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CROSSFIRE

Congress to Appoint Committee to Investigate Benghazi

Aired May 8, 2014 - 18:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Wolf, this is a very important decision. It makes a great -- it is very important to recognize that the Congress is going to do its job, and it's going to work precisely on finding out what happened.

HOWARD DEAN, CO-HOST: It makes a great campaign slogan, Newt. Vote Republican. Two more years of gridlock and Benghazi. The debate starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, scandal week in the House. Republicans pushed through a special committee on Benghazi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a serious investigation.

ANNOUNCER: Serious investigation? Or serious politics?

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I do not believe there is any reason for it to continue in this way, but they get to call the shots.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Howard Dean. On the right, Newt Gingrich. In the CROSSFIRE, Representative Xavier Becerra, a member of the House Democratic leadership. And Representative Aaron Schock, an Illinois Republican. Were there cover-ups? Are Republicans on a witch hunt? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm Howard Dean on the left.

GINGRICH: I'm Newt Gingrich on the right. In the CROSSFIRE tonight, two members of Congress.

Breaking news: just moments ago, the House approved a special committee to investigate the Benghazi terror attack and the Obama administration's ensuing cover-up. This is a dangerous moment for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. She's now facing more questions than ever about her failures as secretary of state.

This serious investigation comes on the heels of revelations about how her State Department ignored the rise of terrorists who now have kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in Nigeria. Soon, everyone will see how Secretary Clinton not only failed America, she endangered America during those four years. DEAN: Newt, you've been wrong before, you're wrong again. Tonight we're going to find out exactly why.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, California Representative Xavier Becerra, who's chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Republican Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois.

GINGRICH: Before we get to you guys, we're going to go first to CNN chief Congressional correspondent Dana Bash on Capitol Hill for the latest on the vote -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Newt, Governor Dean, it just finished, and it passed almost entirely on party lines. And when I say "it,": of course, I mean this creation of a select committee to look into Benghazi.

That is something that was not unexpected. The fact that this would pass. What we still do not know yet is whether Democrats will participate. And I just came from the hallways just off the House floor where it's pretty clear that there is intense negotiations going on behind the scenes between the House speaker and the Democratic leadership to figure out if there is some kind of accommodation that can be made that will allow Democrats to say that it's OK to participate. The main thing that they're focused on is whether or not they can have equity or parity in the way the subpoenas go out to potential witnesses and the interviews of witnesses. Those are the discussions that are going on as we speak.

DEAN: Thanks a lot, Dana. Congressman, why do you guys keep doing this? The American people are interested in jobs. Is this a programming strategy for FOX, whose average viewer age is 68? And what makes you think this is going to help you win the election?

REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: Well, first of all I think before elections, the elections are over and we have a job to do, and one of them is oversight. And as -- in addition to being a regular member of Congress, I also serve in the Ways & Means Committee, the Oversight Subcommittee, and Director Shulman of the IRS came before our committee and repeatedly said there was not targeting going on. We now know that's false.

Same thing with Benghazi. Repeatedly we were misled. The American people were fed incorrect information. We now know the administration continued to tell the lie even after they knew the facts were false.

And I think the question that really begs that every American should ask is why is the administration so unwilling, so unwanting [SIC] of the facts? I don't believe the president for one minute wanted anybody in Benghazi to die, but as the CEO of this country, why wouldn't he want to get to the bottom of who made the decisions, what were the play calls and what can we do moving forward to make sure it doesn't happen?

And the same thing with IRS. I don't think the -- the president directed the IRS to do any of this illegal behavior. But somebody did, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

GINGRICH: Let me ask you, Congressman Becerra. You're an important member of the leadership. You chair the caucus. Do you think that the Democratic members should participate in the committee?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Newt, quite honestly, I think what Speaker John Boehner thought a month ago that this was unnecessary as Republican speaker John Boehner, himself, said. We've done this already.

I'm not sure if Aaron disagrees with the House Armed Services Republican members' report or if he disagrees with the Government Oversight Republican committee members' report or if he disagrees with the House Foreign Affairs Republican committee members' report. Or if he disagrees with his own House conference members' report on this Benghazi incident. Or if he perhaps disagrees with the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or perhaps the other reports that were done, another two or three more that have been done.

We've done this. We've been there. We've done that. What's coming out, Newt, quite honestly, is that Republicans are using this as a fund-raising tool. We've already seen how the Republican national campaign committee is using this to raise dollars from its members.

GINGRICH: So let's give Aaron...

SCHOCK: Xavier -- let me respond to my good friend, Mr. Becerra. More than any of those reports, I think I want to listen to the will of the Congress. The will of majority of Congress. And by the way, the vote tonight on forming the special committee to Benghazi was bipartisan. The vote to hold Lois Lerner in contempt was bipartisan.

And I might mention, by more votes to hold Lois Lerner in contempt and to form this special committee on Benghazi than there were votes to pass Obamacare. So this is something that is bipartisan. Members on your side of the aisle -- people on our side of the aisle -- that the American people deserve the answers to these questions.

DEAN: So what I want to know, Congressman, isn't this select committee clearly a vote of no confidence in Darrell Issa, who's been investigating this for months and got absolutely nothing done?

SCHOCK: No, this is a consolidation of five committees who have been looking into this matter into one. The administration should welcome this. They should cooperate, and it makes things more efficient.

DEAN: But the five committees got absolutely nothing done. What makes you think the sixth committee...

SCHOCK: Because the administration has been stone walling them, have been uncooperative as the Ways & Means Committee.

GINGRICH: Let me come back again if I might, Xavier. I'm a little confused. When the committee was formed in the Reagan years to investigate Iran Contra, by the Democrats, Dick Cheney was actually a ranking Republican. Republicans all served. When the committees were formed during Watergate, by the Democrats, Republicans served on the committee.

Historically, when the Congress engages in an investigation, the minority party, whichever one it happens to be at the time, almost has an absolute moral obligation to participate in it.

How will you go home and justify not participating, once the House has actually voted and the House as a body, in a bipartisan vote, as Aaron Schock pointed out, has voted to create this committee?

BECERRA: You're absolutely right. We have a moral obligation to do this in the right way. And so therefore, we're asking the public to make sure this is a fair and balanced and nonpartisan affair. And it so far looks like it's not going to be any of those things. It's unlimited in the amount of money that it can spend. It's indeterminate how long it will last. The scope of it is undetermined. And it's unclear what kind of authority will be provided to the other side, the Democrats, so that we can make sure it's done bipartisanly.

GINGRICH: So you see why it says the senior Democrats -- as a senior Democrat, are you going to advise Speaker Pelosi to find a way to join or to find a way to not join this investigative committee?

BECERRA: I would like to make sure that, if the speaker, Speaker Boehner, believes that we have to have an eighth investigation, that he's going to make sure it's impartial, and it's done in a balanced way. So far that hasn't been the case.

GINGRICH: OK.

BECERRA: And I see that it's being done for campaign purposes.

GINGRICH: You and I both -- I use to serve in the House, as you'll remember. We've both been down this road. In the end, yes or no: do you have an obligation morally to participate in the committee once it's been created?

BECERRA: We have to fulfill our oversight obligations if it's real. I'm not sure this is real. So far, it looks like it's a campaign stunt to raise money for the Republican national campaign committee. If Republicans, if Aaron today will say on national TV he will call his committee, his Republican National Committee, to stop raising funds -- money off of this Benghazi investigation, then maybe you could have some sense of bipartisanship.

But right now, they're already raising money off of a committee that hasn't even had its first hearing.

DEAN: Let's give Aaron a chance.

SCHOCK: Look, to suggest that Xavier Becerra or Aaron Schock controls the fundraising apparatus of either our parties...

DEAN: Oh, come on, Aaron.

SCHOCK: ... is a bit naive. Sir -- sir, both parties raise money off of real substantive issues that we debate. Whether it be investigating Benghazi, whether it be the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, depending on how you want to raise money on it, the Democratic Party raised money off of George W. Bush and the Iraq war. They've raised money off of -- off of environmental issues, off of Keystone Pipeline. You guys have sent out all kinds of fundraising mail on environmental concerns like Keystone.

So look, both sides' political apparatuses do what they do to raise money, and they drive whatever issue, the hot topic issue of the day.

BECERRA: Aaron...

SCHOCK: That should not determine...

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: I invoke the moderator privilege here and say that there would be those who would disagree with the idea of raising money off four dead Americans. But in a minute...

SCHOCK: Howard, Howard, Howard...

DEAN: ... five things House Republicans ought to be doing right now. They are things that would actually help the American people, instead of wasting their time and money.

And here's a "CROSSFIRE Quiz" about wasting time. Not counting weekends, how many days off have House members taken so far this year? Is it 15, 21 or 28? You'll have that answer when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DEAN: Welcome back.

Here's the answer to our CROSSFIRE quiz. Not counting weekends, House members have taken 38 days off so far this year. That is more than five weeks off. And next week makes six.

So, what have they accomplished?

Well, they haven't taken up immigration reform, but moments ago voted to investigate Benghazi for the fifth time.

They haven't extended unemployment benefits that ran out last Christmas, but they want a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS.

They haven't done anything about equal pay for women but they held a woman, Lois Lerner, in contempt of court for daring to invoke her Fifth Amendment rights.

They haven't passed a jobs bill or a highway construction funding bill either, but they voted to repeal Obamacare for the 50th time. Representatives Xavier Becerra and Aaron Schock are in the CROSSFIRE.

NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST: Let me, if I could, start with Congressman Becerra.

Something which has emerged only in the last two day I think extends and deepens the concern about Benghazi and about the whole question of Secretary Clinton as secretary of state. As you know, the group Boko Haram in Nigeria is an Islamist extremist group. They're fanatics, they've very dangerous and have killed several thousand people. And now, they have kidnapped some 300 girls, have released some of the 300.

But it turns out -- this is surprising to everybody -- that while Secretary Clinton was the secretary of state, they turned down designating this group as a terrorist group. It was only when John Kerry came in it was designated. And apparently, the effort of command (ph) and others have all asked to be designated.

Don't you think in terms of legitimate questions by the Congress that finding out why was this group not designated, asking questions about how the decision was made, is actually a legitimate function of legislative oversight?

REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first I want to thank our government and the president for doing everything possible to work with the Nigerian government to try to recover all of the girls that have been kidnapped. We know it's more than 300.

So far as the terrorism that is going on, we know of many cells that are out there. Some are just small cells. Some are clearly full-blown al Qaeda operation. And so, what we're trying to do is do the best we can throughout the world, not just in Africa, but elsewhere.

And so as you know, whether it's Syria, whether it's Ukraine, whether it's parts of Africa, is there is a lot going on. And I'm thankful that the president and this administration is going to go out there to try to make sure the Nigerian government doesn't do it, we're going to try to help them recover those girls.

DEAN: So let's get back to Benghazi for a minute.

Congressman, I just read the National Republican Congressional Committee offered to allow me to become a Benghazi watchdog for somewhere between $25 or a $500 contribution. So what I would like to ask you, would you like to become a Benghazi watchdog?

REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I like to think as a member of Congress I already get that privilege. Obviously, this is a hot topic of the day. Folks ask me about it when I go back to my district on the weekends.

As I said earlier in the show, both political fundraising apparatuses, drive, whatever the -- (CROSSTALK)

DEAN: So, it's OK with you to raise money off this issue? You're supporting --

(CROSSTALK)

SCHOCK: Here's the thing -- think the issue is this: the American people deserve answers. And if you want answers, it's going to require the House of Representatives to investigate.

(CROSSTALK)

DEAN: Which means I should donate $500?

SCHOCK: It means that if you want answers from this administration, you want to maintain the House majority and grow it, because but for the House majority, the Republican House majority, this administration would be answering to no one.

DEAN: So, this is a base appeal?

SCHOCK: This is an appeal to people who want a check and balance on this administration. And right now, the only check and balance is the House Republican majority.

DEAN: So, do you agree with Congressman Gowdy and Speaker Boehner that the NRC should not be asking for money on this issue?

SCHOCK: I think -- I haven't read the fundraising appeal, OK? What I'm suggesting to you is for me to go home to my constituents and say, the only reason we're going to get any answers on Benghazi is because we have a Republican majority in the House. And if you think that is important on all of these issues, not just Benghazi, IRS, and others, then you need to help me grow and maintain a Republican majority.

DEAN: OK, last question. So I'll ask you the question that the NRCC asked. Will you automatically add your name today to join us and become a Benghazi watchdog?

SCHOCK: Like I said, I'm already a Benghazi watchdog.

GINGRICH: Let me just say I actually do think, and I'll come back to this later that are there are some things that are clearly beyond the pale. And I think this is a zone where we ought to be much more careful about how he raise the money.

Stay here.

We want you at home to weigh in on today's "Fireback" question. Is the Benghazi investigation a worthwhile use of taxpayer money? Tweet yes or no using #crossfire. We'll have the results after the break.

We also have the outrage of the day. I'm outraged about what a Democratic congressman from Arizona is doing to raise money off of dead veterans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GINGRICH: Welcome back.

It's time for our outrages of the day. For months, CNN has reported the shocking number of veterans who have died waiting for treatment at Veterans Administration hospitals across the country. Among the allegations, the V.A. hospital in Phoenix kept a secret waiting list.

Yet, Arizona Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema is using the scandal as an excuse for political fundraising. This is more than an outrage, it's shameful. The house ethics committee should investigate a member who is exploiting the death of veterans to raise money.

DEAN: Newt, here is my outrage. While we sit here arguing about faux congressional investigations designed to embarrass various Democrats, you have 20 Republican governors who are depriving nearly 5 million people of health care.

There is no good reason for blocking the expansion of Medicaid. It's already paid for. It won't cost their states a dime. This is a classic example of governors not caring about the people who pay their salary.

When I was governor, I remembered that I worked for the people who elected me, not against them.

GINGRICH: Let's check on our "Fireback" results. Is the Benghazi investigation a worthwhile use of taxpayer money? Right now, 40 percent of you say yes, it is, 60 percent say no.

I think I know how this is going to go. But let me start with you. You think it's a worthwhile use of taxpayer money?

SCHOCK: Absolutely.

GINGRICH: And, Representative Becerra, what do you think?

BECERRA: After seven investigations, eight reports and millions already spent we should be spending our money working with a private sector group to create jobs for Americans.

GINGRICH: Somehow that was a predictably partisan response, which I've also gotten from Howard Dean and me.

Thanks to Representatives Xavier Becerra and Aaron Schock.

The debate continues online at CNN.com/Crossfire, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.

DEAN: From the left, I'm Howard Dean.

GINGRICH: From the right, I'm Newt Gingrich. Join us tomorrow for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.