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Obama Faces Reporters Soon; Petraeus Sex Scandal Widens; Hamas Leader Killed In Israeli Airstrike; Petraeus To Testify on Libya Attack
Aired November 14, 2012 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Suzanne Malveaux.
Gearing up for the President and the press this hour in the CNN NEWSROOM. Want to get right to it.
A scandal that brought down the head of the CIA, a looming financial crisis, and lingering questions about the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. President Obama expected to face questions about all of that and much more in the next hour. The president pulling his first news conference since winning re-election. We're going to bring you live coverage.
This hour we're taking an in-depth look at the issues likely to come up when the president meets with reporters. We'll hear from White House correspondent Briana Keilar and national security contributor Fran Townsend and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, host of "The War Room" on Current TV. Thanks for being with us.
The last time the president held an official news conference, Rick Santorum appeared to have the edge over Mitt Romney in the Republican primaries, and the president's first campaign rally was two months away. That was back in March, March 6th. Fast forward to today. I want to bring in Briana Keilar.
Brianna, first of all, it's expected that the fiscal cliff is going to be a big topic, but also the scandal that broke about the former CIA chief, David Petraeus. How does the president essentially stay on message and move on to the economy?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's going to be trying to turn this to the economy, Suzanne. But the fact is, he'll be definitely getting questions about the scandal, about General Petraeus, and certainly about his faith in General Allen.
So that is going to be a topic. He will try to pivot to the economy and to talk about the fiscal cliff, which is obviously his number one priority trying to get that resolved. And we also expect that he'll be here talking -- or he'll be asked about Benghazi. This will be his first press conference since that September 11th attack in Egypt that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
As well, you'd expect them to be asked about cabinet -- or, pardon me, in Libya, and you'd expect him to be asked about the cab -- potential cabinet shake-ups as well. You said he hasn't had an extended press conference since March. That's true. He had a couple abbreviated ones in June and in August. But there are a lot of outstanding questions. And he will be asked probably about all of them today, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: I imagine it's going to take a little while to get through all of these. And the priorities -- I mean, you're right, he hasn't really faced the press for a lot of those tough questions in a long time. Do we think that now entering a second administration he's going to feel more comfortable in taking questions from the press corps, or is he going to take the more friendly, you know, audience when he goes to "The View" or to some of these comedy -- late night comedy shows instead?
KEILAR: You know, I don't know. I mean, obviously, we saw -- I don't think we're going to be seeing him as much on, say, "The View" and some of those lighter shows and doing as many -- quite as many local television interviews as we saw him do leading up to the campaign because, obviously, he was really trying to get his message out. But I think that when you look at how the White House approaches these press conferences, they're making obviously a calculation. When you look at a press conference involving the White House press corps, which is intensely familiar with the President's record, they calculate the down sides of potential missteps in a press conference. It's somewhat unpredictable. They have an idea of the questions that will be asked, but they don't totally know. And certainly during the campaign they felt that it was better for them to get their message out through social media and by doing local television interviews.
Certainly we'll be pressing to get more questions, but this one, for instance, it would have been highly unusual if he did not do this press conference following the election. This is pretty standard for a president. George W. Bush did one I think it was two days -- yes, two days after he was re-elected.
KEILAR: Clinton, it was three days after. Reagan, it was the morning after he was re-elected. So here we are, eight days later, and President Obama is holding his.
MALVEAUX: Yes, I believe Bush said he had more capital and he intended to spend that capital and he's going to use that. So we'll -- we'll see how that goes.
KEILAR: That's right. Memorable, right? Memorable moment.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. Well, put in a good fight there, Brianna. Get those questions in.
An issue that reporters at President Obama's press conference are sure to bring up, that, of course, the sex scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell. We're getting new details about the investigation. Fran Townsend is CNN's national security contributor, member of the CIA external advisory board. Fran, nice to see you. I want to talk about this. Some of the things that we have learned that are new here. The security concerns surrounding David Petraeus' relationship with his biographer Broadwell. Now, you have found out new information about why the FBI was actually searching her home in North Carolina earlier in the week. What were they looking for, and what do they believe her role is?
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, what we're hearing now, Suzanne, is that David Petraeus, at some point earlier on, had designated Broadwell as his archivist. That is, to be the repository of sort of the documents related to his military career. You can imagine, we often think of that in relation to prior presidents who have a library. Well, David Petraeus was assembling and keeping his documents and he had Broadwell, we're told, doing that for him. Pretty interesting, Suzanne, because, of course, we heard from surrogates for General Petraeus that the relationship ended four months ago. So it's a question as to why would you have continued to have her be the repository for these documents?
We saw a five-hour search at Broadwell's home. Many documents pulled out. We're looking at those pictures now. Clearly, the concern of the FBI is and has been, are there classified materials there? And if there are classified materials, where did she get them from?
MALVEAUX: Those are all important questions. We also know that Broadwell spoke about her time shadowing Petraeus during an Aspen Institute panel. And she talked about really this balancing act. I want you to listen to what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULA BROADWELL, PETRAEUS BIOGRAPHER: I had to follow very clear lines of non-disclosure and sign non-disclosure agreements, like my colleagues. I felt like I was almost held to a higher level of accountability because I could lose my clearance. Yet, I wasn't trusted with the opportunity to sit in on high level meetings with General Petraeus, sit in on the (INAUDIBLE) meetings in the morning, listen to classified chatter of terrorist talk and so forth. And I had that background anyhow, so I knew a lot of that information. And I think it was important to inform my writing, but I knew there was a clear line that I couldn't cross when I was writing it out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, Fran, tell us about that, that line, if it's so clear, because retired Lt. General Russel Honore told me that when he was coordinating the military relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina, he asked for a writer to shadow him, and they told him no. That this is not the kind of thing that is allowed. Do you see anything that is inappropriate in her role here?
TOWNSEND: Well, this is where it gets really complicated if you're the FBI investigating this or the Justice Department having to make a prosecutorial decision about the unauthorized leak of classified information. Paula Broadwell was a reservist. You heard her mention that. As a reservist, she had, we're told, top secret compartmented information clearance. But that clearance is only in place, if you will, active when she's on reserve duty. Clearly when she was embedded with Petraeus, getting ready as his biographer to write a book, that clearance didn't apply. And so she really should not have been given access. And she wouldn't have unless David Petraeus walked her into the room and invited her into these classified briefings. You know, if the general brings her into a room where there's a classified conversation, you really put the onus then on his subordinates to raise the question of whether or not they can talk in front of her. And, of course, they're taking their signal from the general. If he's bringing her in, it's implicit that they're able to speak in front of her. And so I think this is a pretty complicated investigation, both for the FBI and for the Justice Department.
MALVEAUX: All right, Fran Townsend, thank you for break it down for us. Appreciate it.
Well, President Obama's news conference likely going to be dominated by questions about the latest scandals. There's still very much a large looming issue of the fiscal cliff. We're going to take a look at whether Republicans and Democrats can actually find some common ground.
Plus, who is Jill Kelley? We've got new information about the woman tied to the downfall of America's top spy chief.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't go to Iraq with 60 Marines that just wanted to go down and level a city. I went with 60 Marines that wanted to improve a city. So why would it stop overseas?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: How one veteran is helping others with his war dance.
MALVEAUX: Now turning to the Middle East. An Israeli air strike in Gaza today killed the head of Hamas' military wing. The attack on Ahmed al-Jabari's car came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would retaliate for the increased rocket attacks from Gaza. This was a first in a series of air strikes. Eight so far in Gaza today. I want to bring in Sara Sidner, who's joining us from Jerusalem with the latest on this.
This was a very big deal here. I mean he was very important symbolically and also in the military.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. He was head of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed al-Jabri, killed today in an air strike alongside another person inside of a vehicle. We are getting conflicting reports. One says that was his bodyguard. A website from the military wing says that was, indeed, his son. It could be one in the same person.
But we do now know that at least six people have been killed in air strikes. We now are up to 11 air strikes over the past several hours. Israel has been flying over Gaza and hitting very targeted areas and looking for certain targets specifically.
What we also know from Israel is that they are prepared for a ground war. However, they have the boots, they have the soldiers, they have everyone ready, but they have not gone ahead and said, go for it. Right now they're just in a waiting position. A wait and see position.
What we also know is that this is reaction from hundreds -- 120 rockets that have been fired over from Gaza since Saturday into Israel that have damaged homes, damaged buildings, and injured about six so far civilians in Israel.
We are hearing from Hamas saying that this will open the gates of hell on the occupied forces, referring to Israel. So there is a lot of worry, obviously, from the civilians who live on the south, right there on the Gaza border in Israel, that they will be, again, the targets of their fury, and also hearing from Israel, that if they are attacked, Israel will retaliate. And we're seeing the results of that right now, Suzanne.
MALVEAUX: Sara, what do we anticipate that's going to happen in the next couple of hours in terms of escalation here?
SIDNER: Well, we're just -- it's one of those things where we have to wait and see. I mean both sides are saying, if you attack us, we're going to attack you. And we've been seeing this for the past few days. This really all started on Thursday with the death of a 13-year-old Palestinian child, who was outside playing football. He was killed by a bullet. There is different stories as to who may have killed him. The Israeli military says that, yes, they were in the area, but they do not believe they're responsible for the death of that boy. However, witnesses and the militant groups inside Gaza believe that Israel was responsible for killing that child.
They then responded. A militant group inside Gaza sent an anti-tank missile into an Israeli jeep, on the Israel side of the Gaza border, injuring four soldiers. Israel responded to that with more tank fire into Gaza. That ended up injuring 30 people and killing four civilians. And here we then saw rocket after rocket after rocket coming in to Israel.
There is a lot of fear, as you might imagine, by civilians on both sides, wonder and worrying what this might mean and if it's going to ratchet up into a full scale war.
MALVEAUX: A very dangerous escalation. Thank you very much, Sara. Appreciate it. The President, he is meeting at the White House today with 12 of the most powerful CEOs in the country. He's talking about the fiscal cliff. It's going to be his first public meeting with corporate leaders since being re-elected.
Now, among those attending the White House meeting, General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, American Express CEO Ken Chenault, Wal-Mart's Mike Duke and the CEOs of Aetna, Ford, IBM, Proctor & Gamble, Honeywell, Xerox, Dow, Pepsico, and Chevron.
Many of these leaders have indicated they are holding back hiring and spending because they're worried about Washington gridlock over the fiscal cliff. The meeting could be a bit tense because some of these CEOs spent big money to defeat the President.
Once again, what is the fiscal cliff? What are we talking about here? It is $7 trillion in tax hikes and spending cuts that's going to take effect next year if Congress and the President don't come up with a budget deal.
Nearly 90 percent of all Americans will see an increase in taxes next year. The average household will pay about $3,500 more a year in taxes.
Jennifer Granholm is Michigan's former governor and now host of Current TV's "The War Room." You might remember her rousing speech at the Democratic National Convention nominating President Obama.
It is now, of course, down to the serious business of governing. Jennifer, thank you for being with us. I know you bring that enthusiasm again to some of these big problems we have here.
Let's talk a little bit about the fiscal cliff, the Democrats, Republicans trying to figure out a way to avert this fiscal cliff by figuring out a way to agree on the budget. Democrats want to raise the tax rates on household incomes over $250,000.
Republicans under Speaker Boehner are basically saying, look, that's not going to happen. Where is the wiggle room? How would you advise the President, the Republicans to come up with something that's workable?
JENNIFER GRANHOLM, HOST, "THE WAR ROOM": Well, you know, something is going to happen anyway, Suzanne, if they don't reach agreement before the end of the year.
Of course, those tax rates are going to go up and the question is how long can the Republicans in Congress hold out once that happens and they're going to be held responsible.
There was a poll out yesterday that showed people will blame the congressional Republicans for going off the fiscal cliff. There was an election. People decided they agreed with the President. The President has leverage.
After the first of the year, he is going to have more help in the Senate, more help in the House, and he will have automatically higher tax rates, so the question will be, will the Republicans in the House and Senate vote to lower the rates for the middle class because they will have gone up.
So, one way or the other, it will be resolved, Suzanne. That $3,500 tax on families, it's not going to happen, but the question is, are they going to reach an agreement before or after January 1st?
MALVEAUX: And we just saw a picture there. It's the difference between the tax rates under President Bush and also President Clinton here.
You mentioned the President having leverage. Jennifer, do you think that he has a mandate going in. Do you think ...
GRANHOLM: Yes, absolutely, I do.
MALVEAUX: Do you think that ...
GRANHOLM: I do. I mean, let me just say something, Suzanne, on that. Because you remember in 2004 when President Bush was reelected. He was claiming a mandate because he had won both the popular vote and the electoral vote.
Well, President Obama won by far more electoral votes and, as it turns out now with all the votes in, a significant amount of more popular vote. He's got, right now, with millions still outstanding of votes to be counted, he still has 3.3 million-vote advantage.
So, that is a huge mandate as he goes into these negotiations, so that's leverage.
MALVEAUX: Do you think that he should allow the fiscal cliff to happen? I mean, do you think he should call their bluff and say, OK, well, we know this is going to happen in phases and steps, so, therefore, I'm just going to insist on this?
GRANHOLM: I think -- well, I think he needs to be strong, and he needs to let them know if they take him over the cliff, it will be on them.
He doesn't want to see that happen and, today, when he meets with the leaders in business, those leaders in business, 80 of them of big American multi-national corporations, signed a letter that was posted in "The Wall Street Journal" saying we have to have a balanced solution.
And if the Republicans hold out for an unbalanced solution, it will be their fault and they will be the ones held responsible.
MALVEAUX: Let's talk a little bit about the balance issue here because, as governor of Michigan for eight years, the last three during the recession, you made some pretty hard cuts yourself.
You cut 25 percent of State Department. You reformed the public employee benefits and pensions, but the state also benefitted from the government bailout for the auto industry.
What kind of advice do you give here if you are looking at the President saying, look, we do have to make some serious cuts. Where do those cuts lie?
GRANHOLM: Well, first of all, I cut more out of government than any governor in the entire country by far because it wasn't just the last three years. It was the loss of manufacturing jobs that caused the shrinkage of our revenues to our economy, and we decided that we were going to cut based upon our values.
So, what is it we must invest in that will keep a safety net for vulnerable people in the middle class? What is it that is nice, but not necessary?
And we based all of those decisions on what's going to create jobs in Michigan. So, I think that the federal government has to look at that. What is in the tax code that's been in there for years that may have been put in there at a time when it made sense, but no longer -- but it's an anachronism now, that it's no longer serving the purpose of job creation. They need to go over all of that.
MALVEAUX: All right, we're going to have to leave it there. We're going to bring you back a little later, ask a couple more questions. Thank you, Jennifer.
She identifies herself as a honorary consul general, but right now, Jill Kelley is recognized as part of a growing scandal involving a top military figure and the former CIA director.
We're going to take a look at the controversial figure, up ahead.
MALVEAUX: Now, more on the scandal that ended the career of General David Petraeus as director of the CIA.
For the first time, we are hearing the voice of Jill Kelley. She is the woman whose complaint to the FBI led to an investigation of Petraeus and his resignation over an extramarital affair.
Kelley called Tampa police last weekend to complain about media presence on her lawn. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JILL KELLEY, TAMPA SOCIALITE (via telephone): I'm an honorary consul general, so I have inviolability, so they should not be able to cross my property. I don't know if you want to get diplomatic protection involved, as well, but now they -- because that's against the law to cross my property since this is now, like, you know -- it's inviolable.
911 OPERATOR: All right, no problem. I'll let the officers know.
KELLEY: Thank you. (END AUDIO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Turns out Jill Kelley is an honorary consul to South Korea. Officials in Seoul say it's a symbolic position that Kelley will lose if her situation becomes problematic.
Well, meanwhile, Kelley has ties to another high-ranking military official caught up in this Petraeus scandal. General John Allen is under military investigation for allegedly sending inappropriate e- mails to Kelley.
Allen is the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan who was nominated to become NATO's supreme commander. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Well, this is supposed to be his time to shine and, now, only after a week after the re-election, President Obama has his hands full, of course, with this scandal, as well.
How is it going to, if it is, going to overshadow his initiatives? We're going to ask our own Fareed Zakaria, up next.
MALVEAUX: Next hour, President Obama holding his first news conference since winning re-election. We're going to bring you special live coverage leading up to the news conference.
The President is going to face a lot of questions, of course, on issues that are in the headlines right now, from the scandal that brought down the CIA director, David Petraeus, to the looming financial crisis involving the fiscal cliff. It's the persistent questions about the deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya.
The President has not held an official press conference with the White House press corps since March, although he had a few informal briefings.
So, we've got a lot to talk about here. Let's take a closer look at the looming fiscal cliff.
Our Ali Velshi, chief business correspondent, joining us here. So, Ali, we know the President met with at least 12 major CEOs to talk about some of the things that they're going to be concerned about, the cuts, raising taxes.
What do we suspect that they're going to be telling the President here? What's going to convince them to start letting go of some of that money in their investments and starting to hire again?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think they're going try to lay out their position for what they need to see in tax reform and I think the President is going to say to them, you know, not a lot of these people are unfriendly to the President, but there are some people with whom the President has been adversarial.
And he's going to say to them, you know, put your guns back in your holster, go out to your Republican candidates and let them know that they need to come to the table.
You can see there, Proctor & Gamble, Honeywell, Xerox, Dow, Pepsi, Chevron, Aetna, American Express, Honeywell -- I mean, these are big, big companies -- Pepsi, Ford.
They're going to tell them what they need in order to invest, put more money in and start employing people. He is going to tell them what he needs in terms of getting Congress to cooperate.
You know, Congress is probably more influenced by these companies than the White House is because these are funders on an ongoing basis, including organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with which the White House, as you know, has no relationship to speak of.
MALVEAUX: Now, one of the things we know that some of these groups, these CEOs, poured more money into the Republican races than the Democratic races and, essentially, were investing in beating the President, but for the most part when you look at that group there, they are, A, friendly with the White House and there are no small businesses represented.
Do you think that's a problem for the President? Why doesn't he have those people in the room?
VELSHI: Well, there are a couple of groups that are not invited in this conversation. One is small businesses. They are really opposed this idea of a tax increase on the wealthy because they say that a lot of small businesses run their incomes through their personal taxes and, as a result, this will have an impact on them. So, they don't want this tax-the-rich thing going on.
Then you've got the Grover Norquists of the world who are against any tax increases. None of them have been invited to this, and as I said, the United States Chamber of Commerce which is downright hostile to the President and was very involved in defeating a lot of -- or attempting to defeat a lot of Democrats. They weren't particularly successful.
This is a friendlier group. The bottom line is these are people who have worked with the President. Jeff Immelt from G.E. has worked with the President on the jobs council. Alan Mulally, Ken Chenault, these are people who are prepared to sort of bridge that gap because I think they realize that in many cases the business community supported Mitt Romney.
They wanted less regulation. They wanted more favorable terms. They didn't get that. They got four years. It's an important inflection point in the American economy. They're going to have to work together.
MALVEAUX: You know, Ali, we've also seen some disturbances in Europe. I mean, people who are taking to the streets because of the measures there to cut spending.
How does that impact what we're going to see here in the months to come? VELSHI: Well, so we're growing in the United States at about 2 percent right now. Right? Hopefully, we want to grow a little bit more. If the fiscal cliff hits, it takes us down to negative growth next year.
Europe is the partner with whom, as a group, we deal the most in the United States, so it's imperative that Europe doesn't get worse and what you are seeing are protests across Europe. You saw them in Spain, in Italy, in Greece, people protesting these austerity cuts.
So, two things are going to happen. One is the President is going to use those images and say, look, we can't have the kind of austerity they've got in Europe, so don't go overboard with the cuts that you're looking for and, number two, we have to be very concerned that Europe doesn't get substantially worse.
It is worsening in some cases and that could affect our economy here in the United States, so we need stability here at home.
MALVEAUX: All right. Thank you, Ali.
From dodging bullets to dancing on the stage, one veteran is using his military experience to enlighten others and help fellow soldiers.
MALVEAUX: Marine Roman Baca struggled adjust to life at home when he returned from the war in Iraq. Well, he turned to his artistic side and created a ballet called "The Homecoming."
Photojournalist Bob Bikel went to see how this is helping fellow soldiers adjust for our looks at "Veterans in Focus."
ROMAN BACA, FOUNDER, EXIT 12 DANCE COMPANY: I'm Roman Baca. I'm a U.S. Marine, Iraq war veteran. I'm also the artistic director of Exit 12 Dance Company.
I started dancing at a smaller studio and that led to transitioning to larger studios.
Make sure your fingers are articulating.
As a typical American, I took a lot of things for granted. I wanted to see if I could do something totally different than being an artist. I had something to prove to myself and I also wanted to serve my country.
And, so, I joined the United States Marine Corps. In 2005, we were called to deploy to Fallujah, Iraq.
So, we got back in '06. Six months after, my girlfriend sat me down and she said, you're not OK. You're not the same person that I knew before the war.
If you could really do anything in the world, what would you do?
And beautiful (INAUDIBLE) ...
I had this interest in choreography. I would start a dance company.
It wasn't a primary goal to talk about the military, but it just wasn't me not to put that part of myself in that work.
And then she goes and you pull back ...
The whole tie-in is extremely important and it's allowed us to do community service outreach to veterans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Imagine all the sadness and the grief of the hero who isn't true.
BACA: The Warrior Writers is a group of military veterans that write about their experiences.
We brought together a couple of veterans. They were very skeptical at the beginning, as was I, but in the end, they were so emphatic about giving their stuff and seeing how it came together in movement.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your life after death and message lives on.
BACA: I get up every morning and I, again, like when I was in the Marine Corps, know that I'm making a difference in somebody's life.
Nice job. Yeah.
I didn't go to Iraq with 60 Marines that just wanted to go down and level a city. I went with 60 Marines that wanted to improve a city, so why would it stop overseas?
MALVEAUX: President Obama is going to have to tackle a lot of complicated world challenges the next four years, like the escalating tensions between Israel and Hamas, Syria's bloody civil war that has killed more than 32,000 people now, pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan -- 68,000 still there -- and China's growing influence on the world economy.
How does he make headway? Fareed Zakaria is joining us from Washington. So, Fareed, I want to start off with the breaking news here today with the Middle East today.
I mean, this is unbelievable. You've got this flare-up now in the violence between Israel and Hamas and the militants there. They take out of one of the head leaders of Hamas, a military leader, this following the dozens and dozens and dozens of rocket attacks that are coming from Gaza Strip into civilian, Israeli neighborhoods. It really looks like this is escalate. Where does this put the President now?
FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": It does look like it's escalating, Suzanne, and I think that what the President has to on do is to keep pushing forward in the way he has with regard to trying to find a way to broker a settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
He does not have the power, the authority to be able to do this himself. I think it's very important to understand the Israelis and the Palestinians have to make peace themselves.
The United States can play a role. It can encourage, but, as he found out in the first term, when either side is really reluctant to do so, is insistent that they're not going to do so, there's only so much the United States can do and I think he is going to find that to be the case here, as well.
You know, it's a crisis and it will occupy our attention, but it's not going to change the fact that the two sides are far away from the negotiating table.
MALVEAUX: Let's talk about Afghanistan here. I mean, you've got this scandal and you and I have both had a chance to meet General Allen back in Afghanistan. He is in charge, of course, of pulling out some of the 68,000 troops by the end of 2014.
Do you think that the scandal involving General Allen, involving the former CIA director, David Petraeus -- is that going to have an impact whatsoever on the bigger picture here, the larger picture of the mission inside of Afghanistan?
ZAKARIA: Yes, it is, Suzanne. This is a real tragedy. It's a tragedy at a personal level for General Petraeus who is a great American, but it's also a tragedy for precisely the reason you pointed out.
This is a very tense period. We're not only in the process of trying to figure out how to draw down these troops, but we're trying to figure out how to build up the Afghan army in a way that doesn't produce the kind of problems we've had with Afghan forces firing on U.S. soldiers. In other words, make sure we don't take the bad guys in as we're trying to expand the army.
We're trying to figure out is there some way to negotiate with the Taliban and actually we had reached a very critical juncture with regard to that.
For all of that, you need a very strong military commander. You need somebody who has the respect of the President and the Afghans. General Petraeus, even though he was at the CIA, was an invaluable source of expertise here. And all that is now in flux.
So, the President is going to have to put back together a kind of new, core team for Afghanistan with, of course, perhaps it will be General Allen, perhaps a replacement, but this is probably the area they need to move faster even than the Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense, because the Taliban aren't going to wait.
MALVEAUX: Fareed Zakaria. Thank you, Fareed. Appreciate it.
He was expected to provide key information, right, about the Benghazi attack before the scandal took him down. But the embarrassing affair is not going to stop the former CIA director, David Petraeus, now from taking a stand.
MALVEAUX: Former CIA chief David Petraeus, he is going to testify before congressional leaders investigating the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were killed in that attack, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. And three committees are now set to hold closed-door hearings today. Dana Bash, she's live on Capitol Hill.
Dana, first of all, how is this going to work with Petraeus?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we expect him to come and testify, or maybe the better word is brief, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and likely members of the House Intelligence Committee. That is according to Dianne Feinstein, who's the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The question is, when is that going to happen? We don't know that yet, but we reported yesterday that the senators on that committee definitely wanted General Petraeus or former Director Petraeus to come and talk to them because they felt that that was a big stone left unturned if he didn't with regard to what really happened in Benghazi.
But let me just tell you something that is happening as we speak, Suzanne, which is very interesting. There's such a frenzy on this story going on, on Capitol Hill. When it -- with regard to the Petraeus -- that was about Libya. But with regard to the Petraeus matter that forced his resignation, the affair that he was having with his biographer, there was a briefing going on as we speak with the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee and the FBI.
We expected there to be the number two of the FBI to come, but we were just told by our national security producer, Pam Benson, who's outside, that the FBI director, Robert Mueller, is here. He came personally to talk to them because, as you know, as we've been reporting, there are a lot of ruffled feathers, to say the least, here in Congress, particularly the heads of the intelligence committees, about why they were not informed at all about this ongoing FBI investigation of General Petraeus, or, forgive me, former Director Petraeus --
MALVEAUX: Yes, sure.
BASH: With regard to -- with regard to this affair.
MALVEAUX: Sounds like it's a smart thing to put the guy at the very top to actually answer those questions.
Tell us a little bit about Nancy Pelosi and what her future holds.
BASH: Very interesting morning. You know, if not for this scandal, that would really be all the talk, the buzz, leading up to today about -- you know, around the water cooler here on Capitol Hill, will she or won't she stay? She, of course, did decide that she was going to stay for another -- at least another two years as the leader of the House Democrats. And the image you see there on this screen, the imagery was kind of remarkable, Suzanne.
BASH: I mean certainly we know and we have known that she has taken pride in the fact that she has -- is the highest ranking woman in history. She was the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. But the imagery today of her surrounded by so many women, Democratic women, obviously, in the House, currently serving newly elected women, really had not heard her hit that issue as hard as she did today. And, in fact, at one point, when asked about why she wanted to stay, she sort of made a joke about the fact that if she didn't, that there would be four men around the table negotiating and can you imagine how horrible that would be? She quickly tried to make it a joke, but, you know, it was -- it was kind of a -- it was kind of an interesting scene.
And, just really quickly, there is a precedent for this.
BASH: Sam Rayburn, back in the late '50s, he stuck around after he lost the speaker's gavel for four years, and he was able to get it back because he led his party back to the majority, and that's certainly what she's hoping to follow.
MALVEAUX: All right. Powerful pictures there. Thank you, Dana. Appreciate it.
The first press conference for the president of his second term about to begin about 40 minutes or so. CNN has special coverage of the event. More team coverage when we return.
MALVEAUX: In just about 30 minutes, President Obama is going to go before reporters. It's his first news conference since he was re- elected. Of course, we're going to bring it to you live when it begins. Want to talk about what we can expect. Fran Townsend, CNN's National Security contributor, and member of the CIA external advisory board, and former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and host of "The War Room" on Current TV, also a keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention. I want to bring in Fran, first of all.
What do you expect? What do you want to hear from the president today that would satisfy you that this scandal and the investigations involving former CIA Director Petraeus and General Allen are not going to disrupt the critical work of national security. What do you want to hear?
TOWNSEND: You know, I -- in some respects, the timing of the press conference, given the scandal, really is disruptive to the president's message on the economy. He can't have this press conference and not have to face these questions.
I really think the only thing that he can say about it, I mean, is that he's going to honestly have the investigation that's being conducted by the DOD inspector general, as it realities to General Allen, and the authorized leak of classified information investigation that's now being undertaken by the FBI and the Justice Department related to Broadwell and Petraeus, is going to be followed to its end, every available lead. And if there is prosecution or punishment that has to come from that, in either case, he's going to see that that happens.
The other thing I think he's got to say about the scandal is that he's concerned about sort of these -- the number of these investigations at the senior levels of the military and that he's going to -- he and the secretary of defense are going to set the tone for the ethical and moral conduct of our most senior military officers.
MALVEAUX: And, Fran, real quickly here, there are less than 38 active U.S. generals of this stature around the world. How significant a blow is this that you've got our top guy in the CIA and the top guy in Afghanistan now both on the sidelines?
TOWNSEND: No, that's right. And what he's got is -- what he's got to reassure the American people is that that's not going to distract the men and women of the military or the CIA. And it won't. But that it won't distract them from their day to day mission to protect this country.
MALVEAUX: All right, Fran, thank you very much. We appreciate it, as always.
Want to bring in Governor Granholm.
Jennifer, what do you want to hear from the president in terms of what kind of mandate he has and what he uses his leverage for going forward in the next four years?
GRANHOLM: I expect that he will be extremely clear about what he is going to put on the table, that we have to have a balanced solution, as everybody has said, but that we can't hurt the economy. And I think he is going to say, I have put on the table a $1.6 trillion proposed budget. Those are the -- that's the resolution that he has. There's a bill before Congress that we should and that the people expect that he will make sure that the highest end earners pay their fair share and the middle class is not harmed. It's going to be hard to stay on that message in light of everything that's happening with the Petraeus affair, but I think he has got to be really focused and clear about what he intends to do to solve the fiscal cliff.
MALVEAUX: And what kind of tone do you think he should strike to satisfy this totally diverse coalition of supporters who put him back into office?
GRANHOLM: I think he's got to be clear and firm. I think he needs to say, the people sent me. We were super explicit on the campaign trail about what we were going to do. I won an overwhelming amount of support from the voters, overwhelming electoral mandate and I'm going to fulfill what the people have returned me to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We're going to complete that job. And the first thing on tap is to make sure that we have a tax structure that is fair.
MALVEAUX: All right, we're going to wrap this up real quickly here. The president was rewarded, the Latino vote, overwhelming majority, and we've already heard Senator Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham proposing comprehensive immigration reform. African-American voters also overwhelmingly supporting this president. Do you think that he can be freer now in his second term to address specific concerns, economic hardships that are facing the African-American community?
GRANHOLM: Totally. I absolutely think that he can. I think he can really robustly talk about how important it is to have jobs in urban areas. Jobs for all types of people. And I think that having an active government, in partnership with business, and he's meeting those business people today, to make sure that we have jobs in urban areas. The federal government can be a partner with states and local entities to make creative and incentives for locating, for jobs in America. That is an opportunity for him, And I bet you he's going to talk about it.
MALVEAUX: All right, Jennifer Granholm, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it.
GRANHOLM: You bet.
MALVEAUX: And, of course, take a quick break. We'll have a special -- our special coverage straight to Wolf.