OTR Interviews

McCain: Even with Clinton's testimony, there are still so many unanswered questions on Benghazi

Veteran senator breaks down secretary of state's long-awaited testimony on the Benghazi terror attacks, says there are still unanswered questions


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 23, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senator John McCain confronting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the Benghazi attack, the attack that left four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, dead. Why was Senator McCain not satisfied with Secretary Clinton's answers? We asked him.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Today you asked questions of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. I know that the two of you are friends, but you were quite rough on her.

MCCAIN: I hope I wasn't rough on her, but I think we need to make it clear there are many unanswered questions months after the tragic deaths of four brave Americans and we still don't know what shape the talking points that Ambassador Rice used. We still don't know when the president was briefed. We still don't know why the survivors who were flown to Germany were not asked the next day whether it was a spontaneous demonstration or not.

We still don't know why the president continued for at least two weeks afterwards to say that he didn't know whether it was a terrorist attack or not, and of course, the exchange that he had with Mitt Romney in their debate, where he said he had called it a terrorist attack when he hadn't.

But there are so many questions that remain unanswered. Why were so many warnings ignored by the State Department? Why was it when the person in charge of the detail of 16 people objected and requested to stay because of the failure in the security there around the consulate? Why did they heed the warnings when there was an attack on the British ambassador? None of these questions have been asked to the satisfaction of, frankly, any of us who paid close attention.

VAN SUSTEREN: Did you get them today? I didn't have a chance to watch all the hearings or in the House, and a lot of members talking and they get to the end of the time and they have to get the answer in writing later because they've been either praising her or roughing her up. There really wasn't sort of, what do you know, when do you know it, who was there? There's very little of that in the hearing.

MCCAIN: First of all, it's not too surprising given members of Congress. But second of all, you only have five minutes. So I had to lay out in my five minutes those questions that remained unanswered, because, with all due respect to the secretary of state, she basically sort of said that everything had been taken care of.

Greta, why in the world should we not know what the e-mails were, where they decided what particular language that Ambassador Susan Rice would use in talking to the American people? Why would Ambassador Rice say Al Qaeda has been decimated? We know Al Qaeda hasn't been decimated. We know it's on the rise.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why -- I realize you're in the minority here, but Ambassador Rice talked to senators behind closed doors. She has not been summoned to the house where the majority, Republicans have the majority so none of this -- she has those answers and she hasn't been summoned.

MCCAIN: I'm not sure how many answers she has because --

VAN SUSTEREN: That's why she was chosen or gave her the points.

MCCAIN: The president said in defense of her, she doesn't know anything about Benghazi. That was the president's statement. She was given a set of talking points. Now, she should have known better. She should have checked them out, the same way that Colin Powell should have known better when he told the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

But I don't think she has many of the answers. The answers lie within the State Department, the CIA, and the White House. Who changed the talking points and why? Because the talking points, if it had included the classified information they had would have depicted a very different version of events than the ones that ambassador rice told the American people.

And, I guess finally, why would we ever think that people bring mortars and rocket propelled grenades to spontaneous demonstrations? I mean, on the face of it, this cannot be ignored, the fact that this was all in the heat of a presidential campaign, a president who was campaigning, saying bin Laden is dead, and Al Qaeda's on the run. We know that's not true.

VAN SUSTEREN: As sort of passing of the torch at least in the next couple of days, between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and soon to be Secretary of State John Kerry, I'm curious your thoughts on how Secretary Hillary Clinton has done as Secretary of State and John Kerry going forward.

MCCAIN: First of all, Secretary Clinton is admired and respected around the world. She and I have been friends for many years. We used to travel together.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think there was a drinking contest involved. Is that false?

MCCAIN: False.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

MCCAIN: So, I have -- I admire the fact that she is admired throughout the world and a very effective secretary of state. I also think that John Kerry will do a credible job as secretary of state. He has a world of experience. And John Kerry and I don't agree on a lot of issues, but we have a relationship which was forged years ago. And so I have confidence that he will carry out the president's agenda and serve the president.

Now, I wouldn't nominate, very frankly, as friendly as we are, wouldn't nominate him to be secretary of state. I would have my own selection. But I respect the president's selection in this case. I do have significant and serious questions for Senator Hagel.

VAN SUSTEREN: And that will be coming up soon.

MCCAIN: Yes, be coming before the armed services committee next week.

VAN SUSTEREN: On the topic of the Pentagon, secretary of defense, Secretary of Defense Panetta has said that he's going to lift the ban on women in combat. What's your thought on that?

MCCAIN: I think that I respect that judgment. I would emphasize that there are certain specialties that require certain physical capabilities, and I would not bar women -- for example, Seal teams, OK? I would not bar them from them if that's the decision, but I hope that they would have to measure up to the same physical standards because these Seals are the best example, they're a small unit. They have to depend on each other. And I'm not saying that women can't perform that way. I just hope that we would keep the same standard requirements for screening and eligibility to be a member, particularly of some of our elite military units.

VAN SUSTEREN: And another logjam issue in Washington. One of my colleagues confirmed that Speaker Boehner told a group of Republicans on the House side that President Obama's focus is to annihilate the Republican Party. Is that the collective viewpoint here in the Republicans in the Senate or not?

MCCAIN: Greta, I've seen a number of presidents in their second terms, I've seen President Reagan and President Clinton in their second term and President Bush Jr. in his second term, and there was always an outreach starting with the inauguration. Look, we've got to work together.

Obviously, it was a very confrontational speech that the president gave that I think would have been more appropriate if he feels that way at the state of union as opposed to an inaugural speech.

I think you can lend credence to the belief that the president of the United States want to regain a majority in the House of Representatives and in order to achieve that he has to split the Republican Party, particularly in the House. And so I regret that I didn't hear one word from the president about it's time we all sat down and worked together and addressed these issues that are confronting the nation. But it is what it is. That means that we're in for a pretty rough couple of years.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's interesting. You mentioned that you have a good relationship with Senator John Kerry and it didn't miss my observation that when there was a discussion what to do about taxes recently, is that senator - Vice President Biden who is a U.S. senator for many years, has many relationships up here with the Senate, he was dispatched. Relationships are important in Washington, isn't it?

MCCAIN: Relationships are important. I have a very good relationship with the vice president. He's one of the most likeable guys in Washington. He and I strongly disagree on many issues, but it's good to be able to pick up the phone and talk to somebody.

But the trick around here and took me a long time to learn it, is that you can disagree with people and you can disagree. God knows, Ted Kennedy and I used to go at it. But as long as you don't get personal, as long as you doesn't attack someone's character and integrity then you can shake -- I had a huge fight one day with Ted Kennedy on the floor and we were yelling at each other. And we walked off and he looked at me and he said we did pretty good, didn't we? That was what it was like doing business, and I learned a lot from him.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do you do that with President Obama?

MCCAIN: I haven't had that much to do with President Obama. I've been over the White House once in the last four years and the meeting we had was very pleasant, and he said he was going to get back to me on a number of issues, and I never heard from him again. So it's not that we've had a bad relationship, we've just had no relationship.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.