In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate, said that unanswered questions surrounding the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi would haunt former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she decides to run for president from the Democratic Party in 2016.
“The thing is, is ultimately if she’s considering running for any kind of office in this country again, I think that she’s going to have to answer the questions about what did she know about the gun-running, what was her involvement with Benghazi, why didn’t she provide adequate security for the ambassador or for the mission in Benghazi?” Paul said in a phone interview with Breitbart News.
“These are some pretty important questions that I don’t think she’s ever answered and she is basically exasperated that she even has to answer anybody’s questions. But really I think not providing adequate security for the ambassador I think should preclude her from holding any higher office.”
Politically speaking, this is arguably the first shot of the 2016 election. Paul is all but certainly running for President, and Clinton is similarly likely to attempt another White House run. Both Paul, a Republican, and Clinton, a Democrat, are potential immediate frontrunners for their respective parties’ nominations in the next presidential election.
Paul made a similar argument against Clinton in a speech to the Iowa GOP Lincoln Day Dinner in May, but extended his remarks on Tuesday based on new information he had learned since then.
Paul’s comments came in a wide-ranging interview focusing on the Senator’s disapproval of the Senate immigration bill and the next steps of the Benghazi scandal investigation. Paul honed in on what he considers Clinton’s likely knowledge of an arms-running operation he believes the government was involved in, shipping weapons from Benghazi, Libya, into Syria through Turkey. Paul believes Clinton may have lied to, and at least misled, the Senate Foreign Relations committee when he asked her questions about the matter.
“I guess my concern is that I guess some people in government think it’s okay to lie if you’re asked something about a classified program,” Paul said in the phone interview with Breitbart News.
During his line of questioning at the Jan. 23 Senate hearing, Paul asked Clinton: “Is the U.S. involved with any procuring of weapons, transfer of weapons, buying, selling, anyhow transferring weapons to Turkey out of Libya?”
The transcript reads:
SEC. CLINTON: To Turkey? I will have to take that question for the record. That’s — I — nobody’s ever raised that with me. I —
SEN. PAUL: It’s been in — it’s been in news reports that ships have been leaving from Libya and that they may have weapons. And what I’d like to know is, the annex that was close by, were they involved with procuring, buying, selling, obtaining weapons, and were any of these weapons being transferred to other countries, any countries, Turkey included?
SEC. CLINTON: Well, Senator, you’ll have to direct that question to the agency that ran the annex. And I will — I will see what information is available and —
SEN. PAUL: You’re saying you don’t know.
SEC. CLINTON: I do not know. I don’t have any information on that.
A June 21, 2012, report in the New York Times had suggested that the CIA was running arms to the Syrian rebels through Turkey. “The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said,” the Times reported in the summer of 2012. “The Obama administration has said it is not providing arms to the rebels, but it has also acknowledged that Syria’s neighbors would do so.”
Though that summer 2012 Times story seemingly confirmed a clandestine CIA operation through which the Obama administration was arming the Syrian rebels, it did not mention the origin of the arms coming into Turkey.
Then, on its front page on Saturday this past weekend, the New York Times published an additional account further confirming Paul’s suspicions and casting doubt on the idea that a program never existed. That report confirmed that the Syrian rebel arms operation had ties to and roots in Libya.
“On Friday, Syrian opposition officials said the rebels had received a new shipment of anti-tank weapons and other arms, although they give varying accounts of the sources of the recently received arms,” the Times reported this weekend. “The Central Intelligence Agency has already played at least a supporting role, the officials say. The Libyan shipments principally appear to be the work of armed groups there, and not of the weak central state, officials said Mr. [Fawzi] Bukatef, the Libyan diplomat, said Libyan militias had been shipping weapons to Syrian rebels for more than a year.”
Paul believes there is no way, as Secretary of State with jurisdiction over and responsibility for the actions of the CIA, that Clinton was unaware of the alleged arms-running program when she testified before the Senate in January. Regardless, when Paul had asked her if she was aware of the program, which definitely was and still potentially is a classified operation, she said she had no knowledge of it. “I do not know,” she said. “I don’t have information on that.”
“When I asked Hillary Clinton directly that question, her response was she had never heard and had no knowledge of any program with the CIA,” Paul said. “I just find it hard to believe that the Secretary of State would not have been briefed on a program to buy guns and transfer guns.”
Paul told Breitbart News he thinks it is unacceptable for government officials to lie or provide misleading information to Congress, even when they are asked about classified programs. He referred to a recent incident in which Director of National Intelligence James Clapper appeared to “lie” to Congress rather than simply choosing to not comment about the National Security Agency (NSA) PRISM program that had government officials secretly spying on and collecting data about American citizens.
“I think it’s one thing not to comment, but you know James Clapper decided that he would just lie rather than not comment about the collecting of American data from the NSA,” Paul said. “So, I started thinking about it after that and then the New York Times had an article this weekend that said the CIA has been involved with procuring arms in Libya for over a year now. This goes back to Benghazi. And even at the time, there have been rumors and reports of Turkish ships going in the week preceding Benghazi. I think it’s a valid question.”
Paul went on to say that he believes this is the heart of the Benghazi scandal, and that he finds it “hard to believe” Clinton’s answer. Many of the other explanations he has heard do not make any sense, and he believes many in the Republican Party driving at the facts have not connected the dots correctly.
“We have this elaborate cover up of these talking points,” Paul said. “I think they were never to distract from whether it was a terrorist attack. I think the talking points were to distract from the fact that they didn’t want to talk about the arms trade and the arms-running they were doing to Syria. It’s funny that nobody on the Republican side has really picked this up other than myself because it is pretty interesting. We had this elaborate dance with these talking points and you’re thinking, ‘well, they didn’t convince anybody it wasn’t terrorism.’ So why would they go to such great lengths to have these talking points changed and altered? Was it really terrorism? Were they trying to say it wasn’t a terrorist attack? Or was it they didn’t want to talk about why was the ambassador there? What was the CIA annex doing?”
When Breitbart News asked Paul whether people in government still care about telling the truth, he said: “That’s a real question.”
“I think there are people here who if they say it’s for national security reasons aren’t too concerned about the truth,” Paul said. “The problem is is we give enormous power to our government and we have to be able to trust our government and I want to be able to trust the government that they’re doing the right things. So that’s why I think the lie from James Clapper is incredibly damaging to all government and really to our national defense much more so than the leak in the sense that the leak was about a program that really has been on the ACLU website for over a year. Do you think there’s a terrorist in the world who didn’t think their phones were being tracked? I mean, terrorists, I’m sure, make one phone call per phone and throw them away, that would be my guess.”
Clinton was not under oath when she testified, as Breitbart News editor-in-chief Joel Pollak reported earlier this year. Even so, Paul does not think Clinton will be called back before the Senate Foreign Relations committee anytime soon to testify under oath. It appears Senate Democrats will seek to protect her heading into the 2016 election. But Paul said Clinton may be hauled before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), at one point or another in the future.
At this point, though, Paul thinks such a hearing would be unlikely. “I think the only chance of her coming back and testifying would be before Issa’s committee,” Paul said. “I don’t know that that will happen. It will be difficult to get her to come back. She did that one long day over here [on the Senate side] and over there [on the House side]. So, I doubt they’ll bring her back.”
Paul ended the interview saying that “absolutely it does” actuallymake difference if Clinton tells the truth, referencing her infamousquestioned by Paul’s colleague Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI).
“I thinkthat the current ambassador over there, his [sic] life is still at riskbecause I think they still haven’t gotten it right for what they need todo,” Paul said. “I would describe Libya as probably willing to defendour diplomats but not capable. I think if you have a country that’swilling but not capable, I think you should either have no embassy thereor if you’re going to have an embassy, I’d have it under militarycommand.”