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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Attacks against a U.S.-British Base; A Planned Attack?; A Deadly Day of Rage; Interview with Senator Robert Menendez; American Foreign Policy; American Victims
Aired September 14, 2012 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT next another deadly day of rage, anti-American protests erupting in more countries and breaking news. Two American servicemen killed in an attack on an American base.
And Mitt Romney's top foreign policy adviser says these attacks wouldn't happen under a Romney administration. We'll ask fellow Republican Jon Huntsman if that adds up.
And reporting you saw here first on OUTFRONT, the controversial filmmaker at the center of this story. Investigators say they're looking into whether he violated probation today.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news, a sustained attack tonight at an American base in Afghanistan where two Marines were killed. Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon -- Chris.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Erin, we're getting some new information now that sheds more light on this attack. Officials are now telling me that this was a very complex attack involving mortars, rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire and that these militants did breach the outer perimeter of the base. Now, this base is down in Helmand Province. It is the largest Marine base in all of Afghanistan.
We're confirming now that two U.S. Marines have been killed, several more service members have been injured in this attack. Also, we can tell you that there -- Prince Harry, the Royals Prince Harry, when he redeployed to Afghanistan last week, he is now based at this base. Again, the British control one side. The Americans control the other. We're told that Prince Harry was not in any danger. He is over there to fly British attack helicopters, the Apaches -- Erin.
BURNETT: And let me ask you this, Chris. There were also effigies of President Obama burned in Afghanistan today and we've seen things like that in other places including Egypt. Were the attacks at the base and Helmand Province related to the violence raging against American targets in the region?
LAWRENCE: It's a great question. We asked the headquarters there in Afghanistan and they say right now, it's just too early to tell on this particular attack. He did say there were no organized protests outside the base preceding the attack and I've been to that base several times. I can tell you it's in the middle of nowhere. There are no large communities right next to the base but again, you know there have been demonstrations in Afghanistan, still a little early to tell whether the actual video may have been a cause to spur this attack.
BURNETT: Chris Lawrence thank you very much. Reporting on that news from the Pentagon and we also have breaking news tonight in Sudan. A U.S. military official telling CNN that a team of Marines is now en route to the capital Khartoum (ph). The team is known as "Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team" (ph) and they are going to defend the embassy. As you can see and we're showing you the scene in Khartoum (ph) today spread beyond the U.S. Embassy, mobs attacked both the British and German embassies as well.
And Sudan was one of my countries as violence spread around the Muslim world today. The anti-American uprisings have spread now to more than a dozen countries from Morocco all the way to India. We want to show you a map because we saw protests -- I mean, this is incredible to see. Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Israel, just some of them and protests also spread to a country not even on that map, the world's largest Muslim populated country, Indonesia. Now some of the protests were peaceful like in Jordan where they burned the American flag, but did not resort to violence.
But people were killed in violent protests elsewhere as protesters stormed American embassies in conflict. This is a live scene in Cairo tonight where there have been dozens of arrests and injuries. Security forces have faced off with crowds. They've tried to disperse them with tear gas and get them to go away from the U.S. Embassy. As you can see right here, this is a group of people who are near the U.S. Embassy. They are still there tonight as they continue to be there day in and day out as the rage continues to spread.
In Libya, the remains of four Americans killed during the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi returned to the Andrews Air Force base this afternoon. President Obama was there and he vowed to bring justice to the men who killed them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But even as voices of suspicious and mistrust seek to divide countries and cultures from one another, the United States of America will never retreat from the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Four people have been arrested in Libya who were on the scene of the attack, but the government says that they are not actually linked to the murders. That investigation continues and we have a live report on that right now. Arwa Damon is with me from Benghazi tonight and Arwa, I know you had a chance to go to the consulate there. What did you see?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Erin, it was really quite chilling, horrifying to be walking through some of the buildings there just imagining what had transpired, taken place. They were all burnt. There was black soot covering the walls (INAUDIBLE) ashes over some of the furniture, the chandeliers. There was debris all over the floor. Looters also had moved in after the attack took place pillaging this compound that even after the assault was really not secured but one would have anticipated it to be so given how much sensitive evidence was in fact on sight. In the kitchen, for example, there were bits of made-ready-eat meals that the U.S. military does tend to use. There were also various other cakes sort of strewn about. Pieces of paper, one of them reading across it, Libya is so important. While we were there, we also saw Libya's president, who was saying that at this point in time, they do believe that this attack was carried out by a group or groups of extremists.
They are not identifying them as of yet, but they were also saying that they believe that this was a preplanned attack that was intended to inflict maximum damage to drive an irreparable wedge between the U.S. and the Libyans. What is disturbing though is that the Libyan government at this point is actually saying that they cannot prevent such attacks from repeating themselves and that they do not have the capability right now to reign in these various and numerous armed extremist elements.
BURNETT: Which is a frightening and damning statement, but Arwa, let me ask you. We've been looking at some of the pictures that you saw, the scene when you walked into the consulate, with the pieces of paper and the debris and the ash all over the top of some of the furniture that you took pictures of. I know you also had a chance while you were there to speak with one of the Libyan security guards who was at the consulate during the attack. What did he tell you?
DAMON: One needs to note, too, that the first line of defense for the embassy according to this security guard and others who were on site as well are unarmed Libyans. They have radios. That's how they man the main gates into this compound. There's also a very small unit of Libyans from the February 17th Brigade, but really just a handful of them in one position on the outskirts of it, so it's not a heavily guarded location as one would anticipate such locations (INAUDIBLE) as they rather are in other countries. This guard was saying that they first heard chanting that grew increasingly louder and then all of a sudden, an intense barrage of heavy machine gunfire, grenades, rocket propelled grenades.
One of the rocket propelled grenades we're being told took the power out. Remember, this happening at night, so with that power gone, complete darkness. Buildings set on fire. You can just imagine how chaotic and terrifying the scenes would have been. This one guard says that at one point after these masked men, bearded men stormed the compound, they threw him to the ground and at gunpoint, threatened to kill him for being an infidel. Other details that we're learning too Erin is that this was not the only attack that took place. The February 17th Brigade was the only unit we're being told from the Libyan forces that in fact responded and tried to help those in the compound out. They managed to evacuate the U.S. Embassy personnel into what was supposed to be a safe house, but then later on in the early hours of the morning that safe house was attacked as well, so a lot of questions for the Libyan government, but also a lot of questions being posed to the U.S. side of all of this. Did America at the end of the day underestimate the threat level that exists here?
BURNETT: All right, well Arwa Damon, thank you very much. A crucial question about how America didn't know this was happening. How this could have happened. We're going to be joined in a few moments by Senator Robert Menendez on the Foreign Relations Committee to put those questions to him, a man who is a key part of the reason why America was involved in Libya to begin with.
Now, I want to show you the live picture in Cairo again tonight where as we told you dozens have been arrested and that police have been facing off security forces against crowds who have been near the U.S. Embassy rioting throughout the day. Let's get to Ben Wedeman, who is in Cairo, has a bird's eye view of exactly what's happening. What are you seeing tonight, Ben?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Erin, it is 1:15 in the morning, but that doesn't seem to have stopped the young protesters who are down in the street right below me, who have been clashing all day long and in fact all last night as well, with the Egyptian security forces who have put up a concrete barrier just about 50 yards from the main wall of the American Embassy to stop those protesters from getting any closer. Now, the situation, Erin, could have been much worse today, but the Muslim Brotherhood which had announced they would be holding demonstrations across Egypt at mosques away from this particular part of town to condemn that anti-Islamic YouTube video, at the last moment they canceled those protests, so the number of people who are actually out in the streets protesting either around the embassy or in Tahrir Square or Alexandria, in the north of the country, was much smaller than was expected. It's hard to say at this point when these demonstrations around the embassy are going to end, but as I said, it could have been much worse today -- Erin.
BURNETT: And Ben, while you were talking I know we just heard the shots and we just saw the car -- everyone this is a live picture, so you just saw that police car drive up and a security official at the top then looks like he had a gun and was sort of threatening to shoot people and then the crowds who were just a moment ago, everyone, filling the front of this picture, now you can see some of the young men coming back in, all ran away and there were a lot of shots. Tell us about what the clashes have been like, Ben. What are they shooting at them?
WEDEMAN: What they're shooting, these are tear gas canisters, which are fired from a rifle. By and large actually compared to previous outbreaks of violence here in Cairo, this one has been relatively peaceful. I mean, that may sound a little silly given the sort of images you see now, but in previous incidents, dozens of people were killed in these clashes, so this time the police are using only tear gas, very limited amounts of rubber bullets and as of yet, no live ammunition so even though as many as 300 people have been wounded, largely from inhalation of tear gas, fairly rough tear gas as I've experienced many times today, no one has actually been killed.
BURNETT: All right, Ben Wedeman, thank you very much. And an important point there although there were people who were killed in other countries, including Tunisia and Sudan.
Well OUTFRONT tonight President Obama attends a ceremony for the key U.S. personnel who were killed in Libya. Meanwhile, Paul Ryan makes comments about his handling of foreign affairs. It seems like in this election season anything and everything is political. Plus, Jon Huntsman, a Republican who served as ambassador under President Obama, has some very chilling words about whether our embassies are adequately protected by American forces around the world. And Coptic- Christians, what does the religion of the controversial filmmaker have to do with the violence in the Middle East?
BURNETT: Our second story OUTFRONT, fighting words. Mitt Romney's top foreign policy adviser telling "The Washington Post" that under a President Romney we wouldn't have seen deadly attacks on American interests in the Middle East. Is that true? OUTFRONT tonight, Jon Huntsman, former Republican presidential candidate who has gone head to head with Romney over foreign policy. He's also a former ambassador to China, which is a crucial thing when talking about whether our embassies are under threat around the world. I started by asking him if he agreed with that assertion that the protests wouldn't have happened under a President Romney.
JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: Erin, we're in a political season and these kinds of statements are to be expected every now and again. That's all part of where we are, but there's a huge opportunity for Governor Romney to articulate a clear vision forward with respect to our interests in North Africa and the Middle East. And how we can begin putting back together the broken pieces because the winds of change are blowing and they're going to continue to blow. So it's a huge opportunity. It's an opening to speak out and mindful of what Ronald Reagan said during 1980 when we had the hostage crisis and he was running against Jimmy Carter during some of those periods of upheaval when he said this is not a time for words, it's a time for prayers.
BURNETT: It's interesting you say that and you bring up Ronald Reagan and his comment during the hostage crisis on prayer because I'm not thinking about what your comment was when this awful event happened in Libya earlier this week. In part, you said "this is above all a reminder that politics should end at the water's edge." The Republican candidate for president, Mitt Romney, said "I'm outraged. It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks." That's not a message of unity.
HUNTSMAN: No, but we are where we are and you always have a second chance in politics and it's time for clarity for the American people about what our interests are in the Middle East during this time of change. Listen this is a once per century change that we're seeing sweeping North Africa and the Middle East. It's not unlike the end of the Ottoman (ph) Empire in 1919 and 1920 and how the region emerges and what their alliance structure looks like and their attitudes towards the United States and their attitudes towards some of our key allies in the region like Israel are really going to depend on how we position ourselves today, the words we speak and how we kind of outline our strategy to the region.
BURNETT: And you sir, you know we call you governor, but let me call you ambassador now because you are -- were the ambassador to China and when you heard this about Chris Stevens, were you surprised that that could happen at an American consulate or embassy no matter what country it's been in that it could be breached that Americans could die? Did you get the feeling we were caught a bit flat footed?
HUNTSMAN: Well some of or consulates, not our embassies. Our embassies today are in pretty good shape. They're fortified. They're solid. They're impenetrable in a sense, but our consulates, particularly those that are relatively new, as is the case in Libya, some of them are a little vulnerable and as we continue to shift our relationships throughout the world and provide new outreach to different geographic areas, this is going to have to be a real focus on the part of the State Department.
BURNETT: I'm very curious as to your point of view on something that happened this week. The president was asked in an interview I believe with Telemundo (ph) about Egypt and said that it wasn't an ally. Now, I know that this is a technical term about who's an ally and who isn't. You were an ambassador to China, a country that is not an ally of the United States, but the United States hopes is a friend, somebody they can work with, commiserate with, whatever it might be. Is Egypt an ally of the United States?
HUNTSMAN: Well, they certainly have been and given the amount of money and the military and the military training and the special economic relationship we share with Egypt it certainly would suggest that they are an ally. We've got some agreements with respect to the overall relationship with Israel where Egypt plays a significant role and if they're not willing to continue that, that would suggest to me that we're entering a new era and one in which the United States really needs to reconsider the amount of money that we're pumping into that country.
BURNETT: So, you think if it does become more transactional, this discussion about foreign aid, which I know with military aid and foreign aid is about $3 billion a year to Egypt that should be on the table.
HUNTSMAN: Well of course it should be on the table. I think any of the aid money, whether it's military or non military really needs to be based upon certain milestones and accomplishments that we're able to make within the bilateral relationship.
BURNETT: All right Hogan Gidley served as the national communications director for Rick Santorum's presidential campaign. Doug Wilson was the former assistant secretary of defense for public affairs in the Obama administration, dealt with the Arab Spring. And John Avlon of course is with "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast" -- great to see all of you and we appreciate it.
Let me start with you, Doug. Just asking you this key question, who's getting it right here? Is the Obama administration getting it right in terms of their communications, 100 percent, or have they also made some mistakes?
DOUG WILSON, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESPERSON: Erin, thank you. And I first want to say that I would like to join millions of Americans in expressing our profound sadness and sympathy to the family of Chris Stevens and Sean Smith and the two brave Navy SEALs who lost their lives and President Obama and Secretary Clinton received their bodies today. This is the time for an American message, not a partisan message. It's a time for America to understand that we need to come together and we need to send two very simple and direct messages. We will not tolerate violence against our citizens or representatives in countries overseas and the kinds of films that have provoked this do not represent the United States government at all and are reprehensible.
BURNETT: Hogan, let me ask you for your reaction to that. There has been a lot of politics here. Obviously, Mitt Romney did lob the first barb and Jay Carney today among those responding accusing the Romney campaign of trying to score political points. But let me ask you the question that I put to Ambassador Huntsman, Richard Williamson (ph), top foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign said there's a compelling story that under a President Romney this wouldn't have happened. For the first time since Jimmy Carter, we've had an American ambassador assassinated, which is pretty clear he's directly blaming the president for this happening. Isn't this going too far?
HOGAN GIDLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, we are in a political season. I just don't think you can make a claim that under any one president that the Middle East would somehow be calmed down under their administration. I think that Governor Romney was well in bounds to critique the Obama embassy for coming out and basically apologizing for Americans being American to try and prevent an uprising and I think from a broader sense, he could then attack the president on the terms of some type of appeasement. He wouldn't appease those folks. He would actually draw a line in the sand. He would say our allies are our allies. Our friends are our friends and we will protect them, but we will attack anyone who tries to attack us or those interests. I think from that standpoint, a broader standpoint and a bigger message that would have been a little bit more effective than coming out and harping on just one instance.
GIDLEY: If he had taken a chance to make a broader foreign policy statement that would have helped him greater --
BURNETT: Which of course Jon Huntsman said, John Avlon, what about the issue though that Egypt may not be an ally. Jon Huntsman said going more the road -- route of Pakistan.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well that is obviously what's happening before our eyes. That's the big question right now. What role does the Muslim Brotherhood have? Can they be trusted as an ally the way Mubarak was for better or worse for a long period of time? So what President Obama was doing essentially recognizing reality however in politic (ph) it was, so you know I think the key question here, we have politics 50 days out. You've got to put patriotism ahead of politics and use that bigger picture frame whether than scoring cheap points that will only backfire.
BURNETT: All right, thanks so much to all three of you, we appreciate it.
And our third story OUTFRONT now the bodies of the four Americans killed in Tuesday's attack in Benghazi, Libya. They did arrive home today. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke at Joint Base Andrews (ph) in Maryland hailing the victims as heroes and patriots. Tributes have been pouring in from around the world.
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, by all accounts, a model diplomat, a man who loved his job, but we are now learning more about the three other victims. Perhaps not as famous, but so important to those around them, two of the men were former Navy SEALs, a third a veteran of the American Air Force. Barbara Starr reports on the somber homecoming.
BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Four Americans, four patriots. They loved this country. And they chose to serve it and served it well. They had a mission and they believed in it. They knew the danger and they accepted it.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Navy SEAL Glen Doherty, a combat veteran, had already cheated death.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Glen deployed to some of the most dangerous places on earth including Iraq and Afghanistan, always putting his life on the line to safeguard other Americans.
STARR: Doherty was in Libya working as a private security contractor, helping track down missing weapons. He was a trained sniper and a medical corpsman. Another former SEAL, Tyrone Woods, also working as a security officer, he leaves behind a wife and three sons.
ANN SO, TYRONE WOODS' EX-WIFE: If you ever wanted anybody to protect you and feel safe, that's your man. I have the highest respect for his skills and for his love of what he did. It filled his heart. He loved what he did.
STARR: And Sean Smith, a former Air Force veteran, who worked at the State Department for the last 10 years as a technology expert and an avid fan of online games. At the time of the attack, he was online under his handle, "Vile Rat". He posted this message --
"[vile_rat 9/11/12 2:40 PM] F'''" "[vile_rat 9/11/12 2:40 PM] gunfire"
STARR: -- remembered now by online friends around the world.
(on camera): And even as he remembered the fallen, President Obama made clear the attackers will be brought to justice.
Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.
BURNETT: OUTFRONT next, breaking news from Libya just coming in. We have some new details about the consulate that was attacked and most important something that all of you have been wondering just as we have. What warnings did the U.S. have? Were there warnings that weren't heeded? And he was one of the leading voices calling for the U.S. intervention in Libya, Senator Robert Menendez OUTFRONT next.
BURNETT: Welcome back to the second half of OUTFRONT and we do have some more breaking news out of Benghazi, Libya, tonight, the site of the deadly attack against the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, all of whom were killed. New details now about warnings to the United States.
Arwa Damon is there. She was in that consulate today.
And, Arwa, I mean -- we've been hearing a lot about how in Cairo, there may have been warnings in advance of the attack, but what are you hearing about that in Libya?
ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what Libyan officials are telling us is that they had been trying to highlight, raise the red flag, about the growing threat from these extremists militias, some of whom are believed to have ties to organizations like al Qaeda. This attack that happened on the consulate was not an isolated incident. That very same location had an attack foiled, yes against it, but an attack, an attempted attack nonetheless earlier in the spring.
In the last few months, there have been a growing number of attacks against Western interests. The convoy of the British ambassador attacked in Benghazi. The convoy of the head of the U.N. mission also attacked in Benghazi, and the compound of the ICRC. A complex assault launched there, eventually obliging the IRC to shut down and move its personnel to Tripoli.
All of these were warning signs and Libyan officials were telling us that they were highlighting this growing threat from extremists to American officials, really wanting to a certain degree, their help in clamping down on it, Erin.
BURNETT: And, Arwa, we just heard from Ambassador Jon Huntsman, former ambassador to China, U.S. presidential candidate. Now, I had asked him about what it was like to serve as an ambassador, are our embassies and consulates around the world really safe. His answer was not always and that we have some very serious questions we need to address. I know you had a chance to look at the safe room, the safe house that Ambassador Chris Stevens fled to when the consulate came under attack in Benghazi.
What was it like? Was it fortified? Was it safe?
DAMON: Well, let me try to lay it out for you. When you walk into the compound, there are three gates that you can go through and they're only manned by Libyan guards who have radios. This is effectively the first line of defense, unarmed Libyan guards.
The main residence -- and this is where Ambassador Chris Stevens died -- is a house. In this house, there is a suite that is a bedroom where we're told he was staying. It has a small bathroom. It has another room that could have been a living room. There's only one way into this suite and that is through a doorway that had a metal door placed in it with bars. That was closed when we arrived. Every single window had bars on it as well.
This is what was being called the, quote-unquote, "safe room," but it's really not a safe room. It's not a fortified bunker. Fortified bunkers would prevent something like smoke inhalation from taking place. They would have thick walls that would be bulletproof, potentially being able to provide against an assault. There would be basic provisions and most importantly, some sort of emergency communication.
So, this compound, this consulate compound did not, in fact, have a safe room or a safe house on it.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Arwa Damon, thank you very much, reporting there from Benghazi.
And you may have heard Arwa early in our program say that the Libyans have said they are not able to secure or provide security for American interests in Libya right now. And tonight, we can report that the United Nations is pulling its staff out from Benghazi to Tripoli. No word yet on the U.S. response.
Well, our fourth story OUTFRONT is more pressure tonight on the producer who has been in hiding since this controversial film ignited protests across the Muslim world. He goes by many names and among them, convicted felon.
Now, federal authorities in California are investigating whether he violated probation.
Miguel Marquez has the details.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The spotlight on the mysterious filmmaker growing stronger. Officials say the court is reviewing Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's case to see if he broke terms of his probation. Nakoula faced 26 conditions for five years of supervised probation after his 2010 conviction for credit card fraud and identity theft.
Most (AUDIO GAP) infamous filmmaker was barred from using any devices that could access the Internet, except those approved by his probation officer. He was also ordered to pay nearly $800,000.
(on camera): What kind of man do you think Nakoula is?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nakoula is very smart man and will he will do anything for money or for fame.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): The man I'm speaking to says he was a victim of Nakoula's fraud. He would only talk to us on the phone. Like many Coptic Christians, he now lives in fear.
(on camera): How afraid is the Coptic community now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Coptic is very afraid because of what Muslims do when somebody tries to demean their prophet.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Nakoula made his film with well-known anti-Islamic individuals.
Joseph Nassralla, the president of Media for Christ who also runs a satellite TV station in L.A., obtained the permit for the film and allowed part of it to be shot in his studio.
JOSEPH NASSRALLA, PRESIDENT OF MEDIA FOR CHRIST: Islam comes with a sword, and they kill my people.
MARQUEZ: Nassralla also has tied to Steve Klein, the anti- Islamic consultant on the film. He also speaks at events organized by anti-Islam activist Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller.
NASSRALLA: The Islam conquered our country. My country is conquered by Islam right now.
BURNETT: Now, Miguel, do you have any idea where Nakoula is?
MARQUEZ: A very good idea. He's in that house behind me here in Cerritos, California. Just a short time ago, a couple of individuals who said they were lawyers contacted by Nakoula came to the house, went in. That's all they said. They're in there now. Perhaps consulting with him, seeing what their next move is.
It is also possible he may have to meet with his probation officer either here or at the probation officer's office in the next couple of days or weeks in order to explain some of his activities over the last months, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Miguel, who's been doing amazing reporting on who this person is.
Now, our fifth story OUTFRONT, Senator Bob Menendez on the Foreign Relations Committee, has supported America's involvement in Libya and he is OUTFRONT tonight.
Senator, great to see you. Appreciate you taking the time.
First, I just wanted to ask you about what Arwa Damon is reporting. She's on the ground now live in Benghazi, saying that Libyan government now says it cannot -- it's not able to provide security for U.S. interests. And in fact, that the government there saying they had warned the United States about the situation in Benghazi and that it was deteriorating.
Were those warnings unheeded?
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, I'm not sure how verifiable that view is. I think they would have been heed had they actually been given. And it is not acceptable to have any country say they cannot protect the embassies of any given country including the United States.
BURNETT: Doesn't this make you think twice if they're saying that? You're someone who wanted us to support a no fly zone. You are an ardent defender of that. Do you look back now and say, you didn't realize what might happen?
MENENDEZ: No, we had the slaughter of individuals every day in Libya. The course of events undoubtedly was going to lead to change there as it led in Egypt. The question is, are you seeing standing on the side of those whose aspirations is, you know, going to create an opportunity for movement towards democracy? Or do stand up beside a dictatorship?
BURNETT: So you think it was worth it?
MENENDEZ: Well, look, there's no clean and clear process here. These are countries that have been under dictatorships. It takes -- it's going to take them time to get to what we call a democracy. It's not going to happen overnight.
But, you know, I appreciate that the president in addition to the troops that have been in that region since we've been looking at Iran, will have the -- make sure American interests are protected.
BURNETT: I spoke to Ambassador Jon Huntsman earlier on the show. He said that our embassies are fortified, but we have issues with other U.S. interests and consulates. And this is something that needs to be addressed.
Arwa Damon went in the so-called safe room in the Benghazi compound, where Chris Stevens had try to see as he came in and save his life, she was reporting a lot of things you would have there, communications equipment, food, none of it was there. I mean, it seems when you just look at the facts here, that somebody on the U.S. side, not just the Libyan side, wasn't doing something right.
MENENDEZ: Well, look, if in fact any place where U.S. diplomat is going to be working out of is not secure, then that needs to be addressed, unquestionably. But I'm not sure that the information Libyans are saying Benghazi was in fact a security risk was given and in fact, our own intelligence would have indicated that and I think Ambassador Stevens is someone who is a career person, who have would have followed --
BURNETT: So they be --
MENENDEZ: Yes. You know, in hindsight, you know, or retrospect, they want to be in a position that's better, but that's not acceptable. It's not acceptable for any country to take the position they can't defend U.S. embassies.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, sir. We very much appreciate you taking the time. I know it took Senator Menendez a lot of effort to get here tonight.
As we talk so much about what's happening in the Middle East, I wanted to share something. It's a part of o the world that I love very dearly and love spending time in. And I received this e-mail, actually from a friend of mine who is Arab.
And he wrote me this. "In Cairo, there are 20 million people. Those around the embassy are 2,000 to 3,000. They don't represent how we all feel about the USA. Most Arabs and Iranians, too, love what America stands for. They all love Starbucks and Coke, but respect its great universities and so much more. But today, politics is dirty. I feel for the families who lost their loved ones."
Just a sentiment I want to share given there are so many and the majority of people have such love and admiration, not just for this country, but for the people they surround themselves with.
All right. Well, still OUTFRONT, the teachers strike in Chicago appears to be over. With GOP senators making jokes and no one really celebrating what has happened here and the sequestration is terrible. And that was the idea. So why is Congress and the president complaining about it, for doing nothing?
BURNETT: And now, another key story of the day: the sequestration -- a terribly long word that means $1.2 trillion in spending cuts just slammed across the board, coming our way like an 18 wheeler and they were explained today in a mere 394 pages.
Today, the White House finally issued its report to Congress detailing how it plans to cut the $1.2 trillion if Congress fails to stop the automatic spending cuts before the end of the year.
So, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the report leaves no question that the sequestration would be deeply destructive to national security, domestic investments and core government functions. That was the point of the sequester.
So, what's in the 394 pages?
OUTFRONT tonight is part of our in-depth look at the issues that affect the 2012 election, John Avlon.
So, you read it. You looked through it. So far, this is what we've heard recently, right? Congress yelling, hey, President Obama, you haven't told us where the cuts are coming from. People are going to have to be laid off, all kinds of things happened at the beginning of the year and you're not telling us how to go about doing it. He was supposed to do it, so he did it.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. So now, we start to get some specifics and it really details the pain. Let's just look at some of the cuts. That jump out of me.
Medicare, $11 billion in cuts projected. Food stamps, half a billion dollars in cuts. FBI salaries, a quarter billion dollars in cuts. National parks, $218 million.
And here's the one that really stands out given the news of the day --
AVLON: -- embassy security projected to be cut by $129 million, when the whole world has seen how much we need to beef up security right now.
BURNETT: And this is clear where the left hand is not talking to the right hand. You would delete that line out, you would find something else rather than put that out there.
And, of course, as Jon Huntsman just said, we need more on that. We have security issues around the world.
AVLON: Of course on both sides, whether the White House and Congress are saying look how damaging these meat cleaver cuts are. This is not the way anyone in Congress or the White House wants to go about this, but this is what they've been handed, they dealt themselves, because of the super fail committee.
BURNETT: What has been the GOP reaction?
AVLON: It's been fascinating. The GOP is trying to pass the buck. John Boehner put out a statement today. It's very revealing. He said this report confirms that the president's sequester -- again, the president's sequester is a serious threat to our national security and must be replaced. So you see what's going on there.
Congress, Speaker, want to have nothing to do with it, trying to get President Obama to politically own the sequester when, of course, this was always going to be Congress' responsibility. This was the deal to pass the debt ceiling. Congress would have to find a way to work together with the super fail committee. They didn't. So, the sequester comes in.
So, there's a lot of blame to go around, but blaming it on the president doesn't make sense.
BURNETT: All right. Well, John Avlon, thank you very much. Oh, they were all to blame.
AVLON: They are.
BURNETT: All right. And missing Chinese vice president. When will we see him again? We'll find out, next.
BURNETT: And now to some of the other crucial stories we care about today, where we're focusing our reporting on the front lines.
Tonight focusing on Chicago. Students likely will be back in school on Monday. The teachers union and the city school board say they've reached a tentative deal. Now, union president Karen Lewis cautions the strike isn't over, they're going to be meeting on Sunday to draft an agreement and vote on whether to suspend the strike. This comes as the district's more than 350,000 students have been out of school for five days.
Republican Senator Jim DeMint speaking at a values voter summit today did not back down from a joke about those on strike.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I was reading another story about a distant place where thugs had put 400,000 children out in streets. Then I realized that was a story about the Chicago teachers strike.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: DeMint's office released a statement saying the senator was referring to union bosses when he used the word thugs. Keep in mind that the big debate in Chicago has been over merit pay and whether teachers who had been fired for poor performance in other jobs wo0uld be the first ones to be rehired when schools open.
And we could be hearing soon from China's vice president who's been missing for almost two weeks. Reuters reports that Xi Jinping may appear tomorrow. He's China's next likely leader. He's been out of the public eye, skipping meetings, including one with Hillary Clinton since early this month. It's been pretty incredible and bizarre. It seems like that.
But earlier, when I was speaking to John Huntsman, I asked when China's vice president may reappear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON HUNTSMAN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: My sense is that we're going to hear from him probably in the next couple of days if not some time next week and we'll hear more about the transition.
(END VIDSEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Well, it has been 407 days as soon as the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Well, today there was another downgrading from a third credit agency of the United States' debt.
Well, up next, if you think Pandora knows what music you like best, the guys behind it have an idea about how you are going to vote and it may matter big time for November. OUTFRONT next.
BURNETT: What do President Obama, Rick Perry and Ted Nugent have in common? Well, tonight, an idea that has brought some unlikely characters together and is making the people who thought of it millions.
BURNETT (voice-over): Tim Westergren is no stranger to big ideas. He launched Pandora Radio in the year 2000. Pandora is now used by 150 million people worldwide. But for most of its 12 years, Pandora has been on the verge of debt, battling record labels over royalties, fighting Washington over legislation.
TIM WESTERGREN, PANDORA FOUNDER: It's been Jekyll and Hyde. We've got an incredible growth and consumer adoption is just amazing. But the other side is the business part of it is a much tougher slog.
BURNETT: A tougher slog that is until Westergren and his team had an idea that's finally putting profits back into Pandora.
WESTERGREN: We're doing everything from a local state assembly race in California to a senatorial race in Connecticut. We're getting budgets from both presidential campaigns.
BURNETT: Pandora is getting into politics, helping candidates meet voters with laser like precision.
And with the latest polls showing the president and Mitt Romney within a few points of each other in key states, every vote counts.
WESTERGREN: We know who we're delivering it to literally, who they are.
BURNETT: So how do they do it?
WESTERGEN: When you register for Pandora, you provide a few different piece of information. You give your age, your gender and your zip code. So we know those three things as well as the music you're listening to. So, in theory that same targeting you add and who you're listening to in country.
BURNETT: Trying cranking some Kenny Chesney, Rihanna, to see which campaigns competing for your affections.
WESTERGREN: I think that the political system has understood it's almost as if it was made for them, just as so perfectly matched on what they're trying to do. BURNETT: And because ads are streaming constantly as you're listening to Pandora Radio, it's becoming the political platform of choice.
WESTERGREN: We've had agencies that said to us that who essentially attributed the success of our candidate to Pandora.
BURNETT: With both campaigns poised to spend more than $1 billion on the elections, it's an idea that's paying off. Pandora just posed to record earnings.
Have a great weekend. Anderson is now.