03:40 - Source: CNN
Chaffetz: 'Ignorance is not a defense'

This morning on “Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) weighs in on the Obama Administration’s explanations for what happened in a U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi.

Regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim of responsibility in overseeing U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, Chaffetz says he’s glad someone is finally stepping up.

“I’m glad to see the Secretary of State - at least somebody’s taking some personal responsibility,” Rep. Chaffetz says. “But leading up to it, how did we get to the point where we diminished security in a very volatile type of situation? I think it’s somewhere between patently false and totally misleading, this story that the administration spun coming out of this. They never said that terrorism was one of the potential parts of this. They very emphatic this was a video, this was a mob, this was whatever words they used. But clearly it was terrorism.”

Chaffetz adds, “Look, when the Vice President came out in the debate and said, well, we had no idea they asked for more security. Ignorance is not really a great defense and even when Secretary Clinton said, look, security professionals made these decisions - no they didn’t. The security professional that testified at the Committee said, ‘We were under professional to come up to normal, quote, unquote, ‘normalized’ on a political timetable.’ That is very concerning. When the security professional on the ground is saying we need more resources, just a few more resources, those are denied. In fact, they were diminished.”

Rush transcript available after the jump.

RUSH TRANSCRIPT

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R) UTAH: Thanks for having me.

O’BRIEN: So you heard Secretary Clinton saying, listen, it’s my decision, I’m responsible for the 60,000 people who are in charge. Yesterday, Rudy Giuliani was on our program and it was very kind of an intense debate we had going. And here’s what he said about it being a cover-up. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI, (R) NEW YORK CITY: Susan Rice goes out there four days after, says this was a spontaneous demonstration; it clearly wasn’t. There was information both in the State Department and the White House that it wasn’t. There was no protest in advance.

O’BRIEN: But my question to you, and what I’m saying –

GIULIANI: This sounds like a cover-p. I mean, if this weren’t a Democratic president, I think all of you people would be going crazy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O’BRIEN: So you have before said that you thought it was coordination between the State Department and the administration to come up with a story that was sort of was around a protest that we now know did not exist. He’s saying cover-up. Do you believe it was a cover-up?

CHAFFETZ: I think there are a couple parts to this story. The run up that led to 9/11, what happened that night, and then moving forward and the bungled story. I mean, it’s five weeks later and we still don’t have some crystal clear answers.

I’m glad to see the Secretary of State - at least somebody’s taking some personal responsibility. But leading up to it, how did we get to the point where we diminished security in a very volatile type of situation?

I think it’s somewhere between patently false and totally misleading, this story that the administration spun coming out of this. They never said that terrorism was one of the potential parts of this. They very emphatic this was a video, this was a mob, this was whatever words they used. But clearly it was terrorism.

O’BRIEN: They sort (INAUDIBLE). One of the things we lacked yesterday in our interview with Mr. Giuliani was literally, specifically, what people had said. And it was Susan Rice who on the 16th, on “Meet the Press,” who was much farther out than everybody else.

She said, “Assessment - what happened in Benghazi was in fact a spontaneous reaction to what had transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat demonstration of the facility in Cairo prompted, of course, by the video.”

She was the one who was furthest out. If you look at what Jay Carney said and if you look at what the president said, they did not go as far. They were weak on saying terror, but they also didn’t quite say video. They sort of referenced both of them.

CHAFFETZ: No, the day or two afterwards, we’ll have to pull up the quote but Jay Carney went even further than that. And so the problem is that you had 230 security incidents there in Benghazi, you had the assassination attempt of the British ambassador, the bombing of the Red Cross (ph), the Brits get out of there, it’s Libya, we’re coming up on 9/11 -

O’BRIEN: Is that incompetence or is that a cover-up? Right? Because I think everyone would say huge intelligence screw-up, no question. Is it just incompetence or is that - intentional cover-up to me sort of implies there’s some kind of criminal act under it all.

CHAFFETZ: Well, look, when the Vice President came out in the debate and said, well, we had no idea they asked for more security. Ignorance is not really a great defense and even when Secretary Clinton said, look, security professionals made these decisions - no they didn’t. The security professional that testified at the Committee said, “We were under professional to come up to normal, quote, unquote, ‘normalized’ on a political timetable.”

That is very concerning. When the security professional on the ground is saying we need more resources, just a few more resources, those are denied. In fact, they were diminished.

O’BRIEN: So incompetence or cover-up, right? Cover-up is a -

CHAFFETZ: OK, well, that’s the first part of it, the lead-up to it. But then what went down that night? And what was the story that was being spun afterwards? Because I went to Libya two Saturdays ago. I was there a good part of the day. Never once did a single person ever mention a video.

Now, you talk to people on the ground, you talk to people that are involved in this incident, where is the evidence that this video was core and central to the administration’s story moving forward? So, look, I think it’s still an unanswered question. I really do.

O’BRIEN: Can we talk about the debate for a moment? We’re going to have you all morning so we can chat about this. Who do you think a town hall format favors?

CHAFFETZ: Oh I don’t know. Look, if you’re going to be the President of the United States, you better do good sitting at a table and standing. I don’t buy this whole idea that one - We talk about it like it’s a sports game. You’re going to the President of the United States, you got to step up. You got to be able to -

O’BRIEN: Well, I would guess for both, right? You’re going to have regular folks standing up and you have to sort of take questions in a non-completely moderated -

CHAFFETZ: Look, President Obama did exceptionally well in this format before. Really haven’t seen Mitt Romney in this type of format. We have, what, 19, 20 something debates during the primary? But most of them were not this town hall format, so the president’s expectation was so, you know, after his last performance, so low, he’s undoubtedly going to exceed that. I’m sure he’ll do pretty well.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I think there’s more pressure on Mitt Romney because he did so well last time.

O’BRIEN: Do you think there’s more pressure?

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: The expectation game is an interesting kind of calculation, don’t you think?

O’BRIEN: All right, we’re going to keep you around with us. We appreciate you staying with us all morning. We really love having you.