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Public Statements

Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

My colleagues will be here in a moment. I will start. Thank you for recognizing me.

Senator McCain has arrived.

The time has come, colleagues, for us as a body to provide some oversight that is missing when it comes to the death of four Americans at the Benghazi consulate on September 11, 2012. I will try not to get emotional.

The bottom line is all of us very much appreciate those who serve in harm's way in the State Department and in the military. When bad things happen that can cost someone their life, that is sometimes the consequence of service.

But when the system breaks down, it is utter and complete failure, nothing responsible happens to those who allow the failure, and when we really don't know the truth about how the system has failed, then they have died in a fashion that is unacceptable.

I am urging my colleague, the Democratic leader, to form a joint select committee of the relevant committees, the Armed Services Committee, the intelligence committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and any other committee that is relevant, to get to the bottom of what happened in Benghazi.

I have come to conclude that this issue is not going away. It will not die out because four Americans lost their lives.

We have compiled an event timeline that I think does the following. The story told by Susan Rice and the President himself shortly after the attack on September 16, and for a couple of weeks later, has absolutely collapsed. It is not credible. It is a fabrication. It was a manipulation of the intel 7 weeks before an election, and I think it is abundantly clear that the information coming from Libya never suggested there was a protest and identified this as a terrorist attack from the very beginning. On September 16, 5 days after the attack U.N. ambassador Susan Rice assured the Nation that the consulate was substantially, significantly, and strongly secured.

There is absolutely nothing in the talking points about that. Clearly that was not the case. Why did she say that?

Her story about a protest caused by a hateful video being the most likely cause of the attack is not based on any facts or any reporting from Libya. We will walk through the timeline, but the head of the CIA in Libya on September 15 sent a message, an email, a cable, to the No. 2, Mike Morell, in the CIA in Washington, saying this was not--not--a protest that escalated into an attack.

That story line about a protest was misleading. It was false, it was politically motivated, in my view. The No. 2 at the CIA, Mike Morell--his testimony before the House and the Senate is highly suspect. He testified on November 14 or 15, 2012, to the Senate and House intelligence committees.

There was one episode where Mr. Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence said: He did not know who changed the famous talking points. The talking points originally identified Al Qaeda as being involved, identified this as a terrorist attack and were completely changed in the protest story line, not mentioning Al Qaeda at all.

Mike Morell, in May of 2013, admitted to changing the talking points. But when Director Clapper said: We don't know who changed the talking points. Mike Morell was sitting right by him and never said a word.

About 10 days later, Susan Rice asked to meet with me, Senator McCain, and Senator Ayotte to explain her side of the story. This was November 24 or 25; I can't remember the date. But Mike Morell accompanied her, and we had a meeting in the classified portion of the Capitol, the secure portion of the Capitol.

One of the first questions I asked Mr. Morell was: Who changed the talking points?

He said: We believe the FBI changed the talking points.

Senator McCain asked him: Why did the CIA not know about the contents of the FBI interviews of the survivors on September 15, 16, and 17? Why didn't the CIA pick up a phone and call the FBI agents interviewing the Benghazi survivors in Germany on the September 15, 16, and 17, days after the attack?

Mike Morell said: The FBI basically would not share that information because it was an ongoing criminal investigation.

My mouth dropped. When the meeting was over I ran back to my office, called the FBI, and reported to them that the No. 2, the acting director at that time, Mike Morell, has claimed that your agency, the FBI, changed its talking points, deleting all references to terrorism and Al Qaeda.

They went ballistic. They also denied that their agents ever withheld information from the CIA because it was an ongoing investigation. The FBI literally went ballistic on the phone. Hours later we got a call from the CIA saying the acting director misspoke: We may have changed the talking points, but we don't know why.

In light of this, it is now time for a joint select committee to be formed. How can we get to the bottom of the truth of what happened in Benghazi if no one has ever talked to Susan Rice about why she said what she said. Now is the time to recall Mike Morell to ask him questions about the validity of his testimony, the accuracy of his testimony to Congress.

There are a lot of people who think this is no big deal, apparently, particularly in the Congress on the other side. There are a lot of Americans who feel as if their government has not been straightforward and honest with them about what happened in Benghazi.

The role of the Congress is to provide oversight. I will conclude with this thought. When the war in Iraq was going fully, when Abu Ghraib became a disaster, when Guantanamo Bay tactics became exposed and they were outside of our values, Senator McCain and I joined with Democrats to get to the bottom of it. After 9/11, the Bush administration originally did not want the 9/11 Commission to be formed.

Senator McCain and Senator LIEBERMAN led the charge. We are doing no more now than we did then. We just need willing partners.

I cannot say to any family member or anyone who served our Nation in harm's way that we know the truth about what happened in Benghazi at this stage.

I can say this. We know what was told to us as a nation does not hold any water, and we know that people have manipulated the facts 7 weeks before an election.

I am still not comfortable with the fact that nobody could provide help to these people for over 9 hours. Before the attack, not one person who allowed the security to deteriorate to the point of where it became a death trap in Benghazi, to the point it became a death trap--not one person--has been fired. That is unacceptable.

With that, I will turn it over to my colleague Senator McCain and eventually Senator Ayotte.

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Perhaps the Senator from New Hampshire could walk us through some of the reasons we now know the story line of a protest caused by a video doesn't hold water.

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I thank my colleagues.

Now is the time for us to move forward to set the stage for a vote; is that correct?

Well, I will say, No. 1, as to the amendment of Senator Burr, it takes care of veterans similar to what Senator Sanders is proposing, but it pays for it in a more responsible way. Unlike the proposal of Senator Sanders, we have an additional element in the Burr amendment that not only takes care of veterans but it deals with a national security imperative, which is the Iran sanctions legislation. This is bipartisan in nature, with 59 cosponsors, including 17 Democrats. This would reimpose sanctions at the end of the 6-month negotiating period if we do not have an acceptable outcome regarding the Iranian nuclear program; we need to dismantle the reactor, remove the uranium, and stop enrichment.

That is the goal of the Iran sanctions legislation, and I am very pleased Senator Burr would bring that before the body. I am urging my colleagues to allow us to vote on Iran sanctions. The sanctions are literally crumbling.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. All Republican time has expired.

Mr. GRAHAM. With that, I understand Senator Burr and others on our side have filed an amendment which would impose additional sanctions against the Government of Iran if it violates the interim agreement with the United States, and I ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending motion so I may offer amendment No. 2752.

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In addition to Burr amendment No. 2752, there are many amendments on our side of the aisle waiting to be offered.

Parliamentary inquiry: Is it correct that no Senator is permitted to offer an amendment to this bill while the majority leader's amendments and motions are pending?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator is correct.

Mr. GRAHAM. In addition to the Burr amendment No. 2752, there are many amendments on our side of the aisle waiting in the queue to be offered.

Further parliamentary inquiry: If a motion to table the Reid motion to commit is successful, would there be an opportunity to offer a motion to commit the bill to the Veterans' Affairs Committee to be reported back as a fully amendable bill with the Iran sanctions bill included?

The PRESIDING OFFICER. If the motion to table is agreed to, there would be an opportunity for Senators to offer another motion to recommit with instructions to which the Senator's amendment could be offered.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, in order to offer amendment No. 2752, the Iran sanctions amendment, I move to table the pending Reid motion to commit and I ask for the yeas and nays.

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