MSNBC Grills GOP Congresswoman: Why is Hillary Responsible for Benghazi?

Filling in for Jose Diaz-Balart during MSNBC’s 10 a.m. ET hour on Tuesday, NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander interrogated Republican Congresswoman Susan Brooks about the House Benghazi Committee: “I want to get a sense from you, as we look forward to Thursday’s hearing, what you think, in simple terms, we should expect from this hearing, given the fact that in recent weeks we’ve heard from multiple Republicans that there is a partisan effort at play here?”

After Brooks defended the committee’s work as “a very fact-centric, a fact-focused investigation,” Alexander hit back: “So if Jeb Bush's campaign insists that his brother, George W. Bush, bears no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks – which of course were carried out by Al Qaeda, but he was president at the time – why then do Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama bear responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?”

Brooks pointed out: “...the 9/11 Commission was commissioned to study extensively all that we knew. All that the government knew prior to 9/11....And similarly, that's what this investigation is about. It is about learning what we did as a government, what the CIA did, Department of Defense, and the State Department did prior to these horrific attacks.”

Alexander then demanded to know what evidence the committee had would “disqualify” Clinton from becoming president:

ALEXANDER: Congresswoman, is there anything that you and your committee members know right now that would disqualify Hillary Clinton to be commander-in-chief?

BROOKS: Well, we’re going to bring the facts forward to the American people. Let the American people make that decision. We’re very focused –  

ALEXANDER: But to this point, is there anything to this point one way or the other? Can you say, “Yes, we have information that we will release that disqualifies her” or “No, so far we do not”?   

     

Here is a transcript of the October 20 exchange:

10:10 AM ET

PETER ALEXANDER: About 48 hours from now Hillary Clinton, as we’ve noted, will testify before that House Benghazi Committee on the September 2012 attacks in Libya that of course killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

The hearing comes at a time when Republicans, as we’ve been discussing, accused of using this investigation for partisan purposes. And joining us now is Congresswoman Susan Brooks, a member of that select committee. Congresswoman Brooks, first of all, I want to get a sense from you, in simple terms, what we should expect from this hearing.

Congresswoman Brooks do you hear me? She doesn't hear us. We'll try to get back to the Congresswoman in a moment after this short break.            

(...)

10:15 AM ET

ALEXANDER: Back with us now live on MSNBC from here at the White House is Congresswoman Susan Brook – we’ll try this again – a member of the Benghazi Select Committee. Congresswoman Brooks, we apologize for the technical challenge. We appreciate you sticking around with us.

REP. SUSAN BROOKS [R-IN]: Thanks, Peter.

ALEXANDER: Just right out of the gate I want to get a sense from you, as we look forward to Thursday’s hearing, what you think, in simple terms, we should expect from this hearing, given the fact that in recent weeks we’ve heard from multiple Republicans that there is a partisan effort at play here?

BROOKS: I think what the public will see and what the members of Congress will see is that this has been a very fact-centric, a fact-focused investigation. The Secretary was the leader of the agency responsible for the deaths of these four Americans, along with our other government agencies – actually, I want to correct that. It was the terrorists who were actually responsible for the deaths, but the questions and the facts that we want to get out from the Secretary, and from others, are, what did they know leading up to the attack? What happened during the attack and what happened after the attack?  

ALEXANDER: So Congresswoman, you make that point very clear and I want to hit on that for a second, if I can. So if Jeb Bush's campaign insists that his brother bears no responsibility for what happened on 9/11, suggesting that it was all Al Qaeda, obviously it’s the terrorists who did the attack themselves –

BROOKS: I'm sorry. I lost you again, Peter.

ALEXANDER: Okay, do you hear me now?

BROOKS: I’m sorry, I just – yeah, I’m sorry, I do now.

ALEXANDER: Okay, let me ask that one more time very simply.

BROOKS: Thank you.  

ALEXANDER: I want to drill down on this. So if Jeb Bush's campaign insists that his brother, George W. Bush, bears no responsibility for the 9/11 attacks – which of course were carried out by Al Qaeda, but he was president at the time – why then do Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama bear responsibility for what happened in Benghazi?

BROOKS: Well, I think that's an interesting point that you're making, and certainly the 9/11 Commission was commissioned to study extensively all that we knew. All that the government knew prior to 9/11. I was the U.S. attorney one month after 9/11, so I was very involved in learning more about those terrorist attacks, how they had happened in this country, and what we needed to do to change it going forward. And we did keep this country safe after 9/11.

And similarly, that's what this investigation is about. It is about learning what we did as a government, what the CIA did, Department of Defense, and the State Department did prior to these horrific attacks. What did we know? So this is a natural part – when we lose people, like we lost Ambassador Stevens and those other brave Americans, we need to ask these tough questions. We need to ask them of the leaders of the agencies, and that's where we're bringing the Secretary before us, now with a lot more documentation, a lot more questions to ask her than other committees have had the opportunity to ask her.

ALEXANDER: Congresswoman, is there anything that you and your committee members know right now that would disqualify Hillary Clinton to be commander-in-chief?

BROOKS: Well, we’re going to bring the facts forward to the American people. Let the American people make that decision. We’re very focused –  

ALEXANDER: But to this point, is there anything to this point one way or the other? Can you say, “Yes, we have information that we will release that disqualifies her” or “No, so far we do not”?

BROOKS: That is not for me to weigh in on. What I am weighing in on is trying to get all of the facts for the families, for State Department employees, and others around the world. Try to find out what was the security posture prior to this incident. What were the requests that Chris Stevens and others had made? What was the Secretary’s response to those requests? What were her top-level leaders’ responses to those requests? I think that will be up to the American people to decide once they here what those answers are.

(...)

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