All-Star Panel: Reaction to calls for select committee in Benghazi probe

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 9, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R - AZ: I've talked to him about it but obviously he doesn't maybe share the view. We think only a select committee, Senator Graham and I and Senator Ayotte -- only a select committee that hires an in-depth investigator that puts all of these different aspects of it together, and then a hearing not with five minutes of questioning, but a real in-depth investigation that only --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you've talked to the speaker about that?

MCCAIN: Yeah, I've made the argument for it, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And can you do anything to get it?

MCCAIN: I hope we can. I just hope we can. We'll continue working at it.


BAIER: Senator John McCain talking about the possibility of select committee on the Benghazi investigation and talking to Speaker of the House John Boehner, who has been reluctant on this issue so far. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

It seems, Steve, that Senator McCain has talked directly to House Speaker Boehner, and there is a little bit of reluctance there. But he seems semi-optimistic, it seemed.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes. I thought that was actually very interesting that Senator McCain had that conversation and seemed to suggest that that conversation with Speaker Boehner would be continuing. I don't think there's any doubt that Speaker Boehner has been very engaged on the Benghazi issue broadly. He knows the details of what happened. He's paid very close attention to it. He's been involved sort of at the ground level on trying to find out what happened. And, you know, he told Megyn Kelly the other night that he wasn't pushing forward with the selection can he committee now. I don't think he's ruled one out.

So I wouldn't be surprised if these conversations continued and it ultimately led to that, particularly given the kind of things that Senator McCain raised about the contradictions in Mike Morell's testimony, and the fact that we still don't have all the information still yet from this administration on this. The Oversight and Reform Committee got 500 new documents on Monday, 1,500 documents last month. These are documents that should have been produced months ago and are just now being produced because the administration is doing everything it can to run out the clock.

BAIER: A.B. how does this play on the Hill and how does this play politically?

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: Well, I think the administration has made the calculation that they are fine with slow walking everything. Whatever kind of documents they are asked to produce, they take their time. It's incomplete. Because I think they believe that Americans are easily distracted from a lot of things, from foreign crisis, from a lot of different news stories and that is something that will sort of blend away under maybe on the unpopularity of ObamaCare. But it's not going to be an issue for them politically in the midterm elections.

I think for Republicans on the Hill, at least on the House side, the concern is in the leadership, particularly the concern of House Speaker Boehner, is that it is a cost to create a new committee. There's no question you would get more answers and you would get more out of the administration you have -- than you have so far and take this investigation and put it on the right track. But in doing so that that would really fall into the trap of the Democrats who say that this is a politicization of this issue.

And also he's, unlike Nancy Pelosi and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, not someone who wants to centralize power and is very respectful of the committee process and the chairmen who are running the investigations.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's late, too late. This should have happened a year ago, three, four more months ago. Politically speaking the administration has won. They ran out the clock. If we had a select committee from the beginning, really had coherent hearings unlike we've had which were disjointed hearings that let all things sort of slip away, we really would have been somewhere. We would have gotten to the bottom of this.

But as a political fact, this thing is done, and I think right now the best thing for Republicans to do is to look at the broader foreign policy of this administration, to look at the Kerry hearings from yesterday. It is a disaster from one part of the globe to another just about everybody agrees except the most hardened and partisan Democrats.

And that's where you want to hit the administration not only for political partisan reasons, but for the good of the country. This is really hurting the country. And unfortunately you only have a certain amount of time, a certain amount of attention, and the clock has run out on Benghazi. I think you have to go after Syria, the Iran negotiations, the Crimea, Ukraine, what's happening in Eastern Europe. I mean, this really is a collapse of American's stature in the world.

BAIER: Despite the fact that there's been a lot of focus on Mike Morell's testimony and all the different aspects of it, but one particular line about the video. Take a listen.


MICHAEL MORELL, FORMER DEPUTY CIA DIRECTOR: What she said about the attacks evolving spontaneously from a protest was exactly what the talking points said and it was exactly what the intelligence community analysts believed. When she talked about the video, my reaction was, that's not something that the analysts have attributed this attack to.


BAIER: The video, and she is Susan Rice.

KRAUTHAMMER: She made it up. And it's obvious --

BAIER: Or someone did.

KRAUTHAMMER: She said it. I don't care who made it up, who is the originator. This is not calculus. I don't care who originated it. She said it to the American people. It wasn't right. It was false. But even worse is what the secretary of state at the time said over the bodies of the dead, speaking about the video --

BAIER: Not only that. That State Department put out these videos, commercials in Pakistan.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm as outraged as everybody about this. I just think that as a political issue the country is now tired of it, and to rev it up with a special committee is simply not going to work. I wish it had happened, and I do think the Republicans in the hearings that they had, which were completely disorganized, let this thing slip away. Sometimes you blow it.

HAYES: I agree with the assessment of the fact that this is coming late. I don't think it's coming too late. I think there's still room for some kind of special push. Whether it's a formal select committee, whether it's this ad hoc committee that we know has been operating with pieces of different committees working together trying to get to the bottom of this, I think it's important to get the answers to those questions. We had not only Mike Morell breaking from Susan Rice in that instance. You had Mike Morell breaking from David Petraeus, his boss at the CIA. These are the kind of things that I think we would have likely seen --

BAIER: By the way, they still have the DOJ investigation over his head that's open.

HAYES: Still has a department of justice investigation. We saw from the talking points e-mails that they weren't happy with one another. But there are huge unanswered questions about every aspect of this thing. If you look at what Morell testified to, he said in effect that the talking points weren't discussed at this very important September 15th deputies committee meeting involving the White House. Every e-mail that we've seen leading up to that meeting said the talking points will be discussed, finalized and resolved at that meeting. There's a huge gap there and I think we need to get answers to the questions.

BAIER: A.B., you cover the Hill. Senator McCain said he was surprised by Chairman Rogers' retirement, and we heard that he sent out a fundraising letter one week before announcing that retirement. What do you think the real story is there?

STODDARD: I think the real story is actually what Mike Rogers is saying.  It just surprised everybody. All of his colleagues in the House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, everybody is stunned by this because he had a huge future.

BAIER: He didn't run for Senate because he loved his job.

STODDARD: But he also has indicated he wants to be in talk radio because he wants to affect the debate as soon as 2016. It's not at all surprising that some members of House see themselves as potential presidential candidates if not in the next four years, then in the next eight. So if that's what he says, maybe that's what he's doing.

BAIER: Last thing. Is this over for you?

KRAUTHAMMER: This one? Benghazi?

BAIER: This topic?

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, I really am upset about what happened. There were lies, there were dissimulations, and it was all done as a way to advance their political campaign. It's a disgrace. But the fact is as just a political issue, will the country rally to new sets of hearings? I think not. At the same time our country is in deep trouble abroad and nobody is talking at all about that. And we've got to start talking about it. Whether it's a successful campaign issue or not, I don't know, but it's important for the country.

BAIER: Next up, is the president's emphasis on equal pay for women backfiring?

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