Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told Fox News on Sunday he would have ordered military strikes against Iran in response to mine attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last week, but added that President Trump was not wrong to hold off on ordering such action so far. He explained his comments further with Fox News Talk host Guy Benson on "The Guy Benson Show" earlier today.
Plus: Rep. Will Hurd, R-Tex, will no longer be speaking at cyber security conference after critics expressed outrage over his voting record on women's issues. Hurd, a former undercover CIA officer and an advocate for cybersecurity on Capitol Hill, was invited to speak at Black Hat, one of biggest cyber security conferences in the country, being held in Las Vegas in August. But Tech Crunch security editor Zach Whittaker highlighted on Thursday what he described was Hurd's "terrible voting record on women's rights." Congressman Adam Kinzinger reacts.
Guy Benson [00:00:26] It's the happy hour on this Monday on the Guy Benson's show. Thank you for listening. We begin this hour with a less than happy subject which is Iran and their ongoing escalations in the region including recent attacks against some oil tankers trying to pass through the strategically important Strait of Hormuz. Joining me on the line to discuss this is Congressman Adam Kinzinger Republican of Illinois. He sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He's also served in the U.S. air forces in the Air National Guard and the Reserves and sometimes leaves Congress to go and resume his service. And he's a friend of the program and he is on the line. Congressman good to have you back.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:01:07] Hey it's good to be back. Thanks for thanks for coming on.
Guy Benson [00:01:09] You bet. I had you on the TV screen earlier up on Dana Perino show this afternoon and you were talking about this very subject. You made some headlines in the last couple of days saying that you would have ordered military strikes against Iranian military assets in response to these tanker attacks. Explain why you think that would have been your course of action and why you're also not criticizing the president for not going quite that far yet.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:01:37] Yeah. So I think you put that in the right way. I said you know I've asked a question. I said this has reached my threshold of you know what's acceptable and what's not. But I don't think this has to be the threshold of the President. He obviously even has some more information at his fingertips than I do. And but I think we're reaching that even for this president. And you know the bottom line is this we we have a navy that has you know as well as defending American interests the very strong purpose which is to defend freedom of navigation of the seas. That's part of the reason we have such a strong economy because we've taken that upon ourselves and I think it's it's paid off in in you know multiple times in terms of that. But you know when you have a country like Iran that is lashing out now and they're lashing out because they're scared and desperate you know confident nations do not attach mines to oil tankers and those are nations that are desperate and that's where they're at. And so you know what they're doing is trying to take this right up to the line where they think they won't get a response by the United States of America to try to make us look weak. But at the point they know that there will be a response. I don't think they're dumb enough to cross it. And so for me personally I think we've already reached this moment for the president. I'm sure he has what that threshold is and Iran needs to be very clear and understanding that I think this be a continued behavior will have a repercussion and the repercussion isn't because the people that are the Blame America First crowd will always tell you what we do. We're not gonna put two hundred that we don't want put two hundred thousand troops in Iran. Nobody wants that. But there are options that we can do that can destroy their capability to deny freedom of navigation and that's what's going to be on the plate.
Guy Benson [00:03:12] Do you think the desperation that you described and you've ascribed to the regime is borne out of at least partially the Trump administration's stepped up sanctions.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:03:21] Yeah I think it's actually about 90 some percent due to that because you know I was in Lebanon about a month ago and of course we were talking about the Hezbollah issue there and one of the things that was made very clear is that Hezbollah has lost a lot of funding ever since the Iran nuclear deal was taken away. You see a lot less funding going into Syria for Assad and all these other areas because they went from having about two million barrels a day of export to about 200,000 now. So their money is gone. They've had to. People are upset because there's roads and bridges falling apart and they're spending money on foreign entanglements. And you know bottom line they're really desperate. So I do think stepping out of that deal was the right thing. But it puts us in a bit we're in a very tenuous position but I think you have to keep in mind is the bottom line which is that deal would be about half way over anyway. And so it's not like this was some be all end all the scare way into the future.
Guy Benson [00:04:16] Congressman one of the attacks on the Trump administration and one of the lines that we heard from some on the left including the Ben Rhodes of the world and also coincidentally from the Iranian regime itself is no this is not what happened. These are lies. The intelligence is faulty. We don't really know that Iran was responsible for these most recent attacks. Adam Schiff the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the House who was not exactly fond of doing any favors to the Trump administration on any front. He was on CBS Face the Nation over the weekend. He was asked the question about Iran's culpability in cut 16. Here's his answer.
(Schiff Audio clip) [00:04:55] Is there any question in your mind that it is Iran and its Revolutionary Guard that is behind these attacks. There's no question that Iran is behind the attacks. I think the evidence is very strong and compelling. In fact I think this was a class a screw up by Iran to insert a mine on the ship. It didn't detonate they had to go back and retrieve it. I can imagine there are some Iranian heads rolling for that botched operation.
Guy Benson [00:05:20] Congressman Kinzinger no question says Adam Schiff. Which is exactly what The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday has that talking point now died?
Rep. Kinzinger [00:05:31] No I appreciate you know Adam for doing some of national security things. He takes his position seriously as head of Intel and I'm glad he spoke out about that. But there is a group that I mean you know the ayatollah could get on TV and say I ordered this and they still won't believe it because there are some people whose hatred for Donald Trump exceeds their hatred for regimes like Iran for regimes like Bashar al Assad you know for Venezuela. I mean it's really amazing that some people have literally put party politics above you know even real enemies. And so that will continue to an extent if you look at Twitter I already looked at it the trolls from Russia and Iran are alive and well trying to cast doubt. It's what they've been doing. But there should be absolutely no doubt and I don't think there is by anybody that actually really put serious thought into this.
Guy Benson [00:06:19] The thing is the people who are critical of war in Iran right and as you said there's no one eager for an invasion of Iran right. That's that's sort of a completely fallacious point that's being made. It's a it's a straw man but it's set up as if you either must excuse or ignore what Iran does or you want full blown land war. Rep. Kinzinger [00:06:43] Yeah.
Guy Benson [00:06:43] And to me that's a dichotomy that's extremely lazy. But I think for a lot of Americans who are already reticent about you've got Afghanistan you've got Iraq and more entanglements I think the argument for intervention which you're making is a tougher sell. Do you acknowledge that?
Rep. Kinzinger [00:07:00] Yeah it is. And it's only it's only a sell that the president can make he is the only one that can really make that the president I States brings public opinion with him. But it's a couple of things. Number one it's what Obama used to do. He'd always say we either do not feel like there's some people that want no taxes on the rich and then there's some people that want a hundred. We just want a little fair share it seems reasonable. And but it's not. And we have a we have a confidence crisis in this country we used to believe that we could do things like punishing strikes on Iran without a full invasion. And we've lost confidence. And now we think that anything we do is not going to be actually pretty miraculous which it would be because of our technology. But instead it's going to lead to a quagmire. And until there is a strike where we see something like this that lack of confidence will continue and I'm not looking for a reason to do it but that will be the case until we actually see what we're capable of.
Guy Benson [00:07:50] One of your colleagues Matt Gaetz a Republican from Florida I believe tweeted I saw he was quoted saying why would we perhaps go to war or worry about defending foreign flagged vessels over in the Strait of Hormuz if we haven't secured our border let's focus on that first. I wonder what you make of that type of critique.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:08:11] No we're good. It's cheap politics. I like Matt personally but that's just you know cheap going back to border issues. We all want to solve the border crisis but this is a country that can walk and chew gum we can solve the border crisis and we should. We can also defend the free shipment of oil and our allies in the Middle East because we're the United States of America. And this this constant talking ourselves down of totally incapable of doing what we fully know we're capable of has got to stop and in many cases people will tweet things like that because it'll get them a bunch of read tweets. They'll get mentioned on news and it's not like a serious discussion of policy.
Guy Benson [00:08:44] There was a New York Times story on a subject related to this but definitely separate but interesting. A New York Times over the weekend about the U.S. intelligence community and the Defense Department working to probe Russia's power grid and basically flexing their muscles showing if you guys are going to mess with us in the virtual space we are very capable of retaliating in ways that would be pretty crippling to the Russian government if it came to that. I think a lot of people were very happy and welcomed that information that this is something that we're doing. I think that's totally appropriate given how the Russians have been meddling and and messing in our business now for quite some time. There was also a few paragraphs in that story that said that officials had not briefed President Trump on this program based on technicalities they felt like they didn't have to but they were also worried that he might shut it down or by accident blab about it to the Russians or someone else that he shouldn't. What do you make of the report that we are doing these types of activities these types of operations. And what do you think of the at least allegation that they were nervous about telling the commander in chief.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:09:54] So a couple of things. While I can't officially confirm or deny this exists they'll speak in generalities and that generality is I certainly hope we're doing something like that. I think we need to make it clear to the Russians that anything they do against us or our allies can be met two or three fold to an economy that's 10 times or 11 times the size of their so we have way more depth and capability and and that's a good thing for them to understand so that maybe we can all just kind of quit doing this to each other. And then secondarily look first off the president doesn't or doesn't need to know about everything the whole Defense community is doing because it's huge. And he's got a lot of stuff he has to focus on. But if there is a concern that he's going to slip and tell something like that then I think that's something the president should kind of take in the heart and say OK I got to keep those secrets a little closer if that's a legitimate concern. Bottom line though I don't think it's something the president had to be briefed on but if if this is true if something like this is true there was a lot of blood sweat and toil to get us to where we're at right now and it should be defended with everything.
Guy Benson [00:10:53] Congressman Adam Kinzinger one more question this is a different topic. I already invoked one of your Republican colleagues in the house. Another one Will Hurd of Texas making some headlines in the last few days. He was invited to give a keynote address at a major cyber security and intelligence conference. He was in the CIA. This is an area of his competence and expertise. He was disinvited and stripped of that keynote opportunity because apparently there were people within that Organizing Committee who felt like his views on abortion and so-called women's issues was their term were unacceptable or were concerning to some of the people involved in that organization. There's been a huge backlash. I wonder what you make of a guy like Hurd being disinvited to a cyber intelligence conference at least giving the keynote address because of his stance on the pro-life issue.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:11:49] I think it's disgusting. I think you know he's one of the best qualified people in this area. I understand this area a lot. He understands even more than I do on this stuff. And if you just want to have a you know a little sit around the circle and hold hands and sing Kumbaya with people that believe exactly like you believe that's fine but you'll get no real expertise and I'm glad there's a massive backlash. He has a right to defend the unborn to think that life has value in this country which I also believe too. And if that means I have to speak at less places I'm far willing to speak at less places as long as I can stand for the sanctity of life.
Guy Benson [00:12:21] I just don't understand the connection rightly like you can connection. Yeah what do someone's views on let's say tax policy or gun control or gay marriage or abortion what does what bearing does that have on someone's expertise a former CIA officer their expertise on cyber intelligence.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:12:40] When your politics becomes your God everybody's view on it matters. And that's what's happened. The left sees politics as their God because they don't have a real god they believe in and you have to worship something and that's their issue right now.
Guy Benson [00:12:54] Congressman Adam Kinzinger a Republican of Illinois we always appreciate your time some very serious issues on our plate and thank you for helping us puzzle through some of them.
Rep. Kinzinger [00:13:03] You bet anytime. Take care.
Guy Benson [00:13:05] All right. We will step aside and come back here on the happy hour. It's the Guy Benson show.