Congressman Jason Chaffetz (a supporter of Marco Rubio in the GOP contest) is Chair of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee joined me and we spent a lot of time discussing the facts behind “13 Hours,” and, as a reminder Chaffetz was the first member of Congress to reach Benghazi in the weeks after the attacks:
HH: Joined now by Congressman Jason Chaffetz. He is, of course, the chairman of the House Government Affairs and Oversight Committee. I just got, just hung up the phone with Chris Christie, Congressman Chaffetz, and obviously he’s in New Hampshire campaigning. He may have to go back to Jersey because of the storm. Are you trapped in D.C. by what we would call a little bit of snow in Ashtabula, Ohio, or Warren, Ohio? Are you trapped there?
JC: No, I’m in the blazing sun of Nevada out here, out trying to help Marco Rubio. So I’m basking in the glory of the sun of Nevada.
HH: So you got the heck out of Dodge before the big storm arrived. Very smart on your part. The, it’s interesting. I didn’t know you were a Rubio endorsement. When did that endorsement happen?
JC: You know, I’ve known Marco for about five years now, just love the guy. I did it a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been traveling with him in New Hampshire and South Carolina, and today, I’m in Nevada for him.
HH: All right, so I’ll come back and talk about that, but you went to the House Leadership Retreat with the Senate, I assume. What is the sense within the House Caucus about what’s happening to the party as a result of this fight?
JC: It’s totally different atmosphere. Paul Ryan is much more energetic. He’s got new, fresh, creative thinking. I think he understands the commitments we made to the American people, and we’ve got to live up to those. And with all due respect with Speaker Boehner, that just wasn’t happening. And so you know, we’ve made the change midstream, and there’s consequently a lot of optimism.
HH: But in terms of the Republican presidential battle tearing the party apart and bricks flying through every window, does that, did that flow over into the retreat as a source of some concern, at least?
JC: No, look, hey, we’re the party of the big tent, and we ought to be discussing policy. I don’t want to get into the politics of personal destruction. I want to be able to talk about policy and not be afraid to have those discussions, unlike the Democrats, who just, you know, line up behind their leader and do whatever the heck she says.
HH: Now Chris Christie just called Marco Rubio a hypocrite for attacking, for claiming he never attacks when in fact he does attack, and complaining about attacks when he is in fact attacking. You know, this is kind of 101 in Politics for me, but what do you make of the Governor’s charge about the Senator?
JC: Oh, come on. Look, let’s debate issues. And there are substantive issue differences, everything from the 2nd Amendment to Planned Parenthood to others that differentiate the candidates. But either one of them, any one of the ones on the Republican side would be better than Hillary Clinton. My number one goal is beating Hillary Clinton. That’s the whole reason I support Marco. I’ve known him, I’ve had a chance to spend a little bit of time with Chris Christie. I think he’s a good person. I don’t have anything disparaging to say about him. I just think that Marco matches up better against Hillary and would be a better president.
HH: Now Congressman Chaffetz, have you seen 13 Hours, yet?
JC: Yes, I have.
HH: What did you make of the movie?
JC: Loved the movie. I wish every American would see that. You know, I’ve been to Libya twice. I was right in the thick of the Benghazi when nobody was talking about Benghazi. There’s no way Hillary Clinton should even be a candidate for president if you go watch that. You know, there’s some shocking things. These are true American heroes, and the reality is we had proximity and capability, and we did not go in to save those people. And Hillary Clinton was part of that decision making tree.
HH: Now, oh pause there, because that is still the open question. I always press your colleague, Mike Pompeo, and he never tells me anything, because the investigation is still underway, and a lot of the questioning has been under oath and under seal. But the key question is were there assets, and you just said we had proximity and capability, which says in your mind, in the mind of Jason Chaffetz, who knows the most about this of anyone who can talk about it, and you’re not on the Select Committee, why do you think we had proximity and capability?
JC: Because days after the attack, I was the first member of Congress to get my butt on a plane. I went with General Ham to Stuttgart. I flew with him in his plane into Tripoli. I met with the people that were on the ground. I spent time with General Ham, who was the four star general in charge. He was there with the President when they made that decision. And he was unequivocal in telling me that they had capability, proximity, and they were not ordered to go in. And if you look at October 26th of 2012, the first comments publicly done by Secretary Panetta, he said the reason he didn’t go in is they didn’t have enough intelligence. He said that there was a ship off the coast. He said that they could have done it, but you go back and read that transcript, which I posted on my Facebook page and others, they had that. They said it at the time. Now, they’re changing their story.
HH: Now General Petraeus, then director of the CIA, was just questioned by the Select Committee last week. I think he’s coming back. He was two and a half hours. That tells me a lot, that he’s got to come back, that this is the key question, and after you watch 13 Hours, isn’t that the key question that you come away with? Where was the cavalry?
JC: Look, you could have gone from Salt Lake, flown to Dulles Airport, changed planes, flown to Paris, and then go into Tripoli faster than our United States military responded? I mean, the movie is very accurate. When they finally got in the daylight, after dawn, into Benghazi, there was an oil tycoon who provided an airplane. The second plane that showed up was a Libyan military. It was not the United States military. We have assets in NATO and NATO allies that are less than an hour away, and that attack went on for 13 hours, and they still didn’t send those people. In fact, one of the things that happened after the movie is that the movie didn’t have a chance to show, is when those planes took off, they flew to Tripoli. What a bunch of idiots. We’ve got wounded people, people like David Ubben, who almost died and bled out, they could have flown to Italy which is just about as far away and been in a NATO facility. Instead, they flew into Tripoli where we didn’t have the medical assets.
HH: Has the question been asked and answered why fighter pilots were not dispatched to fly low over the terrorists, because I am told by former, by fighter pilots who have done this, that they have gone low, even without armament, over bad guys in order to scare them. And clearly, we could have sent a fighter pilot or two from Aviano, couldn’t we?
JC: We had assets and NATO allies that were less than an hour away. You fly an F-16 or a Tornado 200 feet off the deck and drop a sonic boom, you’re going to get their attention. You’re going to scatter people. And you’re going to let them know that the United States is there. But they didn’t do that, and that was a conscious decision. You’re telling me with all the assets we have, the $600 billion dollars a year, and in 12 hours, we can’t get a plane over Northern Africa? Bull crap. I don’t buy it. They’re lying about that, and that’s why Trey Gowdy and what they’re doing is the right thing, and why I feel so passionately about it.
HH: Now when we come back from break, we have a three minute segment. I want to find out where you think that decision was made. Don’t go anywhere, America. I’m talking with Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who is out campaigning for Marco Rubio in the state of Nevada. He is a Rubio surrogate, but he is also intimately familiar with the details of Benghazi. I want to ask him about the server when we come back. Don’t go anywhere, America.
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HH: It’s great to have you back, Congressman Chaffetz, of course, from Utah, is chairman of the House Oversight Committee on Governmental Affairs. Congressman, Mr. Chairman, when you talk about Hillary Clinton, the server is at the center of all this. And the Inspector General of the intelligence community sent a scathing letter to the Senate Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees this week saying it was chock full of dozens of SAP, and I would call it sensitive compartmented information from my days. What does that tell you about her culpability on the intelligence acts that prohibit the careless storage of classified material?
JC: Look, assuming that’s true, she put American lives at risk for her own personal political convenience. She purposefully hid records that under the Federal Records Act you’re not allowed to do to set up this convenient private server so that nobody would have access to this information. She hid that for years so that any FOIA requests, a Freedom Of Information Act request, request from Congress, or documentation, would not be provided. And I think they’re trying to run out the clock, delay it as long as they can, and play hide the documents. And she should be held accountable, as was General Petraeus, as others, because if anybody else in the government had done it, they’d probably be in jail about now.
HH: So do you expect her to be indicted?
JC: Based on the facts that I’ve been reading about in the media, assuming they’re true, I believe in Mr. Comey as the FBI director is going to do a serious and thorough job, but assuming those things, I don’t, I would conclude that they would have to. I don’t know how you come to any other conclusion. If there’s another answer, the American people need to sort it out sooner rather than later. And they need to do that.
HH: All right, and last question goes back to what we were talking about in the last segment about the proximity and capability. General Ham told you he was never ordered to provide relief. Where do you, that’s not a stand-down order. That’s not, that’s a different sort of order. That’s a non-order. Where does that come from? And I know you don’t know, Jason Chaffetz, but you must have a theory of the case. What do you think happened?
JC: Look, from my viewpoint, my own personal viewpoint, you had General Ham and the Secretary of Defense meet with the President of the United States, and that is the food chain, right? You go from the president to the Secretary of Defense to General Ham, who’s in charge of Africom, and had combat and command responsibilities in trying to move assets. I would think most instructive are Secretary Panetta’s first public comments on October 26th. I also believe that Hillary Clinton was not necessarily engaged. Keep in mind the night of the attack, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense never even spoke. The Secretary of State, who’s in the same town as the President, supposedly, they never even met. And you had a fast team coming out of Europe that was going to protect the embassy in Tripoli. What did they do? They were ordered to get out of their military uniform and put on civilian clothes, because the State Department, Hillary Clinton, was concerned. So there’s a lot of culpability there, and you’ve got to hold Panetta, Secretary Clinton and the President responsible for that. They are the top of the food chain.
HH: Jason Chaffetz, always a pleasure, Congressman, talk to you again soon.
End of interview.