Senate Select Committee?
MP: I haven’t heard much about it lately, Hugh. I know there was some discussions right after the elections, but to be honest with you, I couldn’t tell you precisely how likely that is to happen. I’d welcome all arms in getting the facts to the American people.
HH: Is the work of the committee going well? Or will it slow down, as everything does in D.C., in December and early January?
MP: Well, no, the committee’s hard at work. Indeed, we had hearings this week. We will continue to work through these last two weeks. I will tell you what is slowing the committee down, and it has proven incredibly difficult to obtain documents that we’ve asked for from the administration, documents pertaining to all the things that the American people have every right to know about, documents that have literally no privilege assigned to them. We just, much like they did with some of the committees over the past year and a half, they are today loathe to turn over the documents that this committee has properly asked for. But make no mistake, Chairman Gowdy has a schedule, a plan, and lots of folks hard at work getting the committee headed down the right path, and we’ll have hearings I know as soon as we get back in January as well.
HH: Okay, a last question with a minute left, your committee, led by Congressman Rogers, who’s retiring, put out this report that confused a lot of people. What was that all about?
MP: So I’ve just asked folks to read the actual report. When you look at the actual assertions that are contained in that report, I think they actually reflect what happened that night. There have been some folks who said it contradicted what the warriors that were on the ground that night. I don’t actually think there’s a contradiction there. But I think, too, the report is very clear, it is not the last and final word on what happened in Benghazi. The Intelligence Committee was in its lane, doing work, figuring out what the intelligence agencies were doing that night. That leaves not only State and Defense, but all the interagency activities still with lots of questions to be answered by our Benghazi Select Committee.
HH: Look forward to getting those answers, Congressman Mike Pompeo. Have a great Christmas season, thanks for joining us today.
End of interview.