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ABC "This Week" - Transcript - Benghazi and Syria

Interview

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RADDATZ: Joining us now, Republican Senator John McCain. Nice to have you here, Senator McCain. What do you make of the White House response?

MCCAIN: Could I just pick up on what you just showed Mr. Carney say? The president didn't call it an act of terror. In fact, two weeks later before the U.N. he was talking about hateful videos and spontaneous demonstrations.

RADDATZ: I think the White House would probably say, there was the remark that it was a terror attack...

MCCAIN: No, what he said...

RADDATZ: ...rather indirect.

MCCAIN: ...what he did say the day after is that he condemned acts of terrorism. But then that night within -- I think it was a 60 Minutes, I'm not sure -- interview and then throughout the next two weeks he kept saying that it was caused by a spontaneous demonstration, sparked by a hateful video. He kept saying that over, and over again, and condemning that. Now, Martha you've got to look at this in the context of the times there.

They're in the midst of a presidential campaign. The narrative by the Obama campaign is that Bin Laden is dead, the -- al-Qaeda is on the run, not to worry about anything. And here comes this attack on Benghazi. And there are so many questions that are unanswered. We need a select committee. But for the president's spokesman to say, well there was only words, or technical changes made in those emails, is a flat out untruth.

I like Mr. Carney, but that -- that's just not acceptable for the president's spokesman to say that to the American people when we now know any reference to active terror, any reference to al-Qaeda were removed from those talking points, and it was done at a deputy's meeting just before Susan Rice went on television.

RADDATZ: Would you call this a cover-up?

MCCAIN: I'd call it a cover-up. I -- I would call it a cover-up in the extent that there was willful removal of information, which was obvious. It was obvious. Mr. Hicks said in his testimony, his jaw dropped when he saw Susan Rice do that -- I was on -- I was on another Sunday morning show after Susan Rice, my jaw dropped. I said, look people don't bring rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to spontaneous demonstrations.

RADDATZ: Let -- let -- let's talk about what's happened with Republicans this week though, because of these emails. First of all, Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who I spoke to, who did the original review said, the idea of some sort of cover-up is absurd. Congressman Steven King, Republican from Iowa, said it was bigger than Watergate. And this is what Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe said...

(START VIDEO CLIP)

INHOFE: We may be starting to use the "I" word before too long.

HUMPHREIES: The "I" word, meaning impeachment?

INHOFE: Yeah. Of all of the great cover-ups in history, we're talking about the Pentagon Papers, the -- the Iran Contra, Watergate, and all the rest of them. This is going to go down as the most serious, most egregious cover-up in American history.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: I -- with all due respect...

RADDATZ: Do you agree with that?

MCCAIN: ...with all due -- due respect, I -- I -- I think this is a serious issue. I will even give the president the benefit of the doubt on some of these things. We need a select committee. We need a select committee that will...

RADDATZ: Do you blame Hillary Clinton?

MCCAIN: ...I think that the secretary of State has played a role in this, and I...

RADDATZ: Do you think she had a role in those emails?

MCCAIN: ...I -- she had to have been in the loop some way. But, we don't know for sure. But I do know that her response before the Foreign Relations Committee, who cares? Remember when she said, well who cares how this happened, in a rather emotional way? A lot of people care, I say with respect to the secretary of State. And she...

RADDATZ: So would you like to see her back on The Hill testifying again?

MCCAIN: Oh, sure. We -- we need a select committee that interviews everybody. I don't know what level of -- of "scandal", quote, unquote, this rises to. But I know it rises to the level where it requires a full and complete ventilation of these facts. Now here we are nine months later, and we're still uncovering information, which frankly contradicts the original line that the administration took. And so, we need the select committee, and I hope we'll get it. And the American people deserve it, and...

RADDATZ: Just -- just quickly I want to...

MCCAIN: Yeah?

RADDATZ: ...I want to go back to the testimony of Gregory Hicks. And he talked about bringing military assets in. Bringing planes in. The military says that wasn't possible. Do you agree with the fact that it wasn't possible?

MCCAIN: I cannot find -- I find it impossible to comprehend why on September 11, the day we all know is so important, when there have been numerous warnings about the security at that consulate, that we didn't have forces that were capable of doing so. And over a seven and a half our period with all the assets we have in the region, we couldn't have an F-16 at low altitude, fly over those people who were attacking our consulate? Another question is, why weren't there forces capable of going to defend that consulate?

RADDATZ: I -- I want to move on to Syria. It's been more than a week since Israeli jets hit targets in Syria. More than two weeks since the U.S. said that there was evidence of the use of chemical weapons. What should be happening now concerning, especially these chemical weapons, and the red line that the president talked about?

MCCAIN: Well, the president said he wants a U.N. investigation. The only problem with that is the U.N. can't get into -- into Syria.

RADDATZ: And we read this morning that Assad's forces are making incredible gains. You...

MCCAIN: Incredible gains?

RADDATZ: ...you talked about...

MCCAIN: Which...

RADDATZ: ...a no-fly zone, striking targets. What good does that do?

MCCAIN: Well first of all, engage their air assets. In that kind of terrain, and that kind of weather, air is a -- is a decisive factor in this kind of conflict, and...

RADDATZ: A -- a decisive factor in doing what? What's -- what's...

MCCAIN: Well, we take out the air. We establish a no-fly -- no boots on the ground, no American boots on the ground...

RADDATZ: That's still a lot of risk taking out that air. In fact -- in fact the Russians have said they would move in...

MCCAIN: Well, if they move in...

RADDATZ: ...anti-aircraft, very...

MCCAIN: ...if they move in...

RADDATZ: ...sophisticated.

MCCAIN: ...if they move that in, it's going to make it more complicated, and certainly maybe gives us a little bit of skepticism about a conference. But, we can provide them with a safe zone. We can provide them a place to organize inside Syria. We can give them the heavy weapons that they need...

RADDATZ: Who's -- who's them? Who's them?

MCCAIN: ...well I -- I know them. I have met them. They're there. They...

RADDATZ: But how do you keep out good rebels, and bad rebels?

MCCAIN: Because...

RADDATZ: You've got al-Qaeda rebels, running around...

MCCAIN: Thank you. Martha, these are legitimate questions you're asking. But they are there. And you put them inside Syria, they then have a Benghazi. Then they have a place to organize, to -- to identify the right people. These Jihadists aren't -- there aren't that many of them, they're just so good. Because they've been fighting all over the Middle East for all these years, and they're not afraid to die. But we could still organize a legitimate and non-Jihadist group that are already there.

They've got a great general. They've got a fine man who is in charge of the Syrian -- Syrian National Council. Look, we can...

RADDATZ: Everybody I talk to said they just can't possibly vet all of...

MCCAIN: They -- they said they couldn't penetrate without great costs, Syrian air defenses. I -- didn't the Israelis just kind of blow a hole a mile wide in that?

RADDATZ: I'm not -- I'm not sure they went into Syria. Are you sure they went into Syria?

MCCAIN: I'm sure they -- I'm sure they took out assets of -- of Assad's in Syria, which is exactly what we could do with Cruise Missiles, and with Patriot Missiles. So, that obviously blows a hole a mile wide in our Joint Chiefs of Staff, who prove again, if you don't want to do something, they can find reasons not to do it. But look, we either -- you've got two choices. Either let this continue. As you just mentioned, Hezbollah is now all in, and the initiative is now on the side of Bashar al-Assad.

You can do that, or you can go in, and you can give them a safe zone. And you can give them the -- the weapons that they need and the help they need and stop this unconscionable slaughter. And the president by saying red line -- he gave a green light to all of this massacres. And it's a shameful chapter in American history.

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