California Democrat Still Questions Motive Behind Benghazi Investigation
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
It was a marathon. Hillary Clinton testified for 11 hours about the attacks that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, in Benghazi, Libya. Republicans accused Clinton of putting politics before the truth and misleading the public about what prompted the attacks. Democrats rejected the entire affair as a partisan sham. One of the Democrats on that committee is Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He joins us now. Thank you for joining us in the studio here.
ADAM SCHIFF: You bet.
MONTAGNE: The Republican head of the committee, Trey Gowdy, after the hearing was over said he had not heard anything he had not already heard from Hillary Clinton in previous testimony. And, of course, there have been half a dozen more other committees looking into this. What do you say to that?
SCHIFF: Well, I think he's absolutely right. And, in fact, more broadly than that, after 17 months and $4.5 million, it's not just that we didn't hear anything new with that long hearing with the secretary. We haven't learned anything new for all these witnesses that we've interviewed, for all these documents we've obtained - a lot of which, frankly, we already had. And a lot of witnesses were duplicative of others we had already interviewed. We have nothing new to tell the American people and nothing new to tell the families of those who were lost - if indeed that was ever the purpose. I suspect that Rep. McCarthy was very right when he said the real point here is attacking Secretary Clinton. That's...
MONTAGNE: Kevin McCarthy, who is the majority leader in the House?
SCHIFF: Exactly. And I think it's important for people to know there's a very small number of people who know why this committee was set up because the speaker, Speaker Boehner, came out against forming yet another committee after eight other investigations. Something changed his mind. And of the very few people in the room when he changed his mind, Kevin McCarthy is his No. 2. Kevin McCarthy is in the position to know why they decided to embark on yet another investigation, and Kevin McCarthy says it was to drive down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.
MONTAGNE: Well, of course, the Republicans absolutely reject that. And they say this - there are plenty of questions left to be asked and answered. But let me ask you just briefly - one of the more contentious lines of questioning had to do with Clinton's emails and the fact that outside advisers - a couple of them had ready access to her private email account, that security - requests for security upgrades at U.S. outposts in Libya went only as far as the security professionals in the State Department. Is there merit in that?
SCHIFF: Well, there's certainly merit that the security was deficient, that there were repeated requests for improvements in security. But as the Accountability Review Board, which was - this very nonpartisan and legally mandated investigation discovered, those claims largely went unheeded. They went to the level of the security office at the bureau in the Department of State. They were not properly before the secretary of the state, that the secretary of state doesn't have the responsibility for micromanaging how many security agents, whether it should be six or eight or 10, go to any particular of the more than 270 venues we have around the world. That's not her responsibility to be at that level in the weeds. So that's what the Accountability Review Board found.
MONTAGNE: Let me just finish this with just - we have a couple of seconds. What about the Democrats on the committee? They championed Hillary Clinton yesterday. Just in a few seconds - are they staying with this committee?
SCHIFF: Well, this is something we're going to continue to have to discuss. And it's really a mixed bag, frankly. We, by our presence, give respectability to a committee that is partisan object and really has none. At the same time, if we were not in the room last night, if we hadn't been in the room up till now, we wouldn't be able to point out, as we did last night, when they selectively excerpted from different reports, when they misleadingly asked questions about witnesses who didn't say what they said they did. So it has been important for us to be in the room.
MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. Democrat Adam Schiff serves on the House Select Committee investigating Benghazi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.