Congressman Ron DeSantis joined me to strat today’s show. Congressman DeSantis is chair of the National Security Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Most of our time is spent on the national security implications of Hillary’s “homebrew” server, but at the end of our conversation, Congressman DeSantis indicates a strong likelihood of running for the Senate if Senator Rubio seeks the GOP presidential nomination:
HH: The big story of the day is what Josh Earnest had to say earlier today. And to talk about that with me is Congressman Ron DeSantis from the great state of Florida. He’s a member of the House Government Affairs and Oversight Committee. Congressman DeSantis, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to speak with you.
RD: Hey, Hugh, how are you?
HH: I’m great. I’ve got a little bit of a cold. I don’t know if you’ve escaped it. I’ve got a lot of a cold, actually. But let me play for you, Congressman, an exchange at the White House earlier today about Hillary Clinton’s Homebrew email system and the President communicating with her.
Reporter. We heard it from the President in his interview with CBS about this, and he said that he first became aware of it in news reports last week. So I’m wondering if implicit in that is that the President and Secretary Clinton never emailed one another when Secretary Clinton was serving at the State Department.
JE: That may be one conclusion to draw from the President’s remarks, but it would not be an accurate one. The President, as I think many people expected, did over the course of his first several years in office trade emails with his Secretary of State. I would not describe the number of emails as large. But they did have the occasion to email one another. And the point that the President was making is not that he didn’t know Secretary Clinton’s email address. He did. Bu the was not aware of the details of how that email address and that server had been set up, or how Secretary Clinton and her team were planning to comply with the Federal Records Act.
HH: Now Congressman DeSantis, you’re on Oversight. Do you find that response credible at any level?
RD: Absolutely not. I mean, just for, one is you have the transparency issue. The reason you have a Federal Records Act is so that the American people know what goes on in the Executive Branch. Hillary clearly wanted to avoid that scrutiny, so she sets up her own email system. But I’ll tell you, for the President, if he’s trading emails with her, the first thing I would think of is okay, if this is the email you’re using, are you using classified information. Are you discussing affairs of State if this is your only email address? And that, anybody who’s been in the executive branch or the military knows, that is a huge, huge no-no, and it appears that this is the only email address she was using, or its only domain. That would absolutely have not been acceptable to discuss sensitive matters on.
HH: I want the audience to know Congressman DeSantis is a Harvard Law grad as well as a veteran of the Armed Services, and knows of which he speaks when it comes to national security. And I believe you were on the National Security Subcommittee of Government Oversight, are you not?
RD: I’m the chairman, Hugh, so this is right up our alley. And we’re definitely going to pursue the security aspect of this, because, and I think it’s been written up pretty well in some of the blogs, the State Department has been hacked before. And they have a lot of resources that they put into to maintaining the integrity of that system. If she used Google or Microsoft or one of those, they put in some resources, too. She set up her own system, and so the question is did she invest any of her personal resources to make sure that this had integrity and was not susceptible to being hacked? And those are answers that we’re going to find out.
HH: How are you going to go about pursuing that, Congressman DeSantis, because I know Trey Gowdy’s got the Select Committee. But their scope begins really with our invasion of Libya, or our intervention in Libya. And the scope of her breaking of official norms begins the day she enters into office if not before with this private email server.
RD: No doubt about it, and I think we’re going to defer for the Libya stuff to Chairman Gowdy. He’s been working on that. But I’m going to urge our chairman, Jason Chaffetz, to use the full committee and as well as my subcommittee to look at all of what she did for her four year period, because we need to know whether there was any type of compromise of sensitive military. You see, in the military, if you send something over unclassified channels that is classified, it does not matter whether somebody actually intercepted. You assume that there’s been a security breach, and you change your affairs accordingly. And I find it hard to believe that she would have had four years as Secretary of State and not discussed sensitive matters over that email. And I think the American people deserve answers to those questions.
HH: Now Congressman DeSantis, I think people are still having trouble getting their arms around the enormity of this breach and what it could mean. But given your position on Government Oversight, how many countries do you think we have to worry about having the capability of hacking into, quietly, surreptitiously, not noisily, into a private email server? There are at least four that spring to my mind. But how many do you think are out there that have the capacity to detect and then penetrate Hillary Clinton’s email server?
RD: Well, if she was not investing substantial resources into defensive mechanisms so that she could ward off hackers, I think there could be a lot more than four. I mean, I think you could find in random countries, you could probably find hackers that would have the ability to do that. And they could be acting at the direction of a government. They also could be hacking, acting on their own. So it is very, very serious, and it’s very possible that this Clinton email.com server had far less security not just than the State Department, but less than run of the mill Gmail accounts.
HH: So if that is the case, and we know what Snowden did to this country, and it’s the immense nature of the damage that he has brought about is not even contradicted by anyone, if hostile countries or even competitor countries had access to everything confidential that the Secretary of State was thinking, what ramifications does that have for what’s happened to us over the last six years?
RD: Well, it’s huge. I mean, I think that, and you’re right, we’ve had devastating leaks from Snowden and others that have been very detrimental to national security. And so you’re looking at it on the one hand, what did they actually, what information did they get and how were they able to use that? But then on the other hand, you know, going forward, it’s going to be more difficult for us to conduct our affairs if we don’t have the ability to guarantee that this stuff is going to be protected. And I mean, this could potentially be a huge, huge disaster.
HH: I agree with that. Now I’m curious if you believe it will become routine now to ask any senior member of the government when they appear before your subcommittee or the whole committee, are you now using or have you ever used private email and private email servers. It’s a question that would never have occurred to me until last week, because I would have assumed everyone would know you need government-level encryption. But I gather we’re going to have to start asking that, Congressman. Are you going to start asking that question?
RD: I think you’re going to see that become now a topic of conversation at these hearings. I think it’s also important to point out along these lines what I’ve seen some of the people in the media try to do is when the issue of Hillary’s put up, they say oh, well Jeb Bush used private email. They pointed to Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of Oversight’s private email. Neither of those officials are subject to the federal law about records retention. And if you have a member of Congress who’s using it for political purposes, that member has to use private email for that, because if he were to use his government email for political purposes, that would be a violation. Somebody like Jeb Bush in Florida is not even subject to the federal records law. And he’s not handling classified information. So that’s a diversion that I’ve seen that I think is important for your listeners to recognize. Those are not credible comparisons. The people that we’re concerned with are people who are subject to the Federal Records Act, because that’s transparency, and in particularly in the national security field, people who are handling sensitive information. You do not want that being done on just a random server that does not have high level protection.
HH: I’m talking with Congressman Ron DeSantis. He represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District, @RepDeSantis. So Congressman, going forward, do you have any idea of a hearing schedule, yet? Do you know what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it?
RD: We’re working on it now, and I’ve put in my peace to say that I would like the Oversight Committee, either on the full committee or subcommittee level, to immediately get into the security aspects of this. But I do know what Chairman Chaffetz wants to defer to Trey Gowdy for whatever Gowdy needs to continue with the Benghazi. And then we will follow up with what issues are outstanding. But I think there are going to be so many issues that go far beyond just the scope of Benghazi that I think we’re going to have our hands full. So I want to push forward. We have not set a hearing schedule, yet, but I’d like to do something soon.
HH: Do you think in any of the previous appearances of government officials before your subcommittee that anyone has misled you with regards to these issues?
RD: You know, it’s a good question. I mean, I know going back to the Benghazi hearings we did on Foreign Affairs and Oversight, there was always questions about discussing matters with Secretary Clinton, and I’m just not sure if it came up in that context, because I’m with you. This was not something I necessarily would have thought that people would go through all the trouble to do to set up their own private servers that essentially could escape accountability and Congressional oversight. But I think what we’ll do is I think committee staff will look back at some of these hearings and just see whether knowing what we know now some of the answers that we received, do those no longer ring true.
HH: And a last question unrelated to this, it looks like Senator Rubio’s going to run for president, and in so doing, not run for reelection. If that is in fact the case, Ron DeSantis, are you going to seek his Senate seat?
RD: It’s something we’re thinking about. I think that 2016 is going to be a major national security election. I think it’s very important we run candidates up and down the ballot who understand these issues, and want to reorient our foreign policy so that it’s based on American strength, we’re backing our allies and we’re being firm with our enemies.
HH: That’s definitely maybe?
RD: Yeah, absolutely.
HH: All right, Congressman DeSantis, always a pleasure, thanks for talking to us.
End of interview.