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CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: We want to go now to Baltimore, the home of Congressman Elijah Cummings. He's the ranking Democrat on the House Committee investigating the Libya attack. We asked the administration to provide someone from the administration to give their take on this story. The administration declined. So, Congressman, we appreciate you coming on this morning to talk to us. I want to ask you, don't you think there are some genuine questions to be asked about this and how it happened?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Bob, first of all, what happened to Ambassador Stevens and the other three public servants was indeed a horrible tragedy. We will search their killers down and bring them to justice. The one thing we must not do, though, Bob, is make this out to be a-- and treated like a political football, and I think that's basically what's happening. We have a situation where we rushed to a hearing. We don't have substantial evidence, yet. We're still gathering evidence, coming to conclusions, and looking in search of facts and this is what has happened. But, again, we-- there's a lot to be answered. And I think you asked the right questions. Yeah, there are a lot of things that we need to address. But this is not the way to do. We have an FBI hearing going on, investigation going on, and Hillary Clinton, Secretary Clinton, has appointed an accountability review board to look at this. And we will get the answers. But the way we're doing it, I think, is basically based on a campaign schedule, trying to give Romney some talking points. But I don't think that our men who were killed deserve this. I don't think our diplomatic corps deserves this. We can do better.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me just ask you this, Congressman, and I say this with all respect--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: Sure.

BOB SCHIEFFER:--if there were a car wreck here on M. Street outside my office and I looked out the window and saw a car wreck out there, I wouldn't have to wait till the cops came to know it was a car wreck. I mean it was a car wreck. There were two dozen people in that compound there. They had windows. They could look out the window. They could see that there was no demonstration going on. And, yet, it was not until last week that the administration admitted that this was a preplanned terrorist attack and not a spontaneous demonstration.

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: What certainly--from what I understand, Secretary Rice was given information by the intelligence folks. And the intelligence folks said themselves that they initially got some information indicating that there may have been some type of mob activity outside of this place. As a matter of fact, Ambassador Kennedy-- under Secretary Kennedy, State Department came before our committee-- and by the way he's one of the same people that Lindsey Graham cited-- he came before our committee and made it clear that if-- and by the way, this is somebody who served every President since President Nixon in the State Department-- but he came and said if he had the information that-- he had the same information that Secretary Rice had and it's still an evolving situation and he said he would have said the same thing.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well--

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: But, Bob, Bob, you know, I just listened to that interview, both of those interviews, and-- and this conspiracy stuff is kind of ridiculous, to be honest with you. And I'm kind of surprised that they've gone to these lengths, but you know, that's what they do. But one of the things I am hoping is that they did admit-- Issa did admit that we do have a-- that they did try to cut the budget-- they did, in fact, cut the budget for security, and I'm hoping that they are going to join me-- in that hearing I've requested that he join me in getting an emergency supplemental for our embassies so that could protect our people.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, let me ask you this, this question then, did this ambassador and three other Americans die because of incompetence at the State Department?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: You know, I don't-- I really don't think so. I think because I've listened to the witnesses that we did hear from-- I think people were making their best judgment. And that's why we need to have a hearing so that we can ferret out off all of this. Keep in mind we have not heard from anybody who was actually in Libya the night of the event. We've heard nobody that was in Benghazi therefore, in the night of the event. We have not had a-- our committee has not had a briefing-- a classified briefing yet. So, I mean it seems a bit early to be coming to certain conclusions. But one thing is for sure, as Issa just admitted, they have basically tried to strip the-- reduce the budget, and they have for security, and Romney and Ryan, of course, in their budget, they will take away four hundred billion dollars-- four hundred million dollars in 2014, and billions of dollars over the next ten years.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I have to just get a short answer. But do you think this was simply a witch hunt?

REPRESENTATIVE ELIJAH CUMMINGS: I think that it-- I think it's turning into a witch-hunt? And we can do better. We really can.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Congressman, thank you so much for joining thus morning. As we say, we asked the administration for a spokesman. They declined to send one. We will be back in a moment. I'll have some personal thoughts on a very sad day in the nation's capital.

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