CBS "Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer" - Transcript - Benghazi

Interview

By:  Lindsey Graham Jack Reed
Date: Feb. 10, 2013
Location: Unknown

SCHIEFFER: And joining us two key members of the senate armed services committee, Republican Lindsey Graham is in Miami this morning where the weather is a little better, and Democrat Jack Reed is here with us in the studio, far away from the snow this morning in his home state of Rhode Island. How is your state doing, senator?

SEN. JACK REED, (D) RHODE ISLAND: We took a very major blow, but the state's responding very well. We have about 70,000 people still without power. That's a key issue because power and boilers operate together, typically. The governor, our adjunct general, general McBride, our state police commander Colonel O'Donnell did a superb job preparing, and the utilities are doing all they can to get the power back on. I'm headed up there immediately after this show.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator Graham, I want to talk to you about indoor activities because it's gotten warmer here on Capitol Hill last week during all those confirmation hearings. It was pretty obvious during those hearings, senator, that you are still not satisfied with the administration's version of what happened on that night when four Americans died in Benghazi. You brought it up during the hearings that the president was briefed on all of that about 5:00 in the afternoon and then had no other contact with the secretary of defense, with the joint chiefs chairman, or with Secretary of State Clinton. We also understand that on that night, the State Department, or the government, chartered an airplane in Tripoli, and flew some security agents in to Benghazi. But it's my understanding, they were held up at the airport. Tell us what you found out about that.

GRAHAM: Well, there's a six-person rescue team left Tripoli to reinforce the annex in Benghazi. They left at 1:30 -- excuse me, they arrived at 1:30 in the morning Libyan time. And it was not until 5:00 that they could get to the annex. They were held up for three and a half hours at the airport, had problems with the militias releasing them and a lot of bureaucratic snafus. Here's my question -- did the president ever pick up the phone and call the Libyan government and say, "let though people out of the airport. They need to get to the annex to protect our people under siege?" Did the president at any time during the eight-hour attack pick up the phone and call anybody in Libya to get help for these folks? Secretary Clinton said she was screaming on the phone at Libyan officials. There's no voice in the world like that of the president of the United States. And I do believe if he had picked up the phone and called the Libyan government, these folks could have gotten out of the airport to the annex and the last two guys may very well be alive. And if he did call the Libyan officials and they sort of blew him off, that would affect whether or not I would give foreign aid in the future to Libya. But if he failed to call on behalf of those people under siege, and I think that's a massive failure of leadership by our commander in chief.

SCHIEFFER: Well, have you tried to find out if he did call?

GRAHAM: I've tried. We know he had a 15-minute briefing by Secretary Panetta and the chairman of the joint chiefs right after the attack happened. It was a preplanned meeting. It just happened that Benghazi came up at the meeting. I don't know what the president did that evening. I don't know if he ever called anyone. I know he never talked to the secretary of defense. I know that he never talked to the chairman of the joint chiefs. And they never talked to anybody at the White House. I know the secretary of state never talked to the secretary of defense. This was incredibly mismanaged. And what we know now, it seems to be a very disengaged president. Again, if he had lent his voice to this cause, I think it would have made a big difference. And I'm not going to stop until we get an accounting. I've pushed back against the Bush administration when they said Iraq was just a few dead enders. We know nothing about what the president did on the night of September 11 during a time of national crisis, and the American people need to know what their commander in chief did, if anything, during this eight-hour attack.

SCHIEFFER: What can you really do about it? You can ask them what the president was doing. If they don't give you an answer what, can you do?

GRAHAM: I don't think we should allow Brennan to go forward the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks? What did the president do? We know he talked to the Israeli prime minister from 8:00 to 9:00 on September 11 about a dust-up of a Democratic platform and the fact he didn't meet the prime minister of Israel when he came to New York to visit the UN. But that's not related to Libya. What did he do that night? That's not unfair. The families need to know. The American people need to know.

SCHIEFFER: But let me -- I'm not sure I understand. What do you plan to do if they don't give you an answer? Are you going to put a hold on these two nominations?

GRAHAM: Yes. Yes. Yes. I'm going to ask my colleagues, just like they did with John Bolton. Joe Biden said no confirmation without information. No confirmation without information. You know, when Secretary Clinton said she had a clear-eyed assessment of the threats in Libya, that proved, after this hearing, not to be true. The Department of Defense knew about the cable coming from our Libyan ambassador saying he couldn't defend the consulate. This was on August 15th. They knew about the deteriorating security situation. But the secretary of state didn't know any of this. So she was blind. The president was disengaged. And the Department of Defense never launched one airplane to help these folks for seven and a half hours. This is a complete system failure. And I'm going to get to the bottom of it. I don't think it's unfair to ask these questions. Quite frankly, how could they say, after Panetta and Dempsey said they knew it was a terrorist attack that night, how could the president say for two weeks after the attack it was the result of a video? How could Susan Rice come on to your show and say there's no evidence of a terrorist attack when our secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs said they knew that night? I think that was a misleading narrative three weeks before our election.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just make sure, because you're about to make some news mere, I think. You are saying that you are going to block the nominations -- you're going to block them from coming to a vote until you get an answer to this?

GRAHAM: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: Now, John McCain has already said he doesn't think the Republicans ought to filibuster this. What will you do?

GRAHAM: I'm not...

SCHIEFFER: You're just going to put a hold on it?

GRAHAM: I'm not...

SCHIEFFER: And what...

GRAHAM: Yeah, I'm not filibustering.

(CROSSTALK)

SCHIEFFER: What would they have to do then to bring this to a vote?

GRAHAM: I want to know who changed the talking points. Who took the references to Al Qaida out of the talking points given to Susan Rice? We still don't know. Richard Burr and Saxby Chambliss have found e-mails discussing changing the talking points. So I think her story, after what we found out at this hearing, was incredibly misleading. I want to know what our president did. What did he do as commander in chief? Did he ever pick up the phone and call anybody? I think this is stuff that the country needs to know. We pushed back against Bush. We asked for Rumsfeld to resign when Iraq went into shambles. This is a national security failure of monumental proportions and I'm not going to stop until we get to the bottom of it. If it hadn't been for this investigation...

SCHIEFFER: All right.

GRAHAM: ... and these hearings and your show, we would still think this was a video that caused a riot and the president was hands- on.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator Reed, I've got to ask you, can Senator Graham do this?

REED: This is unprecedented and unwarranted to stop or attempt to try to stop the nomination of a secretary of defense and a CIA director. We need the men and women -- the men and women of the Department of Defense need a secretary of defense. Chuck Hagel is eminently qualified to be that secretary of defense. He has been supported by Bob Gates, by Brent Scowcroft, by Bill Perry, by Madeleine Albright, by a host of individuals that are knowledgeable of national security and patriots who served both Republicans and Democrats; the same way with Mr. Brennan in the Central Intelligence Agency. I think that the issues of Benghazi are important. The report that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen did, quite thorough, indicated the situation, the confusion. And I think something else that has to be recognized is that, almost simultaneous to the situation in Benghazi, there was attacks on our embassies in Cairo. In fact, mobs were storming the gates. There was threats throughout the region. So the idea that the president was not engaged is, I think, completely wrong. He directed the secretary of defense, as Secretary Panetta testified, to begin moving assets into the region to provide any response. Ambassador Pickering, Admiral Mullen concluded that a military response would have been difficult if not impossible because of simply time and space.

SCHIEFFER: Well, explain to us. Because a lot of people don't know the rules of the Senate in all that. Senator Graham says he's simply going to put a hold on these nominations.

REED: Well, what...

SCHIEFFER: You say that's unwarranted. But what will happen next if he does that?

REED: Well, I would hope that we would have, in regular order, a hearing and a vote on Senator Hagel and -- and Brennan that then we would bring it to the floor. I can't recall a secretary of defense that has not at least had an opportunity to have their nomination brought to the floor of the Senate. The last example was Senator Tower. It was brought to the floor. It was defeated. But it received an up-or-down vote. These are critical offices. The secretary of defense, at a time when we're looking at sequester, looking forward -- we're looking at crises across the globe, to dwell on a tragic incident and use that to block people is not appropriate. To try to find information, to ask legitimate questions, as Senator Graham is doing, is completely appropriate. But then to turn around and say, "I'm going to disrupt, essentially, the nomination of two key members of the president's Cabinet," I don't think that's appropriate. I don't think it's warranted. I think it is an overreaction that is not going to serve the best interests of going forward, of the national security of the United States.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator Graham, short -- I'll give you a short response. I'll give you the last word here.

GRAHAM: Jack's a very dear friend. We're going to get to the bottom of Benghazi. The administration has been stonewalling before the election and after. They've been misleading. They've been deceptive. And they have been delaying, and they haven't been forthcoming. In a constitutional democracy, we need to know what our commander in chief was doing at a time of great crisis, and this White House has been stonewalling the Congress. And I'm going to do everything I can to get to the bottom of this so we'll learn from our mistakes and hold this president accountable for what I think is tremendous disengagement at a time of national security crisis.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to end it right there. I want to thank both of you.

GRAHAM: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be hearing more about this, and we'll be back in just a minute with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers.