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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Benghazi Hearing

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get more now on that grilling that the Obama administration has received today and really this week. Joining me now to talk more about this is Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Senator, thanks so much for taking the time.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes. Jay Carney, good guy. Had a tough day today.

BOLDUAN: A tough day. That's his job sometimes, you know? Got to answer those questions.

GRAHAM: Yes. That's right.

BOLDUAN: So you did just hear -- as I said, you heard Jim Acosta's report, you also heard from John King. I mean, the White House is downplaying its role on this most recent issue coming up today about changing the talking points that we now know were quite flawed. And they continue to suggest and say that there has been no cover up. There was no intent to mislead the public in the aftermath of Benghazi. I mean, they say it was kind of a fog of war, developing intelligence situation. So are you satisfied?

GRAHAM: No. I am very familiar with the fog of war and also the political smoke screen when I see it. There is no way the president of the United States on 18th September could have said the following. Here's what -- here's what happened. We had a video that was released by somebody who lives here, a sort of shadowy character who made an extremely offensive video directed at Mohamed and Islam, and the president went on to say, what also happened extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies including the one, the consulate in Libya.

A week after the attack the president told David Letterman and the entire country that the video and a riot caused the death of our ambassador and three other Americans. Either he was incredibly detached or he was misleading, and I want to know what happened.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: And you've had questions all along. I mean, every time, you and I have spoken many times, you, me and Wolf --

GRAHAM: I never believed it -- right. Right.

BOLDUAN: We've talked many times about questions that you have --

GRAHAM: And here's what we should do.

BOLDUAN: And lingered questions. But here's -- I guess, at this point, so many months after and the White House continues to say they were not intending to mislead the public and Jay Carney did say today that he thinks -- he says it's never been clear what they, meaning Republicans, what they're even accusing the administration of doing. I mean, I think what Jay Carney is asking is, what's the end game? It doesn't seem that he believes that -- there will ever be enough, enough answered questions to satisfy Republicans. What is the end game? What do you want to know next?

GRAHAM: That's the good -- just the truth. I don't -- I'm not saying this is Watergate. It's probably more like Iran contra.

BOLDUAN: How so?

GRAHAM: I want the survivors of the attack -- I want, you know, Reagan said we're didn't trade hostages for arms but we did. So what I want to find out is from the people who were there, not from me, not from some political machine, make the survivors of the attack available to the Congress. We've been stonewalled. I'm asking the administration and we'll insist upon that every survivor and participant in Benghazi be made available to the Congress.

How did the Accountability Review Board miss all of the e-mails indicating that the talking points were changed? How did they get Greg Hicks' the story so wrong? There are good people who did the Accountability Review Board but what Congress has found is completely different than what the ARB report showed. Then I want the principals be called back into the Congress and answer questions about how these people died and it really does matter.

So what I am looking for is the truth. And what was told by Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, and the president himself was the most politically advantageous story seven weeks before election possible and it didn't reflect the truth. How could they ignore all the intelligence and the reports coming from Libya and other places that this was a coordinated terrorist attack long time in the making.

It really does matter that your government tell you the truth about how four Americans died. That would end it for me. I want the survivors to come forward and I want to hear from them what happened.

BOLDUAN: And when you say you want to hear from the principals again, I mean, I assume that means you want to hear from Hillary Clinton again. I mean we know --

GRAHAM: Yes.

BOLDUAN: -- yesterday former Vice President Dick Cheney, he suggested to Republicans on the hill that if she doesn't come back for questioning that he suggests that she should be subpoenaed. Do you think it will come to that?

GRAHAM: No. I think she'll come back. And here's what I like. And I like Secretary Clinton. I think she's a talented person but when it came to Benghazi, why were all the security requests denied and how could she not know about it? This was an attack a long time in the making. Al Qaeda flags were flying across Benghazi. Ambassador Stevens said in August we can't defend the consulate.

But now we have e-mail traffic about changing the talking points. We got e-mails coming from Libya saying definitively on the 12th of September this was a terrorist attack and here are the groups who are responsible.

How could she on the 14th of September tell a family member, Charles Wood, the -- the father of Ty Woods, we're going to get the guy who made that video? Did she know about the intelligence coming from the State Department in Libya -- from Libya to the headquarters in the State Department clearly saying from the people who lived through it this was a terrorist attack and here's who was involved?

How could she not know that? Cheryl Mills needs to come and explain herself. I want to call Sherman Dempsey back, who said no one was told to stand down. Now we know that Lieutenant Colonel Gibson and another army person was ready to go from Tripoli to Benghazi but told they couldn't go because it was too dangerous but the State Department sent their people. I just want to know what happened and learn from this.

BOLDUAN: Clearly it seems that there are a lot more questions. I do want to ask you, you know, as this drags on and you've heard this, it's no surprise to you, Democrats, the White House, they really suggest that this has completely become a partisan witch hunt.

GRAHAM: Yes.

BOLDUAN: And I want you to respond to why it is not in your view --

GRAHAM: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- a partisan witch hunt but also consider this. We've heard from the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens.

GRAHAM: Sure.

BOLDUAN: They put out a statement. Of course he was killed in this attack. They put out a statement to CNN after this House hearing on Benghazi and they said, in part, that they deplore any effort to politicize this tragedy. I mean, this is one of the families that suffered the most. This family seems to think enough is enough. They don't speak for all of the families of course. But what do you say to them?

GRAHAM: Well, here is what I would say to anybody, the families included. That we need to learn from what happened to your loved ones so that other people will not meet the same fate. We need to understand how we were so blind to the threat before the attack. Why was it that for seven and a half hours our country could not come to the aid of your loved one and after the fact for weeks how could we get it so wrong and, quite frankly, be so misleading?

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Senator, I know --

GRAHAM: I can't believe the Democrats doesn't want to know that --

BOLDUAN: Go ahead. I'm sorry.

GRAHAM: I can't believe a Democrat doesn't want to know the answer to that. When we had Abu Ghraib and the Bush administration said this is just a few bad MPs, it was a complete system failure and when Vice President Cheney said Iraq was just a few dead enders, we didn't have the right strategy.

I want to prove to the American people what happened in a way so we can learn from it and I don't think this is partisan or shouldn't be partisan. If it is partisan, shame on us.

BOLDUAN: Hey, Lindsey -- Senator, let me -- I got to go and I hate doing this to you. I do want to get your quick reaction, though --

GRAHAM: No.

BOLDUAN: -- to this news going out of the IRS regarding -- the IRS who was saying that they made mistakes in -- making further scrutiny of Tea Party groups.

GRAHAM: Right. Yes.

BOLDUAN: Seeking tax-exempt status. I mean, short and sweet, do you think there are politics at play? They say there were no motives, no political motives. Are you satisfied with that?

GRAHAM: No. I don't think you accidentally focus on the Tea Party. But it wouldn't be the first time the IRS has been used for political purposes. But let's get to the bottom of that, too, and see where it goes.

BOLDUAN: All right. You got a lot on your plate.

Senator Lindsey Graham, it's always great to have you in. Thank you so much for making the effort. We'll talk to you soon.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

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