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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Congressman, this question. First of all, do you have evidence or did you hear testimony today that clearly said that the people at the embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi had asked for more security help and that had been rejected? Is that a fact? Do we know?

CUMMINGS: We heard some testimony today to that effect, but on the other hand one of those witnesses, Eric Nordstrom, made it clear that he had had good cooperation. As a matter of fact, he complimented the efforts of the State Department.

So, we had -- this was a hearing, Chris, that was a bit premature. That`s one of the things I`ve said over and over again. We`ve got -- with regard to this kind of manner, it needs to be bipartisan and it needs to be a thorough hearing. And I think basically what the Republicans did here, and it pains me to say it, but they rushed to have a hearing -- basically, I think, to give Governor Romney some ammunition against the president.

That`s how I see it.

MATTHEWS: What about this fact that apparently the Republicans in the House were the ones who wanted -- who cut, effectively, half a billion in security costs?

CUMMINGS: That`s exactly right. That`s exactly right. Over the past two budget cycles, Chris, they`ve -- each -- I mean, total, it`s been about half of a billion dollars they`ve taken away from -- under from the -- they`ve taken from the president`s request some half a billion dollars for security at these embassies. But on the other hand, then they come in and they say, oh, we should have more security. And they`re all upset.

But the fact is, that this cut, cut, cuts. We`re beginning to see, Chris, how those cuts do affect people and affect lives, sadly.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about the fact. It seems an embassy can withstand or should be able to withstand a crowd, a bunch of civilians out there raising hell and waiving flags and burning flags and all that stuff.

That requires the use of perhaps tear gas, perhaps smoke bombs, whatever, maybe rubber bullets to keep them at bay and protect the lives of those inside.

But what kind of a force would you need to protect heavily armed, well-armed terrorists? It would seem that would be a very -- incredibly fortified situation where you can actually to fight off terrorists.

Does anybody think we should have that kind of armaments available to diplomats?

CUMMINGS: Even Mr. Issa`s witnesses said that there was no way that we could have fought off this the way we deal with our embassies. Unless you were trying to fortify them like we do in Iraq. And their budget is about -- probably 30 times what we would have in Libya.

MATTHEWS: Yes.

CUMMINGS: It would take just a tremendous force. And, basically, keep in mind, Chris, we have agreements whereby the local folk are basically pretty much responsible for helping us to defend our embassies.

So, it`s a very difficult situation.

But again, I think we`ve got to go guard forward in a bipartisan way and get to the bottom of this. It`s hard to put your lives in the hands of militiamen anyway. But thank you very much, U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings, for that insight.

CUMMINGS: Thank you.

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