OTR Interviews

Gowdy to first-hand account Benghazi eyewitnesses: You will be protected

Congressman previews next congressional hearing on consulate attack, assures that those with firsthand knowledge will be protected

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 30, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight...

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RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There are actual efforts to suppress the testimony of eyewitnesses to the Benghazi horror!

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VAN SUSTEREN: But the Obama administration says it doesn't know anything about it.

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ED HENRY, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are people in your own State Department saying they've been blocked from coming forward, that they survived the terror attack and they want to tell their story. Will you help them come forward and just say it once and for all?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ed, I'm not familiar with this notion that anybody's been blocked from testifying. So what I'll do is I will find out what exactly you're referring to.

What I've been very clear about from the start is that our job with respect to Benghazi has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies not just in the Middle East but around the world are safe and secure and to bring those who carried it out to justice. But I'll find out what exactly you're referring to.

HENRY: They've hired an attorney because they're saying that they've been blocked from coming forward.

OBAMA: I'm not familiar with it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not aware of any employees who have requested security clearance for private attorneys in connection with Benghazi. We're not aware of it.

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VAN SUSTEREN: But a lawyer for the State Department workers saying the administration is threatening to punish whistleblowers.

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VICTORIA TOENSING, ATTORNEY: I am talking specifically about Benghazi, that people have been threatened in not just the State Department, that people have been threatened at the CIA. It's frightening. And they're doing some very despicable threats to people, not, We're going to kill you or not, We're going to prosecute you tomorrow, but they're -- they're taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over.

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VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Trey Gowdy joins us. Nice to see you, Congressman.

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: Good to see you. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm very well. And I understand late breaking today, the news that on May 8th, there will be hearings before Chairman Issa's committee. I assume it -- will it be calling these whistleblowers to testify?

GOWDY: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not at liberty to disclose the identity of the witnesses. I will just say what I have said previously, which is it is going to be a very informational, instructive hearing. I would encourage you to follow it.

And Benghazi is warming up. It is not going away, despite the efforts of this administration.

VAN SUSTEREN: What makes it informational? I'll try going around that way.

GOWDY: Well, Greta, you were a very accomplished attorney, and I think you know that hearsay evidence is not so interesting. First-hand accounts by eyewitnesses much more compelling, much more persuasive.

So I would again repeat for your audience and those who may be watching, if you also have firsthand knowledge about what happened in Benghazi, secure counsel, see Chairman Issa, get counsel. We'll have it appointed. You will be protected.

So let me just say that next week will be a wonderful opportunity for us to hear non-hearsay accounts of what happened in Benghazi.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess that leads, then, to my second question. Now - - now -- now we know that it's going to be people with firsthand account of Benghazi, so I assume that they were on the ground in Benghazi. I will make that assumption. I don't know -- you have not confirmed it or not, but I'll make that assumption.

But the State Department has said that they have already -- they've already investigated, the accountability review board, which was an outsourced group of people by the State Department, that they fully have investigated it.

Are you saying that you -- that you are not accepting their investigation and that you yourself want to talk to the witnesses?

GOWDY: Oh, that's an understatement, to say that we haven't accepted it. Greta, how in the world can you have a comprehensive review of Benghazi when you don't even bother to talk to the secretary of state? She wasn't even interviewed by the so-called accountability review board!

There's a reason that students don't grade their own papers. There's a reason defendants don't sentence themselves. And there's the reason the State Department doesn't get to investigate itself, determine whether or not it made errors in Benghazi. That is Congress's job.

So yes, it would be a -- a -- a wild understatement for us to say we do not have confidence in the accountability review board and its conclusions.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, one thing you and I have talked to off- camera on many occasions (INAUDIBLE) we talk about the courtroom and how different it is, is that you get to ask questions until you get the answer and you get -- in Congress, you have, like, four minutes or five minutes. So nothing ever gets fully developed.

Have you considered sort of, like, you know, joining forces with some of your colleagues and someone taking all the -- all the time so that the questions really can be asked, rather than the sort of -- you do three minutes, the next person three minutes, and we never hear what happened?

GOWDY: We have had those conversations before. Of course, when you're dealing with members of Congress, each one of them individually wants all the time. So I am fortunate to serve on Oversight with folks like Jimmy Jordan and Jason Chaffetz, who are very strong on a host of issues but don't have courtroom experience.

And I think you are going to see a very well-prepared side of the dais for the Republicans on the hearing next week. I've been preparing all weekend for it. And as you say, I'll only get five minutes. I've been approached by colleagues who would like to yield their time to me. Of course, the frustration is you get five minutes, and then you go to the other side. So whatever points you were making, you have to start all over again.

Chairman Issa has certain tools at his disposal which he doesn't use very often, but they are tools nonetheless for us to have more continuity. This is such an important hearing that I expect and hope that Chairman Issa will use every arrow in his quiver to make sure that the audience doesn't have this continual interruption of five minutes here and then five minutes changing the topic.

And I know firsthand, because there has been coordination among the members on the Republican side, how we can present this case as seamlessly as possible come next week.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You may have heard the sound bite, my colleague, Ed Henry, asking the president today at the press conference about whether or not he was familiar with any evidence or suggestion of intimidation of the whistleblowers. The president said, and I'm paraphrasing -- I don't know exactly what he said -- but that he was unaware of anyone trying to block the whistleblowers from testifying.

Do you have any information that is contrary to that? Do you have any reason to doubt the president was unfamiliar, didn't know about it?

GOWDY: Well, I can't speak to what the president knows or doesn't know. I know this, Greta. We have time in life to do the things that we think are important. The president now has known for 12 hours that there was an allegation that whistleblowers are being -- are -- are -- are being thwarted or being silenced.

So what's he done in the last 12 hours? Did he call the State Department? Did he call the CIA? Did he say, I want attorneys appointed for anyone who works for your department who wants to come forward?

I know he made a phone call yesterday to a basketball player. Did he make a phone call to the whistleblowers who are trying to expose the murder of four fellow Americans? Did he call them today and say, You know what? I want to congratulate you for coming forward. You're doing the right thing.

He's had 12 hours! I don't know what he knew before this morning. I know this. He knows now and he's known since this morning. So what's he done in the last 23 hours? If you've got time to go to the White House correspondents dinner and you've got time to speak to Planned Parenthood -- he said he wasn't going to rest until those who were responsible for Benghazi were brought to justice. Who's been brought to justice? Who?

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I...

GOWDY: It's been seven months!

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me just defend him for going to the White House correspondents dinner. It's a charity, and we in the media invite the president every year, and we're always glad when the presidents show up and grace our -- let me do -- at least, you know, thank him for that, although I wasn't at the dinner this year.

All right, let me ask you one other question. What provoked all the whistleblowers? Although you've not confirmed it's the whistleblowers are coming forward. What provoked all your witnesses to suddenly come forward? Did they all get together or somebody gone out to them? What -- what was the catalyst?

GOWDY: I think it's a growing frustration. You want to let government do its job. When people say, We're investigating it, we're going to get to the bottom of it, we're going to get you answers, you want to believe them. But after seven months, it becomes patently obvious that the sole function of the accountability review board was to insulate Hillary Clinton.

So at some point, again, speaking generically, I think you -- just in the quietness of your own soul, you realize government is not getting us answers on Benghazi. And I have to show the courage, the moral courage, if you will, to come forward even if there are going to be reprisals and consequences against me.

And more power to them for doing so. There are folks whose careers are in jeopardy. There are folks who are understandably fearful of retribution. And we ought to be encouraging and incenting them to come forward. We ought to be providing counsel and access to classified information and not threats.

And I think what we're going to find out next week is that this effort to delay and obfuscate and hide has been going on since shortly after Benghazi. This is not a new phenomena! There has been...

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman...

GOWDY: ... an orchestrated attempt -- yes, ma'am?

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you, sir. I thank you very much and I hope you'll come back next week as the hearings unfold. Thank you, sir.

GOWDY: Yes, ma'am. Thank you.