House Budget Chair Paul Ryan joined me on Wednesday’s show to discuss the establishment of the Select Committee on Benghazi:
HH: So pleased to welcome back to the Hugh Hewitt Show the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan. Chairman Ryan, welcome, great to have you.
PR: Good to be back with you, Hugh. How are you doing?
HH: I’m great. What do you think of the select committee on Benghazi and the move of the Speaker to have it established?
PR: I don’t think he had a choice. I thing given the fact that we now have new evidence that the White House has been withholding information from the public, I don’t think John Boehner had a choice. I was very supportive of him doing this. I think Trey Gowdy is the perfect person for it, somebody with 16 years as a prosecutor. And there’s a lot of information that we don’t have, yet, and four Americans are dead, and we don’t have the answers. And I think this committee should be formed so that we get these answers.
HH: Of course, Democrats from Xavier Bacerra, who’s normally pretty calm, and Joe Crowley are calling it a charade, a kangaroo court.
PR: They’re making a mistake doing that.
HH: And why do you think so?
PR: They’re making a mistake doing that, because we do not have answers. Four Americans are dead, including our ambassador. They were killed in a terrorist attack. We know that civilian and military authorities within 24 hours of the attack knew that this was a terrorist attack, and yet this narrative continued to be spun. And now we know that the White House was involved in pushing this narrative. We also have unanswered questions about security beforehand. We had all of these security problems surrounding this embassy, this consulate and others, and there were repeated requests for more security. And not only did they not get those requests honored, they had reduction in security. So there are a lot of questions that are still begging for answers. And for these victims and their families, justice requires that we get to the bottom of this. And so for a person in Congress, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it really shouldn’t matter. To not want to get to these answers, now that we have evidence that information has been withheld, is just not right, and I disagree with them, and I think they are making a big mistake.
HH: Now Chairman Ryan, Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Ty Woods, Glen Doherty, the victims that day, you were in a unique position when that attack and those murders occurred.
HH: You were on the national ticket, and you were making decisions about what to say every day. Looking back, was the country well-served by the debate that happened or didn’t happen because of what is clearly, based on the Rhodes memo, a cover-up that occurred?
PR: Yes, so we did not have all that information at the time. Believe me, I remember it vividly from just preparing for debating Joe Biden and working with Mitt on his debates. We were in a tempo where we did not have all the information that we now have. And yes, I can clearly, you know, tell you that this was, I believe, a political narrative that was designed for political ends, which meant that do not acknowledge that this was in fact a terrorist attack, even though within 24 hours our civilian and military leaders knew that, and to, you know, continue this political narrative. And now we know that the White House had a hand in this, which before this email came out, that was not acknowledged. And so yeah, hindsight is 20/20. And I do believe that there were political motivations behind this, and we need to get to the bottom of this not because of scores, settling political scores, but so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. I mean, what you want to know out of this is the truth so that you can have justice, but also what you want to be able to accomplish out of this is that next time somebody in our government thinks about doing something like this, covering up the truth when American’ lives were lost, they think twice because they know they’ll get caught at the end of the day, and accountability will be had. That, to me, is very important for posterity’s sake.
HH: I agree with that. Paul Ryan, did you suspect at the time, because I actually couldn’t believe that they would do this. Now that I’ve read HRC, and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read Jon Allen’s new book along with Amie Parnes, have you had a chance to see that?
PR: I have not.
HH: They had a rolling video conference. Everybody in the administration knew what happened in Benghazi. Everybody knew. I just can’t conceive of this occurring. Were you at the time suspicious of what was happening and being said?
PR: Sure. I mean, but we did not know. Mitt and I, we got briefings, but we did not know without a shadow of a doubt what the source was. So we didn’t have all the information that we now have at that time. But clearly, we suspected that this was not simply because of the video. And as time went on, and as days transpired, it became more and more and more clear that that just wasn’t the case. And that’s why we prosecuted that. We made that point. Mitt did bring this up in the debate. I mean, we did talk about the fact that this was not because of a video or some spontaneous protest. So you know, as time went on, more information became clear, and we became more sure of the facts as we now know them.
HH: Perhaps the most significant intervention by a member of the media in a presidential campaign ever is Candy Crowley’s…
PR: Yeah, yeah.
HH: …intervention in the exchange between Governor Romney and President Obama. Do you think that was innocent? And number two, do you think she’d do it again knowing now what we know?
PR: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t really know, so I’m not inside her head. I don’t know what she would do now. I’m just not going to speculate, because I just don’t know.
HH: Do you think it was, okay, even from the objective standpoint, though, is it wrong for people in the media to prejudge this, because a lot of prejudging is going on already, as happened with Candy Crowley in that debate.
PR: Yeah, well, I think it represents some subjectivity in the media to prejudge events and to prejudge things, or to affix political motivation to these things. Four people were killed. They were Americans, our ambassador among them, and we don’t have all the answers. That’s all we should know, to know that we need to get to the bottom of this. Whether, you know, I don’t know what was running through her mind. Clearly, you know, I think prejudging in the media is something that happens all the time. She also violated the rules of the debate, in my opinion, from at the time. That was just my personal opinion, which was when she did that, obviously I was sitting there watching it, I did not think that was in conformity with the rules as set out in the debate. So…but that’s another issue.
HH: Yeah, she’s a very fine broadcast journalist and a frequent guest on this program in the past. But I do think that on this issue, Beltway may be a little bit disconnected from the country. When you back to Wisconsin, do your constituents in your hometown and your district care about this?
PR: Oh, yeah. Oh, sure. Yeah, no, I was in my district on Monday, all throughout the weekend, and Monday this came up. This is, people do want to know the truth. Look, when this email came out, this stirred this all back up, and it kind of confirmed a lot of concerns that people had, which was this narrative was peddled longer than the facts, meaning beyond when they knew the truth, and it was peddled for political reasons. Also, we never still got the answer to why didn’t we buck up the security when we knew we had all of these problems. So there are a lot of unanswered questions not just about this narrative, but also about what happened before the attack. The attack itself was many hours in length, so there’s questions about the response or lack thereof during the attack. And then, this, what we’re all talking about today, is after the attack and the conduct of the administration, and the culpability, and the source of this attempt to mislead the public.
HH: Last question…
PR: Those are all the various questions that need to be answered.
HH: You’ve lived at the middle of the media vortex for a long time, no more so than during the campaign. Do you think Trey Gowdy is ready for what will be a media vortex?
PR: I don’t think there’s a better guy in our conference to do this. I really believe that. I think Trey, he’s a relatively new member. He’s a good friend of mine. I’ve gotten to know him very well over the last couple of years. He has not only the intellect, but the character and the temperament to handle this, and the prosecutorial experience. So there really isn’t a better person, in my judgment. And I tell you, I talked to the Speaker about this last night. A lot of members complimented the Speaker on this choice, and now they’re going to assemble the reset of the committee.
HH: Chairman Paul Ryan of the Budget Committee, thank you so much for spending time with us. Good to have you back.
End of interview.