Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf On The Need For A Select Committee On Benghazi Now
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HH: Thanks to Congressman Frank Wolf for extending his week so he could talk to me about the need for a select committee. For those of you who don’t know, Frank Wolf is one of the great champions of candor, transparency and ethics in the United States Congress. He’s been defending religious liberty for years with good friends of mine like Nina Shea and Archbishop Chaput. But now, he’s turned his attention to Benghazi, and is leading the charge for the select committee, which I have been arguing for, for weeks. Congressman Wolf, welcome, it’s great to have you on the show.
FW: I’m glad to be with you. Thank you for having me.
HH: Now I just had Congressman John Campbell on. He signed onto your bill to bring about a select committee. But he also took pains to try and represent the Speaker’s point of view. Let’s start with my point of view, your point of view, Congressman. Why do we need a select committee on Benghazi, and why do we need it now?
FW: The Congress has had many select committee, from the issues of terrorism down to, we’ve had a select committee on a House Beauty Parlor. We’ve had a House select committee on Capitol parking. So it ranges a full range. The select committees are when it goes across many jurisdictions. The Defense Department is involved. Why were the assets not used? We need a member from the Armed Services Committee, someone like Buck McKeon or people like that. The Intel, CIA, the Clapper’s office, DNI, they’ve all been involved, so we need people from the Intelligence Committee. The State Department is very much involved, so we need people from the Foreign Affairs Committee. The FBI’s been involved. They’ve been the lead agency on the investigation. They couldn’t get into Benghazi for three weeks. We need people from the Judiciary Committee. And we need people from the Government Operations Committee, too. But you have to have one unified staff director so they can’t say different things to different committees. You have to use the subpoena power. If you don’t use the subpoena power, people will not come in and testify, because if you’re 50 years old and you’re a federal employee, you have two kids, maybe two college tuitions, you have a mortgage on your house in Arlington County, you’re not going to risk your career, particularly when you’re seeing what’s taking place with regard to Mr. Hicks. So it transcends all of these, and so you have to have a unified effort, one staff director. It doesn’t cost you any more money. Take existing people from the existing staffs, but right now, five different committees, you have Judiciary that are looking at gun control. They’re looking at immigration. Armed Services is looking at the whole issue of sequestration. Foreign Affairs is looking at Syria. They’re all looking at different things, so you’ve got to have a unified effort, and that’s why we’ve done it in the past. And so for that reason, I think we need a select committee, or else I don’t think we’re ever going to find out what really took place.
HH: Now Congressman, one of the extraordinarily frustrating things is everybody in the country understands if you put five committees to work on getting something done, whether it’s a church or a PTA or inside of a business, or a homeowners association, or a school board, if you give jurisdiction over five committees, nothing will ever get done. Everybody understands that. Why doesn’t the Congress understand that?
FW: Well, I think, and honestly, most people do. We have about 144 sponsors now. I think in the last 48 hours, after the ABC story that Jonathan Karl broke today about the memo changed 12 different times, and don’t forget, Sean Smith’s mom, who lives out in California, she wants a select committee. She understands. Ty Woods’ father has been by my office. He wants a select committee. He understands. And you may know General Boykin. General Boykin was head of the forces in Mogadishu in Blackhawk Down.
HH: I do, yeah.
FW: He said 700 Special Ops people signed a letter supporting the select committee, because they understand. He said what has gone on has violated the ethos of the military. He said they actually took casualties in Mogadishu in order to bring back bodies. And so you know, I’m hopeful by the beginning of the week, everybody will think it’s important. And lastly, it’s bipartisan. This is what we’ve done on the Iran-Contra thing, this is what we’ve done on Watergate. It’s bipartisan. The Democrats get to call their witnesses. But I think everyone, by the end of this weekend, will believe there should be a select committee.
HH: Well, I’m encouraging my audience to call the Speaker’s office, and be very polite about it, or use the Twitter feed, @SpeakerBoehner and @EricCantor. I’ve got to ask you one specific question. You mentioned the subpoena power, Congressman Wolf. As you heard the testimony from Mr. Hicks, there was a 2am phone call that the Secretary of State was on, along with her staff. It’s my understanding from my days in the federal government, and it was Eli Lake that agrees with me and most other national security reporters, that the NSA basically records every phone call that leaves the United States. Whether or not the State Department recorded it, I don’t know. But the NSA in their digital memory has that phone call. The House has to subpoena that before it gets erased. I mean, have any subpoenas gone out for any of the known tape recordings of that 2am call?
FW: You are exactly right, and there are contractors that are contracted by the different groups who are operating those things. No, I don’t believe there’s been any subpoena power, as of my knowledge.
HH: Are you worried about the loss of evidence in this chasm of delay we’re experiencing?
FW: Well, I am worried, because you’re going to see, and I want to try to be as objective as I can, but you’re going to see the White House and the Clinton machine push back here like you’ve never seen before. And so we all remember Watergate, we all remember, you know, I was actually in the Nixon administration. I worked for Roger C.B. Morton. We remember the 17 minutes of missing, I mean, so who knows? But let’s subpoena it, let’s bring all that information in, let’s do it in a bipartisan way. Let’s have a professional staff from each of them, but to find out. But if you don’t subpoena that, no chance it could happen. And also, you have to subpoena these employees to protect them, or else many will lose their jobs.
HH: Let me ask you one last question, Congressman. That 2am phone call, I have been thinking about it. You’ve been in Washington a long time, you’ve known a lot of secretaries of State, perhaps back to Kissinger forward. There have been seven or eight between Muskie and Christopher and Madeleine Albright on their team, and Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice on our team. Would any of those secretaries of State not called back? I can’t believe she didn’t call back after talking to Mr. Hicks at 2am, after news of the ambassador’s murder, after the chaos broke out again. She never called him back. Is that conduct that you would have expected from any other secretary of State?
FW: No, absolutely not.
HH: What would you have expected Condi Rice or Colin Powell or Madeleine Albright to do?
FW: They would have stayed up the whole night. They would have been on the line. They would have involved the White House, and the Department of Defense would have been involved, and they would have sent a team in to rescue those people, because Rudy Giuliani was on the other night. He said you never know how long a hostage is going to take. Remember Iran went on for 444 days, so a team should have been deployed and sent out. But no, there are so many questions here, and I think many times, they thought okay, we’re in the middle of an election campaign, everyone’s going to forget it. al Qaeda’s been defeated, bin Laden’s dead. We can’t have that out there, and so therefore, they just thought that maybe people would not focus on it. And unless we continue to push, we’re going to come into the summertime. You know in August, Washington shuts down.
FW: And so I want to get this select committee up and running, a set time. And any of the chairman of any of the committees would be fine. If it’s Darrell Issa? Fine. If it’s Buck McKeon? Fine. Bob Goodlatte? Fine. Ed Royce? Fine. Any of them are fine. But we’ve got to come together and work as a unit, a single unit, and we’ve got to use subpoena power, and we’ve got to get those answers.
HH: You’re right. Royce, Issa, they’re all great. I don’t care, either, and I don’t care who else fills it out. But we’ve got to get focused. Congressman Frank Wolf, thanks for your focus on this issue. I want to appeal to the audience to call 202-225-3121 and ask for the Speaker’s office, or better yet, go on Twitter all weekend long. Tweet, reTweet. Select Committee Monday, Mr. Speaker. The ABC story, the Stephen Hayes story, the hearing on Wednesday, it all points to the need, as Congressman Wolf points out, now for a select committee.
End of interview.