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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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Good to see you, sir. We really appreciate your taking the time. Obviously, there is this hearing tomorrow, but I would be remiss if I didn't start by asking you about what the State Department has confirmed, saying that there were no protests, no protests certainly about a video. They do say that they didn't have any warning in advance of what happened there on September the 11th. But how concerned are you about the fact that the storyline has changed so completely?

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: First of all, Erin, I believe that this is an investigation that deserves a thorough investigation. I mean we need to get to the bottom of every single allegation. And I do not believe that this is an appropriate time for this thing to be politicized. Now, to your question. Keep in mind that Secretary Rice -- and I watched her testimony over and over again on the various networks that particular Sunday. She constantly said -- gave a caveat that this was the information that she had at the moment. And she gave that information and the intelligence community backed her up.

She was just basing it upon what she was told. Then the intelligence community came back a few days later and said -- and gave a different story based upon what they had learned at the moment. And so I think anybody who knows the situation with regard to intelligence gathering knows that they are sometimes very slow to come to conclusions, because they want to get it right. But the fact is, is that there was apparently not the protest, but the fact still -- and that's even more reason why we have to carefully proceed with looking into this matter.

BURNETT: So I'm curious about -- you sent a memo today to Democratic members of your committee and in that there was some criticism of Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee. Of course he was on this show talking about in his hearing last week. You said that he and his staff have declined to give the full information that they have access to in terms of interviews, in terms of information about the attacks to Democratic members. Could you tell me what information exactly they've been withholding?

CUMMINGS: Well, keep in mind that there's a witness who will be testifying tomorrow who we have not been -- had any access to. His name is Colonel Woods (ph) and so we don't know exactly what he'll be saying. Our rules of the committee and of the Congress says that when there is a person about to testify before the committee, Democrats and Republicans should have access to that person to ask questions. We have not had access to him, although we have been asking for access for the last several days. Another thing that we have not been given is various documents that they have gathered. And we are, again, the rules say we have an opportunity to have those. But we have not had those.

And then finally, there was a trip to the country, to Libya, and we were told about that trip 24 hours before it was to take place (INAUDIBLE) given no information whatsoever about what we would be doing if we got a chance to go. Of course, none of our members given 24 hours notice could make a trip to Libya in that short a period of time. And so -- but let me say this, Erin. You know, those things are petty as far as I'm concerned. The bigger question is what actually happened here. I had a lengthy discussion with Secretary Clinton today and she reiterated that we want to make sure -- and I agree with her -- that we get to the bottom of this. The family of Ambassador Stevens deserve more. The three other public servants who were killed deserve more.

BURNETT: Yes.

CUMMINGS: And we're going to get to the bottom of it, no matter how petty it may get on -- with regard to our colleagues.

BURNETT: You know last week I pressed Chairman Issa on why he was holding the hearings now. And I said is it political, why would you do it before the election? And he made the argument back to me that if we don't get this right and we don't know what happened, this could happen again somewhere else. And that if we were caught flat- footed as the United States of America, that that's unacceptable. And there's no reason to put a hearing off. And it seemed a fair argument. Are you all right with him holding a hearing now? Do you buy that argument? I mean why put it off until after the election?

CUMMINGS: Yes. No, I don't buy that argument. Look at what the Senate has done. First of all they have acted in a bipartisan way. They have not scheduled any hearings. They sent a joint letter of all of the Democrats and all of the Republicans to Secretary Clinton inquiring about this because -- and they realize it's going to take a while to resolve this. Keep in mind, there are two investigations, at least we know of, going on right now. Secretary Clinton has appointed a board, accountability board, five members who are looking into this. The FBI is looking into it.

And, you know, it's one thing to make allegations that are backed by facts. It's another thing to make allegations and then search for the facts. And we've heard a lot of allegations flying around. And Erin, just today in depositions, we've had -- we've heard things that are contradictory to some of the allegations that have already been made by Chairman Issa and Congressman Chaffetz and so I want to see a thorough investigation. The key thing is to make sure that our people are safe and that has to be number one.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Well, I think we can all agree with that and we'll be talking to you again soon, sir. Obviously, we have the crucial hearings tomorrow.

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