New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte joined me on today’s program to discuss her meeting with Ambassador Susan Rice on Tuesday. The transcript will be posted below shortly. The president is attempting to rally support for the ambassador, but the bell is tolling. It is very hard to deceive the American public on five Sunday shows and then ask for the Senate’s to confirm you as the Secretary of State.
HH: I’m so pleased now to be able to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show from New Hampshire, the great state of New Hampshire, Senator Ayotte. Senator, welcome, it’s great to have you back on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
KA: Hey, great to be on with you, Hugh.
HH: Hey, tell us about yesterday’s meeting to the extent you can with Ambassador Rice, and the source of your concerns over her representations on television about Benghazi.
KA: No, absolutely. So yesterday, I met with Ambassador Rice, and here’s where we are. A couple of concerns – number one, we know that the representations of connecting the Benghazi attacks to the video or protest, that was false. And the issue was she, you know, when she came into the meeting, she admitted that that was wrong. Well, I guess the first question is if you knew it was wrong and then the acting CIA director said we knew firmly by September 22nd that that was wrong, in terms of the intelligence, but no one, she had appeared on every single major news network, and had said, obviously made those representations. She never corrected them. That’s number one. But secondly, here’s what I learned that really bothered me. It wasn’t just, I think we were left an impression that somehow she was just relying on these unclassified talking points that were changed. That’s deeply troubling in and of itself, and let’s just understand the change. The change was that as reported, the classified talking points said that individuals with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attack on the consulate, and that was removed, the al Qaeda references removed from the unclassified talking points. But in her position as ambassador to the U.N., she didn’t just review the unclassified talking points. She received daily intelligence briefings, and she did in fact review the classified talking points. So in other words, when she went on the Sunday shows, regardless of the reasons for it or the reasons for the unclassified version not containing al Qaeda, which I think are dubious, she went on and made representations, obviously, that would have led you to believe that this wasn’t a terrorist attack.
HH: Now Senator, you were the attorney general of New Hampshire before you became its senator.
KA: Yes, I was.
HH: And I’m curious, you know what credibility issues mean. If you know that the Ambassador has previously misrepresented a situation on national television, under what circumstances could she rebuild her credibility with you if she was in face the secretary of state?
KA: Well, I mean, Hugh, you raise a really important question. I’m deeply concerned about her. But she’s not been nominated, yet. And we’ve been having this discussion, and so I’m not going to, you know, I’ve said that I…first of all, let me just be clear. I’ve said there are additional questions that need to be answered, and that I would certainly hold, if she were nominated, her nomination until they were answered, and then make a decision of my vote on it. But I’m troubled, and I think it would be difficult, obviously, to vote for her. But I haven’t prejudged this, but I will tell you this. You know, the other thing that is, I wanted to point out, when the omission of the fact that individuals with ties to al Qaeda was made, on Meet the Press and on Face the Nation, in answer to another question, she also said in those very same interviews that al Qaeda has been decimated. So think about what impression that left to anyone viewing that when you say al Qaeda’s been decimated, and the omission, the key omission, first of all, the video story was wrong. But also, a key omission about the fact that individuals with ties to al Qaeda were involved, so it really did leave a very misleading impression about what I heard.
HH: Senator, were you able to determine if any part of the President’s political apparatus had any part in her briefing for those appearances?
KA: We do know this. We know that the White House had asked to make the appearances, and that I don’t, you know, we didn’t fully get answers on that. We did ask who she spoke with, and she said it was members of the National Security Council press operation. That obviously includes people in the White House, because they serve on the National Security Council, meaning their press operation. But anyone beyond that, she said she did not speak to.
HH: Did she appear to you to be composed and in command of the facts and her story? Or was she halting and confused about the timeline and the questions you were asking her?
KA: No, I mean, I think we had a fairly direct conversation. And I think that you know, again what’s, another issue was raised today that I think is a very important one. She’s been meeting with other senators on the Hill. Senator Collins met with her today, and also after that interview, raised an additional point that is independent, which of course her whole career would be looked at and vetted were she nominated by the President. But I think that Senator Collins raised a very good point. She was assistant secretary of state for African affairs when the 1998 bombings of our Embassies occurred in Africa. And you know, Senator Collins raised questions about what was her role in terms of making sure those Embassies were secure. And I think those are pretty valid questions as well.
HH: And very brief period left, Senator, do you think the administration has an idea of what’s going on in Egypt? Do they appear to be in control of the situation there, or influential on the situation there?
KA: You know, I think that obviously we’re all really troubled by President Morsi after apparently playing somewhat of a constructive role in the ceasefire, then taking control and eliminating the judiciary and taking steps that really violate what you would hope would happen with the Arab Spring in terms of just taking power in Egypt. So it’s not clear to me yet where the administration, what action they’re going to take on it. But it seems to me we have to call that out, because that’s just wrong, and we shouldn’t be standing for that.
HH: Senator Ayotte, thank you for joining us.