OTR Interviews

Sen. Graham: Real story of Benghazi attacks is one of al Qaeda coming back, destroys Obama's narrative that you can lead from behind and 'everything's fine'

Sen. Graham blasts White House's changing stories - and president's 'terror' word games - in Benghazi attack


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, the controversy over Libya leading to fireworks at last night's debate. Since the day after this year's September 11 attack, the Obama administration has been dishing out different versions of what happened. Here's a look at their ever-changing stories.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we're seeing on social media, what we're seeing in some of the local commentary is largely related to this reprehensible video.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We've seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.

SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This was not a pre-planned, pre-meditated attack.

OBAMA: It is an extremely offensive video directed at Mohammed and Islam. Extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the one -- the consulate in Libya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were killed in the course of a terrorist attack on our embassy.

CLINTON: What happened in Benghazi was a terrorist attack.

OBAMA: We're still doing an investigation. There's no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn't just a mob action.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: It was a group of terrorists obviously conducted that attack.


VAN SUSTEREN: And now is President Obama changing his tune again? For weeks, the president's been saying al Qaeda is on the run and on its heels, but today -- and everyone was listening for this -- the president specifically removed those words from his campaign speech.

Senator Lindsey Graham is demanding answers from the president. He joins us. Nice to see you, Mr. -- nice to see you, Senator.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Thank you. I'm from Wisconsin, believe it or not,.

VAN SUSTEREN: Oh, the great state of Wisconsin. All right, Senator, you...

GRAHAM: People love you out here.

VAN SUSTEREN: It is. You wrote a letter on -- a couple days ago to the president, and you identified two prior incidents at the consulate in Benghazi, one in April and one in June, the one in June blowing a big enough hole in the perimeter -- 14 people -- or 40 people could march through. And you asked the president, Did you consider these serious events? Why did you ask that?

GRAHAM: Well, to be fair to the president, I don't expect that the request for 12 additional security personnel would go to president. That does go through the State Department. I don't expect him to know of the request to keep 16 Utah National Guardsmen in Libya for security.

But I do expect him to know that Benghazi was deteriorating over time, that our consulate was attacked twice. I can't imagine any White House -- and Andy Card addressed this directly -- if the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, is attacked within 60 days of each other twice, with a hole blown in the wall where 40 people could go through it, I would expect the president to know that.

I would also expect him to be informed that the British consulate in Benghazi was closed after the British ambassador was attacked by RPGs, and the Red Cross was closed in Benghazi because deteriorating security. And al Qaeda was on the rise.

And here's what Lieutenant Colonel Wood said. He said, We were really the last flag flying in Benghazi. It was almost inevitable the consulate would be attacked. Everybody else had left.

And the reason they denied the extra security is because the State Department wanted to normalize relationships in Libya. At the time, we were concentrating on normalizing relationships and turning this over to a Libyan government that really didn't exist. Everybody else was leaving.

And I hold the president accountable for that. And I want to know, Mr. President, were you doing your job? Were you following the deteriorating situation in Benghazi? Did you know that the Libyan consulate in Benghazi, the last flag standing, was a death trap for Americans? If you didn't, why?

VAN SUSTEREN: Two questions. I mean, what is your theory as to whether or not he knew? Or if he didn't know, why he didn't know? That's number -- that's my one -- first question. (INAUDIBLE) two parts.

GRAHAM: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: And the second is, what in the world is with this video story and that there was a protest? Why have they been pushing that since the 11th of September, now backing down, of course, recently?

GRAHAM: Well, if it's a riot based on a video that's spontaneous, they have a lot less blame. And I'd be the first to say that if this was a mob generated by video, that's a different national security threat, harder to plan for. So they wanted us to believe that.

The video had nothing to do with this because there was never a mob. It's pretty hard to have a riot by a mob that never existed. The video of the compound, the consulate, showed that there wasn't a soul around the consulate before the attack. But they wanted us to believe, and they thought the media wouldn't check and that the clock would run out, and there's only a few weeks until the election, Congress was out of session, so they were trying to spin a version that would make them less culpable. If the truth came out...

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just -- you say spin...

GRAHAM: If the truth came out...

VAN SUSTEREN: You say spin. But I mean, frankly, as hard as I listen, like, spin sort of is you take a little truth and you add a little to it and you make it look a better way. But this action, from the way you lay it out, looks like they were hiding it and they didn't want the American people to know, and that's vastly different.

GRAHAM: It is. And the best you could say is they took one piece of intelligence and spun it and denied the obvious. But the most likely scenario is that they constructed a scenario where they would be less culpable because if the truth came out that the Benghazi consulate had been attacked in April and June previously, and that the British had to leave Benghazi and the Red Cross was driven out, then that's a different story.

It's a story about al Qaeda coming back, Libya going south, and it destroys the narrative that by killing bin Laden, al Qaeda's been dismantled. And it also destroys the narrative you can lead from behind in Libya and everything's fine. I hold the president personally accountable for knowing the security situation in the world.

And if you're listening, Mr. President, Iraq is falling apart. If no one else is telling you this, I'm telling you this. Since we left Iraq, there's been a doubling of al Qaeda in Iraq. There are training camps in western Iraq, that the Kurdish president hasn't spoken to Prime Minister Maliki in a year, the political process is broken and security is deteriorating.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, I got to run. Thank you, sir.

GRAHAM: Thank you.