Editor's Note: Scroll down to see the full interview.
Former House Intelligence Chairman Pete Hoekstra is genuinely worried about the fundamental changes President Barack Obama has made to American foreign policy, according to this 28-minute exclusive video interview for The Daily Caller News Foundation.
A Michigan congressman for 18 years, the native-born Dutchman is a man of integrity and candor who has seen American statecraft up close. His years in politics gives Hoekstra the perspective that "the ruling elite in Washington is becoming disconnected from citizens."
Hoekstra said when former President George W. Bush and Obama claim "Islam is a religion of peace," many citizens are taken aback. Americans think,"'Whoa. They're beheading Christians. They're suicide bombers. They're taking gays and lesbians and throwing them off the tops of buildings and they're selling women into sex slavery. That doesn't kind of look like a religion of peace to me,'" Hoekstra said in the interview.
Tying this cognitive dissonance to the rise of presidential candidate Donald Trump who sounds authentic, passionate and patriotic, Hoekstra said, "people are just frustrated and angry and this may be the election where they go out and say, I want something totally different."
The former congressman watches the bellwether of embedded Islamafication in Europe and is worried what this could mean for safety in America. Hoekstra warned that accusations of Islamophobia are weapons used to intimidate Americans so that we close our eyes and ears to the "stealth jihad" strategy moving through the West. Islamists "use our laws, our customs to change who we are and to change us into something we don't want to become."
Hoekstra confirmed political correctness, such as that exposed by Department of Homeland Security whistleblower Phil Haney in a December video interview, is endangering Americans. All federal agencies, and now even the New York Police Department, are fundamentally shifting their policies with dangerous consequences, he said.
He discussed the refugees who attacked German women on New Year's Eve in Cologne and elsewhere, and said America can't vet any refugee or asylee from failed states. America especially can't vet asylum seekers since the Islamic State is seeding the refugees with Islamic jihadists.
Hoekstra gives a C grade to Republican oversight in Congress, knowing from experience what successful oversight can accomplish.
The new movie "Thirteen Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is reigniting conversations about the mishandled 2012 Benghazi attack that killed four Americans, including an ambassador.
Hoekstra said, "Libya is a huge disaster." He added it was a planned strategy by the Obama administration to work with the Muslim Brotherhood, rather than former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi — who maintained stability in northern Africa and who helped control radical jihadists. After Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted in taking out Gadhafi, Hoekstra said Libya became a failed state. It exports ideology, fighters, and weapons. He continued that it spawned what became ISIS, and serves now to help frame up attacks on Europe.
Adding insult to injury, our attackers in Benghazi in 2012, he said, were most likely those who were "trained and equipped by NATO."
As to why Obama and Clinton did not send help to those under attack on the anniversary of 9/11, Hoekstra said the administration appears to have made a tragic judgment call in that "sending help was going to be more risky than allowing those people to survive on their own."
"Almost everyone of this administration's readjustments in foreign policy, whether it's North Korea, Iran or engaging with radical jihadists like the Muslim Brotherhood, has been a total and utter failure. They've seen it as weakness; they've used it to leverage and move their programs forward," he said.
Fired from a Washington, D.C. law firm last year for writing and speaking publicly of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a way that displeased some of the partisan lawyers, Hoekstra is determined to pursue litigation in defense of his right to freedom of speech in the District of Columbia.
Today, Pete Hoekstra is a fellow with the Investigative Project on Terrorism and author of a book on Libya titled "Architects of Disaster." Follow him on Twitter @petehoekstra. Follow the Investigative Project on Terrorism on Facebook.
Watch the interview for much more.
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Host: Ginni Thomas
Guest: Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, chairman, House Intelligence Committee, Investigative Project on Terrorism
Thomas: Now that you've been out of the Congress and downtown and around, what are your lessons learned from the way Washington works and the cultures that you're running into?
Hoekstra: The ruling elite here in Washington is becoming disconnected from the American people and what they say and those kinds of things. You know and how do you see it? I mean the, you hear President Bush, former President Bush, and President Obama now for, what 15 years, telling us Islam is a religion of peace. The average person on the street says, 'Whoa, they're, see they're beheading Christians, there's, you know, there's suicide bombers, they're taking gays and lesbians and throwing them off the top of buildings, and they're selling women into sex slavery. That doesn't kind of look like a religion of peace to me.' Now that's not all Muslim, but that's what a lot of people are saying. So they and they ask the question and say, 'Well why would our president be telling us this? It's clearly not the truth.' But people are seeing, and I think this is on the Republican and on the Democratic side, is that they see a political class that talks about things, that's not delivering any kinds of results, or what they're talking about doesn't connect with reality anymore, and so people are just frustrated. And so those you know people will say, 'Well you know why do people like Donald Trump?' And it's kind of like 'Why not? He kind of says what I think.' He maybe doesn't say it the right way, but you know and maybe he's a little crude and arrogant, but it, you know he's got a point there. I'd say it differently, or you know and any one of the, and it's kind of like, 'Well you know he's got his faults in what he says, but why would I believe any one of the establishment politicians? Because they really haven't delivered in the last number of years either.' I think that's, people are just frustrated and angry and this may be the election where they finally go out and say, 'I want something totally, totally different; I'm ready to try something else.
Thomas: You have been in the Congress at the head of the Intelligence Committee on the House side. From everything you've watched, what keeps you up at night about what's at risk in America?
Hoekstra: You know, President Obama said that, you know, in 2007 he said on public radio that, 'The day that I'm sworn into president, the day that I'm sworn in as president, the world will see us in a different way.' And but he was primarily focused at the Muslim world, and he said you know, 'Because I was, I spent time in a Muslim country my,' I think his sister lived in a Muslim country, or whatever. And he's absolutely right. They will see us in a different way, because we have fundamentally changed our foreign policy. We've embraced people that we thought, you know we thought that we could trust if we, and they would change their behavior; they haven't. You know we've created you know red lines that we've not enforced. We've given opportunities to Putin that, you know, he would never have imagined that we would have given him this kind of opportunity to rebuild their, his influence in Eastern Europe, to rebuild his influence and Russia's influence in the Middle East, in places like Egypt and Syria, places that they were kicked out of 40 years ago they're now reengaging. And you know our allies are looking, because we're no longer a reliable friend. Sure, you take a look at what's happening in the Middle East, but what I really take a look at is I take a look at what's happening in Europe – the attack on women at the Cologne I think the railroad station or the main station on New Year's Eve, women being accosted, women being raped. The mayor saying, 'Well maybe women what you ought to do is you ought to just kind of stay at arm's length from these folks, and it's kind of like, 'What do you mean? It's my country, it's my square; if I want to walk through there.' And you know but the, what I see is the Islamification of Europe, and I see that as kind of a bellwether that we ought to be taking a look at, because the strategy that the, we call it the stealth jihad, you know things that government won't talk about, that you know these organizations they cloak themselves that when we get concerned about that – 'well you're an Islamophobe, you know you're just worried about you know, there's nothing to worry about,' and these kinds of things. But what they're doing is they want us to close our eyes, cover our ears to what's happening in America today, because that strategy has been successful in Europe. And I'm a native-born Dutchman, but I can tell you that the feedback that I get from Europe is that there are a lot of French, there's a lot of Germans, there's a lot of Dutch, there's a lot of Swedes who believe that they are losing their country, they're losing their culture. That's what I worry about for the long term for my kids. You know then of course you worry about you know the violent jihad. But if there's something that Americans need to be very careful about, it is this you know covering their eyes and their ears to this jihad that's coming in and using our laws, our customs to change who we are and to change us into something we don't want to become.
Thomas: Those Muslim men who were operating in mobs over there, some are calling them 'rapeugees' instead of refugees. And I wonder if you see the concern here in America about refugees and open borders and the disregard by this administration, and even some Republicans, about the threats with these refugees. What do you say and how does this play into the politics and the national security?
Hoekstra: Sure, we're an open society, alright? We are a country that has welcomed immigrants for generations. Like I said, I am an immigrant. But the interesting thing is we, when my parents wanted to immigrate we had to go through a process. The threats were different, but with the stream of, number one – the refugee or the immigration system in our country has been broken for probably a couple of decades. It's an imperfect system in terms of screening and you know assimilating. And we've been able to move forward with a broken system and not have it collapse. But now with this refugee crisis and believing that we can take tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, with no vetting, you know they say, 'Well we're going to vet them,' it's, you can't vet them, they're coming from failed states. They're coming from Libya, they're coming from Syria, they're coming from Iraq; these are no longer functioning countries. There's nowhere to go and go into a database with any kind of reliable certainty that you know who these people are and that what they are claiming is actually real and valid. So it's garbage data in, garbage analysis coming out. It just doesn't work. And ISIS has been very open saying, 'We're going to seed these refugees with ISIS fighters and sympathizers and these kinds of things.' And we know that it's happened. And so we know that they're going to try to use a refugee program coming here. The other thing that they're going to do is they're going to, we're seeing this on the southern border today, that we're seeing people from you know the different countries of interest, where we think ISIS has a foothold, whether it's – Somalia, Bangladesh, Syria, Pakistan – we see people coming from these countries coming to our southern border and then claiming asylum. And as I talk to different people, they'll tell you, you know the one thing with refugees, they go through a process, but the asylum process is even more broken than what we see. And we've gotten reports that you know ISIS has a network of funneling people into South America, Central America, to get fighters in through our southern border, and the tactic that they're using is going there and claiming asylum.
Thomas: We have recently interviewed Phil Haney, a DHS whistleblower, about the political correctness that he found, that impaired his ability to keep us safe. And it was a fascinating story. You, what do you think about political correctness and what it's doing, with NYPD, or other places?
Hoekstra: It's absolutely real. A matter of fact, the work that we're doing at Investigative Project on Terrorism, we're going to have a series of articles, and perhaps a book, that outlines how this administration has embraced organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, CAIR, how they have stopped investigations not only at DHS, but also at the Justice Department, of organizations that many of us view as a threat to the national security here in the U.S. So I think there's a consistent pattern. This administration has basically opened the doors to organizations, groups and individuals that every single administration before has put a wall up. Remember, a place, an organization like CAIR, they're an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation. And the Holy Land Foundation was a case where this quote, unquote, 'charitable' group was raising money, but they were actually raising for Hamas, for a terrorist organization. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator. And so this administration is opening the doors to those kinds of folks, stopping investigating those organizations, which is a fundamental shift in American policy.
Thomas: Grade the Republican Congress on being good at oversight, which you were very good at when you were up there. And how can we get the Republican Congress to be relevant again and to be a constitutional force against the steamroller in town?
Hoekstra: Overall I'd give them a C. You know when we were there, I mean Newt put a focus on it and said we have to hold the administration accountable and the way we will do that is through oversight. And we did a lot of oversight, whether it was on you know I personally worked on the Teamsters. We were successful in getting a corrupt leader in the Teamsters booted out of office. We did the Department of Education. You know Dick Armey was a big person leading, you know let's take a look you know, and what we found is that we've got a huge Department of Education that has no impact on the lives of our kids and our local schools.
Thomas: But it takes a committed member, it takes capable staff, and there's an art to it. And you don't see that. Even the Benghazi committee didn't really perform, did it?
Hoekstra: The final analysis you know is still out, but the, you know Libya is a huge disaster. That's what I wrote my book on, you know Architects of Disaster: The Destruction of Libya. This was a planned strategy, alright? Gadhafi didn't get overthrown by mistake. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said it is time for Gadhafi to go. So we took an island, you know figuratively, an island of stability in Northern Africa, you know the southern shore of the Mediterranean, which is a jumping off point into Europe. It was stable, we were fighting radical jihadists, we were killing radical jihadists, we stabilized Northern Africa, we stabilized other parts of the Middle East, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama said this is not good enough, we've got to get rid of Gadhafi. So you know can we kill and can we get rid of a tyrant of a country of five or six million people? That's not that hard. Alright? So yeah, we killed him. And what is it today? It exports ideology, it exports fighters, and it exports weapons to Northern Africa. It funded and trained the folks that became ISIS. It is a jumping off point for jihadis into Europe. And the people who attacked us that night in Benghazi, killed an ambassador and three other Americans, most likely were trained, armed and equipped by NATO, our own people, our own quote, unquote, 'allies,' who Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton allied with, killed Americans, because their objective was very clear – we're going to first get rid of Gadhafi, and when we get rid of Gadhafi, we're going to get rid of NATO. And when we get rid of NATO, it will become an ungoverned area, and we can do all kinds of mischief throughout Africa, Europe and the Middle East with Libya as our home base, and that's exactly what happened. What this administration so frequently has said, and they've picked this up from organizations like CAIR – you know really it's our fault, you know the attack in Benghazi was because there were, it was, they were mad about an American video. And Hillary Clinton you know has said that we're going to find that person and we're going to take him and we're going to charge him, we're going to put him in jail.
Thomas: And she said that to family members.
Hoekstra: Supposedly she said that to family members. And it's kind of like – no, no, no, in America if you want to make a video about you know jihad or Islam or whatever, you're free to do that. And Hillary Clinton, you ought to be standing up for our right and our freedom to do that, and not saying you're going to prosecute them because something bad happened in Benghazi because you decided you weren't going to send any security people. Sending help was going to be more risky than allowing these people to try to survive on their own, which is one of the few times in American history that that has happened, where you know usually we will lift every finger, do everything we can to help an American in trouble. A great success that we had in the George W. Bush administration – Libya. Libya had been an outcast in the world community for years, for decades. Republicans, Democrat administrations kept the screws to Gadhafi. There was a consistency in foreign policy. And finally in 2003, after Saddam Hussain is gone, Gadhafi throws up his arms and says – 'Okay, I want to come in from the cold.' George Bush benefited from that because it happened in his administration, but it was a result of 20 years of consistent Democrat-Republican foreign policy that enabled Gadhafi to finally say – 'I know who America is, I know what they stand for; I'm never going to come in from the cold until I change my behavior.' So he paid reparations to the families of Pan Am 103, he gave up his nuclear program, and he became an ally in fighting the war on terror with us. And then we get a you know a president that comes in and says, 'I'm going to do it all different; I'm going to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, because if we engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, they will change their tactics, they will embrace democracy and freedom and human rights, and you know I understand them better than any of my predecessors.' And so he did, he led the overthrow of Gadhafi, we now have a failed state.
Thomas: What happened to you when you did an op-ed about Benghazi that had something to say about Hillary Clinton?
Hoekstra: In 2015 in May, I was talking about, I was talking about Libya. I was in the process of writing a book about Libya, based on my experience with Gadhafi, and those types of things. And I was working part-time at a lobby firm. And the, and so I, you know I had criticized the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and her role in the overthrow of Gadhafi and the disaster that that had led to. And a couple of days later I was just talking to someone that I worked for at the law firm, and they said, 'You know, Pete, you've got to watch what you're saying.' And it's like, 'What's that?' And he says, 'Well you know we have, we've got people here at the firm, especially a major bundler for Hillary Clinton, who just doesn't like what you're saying.' And it's kind of like, 'Okay, you know I understand, and you know is this a warning, am I breaking corporate policy or whatever?' It's kind of like, 'No, you're, you know but just beware that this is a Democratic law firm and there are people watching what you're saying.' It's kind of like, 'Okay.' And a few months later I wrote an op-ed with a friend of mine, Victoria Toensing, who is the, who is a, the former legal head of the Senate Intel Committee, and my background in the Intelligence Committee, and we said, 'We think Hillary Clinton's in big trouble with her emails on a private server, classified, and those kinds of things, we just think that this is going to be a major area, a problem area for her.' And the next day we were invited to be on a, one of the networks to talk about that, and I was contacted and said you know, 'You know you need to cancel your interview.' And it's kind of like, 'Well I'm not, actually this has nothing to do with my work as a you know a lobby firm or anything like that, it has nothing to do with my clients, and I've got other people that I work for that you know that appreciate my speaking on national intelligence issues. So since it has nothing to do with the law firm, you know I'm not canceling the interview.' And a couple of short minutes later from the head of the law firm had said, 'Fine, tomorrow will be your last day at the law firm.' So actually in the District of Columbia, where actually political speech is a protected class, in Washington you are entitled to speak your political point of view without employment repercussions. But in this case, speaking, articulating my political speech resulted in me being terminated from a law firm.
Thomas: So discuss the failure of foreign policy and national sovereignty by the Obama administration. And if you were advising the next president for the Republicans, how would you frame the issues for the public to consume in this election cycle?
Hoekstra: Almost every one of this administration's readjustments in foreign policy, whether it's North Korea, Iran, or engaging with radical jihadists like the Muslim Brotherhood, has been a total and utter failure. They've seen it as weakness, they've used it to leverage and move their programs forward. And I've met with Mubarak, I've met with Gadhafi, I met with Assad. I met with all of them, and we recognized the limitations of each and every one of them. But Mubarak, this was, again, an individual, imperfect, but when we and when we met with him and his senior advisers before going to war in Iraq, they said, 'This is not a good idea, guys.' They warned us, you know, 'be careful.' But once we did, they did everything we asked them to do – overflight capabilities, the use of the Suez Canal. They, even though they had told us, 'Be careful, it's a bad idea and this may not have good outcomes,' when we finally decided to do it, they stood by us and they did everything that we asked them to do. Mubarak had guaranteed you know a stable southern border for Israel, the Gaza, or the peninsula there, in Sinai Peninsula. So you know he was a force for stability. And Obama sent a message to the Muslim Brotherhood it's time for Mubarak to go, the people, the Muslim Brotherhood, they took that as an opportunity, Mubarak is gone, the Muslim Brotherhood comes into power, it's a disaster, they continue their radical ties, Sinai Peninsula is now you know is a home for jihadis. And we now, you know thank goodness we now have a new government back in Egypt. But you know we even have Republicans calling for sanctions on this government because they're not 'democratic' enough. Right now our priority ought to be defeating ISIS, defeating radical jihadists, maintaining stability, being a strong ally to Israel, it's about our security, and encourage these countries to move their human rights and democracy reforms forward, but don't impose them on these countries. So we need a long term, consistent, bipartisan foreign policy. We need to recognize that sometimes we're choosing between the lesser of two evils. Not everyone that we work with and not every part of the world is going to embrace or is ready for American style democracy, and that we can't have a rapid shift in American foreign policy. This president shifted policy in Egypt, the most powerful and strongest country in the Middle East. They now you know they now wonder who they're doing business with, because we experimented with the Muslim Brotherhood. The message to any bad guy out there today as to you know, 'Maybe I should flip sides and I'll join the Americans, just like Gadhafi did,' and they'll say, 'Oh no, that was a bad decision by Gadhafi.' Gadhafi would have been much better off just saying, 'Stick it to you guys; I'm not going to help you,' because he'd probably still be alive today. So you know the just be very, very careful. You also have to understand the limits of American influence and power, that you know we believed in Iraq, we believed in Egypt, we believed in Libya, we believed in Syria, that if we overthrow the government, we could put in place American style democracy and freedoms relatively quickly; it just doesn't happen. The interesting story, when my parents emigrated from The Netherlands in 1957, it was 12 years after World War II, and the reason that they emigrated 12 years after World War II was not that The Netherlands was booming and you know the economy was great; they were still paying the price for World War II. My parents didn't see a future for their kids in The Netherlands. And if we couldn't change Europe, people who share the same values that we do, and rebuild them in 12 years, how do you think you're going to go into a culture and a society that you know has all the same war damage, collateral damage, that you saw in World War II, but they don't have our values, they don't understand democracy and human rights and all of those types of things, how do you think that you're going to rebuild them in two or three years? Be careful of the limits and understand the limits of American power.
Thomas: You have called the NSA spying scandal that broke out about the Iran deal as one of the biggest Obama scandals. And you even called on Speaker Ryan to pull the plug on the State of the Union. Why? What's the significance of that?
Hoekstra: If the allegations in The Wall Street Journal article are true, it would mean that the Obama administration has taken our intelligence community, which has phenomenal capabilities of you know a range of things – electronic surveillance, human surveillance or whatever, and turned it against American citizens and actually turned it against Congress, for them to gather information to use it to formulate a political strategy. Now since that op-ed came out, and that would lead to a constitutional crisis, alright, a president using foreign intelligence capabilities to spy on Congress and other Americans, to formulate a policy debate on Capitol Hill.
Thomas: What's the battle in the Republican Party on foreign policy and national security? What are the camps and what do you expect are the important stakes?
Hoekstra: The camps are you know exactly how far do we go in terms of pushing American values and ideals and how do we do that. It's all about intervention. I voted to go into Iraq in 2003. Looking back in hindsight, I think that was a mistake. I think we have to be, we have to have a much gentler glove in terms of moving reform and those types of things. Colin Powell's statement is very, very prophetic – 'You break it, you own it.' So you know we ended up owning a large part of Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria, and that you know the, you know so you've got the one camp, and you know you've still got people calling on going in and saying we want to remove Assad in Syria. And you've got to sit there and say – Wow, Saddam Hussain, Mubarak, Gadhafi, none of those three have worked out very well, and we still have Republicans going out there and saying, 'But you know Assad will be different; we're working with a moderate jihadist.' And it's kind of like you know there is no such thing as a moderate jihadist; they are jihadists. And if Assad goes, as evil as he is, we have no guarantee that what will follow him will be better than what he is. A matter of fact, experience in history would tell us that it will be much worse and it will be much more dangerous for Europe, for us, and for Israel if Assad goes. A predictable evil man is better than an unpredictable evil environment. And so the, so that's the camps. So like you said –
Thomas: They're isolationist?
Hoekstra: I don't know. I don't think the, I don't think, I don't see any Republican that's isolationist.
Thomas: Well the country, there's a big chunk of the country that are Republicans that probably are.
Hoekstra: I think that they might call themselves isolationists or they might, some may characterize them, but I think that they would recognize that at a point in time you know that, because an isolationist I would say that providing military aid to Mubarak an isolationist would say no. I think a large portion of the Republican Party would say providing you know military assistance, intelligence cooperation with people like Mubarak and Gadhafi is probably okay. They just don't want us to put our boots on the ground again and get involved in regime change and nation building.