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CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript - Benghazi Investigation

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: And we're going to turn now to two key Senators, Richard Durbin, he's the Senate's number two Democrat, he's in Springfield this morning, Senator Kelly Ayotte is in Manchester, New Hampshire. Senator Ayotte, I know you've been critical about of some of these things. You heard Ambassador Pickering this morning, what's your reaction to what he said this morning?

KELLY AYOTTE: Well, Bob, my reaction is, is that the Accountability Review Board report was not a substitute for adequate congressional oversight, and there were already questions raised - I have respect for Ambassador Picking--Pickering, but there were already questions raised, for example, Eric Nordstrom said that there were key decision makers that weren't interviewed by the ARB, Mark Thompson who was a top counterterrorism official, asked to be interviewed by the ARB, was not. I was surprised today to hear that they did not probe Secretary Clinton in detail, because obviously she was the decision maker at the State Department. And in addition, the testimony we heard this week from Mr. Hicks, certainly much of that was not within the ARB report, even though he was interviewed by the ARB, so I believe there needs to be further congressional scrutiny of this, and again, I don't believe that the talking points issue was within their charge, as I hear him saying this morning, and I think it's a very important issue to get to the bottom of what happened there.

BOB SCHIEFFER Senator Durbin, what's your reaction?

DICK DURBIN: Thomas Pickering appeared on your show this morning. I wish he would have appeared at the hearing last week. He asked to be there. He should have been there. He's the most respected diplomat in Washington. For over 25 years, presidents of both parties have given him the toughest diplomatic assignments, and you heard what he just said, Bob--he, together with Admiral Mullen went through a lengthy review of the security aspect of this. They came up with a recommendation for changes, which were accepted by Secretary Clinton and President Obama. The bottom line is this--this was a tragedy. We lost four Americans who were risking their lives to represent our country. We want to find those responsible and hold them responsible and we want to make sure that the security in embassies in the future, and consulates, is going to be the very best for the men and women who work for us. But unfortunately, this has been caught up in the 2016 presidential campaign--this effort to go after Hillary Clinton. The reason she wasn't interviewed was she didn't have any direct-line responsibility for the decisions that were made, but they want to bring her in because they think it's a good political show, and I think that's unfortunate.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, Senator Ayotte, let's just cut to the chase here. Do you think there was a cover-up here? Was somebody trying to protect Hillary Clinton here, or was somebody at the same time trying to protect incompetence, for want of a better word, that, that the State Department had not been prepared to take care of these people and the security was not what it should have been. What--what's your take here?

KELLY AYOTTE: Well, well, I believe, Bob--let's get to the issue looking at what happened with the talking points. All you need to do is hold up the original version and then what was actually released to the public, and think about it. Were those--the information that was deleted was very important, so in terms of that, that information, the reference to al Qaeda, Ansar al-Shariah, the prior attacks on the consulate? Yes, I believe that the real question is were they manipulated in terms of, in the middle of an election to not tell, really the full story, give the picture to the American people, and I think that's a serious question. With regard to Secretary Clinton, there are serious questions that remain. I mean, Eric Nordstrom mentioned this week, as certainly did Mr. Hicks, the fact that facility requirements for the consulate in Benghazi, the waiver of those requirements, by law, apparently, have to come from the Secretary of State. Was she involved in that decision making? Who was not? In addition--or, or was she not? In addition to that, there have been serious questions raised about individuals within her chain-of-command with respect to the talking points and what happened afterwards. So I think those are fair questions when we have, obviously, four Americans murdered, in addition to the fact that these were--you know, to have an ambassador murdered. This is about getting to the bottom--to line of the truth, not about what happens in 2016.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what about that, Senator Durbin? I mean, the fact is that what we now know from emails and other information is that there were 12 revisions of what the government's version of what happened was that night. And the first version said that there were elements of al Qaeda involved in this, they said it was an attack. The people on the ground said there was never any question in their minds that this was some sort of a spontaneous demonstration, and when the first version of those talking points came out, all of that was mentioned, and then at the end, you come up with this, 'there are indications that extremists participated in violent demonstrations'--a totally different take on things. Why--why would they do that?

DICK DURBIN: Bob, let's start at the beginning. What you're reading is emails provided by the Obama administration, 25,000 pages of email. There's no attempt to cover it up. Secondly, this was a squabble between two agencies, the CIA and the State Department, about the wording. The person representing the State Department happened to be Victoria Nuland who has worked for Democrats and Republicans alike, at one time worked for Vice President Cheney. So she's certainly not a partisan in this exchange about how they're going to term this. Now, when it gets down to the point that Senator Ayotte made about Secretary Clinton, let me tell you, there are two things you should remember. First, there's been breathless non-stop coverage of this issue by FOX from start to finish, and second, when the Washington Post looked at the assertion as to whether Hillary Clinton should be held responsible and what came out at the hearing, they awarded it four Pinocchios, which means the lowest level of credibility that you can possibly have. It is unsubstantiated, and yet, the witch hunt continues.

BOB SCHIEFFER: And finally, Senator Ayotte, what should happen next, in your point of view?

KELLY AYOTTE: Bob, what I believe should happen next is that there are serious questions that need to be answered before the facility requirement waiver. In addition, there's a different rendition as to why Chris Stevens was in Benghazi today in the ARB report--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Okay, alright--

KELLY AYOTTE: --and what Mr. Hicks said. I think there are serious questions, we need a select committee, Bob, we also need to make sure the witnesses are called forward.

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