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Meet the Press   |  May 12, 2013

2: Feinstein updates MTP on Benghazi, immigration

Sen. Dianne Feinstein discusses remarks on the House probe into the Benghazi attacks and details amendments made in markup to the Senate immigration overhaul.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> and we're back. we'll speak to our political roundtableny a moment. i want to begin with senator feinstein, democrat of california and senator, your reaction to what you've heard thus far. particularly the ins and outs on these talking points and what seems to be the central charge that is these e-mails revealed that the administration at various levels wanted to scrub the fact that there was a link to terrorism of the september 11th attack in benghazi .

>> well, i disagree with the conclusion. we have held six separate hearings. we have interviewed every e intelligence head. we have read the e-mails. we spent a considerable amount of time with david petraeus when he was director of the agency with the cia analysts involved. we will shortly be producing what i hope will be a bipartisan review. you know, what i hear being assessed is all kinds of ulterior motives, and i don't believe they existed. and i have looked through all of the intelligence proceed preceding benghazi . there was flow tactical investigation but there was intelligence to the effect that there had been prior attacks that, there was a dangerous area. you can say the security was inadequate. it was. this was not a consulate or an embassy, therefore it did not have marines. you can question whether it should have been there in the first place. but i don't think the you can question that there was ma lev lance on the part of the president, on the part of the secretary of state or anyone else . it was a very unfortunate incident that turned in to be, i think, a great and very painful learning experience.

>> but when you see some of these e-mails that no doubt you already reviewed as chair of the intelligence committee , all of this was is reviewed by intelligence committee members, republicans and democrats. at the time nobody accused anybody of a cover-up. but you do see the talking points have from them removed nel reference to terrorist groups being involved. can't you understand the accusation ta people were spinning this as something other than a terrorist attack ?

>> let me say this, i think the talking points were wrong. i think the talking points should not be written by the intelligence community . i think the intelligence community should not be doing talking points for members of congress and our report will in essence say that. talking points can't be done by committee either. and these were. they were passed from one to the other to the other. and changes were made. the white house made virtually no changes. the word consulate was changed to mission and john brennan made a change inning syntax of one sentence. that was it.

>> but you had the state department pushing back on what the talking points were and they were ultimately changed. and the white house was running that process, right, as an interagency process.

>> well, as more became known, the talking points were changed. senator mccain said, and i happen to agree with this, that when you see a group going up with rpgs and weapons to break into one of our facilities, you can assume it's a terrorist attack . unfortunately, the word extremist was used which is not as crystal clear as terrorist. the realtime video which we have all seen reveals that there was virtually no defense. the militia from libya sent to guard the embassy disappeared the minute these people came down the street. these people just walked right into the facility. so that is the painful learning lesson that we have.

>> well, there's also a political charge that is coursing through this. the pivotal moment of all of this back in february senator mccain was on this program, and this was the exchange with what he thought was the actual cover-up. watch this.

>> and shouldn't people be held accountable for the fact that four americans died?

>> for what you said there's a cover- cover-up. a cover-up of what?

>> of the of information concerning the deaths of four brave americans. the information has not been forthcoming. you can obviously believe that it has. i know that it hasn't. why did the president for two weeks, for two weeks during the heat of a campaign continue to say he didn't know the whether it was a terrorist attack or not? is it because it interfered with the line of al qaeda is decimated and everything's fine in that part of the world. maybe. we don't know. but we need the answers.

>> is that criticism warranted, senator?

>> well, i think some of it is. it was in the last of a little campaign. we've gone through all of this. now we're going through it again. and my concern is, when hillary clinton 's name is mentioned 32 times in a hearing, that a point of the hearing is to discredit the secretary of state who has very high popularity and may well be a candidate for president. so he i understand republicans had a grievance because this happened a month before the election. and every effort has been made to turn it into something that's diabolical. i don't see that. and if i did, i would say it, but i don't see that.

>> rand paul says in iowa as he's ramping up for a presidential run, talking about secretary clinton, it was an inexcusable, it was a dir licks of duty, it should preclude her from holding it higher office.

>> well, i think that's nonsense, and i think the american people will think it's nonsense. this is a woman who has devoted herself to the job who has as traveled the earth who has tried to bring countries and organizations and groups closer together. she's a builder, not a divider. and i think, you know, i'll really sorry because what is happening is that the credibility is being lost when these attacks take place. first on the president, now on the secretary of state. and candidly, we have looked into this probably more than anyone in terms of time spent. and our intelligence committee will have a report, and i hope we will put some of these things to rest.

>> i want to ask you about the other big issue you're working on this week, that is immigration. is there going to be an overall immigration reform bill passed in the senate? you've been involved in the markup. the pushbacking from republicans is look, we have got to the get border security right and it's got to be tough before we get to any of the business of a citizenship pathway for those here illegally.

>> well, we saw in the committee, we passed 32 amendments thursday. what we saw was a prodigious effect to say nobody could be on the pathway to a green card until the border was 100% or somehow 90% absolutely guaranteed secure. the border patrol has been doubled. there are nearly 25,000 border patrol now on the border. and intrusions have dropped dramatically. of the fence, the secretary of homeland security testified that about 300 mile -- excuse me, i think close to 350 miles of fence have already been built. and there's some left to do with less than 50 miles. we have air resources. you have drones. you have cameras. the border has been fortified more than anytime in our history. and i think that we need to move ahead with this. i think we will move ahead. i think it's our chance. if we fail this time, i think you're not going to have another chance in the next decade. so i am very hopeful the people, the gang of eight has held together. they have -- they understand the break points. they are supporting one another. if that continues on the floor when the bill gets to the floor, i think we have a very good chance of success.

>> let me widen this discussion. david brooks , as we talk again about benghazi , you know, here this morning and what's new this morning, the chairman of the house oversight committee is falling short of saying this was hillary clinton and president obama 's fault. but he does say the administration essentially directed the intelligence community to back off what they wanted to say.

>> there's an underlying narrative here which i think is wrong. the narrative is that the cia is the this bunch of technically pure nonpolitical people and then they produce a product which is then doctored by a bunch of political people either at state or the white house . my reading of the evidence is that a very terrible event happened at a cia basically a cia facility. they went into intense blame shifting mode trying to shift responsibility onto the state department , on to anywhere else. and the state department pushed back. they said no, it's not our fault. it's your facility. they pushed back and said why are we seeing is information we haven't been seeing before? so the cia was super aggressive. all the talking points were reduced to mush and politics was inserted into it. i don't think we should necessarily say this is politics intruding on a cia pure operation.

>> congressman, don't you see the muddle in all of in that it's not so clearly watergate as some republicans allege?

>> look, i'm not out to try to bring anybody down. i just want the answers. i look at a couple of things. number one, who i think chaed the talking points ? these are questions that go to motivation. i know that ambassador rice went on every morning show and said this was a result of a youtube video . this was not a terrorist attack . it was frankly told to us in a closed door meeting in congress by hillary clinton , too. as a pilot in the military, i went to survival training and the first thing they tell you, your country, just know your country will be move heaven and earth to come get you and it appears in this case the country didn't move haven nor earth to can get them. the administration said we had seven hours and we couldn't have made it in time. to me that's irrelevant. what matters is you didn't know when the second attack was coming. why did you not pull ought owl the stops to save these four men or any future attack that could be happening

>> wes moore, you're also a veteran of wars in iraq and afghanistan. that is something you hear a lot in this community, in the special s and diplomatic community. which is why didn't they go after our guys to try to do something and was there enough contingency planning to be able to move if something like this were to occur.

>> the challenge was coordination, who had the jurisdiction to send in, what was the timeline. i agree with you on the point that regardless of what the timeline was, there should have been contingency plans particularly once we heard about the level of the threat. where the challenge comes in, this comes into an idea of lesser included where we cannot by trying to overstate the argument, we also undermine the argument where we have to also understand that at its fundamental core that investigations should happen. there needs to be more we should understand and a baseline we can understand from this issue. we can start clouding the issue by trying to put in all the other elements like trying to implicate specific individuals are responsible. that's where the truth becomes muddles.

>> katty kay , a historical precedent is interesting, that's the beirut bombing of 1983 when our servicemen were killed on a landing strip there. a deadly video. there were recriminations politically, the president taking responsibility. i was looking at the time. same gibbons saying i've only got three words, reagan's vietnam. all they're doing is sitting there waiting to be killed and on and on he goes. a tragedy that became a political issue here in benghazi , it somehow becomes a scandal. what is the difference between tragedy and actual scandal.

>> it is the insertion of politics. and if you are a republican who feels that this is a cover-up, you feel you've been vindicated this week. the dras feel that the republicans are trying to smear the white house with this. and i think actually for the american public, the points of whether there were 12 different versions of the talking points and the e-mails that were sent, that's not what concerns them or perhaps should concern them. the bigger picture here is one about missing intelligence in benghazi in the run-up to this attack, the fact that there were 40 separate attacks against foreigners in the six months before the attack against this facility. why were those not connected. why was the security not sufficient? those are the issues that should concern us. those are the issues that actually matter to american security abroad. this issue of talking points i think is becoming so intensely political, so confusing, that it's going to be missed by the american people and probably should be missed by the american people .

>> before i go to break, senator feinstein, the bottom line is, if there is something you would have liked to see the president or the secretary of state do differently after this broke, it would have been what?

>> oh, to move faster, to say yes, this was, in fact, a terrorist act . i mean, it was so evident and --

>> but why did they drag hair heels on this? if you believe that.

>> i can't -- because i think this is a cautious administration. you see it in other respects. i respect that. but this is one instance where, you know, it was what it was. and you saw it. the minute you knew what happened, you knew it was a terrorist attack . and you knew these groups had camps all around the area. so.

>> did you think the political campaign was i an factor?

>> hard for me to tell because i'm not sure what impact it would have had if someone had said from the administration, yes, our mission was attacked. we believe it was some terrorist groups . we need to identify which one. i don't see what harm that would have done to the administration.

>> all right. let me get to a break here. i want to come back and talk about another big issue this week, sexual assaults in the military. we have key voices around the table to address that. plus, this irs story especially with news this morning about some conflicting statements why certain groups were targeted. more from our roundtable right after this. i'm the next american success story. working for a company where over seventy -five percent of store management started