Benghazi committee member previews Clinton questioning; CEO of First Data talks taking the company public

Rep. Susan Brooks weighs in on the hearing agenda


This is a rush transcript from "Sunday Morning Futures," October 18, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


A pivotal decision about America's future in Afghanistan, keeping thousands of our troops in the country through the end of President Obama's second term.

Hi, everyone, I'm Maria Bartiromo. Welcome to "Sunday Morning Futures."

How did the rise of Taliban and spread of ISIS impact the president's decision? I'll ask former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, James Jeffrey, coming up.

Plus, North Korea offering to end 60-plus years of conflict with the United States and South Korea. What should we make of it?

And how safe is it to use your credit card? The industry rolling out new cards with safety chips now. But retailers are not keeping the pace. I will talk to the CEO of a leading credit card processor whose company just rolled out the biggest IPO of the year, as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."

And we begin this morning with the spotlight on the Benghazi scandal.

Hillary Clinton set to face off with the House Benghazi Committee this upcoming Thursday. It follows the closed-door testimony this past week of her longtime aide, Huma Abedin. Abedin questioned for almost six hours by committee members. She was an assistant to the former secretary of state at the time of the terrorist attack on our diplomatic compound in Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. Indiana Congresswoman Susan Brooks is on the Benghazi committee, as well as the House Ethics, Energy and Commerce Committees.

Good to see you, congresswoman. Thanks very much for joining us.

REP. SUSAN BROOKS, R-IND.: Good morning, Maria. Great to be here.

BARTIROMO: Can you lay out what you're expecting to hear from Hillary Clinton? What do you want to get from her this upcoming Thursday?

BROOKS: Well the secretary was in charge of the agency where we lost four brave Americans. She is one very important fact witness. And that's what we're trying to get to. We're trying to get to all of the facts. That's what our committee has been focused on from the beginning.

And so we will be asking her questions about the hundreds of e-mails that we have received from the State Department about the security requests that had been made and about mentions about the security posture in Benghazi and in Libya. There was a lot of violence going on in Libya and in Benghazi prior to these attacks.

So we have a lot of questions for the secretary. We're very pleased that she will be there and has agreed to answer all of our questions. And so it's very important that we get to these facts. Again, she's one fact witness in this entire long process and investigation.

BARTIROMO: So the public wants to know, what specifically are you looking for? I mean when you - when you say the security issues around that, are you saying that there were e-mails ask be the secretary, as well as the entire department, to send more help to the ambassador in to Benghazi at that time? What are you looking for specifically?

BROOKS: Well, we definitely want to ask, what was the - what were the procedures, what were the protocols when all of these security incidents were mentioned in e-mails. And, yes, it's through the review of the many e- mails that we've had. In fact, we've received over 57,000 e-mails and documents that had not been produced to other congressional committees in the past. So we've been poring through those. There are many hundreds of mentions about security incidents. And we want to know who within the department, within the State Department, within CIA, Defense Department, what did they know about the security problems in Benghazi and in Libya?

How far up in the organization did those security requests go? What was the secretary's knowledge? What was her decision-making during all of these security incidents and all of the violence in Libya leading up to the attack?

BARTIROMO: All right, we've got to talk about the six-hour testimony from her former aide, current aide, actually, Huma Abedin, and I also want to ask you about the Kevin McCarthy comments. So stay with us, congresswoman, plenty more to talk about with you. Congresswoman Brooks.

But first, the stage is set for this upcoming hearing. What can we really expect from Hillary Clinton? Fox News senior correspondent Eric Shawn joins us with that angle.

Good morning to you, Eric.

ERIC SHAWN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Maria, and good morning, everyone.

It will be an opportunity for her to shine, or to sink. Hillary Clinton expected to be grilled on her actions before and after the deadly attack, and if she withheld information that could be damaging to her.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE (January 23, 2013): We had four dead Americans.


CLINTON: Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What's different, at this point, does it make?


SHAWN: It was a sharp and now iconic reply to an earlier hearing. Hillary Clinton will no doubt be asked again about the failures in security, inability to send help to save Ambassador Chris Stevens and his three colleagues, and the administration's now discredited explanation, blaming that Internet video for the protest and the attack. On Friday, Mrs. Clinton was asked what she expects when she testifies.


CLINTON: I've already testified about Benghazi. I testified to the best of my ability before the Senate and the House. I don't know that I have very much to add. This is, after all, the eighth investigation. Other committees of the Congress, standing committees with very experienced members and staff, have all looked in to this and - and basically just rejected the conspiracy theories. I will do my best to answer their questions, but I don't really know what their objective is right now.


SHAWN: Well, she and Democratic committee members charge the investigation is politically motivated by the GOP. But as chairman, Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy insists his mission is to objectively uncover the facts.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R-SC), HOUSE BENGHAZI COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Entities who are trying to run this investigation the way that serious investigations are run. But lo and behold, we find something that all seven of those other committees that she claims looked into Benghazi never found. So we're going to follow the facts wherever they go. And if that impacts people's perception of her fitness to be commander in chief, so be it.


SHAWN: Oh, General Carter Ham has previously testified that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey were told it was a terrorist attack and they went to the White House to brief the president about it. Well, later that night, Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton did talk by telephone. The next day, the administration continued to blame that video.


BARTIROMO: Yes, I remember the - the moment. Thank you so much. Eric Shawn with the latest there.

And more now with Congresswoman Susan Brooks this morning.

And, congresswoman, let me ask you about the testimony, six-hour testimony of Huma Abedin this past week. What did you learn?

BROOKS: Well, we were very pleased that Ms. Abedin did come and she did answer all of the questions, and we thought it was very important to ask her questions. She was a deputy chief of staff of the secretary's. She also was the other individual and had a - and we believe the only other individual who had a Clinton e-mail dot com account. And she did transmit a number of e-mails between the State Department officials, and the secretary, about Chris Stevens, about the mission in Benghazi, and so it truly was questions about her knowledge, about her involvement. She also was involved in setting up the trip that the secretary took in October of

2011 to Libya and was planning another trip prior to the attack - or for October, I believe, of 2012. So she was involved in Libya, and those were the types of questions that the committee and the staff asked her.

BARTIROMO: But, you know, is it any surprise that, you know, we know that it was incredibly dangerous in Benghazi at the time. We know that - that they had been asking for - for more help. What - paint the picture of what the backdrop is here because I think people are trying to understand fully what it is that we're trying to - or that the committee, really, is trying to get at.

BROOKS: Well, the committee is trying to be able to paint the picture and piece together all of the facts. And certainly there have been prior congressional committees, but they didn't have the benefit of the thousands of e-mail communications that we now have. As I've said previously, over

57,000 of e-mail communications and of documents that have been produced to our committee. And in those e-mails and communications and memos, we see what the thought processes were, what the requests were, what the situation on the ground was.


BROOKS: Benghazi was a very large city. A city the size of Washington, D.C., or Boston. It was a large city and it was having numerous, numerous violent incidents around that city prior to the attack in 2011, but particularly in 2012.

BARTIROMO: And, of course, we know that your investigation uncovered the fact that Hillary Clinton had this private server in her house. Connect the dots for us. Why is this private server so important?

BROOKS: Well, the issue really is, what were the e-mail communications that were going between the secretary and other members of the State Department or other officials throughout government. And so we are just trying to piece together what it is that everybody knew prior to the attack, before, during and after the attack. And so that's why, in any serious investigation, I'm a former federal prosecutor, and in serious investigations -


BROOKS: You get the facts and you get the communication and what was going on in people's minds and what actions did they take -


BROOKS: When requests were made.

BARTIROMO: But at this -

BROOKS: So that's why -

BARTIROMO: At this point, pardon me, I apologize, congresswoman, we want to get to this important question, and that is about Kevin McCarthy's comments, because now we've got this past Wednesday a second GOP lawmaker suggesting that this House investigation into Benghazi is more about targeting Hillary Clinton than anything else. How damning are the notions from Republican Congressman Richard Hanna, as well as Kevin McCarthy, that basically this committee doesn't have credibility?

BROOKS: It's obviously frustrating to those of us on the committee. We have been very, very focused on the facts. We haven't shared with other members within our own conference or with the public all that we've been doing, all that we have uncovered, and what the results are of what we've been doing.
And I think that should demonstrate that we are doing the very fact based, serious, thorough investigation. It's not wise to be just putting out different pieces of the investigation. It's better to get the entire picture. And that's what we've been trying to paint. That's what we're trying to piece together.

It's taken us far too long. We've had tremendous difficulties getting a lot of information from the State Department. It's taken them far too long to get us the information. So, frankly, it's been frustrating. These are members that haven't been briefed. It's not as if we're briefing our own members. Because I think it's important that we keep the investigation serious, that we keep it in a very professional manner, and that means not disseminating different bits of information.

So, again, certainly it's unfortunate, it's frustrating, but for me it's just noise. We're not focusing on it. We're staying focused on what we need to accomplish and that is finishing the interviews, it's been issuing a final report, and that's going to take some time. We're not going to be finished on Thursday. This investigation doesn't end on Thursday. We have more witnesses to interview. Witnesses from the State Department. Witnesses from the CIA.


BROOKS: And it's incumbent upon us to interview the leads of those agencies. That was the secretary.


BROOKS: And that is why we are interviewing her. It would be wrong for us not to ask her the many questions we will be ready to ask on Thursday.

BARTIROMO: Sure. Well, certainly the public deserves to know what exactly went - went on. Representative, good to see you. Thanks very much for joining us.

BROOKS: Thank you very much. And, more importantly, the families of the four victims are the ones who need to know the facts.

BARTIROMO: For sure.

BROOKS: So, thank you.

BARTIROMO: Congresswoman Susan Brooks there joining us. We will see you soon.

President Obama has made withdrawing troops from Afghanistan a major goal for his second term, but this past week a complete flip-flop. He changed course. He talk - we will talk to former U.S. ambassador about the plan to abandon the drawdown and he will tell us what he thinks is really going on.

You can follow me on twitter @mariabartiromo, @sundayfutures. Let us know what you would like to hear about this upcoming issue.

Stay with us. We're looking ahead this morning on "Sunday Morning Futures."


BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

New reaction to the 180-degree change in course in Afghanistan. President Obama declaring the U.S. drawdown of troops in Afghanistan will not happen the way he originally promised. There are 9,800 troops currently stationed there. The original plan was to cut that to about 1,000 person embassy force after 2016. Now that number will increase to 5,500 men and women in uniform, helping fight terrorism, and train Afghani forces.

Ambassador James Jeffrey is the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Turkey and Albania and a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Sir, good to have you on the program. Thanks very much for joining us.


BARTIROMO: Your reaction to the president's plan this week?

JEFFREY: One, this was an important and positive decision. I think it's a mistake to cut down to the 5,500. I wish he would have held at 9,800, but, frankly, we'll be at that number throughout most of 2016. And it's up to the next president to take a decision to go back up if he actually does cut to 5,500.

So a good decision for Afghanistan. But more importantly, it's a good decision for our foreign policy. President Obama's been arguing that his signature foreign policy goal is ending America's wars. He thinks that would provide security for not only us but the rest of the world. That tragically hasn't happened. And this may well be a reversal of course. We have to wait and see.

BARTIROMO: Well, I mean, what does this tell us, though, about the overall foreign policy that the American people should understand? Because the president has been talking for many years now about pulling troops back, leading from behind, getting out of these wars. Did he just miss it? Did he just not understand what truly was happening, so he has to reverse back to president - to - to more troops?

JEFFREY: It's a good question. First of all, when he came in to office, there was a great deal of public dissatisfaction with hundreds of thousands of American troops sloshing around in Afghanistan and Iraq doing essentially armed nation building. That wasn't popular and it really wasn't working all that well. He had a point in trying to wind down from that.

But he has gone much further on the not executing the red line with Libya, not reacting even by sending defensive weapons to Ukraine, the rather weak reaction to the Russian intervention in Syria just recently, the slow reaction to ISIS in Iraq. He basically has avoided almost any use of military force. However, small-scale, and however low risk, other than going after terrorists, which frankly is an easy no-risk option. And the result is, our enemies and opponents are gaining points all over the world from South China Sea to the Ukraine and the Baltics.

BARTIROMO: This is a really important point that you're making and it leads me to my next question which is really, what are the implications of more troops on the ground right now in this part of the world? I mean does this lead to even further conflict?

JEFFREY: I do not think so. I think it will dampen down conflict because that we've seen since 1945 is the wise - I underline wise -- having been involved in both Iraq and Vietnam - the wise use of American power has reduced, not increased, insecurity and danger around the world. That's a possibility. I'm not so sure he gets it yet. We'll have to see if the fight for frankly his views on this matter.

What will happen in Afghanistan is, these forces will provide the intelligence, counterterrorism, special forces, air support, and command and control that the Afghanis need. They'll do 99 percent of the fighting and frankly dying on the battlefield, but our troops will make them far more effective and that's exactly what the Afghans need and what we need, not only there.

BARTIROMO: And do you think our troops have a clear understanding of what the strategy is? I mean too often we speak with - with the military and they say they don't necessarily have a coherent strategy to follow. Do you think it's very clear-cut at this point what the president is trying to do for our troops?

JEFFREY: It's clearer this week than it was two weeks ago.


JEFFREY: Imagine being a soldier, and those soldiers, those special forces that were fighting in Kunduz, and I use the verb fighting deliberately despite what the president says, to retake that city and they did with the Afghans -


JEFFREY: Retake the city. They weren't sure what they were doing because they were all going to be pulled out within a year and a half. Now that he's saying it's the mission that drives our forces -


JEFFREY: And the mission is to avoid - at least avoid defeat, in other words, although he wouldn't use that word, the "v" word, victory -


JEFFREY: The troops will be far better motivated.


JEFFREY: I was one of the last troops in Vietnam. I know what it's like to be on a withdrawal.

BARTIROMO: Ambassador, real quick, a yes or no answer, do you believe North Korea when they say reportedly they want to sign a peace treaty with the U.S. to end 65 years of conflict?

JEFFREY: Absolutely not. This is a trick to get around their possession of nuclear weapons. That's a precondition. And their battle is not just with us, it's with South Korea and the entire U.N. technically. They're trying to do this directly with us.


Ambassador, good to have you on the program today. Thanks very much. We appreciate your time this morning.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

BARTIROMO: We'll see you soon.

JEFFREY: Thank you.

BARTIROMO: New credit cards with a security chip supposed to help stop fraud, but retailers are running behind on technology needed to process them. We'll talk with the CEO of payment processor First Data coming up.

Back in a moment as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures."


BARTIROMO: Welcome back.

Lots of volatility in the stock market. It has some companies scaling back their IPO plans. But First Data pushed through, pricing at shares though $2 lower than the low end of the proposed range last week. There's more news affecting First Data, which is the leading credit card processing company.

The credit card industry now mandating that retailers must update their technology so it's compatible with new credit cards featuring security chips. So will the new feature protect your identity better?

Frank Bisignano is with us today. He is the CEO of First Data, fresh off that IPO last week.

Frank, good to see you.

FRANK BISIGNANO, FIRST DATA CEO: Good to see you, Maria. Thanks for having me.

BARTIROMO: Congratulations.


BARTIROMO: Seeing you ring the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange as you took the company public. How are you feeling today? What - what -

BISIGNANO: I feel great.

BARTIROMO: A big victory.

BISIGNANO: The team feels well. You know, everybody feels very, very good.
You know, a big week - a big week for this company.

BARTIROMO: Tell me where the growth comes from at First Data going forward.

BISIGNANO: Well, our growth is, you know, across all our businesses. We serve 4,000 financial institutions. And we serve 6 million business locations. Bringing all that together, really helping small and medium- sized businesses grow, bringing technology in there, bringing some world- class products. This morning, I got up, it's my daughter Morgan's birthday.

BARTIROMO: Oh, happy birthday, Morgan.

BISIGNANO: And we have a - we have a digital gift product. I sent her a digital gift online. You know, that type of commerce enablement completely changing how business operates.

BARTIROMO: Wow, it really does. It's a new world out there. And I want to talk to you about it. But let me stay on the company for a moment because you raised all that money this past week. You've said that you want to pay down debt. And then you're going to be investing. Where do you want to invest in the company?

BISIGNANO: Well, we've been investor, we've bought six start-ups over the past two years, and we've paid down debt. We raised $3.5 billion last year in what we called the historic private placement, delivered (ph) the company there, delivered (ph) the company again. But our investment will be in helping clients grow their business, bringing technology to businesses, bringing technology to financial institutions. Whether it's a falafel truck on the corner or whether it's a pizzeria in Brooklyn, which you know so well, or, you know, Cabela (ph), it's great client in the middle of America, bringing all our technology into them.

BARTIROMO: And how would you characterize that segment of business right now? We have this debate about how strong the economy really is. We know small businesses are the job creators. How would you characterize things for those businesses right now?

BISIGNANO: Well, those businesses are still trying to grow. I mean we feel very, very good. We like small business formation. We're there in small business formation. You see them beginning to embrace technology. Every year you do have a group of them leaving the environment, but I see small business formation and we want to be the enabler for those small businesses.

BARTIROMO: So you mentioned a moment ago the digital product that you sent to your daughter. And then there's this idea that there are these new chips in credit cards. Talk to us about what's going on with regard to security.
People are afraid that whatever they do in terms of payment processing, in terms of using, you know, the digital - their digital lives that they're going to get hacked, that they're basically open to, you know, vulnerabilities.

BISIGNANO: Well, we're a company that is on both sides of that. We are a great provider of the chip and card. We've delivered hundreds of millions of those this year. We also delivered a point of sale encryption product, Clover, that can be software enabled. It's cloud based. We have a mini version which is a complete terminal take-out. So I think it's important that there's a chip on the card that's encrypted. The large retailers have done a fabulous job on this. But I think we're beginning to see the embracing on the small business side.

BARTIROMO: I noticed the other day actually when I went to the store, they wanted my card, and it's a different thing that you do. You just put your card in there because there is a chip. Do you think this is going to be more effective at protecting people's information?

BISIGNANO: One hundred percent. I mean we need to encrypt the data at the point of sale. We need to have the chip on the card. That's the EMV movement. But also everyone securing their internal environments also. So, you know, you need chip, you need encryption, tokenization. It takes the consumer's card and encrypts it. We do that at the point of sale. So I think it's - it's much better. And the movement has begun. But, it's a journey.

BARTIROMO: And that, the security products that you - that you have at First Data, that's probably one of those things that's sort of an unlimited spend for small businesses in a world where we're so worried that we are, in fact, vulnerable. Is that true?

BISIGNANO: Well, I think it's - it's important that the small business embraces the new terminal and encryption. You see it happening. Their ability to protect themselves is very important. And our job is to help them protect themselves.

BARTIROMO: Frank, it's great to have you on the program today. Thanks so much.

BISIGNANO: Great to be here, Maria.

BARTIROMO: We'll be watching. First Data CEO Frank Bisignano.

The Obama/Putin power struggle continues this morning in Syria. Our next guest will weigh in on U.S. involvement in the region. He's the author of a new biographer of a former secretary of state. Niall Ferguson will be with us as we look ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures,"


SHAWN:  From America's news headquarters, I'm Eric Shawn.  Here are some of the other stories that are making headlines at this hour.  


SHAWN (voice-over):  People at a zombie festival in Florida getting a tragic and deadly real-life scare.  A shooter opening fire at the Zombicon gathering in Fort Myers, killing one person and wounding four others.  The gunman still on the loose.

In the trial for reputed Bonanno crime leader Vincent Asaro set to begin tomorrow.  Asaro was arrested last year for a suspected role in the legendary 1978 robbery at JFK Airport, where a crew of masked men stole $6 million in cash and jewelry.  

If the 48-year-old case sounds familiar it's because it was dramatized in the iconic Martin Scorsese movie, "Goodfellas."  My favorite movie and I even ran into Robert DeNiro on the street last week.  How about that?

Well, I'll be back at noon with more news with Arthel Neville and then the doctors as always are in.  Drs. Siegel and Samadi joins us for "Sunday Housecall" at 12:30 Eastern.  So for now, I'm Eric Shawn.  Back to "Sunday Morning Futures" and Maria.


BARTIROMO:  Eric, a Harvard historian criticizing President Obama's actions in Syria.  Niall Ferguson saying Obama is not being tough enough on Vladimir Putin's intervention there essentially undoing 40 years of work in the Middle East.  

Ferguson also releasing the first volume of his biography on Henry Kissinger, who helped the U.S. protect its influence during times of crisis in the region, serving as secretary of state and national security adviser, to Presidents Nixon and Ford.  

Niall Ferguson joins us right now to talk more about it.  

Niall, it's wonderful to see you.  Congratulations on the book.

NIALL FERGUSON, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN:  Thank you very much, Maria.

BARTIROMO:  Thank you for joining us.

How would you characterize President Obama's foreign policy?  

FERGUSON:  Well, I used to think that he just set out to be the anti-Bush, to be the opposite of his predecessor and that was really the tone of the early speeches.  Remember the Cairo speech in 2009, when he essentially said, you know, I come in peace.  

I think more recently, it's got more complicated and it's got a lot messier.  I think the president began to toy with the idea that he was a grand strategist and was going to create a balance of power in the Middle East, bringing Sunni and Shiite powers into some kind of equilibrium.  

Maria, this is going horribly wrong.  He's really created an explosion of sectarian conflict right across the regions.  And I think now he's been checkmated by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, who, as you said a moment ago, has taken the initiative.  

It's really the first time since the early '70s that the Russians have been in a position to play the part of power broker in the Middle East.  Henry Kissinger managed to more or less squeeze them out of the region.  So this is a major reverse, not just for the president but actually for the United States, going back decades.

BARTIROMO:  Yes, this is very important, what you're saying.  And of course, just yesterday, Henry Kissinger, doing an op-ed on the president's strategy in the Middle East and talking, suggesting exactly what you're saying, actually.  

You wrote this first volume, biography on Kissinger.  

What should we take away from the way he led the State Department to what we are seeing today?  

FERGUSON:  Well, Maria, the first volume goes up to the end of 1968.  In other words, it precedes his appointment as national security adviser and later secretary of state.  

And what I've tried to do in this first of two volumes is explain that Kissinger is not necessarily the Machiavellian realist that many people imagined him to have been.  But in the first half of his life, first as a refugee, then as a soldier in the U.S. uniform in post-war Germany and finally as an academic, Kissinger really was an idealist, who saw, above all else, the need for American freedom to be upheld around the world, against the threat of totalitarianism.

BARTIROMO:  Does President Obama see it differently?  

FERGUSON:  I think he does because I think one of the themes of the presidency has been the United States is no longer the global policeman.  

You'll remember in 2013, after he'd drawn a red line about the use of chemical weapons in Syria, when they then had been used, he turned that red line into a pink dotted line and told the nation, the United States is no longer the global policeman.  

That really sent a signal to the world's bad actors that it was game on and not only Vladimir Putin took advantage of that in Ukraine and, now more recently in Syria, I think Iran and other bad actors around the world have seized the opportunity.

BARTIROMO:  Yes.  And we should also point out that it has impacted our friendships around the world as well.  Many of our partners in the Middle East were very disappointed by that and have since looked at the U.S.

I want to run a sound bite for you, from Leon Panetta, who was my guest on my morning program, "MORNINGS WITH MARIA" on the Fox Business network.  
Listen to this, Niall.


LEON PANETTA, FORMER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  There's no question that Putin, you know, is trying to take advantage of the situation; he was able to push himself into the Ukraine.  He's now trying to push himself into Syria.  

When you're dealing with a bully you have to draw the line on the bully. And I think that's what the United States has to do right now.


BARTIROMO:  Niall, how do we do that?  

FERGUSON:  Well, it's a little late, in truth, because, essentially, when we turned down Putin's proposal for a joint action against Islamic State, against ISIS or ISIL, if you prefer, just last month Putin felt he had a free hand.  

And now he's essentially working hand-in-hand with Assad, the Syrian tyrant, to take out all the non-Islamic State opponents of the Assad regime until finally we're going to be confronted with a choice between Assad or Islamic State.  I think what we need to do is, A, follow Henry Kissinger's suggestion in this weekend's op-ed and focus on ISIS.  

Islamic State is a major threat, not just to the Middle East; it's potentially a global threat.  And we underestimate them at our peril.  

Since 2014, since the decapitation of James Foley, the United States has launched airstrikes, many airstrikes, thousands, against Islamic State, to no avail.  Islamic State is still rampant, controlling large tracts, not only of Syria but also of Iraq.  

So number one priority, I think, has to be taking out Islamic State and reasserting American leadership in the region.  Sitting back, as the president has been and tried to do for far too long, really since the beginning of the misnamed Arab Spring, allows others to take the initiative.

And in this case it's allowed Russia to take the initiative.  Notice, Maria, the longer the president has hesitated the more the violence has escalated. If you just look at battlefield fatalities, since 2010, up worldwide by a factor of four; victims of terrorism in the same time frame, up by a factor of six.

And this is really quite shocking. Most people, I think, watching will assume, "Hey, the Middle East is violent; it's normally violent; it was violent last year; it will be violent next year." They're missing an exponential growth in violence and a geographical spread of violence from the Middle Eastern heartland, if you will, right through North Africa, into sub-Saharan Africa and then right across in the other direction as far as Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So the longer you play the game of kicking the can down the road, the more the conflict escalates, and the spillovers ultimately will reach this country, make no mistake. They're already being felt in Europe, in the form of a huge refugee crisis. But I'm more worried about the way that terrorism is being spread internationally on an unprecedented scale. That ultimately is going to be brought home to the United States. There's no use pretending otherwise.

BARTIROMO:  Yeah, Niall, really important points that you're making. And now, of course, we also see the president backtracking and -- and keeping the troops in Afghanistan.

Niall, love to have you on the program. Please come back soon. thanks very much for your insights this morning.

FERGUSON:  Thanks, Maria.

BARTIROMO:  Niall Ferguson joining us there.

FERGUSON:  Let's get a look at what's coming up, top of the hour, "MediaBuzz," check in with Howie Kurtz right now. Howie, good morning to you.

KURTZ:  Good morning, Maria. We'll look at how -- whether the press is again swooning over Hillary Clinton after her strong Democratic debate performance and the ardor for Joe Biden getting in seems to have cooled quite a bit.

Also, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, even Hillary all complaining rather loudly, rather vociferously that their coverage is unfair, that they're the victims of media bias. Brit Hume will weigh in on that one.

BARTIROMO:  See you at the top of the hour, Howie. Thanks so much.

We've wondered for weeks if Joe Biden will run for president. The answer does not look like it's imminent. The political panel breaks down what that could mean for the campaign. We will look ahead next with our panel on "Sunday Morning Futures." Stay with us.


BARTIROMO:  Welcome back. Vice President Joe Biden leaning toward a presidential bid, but a definitive answer may still be weeks away. Our own Ed Henry reporting Biden is calling his fellow Democrats in key states like Iowa and New Hampshire, the V.P. telling them he may jump into the race over the next month. Are his supporters willing to keep playing the waiting game?

I want to bring in our panel, Ed Rollins, who's former principal White House adviser to President Reagan. He's been a longtime strategist to business and political leaders and he is a Fox News political analyst.
Judith Miller, adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. She's a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist and a Fox News contributor. And Robert Wolf with us today, the CEO of 32 Advisors, former UBS CEO and former adviser to President Obama.

Good to see everybody. Thank you so much for joining us.

Robert Wolf, let me kick this off with you. Will Joe Biden enter the race?
What do you think?

ROBERT WOLF, CEO, 32 ADVISORS:  My gut tells me he will. I think his head's always been there. And I think, day by day, his heart gets there. And I think, you know, it always was going to be towards the Jefferson, Jackson dinner in Iowa or towards the end of the month, and that would not surprise me if he came in.

But, you know, are people getting impatient? You know, I think people like Joe. But my view is, after the secretary's incredibly strong debate, the path is a -- the path is a bit narrower.

BARTIROMO:  I think he said to one of his associates -- one of the Democratic associates -- that he's not going to allow the debate to dictate what he does here, even though Hillary Clinton did have a good debate.

WOLF:  Yeah, nor should any candidate have one debate, you know, dictate what the path is. Sixteen months is a lifetime.

BARTIROMO:  Yeah. What do you think, Judy?

JUDITH MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I think the window is really closing when even Barbara Boxer says that he's got to articulate a reason why he needs to be an alternative. And given her strong performance, and given the fact that she has raised $77 million, and Bernie, $40 million, the PAC, the SuperPAC that's formed around him, says it's on target to raise $3 million. Ultimately, it comes down to money.

BARTIROMO:  That's true. Ed?

ED ROLLINS, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:  I don't know whether he's going run or not and I'm not -- and it's not my party, but I think, at the end of the day, it's not going to make a bit of difference. I think, first of all, there's nobody on that stage other than Hillary Clinton that could be president the other night. Joe Biden certainly could give her a good run for her money on a debate, but the rest of them ought to just drop out and move forward.

BARTIROMO:  Well, they want -- they want a Cabinet position. I mean, it felt like that on the debate.


ROLLINS:  Well, you know, what I've learned over 50 years in this game is you don't necessarily get Cabinet positions by losing. You know, he's the vice president of the United States today. So, at the end of the day, he's got his position. I think that, if he does it, he underestimates the task of putting together a national campaign. There is no Obama campaign in place. The good operatives have all gone to Hillary. The money people have gone to Hillary. She's raised a tremendous amount of money and she reinforced to the Democratic Party that night by her performance that she can be a stable, strong candidate.

BARTIROMO:  So what I think I'm hearing from all of you is that, yeah, maybe he'll enter the race; probably he will enter the race, but it's not going to matter, Robert?

WOLF:  Well, it seems to me the secretary, you know, took the Obama platform and did an incredible job at the debate. She also has her own ideas to expand and extend, and I also think, you know, money talks. And the secretary had over half a million donors to date. And has $33 million on hand. And I know you're going to talk about it. But I think it's three times more than any Republican candidate on hand.


WOLF:  Money matters.

BARTIROMO:  Well, we've got to talk about money, that's for sure.

MILLER:  I know -- I know that the Benghazi hearing will be over at the end of this week. But the e-mail problem for her lingers. That is, at this point, I think, the major obstacle for her.

BARTIROMO:  Well, Bernie Sanders says we're all sick and tired of the damn e-mails, so...


MILLER:  But the Justice Department is not.

WOLF:  And as McCarthy said in his own way, we're, kind of -- you know, that e-mail was a bit more political. And so, listen, I think that the Benghazi issue is certainly one that the secretary will hopefully put to bed this week. And I think this e-mail issue -- it's not what the country wants to discuss. They want to discuss foreign policy and jobs and the economy...

BARTIROMO:  For sure. They...

WOLF:  ... not the e-mails.

BARTIROMO:  They want to discuss the issues.

ROLLINS:  As I have said on this show many, many times, and I've spent a large period of my life working in the White House, it's a big lift to go basically challenge a former secretary of state, a person who's the front- runner running for the presidency, on a -- on a legal issue.

The FBI, obviously, is looking hard and fast at whether she properly handled those e-mails. But it has to go somewhere to get an indictment, or to move it forward, and I just don't think that's going to happen. I just don't think there's a smoking gun there. I think she made bad, bad judgments and bad mistakes, but I think the president's given her cover; Bernie Sanders has given her cover, and I think to a certain extent, she's going to probably be the nominee that we're going to have to beat.

BARTIROMO:  All right. Let's take a short break; then we want to talk about the figures in the third quarter of fund-raising for presidential hopefuls.

Our panel sticks around to break down those numbers. We're looking ahead on "Sunday Morning Futures." We'll be right back.


BARTIROMO:  Welcome back. A look at the GOP fund-raising numbers now. Political outsider Ben Carson leading the pack among Republican presidential hopefuls, bringing in just under $21 million in the third quarter. Florida Senator Marco Rubio rounding out the top five with a little less than $6 million. We're back with our panel. Ed Rollins, give me your take on these numbers?

ROLLINS:  My take are the numbers are terrible other than for Carson and for Bush. I think we've got six or seven candidates that ought to drop out today. Gilmore, Santorum, Pataki can't raise money. Huckabee has proven he can't raise money. Jindal can't raise money. You've got Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, who are ideological candidates. Paul has to get re-elected in Kentucky, They all ought to drop out. Trump, Carson, Bush, Rubio, Cruz, and maybe Carly and Kasich are the ones who should be left.

BARTIROMO:  Are you listening?


Judy, what do you think?

MILLER:  Well, they should be. But what strikes me about the numbers is Ben Carson's numbers and base, the fact that he is raising -- most of the money that he raised, most of that $20 million, came from contributions of under $200. That's amazing. It really says that his message is resonating among Republican voters.

ROLLINS:  The only -- the only problem, though, that raising the money the way he's raised the money, without big donors, is it costs a lot of money to raise that money on direct mail. So it's costing him 50, 60 cents for every dollar he raises.

BARTIROMO:  Oh, that's a really good point.

ROLLINS:  The bottom line, at the end of this, is not how much you raised; it's how much do you have left to spend?


ROLLINS:  And the ones I talked about earlier -- they have no money left to spend. I mean, Huckabee's got $700,000. That's a congressional -- that's not even a good congressional race.

BARTIROMO:  How do you assess it?


WOLF:  I mean, listen, I think you have to be concerned, on the Republican Party right now, with six candidates with all $10 million on hand, when the secretary has $33 million on hand and the secretary is building a huge infrastructure and a national platform.

I think, to Ed's point, it seems like they should, you know, cut half the field and -- so people can corral around certain candidates. I think the secretary learned from '08, you need -- you know, you need money to run long term. And I think her holding back on money today has been a smart thing.

ROLLINS:  Money -- money is the first primary. You cannot run without money, at the end of the day. And this thing starts moving really quick. This is a bad quarter, usually, because it's Christmas holiday season and what have you, and my sense is we ought to follow Walker's advice, and Walker said a bunch of these guys who don't have a chance ought to get out.


WOLF:  And I should just add that Bill Clinton is now starting to campaign and raise money for the secretary. My gut tells me that they'll be able to raise some money with probably, you know, one of the best communicators in the world...


BARTIROMO:  Yeah, he's the big dog in all of this, that's for sure.

ROLLINS:  One last point that's very important. Donald Trump is now taking money. And the big worry that he has is, not having a professional team around him that understands the laws, he may get into trouble by using money that's donated to a SuperPAC, big dollars being spent for other things that aren't. And there's a major publication looking real hard at him mis-spending the SuperPAC money...


WOLF:  Ed, are you concerned that Bush is touting this hundred million when it's all SuperPAC, that now he's cutting staff?

ROLLINS:  Well, you can't -- you can't...

WOLF:  ... on the campaign and struggling to raise money?

ROLLINS:  I've never -- I've never understood having a campaign in Miami and having $100 million sitting in Malibu with Mike Murphy, who's an old friend of mine, who's got control of it. You've got to have coordination. You've got to basically talk day to day with your people. And he can't do that with a SuperPAC.

BARTIROMO:  That's a good point.

I want to ask you if this Benghazi testimony on Thursday -- is it a wild card, Robert, for the secretary, real quick?

WOLF:  I -- I actually don't. I think that she has been up there, you know, a myriad of times; she's answered all the questions, and unfortunately, I think that this is partisan politics.

BARTIROMO:  We'll be right back. Stay with us. More from the panel, next.


BARTIROMO:  Our panel. You're watching Paul Ryan next week. Is he going to do it?

ROLLINS:  If Ryan doesn't do it, then they're in disarray. I think the conservatives will beat him up. I don't think he's going to do it.

BARTIROMO:  Judy, what do you think -- are watching?

MILLER:  Will John Kerry's emergency summit in the Middle East prevent a day of rage from becoming weeks of war?

BARTIROMO:  And Robert?

WOLF:  Boy, I certainly hope Ryan does it so we don't have a debt ceiling and government shutdown.

BARTIROMO:  Good point. Thank you all for being here. Thank you for watching. I'll see you Monday morning on the Fox Business Network.

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