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CNN "The Situation Room" Transcript: Benghazi and Clinton

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BLITZER: Tough rhetoric going on right now. John, thanks very much.

He told the secretary of state, HILLARY CLINTON, today he would have, quote, "relieved her of her post in the wake of Benghazi." Up next, the Republican senator, Rand Paul, a member of the foreign relations committee. He's standing by live right here in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The American people deserve to know answers, and they certainly don't deserve false answers.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post.

REP. JEFF DUNCAN, (R) FOREIGN AFFAIR COMMITTEE: When you said what difference at this point does it make? I tell you what difference it makes. It makes a difference when Americans think they were misled.

SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ, (D) ACTING CHAIRMAN, FOREIGN RELATIONS CMTE: During your tenure (INAUDIBLE) us to economic crisis in Europe, changing relations with Asia, regime change in the Arab world, a momentous transition in Libya.

REP. JUAN VARGAS, (D) FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: You're a hero to many, especially women, and you seem to bring out these deep aspirations.

REP. ENI FALEOMAVAEGA, (D) FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: I salute you and I look ahead to 2016.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

We noticed an interesting pattern in today's House and Senate hearings, Democrats gushing over Hillary Clinton and Republicans tossing hard questions, not mincing any words. One of the Republicans who was most critical of the secretary of state, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's joining us now live from Capitol Hill. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you. Surprise, surprise. Republicans and Democrats had different viewpoints on this.

BLITZER: No, I'm not surprised. I was surprised a little bit about how tough you were, not just a little bit. One of the lines jumped out at me, specifically, and I'll read it to you. You said, "Ultimately, with you leaving, you accept the culpability," and then you said "for the worst tragedy since 9/11 and I really mean that." What do you mean the worst tragedy since 9/11?

PAUL: I think the words diplomatic and security and intelligence tragedy, you know, excluding the wars, of course, but I think it was really a judgment failure on her part and she's in charge of the state department. I think this problem's not over. I think in Libya, the defense department should be in charge of security.

I think a military commander should be in charge, and this is not the same as the embassy in Paris or the embassy in Vienna. This is a war zone, and I think it was a mistake in judgment on her part and it was also a mistake in judgment on her part not to read the pleas for help, the pleas for more security, and then to have the state department turn down that security, error upon error.

But really, I think this precludes her and should preclude her from being in a position where she can make these judgment calls.

BLITZER: But I've interviewed you on many occasions. I think you will acknowledge that this can't can compare to the intelligence blunder which I think you agree with, the intelligence blunder that led the U.S. to go to war in Iraq resulting in, what, nearly 4,500 American troops killed, thousands of others injured, maimed, and I think that was -- with no weapons of mass destruction, no connection with al Qaeda. You can't compare these two intelligence blunders, can you?

PAUL: Yes -- no, I agree with you. I think there's no comparison to the beginning of the war in Iraq, as well as the war in Afghanistan. The tragedy of those wars is of a different scale. And I guess we're talking more about a diplomatic mission than we are talking about the beginning of the war.

BLITZER: Because I remember during those years, did you call on the president, President Bush, or Secretary of Defense Cheney or others to give up their duties, to be relieved of their duties because of that blunder?

PAUL: Yes, I was always opposed to the war in Iraq and have spoken out against the war in Iraq and I've spoken -- out against the intelligent failures. So I think I've been somewhat equally critical of both parties on these things but I really do think that we've missed the boat on Benghazi because we've been talking about whether or not it had something to do with a film afterwards.

My complaint has always been about in the year in advance of these attacks, why wasn't there -- significant security provided and why were the requests, repeated requests for more security turned down? And I think those were serious judgment errors on Secretary Clinton, and I think on her part, and I think she really has to accept responsibility and I'm glad she has.

BLITZER: She had a very tough exchange with your colleague from Wisconsin, Senator Johnson. I'm going to play her reaction to what he was asking her about what was going on. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: With all due respect, the fact is, we had four dead Americans.

SEN. RON JOHNSON (R), WISCONSIN: I understand.

CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She was pretty angry. She was pretty passionate in responding to this senator. What is your reaction when you heard her say that. You were sitting there during that exchange. What went through your mind? PAUL: Well, I think she has a little bit of a valid point. It's not so important whether or not it was a movie or what it was. I think what's important, though, in going forward is it not happen again and I think the Review Board still doesn't get it. I think that we need to have a military commander. We need the Department of Defense in charge of security for embassies in a war zone and nobody has recommended that and I think that's where the ultimate failure is.

So she has a point about the movie and all of that. I think it doesn't matter so much but what we do forward on security for Libya or for other war-torn countries, I don't think we can treat them like an embassy in Paris. And I still don't think that realization has sunk in at the State Department. I'm fearful this strategy could be reproduced or could happen again.

BLITZER: Are you ready to appropriate more funds for diplomatic security?

PAUL: Yes. And in fact, in my budget I do propose more funds, $55 billion increase in the baseline for the military included in among that is more money for Marines that are -- regarding embassy security and I would expand their role particularly on war-torn countries for not just protecting documents. I would expand their role to actually be protecting embassy staff and the ambassador.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you.


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