Face the Nation transcripts February 17, 2013: McDonough, Barbour, Booker, Wuerl

BOB SCHIEFFER: So is this a new plan that the President is circulating?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: I think the report said-- Bob, I'd have to check-- but it says that it's been circulating inside the administration. And I think the President laid out in-- in Las Vegas just last week that we will be prepared with our own plan if these ongoing talks between Republicans and Democrats up on Capitol Hill break down. There is no evidence that they've broken down yet. We're continuing to support that. We are involved in those-- those efforts by providing them technical assistance and providing them ideas and I hope that Republicans and Democrats up there don't get involved in some kind of typical Washington back-and-forth sideshow here and rather just get-- roll up their sleeves and get to work on writing a comprehensive immigration reform.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You really think something could happen on this?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: I think something needs to happen. I think the system is broken. I think our opportunity to tap into qualified immigrants in this economy over the course of time is a great opportunity for us. And I think we just have to fix the border security situation, making the progress that we have over the last four years permanent.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The White House finally acknowledged last week that the President did not make a call to the Libyan government on that night when four Americans died in-- in-- in Benghazi. Republicans wanted to know why. I want to ask you. You were the deputy national security adviser. It's my understanding. We learned last week that the President got a briefing early on the afternoon and seemed to have no more participation in anything. We know he didn't talk to the secretary of Defense, or didn't talk to the CIA chief after that. What was the President doing that night?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Boy, I just-- I don't remember it that way, Bob. And in fact, the letter that we sent to Capitol Hill earlier this week said that Secretary of State Clinton called the Libyans--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, we know that.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: --on behalf of the President and we carried out a very robust reaction to that situation at the direction of the President. So the President--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, were you briefing him on what was happening?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Throughout the night, absolutely.

BOB SCHIEFFER: You worked.

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Not only briefing him, but we were-- we were convening that United States government, the Deputies Committee, and the National Security Council and we worked this throughout the night. The secretary of Defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, worked this throughout the night. But here's the important thing here I think, Bob, which is we did everything we could that night-- which, by the way, was borne out by the accountability review board which Secretary Clinton stood up to look at this. They said that though, Washington-based effort was a good effort that did everything it possibly could have. But the question from the President now is how-- what have we done to make sure this does not happen again? And he's demanded of us his team be that at the State Department, be that at the White House, or be that at the Pentagon or the intelligence community to make sure this never happens again, and he won't put up with it.

BOB SCHIEFFER: One of the reasons that Congress is holding up your nominations of both John Brennan for the CIA, and Chuck Hagel at the Defense Department, they tell us that there were seventy emails that went back and forth during that week on what Susan Rice should say on this broadcast and on the other Sunday talk shows the following Sunday, and that somewhere along the way the idea that this was the work of terrorists, what happened in Benghazi was taken out. Why don't you, number one, give the senators those emails and let them find out what they say they want to find out about this? And who, in fact, did take the connection to al Qaeda and the terrorists out of those talking points?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: Well, I think there's-- there is an ongoing effort between the administration and the intelligence committees to resolve exactly what they need to get. In addition to everything else we've already done, Bob, twenty hearings or briefings with members of Congress, ten thousand pages of documents that we've provided and so we'll resolve whatever it is on this question--

BOB SCHIEFFER: You'll give him the emails?

DENIS MCDONOUGH: We'll resolve it. I don't know exactly how it will get resolved. But we'll resolve it. In fact, I think we are well on our way to resolving it, but here's what I don't want to do. I don't want to have our director of Central Intelligence Agency, our nominee John Brennan, thirty-year veteran of national security matters in this town, a person of unbelievable character and commitment and-- and patriotic feeling for this country, hung up in the midst of the situation we have right now--threats from North Korea, threats in Afghanistan, threats in Pakistan, threats in North Africa. Let's get the President's director of Central Intelligence over into the seat so he can work these matters. Let's not let this become another--


DENIS MCDONOUGH: --political football at a town that at the moment seems very focused on political football, a little-- a little less focused frankly on national security and middle-class families the way it should be.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I have to ask you quickly. You're talking about the director of the CIA. Do you mean-- is it also is critical for your nominee to head the Pentagon?