CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Elise Labott slammed Deputy Spokesman Patrick Ventrell for saying that the State Department hasn’t had access to transcripts of interviews with upcoming witnesses in the Benghazi hearing scheduled for Wednesday. “Come on, Patrick,” Labott said. “You know the gist of what they’re saying and what their arguments are.” “Let the record reflect that that was CNN was asking that question and not Fox News,” Fox News correspondent James Rosen joked.
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, it’s a little bit hard for us to – given that we don’t have a lot of information about how the hearing was scheduled and the various sort of formation of the majority’s decision to have this hearing, it’s a little bit hard to comment on the witnesses. Let me do – let me say one thing here, though, at the very top. We have always encouraged any State Department employee who wants to share their personal story, whether it be to the ARB or the Congress to tell the truth, period, full stop, end of story. That’s long been our position. We’ve made that clear from the start. In terms of these particular individuals, the committee didn’t come to us asking witnesses. We found out through the media and through the announcement the same way you all did. In terms of these potential transcripts out there, we haven’t seen the transcripts. So it’s –
QUESTION: Yeah, you have.
QUESTION: Oh, yes, you have. Come on, Patrick.
MR. VENTRELL: We have seen excerpts of these transcripts, but we do not have them, and they have not been provided to us.
QUESTION: Well, you’ve seen them – I mean, you’ve seen – you know the gist of what they’re saying and what their arguments are. First of all, Greg Hicks makes charges that he thought that there were assets in Libya that could have been able to be sent from Tripoli to Benghazi that night, and they were rejected. I mean, there are numerous charges that he makes.
MR. VENTRELL: There have been —
QUESTION: Let the record reflect that that was CNN was asking that question and not Fox News. Please continue.
MR. VENTRELL: Right. Well, let me just say that this has been made – these statements have been made to the media. They haven’t been made to us. Now, we understand this testimony is going to go forward and we want people to go and tell the truth. But in terms of the full context of these remarks or these sort of accusations, we don’t have the full context so it’s hard for us to respond.
QUESTION: Well, what about – okay. So – but just what do you make of the idea that more could have been done that night, sending assets from Tripoli to Benghazi, and that they weren’t?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, it’s hard for me to respond to specific allegations, not having the full context. Let me say this, though. And I said this last week. I can’t remember if you were here, Elise, on Friday. But these issues have been addressed and reviewed in great detail by the Accountability Review Board. There were eight hearings, 30 briefings, 25,000 documents; the ARB interviewed over a hundred witnesses, including people on the ground. And the ARB’s credible, comprehensive process was led by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen.
QUESTION: I know —
MR. VENTRELL: But let me finish because not everybody does, and it’s worth saying this, that these are two of the most respected, nonpartisan leaders in Washington, each highly praised by both sides of the aisle for their long, distinguished careers. They put out a statement today saying that from the beginning of the ARB process, they had unfettered access to everyone and everything, including all the documentation they needed.