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Weekly Standard Columnist Stephen Hayes On The Benghazi Hearings Wednesday

Thursday, May 9, 2013

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HH: Joined now by the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes. He’s been all over the Benghazi story since it began, a tragedy eight, nine months ago. Stephen Hayes, what’s the most important thing that came out of the hearings today?

SH: Well, I think there were several. You know, chief among them was this testimony that we heard about an email that was sent by Beth Jones from the State Department on September 12th, in which she notified the Libyan government that elements of Ansar al-Sharia had been involved in the attack. This is this al Qaeda-linked group that operates in Libya, and she was going back and forth with the Libyan government and said no, we know that Ansar al-Sharia was involved in the attack. And the reason that’s important is because we have known sort of publicly now for a while that the CIA understood that Ansar al-Sharia had been involved in the attack, we had this memo sent by the CIA station chief in Libya, also on September 12th, making that point clear when he cabled back to Washington. The Libyan government had said previously that Ansar al-Sharia elements had been involved in the attack. But what we did not know was that that information had definitively reached the State Department. So when you look at the talking points, given this history, there is absolutely no excuse whatsoever that anybody from the State Department on September 14th, 15th, 16th, should have been saying anything about a movie when we knew that an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group had been involved in an attack on a U.S. post.

HH: Stephen Hayes, let me play for you Greg Hicks’ three cuts. Here’s Greg Hicks talking about his first phone call with Hillary Clinton, cut number one:

GH: I think at about 2pm, 2am, sorry, the Secretary called, Secretary of State Clinton called me, and along with her senior staff, were all on the phone. And she asked me what was going on, and I briefed her on the developments. Most of the conversation was about the search for Ambassador Stevens. It was also about what we were going to do with our personnel in Benghazi. And I told her that we would need to evacuate.

HH: All right, now here’s the second cut, Stephen. Later in the hearings, he’s talking about a conversation with an Army lieutenant colonel as the Army lieutenant colonel is ordered, is told not to proceed to Benghazi.

JC: How did the personnel react to being told to stand down?

GH: They were furious. I can only say, well, I will quote Lt. Col. Gibson. He said this is the first time in my career that a diplomat has more balls than somebody in the military.

HH: And here is the third cut about his conversation with Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s right arm.

JJ: You had another conversation on the phone with Cheryl Mill. Tell me who is Cheryl Mills.

GH: She is counselor for the Department of State, and chief of staff to Secretary Clinton.

JJ: That’s a pretty important position?

GH: Yes, sir.

JJ: When she calls, you take the phone call?

GH: Immediately.

JJ: Yeah, she is the fixer for the Secretary of State. She is as close as you can get to Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?

GH: Yes, sir.

JJ: And tell me about that phone call you had with Cheryl Mills.

GH: That phone call from that person is generally speaking not considered to be good news.

JJ: And what did she have to say to you?

GH: She demanded a report on the visit.

JJ: Was she upset by the fact that this lawyer, this…

GH: She was upset.

JJ: …babysitter, this spy, whatever you want to call him, was not allowed to be in that, first time it’s ever happened, all the Congressional delegations you’ve ever entertained, was not allowed to be in that classified briefing. Was she upset about that fact?

GH: She was very upset.

JJ: So this goes right to the person next to Secretary Clinton. Is that accurate?

GH: Yes, sir.

JJ: Mr. Chairman, here’s a guy with 22 years…

HH: All right, so Stephen Hayes, three things. Do you think NSA has a tape of that 2am phone call? Do we know who told Lt. Col. Gibson to stand down? And is it pregnant that Cheryl Mills calls and berates Mr. Hicks?

SH: I don’t think NSA would have a tape about that. The State Department may well have a tape of such a conversation. I don’t know. It’s a good question. Your second question was, I’m sorry…

HH: Do we know who told Lt. Col. Gibson to get out of the car?

SH: We don’t, and I, we don’t, and that’s one of the real questions that comes out of this hearing today. I mean, clearly, Lt. Col. Gibson was upset. I would expect that if there are further hearings, and I believe there will be, given the fact that Democrats have called for more hearings as well, he would be one of the people that would be at the very top of any witness list.

HH: And Cheryl Mills’ role in berating someone who is, the survivor of this, who was number two on the ground?

SH: I find this extraordinary. I mean, you have Cheryl Mills, who is, as Congressman Jordan described her, the fixer for Hillary Clinton, has been with the Clintons for years and years, and is sometimes known as sort of the right arm of Hillary Clinton, or the alter ego of Hillary Clinton, calls and berates Greg Hicks. You also had Beth Jones, who was right in the middle of this from the beginning, say that Greg Hicks said that Beth Jones sat him down and delivered what he described as a “blistering attack” on him. Now all of this, despite the fact that in the immediate aftermath, he received one commendation after another, after another, from the highest ranking people in the U.S. government, talking about how well he performed in that kind of a difficult position.

HH: So if that 2am tape exists, and by the way, I think the NSA does record every cross-continental transmission, period, including our own, and if they don’t have it, we can ask the Israelis or the Chinese, because they do. If that tape exists, how important would it be?

SH: Well, I think it would be significant. I mean, and if we understand what the nature of the call was, and what was explained, I mean, we heard from Greg Hicks’ testimony today that he mentioned nothing about a protest or a demonstration, because there hadn’t been one.

HH: No, if they have to evacuate, right? If they have to get out of Benghazi, there’s no way that the Secretary of State, and there’s mortar attack, precise mortar fire, and people are under attack and the ambassador’s dead, there’s no way she thinks it’s a demonstration.

SH: Right, and beyond that, you know, he testified that they had seen at the very beginning of these, of this incident, a series of what he described as probing attacks. Well, demonstrators don’t make probing attacks. Terrorists make probing attacks.

HH: Yeah.

SH: It’s very clear that this was a terrorist attack very early. And we also heard, you know, I mean, we heard Greg Hicks testify that Prime Minister Magariaf had gone to Benghazi in the days after the attack. So when he appeared on Face The Nation on September 16th, shortly before Susan Rice did it, and described it there in public as a preplanned terrorist attack, we know that he had A) gone and investigated it, and B) had communicated that privately, through private channels, to the U.S. government before Susan Rice made her case on national television.

HH: And Stephen, last thing, Congressman Lankford asked Mr. Hicks why the ambassador went, and he said Hillary wanted to get Benghazi up and running, and they had to spend their money by 9/30. Lankford did not ask if there was any covert aspect to this. Are you satisfied we know why he went to Benghazi, Stephen Hayes?

SH: Yeah, this came up again just a couple of minutes ago, or a little bit earlier this afternoon, sort of late in the testimony. And what we heard was Greg Hicks say basically, we were trying to set up, we were trying to upgrade this post, this diplomatic post, to take it from this kind of ramshackle operation that had been going on in Benghazi and make it a real post so that we could reach out to the good guys in Benghazi, and to further establish a U.S. presence there. That was the reason. I will say, I have asked again and again and again to people both who would be sympathetic to the administration and people who would be hostile about what else was happening there. And if there was something else happening there, it’s certainly the case that nobody knows, and I consider it to be…

HH: And nobody’s saying. Nobody’s saying. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard, thank you, Stephen.

End of interview.

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