NBC's Chuck Todd Spins on Benghazi Special Committee: 'Nothing More Than a Partisan Stunt'

Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, Chief White House Correspondent and host of MSNBC's The Daily Rundown appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday, May 7 to pour cold water on the new Benghazi select committee.

Todd appeared on Morning Joe during two separate segments Wednesday morning to suggest that the Benghazi special committee “ has a whiff of politics to it. To some people more than a whiff.” [See video below.] 

Speaking to co-host Joe Scarborough during the 6:00 a.m.. hour, Todd criticized the GOP over the committee: “I don’t understand why the Republicans didn't say to Nancy Pelosi, she said she wants an even split. You know, and instead of beating her up and saying well she didn't call for an even split before, say, okay, great. You believe this committee should be there. You know what, that's fine, we'll do an even split, let's go.” 

The MSNBC host continued to chastise the GOP for not conceding to Pelosi’s demands: “If they accept Nancy Pelosi's terms immediately, in many ways they get, they sort of can get some of the high ground back. And they can say, well, it's fully bipartisan, it’s fully, you know, we’re doing the way Nancy Pelosi wanted to set this up. So it would get some political legitimacy back because right now I feel like it looks nothing more than a partisan stunt.”  

In the 8:00 hour, Morning Joe hosted Congressman Trey Goudy (R-SC) who is leading the Benghazi select committee. Rather than play the role of journalist seeking answers into what actually happened in Benghazi, Todd continued to promote calls by Democrats to restructure the committee:

Congressman Gowdy, you've heard that Nancy Pelosi would like it to be an even number on the select committee. Obviously some Democrats are even talking about boycotting it. But if you've got the House Democratic leader already willing to negotiate on the size of the committee, why not take her up on it? Why not–doesn't it help the credibility of your investigation if it is truly an even split between the two parties?

Despite Congressman Gowdy’s push back, Todd continued to complain that the committee smelled suspicious:

This is a select committee and select committees are different. Look I know what the previous history is. I understand that, but my point is--don't you want to -- this has a whiff of politics to it. To some people more than a whiff. Don't you agree that if you accept her terms you actually get more credibility, which I assume is something you’d want. 

This was not Todd’s first time minimizing the Benghazi investigation as he did his best to provide cover for the White House during an appearance on Morning Joe on May 1. Following the release of new emails showing that the White House had instructed Susan Rice to stick to talking points about a video being responsible for the attack, Todd spun: “They were overly defensive in the moment. At the time they believed the video was having an impact. This is where the level of belief is, I think and this is such- you’re not going to really be able to rationally have a debate about this.”

See relevant transcript below. 


MSNBC

Morning Joe 

May 7, 2014

7:16 a.m.. Eastern

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you, Chuck. What do you see? And what does the White House see on the Benghazi deal? Does the White House think they have to be involved? 

CHUCK TODD: I think the White House would like to make sure if there's going to be a committee that, yes, that they have some allies on the committee. But let me just make -- I don't understand why the Republicans didn't say to Nancy Pelosi, she said she wants an even split. You know, and instead of beating her up and saying well she didn't call for an even split before, say, okay, great. You believe this committee should be there. You know what, that's fine, we'll do an even split, let's go. Because it goes to Steve's [Schmidt] point there.

It will allow the Republicans to get some legitimacy for this. The way they rolled this out, it feels very political. It feels very ham-handed. So if they accept Nancy Pelosi's terms immediately, in many ways they get, they sort of can get some of the high ground back. And they can say, well, it's fully bipartisan, it’s fully, you know, we’re doing the way Nancy Pelosi wanted to set this up. So it would get some political legitimacy back because right now I feel like it looks nothing more than a partisan stunt. 

 

8:14 a.m.. Eastern

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Chuck Todd. 

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Chuck jump in. 

CHUCK TODD: Congressman Gowdy, you've heard that Nancy Pelosi would like it to be an even number on the select committee. Obviously some Democrats are even talking about boycotting it. But if you've got the House Democratic leader already willing to negotiate on the size of the committee, why not take her up on it? Why not–doesn't it help the credibility of your investigation if it is truly an even split between the two parties?

TREY GOUDY: Well Chuck, do you challenge the credibility of the Senate Judiciary Committee because it’s certainly not evenly split? Neither is the House Judiciary. 

TODD: Well this is different though. This is a select committee and select committees are different. Look I know what the previous history is. I understand that, but my point is--don't you want to -- this has a whiff of politics to it. To some people more than a whiff. Don't you agree that if you accept her terms you actually get more credibility, which I assume is something you’d want.

GOUDY: No, I do want credibility and I would encourage you to watch the process. I think the process matters every bit as much as the result. But look as the president loves to say, elections have consequences. And one of the consequences would be that there are more Republicans in the House than Democrats. And simply because something is evenly distributed does not necessarily talismanically enhance its credibility.

I mean do you really think that they are going to change their mind with respect to the appropriateness of this investigation if the committee is evenly constituted? I mean, they went from boycotting it to asking that it be evenly constituted. There's no other committee in Congress other than Ethics, which is an entity of itself, and if you look at the history, when she had an opportunity to provide an evenly constituted committee, she passed on it. So it can be fair and still dominated by one party or the other. And my goal, my challenge is at the end of this for you to say you know what, he's not very smart but he was fair. 

BRZEZINSKI: So Trey, Congressman Gowdy, I mean the whiff of politics that Todd is talking about is like Republicans running for Congress in the midterms basically running off of Benghazi. I mean, there’s a lot of politics here. First of all do you concede that there is more than a whiff of politics here?

SCARBOROUGH: The White House has brought out their fundraising letters going out on Benghazi. Would you suggest your fellow members while this investigation is going on they not use Benghazi for fundraising purposes? 

GOUDY: Yes, and I will cite myself as an example. I have never sought to raise a single penny on the backs of four murdered Americans. So to the extent that they would look to me as some evidence of what's appropriate and what's not. There are two -- still, even in a culture of hyper-partisanship, certain things that ought to be above politics like the murder of our four fellow Americans and like whether or not you can trust what any administration, Republican or Democrat, tells you in the aftermath of a tragedy. That to me transcends politics. 

SCARBOROUGH: Hey Trey, one final question. Yesterday some people were bringing up around the set concerns that you could have a committee that could have one subpoena after another subpoena going out all the way through 2016, going after Hillary Clinton, going into the election campaign. Do you think there should be a limit on how long the subpoena power should be for the committee, a limit to the scope so people don't say, hey, you Republicans, you're just doing this to go after Hillary? 

GOUDY: Well, part of the answer to that depends upon how compliant the administration is with the subpoena. It would be shame on us if we intentionally drug this out for political expediency. On the other hand, if an administration is slow-walking document production, I can't end a trial simply because the defense won't cooperate. I mean there’s a mutual obligation here. The only thing I can tell you is, you go back and look at my 16-year career as a prosecutor and you're going to find defense attorneys that say, look, I thought my client was innocent but the guy gave me a fair trial and I pride myself on that. You can say whatever else you want. You can say he's not smart, his suit doesn't match, bad hair cut, no one will tell you I’m not fair. And at the end of this I think you will say the same thing. 

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.