Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, a West Point/Harvard Law grad, is one of the 7 GOP members of the House Select Committee on Benghazi. He joined me to discuss the committee on Thursday’show:
HH: I open this hour with Mike Pompeo of the 4th Congressional District in Kansas. He’s also a graduate of West Point, and he is also a member of the newly select committee on Benghazi. But he’s also a Californian, and I think you probably lived through a few of these fire seasons, Mike Pompeo.
MP: Thanks for having me on the show. I did. I grew up in Santa Ana and when to school in Fountain Valley, and I know those fires. I feel for the folks who are going through them, and I hope everybody makes it on through.
HH: Well, we will continue to…these firefighters are amazing.
MP: Yes, they are.
HH: Working out there in 110 degrees right now. And you’re under fire, and you’re in the hot seat as well because of the Benghazi Committee. First of all, congratulations on being named to that, that’s a great choice, you’re on House Intel along with Lynn Westmoreland. How do you like your other five colleagues who weren’t on House Intel?
MP: I think it’s a great, great group. I hope the Democrats will put five good people on there, too. I think our team are serious people. I think they are folks who are going to go chase these facts wherever they might lead, and that’s the charge we’ve been given. And we are getting ready early next week to start down the road and begin to uncover that for the American people and for the families of the four men who were killed that night.
HH: Now Congressman Pompeo, some back channel information comes to me that they’re only going to hire one new staffer, the chief counsel. Everyone else is going to be borrowed from the existing committees, or you have to bring your own people. What’s the truth of that? And do you think the new committee is going to be thinly-staffed or adequately-staffed?
MP: I think we’ll have all the resources we need. I don’t know exactly how staffing is going to proceed. We’ve had one opportunity to meet as a team. We began to talk about some of these issues. But I am confident that we’re going to have to resources we need to do the work we need. And if the administration will cooperate, if they’ll provide documents when we ask for them, we’ll get to the bottom of this and we’ll resolve this for the American people.
HH: Now the Wichita Eagle, which of course is a Kansas newspaper, not sure if it’s in your district or not, is that, is it’s supportive of you being on there. But it also said in a recent editorial you should avoid partisan grandstanding and pursue the non-partisan goals of justice for the killers, and safer U.S. diplomatic facilities around the world. Hard to argue with that, I can’t imagine you do.
MP: I don’t, right down the middle. I think they hit it on the head, at least with respect to the task. I’ll leave commenting on whether I’m a good choice or not to others. But with respect to the task, I think they capture it precisely right. We do have an obligation not to grandstand, not to showboat, not to bring politics into this, but to do the work that the Constitution asks us to do. That’s oversight. That’s investigation. And my aim is to do that, and I know it’s the aim of the other six Republicans. And I do, we talked about this a little bit before, Hugh. I hope the Democrats will appoint five people with the same exact mindset. If they do, they can help us all get to the facts, and America will get their answers more quickly and more robustly.
HH: It seems like the Democrats are divided, Mike Pompeo. Some voted to establish the committee, some voted…maybe none voted to establish the committee, but their caucus is split as to whether or not to participate. At this point, they’re not. How long into the process will they pass the point of no return where in your view it becomes unproductive to add new members?
MP: I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to when that point is. But you know, it’s a complicated set of facts. It’s a lot of data, and it’s a lot of material to review. So the window is pretty narrow. And so I hope literally today, tomorrow, this week, they’ll make their choices, and I hope they’ll do the right thing. These facts, Hugh, they’re not partisan. I’m a veteran. You know, we’ve got a military that had the opportunity that night to take action. I want to get to the bottom of if they handled that appropriately. So you have lots of agencies, whether that’s the State Department, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, all of these various agencies, the White House national security staff, had roles in this, and it’s complicated. So the Democrats need to get on board quickly in order to be full participants in this thing which I know the Speaker wants them to be, and I can tell you Representative Gowdy and I do as well.
HH: Now Congressman Pompeo, one of the strings that had been pulled, and one of the reasons why I’m glad there’s going to be a definitive report here is that the Israelis made an offer to help that was either not accepted or not acted upon. First, have you seen anything about that? And second, is there going to be any effort to find out what other countries might have been available to help us on the night of 9/11/2012?
MP: Hugh, one of the areas that I know we’ll investigate is what all, what was the total scope of resources available, and so those are absolutely, your point is well taken. Those are American resources, all the agencies and the power that we have, but also friends who may have offered assistance or may have been in position to offer assistance had we simply raised our hand and asked for help that night. So we’ll absolutely be looking at the broad range of power that was available to potentially save the lives of those four, or at least have made a sincere effort to do so, the one that is absolutely required to do it the way Americans always do. We don’t leave folks behind. When people are in trouble, the American history tells it pretty clearly. We expend resources to go get them out. And I want to make sure that was done this night.
HH: I’m talking with Congressman Mike Pompeo, one of the seven Republicans on the House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi events of 9/11/2012. Congressman, all of us support the idea of getting these girls back form the Boko Haram. The thing I’m hoping the committee does is look at the broad pattern of Islamist violence throughout Africa, whether it’s Somali extremists, whether it’s Libyan terrorists, whether it’s Algerian insurrectionists, whether it’s Boko Haram in Nigeria or the Mali insurgency. Do you think it is appropriate for this committee to try and see if there are dots that connect these various groups all across Northern Africa to the Horn of Africa?
MP: Well, within the purview of the committee is to try and understand what happened in the run up to the events that night, that is the things that caused this attack to take place. And I think it is incredibly difficult to understand what took place absent an understanding of radical Islamic terrorism and the connections between all of these groups. We know now, this is a fact in evidence, that it was Ansar al-Sharia who led the events that night, and other folks from other al Qaeda branches. I don’t think you can disconnect an investigation into the run up and the security issues both at the State Department facility then later at the CIA annex absent an understanding of what was motivating these folks to conduct these murders.
HH: Well, I agree with that. I’m hoping that the committee sets up its hearings so that there is a narrative and a context established before you get to the night of 9/11, that in fact you’ve got the whole Qaddafi-American history, the 2006 deal to take his nukes away and his biological agents, and most of his chems away, not all of them, up through the increasing chaos that swamped the country prior to our intervention, NATO’s intervention. I don’t know if you guys have had enough chance to chart a hearing schedule, yet, but you know what a good trial presentation is like. You’re a Harvard Law guy. So does Trey Gowdy. You start with the big picture, and then you narrow down. Is that what you’re going to be urging?
MP: It is. You’re correct. We don’t have a hearing schedule. We haven’t quite sequenced everything, done the work yet that we need to do in the preparation for beginning the formal part of the investigation. But you’re right. You have to set up an outline, you have to set up a framework. And the attacks that night in Benghazi occurred against a backdrop in North Africa and throughout the Middle East. And I think it’s impossible to disconnect one event that occurred that evening from all of that. And so I’m confident that Representative Gowdy and the others on the committee appreciate that the same way that you and I do, and that we will work hard to frame this for the American people so that the fact pattern that night fits into the correct historical framework that represents what really went on.
HH: Any word, yet, who your chief counsel’s going to be?
HH: Okay, how about when you met with Chairman Gowdy, is there going to be a new chief spokesperson and a social media director per the new world in which we live?
MP: You know, I don’t know exactly how we’re going to set up. It’s still very preliminary, Hugh, and I certainly have a strongly-held view on how we ought to proceed with each of those. I’m sure some of the other committee members do as well. But we’ve only had the chance to have a short discussion as a group. A number of us have talked individually since then, but as a group, we’ve only had one opportunity to meet. And we’ll really, we’ll begin to get after the organizational issues in earnest this coming week.
HH: Last couple of questions. Do you think the Manhattan-Beltway media elite understands and is prepared to give the committee a fair shake and a fair opportunity to present the American people an unfiltered process to get to the facts?
MP: I’m skeptical. I hope I’m wrong. I hope my skepticism is unmerited. But we watched what they’ve said so far, right? They’ve called it a circus stunt, they say this is all politics. I think they’ll see as time goes on that we’re going to earn the respect that, if we do our job right, we’ll be entitled to. I’m trying to really do this well and do this in a professional manner, and I hope that that’s said of media folks that you’re referring to will acknowledge that, and will allow us to go do our work and be supportive of good, clean investigations that tries to get to the bottom of the fact pile.
HH: I don’t know that the New York Times will ever come around, but I’m hopeful that the Post and maybe people like Jake Tapper and others will. Have you got some targets that you’re willing to talk to in the hope that they will give you a fair hearing?
MP: Absolutely. Look, there’s folks, frankly sometimes on both sides, it’s just not going to walk off a view that they have held, but you get this, too, right? Facts matter. We’ll get to the bottom of the facts wherever they take us. Whatever inferences ultimately are drawn from them will be for the American people to decide. But in terms of what happened, the context in which it happened and how this unfolded, how we ended up with this devastating foreign policy failure, I think those are facts we can get at, and I hope that most of the media will accept them.
HH: Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Congressman, member of the Select Committee on Benghazi, thank you.
End of interview.