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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - AP Wiretapping and Benghazi

Interview

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Date:
Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

BLITZER: Following three major stories that are developing, investigations up on Capitol Hill, including the Benghazi investigation, the IRS scandal that seems to be escalating right now, and the secretly monitored phone calls. At least they were monitoring who was calling whom, not necessarily taping those conversations, Justice Department doing that to AP reporters.

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah is joining us right now. Among things, he's suggested that perhaps, perhaps President Obama's handling of the Benghazi terror attack could be, could be an impeachable offense.

Congressman, tell us what you mean by that.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.

Look, it's not something I'm seeking. It's not the endgame. It's not what we're playing for. I was simply asked, is that within the realm of possibilities? And I would say, yes. I'm not willing to take that off the table. But that's certainly not what we're striving for.

We want truth. We want to bring the people who perpetrated the terrorism in Benghazi to be brought to justice, and we want to have the president do what he has said he would always do, and that is be open and transparent. Thus far, the White House has not done that.

BLITZER: Here's what Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said today in response to a question. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: Obama is being compared to President Nixon on that. How does he feel about that?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Again, I don't have a reaction from President Obama.

I can tell you that the people who make those kinds of comparisons need to check their history, because what we have here with one issue, in Benghazi, is so clearly, as we're learning more and more, a political sideshow, a deliberate effort to politicize a tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, that's what he's saying about you, a political sideshow, you are simply trying to score some political points.

CHAFFETZ: That's always the White House strategy, right? Just try to demoralize and take down the messenger.

We heard from three very credible witnesses, with more than 70 years of public service, saying that what happened on the ground vs. what the White House would lead us to believe were two totally different things.

The president himself has said that he wants to be open and transparent, and yet when the speaker of the House says, well, why don't you release the unclassified, unclassified documents related to Benghazi, they won't even do the most basic of things.

So, look, we have four dead Americans. I can't imagine that the White House spokesperson would ever say that about the bombings in Boston, for instance, where we had also four people killed by terrorism. Of course, we're going to look into this, Wolf. It's the necessary thing to do. And to his credit, Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that we should have more hearings, more transparency.

So, even the Democrats who sat through the meeting are agreeing with us on this one, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thomas Pickering, the retired U.S. ambassador who led that internal State Department investigation into what happened involving Benghazi, he's written a letter today that -- we have a copy right here -- to your chairman, Darrell Issa, saying he would like to appear before an open session of your hearing. You should give him an opportunity to explain what he and Admiral Mullen did.

Are you ready to do that?

CHAFFETZ: Absolutely. I asked them personally in a letter back in February to come meet with the committee. We wanted to do it in a bipartisan way. We wanted to have some informal discussions. We wanted to be able to see the documents that they had. They refused to do it.

Now that we had credible witnesses come forward, and start to share their stories, suddenly, they want to be open and transparent. But when we tried to do it in February, they said no. We have been stymied at every single step of the way. And despite what those two gentlemen who led that committee, who led that review state to the rest of the world, they have not been open and transparent. They have refused to give us that information. Of course, we would love to hear from them, because we have some very serious questions.

BLITZER: Well, are you demanding, before there's an open session, they meet privately with you and other staff members to go through all of this? Or are you just willing to let them come and testify?

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, I will work with Chairman Issa on this. We have been asking since February for them to come meet with the committee and to share this information. I think it's fair that the United States Congress be able to review the same information and talk to the same people that they were able to look at.

And I think the American people should have at least the unclassified documents released to them. That would be fair and transparent and consistent with what the president said. But, again, my challenge with the president is, what he does and what he says are often two different things. And this is one the things.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Pickering in the letter to Chairman Issa says he would like to appear at a public hearing to discuss the work of the board.

Let's see what happens, if there are any conditions that you impose on him before that public hearing.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States. He says that this investigation into the leak was required because it was one of the most damaging leaks in U.S. history, an AP leak that put American lives in danger. Do you agree with him?

CHAFFETZ: The scope of this is what's stunning.

The breadth of this net, the time that it went, the number of people that it covered, that's just not the American way. And to have a chilling effect, which is the word we keep hearing again and again, of the government spying on the media is just not the way we do things in this country.

Look, if you have probable cause to go after somebody, and you want to go in and look at a very narrow scope, there are sometimes justification for doing that. But as it's been laid out, as we're hearing from the IRS, and we're hearing that the -- with the attorney general and what they're doing with the media, as we're hearing with Benghazi, every time you turn around, does anybody have confidence in this government and the way the Obama administration is handling this?

I don't. And I think most people are really raising an eyebrow and saying, that's just not the way we do things, folks. Remember, we were going to be hope and change and we were going to do things differently? This is getting worse, not better.

BLITZER: On the IRS investigation, this inspector general report that just came out, among other things, they said it doesn't look like there was any outside influence on officials at the IRS to go target Tea Party organizations, other conservative political organizations.

I will read you the line. "We asked the acting commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, the director, E.O., and Determinations Unit personnel if the criteria that singled out conservative groups were influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS. All of these officials stated that the criteria were not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS."

This apparently was done internally. Do you buy that?

CHAFFETZ: Well, it's something we're going to ask some questions about. The idea that they were targeting people based on the word selections that were out there, we had people like Senator Orrin Hatch from my same state, he had been asking a long time ago about this.

And we seem to have been misled in Congress. You go back and look at the testimony by the then acting director of the IRS and what that person was saying to Congress, did he or did he not have full knowledge of this? I think it's a question that still we need to ask and we will dive into. I know that the Oversight Committee has just announced that it is going to have a hearing next Wednesday. I'm sure the Senate is also going to be looking at that. Of course we're going to ask that question.

I hope that that's the right answer, but it's something we're obviously going to investigate.

BLITZER: But you support Eric Holder, the attorney general, when he said there will be a Justice Department investigation to determine if any criminal laws were violated?

CHAFFETZ: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

The people who perpetrated this, the people who are overstepping this line, they should go to jail, Wolf. There need to be consequences. What I have seen from the Obama administration is, oh, we will just blame everybody, so nobody's held accountable and there's no responsibility. And have you yet to see anybody even get fired in these type of things going back to the GSA scandal, the Fast and Furious?

You go right on down the line, we don't see people being held accountable, fired and some people need to be prosecuted and put in jail.

BLITZER: Well, four State Department officials were fired as a result of the Benghazi investigation.

(CROSSTALK)

CHAFFETZ: No, they weren't.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They were removed from their jobs.

CHAFFETZ: Wolf, let's have another discussion about this, because what happened with those four people, they led us to believe that they were fired, but they weren't fired. They're still taking in income.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They're not working at the State Department.

CHAFFETZ: I challenge you on that.

BLITZER: All right.

CHAFFETZ: Let's have another discussion about that.

BLITZER: Let's check it out, because he specifically said those four individuals who had direct responsibility for the lax security at that consulate in Benghazi, they were removed from their jobs, they were punished, they were penalized. But we will check. We will check into it and get the specific information.

CHAFFETZ: I don't think so. That would be great.

BLITZER: All right, Congressman, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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