Freshman GOP lawmaker reasserts claims of Iraqi ties to 9/11 attacks

During an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Tuesday, the newly sworn-in House member reasserted the Bush-era claims of Iraq's possible role in the Sept. 11 attacks. 

"The evidence is inconclusive there," Cotton replied when asked if he believed Iraq was allied with the al Qaeda cells that carried out the 9/11 attacks. 

"I know that Saddam Hussein was widely believed by all western intelligence agencies, not just the United States, but western European countries not in a rush to war, to have weapons of mass destruction," he added. 

In 2004, the congressionally appointed 9/11 Commission unequivocally dismissed any ties between Iraq and al Qaeda. In recent years, former President George W. Bush has also come out and publicly admitted his administration mistakenly linked the 9/11 conspirators to Iraq. 

Cotton's claims on the Iraq-9/11 connection come on the heels of the lawmaker's vocal opposition to the White House's selection of former Sen. Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Defense: Latest on historic Korea summit | Trump says 'many people' interested in VA job | Pompeo thinks Trump likely to leave Iran deal Should Mike Pompeo be confirmed? Intel chief: Federal debt poses 'dire threat' to national security MORE (R-Neb.) to be the new Defense secretary.

Hagel, who was an ardent opponent of the Iraq war and George W. Bush White House during his time in the Senate, puts him "closer to Code Pink than it does President Obama," Cotton said on Tuesday during an interview on Fox News.

"The [Defense secretary] is one of the most important positions in the executive branch after the president and the vice president," Cotton said. "If you look at Chuck Hagel's record in the Senate, you'll see he's outside the bipartisan mainstream consensus." 

Cotton, a former platoon leader with the Army's 101st Airborne Division in Iraq in 2006, has taken particular offense to Hagel's stance on the war.