HH: This hour, I begin with New Hampshire United States Senator Kelly Ayotte. Senator, welcome back, always a pleasure to speak with you.
KA: Hey, it’s great to be with you, Hugh, appreciate it, thanks for having me.
HH: Now I mentioned to Bill [O’Reilly] that you were on with Martha McCallum earlier today, and you were not happy with the President’s responses. And he said what was I supposed to do? I can’t be disrespectful. And I said I don’t think you were mad with him.
KA: No, I’m not mad with him. In fact, I was just on the Senate floor, and I was pointing out that what he, the President, told Bill O’Reilly in the interview, that a week after this, they were up front, they told everyone it was a terrorist attack. Well, interesting enough, Hugh, what I found is that almost two weeks later on September 24th, he is getting an interview with The View, you know, because it’s the presidential campaign, he’s on The View.
KA: And he is asked right there about is this a terrorist attack, and he said we’re still investigating it. So it actually, if you look at what he told Bill O’Reilly, and go back and look at what he said at the time, it’s contradicted by what he said at the time. And Bill’s interview.
HH: Senator, there is actually, there’s no…
KA: And Bill’s interview, I thought Bill, you know, did a good job with the interview. He just wouldn’t really fully answer some of the questions.
HH: There is no way to pin down a president of the United States in ten minutes…
KA: Yeah, no, I was not critical of Bill at all. My point was, is that really, some of the answers the President gave, they don’t match up with what he said at the time.
HH: Of course not.
KA: And frankly, I don’t think this whole thing passes the smell test, either, because from other information, I’ve been following this closely from the beginning, we just learned from the bipartisan Senate Intel Committee that the then-deputy director of the CIA, Mike Morrell, received an email the day before Susan Rice went on those talk shows basically saying that this is not an escalation of protests. Yet you know she went on all those Sunday shows, talks about this being a response to this heinous video, which wasn’t true, said the removal to the references from al Qaeda to the talking points, she goes on those Sunday shows and said al Qaeda’s been decimated. And then the President in his interview with Bill O’Reilly talks about well, we realized, it became clear later that it became clear that there was lax security at the consulate. So he acknowledges that, but here’s the problem, Hugh. Susan Rice is asked that on those Sunday shows on September 16th by Chris Wallace and Bob Schieffer and other interviewers about the security at the consulate, and you know what she says? She said the security at the consulate was strong, it was substantial and it was significant. What was that based on?
HH: Of course. It was a pattern of deception.
KA: It was a total misrepresentation and misleading.
HH: And in Senate finding number seven, in the Senate Intelligence Report finding number seven, where they talk about the dispatch of assets and Aviano being unable, and Djibouti being unable, your colleague, Lindsey Graham, has said yeah, but they didn’t know the attack was going to last for nine hours. They didn’t do anything. And so I am curious if you believe either the President or former Secretary of State Clinton is engaged in a cover-up?
KA: Well, I think this whole thing was a tangled web in terms of a cover-up, but there’s a lot of people involved in the sense that they wanted to tell a narrative that was consistent with the story that essentially, think about what Susan Rice said on those shows. They removed al Qaeda from the talking points. She said al Qaeda had been dominated. Remember the foreign policy narrative during the election. We’ve gotten Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda is decimated, they’re on the run, right? Al Qaeda’s on the run? Well, if the information had been clear that at the time it had been presented clear to the American people this was a terrorist attack on our consulate, that we believe those groups affiliated with al Qaeda are involved, and this wasn’t some kind of spontaneous reaction to a video, there’s a very different impression left. And that’s what bothers me about this whole thing.
HH: Oh, I agree with you.
KA: And what bothers me most, Hugh, is nobody’s been brought to justice.
HH: Oh, I agree there is a cover-up. What I want to know is do you personally, by virtue of your investigatory efforts, know what the Secretary of State did after she hung up the phone with Mr. Hicks at 2am Tripoli time? Do we know what she did or where she went or why she vanished? Do we have any idea?
KA: No, we don’t. That, I don’t know, and we, to my knowledge, we have that as not been revealed.
HH: Do we know what the President did that night?
KA: You know what always boggled me from the beginning that made no sense? You know, I serve on the Armed Services Committee. Then-Secretary of Defense Panetta, and who, it was the Secretary of Defense and then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came before our committee, said we knew it was a terrorist attack right away. We also knew about all of those cables, including the August 16th cable in which the Ambassador said that the consulate could not withstand a coordinated attack. We knew about them, and we knew about the deteriorating security situation, yet Secretary Clinton knew nothing about it? And it was her agency?
HH: Do you, have you been able to determine from Armed Services yet whether after the initial attack began the United States military began to move any assets towards Benghazi, whether by sea or by air? Did they do anything?
KA: My recollection is that they had put some people on alert, but they didn’t go anywhere.
HH: That what I think.
KA: But I’d have to go back and look. But I know one thing. What matters most is they didn’t respond. I mean, they didn’t go anywhere. They did not move the assets to where they needed to be as you’ve already talked to Senator Graham about it, over an attack that obviously occurred over a period of hours, six, seven, eight hours. This was a lengthy attack, that it would have made a big difference if we had sent a response there after they first learned of the attack, and they didn’t take the action that needed to be taken.
HH: So if Secretary of State Clinton runs for president, do you, Senator Ayotte, believe she needs to answer many, many more questions about Benghazi?
KA: Yes, I do, and I think she’ll have to.
HH: Now let me turn very quickly, because this is important. You have been leading the way on the military COLA cut, and I appreciate that. And I know my audience does, especially those who are spouses of active duty military who have served a long time and are going to get screwed by this thing. Can this be reversed in the debt ceiling legislation?
KA: Well, you know, Hugh, I don’t know if it can be reversed in the debt ceiling legislation. I actually hope it gets reversed before the debt ceiling legislation. I’m trying to attach my proposal to everything that moves around here on the legislative front. So I’ll certainly try to attach it to the debt ceiling, too, if it doesn’t get fixed before then. And my proposal is pretty straightforward. The Treasury IG found basically massive money going out the door of the tax code, and subsequent investigations fraud on refund claims on the additional child tax credit. And I have a proposal that will save over $20 billion dollars over ten years. It fixes this, and actually has a lot more money left over to return to the deficit. And essentially all it requires is if you want to claim that refund for a child, you’ve just got to put a Social Security for that child to prove that that child exists and is entitled to this. So because what they’ve found is that you’ve got illegal immigrants claiming this child tax refund, because they don’t have to put a Social Security number, and then they’re claiming children that may not live in this country or may not exist. And so an example, one investigation, found that one individual claimed twenty children resulting in $30,000 in tax refunds. We’re talking about billions of dollars going out the door of our tax code, and it really is fraud.
HH: But the Ayotte amendment would also restore the cut previously administered to the military COLA?
KA: Oh, absolutely. That’s what it does. It fixes what needs to be fixed in our tax code that is abuse in our tax code, and restores the military COLA. So here’s the choice. I mean, it’s just so logical, Hugh. Here we have abuse in our tax code that needs to be fixed no matter what, saves $20 billion dollars over the next ten years, to fix the COLA and pay for it is $6 billion dollars. So not only can we fix the COLA and really do right by our men and women in uniform, because this was wrong from the beginning, they were unfairly targeted, but we also could fix abuse in the tax code and return money to reduce the deficit.
HH: Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, thanks for joining me on both the Benghazi and on the military COLA issue. I appreciate it very much.
KA: It’s great to be with you, Hugh. Thanks, take care.
End of interview.