All-Star Panel: Republicans fight among themselves over Benghazi

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in



REP. PETE KING, R-NY, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think that I wish everybody including Republicans would read it more carefully and see what an indictment of this administration this really is. Could it have been stronger? Yes. But there's nothing in there that in any way exonerates the administration on the key issues that more should have been doing to provide security.


BAIER: Well, the House intelligence report on Benghazi, a lot of different people pointing to it as an exoneration of the administration. Those two Republicans, obviously, are not. One of the conclusions was that the House Intel Committee report says that there was no stand-down order to personnel on the ground.


JOHN "TIG" TIEGEN: Bob just looked straight at me and said stand down. You need to wait.

Kris "Tanto" Paronto: I said hey, we are ready to go. Bob looks right through me and looks at the team leader and goes you guys need to wait.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: "THE O'REILLY FACTOR": So, Mr. Panetta, do you believe those men?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I have no reason not to believe them.


BAIER: Bob was the head of station there in Benghazi at that CIA facility. We are back with the panel. OK, Steve, a lot of people point to this report. It's obviously one of many reports when it comes to Benghazi.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I mean I think the report in some very limited and narrow respects adds to our broad knowledge of what happened in Benghazi. But overall, I agree with the sentiments that Lindsey Graham expressed. The thing that strikes you as you read through the report is just how many holes and omissions there are in the reports. And where there aren't holes where they actually report facts, the facts are rendered in a sloppy fashion and the report is ultimately unconvincing.

On the question of stand-down, that's sort of the perfect example. The report concludes there was basically no evidence that there was a stand- down order given. But these are the guys who are saying that they had a stand-down order given to them. That's evidence. Now, it might be wrong.
The evidence might be wrong. But they are saying we were told to stand down.

And what the report, I think, attempts to do is dance on the head of a pin. They are trying to say well, there was no order given to proceed so then you can't, by definition, be told to stand down if you are not going against the previous order. It's a semantic game. It's not worth playing, and they spent a fair amount of time playing it.

I think the bigger problem relates to the talking points. You have Michael Morell, who was the acting director of Central Intelligence Agency who was caught red-handed misleading Congress on the question of his role in revising the talking points. For eight months, he let members of Congress believe that he had no role. He didn't speak up and say that he had a role when he was asked about it directly in several individual meetings. He denied that he had a role. He told Lindsey Graham, John McCain, and Kelly Ayotte that the FBI was the one who in fact changed the talking points. So he was caught red-handed misleading Congress for eight months about this.

This report relies almost entirely on Mike Morell as a fact witness. They base the entire section of their report on the talking points on what Mike Morell says. He has no credibility on this issue. Why they would rely on him is beyond me.

BAIER: A.B., the Democrats, many members of the media point to this and say, hey, this was a Republican report.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: It was bipartisan report.

BAIER: The Republican led House Intelligence committee.

STODDARD: That's true. This is a problem because the Republicans are now a majority of both chambers and the majority is a mine field as everyone knows. So, as they try to not shut the government down, placate conservatives on the executive order how to respond to that, begin the new year looking like they are governing before presidential politics takes over. They have a new focus on oversight but they are very hesitant about having it become too many investigations, big probes in the spotlight that promise too much and deliver too little.

And so, Republicans are talking about the fact that this report cites no intelligence failure, no deliberate misleading of the public by the administration, no stand-down order to illustrate the fact that though Lindsey Graham and several other Republican senators are trying to urge their leadership now to have Senate select committee that works as a joint committee with the House select committee on Benghazi, it might be that one very focused investigation is better than two.

BAIER: And we should point out Trey Gowdy was reappointed as head of the select committee for the new Congress, and that is still moving forward on this.

Charles, one thing I want to point out, this quote from the report that raised some eyebrows. "The CIA's mission in Benghazi was to collect foreign intelligence from the annex," the CIA annex in Benghazi. "The CIA was collecting intelligence about foreign entities that were themselves collecting weapons in Libya and facilitating their passage to Syria. The Benghazi annex was not itself collecting weapons." That has been talked about. And the fact that it's in the report, what role did the U.S. play in facilitating or moving or, you know, that raises a lot of questions.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, this language is pretty cagey, and what they are saying is the CIA did not actually pick up a gun, put it on a boat, and ship it over to Turkey to go to Syria. But they were involved in -- they were collecting intelligence about other entities, friendly perhaps, unfriendly perhaps, who were themselves collecting weapons, I would assume friendly. So we had cutout some proxies.

Look, in the war in Afghanistan we were able to get weapons that the Israelis had captured from the Soviets in the 67 War and ship them through U.S. allies so it would end up in the hands of the mujahedeen and it would look as if it was not American done. So this is old stuff. This is not new.

But I do think the general point about Republicans appearing to clear the administration on Benghazi is really odd. I would say that Mike Rogers is not the Pope. It's not infallible. In many ways the report is sort of incredible, literally. And, again, I think Steve is right. In putting all the emphasis on Morell, who was clearly not saying the truth when he pretended that he wasn't involved in changing the talking points is odd. I'm glad it's in the hands of Trey Gowdy. I don't see any reason to expand it and include the Senate.

BAIER: We'll continue to cover it here. That's it for the panel, but stay tuned for an early turkey day celebration.