All-Star Panel: Reaction to select committee on Benghazi

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, after months of refusing to appoint a special committee to probe Benghazi, the speaker of the House today decided to take the investigation to a new level with this statement.

Americans learned this week that the Obama administration is so intent on obstructing the truth about Benghazi that it is even willing to defy subpoenas issued by the standing committees of the people's house. In light of these new developments, the house will vote to establish a new select committee to investigate the attack, provide the necessary accountability and insure justice is finally served.

So that will move forward according to the speaker of the House. The reaction from the state department was pretty quick.


MARIE HARF, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKEWOMAN: Everything that this committee would look at has already been look at ad nauseum by multiple committees. What's the point?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: But if no one did anything wrong or inappropriate, what is the harm in --

HARF: The amount of man-hours and taxpayer dollars – wait, no --this is why it matters -- why I'm actually answering your question. And I know you would still believe me, but the amount of man-hours and taxpayer dollars that go into all of this is incredibly time consuming for our folks here and at other agencies as well. We are committed to doing it because it's important, but when we've already done it --


BAIER: With that, let's bring in an expanded panel tonight. Fox News chief Washington James Rosen, Jason Riley, editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, Julie Pace, White House correspondent for the Associated Press, and syndicated Charles Krauthammer.

James, you are also our resident historian, so select committees, what does this enable the house to do and what is different?

ROSEN: Dude --


ROSEN: It had to be done. It had to be done. It had to be done. Look, this is an important development. For the first time now in two years, we have this profound and multidimensional event in Benghazi. Kind of the tell-tale heart of the Obama presidency. And it is now going to be institutionalized as a story.

For the first time, there's going to be a centralized fact-finding body wielding subpoena power. And looks like the live screening testimony from key witnesses. And of course, there will be a concerted effort to de- legitimatize this committee. I mean, you will hear it continue described as the GOP controlled Benghazi committee. And unflattering comparisons will inevitably be made with the Senate Watergate committee which will be held up as some mythic body that was marked by judiciousness and bipartisanship. In fact, the Senate Watergate committee was a very partisan creature. There's every reason to believe this may be similar.

But you know, Brit Hume who has been here in the capital since the early '70s, famously once said to me, and this tells you something about how hash tag this town has evolved. James nobody ever referred to the Senate Watergate committee as the Democrat controlled Senate Watergate committee. That kind of journalism didn't happen until 1980 when the Republicans retook the Senate at that time.

BAIER: We actually didn't know we were going to have imitations too and it's a benefit.



BAIER: We can do a whole bunch of.

Jason, to James point, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid came out with a statement quickly after this saying Republicans care more about defending billionaires like the Koch brothers and trying to rekindle debunk right wing conspiracy theories than raising the minimum wage or ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work.

JASON RILEY, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Broken records. That's what he sounds like on that. But here we have -- it looks like the White House lied about an episode with direct bearing on U.S. national security. And it looks like they did it because they thought the truth might jeopardize Obama's re-election. If that is not grounds for going forward with a select committee, I don't know what is. I think this is long overdue.

Obviously, it will depend on the details here, the scope of the committee, what kind of reach it has, just appointing one or selecting one, won't get the job done, but it is an excellent first step that's long overdue.

Others have called for it like Congressman Frank Wolf. So I'm glad -- I think Boehner has made the right call here.

BAIER: Julie.

JULIE PACE, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, I will say a couple of things. To James' point on the committee itself, I think it is going to be very difficult to try to make this a bipartisan committee, but I think that Republicans are going to have to try as much as possible to add a bipartisan flavor to this.

They also I think have to be very clear about the purpose of the committee. Sometimes in congressional investigations, the actual mission of the committee gets lost and you end up with just a lot of documents and a lot of testimony and it's unclear what you are actually getting after.

So I think that they need to be very targeted in what they are doing. And from the White House perspective, it's clear now that when the White House said we put out everything they had, that they didn't actually put out everything they had, so they have a real incentive if they want to put this behind them to actually now release everything that they have.

BAIER: And is their frustration in that White House briefing room, I ask more of this about some of these non-answer answers and is the White House working the refs behind the scenes?

PACE: Frustration in the press corps?


PACE: There's always frustration in the press corps.

BAIER: About this issue.

PACE: There definitely is. I mean, I think that we give the White House the benefit of the doubt when there is an answer that they are being honest with us. Doesn't mean that we think that what they are saying is the right answer or wrong answer but we believe they are at least trying to be honest with us and there is, you know, questions in this when they say that this e-mail was not directly about Benghazi, it was about the broader problems in the region. OK, maybe -- but they were talking about talking points involving Susan Rice, which is at the heart of this matter. So I think that they are trying to, you know, be too cute by half on that.

BAIER: And she was going on Sunday shows where they were all asking about Benghazi – Charles?

KRAUTHAMMER: It was all about Benghazi. And even if some of this protest language applied to other demonstrations, she would never would have been on all five shows if it only a demonstration in Cairo, where nobody was hurt and nobody was killed. She was on because of Benghazi.

And this memo is important. It triggered all of this for two reasons. A, it was hidden for a year and a half. It should have been out there right away because it's a connection, a direct connection between the White House and Susan Rice and the fabal she told.

And the second reason is, of course, in the content of it. They had always been saying Susan Rice got all her information from the CIA. This is clearly influence from the White House. The only question I have is why did Boehner wait untill now.

But now that we are going to be doing this, I think Trey Gowdy ought to be the chairman. He is a prosecutor and he is a terrific smart --

BAIER: Congressman from South Carolina.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. And he -- and the rules are they ought to choose the members of this committee, or at least the Republican members, the ones who pledge never to make a speech and never to make a declarative statement. Only to ask questions. And they should have a trained prosecutor as in the Watergate committee to lead all the witnesses through the questions and not a round-robin of congressional interrogation, speeches, and popping off.

That's what's been wrong with all of these previous hearings. If it is a targeted hearing, just with questions, so it's a clean inquiry, it will be then have to be respected even by the mainstream media.

BAIER: Congressman Gowdy, by the way, will be on Greta coming up.

ROSEN: James, is this politically at all dangerous for Republicans?

ROSEN: Well, it's obviously taking place in a midterm election cycle. The Democrats will make an effort to talk about the middle class, and jobs, and the war on women, and so forth, and they will point to an exercise like this as we already heard from Senator Reid, that it's sort of engaging in the debunking or engaging in inflating now debunked conspiracy theorizing. So that is the danger for it.

BAIER: And the track record of these committees is what?

ROSEN: Well, you know the Senate Watergate committee now in history looks like it was successful because the president ultimately resign. Later committees haven't produced that unique result so they sort of suffer by comparison. But this committee, they are dangerous for the Democrats as well, including obviously continued disclosure and quite potentially for Hillary Clinton who may well be the Democratic nominee in 2016.

BAIER: Jason?

RILEY: I think Congress owes it to the four perished Americans to do this. Yes, we've had committees look into this but they have not been well coordinated. There's been frankly a little too much grandstanding. And I think a select committee would be above that in some sense and provided it had -- it has the scope and the reach to do what's necessary. I think it could put forward a definitive record of what went on and we owe that to these Americans.

BAIER: Julie, it is tough to tell the story without spending a lot of time laying it all out. So that people get it. Is that one of challenges, do you think, for media who covered or don't cover it?

PACE: I think that is one of challenges, but I also think, you know, to James' first point, that what the select committee does is it provides sort of -- once this gets going -- a daily drum beat and that makes it harder to not cover it.

And so I think that sometimes you end up in these periods where you are not actually getting anything new, and so it's harder for media to, you know, make the claim for why we're writing a story if there's nothing new. Certainly, there has been coverage of this latest e-mail and there has been coverage of the select committee and I think there will be going forward.

BAIER: Although today, in the Rose Garden, no questions about Benghazi even though the select committee was already out there. Last word.

KRAUTHAMMER: It's got to be very targeted. It can be three questions -- why were they so unprepared. Second, where was the president and the secretary on the night hour by hour on the night all this was happening. And while they fade the ambassador was still unknown. And lastly, how did we get the fable? Who in the White House above the level of Rhodes was involved in the talking points?

BAIER: And it takes a long time?

ROSEN: It will take time. These committees can typically go on for a year or two.

BAIER: OK. Panel, thank you very much.

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