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CROSSFIRE

New Republican Overreach?

Aired May 9, 2014 - 18:30   ET

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


S.E. CUPP, CO-HOST: Well, Wolf, we're finally getting somewhere in our search for answers on Benghazi.

VAN JONES, CO-HOST: Yes, and the answer is it's all partisan Republican nonsense.

The debate starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CROSSFIRE, have the Republicans gone too far in their hunt for Hillary?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If she wants to compete for the highest job in the land, my goodness.

ANNOUNCER: Republicans double down on Benghazi. Democrats push back.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This is a stunt. This is a political stunt.

ANNOUNCER: On the left, Van Jones. On the right, S.E. Cupp.

In the CROSSFIRE: Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, and Representative Morgan Griffith, a Republican from Virginia.

Are the Benghazi hearings a trap for Hillary Clinton or her Republican opponents? Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUPP: Welcome to CROSSFIRE. I'm S.E. Cupp on the right.

JONES: And I'm Van Jones on the left.

In the CROSSFIRE tonight, we've got congressmen from both political parties.

Well, today, Republicans are once again using the murder of four Americans in Benghazi to raise money, distract us from their nonexistent agenda and, of course, tear down Hillary Clinton.

Now, if you don't believe me, listen to Senator Rand Paul speaking to CNN just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PAUL: I think that's a dereliction of duty and it does go to management. And if she wants to compete for the highest job in the land, my goodness.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JONES: Translation, the GOP presidential front-runner wants Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner, and his potential rival for the White House, hauled before a partisan committee for a show trial.

Why are we still talking about this? We've had four congressional committee investigations, plus more than -- more than four -- almost 50 congressional briefings, 25,000 pages of documents have been released and there is zero evidence of any intentional wrongdoing anywhere. There's no smoking gun. There's just a cynical Republican smokescreen.

CUPP: Well, actually --

JONES: You know I'm right, S.E.

CUPP: There was a pretty big, fat, smoking gun and we discovered it last week and there are plenty of questions still to be asked.

JONES: We're going to get into it tonight.

CUPP: In the CROSSFIRE tonight, Democratic Representative Eliot Engel of New York, and Republican Representative Morgan Griffith of Virginia.

Congressman Engel, let me start with you. I think, you know, Democrats are acting indignant about all of these investigations and hearings, but actually I think (AUDIO GAP) pretty arrogant. We learned just a week ago some new information about the White House talking points. It seems like pushing on Benghazi is finally after years paying off.

What responsible person would stop now when there are still so many questions left to be answered?

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, first of all let me say that I think it's just a tragedy that Republicans are using this tragedy to try to score political points and to try to raise money. This was the death of four Americans. Nobody wanted to see that, including our ambassador.

And it has been investigated. I'm the ranking member on the Foreign Affairs Committee. We held a hearing. Three other committees held a hearing. We know everything there is to know.

CUPP: We're going to get into the fundraising in a bit, but are you telling me there aren't any questions left to be answered about Benghazi? We still don't have anyone in custody.

ENGEL: You know what's left to be answered? Why aren't the Republicans creating jobs in America, why aren't they extending unemployment insurance, why aren't they passing immigration reform? Instead, they want to do a political charade, they want to just play to their base and I really just think it's disgraceful.

There was an investigation. Mr. Pickering and Admiral Mullen, they did a thorough investigation. They recommended changes. Hillary Clinton put forth all of those changes and they're still talking about this.

CUPP: Congressman --

ENGEL: I mean, we should -- we should put this to bed and move on.

JONES: Don't you agree that we've investigated this thing enough at this point? Now, it's becoming just an abuse of the process?

REP. MORGAN GRIFFITH (R), VIRGINIA: No, absolutely not. When you have new evidence that comes out, I have been on the resolution that Frank Wolf put in asking for a select committee for over a year. And the bottom line is we still don't have the answers. We had four committees that were going in different directions, they weren't looking to get it together in one package.

And somehow, the administration failed to give, in all the requests that were made, in all the documents that have mentioned here tonight, they failed to give everything to the congressional committee. So, now, what we have --

CUPP: Why would we trust them now?

GRIFFITH: We have a committee of a handful of people, most of whom are lawyers, who are professionals who will look at this from a professional angle and try to figure out the truth. That's all we want is the truth.

JONES: First of all, if you wanted the truth, if I put together a Democratic committee, say I wanted the truth and put Alan Grayson in charge of it, would you think that was the truth? You put a partisan attack dog in charge of this committee, number one.

But number two, I don't understand, you're hanging all of this on one e-mail that has come forward. The Judicial Watch, they were able to get ahold of it. It doesn't change anything. In fact, it confirms almost everything.

Why does this e-mail --

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Changes everything.

GRIFFITH: Well, I was unsatisfied, anyway, you had the four committees gathered all this information together. It shows us that information was being withheld from Congress and the American people.

And so, what we need now is some people who are experienced at getting through the document, looking at documents. That's why you have several prosecutors and a number of attorneys on there who will wade through the thousands of documents and then find out what the truth is. That's all we want is the truth.

ENGEL: You know what was withheld from Congress, we went to war in Iraq and there were over 4,000 Americans who were killed in Iraq. We were lied to. We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The documentation was faulty.

Why didn't the Republicans investigate that?

CUPP: Did Democrats fundraise off the war in Iraq? Just remind me. Refresh me.

ENGEL: Well, but I'd still like to know why Republicans didn't investigate that. Instead, they picked Benghazi ad nauseam, never stopped with it, and what really is important to the American people, suddenly, we forget about Iraq.

CUPP: Well, it seems like both of you guys want to deflect about Benghazi.

JONES: I don't.

CUPP: And really what we've learned in the past week has been crucial and game-changing. It's not just information was released. It was the crucial information we've been asking for that was withheld, deliberately.

JONES: No. A different -- a set of questions was asked. There was response to that. A different question was asked and a different response came out.

CUPP: You guys would not have this tolerance for a Republican administration if they played this game.

JONES: Speaking of Republicans, Krauthammer, a great --

CUPP: Charles Krauthammer.

JONES: Charles Krauthammer has put out a piece warning you guys that you are overreaching, that this is actually bad for Republicans, it could blow up in your face. Are you concerned about any of the overreach?

Here you have Mr. Krauthammer saying, "These hearings are a big political risk for Republicans. If they're botched like previous hearings on this matter, the hearings could backfire" --

CUPP: Could.

JONES: As just like in 1998 when you overreached on the Clinton impeachment. You concerned about that at all?

GRIFFITH: Well, you have to be concerned about that, which is why I think the speaker picked some responsible people with professional backgrounds to look into this who have experience going through -- JONES: Why 7-5 disadvantage for Democrats --

GRIFFITH: Because the Americans --

JONES: If you want the truth, why don't you have 5-5?

GRIFFITH: I'm not going to answer that.

JONES: Why give Republicans an unfair advantage?

GRIFFITH: It's not an unfair advantage. The American people sent us here in certain proportions. We have a majority, 7 -5 is the right proportion when you look at the way the American people sent the members to Congress. It's about a 7:5 ratio. We've been very fair with the Democrats. They have an equal number of representatives based on the number of seats they hold.

CUPP: Well, Congressman, let me ask you about that, because it seems like there's some confusion in your party. Steve Israel says the Democrats should boycott these hearings. Nancy Pelosi seems to be dithering on what she believes. You think that the Democrats should appoint people, if I'm not mistaken.

What's with all of the confusion? Where should you guys go on this?

ENGEL: Well, some people believe that since this is a farce and the response is already preordain, that we shouldn't participate in it. I happen to believe we should --

CUPP: Why?

ENGEL: Well, because I think that if we don't participate in it, day after day, week after week, Republicans will be there getting out distortions and mistruths, and we're not going to be there to counter it.

CUPP: Is Nancy Pelosi going to listen to you?

ENGEL: Well, she'll make a decision. Whatever decision she makes I'll support. But I think it's very, very important we debunk all this nonsense.

This is about raising money for the Republicans, softening up Hillary Clinton and doing this thing ad nauseam. You know, we have voted 50 times to repeal Obamacare, and we've had four hearings to look at Benghazi. I guess Republicans have to just keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, because they're not doing anything that helps the nation.

CUPP: OK. Well, coming up, I'm going to teach some Democrats why they might want to check their facts before they open their mouths.

And here's today's CROSSFIR quiz. How many Democrats voted for the Benghazi select committee? Is it zero, seven, or 21? I bet these guys know.

We'll have the answer when we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUPP: Welcome back.

Now the answer to our CROSSFIRE quiz. Seven sensible, statesmen-like Democrats were brave enough to stand up to their party leaders and voted to form a special committee to investigate Benghazi and the administration's response.

But other Democrats are shocked and appalled, offended and outraged that Republicans would send out a fund-raising e-mail attached to Benghazi hearings.

Here's just one example. Take a listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: Speaker Boehner can set this fund-raising effort down right now and he should.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all agree.

CUMMINGS: He shouldn't be raising money with regard to this matter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUPP: I cannot tell you how ludicrous this is. Just a cursory glance over the past few years brings up a laundry list of national tragedies that Democrats have politicized and extensively fundraised on -- Iraq, Katrina, Newtown, and other tragic shootings. Most recently the V.A. deaths in Arizona.

So Democrats, check your outrage and your hypocrisy at the door because no one's buying it.

OK. Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel and Republican Morgan Griffith are with us tonight.

Congressman Engel, explain the hypocrisy. Are you willing to call a truce now on fundraisings on national tragedies? Because you guys do it just as much as Republicans do.

ENGEL: Well, you know to do what the hypocrisy is? All the things you mentioned that were national tragedies, we didn't have hearings in Congress to exploit them. Benghazi, for some reason, has been exploited again and again --

CUPP: We've been having hearings to get to the bottom of them so they don't happen again. And believe me, believe me George Bush was investigated, FEMA was investigated, the Department of Defense. I mean --

ENGEL: How about going into Iraq on false pretense? How about 4,000 Americans being killed? Republicans didn't choose to investigate that, but Benghazi? We're going to soften up Hillary Clinton. We're going to play gotcha on all these things.

CUPP: So, then, look, let me be honest. I actually thought it was fair of Democrats to fundraise on those issues. You guys were passionate about those issues and you felt like they were betrayals and you asked the American public to say, if you feel betrayed, too, come with us and vote in Democrats. I think that's fine.

ENGEL: But you see --

CUPP: But you seem to have a problem with it when Republicans do it.

ENGEL: No, we don't have a problem when Republicans do it. We just have a problem when Republicans do it again and again and again and again. There have already been four hearings in the Congress.

CUPP: I'm talking about the fundraising.

JONES: I just want to move to another question. Part of the thing is this is a question of kind of credibility. It seems to us somebody gave you guys the memo. You guys just talk about Obamacare all the time, just beat it to death. And then, suddenly, let me show you this chart, suddenly, you guys decided to switch topics and now, you go from talking about Obamacare all the time to Benghazi. You had 19 mentions of Obamacare this week and now, you got 110 of Benghazi.

Did you get the memo? Is this like a purely blatant political strategy? Where's the memo here?

GRIFFITH: No, and I'd love to talk about Obamacare. I was talking about it earlier in the hearing. And the bottom line is the press sometimes picks what subjects they think is the sexiest and that's where they go.

So, if you ask me about Benghazi, I'm going to talk about Benghazi. If you ask me about Obamacare, I'll be happy to talk about it. I'm sure Representative Engel would be, too.

JONES: Well --

GRIFFITH: We disagree --

CUPP: Well, they didn't get a memo. They got an email. We found an e-mail which is why we decided to talk about Benghazi again.

JONES: Well, first of all, I think the e-mail has been completely exploited. There was a specific set of requests given to the White House, specifically asking about Susan Rice and the State Department. You guys got that in Congress.

A different organization asked a different question and got different documents. That's e-mail. There's no cover-up here.

Why to you guys exploit -- you've got 25,000 documents, you're going to make a whole thing over one e-mail? It makes no sense at all. GRIFFITH: We don't know how many e-mails are out there. Obviously, we have to phrase the question just right, we have to determine what is is in order to get the right answer. You know, it's always the same thing. If we don't ask you the exactly right question, then somebody is going to say, we didn't have to give you that.

You know, if my children tried to tell me that, I'd say, you knew what I wanted, you withheld that information, you're in trouble, buddy.

JONES: And the difference between you dealing with our kids and us trying to deal with the federal government is there's actually a law called FOIA, if you give too much stuff, you're in trouble as well, as well as you know.

(CROSSTALK)

CUPP: Oh, so that's what they were thinking about.

Congressman, to me what's been offensive from the get-go is it seems like there has been a cavalier attitude among Democrats about this. I just want you to take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And like so many of the conspiracy theories that have been promulgated by the Republicans from beginning of this, this one turned out to be bogus.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: What difference at this point does it make?

TOMMY VIETOR, FORMER NSC SPOKESMAN: Dude, this is like two years ago. We're still talk about the must mundane --

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: Dude? It's the main thing that everybody is talking about.

VIETOR: We're talking about the process of editing talking points.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

CUPP: Now, I can tell you take this national tragedy very seriously. You're offended by the fundraising. Are you offended by that cavalier attitude toward it?

ENGEL: I don't think it was a cavalier attitude. I think Hillary Clinton was saying what difference does it make for Americans that were killed? That's what's important, to get to the truth of it.

But here we are many, many months later and again, another investigation. I mean, when does it end? John Boehner just a few weeks ago said that's it, we're not going to do it anymore. And then, all of the sudden, they --

CUPP: We got some new information.

ENGEL: They used the memo to hang their hat on.

JONES: Let me ask something. This is different, isn't it? I remember with Beirut, right, back this the 1980s. Reagan made horrible mistakes, hundreds of people wound up getting killed. There was one aggressive attempt on Tip O'Neill's part to bring the country together, get an investigation done, get recommendations done.

There was no attempt to politicize it, hang it over Reagan, make it a huge issue. Usually when Americans are murdered by terrorists, the country comes together.

Why are we not coming together on this?

GRIFFITH: I think the country would have come together if we hadn't been told a story about a video immediately after it happened. It turns out that's just a totally bogus made-up story that somebody --

JONES: Those made-up, there are 50 -- there are 50 protests around the world.

CUPP: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: That was made up?

CUPP: It was entirely made up, that there was a protest outside of Benghazi consulate. Made up.

JONES: If it was made up, it was made up by the CIA, because the CIA that told the State Department --

CUPP: Immediately that it was terrorist attack.

JONES: No.

CUPP: Yes.

JONES: We will be arguing about this for a very long time.

(CROSSTALK)

ENGEL: It was a confluence of several things. Again, Mr. Pickering and Admiral Mullen, there are no patties for one party or another. They investigated. They made several recommendations to the State Department. Hillary Clinton implemented every single one of them.

CUPP: OK.

JONES: Stay here. We've got to keep arguing about this.

But I want you guys at home to get in on this. Weigh in on our "Fireback" question. Should Democrats participate in this Benghazi select committee? Tweet yes or no using #Crossfire. We're going give you the results after the break. Also, we have the outrages of the day. And we have a first on CROSSFIRE -- S.E. and I are actually outraged about the very same thing.

CUPP: What?

JONES: But for a very different reason.

CUPP: OK, that makes sense.

JONES: When we get back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUPP: Welcome back.

Now, our outrages of the day.

Mitt Romney, I thought we were friends. This morning, the former presidential candidate broke with fellow conservatives and basic economics to suggest that raising the minimum wage would be good for the country. Why? Because we need better outreach to minority voters, he says.

I'll remind our viewers that this comes after Romney opposed raising the minimum wage in 2012, which came after he supported raising the minimum wage in 2008.

Now, I don't understand Republicans like Romney and Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, guys I know and respect choosing to abandon principles and ignore simple math in order to seem warm and fuzzy.

They know raising the minimum wage will not create jobs. They know it will slow hiring. So, what's with the pander, guys?

JONES: Well, believe it or not, S.E., I am outraged about the very same thing you are, but I'm actually outraged at you.

CUPP: What?

JONES: And all the Republicans who are mad at Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum because they're right. And more than half of the Republicans actually agree with them.

Now, the rest of you Republicans, wake up. You're saying no to giving a raise to hardworking Americans, no to extending unemployment insurance. You don't want to stretch out the runway for active job seekers? No?

No wonder the GOP is about as popular as hair lice, OK? Republicans with national perspective and national ambitions understand this.

Romney says, and I love this, "I think we ought to raise it because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay." See? That sounds pretty good to me.

Republicans, give America a raise and it might raise your poll numbers.

What do you think? Are you with your leader Mitt Romney on this one?

GRIFFITH: I'm not with Mitt on this one. I have to tell you. I love Mitt Romney, but not on this, because what we need is an environment to create jobs.

The regulations are just killing us. I come from coal country. You know what's happening to our economy. We are getting killed by the war on coal, 188 jobs just last week that paid $75,000 a year, not $10.10, $75,000 a year, those jobs are gone because of regulations.

JONES: Because of fracking.

GRIFFITH: It has nothing to do with fracking.

ENGEL: We need to raise the minimum wage because nobody should be working full-time and they can't afford to put food on the table. That's a national disgrace.

But will Republicans raise the minimum wage? No. Will Republicans create jobs? No. Will Republicans look at immigration reform? No.

What do they look at? Benghazi.

CUPP: OK. Let's check on our "Fireback" results. Should Democrats participate in the Benghazi select committee? Right now, 54 percent of you say yes, 46 percent say no.

JONES: Well, I want to thank Congressman Eliot Engel and Morgan Griffith for being here.

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

From the left, I'm Van Jones.

CUPP: From the right, I'm S.E. Cupp.

Join us next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.