Darrell Issa (R-CA) made a fool of himself on “Meet the Press” Sunday as he tried to defend his Benghazi conspiracy. David Gregory (R-TV) pushed back hard, even bringing up the GOP’s defunding of security.
Issa even accused General David Petraeus of lying for the administration. As soon as Gregory would call Issa on one thing, he’d say he was investigating something else. Issa accused Tom Pickering of refusing to testify when in fact, Issa had not invited him to speak and Pickering was told that the Republican majority did not want him there. Issa ended up backtracking on that one, too, and it was super awkward when it came out that Issa never asked for him to appear.
Turns out, Issa was just making inaccurate, unfounded accusations so as falsely infuse his Benghazi hearings with the aura of nefarious dark secrets, because that is what Issa does for a living.
The worst news for Issa was that Gregory refused to be his usual GOP shill, which is an alarming indication that Republicans have pushed their Benghazi conspiracy one wingnut too far.
Watch here via NBC:
Here’s the edited-for-brevity transcript from NBC. I’ve bolded the highlights (commentary in italics). It’s long, but it’s really a must-read if you want to see just how empty the Republican conspiracy is, and just how vulnerable Republicans are making their party with this line of attack:
GREGORY: Chairman, my reporting of the immediate aftermath of this talking to administration officials is that CIA Director David Petraeus made it clear when he briefed top officials that there– that there was a spontaneous element to this, that it was not completely known that this was a terrorist attack right away. You don’t give any credence to the notion that there was some fog of war, that there were– there were conflicting circumstances about what went on here.
REP. ISSA: (Issa is actually accusing Petraeus of lying) David Petraeus said what the administration wanted him to say is the indication. Ambassador Pickering heard what the administration wanted to hear…
GREGORY: What is– what is the big picture here? You are saying that administration officials–are these political advisors to the president, are these non-political appointees–bullied the CIA into saying what the polit– the political advisors in the White House wanted him to say? Is that your charge? (Even David Gregory knows how absurd this charge is.)
REP. ISSA: David, we’re not making charges. (and Issa walks it back as soon as he is called out on it.)
GREGORY: No, no. You just said…
REP. ISSA: David…
GREGORY: …the CIA was– had to back down from what they originally wanted to say and that David Petraeus said what the White House wanted to say. I mean, those are very serious charges.
REP. ISSA: Those– those talking points are not the starting talking points, they’re the ending talking points. So we’re not reaching every conclusion. We are not accusing who changed that. (Really? That’s not what he just said.) ….
GREGORY: And I just want to be clear what you believe the lie was. (Issa has already lost David Gregory. Things are not going well.)
REP. ISSA: (Follow this non-answer in which Issa manages to get in his accusations and then pretends the accusations are not the point, because he can’t defend the accusations.) … Either way, they were, in fact, covering up an easy attack that succeeded that was about– was from the get-go really about a terrorist attack. It was never about a video. So when we look at what we know, the question is, how do we prevent a facility from being under protected, how do we respond better if we have seven hours or more of an attack, and how do we get the truth out? (Issa never established that there was a cover up, see how he slid that one in there as a given?) …
GREGORY: …You know, Former President Bush gave an interview this week in which he talked about e-mail in the executive branch, particularly his own. I want to play that for you and then ask you about it.
(Videotape; April 2, 2013; C-SPAN)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: –learned that I didn’t e-mail anybody when I was president. I– I was fearful of– of congressional intrusion into my e-mails so– which is kind of sad really because a lot of history’s lost when presidents are nervous about their personal papers being subpoenaed.
GREGORY: That was a couple of weeks ago. Congressional intrusion was his fear. Now, what we’re talking about with regard to Benghazi does not involve a president’s e-mail but it involves e-mails in what’s called the interagency process. And what your critics have asked is, are you reading into something that is not there, discussions about what happened, about what the various inputs of information are. Are you over reading?
REP. ISSA: … We have a basic difference of opinion with the executive branch. Not a Republican, not a Democratic, but a basic dis– difference… (It’s just that when a Republican is in office, they refuse to even respond to congressional subpoena and Republicans defend that, but Issa wants you to know that this is not political.)
GREGORY: What did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fail to disclose or fail to do that makes her a target for you?
REP. ISSA: Hillary Clinton’s not a target. (Then why are all of the Republican dark money groups, including Fox News, making ads about Benghazi and aiming them at Hillary, and why did the Republicans send the press a notice that Hillary was going down because of Benghazi?) President Obama’s not a target. (Yet Republicans claim he might be impeached over this.)The target is how did we fail three different ways, fail to heed the warnings of an impending attack, fail to respond properly during the attack? At least– we certainly could have done better and I think everyone knows that. (So, it’s not about a cover up, it’s about how to do things better in the future — see that?) And then failed to get the truth to the American people at a timely fashion. (The Obama administration got that info out to the public a lot faster than the Bush administration, which actually never got the facts re Iraq out to the public. For eight years.)
GREGORY: You don’t hold the president and the secretary of state responsible for those failings?
REP. ISSA: …But one of the problems with this ARB report is, it doesn’t seem to find anybody at the high level of state department or anyone else to have failed… (Seriously, now they’re going after lower level people? Republicans are suggesting this is an impeachable offense of Obama’s. And here’s Issa unable to provide reason or fact for their witch hunt, so now he’s going after the Littles.)
GREGORY: You’ve got Republicans talking about this being Watergate. One Republican raising the specter of impeachment. Conservative groups raising money off of the Benghazi story. Are you hurting your own credibility and your own find– fact-finding mission by politically overreaching? (Issa lost Gregory totally. Gregory is fact-checking him on things he doesn’t need to. This is bad.)
REP. ISSA: Well, if I was, then I would be. But I’m not. (Thanks for clearing that up!) … No. Congress has an obligation to say, what did you do to make sure it doesn’t happen again? And Charlene Lamb and other low-ranking people being reassigned to other jobs. That’s not going to prevent these three separate mistakes from happening again.
GREGORY: The issue of security that you talk about, how do we prevent this from happening again? The reality chairman, as you know, is it it’s happened throughout our recent history. Just look at some of the attacks on diplomatic compounds or facilities or U.S. interests over the years. You go back…
REP. ISSA: You know, Gregory Hicks, in fact, testified to what happened in Bahrain under his watch.
GREGORY: Hold on, let me just go through…
REP. ISSA: How in fact they prepared for a possible attack and they survived the attack even though they lost a few cars…
GREGORY: But look– but look at these attacks on U.S. interest spanning Republican and Democratic administrations including President Bush’s administration. Why is there not more of an effort to beef up security after these attacks happen and even, you– you know, even before this happened in Benghazi? (Oh, God, do not go to the Republican defunding of security, David, or else all is lost for Issa….)
REP. ISSA: David…
GREGORY: And isn’t this Congress’s job to spend the money to beef up security? (BOOM goes the dynamite.)
REP. ISSA: David, I– well, first of all, money is spent by the– the secretary of state and her people. We appropriate the money. (Apparently Issa, who listed other areas of great security concern, does not understand the word appropriations – as in, you have X amount, and you must make it work all over the world. Good luck. Oh, and by the way, we’re decreasing your funding and then we’re going to blame you for not being able to see into the future.)
GREGORY: But do you need a select committee on– on something like this? Something like (Unintelligible) or is your– your investigation sufficient here?
REP. ISSA: You know, let’s not blow things out of proportion. (It’s a little late for this warning, Issa.) This is a failure, it needs to be investigated. Our committee can investigate. Now, Ambassador Pickering, his people and he refused to come before our committee that… (Issa is accusing Tom Pickering of refusing to appear when he was not invited. Nice one, Issa.)
AMB. THOMAS PICKERING (Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs/Chair, Accountability Review Board on Benghazi): That is not true.
GREGORY: All right. We’re– we’re going to get to Ambassador Pickering.
REP. ISSA: … We’re inviting him on Monday along with Admiral Mullen to come, to go through, with his papers, a private deposition so we can get the facts in a nonpartisan way. (Yes, he is inviting Pickering on Monday, as in, the future. He was not invited when the cameras were rolling, so Issa lied when he accused Pickering of refusing to show up. He was not even invited yet.)
AMB. PICKERING: Of course. I’ve said the day before the hearings, I was willing to appear to come to the very hearings that he disclu– he excluded me from. The White House told me back that he said…
REP. ISSA: One second. Please– please don’t tell me I excluded you. (Only Issa can make accusations here, Pickering.)
AMB. PICKERING: Well, the– the majority was– we were told the majority said I was not welcomed at that hearing. I could come at some other time. (Pickering is referring to the Republican House majority because it was a House hearing – in other words, the Republicans did NOT WANT PICKERIG when the TV cameras were on. He can come for a nice, non-partisan private depo and I’m sure Republicans will share all of that info with the public. Just kidding.)
REP. ISSA: (Issa admits that Pickering did not refuse to come on, but rather that he was not asked. Why does anyone believe a word out of Issa’s mouth anymore?) …He could have been the Democratic witness. And we would have allowed him. The Democrats requested no witness.The fact is, we don’t want to have some sort of a stage show… We’re inviting them on Monday. We’ll go through, not in front of the public but– but in a nonpartisan way questions and answers and then obviously…
Oh, yes, it’s obvious that this is non-partisan. Let’s see. Issa accused Republican hero General Petraeus and co-chairman of the State Department’s Accountability Review Board on the Benghazi attacks Ambassador Pickering of lying and/or refusing to testify. Both Pickering and Petraeus have thrown water on the Republican witch hunt. Republican former Defense Secretary Robert Gates also threw water on the Benghazi conspiracy today.
The real reason Republicans did not invite Pickering to their Benghazi show when the cameras were rolling is that he told MSNBC, “I believe, in fact, the Accountability Review Board did its work well. I think the notion of, quote, a cover-up has all the elements of Pulitzer Prize fiction attached to it.”
Issa deserves an award for dancing his way through an interview with David Gregory that did not show him in the best light. Gregory came prepared with the facts, and it showed. When you’ve lost David Gregory on a Republican cause, it’s really over.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.