OTR Interviews

Amb. Bolton: Emails make it harder for Obama administration to 'sweep away' Benghazi scandal

New emails show administration knew about terrorist involvement as the attack happened


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 23, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a "Fox News Alert." New evidence at Fox News that the Obama administration knew the Libya attack was an act of terror even as it happened! Fox News has obtained internal State Department emails, the emails showing that an al Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack as the assault was ongoing on the U.S. consulate.

The State Department sent the emails to the White House Situation Room, the Pentagon, the FBI, the national intelligence director and the State Department. That means hundreds of national security figures received the emails in real time.

Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton joins us. Good evening, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I guess now there's the paper trail. There is now proof that the State Department and the White House knew as this was going on that a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda had claimed responsibility, Facebook and Twitter, yet they came out with that ridiculous video story!

BOLTON: Look, this is no surprise. We know that the security guards at the compound in Benghazi were in cell phone contact with the State Department in real time. Technology being what it is, they don't send old- fashioned cables back to the State Department in times of great urgency, they send emails.

And now, apparently, we've got several of them that were widely distributed in the United States government. And it's not surprising because the people on the ground in Benghazi knew the security environment that they faced and expected it. They'd been cabling back to the department asking for security enhancements.

And this is simply the playing out of everything they worried about. Now, as you say, there's a paper trail. This gets much harder to sweep away.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, according to what we can piece together, at 4:05 local time in the United States, 10:05 local time in Benghazi, there was a cable, or an e-mail, rather, said, U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi under attack. What we have been told is that during that time is that President Obama, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Defense Panetta at some time that evening or that afternoon were in the Oval Office together.

There was a second email at 4:54, the third email at 6:07 our time, 12:07 in Benghazi, and the 12:07 one was, Update two, Ansar al Sharia claims responsibility for Benghazi attack. And that's this third email. And apparently, the responsibility was on Facebook and Twitter.

In the email track that we have, there is never once any reference to some videotape or some protest.

BOLTON: Well, look, it's standard procedure at the State Department for any diplomatic facility around the world. If there's a demonstration outside, you report it back to Washington. It's just good methodology so you can assess the threat level. There were no cables, no emails, no nothing that day about demonstrations outside the consulate.

And I think what these emails now show beyond any doubt is that the State Department was fully possessed of the information in real time. And it leads to the question why the administration even bothered to ask for CIA assessments. All they had to do was ask the State Department. An in fact, one is also tempted to ask why didn't the CIA ask the State Department what was going on?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, this went to the Situation Room, according to the email addresses, what we've been told. It was also, by the way, says category yellow category. Do you what that means, by any chance?

BOLTON: I don't know what that means. But I tell you, one thing I've not understood about the way this played out on September the 11th and the day after, is why the entire top levels at the administration weren't on red alert over this. I can't speak for what happens inside the Obama administration, but I tell you, any administration I'd have been in, the president and his top advisers would have been on this immediately around the clock.

VAN SUSTEREN: Not on red alert? Ambassador, they actually went out with the most ridiculous story! They had on September 16th, which was five days after this happened, even though they knew it real time, they knew that night as they were watching it that it was this terrorist group that - - on their own Web site, the State Department's Web site, it says it has a link to al Qaeda. They knew that night, yet they sent Ambassador Rice out on Sunday the 16th to go to all those shows and -- and lie and make up that story about the video.

Then two days later, David Letterman, the president's still pushing that video story. There's no place in the information we have so far that anyone even -- it's like -- it was like they just made it up! And they also had that -- don't forget that ad that President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton...

BOLTON: In Pakistan.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... did that was shown in Pakistan about this video. Meanwhile, they knew it that night! I mean, it was just, like, I don't get it. I mean, this -- they lied!

BOLTON: Well, this goes to the question we've discussed. What could the motivation be? One alternative obviously we'd considered is the cover-up motive. But I tell you, these emails say to me that if anybody at the White House thought they could cover this story up by referring to the Mohammed video, with this documentary evidence in real time, then it wasn't just a cover-up, it was an incredibly stupid cover-up.

So I think this may be further proof of the ideology explanation, that there's this screen over consciousness that prevents them from seeing reality when it's put right in front of them.

VAN SUSTEREN: But I -- I could understand saying, We don't know, it's uncertain. You know, maybe for national security reasons, they don't want the American people to know that this specific group claimed responsibility as was happening, whatever. But it wasn't that they -- that they didn't know. They actually came up with some of their lying! One that just makes...

BOLTON: No, it's worse than that.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... no sense at all! It -- no, and I understand that. It's, like -- it's worse than that!

BOLTON: Yes, no, if, in fact, they wanted to buy time, then it was certainly easy enough to say, We're gathering the facts. But they picked a line that was politically convenient for them, regardless of the evidence, in the teeth of the evidence. And the fact they pursued up to and including the president speaking to the world at the United Nations General Assembly when there was just precious little to go on really speaks to me of willful blindness. I don't know -- I don't know psychologically...

VAN SUSTEREN: You say willful blindness...

BOLTON: ... how you can interpret it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you interpret any other way than a lie?

BOLTON: Well, if it is -- as I say, if it's a cover-up, if it's an intentional deception, how foolish can you be to think that this is not going to come out at some point, to think you can blow past...

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why would they come with...

BOLTON: ... the election...

VAN SUSTEREN: Why would they come up with the video? I mean, it's, like -- I mean, I -- they could come up with something else -- We're not sure of the group, or it's not something. But why come up with a video? I mean, what -- how could they possibly even -- that one's just like a bad lie!

BOLTON: Yes. Well, really, I'm probably the person least able to come up with reasons why the Obama administration thinks the way it does. But I believe the ideology explanation is the most powerful because it also explains why they refused repeated requests for security enhancements for the embassy in Tripoli and the consulate in Benghazi before September the 11th.

They just didn't want to acknowledge that al Qaeda was resurgent in Libya because it undercut the storyline that the war on terror is over, al Qaeda's on the run, the Arab spring has been a success.

And that led to the denials of the request for security enhancement. That led to the tragedy in Benghazi. And I think that then led to this ridiculous story that it was caused by some YouTube video.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think the president should address the nation and sort this one out. If there's a reasonable explanation, he better -- I think he should tell us. I think -- I think we deserve that or -- and it's owed to us. Anyway, Ambassador, thank you, sir.

BOLTON: Thank you.