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STATE OF THE UNION

The Politics of the Benghazi Investigation; Interview With Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole and Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador; Interview With Martin O'Malley; Will Vice President Joe Biden Run?; Interview With DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz; Bowe Bergdahl's Investigation; Hillary Clinton Abandons Trade Deal Aired. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 11, 2015 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:30]

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Benghazi Committee politics.

BRADLEY PODLISKA, FIRED BENGHAZI COMMITTEE STAFFER: This has become a partisan investigation. I do not know the reason for the hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton.

BASH: A former Republican investigator speaks out against the committee in an exclusive TV interview.

Plus: GOP House divided.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: I think I shocked some of you, huh?

BASH: Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy dropped his bid for speaker, leaving House Republicans in disarray and all eyes on Paul Ryan.

Game on, Democrats ready to take the stage in Las Vegas for their first debate and take on Hillary Clinton.

MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I didn't have one opinion eight months ago and switch that opinion on the eve of debates.

BASH: Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley joins us live.

Then, will he? Vice President Joe Biden huddles with family and friends to talk about a presidential run, but has he made his final decision already?

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I don't move, I will be demoted to secretary of state or something like that.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: That's a joke.

BASH: Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins us live, and the best political team on television will be here with insights from the campaign trail.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BASH: Hello. I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

And we have breaking news this morning about the House Select Committee on Benghazi.

Bradley Podliska was hired as an investigator to uncover the facts and determine what went wrong on the night terrorists killed four Americans in Libya.

Bradley, a lifelong Republican and Air Force officer, is speaking to our Jake Tapper exclusively on television about what he alleges are improper motivations by some Republicans on the committee. He says, for the missions to find truth, it actually was not that. It turned into a mission to smear the former secretary of state.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It was a terrorist attack overseas that caught the nation off-guard. September 11, 2012, militants stormed the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, and the nearby CIA annex, killing four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The House of Representatives constituted this committee, and they did so for us to find all of the facts. And I intend to do that.

TAPPER: Republicans, determined to investigate, established a new House select committee to focus on how it all happened and what happened after, the Select Committee on Benghazi.

But this man says that committee's mission has changed and is now focused solely on how to put blame on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which the committee's Republican chairman, Trey Gowdy, has repeatedly denied.

PODLISKA: I'm scared. I'm going up against powerful people in Washington. I was fired for trying to conduct an objective, nonpartisan, thorough investigation.

TAPPER: Major Bradley Podliska was an investigator on the committee for almost nine months before being fired in June. The Air Force Reserve intelligence officer is planning a lawsuit against the committee. He says she was dismissed in part because of the time commitment required by his duty as a major in the Air Force Reserves, but also, he says, for resisting pressure to focus his investigation on Hillary Clinton and her State Department.

PODLISKA: This has become a partisan investigation. I do know the reason for the hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton.

TAPPER: Podliska is a conservative Republican who even once interned for the conservative Media Research Center.

PODLISKA: I would just like to state that I'm going to vote for the Republican nominee in 2016. I do not support Hillary Clinton for president.

TAPPER: He believes that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has much to answer for.

(on camera): Republicans are going to listen to you and think, oh, this is some liberal trying to get Hillary Clinton off the hook. Liberals are going to hear you and say, oh, look, see, he's exonerating Hillary Clinton, this committee is all political, and Hillary has nothing to explain. What's your message to these -- these partisans?

PODLISKA: I'm trying to be objective about this. And, as I stated, Hillary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do. We, however, do not need to shift resources to hyper-focus on Hillary Clinton. We didn't need to de-emphasize and in some cases drop the investigations on different agencies, different organizations, and different individuals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were misled.

TAPPER (voice-over): Clinton, of course, has faced intense questioning from Congress on the State Department in Benghazi.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As I have said many times, I take responsibility.

TAPPER: Republicans have accused her State Department of denying requests for additional security at the U.S. mission before the attacks and for being slow to acknowledge it was a terrorist attack.

[09:05:10]

CLINTON: The fact is, we have four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference, at this point, does it make?

TAPPER: The committee has called a string of Clinton's former State Department aides to testify. Several investigations have detailed the many failures of the Obama administration in protecting Americans in Libya and in their explanations after the fact.

The Democrats are now calling for the House committee to be disbanded after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy touted the committee's role in hurting Clinton's poll numbers.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.

TAPPER (on camera): Did he accidentally tell the truth about the committee, that, in recent months, its focus has been on trying to bring Hillary Clinton's poll numbers down?

PODLISKA: Yes, I think it was a slip of the tongue. Now, as I explained earlier, his reasoning is wrong. I honestly do not believe this investigation was set up to go after Hillary. I think it shifted that way.

TAPPER: Podliska says his problems began in March of this year, when he told his bosses on the committee that he needed to take some time off to serve in the Air Force Reserves.

PODLISKA: And I said, "Gentlemen, I'm obligated to serve the Air Force reserve for 39 days this year. My active-duty supervisor wants me to report for an exercise in March for two weeks. So, I will be going on that exercise, and, also, in May, they need me to report for backfill for -- for some people."

TAPPER: And what was the response of the committee staff director when you told them that you had to go honor this obligation to the Air Force Reserve?

PODLISKA: His response was one word, and that word was, "wow," in lower case, no punctuation, nothing. And, honestly, I was horrified by it. I knew that he was upset.

TAPPER (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the House committee said it -- quote -- "vigorously denies all of his allegations."

Podliska, the committee -- quote -- "was terminated in part because he himself manifested improper partiality and animus in his investigative work." The committee went on to say that Podliska -- quote -- "has continued to imagine a variety of new outlandish, never previously mentioned allegations since his departure, including that his supervisors somehow manifested an anti-military animus toward him."

Podliska dismisses those accusations and says the reasons for his termination were clear. The House Committee on Benghazi didn't want someone with Air Force Reserve obligations and they didn't want someone focusing attention for the tragedy of Benghazi away from the CIA, Pentagon, White House or really anywhere else, except for Hillary Clinton and her State Department.

(on camera): Do you think that the results of the committee, based on what you saw, will be fair, comprehensive, thorough, professional, honest?

PODLISKA: No, it's not possible.

The victim's families are not going to get the truth. And that's the most unfortunate thing about this. And I know this, because the nine months of research I had done is now lost. I have no idea where it is. And I know that I could give those victims' families an explanation, a

pretty thorough explanation, of why they were told that this attack was due to a video.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: I want to bring in two Republican congressmen to talk about these strong allegations and also the turmoil in the House trying to find a new Republican speaker.

But, first, we would like to say that we did invite the chairman of the Benghazi Committee, Trey Gowdy, to come and appear on this program this morning to respond, but he declined.

But with us now are Republican Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Republican Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho.

Gentlemen, thank you both for being here.

REP. RAUL LABRADOR (R), IDAHO: Thank you.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you.

BASH: Congressman Labrador, I will just start with you.

You saw Jake Tapper's piece. Bradley Podliska is a self-described Republican, says he would never vote for Hillary Clinton, but that the investigation is political. What do you make of it?

LABRADOR: Let's be clear what he said. He said the investigation turned political, according to his opinion.

And when he was asked specifically if the investigation was political, he said no. He said, in fact, that the investigation started properly, that they were investigating what happened in Benghazi, and that he felt that it had changed. So, let's not mix this up, because...

BASH: But, regardless, he's saying that the reason why he was upset is because it turned political.

LABRADOR: Yes, but...

BASH: No matter, no matter where it started.

LABRADOR: But he just had a disagreement with the people who are doing the investigation.

Remember what Watergate -- Watergate started with an investigation about whether the Richard Nixon administration actually had anything to do with the break-in at Watergate. It ended up being about some missing tapes.

BASH: So, you think it's OK to have turned...

(CROSSTALK) LABRADOR: No, I don't -- I don't think it...

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: ... Hillary Clinton?

LABRADOR: Well, that's what they found out.

They been asking questions about what Hillary Clinton did. They asked her for her e-mails. She wouldn't deliver the e-mails. And they didn't know why they deliver the e-mails. They didn't know if there was a smoking gun in there or anything. So, they turned their attention to that.

And, in fact, the only reason there's any politics or we even have an investigation is because the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton decided a few months before an election that they were going to lie about what happened at Benghazi.

[09:10:10]

Let's -- let's be clear about that. If they hadn't told different stories about what happened in Benghazi, we wouldn't -- we wouldn't even have an investigation.

BASH: Congressman Cole, let me just read what the Clinton campaign said in response to this.

A spokesman said: "These are explosive allegations. This Republican whistle-blower's account from inside the Benghazi Committee may provide the most definitive proof to date that this taxpayer-funded investigation has been a partisan sham from the start."

You know what? Regardless, it gives them some ammunition.

REP. TOM COLE (R), OKLAHOMA: It does.

But it's worth noting that, until the last couple of weeks, most of the attacks on this committee have come from the right, because it was seen as being too judicious and not being partisan.

Frankly, I -- this is one where you have to look at the committee chairman and look at what he's done and make a judgment. Trey Gowdy is a person of absolute personal integrity. The fact that he's not here, and Raul and I are, is a pretty good indication he's not trying to exploit this for -- to advance himself in any way.

He has interviewed multiple witnesses, I think seven eyewitnesses, 41 witnesses, that nobody else has done. And I think he's conducted himself well. Now, he will be under extra scrutiny going forward. But I think, at the end of the day, the committee's work will stand or fall on its own. But I have a lot of confidence in Trey.

BASH: OK.

So, let's talk about the story that gave me a lot of blisters on my feet running after you both this week...

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: ... because there is a big void in the leadership of the House.

Let me start with you, Congressman Cole, on this.

After Kevin McCarthy dropped out, you and others were pleading with Paul Ryan now, the Ways and Means chair, of course, the former vice presidential candidate, to take the job. He doesn't want the job.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: You have spoken to him. Do you think that you and others will be able to convince him to say yes?

COLE: You know, I hope we can. But, in the end, I trust Paul to make the right decision.

And he's got a lot of things to consider. He's got his family, his career. And he certainly shouldn't do it if he's not willing to embrace it with a lot of zest.

But the -- I think this is coming to him as the logical consensus person. And having served on his committee, having known him and his family for many years, particularly on a wide span -- I just have enormous confidence it's the right man at the right moment. But, again, whether or not he chooses to do that is up to him.

BASH: Congressman, I know you and your fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus, you have endorsed Daniel Webster, congressman from Florida, former speaker of the House there.

LABRADOR: Right.

BASH: You continue to do so.

If Paul Ryan does decide to come in, could you ultimately see yourself, and selves, as a group, backing Paul Ryan?

LABRADOR: You know, Paul Ryan is a friend. He's been very good to me the last five years that I have been in Congress. We have a close relationship. We have worked on a lot of issues. I spoke to him just on Friday about this.

But we have endorsed Daniel Webster. And until is a clear candidate, we're not going to move to a new candidate. Now, if new candidates declare themselves, then we're going to ask them to come talk to the House Freedom Caucus, because it's not about the who. It's about the what.

What are we going to do in the House to change the culture? What are we going to do so we can get 247 Republicans together on the same page? What are we going to do so every member of the conference feels like they -- they're actually valuable and they're doing the things that they need to do? BASH: You know, and, Congressman Cole, Congressman Labrador and his colleagues in the caucus, Freedom Caucus, they have been openly frustrated, even had a lot of animosity toward your friends in the leadership.

John Boehner is a very good friend of yours. So is Kevin McCarthy. Do you think that their points and their sort of concern is valid?

COLE: Yes, I do.

I think there's a lot of concern about the rules. And I think we're always willing to relook at those. And we -- and we should. I actually think this process, as chaotic as it looks from the outside, and as it's difficult as it's been for some individuals, it's probably been a pretty healthy one. Right now...

BASH: You think that the chaos is healthy?

COLE: Yes, I actually do, because I think a lot of things are being aired that probably needed to be aired.

I'm proud of the speaker for the actions he took. You know, he saw the need for new leadership. I'm proud of Kevin McCarthy to say, "I'm not the one." We will -- we will work it out.

In the meantime, look, John Boehner remains speaker while the process goes under way. And if my friend Paul Ryan decides to run, I think, ultimately, he will win. But, if not, it's not like we're going to be without a speaker. I mean, the longer this goes on, the longer John Boehner's tenure lasts...

BASH: But it's more than...

COLE: ... which is something he doesn't want. But, you know, that's just the irony of it.

BASH: But it's more than just about this moment and about this speaker. It's about the larger discussion of -- about the Republican Party.

COLE: Right.

BASH: I have heard others say to me, Congressman Labrador, that they're concerned about what this could mean for the Republican chances in 2016, that it just looks like Republicans are in so much disarray, that it could hurt your chances.

And to get all the things you want, whether repealing Obamacare or defunding Planned Parenthood, you are going to need a Republican in the White House.

LABRADOR: Well, and that's the key. That's what we want as well.

We want to make sure that we're together as a conference, because we should be fighting the Democrats, not the Republicans. We shouldn't be fighting each other. [09:15:02]

You know, Tom and I get along really well. We disagree very many times, but we get along really well. We're friends. I think I'm friends with many of the people on the other side. But we need to get to a point that we figure out how we make the House work, how we allow every member to participate, how we allow the process to work.

And we have to make sure that we understand that it's -- there are at lot of other people who could also bring the conference together. You know, all the focus is on Paul. I don't know if he wants to do the job. But we have other people in the conference that I think could actually bring the conference together, because they have the process. That's why we supported Daniel Webster.

You know, what people don't understand is that we had a candidate in the race who was actually closer to us philosophically, Jason Chaffetz, who is also a friend of mine. But we went with a guy who wants to go for the process. He's actually -- his conservative voting record is much different than mine.

But he ran the House of Representatives and the Senate in Florida in a way that brought people together. I think Paul could do it. I think Rob Bishop -- I don't know if you agree -- somebody like Rob Bishop would be a great...

(CROSSTALK)

COLE: Would be great. He was also speaker of the House in Utah.

There's people like that, that can help us come together as a conference.

BASH: Well, it's nice to see you guys getting along so well now, and, hopefully, your factions will get along.

COLE: Our agreements tend to be tactical, not theological.

(LAUGHTER)

COLE: We actually believe in the same thing.

BASH: But tactics do matter.

Thank you.

COLE: They do matter.

BASH: Congressman Labrador, Congressman Cole, thank you so much for joining me.

LABRADOR: Thanks.

BASH: And coming up:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) O'MALLEY: They're trying to circle the wagons around this year's inevitable front-runner.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Martin O'Malley can't wait to be on stage with Hillary Clinton. What will he say when he's standing right next to her on Tuesday night?

He will join us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:20:28]

BASH: Welcome back.

Democrats are just two days away from the CNN debate.

And they find themselves intrigued by a 74-year-old self-described socialist senator, who is climbing his way up the early state primary polls with progressive talk that is really exciting the base. And it's a surprise to a lot of Hillary Clinton supporters, who thought that the man sitting next to me would be the progressive threat.

He's former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. And he's joining me live.

Thank you so much for coming in.

Let...

O'MALLEY: Thank you.

BASH: I want to start with what we reported this morning, Jake Tapper's interview with Bradley Podliska, the former -- now former investigator on the Benghazi Committee.

O'MALLEY: Right.

BASH: How do you think this plays out? Do you think that this proves what Hillary Clinton has said, that this is simply a partisan exercise?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think it certainly underscores that much of this Benghazi investigation is a partisan exercise.

I think we're missing, though, some of the larger lessons of Benghazi, the most important one being this, that we have not, as a nation, made the investments in human intelligence on the ground in these countries that are so unstable and on the verge of nation-state failure, so that we can understand who the new leaders are that are emerging leaders when a dictator's time on this planet comes to an end.

I believe that's what Ambassador Stevens was trying to do. But he didn't have the tools, and we have not invested as a nation in the intelligence, human intelligence, on-the-ground intelligence, necessary to identify the next generation of leaders.

BASH: And what this, I guess this now whistle-blower is saying is that the committee turned too much to focus on e-mails.

You have said that the e-mail issue is an issue for Hillary Clinton. Does it need to be investigated?

O'MALLEY: Well, I think there -- I think there are a couple of separate -- I they may well be connected, but I think they're two separate issues.

I don't believe -- I don't believe that the manufactured aspects of the Benghazi investigations are what they initially purported to be. The e-mail matter and whether or not the secretary violated rules, regulations, laws on having a private server, that is up to her and her campaign and her lawyers to answer. And that's an FBI investigation that will take a different course.

BASH: Let's talk about the debate coming up on Tuesday.

You are way behind in the early states, in single digits in most polls. You know, before the campaign, as I mentioned, you were the guy who everybody thought, and, more importantly, Hillary Clinton and her campaign thought that they were going to have to worry most about.

And it turned to Bernie Sanders. How are you going to turn it back on Tuesday night?

O'MALLEY: Well, as long as all of us have been engaged in this -- and when I say -- I mean those of us who are candidates and those of you that follow the candidates -- it seems this campaign has been going on for a long time.

But for the vast majority of Americans, who are searching for a new leader who will move us out of these rather divided and self-defeating times of gridlock and inaction, this race is really just beginning for the Democratic Party. By this time eight years ago, we had had nine debates. Now we're going to have our very first debate on Tuesday.

BASH: And how are you going to use that to kind of show America, show Democratic primary voters that you are the alternative to Hillary Clinton?

O'MALLEY: I'm going lay out the vision, and not only the vision for the better future we want for our kids, where wages are going up, where opportunities are expanding, but also 15 years of executive experience, which I alone will have on that stage, of actually accomplishing progressive things.

It's not about the words. It's about the actions, things we did in Maryland to pull together new consensus after new consensus to pass a living wage, to pass comprehensive gun safety legislation, to pass the DREAM Act and marriage equality. It's about the doing, not the saying.

BASH: But let's talk about a couple of the issues that you would have to deal with if you were the chief executive of the country.

A no-fly zone in Syria, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have actually split on that issue. Hillary Clinton is actually with Senator McCain. She supports a no-fly zone. Bernie Sanders is with President Obama and opposes it. Where are you?

O'MALLEY: Secretary Clinton is always quick for the military intervention.

I believe that a no-fly zone right now is -- is not advisable. And this is why. No-fly zones sound attractive, but no-fly zones also have to be enforced. And given the fact that the Russian air force is in the airspace over -- over Syria, this could lead to an escalation of Cold War proportions, because of an accident.

And I don't think that's in the best interests of the United States. There are many fights in this world. Not every fight is our fight. We have to stay engaged there. We have to push back against ISIS. We have to push up the diplomatic pressure to get Russia to focus on ISIS. But I don't believe a no-fly zone is advisable.

[09:25:05]

BASH: You mentioned guns.

Hillary Clinton laid out a gun proposal this week where she said, among other things, that there should be executive action, that the president -- and if she were president, she would act in a way that Congress just hasn't been able to.

Did that go far enough?

O'MALLEY: Well, I was -- when I was governor of Maryland, after the slaughter of the innocent in Newtown, Connecticut, we passed comprehensive gun safety legislation. I put forward a plan for what our nation needs to do.

And one piece of that, which I put forward, I think, two months ago, is that we need to use our procurement, our buying power as a federal government, to insist on the highest and best standards for manufacturers for safety technology, the micro-stamping of the bullets when they're fired, so they can be traced back to the gun, serial numbers that can't be effaced.

That's part of four things we need to do, background checks with fingerprints and licensing, something we did in Maryland, banning assault weapons, something we did in Maryland, and also a ban on -- and also taking the handcuffs off our own law enforcement agencies and making the trafficking in illegal guns a federal crime.

We bury more Americans from gun deaths than virtually -- than any other developed nation on the planet. It's about leadership, though, Dana. It's not about making the speeches. It's about being able to pull together the consensus, stare down the NRA, and get it done. That's something I have done. And that's something we need to do as a nation. BASH: You mentioned leadership.

Hillary Clinton has shifted left on several policy issues over the past couple of weeks and months. The biggest was this past week on a pretty big trade deal that she had once called the gold standard. She seems to be moving...

O'MALLEY: And that she had worked for and was probably an architect of.

BASH: So, she does seem to be moving in your direction, though, politically. What do you make of that?

O'MALLEY: Oh, we're already affecting the debate. We have got them right where we want them, don't we?

BASH: But what do you think this says about her and her chances and her sort of viability?

O'MALLEY: Let me tell you, for my part, that I was against the Trans- Pacific Partnership eight months ago, because I believe it's bad for the country.

Thomas Jefferson once said that, in matters of fashion, one should swim with the current, but, on matters of principle, one should stand like a rock. I believe that we need to stop stumbling backwards into these bad trade deals that offshore American jobs and American profits.

We need to build up our own industries in the United States, yes, engage in trade, but not at the expense of keeping our eye on the ball, which is more jobs here, a stronger middle class here, wages that go up, rather than down.

And what we saw from NAFTA was that, when you do these trade deals, it opens up the floodgates, and multinational corporations chase cheap labor abroad, use these trade deals to evade environmental protections and standards for workers. That doesn't help the United States here at home. I'm opposed to it, have been for a long time. I didn't shift positions right on the eve of the first Democratic debate.

BASH: Speaking of that, very quickly, any pre-debate rituals that you engage in, special tie, special socks?

O'MALLEY: More sleep, I hope.

(LAUGHTER)

O'MALLEY: We have been going at it pretty hard. I have spent a lot of time in Iowa.

We're gaining traction every day, was endorsed by 13 county chairs in Iowa, and continue to go to New Hampshire. The great news about this presidential process is, in the early states, it's still very much an intimate, one-on-one...

BASH: It is.

O'MALLEY: ... exercise, and every individual matters.

BASH: Well, I'm sorry to tell you, but I don't think it's going to be very intimate on Tuesday night, but we're very much looking forward to it.

Appreciate it.

O'MALLEY: So am I.

BASH: Governor, thank you.

O'MALLEY: At last. Hope we have more of them.

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: Yes, I'm sure you do. Governor, I know you do.

Thank you very much.

And speaking of that, will luck be a lady Tuesday night? The other Democratic contenders will gamble their political futures on the Las Vegas debate stage.

Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:32:57]

BASH: The Vegas Strip adds a new show Tuesday night when CNN hosts the first Democratic presidential debate.

And breaking this morning we are releasing the lectern line up. It's based on the latest polling data. And there you see it from left to right former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee. Now (ph) the one name not in that list Vice President Joe Biden and that's because he's keeping us all waiting for him to decide whether or not he is running for president.

Joining me now is chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Thank you so much for joining me, congresswoman. Actually, before we get to Joe Biden...

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR: Thank you, Dana.

BASH: ...I want to start with Benghazi and what we saw this morning Brad Pobliska saying, during an interview with Jake Tapper that he thinks that this investigation has become partisan. But Hillary Clinton still has a lot to explain. Now, the committee insists, I should say, that this PowerPoint presentation that he developed during this investigation was actually highly political. That he is accusing them of what, you know, sort of accusing each other of the same thing. So, I guess it bears the question can he be trusted? What do you think?

SCHULTZ: Well, I mean, I think we don't even have to go to Major Pobliska's whistle blower lawsuit to have seen that the true intentions of the creation of the Benghazi Select Committee were revealed on national television by the Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy a little over a week ago when he absolutely unequivocally said that this was a committee that was created and bragged about how it has brought Hillary Clinton's numbers down.

I mean, so number one they basically have admitted on national television that the purpose of this select committee was political -- was politically motivated, was partisan witch hunt. And now we have a major in the United States air force who works for the committee, who now believes that he was fired because he refused to go along with the increasingly partisan targeted witch hunt against Hillary Clinton that this select committee clearly has been moving towards and engaged in.

[09:35:11]

So now you have an admission by the people who created the committee and the employee of the committee who, by the way says that he is not only a conservative Republican but intends to vote for the Republican nominee for president and doesn't think that Hillary Clinton should be president. That, to me, (INAUDILBE) of pretty significant credibility.

BASH: Now let's turn to Joe Biden. There were reports this week that his aides came to your office, at the Democratic National Committee to get a briefing on the nuts and bolts of getting ballots and things like that. So will Joe Biden run? Does that give you an indication?

SCHULTZ: Well, you know my staff at the DNC is responsible for giving briefings to announce candidates to candidates that are thinking about running. So that's something that we do routinely all the time.

But the vice president, as I've said many times, has been going through with his family a gut wrenching remorse that no family should have to go through. At the same time we know that he has been carefully considering whether he wants to run for president of the United States. And, of course, in the Democratic primary we would all have room and welcome the sitting vice president.

BASH: Very diplomatic.

Let's turn to somebody we know is running, Bernie Sanders. He is a self-identified socialist. If he is your party's nominee would that socialist label hurt the Democratic Party's chances of winning the White House in 2016?

SCHULTZ: Dana, this election is going to be decided on -- based on what the voters believe is the best choice in their candidate for president who is going to help make sure that their lives can get better. And any one of our candidates on that stage on Tuesday night, we're excited and looking forward to CNN putting on the debate with us, any one of those candidates is in dramatic contrast to any of the Republican circus candidates that -- circus performers that are on the other side. I mean, they're talking about equal pay for equal work and making sure that we can create more jobs and making sure that we can create a pathway by -- for legal status and citizenship for immigrants in this country. And the Republicans are saying let's kick more immigrants out of the country, let's take away health care from women and from all Americans.

BASH: So, Congresswoman you --

SCHULTZ: That's the way the American people are going to make this choice.

BASH: Do you believe that Bernie Sanders could beat any Republican?

SCHULTZ: I believe that any one of our candidates will stand in stark contrast when it comes to the priorities of the American people and how they're going to make the decisions on who they vote for for president to any of the Republican candidates.

The Republicans have been trying to out right wing one another. Look, between the 15 Republican candidates that are left, all of whom are trying to outtrump Donald Trump by saying, yes, let's kick women -- let's kick immigrants out of this country. Let's take away health care from women. You know, let's increase taxes on the middle class to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy. Let's end Medicare as we know it.

Yes, I think any of the candidates on our side of the aisle who are talking about job creation, making sure we can expand access to health care, build the cornerstones of the middle class by helping people get a good education and having a secure retirement. Any one of our candidates will be chosen and eventually elected as the 45th president of the United States of America because of that contrast.

BASH: Before I let you go Martin O'Malley was just here saying as he says all the time. He wants more debate. There are currently six on the books. Any movement there?

SCHULTZ: We're excited about the first debate coming up on Tuesday. We have six debates throughout our cycle along with a number of candidate forums. Looking forward to working with CNN on Tuesday.

There are so many people who are focused on making sure that we can look at the fact that when we had a conservative Republican president losing 750,000 jobs a month. We come through that 67 straight months of job growth in the private sector. People are no longer losing their homes like they were in Nevada and across the country and that's the contrast that we'll talk about on Tuesday night. Looking forward to that.

BASH: Congresswoman, we're looking forward to it as well. Thank you for joining me. I appreciate it.

And coming up --

SCHULTZ: Thank you so much, Dana.

BASH: Thank you so much.

Coming up, he was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. The latest on Bowe Bergdahl and why he may not face jail time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:44:04]

BASH: We want to let you know about important news happening from around the world.

Iran has successfully test fired a new long range surface to surface missile. Iran's defense minister said it features major improvements in accuracy.

And Bowe Bergdahl's investigating officer is recommending no jail time for the army sergeant facing desertion charges for his disappearance in Afghanistan back in 2009. Bergdahl was captured and held by the Taliban for five years. Although questions remain about the circumstance of his disappearance. The investigating officer says, recommendations are not the final say.

And it's a moment we've all been waiting for Democratic presidential candidates' debate for the first time on Tuesday night right here on CNN. The best political team on television weighs in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:49:12]

BASH: Las Vegas will sparkle Tuesday night as Democratic presidential contenders try to outshine each other at the CNN debate.

And the best political team on television is here to talk about that and a lot more. Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, former house Republican leadership aide, Doug Heye, Democratic strategies Penny Lee, and former Virginia attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.

Let's get right to the breaking news that we had on CNN this morning and I'll start with you Ken Cuccinelli. You were Virginia's top cop. So, based on what you're hearing about not just the way the investigation is going but this whistle blower saying...

KEN CUCCINELLI (R), FORMER VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Right.

BASH: ...that it turned way too political. What do you make of it?

CUCCINELLI: Well first of all it's in Washington so there's the presumption that everything is political inside the Beltway (ph).

[09:50:00]

The problem with that line of argument that of course, has been boosted by the Democrats, it's in their interest to do that, is that Americans have real questions about why four Americans died, why warnings beforehand weren't acted on more forcefully or at all. And what really were the options there in those 13 critical hours and then why was there lying afterwards. They are a lot of -- they are just substantive questions that haven't been answered.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me just -- let me stop you because we've had eight investigative hearings. OK? The State Department has spent $14 million responding to congressional requests. We know the Defense Department has spent insurmountable amount of men and women hours investigating this. If Mr. Gowdy and the select committee was interested in getting to the truth they would have brought witnesses throughout the year to talk to intelligence, to talk to defense, to talk to state department. This has been a partisan --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: This has been a partisan witch hunt. Whenever they talk to Democrats --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: No, look. This is not a Democratic line (ph) -- I'm a former congressional staff what are they investigating now? Why haven't they --

CUCCINELLI: Well, let's zero in.

BRAZILE: Where are the public hearings? Where are the public hearings? $4.6 million of the taxpayers' money. No public hearing.

CUCCINELLI: You would say, gosh, this is all a show --

BRAZILE: I wish they had public -- public hearing.

CUCCINELLI: I was on the Hill. I was actually on the Hill.

BASH: Go ahead. Go ahead.

CUCCINELLI: Look you're talking about the Department of Defense. We still today don't know what assets were within reach of helping the people

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Why hasn't Mr. Gowdy called either Mr. Panetta or Mr. Gates to respond to that? Because he's not interested in getting to the truth of what happened to four Americans. He wants to take down Hillary Clinton and that has been proven.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: All of us (ph) loses-- all of us (ph) loses sight of one important fact that doesn't go away, that's very inconvenient for democrats and that's Barack Obama Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating Hillary Clinton on whether or not a crime was committed.

So, we can talk about partisanship. We can talk about witch hunt. (CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Here we go again. Here we go, Doug.

(CROSSTALK)

HEYE: ...is Barack Obama's Federal Bureau of Investigation --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: Look, I don't mind defending Hillary Clinton. I don't -- I haven't supported a candidate. But let me just tell you they are looking to see if any of these e-mails that will be released to the public are classified. They are making sure that the server was protected.

That's what the FBI is doing. They're not investigating Hillary Clinton.

BASH: OK. We're not -- we're not going to get to the bottom of it today so let's just move on.

Penny, (INAUDILBLE) from this. I want to talk about Hillary Clinton but not in light of this but what she said this week on the (INAUDIBLE) trade bill. She definitely changed her position. She is now against it before she was for it when she was in the State Department.

I want you to listen to a couple of sound bites just to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The so called TPP will lower barriers, raise standards and drive long term growth across the region.

Now looking back on it, it doesn't have the results we thought it would have. As of today I am not in favor of what I have learned about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: You concerned this makes her looks politically craven (ph)?

PENNY LEE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, you know, those statements, many of them especially what was in her books was done in 2012. We're now in 2015.

(CROSSTALK)

And the trade agreement has changed. There were deadlines -- I mean, there were final negotiations that still had to go through. So, Mrs. Clinton has always stated that she is going to evaluate trade agreements on the surface and to meet a certain standard.

She voted against CAFTA but she was supportive of NAFTA. She was against fast track authority on other certain trade agreements. So she had actually shown a consistency and that's she's going to evaluate these trade agreements on a one-on-one basis. So now that she's an independent candidate, she is not in the Obama administration, she has evaluated in its full -- in its full entirety negotiated stance that it is.

BASH: You're dying (ph) to get in.

CUCCINELLI: And the context on leaping to the left on (ph) Keystone. I mean, this is just the same thing. She's trying to get left of the self-identified socialist. And you had Debbie Wasserman Schultz on here earlier and you asked her very directly, does this hurt the Democrat Party? And she didn't say no. And I was watching thinking -- she immediately went into excuse mode and that means no and -- or -- I'm sorry. Yes. And you've got Hillary jumping over in that direction --

(CROSSTALK)

LEE: You know the question is -- you know, it's really interesting though is the question is no one is asking is Bernie Sanders jumping to the left now that he is actually more supportive of the gun control --

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: .. and so still (ph) is not left --

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: I love the energy we have for a Sunday morning but hold that thought. We have to take a break. We're going to come right back and talk a bit more about all of this and also Tuesday night's debate. Will it be game changer? The panel makes their bets.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:59:23]

BASH: Welcome back. We have got our final question for the panel. Penny, what are you looking for in the debate?

LEE: I'm looking for actually a lot more substance than what we've seen so far from the Republicans given the fact that we do not have a front-runner that is calling her opponent idiots and idiotics --

BASH: It is quite different.

BRAZILE: A class of ideas. Not a class of personalities. I'm so excited. I can't wait to get to Vegas today.

BASH: Who is going to be the next speaker?

HEYE: Anybody who tells you they know that is running a fool's errand. I think Paul Ryan would be a very strong speaker. But we need a strategy not just to fight but to fight and win and come together.

CUCCINELLI: Yes, the next speaker is going to be someone who stops punishing conservatives for trying to pursue what they all ran on doing and that is fighting the president to shrink government. And the next speaker is going to have to make this process a lot more fair and a lot more inclusive of the people who are representing --

[10:00:06]

(CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ...Pelosi.

BASH: Thanks to all of you. I appreciate it.

And thank you for watching. Join us on Tuesday night live from Las Vegas where I'll be joining Anderson Cooper on the stage for the first Democratic Presidential Debate hosted by CNN.

I'm Dana Bash in Washington.

"FAREED ZAKARIA, GPS" starts right now.