Washington Examiner’s David Drucker Previews The Setup Of The Select Committee On Benghazi
HH: I play the House of Cards music whenever I talk to David Drucker, because he’s a lot like the reporters in that show. Hello, David, how are you?
DD: I’m great, Hugh. How are you doing?
HH: From the Washington Examiner, he covers the Hill like very few people do. David, I began the program with Pete Sessions, who’s being coy. He didn’t say he wasn’t going to be on the select committee. I suspect he and Devin Nunes are going to be the Speaker’s guys on there. Do you hear that?
DD: I’m hearing that Nunes will be on the committee most likely, that Sessions mostly likely will not. But it’s Sessions working with Boehner to craft the resolution that’s going to create the select committee itself. It should get a Rules hearing on Wednesday and hit the floor Thursday or Friday.
HH: Now Nunes confirmed to me last week he was going to be on the committee. We posted that. He let that slip out on the show, so we know he’s going to be on there. But I was lobbying Pete Sessions for Mike Pompeo and Ron DeSenatis, because I think we ought to have veterans, including a combat veteran on this thing, so they can talk from the experience of having been in the military. Are there going to be any military men or women on this committee?
DD: I suspect there will be. Now the Speaker is going to make the appointments, so it all runs through him, and it’s his decision. I would guess that he’s going to consult with Chairman Gowdy, because Gowdy’s going to be running the show. But I think you’ll see some combat veterans. I think you’ll see some more prosecutors. I think you’ll see people that have proven themselves able to ask really tough, smart questions and try and get to the bottom of things, and I would imagine light on pontificators. You’re also going to see the Speaker attempt to appoint some Democrats to the committee so it has bipartisan credibility. The question is whether the Democrats are going to boycott this thing or not, and they haven’t decided what to do.
HH: If they do, that is a national fiasco for them. And I can’t believe Adam Schiff. That might have been a trial balloon that they asked him intentionally to float. But when you get people like Joe Trippi and Ron Fournier saying that’s a nightmare for Democrats, I think they’ll end up participating, because otherwise there will be an unimpeded storyline here that will be developed by prosecutors. Trey Gowdy is a very serious prosecutor, David Drucker.
DD: That’s correct. And if you’re a Democrat, you’re a Democratic leader, I would think you’d want some members there, because you’re going to get a look at information. You’re going to get to ask questions from the Democratic Party’s point of view, presumably to try and undercut some of the arguments that Republicans have been making about what went on with Benghazi and the aftermath. And if you’re not on the committee, Republicans have carte blanche to do this how they want, to dispense the information how they want. So it would make sense, but they’re so, I think there’s a big worry about basically saying if we’re a part of this, we believe there’s a reason to be a part of this. And they probably worry that it undercuts the argument that this is a faux scandal.
HH: Now I’m going to begin next hour with Andrew McCarthy, who I was hoping would be named chief counsel, but he already posted at National Review that persuaded me that would be a bad choice. We’re going to talk about that. The position of chief counsel will be so key on a select committee. What do you hear about that job?
DD: No names, yet. What I’m told is that you’re going to have a staff of about 20. The staff is likely to be drawn from the five committees of jurisdiction that have been looking into this and from outside sources, from off the Hill sources. I would expect you’d have some private sector think tank types interviewed and looked at for these positions. But first, they have to sort of figure out what the budget is and what the staff is, and I don’t even know that any of that’s really going to be a part of the resolution. I was told by one of my sources today that they’re going to want a committee itself of members that isn’t too big, so these hearings and the investigation doesn’t get too, you know, so that it’s not too hard to wrangle with a million different voices, and you can keep the focus.
HH: Well, you know, in select committees in the past, a lot of questioning would be turned over to the chief counsel to patiently, whether it’s Sam Dash or Ben-Veniste or anything. The Democrats wrote the playbook on this back in Watergate, which is you get a serious prosecutor, and you let him or her do the digging. And the members ask questions, of course, but really, your counsel is the one preparing the witnesses and preparing the testimony. So I’m just curious, do you think that that chief counsel will come from within the Hill or outside of it, and I’m hoping it’s the latter.
DD: I honestly just don’t know. I continue to dig into this. One of the stories I posted this afternoon, actually, kind of shed some light on how this whole decision came about, and it was probably a longer time coming than simply the revelation of the emails that Judicial Watch was able to get a hold of. But I think it’s early, yet. I know they want to move quickly, but there just simply isn’t enough information out there, yet, as to where they’re going to go looking. But look, the people that I think are going to be involved in this have some experience at how to get this done. Trey Gowdy himself is a federal prosecutor, so he understands this. And I think that a lot of this will be a part of their consideration.
HH: I want to circle back around, and I’m hoping I can keep you for one more segment as well, David. Have the names Pompeo or DeSantis specifically come up in any of your conversations?
DD: No, but I have to caution that. Not a lot of names came up other than, I discovered, that for a couple of months or longer, a sort of informal committee of Republican members has been meeting once or twice a week. And I think Congressman Nunes discussed that with you.
DD: And a lot of these members you would probably know, and some of them you would like. And they were the ones that sort of brought their concerns that the investigation wasn’t going as well as they would have liked to the Speaker, and I think that helped convince the Speaker, or helped guide his decision making in terms of calling for the select committee. And I think some of those members will be looked at. Adam Kinzinger is one. He’s a military veteran. Mike Conaway is another. He’s on Intelligence and Armed Services, I believe. There are a number of other members. Congressman Cotton is on there. I don’t think he’ll end up on the select committee, because he’s got a Senate race to run.
HH: Yeah, Lankford and he, you know, if you’re going to go to the Senate, you can’t really be on this thing.
HH: But a military, Pompeo and DeSantis, and yes, Kinzinger, these are guys who can ask the questions. I get the question most often, is why didn’t they begin to move assets towards Tripoli? You know, they didn’t know how long this thing was going to go on. Why in the heck…and other questions, did they talk to the Israelis? Everyone’s going to need to be security clearanced up on this. Do you think we’ll see our first hearing by the second week in July, David Drucker?
DD: Yeah. I’m going to predict right now yes, based on how they want to move.
— – – – —
HH: David Drucker, you’re almost certain hearing will get underway, and I expect them to be televised, but I’m curious if you’re reporting, yet, on the networks’ plans to televise them, whether they’ll go gavel to gavel? Will they sign up people like, coming up after the break, Andrew McCarthy who knows this stuff better than anybody, and other Benghazi experts? Do you expect them to go full Watergate?
DD: I expect some of them, not all of them. And I think it sort of depends on what the committee is able to uncover as it does its work. I mean, I think you’ll see a lot of coverage from Fox. They’ve been one of the networks driving the story, actually uncovering things. I think you’ll probably see a fair amount of coverage from CNN. And you know, the networks, it all depends. I don’t think there’s a huge desire on the part of the mainstream networks to live in this thing, but if the news dictates it and they can’t get around it, they’ll do it.
HH: You know, what seems to me clear is that Jonah Goldberg wrote this, David, and I wonder if it’s your response. Everywhere we go, people want to talk endlessly about Benghazi. Now of course, these are self-selected audiences. They come out to hear center-right talk show hosts and political people, but there are thousands of them. And if you’re MSNBC, and you’ve got a thousand people a day watching, or even if you’re Fox and you’ve got a million people a day watching it, you want to serve up what the hard-core political people want to watch. I think it’s gavel to gavel all the way.
DD: Well, you would think, but you know, there are different considerations in terms of what drives coverage. And I think it might depend on the makeup of the committee, and you know, depending on that, you might see more coverage from some of the left-leaning networks or some of the mainstream networks. But even as we saw last week with the revelation of the new email, the Rhodes email, that not every print or network news gave it the same amount of coverage. And I think one didn’t really give it any coverage. So there’s still, in terms of news judgment, different opinions out there as to what should be covered, and I guess whether or not it brings in an audience.
HH: I appreciate very much you staying in touch with us through this whole thing, David. I think it will draw an enormous audience like the Issa hearings did, especially if they spend time developing the first few days to the story that we know. And by the way, just as a matter of educating the public, do you expect them to do that, to do some setup hearings where they bring in overview witnesses to explain everything going on in the Middle East, and what happened to Qaddafi, and unclassified stuff just to set the stage for what follows?
DD: Let me tell you, if they’re smart, they will. And let’s see how this thing unfolds. Chairman Gowdy is very sharp, and I think that there are some in the leadership that really get this. And I think that if they do this right, they’ll try and answer a couple of real key questions and not get too caught up in the emails and the talking points. And I think the questions are, as you’ve mentioned, who got the phone call about what was going on? What were they doing? And wouldn’t they at least want to do about it even if they were told later we can’t?
HH: Right. What did the President know and do? What did the Secretary of State know and do? What did the Secretary of Defense know and do? And when did they do it and what didn’t they do? And why didn’t they do it? David Drucker, those are the questions. You are the man on this, and we look forward to talking to you a lot.
End of interview.