Congressmen Sessions and Pompeo On Benghazi Committee –What’s A West Point Veteran and Harvard Law Grad Think?
Bravo the appointment of Representative Trey Gowdy as chair of Select Committee on Benghazi.
Here’s interviews I did today with Congressmen Pete Sessions of Texas, Chair of the House Rules Committee, and Mike Pompeo of Kansas, a West Point/Harvard Law grad on the committee’s work ahead:
HH: I begin today with our old friend to the program, Pete Sessions. You knew him well from his days as chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. He is now committee of the all-powerful House Rules, chairman of the all-power House Rules Committee. Pete Sessions, welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
PS: Hugh, I’m delighted to be back with you.
HH: Thank you for opening the show. The news today is that your colleague, Trey Gowdy, is going to be appointed to chair a select committee on Benghazi. Are you going to be on that committee, Pete Sessions?
PS: You know, I don’t know, yet. I’ll be in Washington tonight or tomorrow. But let me just talk to you for a second about how great Trey Gowdy is, and what a great attribute he will be in the continuing development of this issue. Trey Gowdy, as you know, is a former federal prosecutor. He has delved into this issue for a long time. He sees what the matter is and where we’re going to go. The bottom line is, Hugh Hewitt, you see this, you understand it. The Judicial Watch, through the judicial process, meaning the third branch of government, went and got unredacted information that are emails which did not match up to what the administration had been providing to Congress. The advantage is that FOIA, Freedom Of Information Act, has criminal prosecution and criminal penalties behind that, where if you do not provide the information as it was, criminal element behind it. So the federal judge looked at it, did not have ramifications for national security, gave it to Judicial Watch. What happened is the United States Congress, who has no law enforcement function, who even if we find the Attorney General in contempt, and we show him in contempt, we can do nothing about it except use the power of the purse. So what happened is when we saw these two emails, the same email, one was redacted for, the administration told Darrell Issa, for consideration of national security. When it came out, it was about saving their political hide. That’s why we are moving to this new Benghazi investigation, new information. This committee will simply take this stature to a higher level. The American people will see the administration did something. The United States Congress upped the ante at them. I’m very proud of what will happen.
HH: Now Mr. Chairman, I’m very, I’m hopeful that you and Devin Nunes are on this thing, because I want it to be wired into the House leadership. I’m also praying that Mike Pompeo and Ron DeSantis as military veterans are on this thing. You know, normally, I’d say go get Cotton, but he’s running for Senate. I’d say go get Lankford, but he’s running for Senate.
HH: And this could go on for a while. But now let’s be candid. You know, we’ve got to have leadership like you and Nunes involved, and we’ve got to have veterans like Pompeo and DeSantis. Is the Speaker, I know you’re close to him, are you guys thinking this through from the level of this has got to have so much credibility with the American people.
PS: I think what we’re trying to think through is how do we effectively put together a team that is perhaps new eyes on the case, I think less of that, and more to the opportunity to make sure that we highlight this for the American people. I think Darrell Issa, Ed Royce, Mike Rogers, Buck McKeon, have done an awesome job. It is now apparent to everybody because of this confirming set of emails, that the administration has been misleading the American people and untruthful to Congress. So I just, I think we’ve got to decide how we’re going to do what we do to tell the story to where the American people see this. And I think it goes all the way to the incompetence of the Secretary of State, who was at that time, well, is today, but who was at that time, Mrs. Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and directly to the White House at the highest level of the White House, where they simply chose not to deal with this issue. I think it could not be more cut and dried. They’re trying to cover their royal rears.
HH: Yeah, I agree with you, Mr. Chairman, and I’m very hopeful that it’s precise and careful. The one question I get, well, I get it. What was the President doing and what was the Secretary of State doing? That’s the one I get the most. But the other one is why didn’t we begin to send, we didn’t know how long it was going to go on, why didn’t we begin to send military assistance, which is why I want combat vets on this committee like Pompeo and DeSantis. And I mean, they’re the kind of guys that can look a Brigadier General, Lovell or someone in the eye and say you know, when I served, this happened and that happened. Do you think we’ll have some vets on this committee?
PS: You know, I do want to say that this is something that’s being talked about right now. I see no reason why we would not have people who are very qualified. But still, it comes down to this, Hugh, and you know this. We need to make sure that what information comes out is factually correct.
PS: …and that we are able to look at the American people and say they were diligent in their duty, or they were derelict in their duty. At this point…
HH: Well, I want to compliment you and the Speaker. You know, I never thought you guys would actually go out of seniority and tap young Gowdy, and I say young Gowdy, because he’s younger than me and he’s only been there four years. But that is a bold move. And my hat is off to the house leadership for doing that. I know you had your hand in that. You’re House leadership. You know, you had to step on some toes, my guess is, to do that.
PS: You know, I think there are some issues and times where common sense works. And what we’re trying to do is to make sure that once again the American people are able to accurately get the information, and then be able to understand this administration has not been forthright. I think what’s ultimately going to get them is a cover-up of this entire thing – lying under oath, providing information that is not correct. And I just, I know it goes back with President Clinton, who thinks he could just lie to a federal prosecutor, they could try and do whatever and say whatever they want that is not truthful, and we are not going to let them get away with it. And it’s not okay to mislead and lie to Congress.
HH: You think former Secretary of State Clinton has a date with this select committee?
PS: You know, what I would say is that it would surprise me if she’s not on the list of people to come and clear her name. If she does not like the accusations that have been made thus far, then she’d better come clear her name. Otherwise, if you do nothing, then you will subscribe to not even defending yourself. And perhaps she is in an indefensible circumstance. Remember, she didn’t take the call at 3:00 in the morning. And she has claimed she would be that kind of leader.
HH: Adam Schiff, who was out in my neck of the woods, says Democrats should boycott this. That will be an admission to me that they know that these hearings are already at pay dirt. What do you think of Congressman Schiff’s suggestion of a boycott?
PS: Well, just remember, the closer to the target, that you get more flak comes up. And we are nearing a target, have been on it. Darrell Issa, this committee, Trey Gowdy before now, and others have been hitting at the target. For them to boycott it means that it’s indefensible. They offered no defense that is credible. And quite honestly, I don’t think they’re brave enough to come take the flak themselves. They would find themselves in defense of something that is indefensible. So it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they don’t show.
HH: Now we had problems back in the 90s when David Schippers got tapped by Denny Hastert and the late and wonderful chairman of Judiciary, Henry Hyde, because he just wasn’t up to doing this. He wasn’t up to being a chief counsel. Is there going to be an experienced prosecutor as the chief counsel of this committee, Pete Sessions?
PS: There needs to be, and that’s still part of what is being worked out. Once again, this is not a surprise that the administration had lied to us. But you have to literally have the smoking gun that proves it, and that’s what we have now. And that’s why we’ve been waiting to build the case. Darrell Issa and these other committee members and chairmen have been preparing a great case now for almost two years.
HH: Pete Sessions, last question, when do you expect to bring the rule to the floor establishing the select committee?
PS: Well, I think the rule, I think the rule can be ready this week. We will see, but I think the rule can be ready. I think then what happens is did we think through properly on how to do the rule, what the rules and game would be for moving forward, and then making sure we’re not delaying ourselves so long to where time moves on. This takes a while to reconfigure what you’ve got. So there will be in essence some lost momentum here for a while, and that’s what we want to avoid.
HH: Pete Sessions, I hope your name’s on that final committee, and I appreciate you taking the time to join me today, the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, always a great get at the start of a show and of a week. Pete Sessions, go with God, talk to you soon.
End of interview.
HH: I’m joined by one of the few veterans in the United States Congress. Mike Pompeo is a graduate of West Point. He is also a graduate of Harvard Law School. So he’s got, I actually want him to be on this select committee. Congressman Pompeo, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MP: It’s great to be with you tonight, Hugh.
HH: What do you make of the Speaker’s decision to establish a select committee?
MP: Well, I think it’s a good decision. And I think the timing may well actually turn out to be the best time we have. We’ve now had multiple committees have a chance to lay the foundation, to be able to lay out the constructs of what happened that night and what didn’t, importantly, what didn’t happen that night. And now I’m hopeful that this special committee can take us to the finish line, can get us further down the road and answer many of the questions that so many folks in Kansas, for sure, want to know.
HH: Now one of the things that has frustrated me is that when there have been military witnesses, just last week, General Lavelle, for example, I don’t know that our committees have had the necessary expertise to follow up with questions that people either veterans or well-steeped in military affairs might have asked. Have you had the same frustration?
MP: So I’ve seen that in places. I didn’t get a chance to watch all of that hearing. But I’ve certainly seen that before, that look, we all come to Congress with a certain set of backgrounds, and therefore have an ability to ask better questions on certain subject matters. And those of us that have had that set of experiences, either serving in the active duty military or dealing with national security matters on a daily basis, certainly have an appreciation for what goes on inside an institution like the United States Military, and the ability to ask the right questions at the right time.
HH: Now you’re also on the House Select Committee, permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Am I correct in assuming that most of the new committee’s members are going to have to get cleared for handling the sort of stuff you routinely handle over at that committee?
MP: So there will have to be a fair amount of work in preparation. There’s no doubt about that, Hugh. Importantly, the staff that is hired and put together to form the people who help that committee accomplish its mission will certainly have to be folks who have the appropriate clearances. We’ll have to find facilities for the committee to work from which can handle classified documents. You know, we’ve been working on Benghazi, I’ve been on the committee now, it’s been a year and a half, and we’ve been working on Benghazi since before I even got there. We’ve interviewed now nearly all of the Americans who were on the ground that night in Benghazi, Libya. We’re working on finishing up our work as well. And so I think there’s still a whole bunch of things the American people need to know. Some of them I’m hoping we can declassify here pretty quickly so that we can get that information to where it needs to be.
HH: Now Congressman Pompeo, last week on my show, Congressman Nunes said A) he was going to be on the committee. I’m not sure he intended to let that slip, but he did. And B), that there’s going to have to be a lot that the public won’t see. And I fretted a little bit in print about that this weekend, that as much of these hearings have to be publicized as possible, because both Rick Santorum and I were together on Friday night at the Reagan Library. There is a huge demand for information – fair, completely objective investigation into this. Do you think the members of the House and the leadership get just the thirst for the story?
MP: I’ll speak for the folks that I deal with, and Mr. Gowdy certainly gets it. There are a bunch of us who do. I hear it nearly every place that I go. I get questions, too, Hugh, sophisticated questions. People who are watching, and these aren’t conspiracy theorists. These are folks who have been listening and watching, and so I, too, I hope that we can declassify every single element of this that doesn’t have to keep safe a source or some other form of intelligence collection activity. What happened that night, for the most part, doesn’t need to be classified, and so I hope this set of hearings that not only gets to the bottom of the facts, but those facts can be presented to the light of day and let the American people make their own judgments about the ideology and incompetence that were involved in the death of four Americans that night.
HH: Now Congressman Pompeo, I’m just curious, do you know if any committee has talked to the Turkish, I guess he was Chargé d’affaires, I don’t think he was the ambassador, that met with Ambassador Stevens that night. I know he had dinner with him, but I don’t know that he’s ever been interviewed by anyone.
MP: Yeah, Hugh, I don’t know the answer to that.
HH: And I also don’t know that anyone’s ever asked the NSA, or subpoenaed the NSA, for a recording of the Secretary of State’s conference call with Charge d’affaires Hicks that night. Do you know if that has ever happened?
MP: I’ll just say there are lots of things that our committee has done in a classified setting, that I’m hopeful at the appropriate time we can get the administration to agree to declassify it. And I think that’ll shed some light in places that today, we still don’t have the capacity to let the American people really know what all took place – the decision making process, the process post-the night of the event in terms of how the administration told its story, and then the facts about Ansar al-Sharia on the ground in Libya that night, and the fact that we haven’t captured any of these folks, yet. That seems often to be overlooked, Hugh. We still have folks who murdered Americans running free in Libya today, and this administration has not done everything that it can to bring them to justice.
HH: I’m talking with Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas. He sits on the very powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which typically is one of those committees on which you can only sit, but he’s also a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, reflecting, I think, as well his background as a commissioned officer in the United States Army and as a graduate of Harvard Law School, and one of my nominees for this special committee. So Congressman Pompeo, when this gets going, there’s going to be intense interest in the media. Do you think Chairman Gowdy will be hiring staff who are competent with and adept at social media as well as the more traditional talk to the Beltway press types?
MP: He has to. He’s got to get this done. And I have great confidence that Trey will do that, that he will handle this professionally. It’ll be aggressive, but appropriate, and he will ask all the right questions. And he and the team that he puts together will ask all the right questions and communicate that. This is not an Inside the Beltway deal. This is a story that America needs to know, and I’m confident that when he gets his team cranked up, the American people will get to know everything that he does that he can present in a unclassified setting.
HH: And do you have any idea on when we are going to get a resolution establishing the committee and know the other members besides the chairman?
MP: So I understand that the resolution will be on the House floor this week. We all return to Washington tomorrow, Tuesday, and I don’t really know the timeline for the selection of the committee. But I’m hopeful the House will vote on it, and I hope the Democrats will vote with us. They should share our goal of getting to the bottom of this, and I hope that they’ll consider, reconsider what they’re saying so far today and do that.
HH: Congressman Mike Pompeo of Kansas’ 4th District, thank you. I hope you will end up being one of these select committee members. And even if you’re not, or if you are, especially, we look forward to talking to you often down the road.
End of interview.