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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: Mike Rogers is the congressman from Michigan. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Let's get your immediate reaction to the breaking news. What do you think about this, Congressman?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: Well, Wolf, I think it was probably for the best. I think Ambassador Rice was facing an uphill battle in the Senate for any confirmation that she may have received for secretary of state, and I think it would have distracted from the issues of North Korea and what's going on there and Syria and the chemical weapons and an opposition we don't fully understand. We have a growing al Qaeda threat in Libya.

So, when you look at all those challenges and all the challenges the secretary of state is going to face, this would have been horrifically distracting from those issues because I think there are a lot of senators who were concerned about her statements and her positions when it came in the Benghazi aftermath.

BLITZER: As chairman of the Intelligence Committee, you're privy to the most sensitive information out there. Are you confident you now know everything you need to know about what happened in Benghazi?

ROGERS: I think we're getting a better picture every day. We had another closed hearing today in the intelligence committee to try to see days after Benghazi, and it's going to take some time to go through all of the information.

I have a -- I feel very strongly, Wolf, that there was a gross negligence when it came to the physical security of the ambassador at the mission there in Benghazi. That was very clear to me. Some very, very bad decisions were made and I think contributed to the death of the ambassador and three other great Americans.

So that part I think is taking great shape. I think the intelligence part is coming together. It sounds to me or looks to me when I review everything that it looked pretty good leading into the day and the days after. I think it's clear that there was some political interpretation of the intelligence and the days after.

We still have more questions. The investigation is still under way by the FBI. And now, we need to focus on what we were trying to do today, Wolf, is focus on getting the people responsible and holding them accountable for their actions that killed and took the life of four Americans.

BLITZER: You're talking about the al Qaeda affiliate organizations --

ROGERS: Yes.

BLITZER: -- that may have been responsible for these four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. But when you say there was gross negligence, that suggests that there were American officials who should have known better or should have had better security for the ambassador and his colleagues and they were negligent.

Do we know who these individuals who were negligent are?

ROGERS: Well, that picture is much clearer today than it was even a short time ago. Again -- BLITZER: Can you tell us who they are?

ROGERS: I think it's best to wait until all of the details are assembled and a report will be issued. But I will tell you, Wolf, when you look at all of the information, information leading up on the day and the days after, it was very, very clear that there was a serious security threat there in the State Department just did not make the right decisions to secure the ambassador himself and there's all kinds of evidence of all sorts leading up to that conclusion.

And again, there will be a report soon. I think, again, on the Ambassador Rice thing, all of that would have been rehashed in the Senate and is not helpful to the real issues that we're facing today which is North Korea, Syria, growing al Qaeda in Libya, all of those issues.

BLITZER: Well, let's get to Syria for a moment while I have you. How secure are those chemical warfare stockpiles in Syria right now? Do you believe that President Bashar al Assad will use chemical warfare against his own people?

ROGERS: Well, his father -- at least there's lots of reporting that his father did in fact use chemical weapons or something very close to it in his suppression of the population. We know that he has made it available, meaning that in some of these chemical weapons, there are certain procedures you have to go through to make them a viable weapon. I believe that that's happened. I believe that they are available for use at a very short notice.

Now, the desperation of dictator who is facing his ending days of his regime who was -- I believe, has made these chemical weapons out of the stockpile available for use. I don't know and we know his father used it. It would be irresponsible, I think, of the international community to lead in and say, well, we don't think he's going to use them.

The modeling on this, Wolf, is not good. It could be hundred and thousands dead, millions who would be impacted by it and refugee problems all across in the Middle East that would be staggering and destabilizing to that whole region of the world.

So, this is, I mean, as serious as it gets and this is not a decision I argue we should get wrong. We need to come together very soon and we have unique capabilities to intervene in this use of these chemical weapons and if we have that level of confidence that he is in that position, we need to take serious consideration of maybe doing that.

BLITZER: You know, you think about the use of chemical weapons. I assume when you're talking about when Hafez al Assad, his father, slaughtered about 20,000 Syrians in the town of Hama in the early 1980s. Do you have information he used chemical weapons to kill those Syrians at that time?

ROGERS: There are mixed reports and there has been forensic issues taken there that would lead one to believe that chemical weapons could have been used. And I'll tell you one thing, in the Middle East, our liaison partners across the Middle East passionately believe those were chemical weapons that were used. So, there is lots of belief that it was.

And, again, now you have his son who certainly grew up with all of that. You just had -- in addition to the fact, Wolf, that he's taking an affirmative action to put those weapons available for use. Those are all very concerning steps, and I think we've got to be prudent about making sure we don't have a catastrophic humanitarian crisis with the use of these chemical weapons.

I worry about what that means for humanity in general, let alone the people of Syria who would be killed and maimed in a horrific way and then all of the refugees and all the problems that would cause an instability in that region is, as I said, as serious of a problem as I can imagine in what is already a serious humanitarian crisis.

BLITZER: We're out of time, Congressman. One final question -- looking back now at 2007, when Israelis took out that nuclear reactor in Syria that North Korea was building for them, imagine what the situation in Syria would be like right now if there were nuclear weapons involved in what's going on, chemical weapons bad enough, nuclear weapons potentially could be even worse.

Have you considered that situation in 2007 when the Israelis did what they did?

ROGERS: Listen, we look at that with Iran, with North Korea, with Syria, you have these despotic regimes who are not rational in their decisions and it is terrifying to believe that Iran could get that capability, North Korea could get that capability and Syria almost had that capability. They were well underway to get it themselves.

It is concerning. It's why guys like me stay awake a lot of nights trying to figure out how to work our way through these issues. They're serious and they can cause huge international stability and huge humanitarian crisis with their use.

BLITZER: Hey, Congressman, Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us, as usual.

ROGERS: Hey. Thank you so much for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

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