Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks to Gloria Borger about the House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into the Benghazi attacks which concludes that there was not a White House cover-up. Condemning both the Obama Administration and the intelligence community, Senator Graham states that he considers the Benghazi report “crap” and “garbage”. Senator Graham says he does not “believe that the report is accurate, given the role that Mike Morell (then deputy CIA director) played in misleading the Congress on two different occasions”. He also indicates that “the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own” referring to the CIA. In addition, Senator Graham did not rule out running for the presidency in 2016 and chided the Republican party on immigration, saying “shame on us” for not passing a bill in the House.
“I am so disappointed in my party, my president, and my country.” – Senator Lindsey Graham
On the House Intelligence Committee’s Benghazi report: “I’m saying the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own. I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.”
On the placing the blame for Benghazi: “This report puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community. When the Department of Defense committees looked at it, the Department of Defense was held blameless. At the end of the day, everybody is pointing fingers to everybody else.”
On immigration reform: “Shame on us as Republicans. Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that it’s national security, that’s cultural and it’s economic. The Senate has done this three times.”
A full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
THIS IS A RUSH FDCH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BORGER: And good morning from Washington. I’m Gloria Borger. Candy Crowley is off today.
It’s a conspiracy. There’s a cover-up. For more than two years now, we have heard those charges from Republicans critical of how the White House handled the Benghazi tragedy. We all remember when Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in a terror attack at the U.S. Consulate.
But the facts of the matter have long since been lost in a haze of investigations, by our count, eight so far. The latest comes from the House Intelligence Committee. Its conclusions are simple, no conspiracy, no cover-up and, as for the political shenanigans, absolutely not.
With us, Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most outspoken critics of the administration’s handling of Benghazi.
Senator Graham, thanks so much for being here.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
BORGER: And let me get straight to what the Intelligence Committee says.
It says, first, no outright intelligence failure, second, no delay in attempts to rescue Benghazi staff. Third, those famous Susan Rice talking points were inaccurate, but not deliberately misleading.
Senator Graham, the report says the misinformation was flawed, yes, but no political cover-up by Susan Rice or anyone else. So, does this exonerate the administration?
GRAHAM: In my view, Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings are doing a good job at looking at Benghazi as a whole, DOD, the intel community, and the State Department…
BORGER: Yes, but yes or no, Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: No. No. I think the — I think the report is full of crap…
GRAHAM: … quite frankly.
GRAHAM: To say that Mike Morell — well, the deputy director of the CIA, when I ask him, do you know who changed the talking points, and — with Senator Ayotte and McCain and Susan Rice sitting by his side, said the FBI changed the talking points when it came to references to al Qaeda.
Only later did we find out through a lawsuit that Mike Morell was deeply involved in changing the talking points, the deputy director of the FBI. When he was sitting in front of a congressional panel…
GRAHAM: … and he was asked, does anybody here know who changed the talking points, he sat silent. So, no, the intel community through him lied.
BORGER: OK. But this — so you’re saying the intel community is lying to the House Intelligence Committee, the administration’s not exonerated.
GRAHAM: No, I’m saying the House Intelligence Committee…
GRAHAM: No, I’m saying the House Intelligence Committee is doing a lousy job policing their own.
I’m saying that anybody who has followed Benghazi at all knows that the CIA deputy director did not come forward to tell Congress what role he played in changing the talking points. And the only way we knew he was involved is when he told a representative at the White House, I’m going to do a hard review of this, a hard rewrite.
BORGER: OK. And so, obviously…
GRAHAM: He didn’t tell the Congress sitting in front of us that he substantially rewrote the talking points.
And who told Susan Rice that the compound, consulate was substantially strong and significantly secured?
GRAHAM: That wasn’t in the talking points, but she said that.
GRAHAM: Who told her that?
BORGER: But what — what — what the CIA — deputy CIA director you’re talking about said was they got conflicting information, the mistakes were a reflection — this is what he says — of how little we knew at the time. But let me move on specifically…
GRAHAM: That’s not the question.
GRAHAM: Wait. Can I — no. Can I interrupt?
BORGER: Sure, absolutely.
GRAHAM: That’s not the question.
The question was not how you gathered intel. Who changed the talking points? It went through several changes. Who came out with the version most politically beneficial to the administration? The man that asked that question to substantially changed the talking points, well, and he never told me or anybody else he had a hand in it, and he sat quietly in front of a Senate and House committee when asked directly, do you know who changed the talking points? He didn’t come forward.
We only know later that he was involved when we found information gathered through a lawsuit. So he sat there and misled the Congress.
So, let me play back something to you that you said on FOX News this past spring about those talking points and about Susan Rice and whether someone’s lying in the administration. Then we will talk about it at the other end.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
GRAHAM: Three days after the attack, they did not give a damn about the intelligence. They wanted to create a political narrative to protect the president.
And I’m not going to stop until someone is held accountable for allowing it to be a death trap, somebody be fired for not coming to the aid of these people for nine-and-a-half-hours. And somebody ought to be fired for lying to the American people. They were worried about the reelection, not telling the truth.
And when Susan Rice said, “I have no regrets, I gave the American people the best evidence available,” that’s a bald-faced lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: OK. So this report says no one lied, period, that they were receiving bad information, but no — or conflicting information.
GRAHAM: That’s a bunch of garbage. That’s a complete bunch of garbage. Who told Susan Rice…
BORGER: So why is the Republican chair — why is the Republican chairman on the House Intelligence Committee buying a bunch of garbage?
GRAHAM: Good question.
BORGER: Answer it. Yes.
GRAHAM: Why — why — that’s a — yes. I don’t believe that the report is accurate, given the role that Mike Morell played in misleading the Congress on two different occasions.
Why didn’t the report say that? And here’s my point. When Susan Rice was on television after the attack, she said on three different occasions, the consulate was strongly, substantially and significantly secured.
Nothing could be further from that — from the truth. And there’s nothing in the talking points about the level of security. She gave an impression to the American people that these folks were well taken care of, when it was in fact a death trap. Who told her to say that?
GRAHAM: Ben Rhodes came up with the talking points saying under no circumstance can we suggest this was anything other than a riot caused by a video, when there was no evidence of that.
BORGER: To your point about the death trap, Senator, this report also says that there — and I’m quoting here — that there was no evidence that there was a stand-down order or a denial of available support.
Do you still believe that there was?
GRAHAM: I can tell you that three contractors working for the agency said that they were told to wait for 20 minutes.
This report puts all the blame on the State Department and absolves the intelligence community. When the Department of Defense committees looked at it, the Department of Defense was held blameless. At the end of the day, everybody is pointing fingers to everybody else.
That’s why you need a joint select committee. Thank God for Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings. And when the Intel Committee says there is no manipulating of the American people, that is absolute garbage.
When they say there is no evidence that CIA personnel misled the Congress regarding changing the talking points, that is a lie, because I was on the receiving end of the lie.
BORGER: Well, let me ask you this.
The American public might be saying after eight investigations that it’s enough already, that this is overkill, that we don’t need another investigation, that we shouldn’t be spending taxpayer money…
BORGER: … on yet another investigation. Your…
GRAHAM: My response is there — my response is that, if we’re overreaching, if Trey Gowdy and Elijah Cummings are doing this for the wrong reasons, it will blow up in their face.
If the things I’m saying about this episode fail to bear fruit, it will blow up in my face. But I know Benghazi pretty well. And I can tell you that the people who have been looking at Benghazi in a stovepipe fashion have not come up with what I think is a reasonable explanation for all the shenanigans and the lack of being prepared on 9/11.
And I hope a joint committee looking at all three agencies together, rather than stovepiping, can get through this. But, as to our friends on the Intel Committee in the House, I don’t buy the idea that the agency did not mislead the Congress, because I was there when they misled me.
I don’t buy the idea that everything was just the State Department’s problem and you had no blame yourselves. I don’t believe that.
BORGER: OK. OK, Senator. Well, thank you very much on this. We know where you stand on it, certainly, but please stay with us…
BORGER: … because we want you to join us in the upcoming conversation on immigration.
BORGER: Republicans are steamed over President Obama’s executive order on immigration, but what exactly can they do about it?
We’re back with Senator Lindsey Graham.
Thanks again for sticking around.
You are a supporter of immigration reform, but you opposed the president’s action last week very strongly. You’re an attorney. Do you think it was unconstitutional?
GRAHAM: Yes, ma’am.
It’s one thing to say, as an executive agency, I don’t have the money to prosecute everybody or to deport everybody, so I’m going to rank them in order. It’s another for the president of the United States to say, not only will I decide not to prosecute a group of people, but I will affirmatively give you legal status.
BORGER: So — so, if it…
GRAHAM: That is well beyond executive action.
BORGER: So if it’s unconstitutional, as you’re saying, is it an impeachable offense?
I’m not going to go down the road of impeaching the president. And let me tell you why. Immigration has been dogging the country since 2006. The president is frustrated. I have a solution that I have been supporting that is comprehensive, that would allow legal status to the people in question.
But you do it through a congressional action, where you get the entire system fixed. His action does not secure the border. It doesn’t fix a broken legal immigration system. And it leaves millions of people left out in terms of the 11 million.
GRAHAM: So I’m not going to go down the impeachment road.
BORGER: OK. OK. You’re not.
But, you know, you have heard the president, say pass a bill. We counted. We said it 11 times between Thursday and Friday. You passed a bill in the Senate. You handed it to the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives…
BORGER: … decided not to do anything on it.
BORGER: It’s just sitting there. So doesn’t the House have a responsibility here?
GRAHAM: Shame on us. Yes.
BORGER: Shame on…
GRAHAM: Shame on us as Republicans. Shame on us as Republicans for having a body that cannot generate a solution to an issue that it’s national security, that’s cultural and it’s economic. The Senate has done this three times.
I love my House colleagues, but if you want…
BORGER: You do?
GRAHAM: … a piecemeal approach, do it. But doing nothing — well, I do. But this is…
BORGER: You do?
GRAHAM: I’m close to the people in the House, but I’m disappointed in my party.
Are we still the party of self-deportation? Is it the position of the Republican Party that the 11 million must be driven out? I have never been in that camp as being practical. I am in the camp of securing our borders first, fixing a broken legal immigration, have an E-Verify program so you can’t cheat…
GRAHAM: … and get a job easily.
BORGER: But how — but…
GRAHAM: But as to the 11 million — go ahead.
BORGER: No, but hasn’t the president called your bluff here? Because he’s sort of saying to you guys, you have got to deal with the 11 million?
GRAHAM: No, ma’am. No, ma’am. We’re — no, ma’am.
He’s doing a political — he made a political decision. He’s not a very good leader. He made a political decision to try to divide the Republican Party and take the office of the presidency to a level no one else has gone.
What he did is a dangerous precedent. On his own, he decided not to delay prosecution, but affirmatively granted legal status to five million people. That should scare every American. If he has the power to do that, what could a Republican do regarding laws they don’t like?
What the president has done is, he’s hurt the ability to bring us together. He’s created an executive action that I think flies in the face of checks and balances. And he had two years of a Democratic-controlled House and Senate with supermajorities, and he never lifted a finger.
GRAHAM: So, I just — I just — I just said my party has failed. This president has failed miserably and he’s made it worse.
Speaking of presidents, I have a quick question for you. Are you thinking of running?
GRAHAM: I’m thinking of trying to fix illegal immigration and replacing sequestration. I will let you know if I think about running for president. It’s the hardest thing one could ever do. You go through personal hell. You have got to raise a ton of money. I’m nowhere near there.
BORGER: So is that a maybe, though? It’s a maybe?
GRAHAM: That’s what it was.
GRAHAM: No, it’s — it’s what I just said.
GRAHAM: I hope we can do something about immigration.
GRAHAM: And I’m so — I’m so disappointed in my country, my party and my president. This is an unacceptable outcome.
We all have a lot of blame. But the president of the United States has taken this to a level. And to my Democratic colleagues, if you think this is OK for a Democratic president to do what he did, then you just wait until a Republican president goes down the road like this, and see how you feel.
BORGER: OK. Senator Lindsey Graham, thanks so much for your time again this morning. And I will come back at you again on that presidential question, I promise, OK?
BORGER: I’m sure you’re looking forward to it.