New York Congressman Peter King on Benghazi, Sandy, And A Possible Run At The Presidency
HH: Pleased to welcome actually for the first time in 14 years Congressman Peter King, chairman of the subcommittee on Homeland Security’s Counterterrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee. Congressman, great to have you on, welcome.
PK: Great to be with you. Thank you very much.
HH: I want to start with Joe DiGenova, a serious character, old friend of mine…
HH: …and I’m sure of yours…
PK: Great guy.
HH: …said on Washington, D.C.’s WMAL yesterday, I think to my buddy, Larry O’Connor, that one of the reasons people have been tight-lipped about Benghazi is because 400 U.S. missiles were diverted to Libya, ended up being stolen and fallen into the hands of some very ugly people. It Joe right?
PK: You know, I can’t go into all the details of that. All I can say is we are very concerned about missiles in Libya that have gone missing that we believe it ended up in the hands of al Qaeda, and they’re very likely in areas such as Syria. I’m not trying to be cute. I just can’t go into that. Some of that information regarding all that is classified, but no, there’s a real concern. This goes back to when the war, or when Gaddafi was overthrown, that the Obama administration did not take proper measures to secure the weapons, that people like Mike Rogers and the Intelligence Committee were warning them that there were just stockpiles of weapons everywhere – MPADS, all sorts of very dangerous weapons, very sophisticated weapons. And our administration, the Obama administration, and our allies did not take proper measures to secure those weapons.
HH: Congressman, to the extent that you can say so, do you think that the events on the night of the attack on the Benghazi consulate, and the murder of Ambassador Stevens, had anything to do with those missiles?
PK: It’s possible. What I can say, though, is there was no doubt that that was being targeted, that the Benghazi consulate was being targeted by Islamist militants going back over the summer. And there’s an al Qaeda, leading training camp right near the consulate. That is the badlands. That was a bad area. It was a dangerous area. And that’s why the requests were coming in. So there were probably multiple motives as to why it was attacked. But it was in such a dangerous zone that it never should have been allowed to be there without the security that was being requested.
HH: Do you think we need a select committee on Benghazi, Congressman King?
PK: Yeah, let me tell you where I am on that. I think this has to be fully investigated. In the House of Representatives, the Intelligence Committee has responsibility for doing that. If that doesn’t go forward, though, I think there should be a select committee. And Frank Wolf has been pushing this now for, I’d say, a good six months now. He’s the congressman from Virginia who has really put his heart and soul into this. We have to make it clear that one way or the other, we’re going to find out what happened, whether it’s a select committee, or it’s Darrell Issa’s committee on government operations or whether it’s the Intelligence Committee, sometimes the Intelligence Committee is somewhat restricted because we have different guidelines and different restrictions that other committees don’t have. But one way or the other, this has to be fully investigated. I was one of the first people to bring out about the changes in the talking points last September. I was actually in the green room on Meet The Press when Susan Rice was there making her round robin of appearances. And from day one, really, from the time that the President was virtually out of contact that whole evening, when he left for Las Vegas the morning after the attack, and everything since then, we have not gotten the full story of Benghazi. And this isn’t just a mistake. You know, tragically, mistakes are always made in government and in life. But the fact is that this was, goes far beyond making a mistake. It was the result of a failure to provide security that was requested, and then afterwards, even with four Americans dead, a refusal to tell what it was. It was a video, it was a spontaneous demonstration, it was just a riot that got out of control? No, this was a systematic terrorist attack, and we had to know it was coming because of all the warnings and requests we got from the consulate during the summer.
HH: Now Peter King, I want to talk a little bit about Hillary Clinton. She was secretary of State, of course, at the time of the attack.
HH: She talks with her number two at 2:00 in the morning, Gregory Hicks. And the Ambassador is missing, there’s an attack in Benghazi, Tripoli is, they’ve got the axes out and they’re breaking up the computer counsels like the scene from Argo, clearly panicked. She never calls him back, even after the murder of Ambassador Stevens is announced. What, did she fail utterly to do what any other leader would do, which is stay in touch with your number two guy, now number one, in the middle of a crisis?
PK: She has an obligation to account for every minute of her time during that evening, or that night, from the entire time of the attack. And until she does, we have to assume that she failed. I mean, that’s the reality. And I’ve had a good working relationship with Secretary Clinton when she was Senator from New York. And so this, I’m not one of these anti-Hillary people. But having said that, when she, to me, there’s so many unanswered questions about Benghazi, it was on her watch. And that’s why when she responded that time at the Senate hearing, oh, what does it matter, who cares, what does it matter now? When four Americans are killed, and it wasn’t just four people who happened to be shot or happened to be ambushed. This was a sustained attack on Americans. It went from one building to another building. It was coordinated. It was, and really, we have the responsibility. We can never be a government, should never be a government, that sends people in to defend us, to work for us, or to carry any operation for the United States of America, and we don’t do what we can to protect them, to secure them. And then, if God forbid they are wounded or killed, moving Heaven and Earth to make sure it never happens again.
HH: Now Congressman King, people familiar and experienced with America’s capabilities, technologically, believe it is in fact the case that that conversation between the secretary of State and her United States staff and Mr. Hicks is in the archives of the NSA somewhere. It’s an intercontinental transmission. It’s encrypted, probably, but it’s there. Do you think that Chairman Issa ought to subpoena that conversation so that we can know what was said by whom at that moment?
PK: Yeah, I think whatever has to be done to get that conversation, to find out what happened, to get transcripts, to actually hear the conversation, whether it has to be done in a closed setting or whatever, yes, it has to be done. You just can’t allow four Americans to die, to be murdered, and for us not to follow through on what everyone was doing at that time. Also, we should know exactly what was the President doing during that evening. I mean, I can’t imagine being president of the United States, knowing that one of your ambassadors is under fire, that one of your consulates is under fire, that there’s an al Qaeda attack on the 11th anniversary of September 11th, and the President basically has no record of what he was doing that evening, or what he was doing during the night. You would think he would be up virtually all night in constant contact, waking up at the earliest hours of the morning, finding out what happened. Instead, he came out, gave a perfunctory statement about a video, and went off to Las Vegas to raise money, and that Secretary Clinton stood next to him and nodded in agreement. And that’s what they wanted this to be. And for the next several weeks, they tried to keep up that façade. So the fact that they were trying so hard to cover up what happened indicates to me there is a lot there. And yes, if it involves getting the conversations, whatever Darrell Issa has to do, or whatever committee investigates it, should be done.
HH: So to your knowledge, has that subpoena been discussed among House leadership? Are they reticent about going after the secretary of State?
PK: I’m not aware of it being discussed, but it could be, again, that would be up to Darrell, of course. I have not heard it discussed, no.
HH: All right, now let’s turn to some politics, Congressman. You like to, you’re always blunt. And you were really blunt with Marco Rubio back in March.
HH: And you said nobody on Wall Street, nobody in financial services, nobody anywhere near New York, should give a nickel to these guys. Now I like the Senator, and I like you. Couldn’t anyone in good conscience vote against Sandy if they thought they’d get a second bite at the apple to come back and vote for a stripped-down, more efficient bill?
PK: Because, you know, the bill that they did vote on in the Senate was stripped down. There was nothing in there. They talk about the money going for Alaska. That was all out of the bill. That was out of there. And there was no intelligent discussion of it, I thought, and especially considering, listen, I like Senator Rubio. I mean, despite what I said at that time, I like him. I’ve met him several times. He’s a rising star in the party. But the fact that he’s from Florida, which has received so much assistance over the years, and that he just gave again the standard statement, well, there is pork in the bill so I’m not going to vote for it, all that was taken out. We challenged him. And this bill was drafted, the bill that passed the House and went back to the Senate, was drafted by the House Republican leadership. They asked for spreadsheets from Chris Christie, from Mayor Bloomberg, from Governor Cuomo, from the county executives in downstate New York. All of that was submitted. And we said if there’s anything in here, take it out. We don’t want any of that stuff. We were desperate to get the aid. And that’s really what bothered me with Senator Rubio on that. And also, you know, there was no decent interval. This was a month after the vote, and he’s coming in. But listen, he is great for the party, and I would say of all of the newer people in the party, I would say he’s the most promising.
HH: All right, now if in fact he was the nominee against Hillary in 2016, would you support him?
PK: Marco Rubio? Yeah, definitely, yeah.
HH: Okay, now we’ve got about a minute left, and there’s speculation you’re going to get in. So I want to give you the whole minute to tell us about this, because I’ve always been hell on wheels on people like Tom Tancredo who had no prayer of winning. Would you get in if you didn’t think you could win just to make points? And is that a fair use of the electorate’s time?
PK: No, it wouldn’t. I’ve been asked by a number of people to consider running. I’ve said I would. I’ve been to New Hampshire. I was up there ten days ago. I’ll be going up two more times in September. I’ve been invited up, I’ve gotten pretty good response. County chairmen have reached out to me. Party leaders have reached out to me, asked me to come up. I do think, especially on national defense, that I can fill a real void in the party which I’m concerned about right now. But if, and if I think there’s a receptive audience, yeah, I will certainly very strongly consider running. But just to be there for the sake of running, to take up space on the stage? Absolutely not. I will only do it if I think there’s a chance. And right now, if you look around, I think I have just as much a chance as almost all of the others. Money would be somewhat of an issue, but if I can establish a niche, then I think the money would come and we’ll take it from there. But no, I’m not going to, the presidency is too important to play games with. But again, I would say that to some of the others, too. Don’t get in unless you think you can win it. And I’m going to take a close look at it.
HH: Congressman Peter King, come back early and often, and keep talking about it. We appreciate it.
End of interview.