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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Conflict in Israel; CIA Scandal Investigation Continues
Aired November 15, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin with breaking news, Israeli troops on the move right now, the Israeli army moving 1,500 to 2,000 troops to the border with Gaza. Many fear a ground offensive if Israel chooses to launch one could be the spark that engulfs the region in conflict.
Now, inside Gaza, scenes like this playing out right now, a constant bombardment. The Israeli military says at least 300 rockets from Gaza have been fired into Israel since yesterday. Israel says at least three people have died. Israel firing back with its own missile launches and airstrikes. This is what happens on the ground in Gaza, huge mushroom clouds of destruction, buildings left in ruins. Israel says it targeted more than 300 terror sites. That's what they call them in Gaza.
When the bombs fall, neighborhoods go up in flames, bodies on the streets. Health ministry officials say at least 18 Palestinians have been killed.
CNN's Sara Sidner is in Gaza City, witnessing the violence, the rockets and gunfire reining down. Here's what she told Wolf Blitzer this afternoon. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: OK. That is exactly -- all right. I'm going to move out of the way. I'm going to let you get a look here. I'm going to let you get a look at what is going on. Now, I can see the black smoke. It's difficult too capture on camera. But you saw that flash.
This is what we have been dealing with all day. We have also been dealing with -- I'm sorry -- the power has just gone out. We have been dealing with power outages, Wolf. But this feels like war. It may not have been declared, but it feels like war to the civilians who live here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sara Sidner joins us now live from Gaza.
Sara, what are you seeing? We just saw there were airstrikes earlier in the day behind you. What's going on now?
SIDNER: The same thing. Throughout the entire night,. we have been hearing some-teeth rattling blasts over Gaza.
We do know there have been at least a dozen blasts over the past few hours. Very, very, very loud, strong blasts here. It's very dark. I'm going to kind of move out of the way just to give you a look. It's dark here and power is out in much of the city.
Those who have generators, you will see a few lights just there behind me, but it has been a very, very difficult night for the civilians living here, certainly, difficult also, to be very fair, for the civilians living in Southern Israel.
We were there this morning. We were there for quite awhile and we ourselves in just about an hour-and-a-half time saw at least 13 rockets come over from Gaza into Israel. Now we know that number is somewhere around 300 since this latest fight, this latest battle between Gaza and Israel began.
It has been a very difficult night for people here and you can really tell, because when you go into the streets, this is one of the densely populated cities of the world, perhaps the most densely populated city, and if you look in the streets that are usually bustling, filled with people, filled with cars, there are hardly any cars. There have been almost no people and all the shops closed.
So a very, very tense place here in Gaza and in Southern Israel as well.
COOPER: Sara, Stay with us. I want to bring in Fred Pleitgen. He's in Southern Israel. Also there is Noga Tarnopolsky, a senior correspondent for Global Post. And Fouad Ajami is with me here, a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Fred, I know you're hearing jets right now. What's the latest where you are?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Anderson. There were jets from the Israeli military just passing overhead literally a couple minutes ago. It looks as though Gaza might be in for a few more airstrikes.
What's happened here on the ground in Ashkelon, we are only about eight miles away from the border with Gaza, they have had at least 20 rockets come over from Gaza here into Ashkelon. What they have in place here though is a missile defense system called the Iron Dome. And across Southern Israel, the Israeli Defense Forces say that missile defense system has intercepted as many as 130 rockets coming out of Gaza.
But, of course, it can't intercept all of them. That's the reason the Israelis say why they keep sending those warplanes over there to try and suppress especially the medium- and long-range rockets coming out of Gaza, because one of the things that also happened today is that the outskirts of Tel Aviv were actually hit by a rocket as well. No one was injured in that.
However, it is very, very concerning to the Israelis if their main city, if the biggest city here in this country can in fact be targeted and the message we're getting from the Israeli Defense Forces and from the Israeli government is that they're both capable and very much willing to keep on widening that operation. In the short term, that will probably mean more airstrikes, a lot more airstrikes and in the longer term, or in the medium term, it could in fact mean a ground offensive.
We're also seeing a lot of movement on the ground here, tanks and other vehicles being brought into place.
COOPER: Fred, I have been in Ashkelon and that entire region and also along the Lebanese border. The rockets when they come over obviously very imprecise. You have been told the Israelis are more than willing to widen the operation, and the breaking news tonight that troops are moving toward the border right now. How likely is it ground troops will actually be sent in?
PLEITGEN: That's a very good question.
It's certainly something the Israelis are leaving on the table. At this point, there's a lot of speculation. One of the things the Israelis are not willing to say is what would actually trigger a ground offensive. There are some people who are saying for instance if Tel Aviv, for instance, took a direct hit from a larger rocket, that that could trigger a ground offensive.
We asked spokespeople for the Israeli Defense Forces and they're just not willing to commit and say this would be where the red line would be crossed. However, they are continuously saying that, yes, they are perfectly capable and willing to start a ground offensive if they feel that they are not achieving their objectives with the aerial bombardment or if in fact they feel that they need to do more than they are already doing right now.
They say what they are doing right now is called surgical airstrikes where they say they are predominantly taking out these rocket positions in Gaza. They say if they feel they are not achieving that objective, then a ground offensive would still very much be in the cards.
The other thing they're doing, Anderson, is they are also mobilizing the reserves which is another indication that they are very, very seriously -- serious about possibly going into Gaza with ground troops.
COOPER: Noga, I understand you heard air raid sirens recently. What are you seeing now?
Sorry, I didn't hear your question.
COOPER: Noga, I heard you heard air raid sirens recently. What are you seeing now?
NOGA TARNOPOLSKY, GLOBAL POST: Yes.
I think I'm quite near where Fred is so mostly we're hearing jets overhead. There was an air raid siren here about an hour ago but then we didn't even hear a boom.
COOPER: Fouad, what are the consequences for this region if this does widen and what do you think the likelihood that this could widen?
FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: I think for Prime Minister Netanyahu, this is really a very serious call.
Remember something about Netanyahu. He prides himself on the fact that he's been in power for six-and-a-half years, one term in the late 1990s and now. And during these six-and-a-half years, he never engaged Israel in a war, because Israelis know that these wars are easier to begin than to end.
They had a war in 2006 against Hezbollah in Lebanon, it was a disaster. They had a war in Gaza in 2008-2009, it was a disaster. So they're on the horns of a dilemma. They don't want to really escalate. I'm skeptical that there will be a massive invasion of Gaza. They may be forced into it. They may be forced into it if again, if the folks in Gaza target Tel Aviv. That is exactly -- as the reporter there would say, that is the red line.
But I think caution is the word for the Israeli cabinet.
COOPER: Do you think Hamas crossed a red line by targeting Tel Aviv?
Remember one thing. This Palestinian question has always been nasty enough and tenacious enough. And then you have Hamas question, it seizes Gaza. It's a lawless land. You don't really have a government. Much of the effort of Israel diplomatically is to get along and to reach an accord with Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, but then Gaza is this lawless world and that is a problem because you're not really dealing with a government. You're dealing with gangs.
And then Hamas itself says we're not really responsible. There are some groups. There is Islamic Jihad, there are all kinds of people. Any five, six people name themselves a group and launch rockets into Israel and we have this crisis.
COOPER: Noga, earlier you were at an apartment where three people were killed. What did you see?
TARNOPOLSKY: Well, what we saw was really massive, massive destruction.
And the British ambassador was there when I was there and he seemed I would say almost physically shaken at the sight of blood on the child's bed, and you saw breakfast dishes that were kind of left in disarray and, basically, the front part of a balcony and living room just shaved off. So it was shocking.
COOPER: Fred, what are you learning about casualties from airstrikes? Fred, what are you learning about casualties from airstrikes? PLEITGEN: Yes, sorry. We just had a couple -- another -- jets come over.
There were three casualties today on the Israeli side. It's actually just a couple of miles away from where I'm standing right here. These were people who were in their apartment building. That apartment building was then hit by a rocket and these people were dead immediately.
Other than that, there haven't been any casualties on the Israeli side simply because in places like Ashkelon, as you know, the people do take all this very seriously. If there is a siren that goes off here in Ashkelon, people do take shelter, they hit the deck, they go to the ground. They deal with this kind of stuff every day. I talked to the mayor...
COOPER: I'm sorry. I just want to go to Sara, because she's hearing blasts behind her.
Sara, what are you hearing now and what do you hear about casualties?
SIDNER: here have been three distinct blasts. We are seeing some of the smoke kind of billowing actually literally just behind us a few hundred yards.
We know that there are 19 people who have been killed here. All right. There is another one of the blasts. I'm going to move out of the way just again to see, because sometimes you can see a real huge, what looks like a flame almost that lights up the night sky and then it subsides. You usually hear these in succession, it's usually not just one. You will get a series.
This is maybe the third or fourth in a series of hits that we have heard. And again, what happens is you can hear the jets. As Fred was saying there in Ashkelon, you can hear those same jets as they come over. I'm actually looking at where there are quite -- it looks like some flames just near to -- closer to the scene.
But what I can tell you is that you normally hear the sound of the jets and then you hear that sort of bone-rattling blast and then you see the smoke. There's another one. So just as I was saying, you get these in succession.
And these sound really like thunder, like a terrible, terrible thunderstorm that keeps happening again and again and again. So far again, 19 people have been killed. We know that at least nine of those have been militants, but we also know that children have died, a pregnant woman has died, and an elderly man has died.
We are standing in a place where we are above the city. We're looking down upon this highly populated city and it is absolutely deserted. A lot of concern here about where those blasts are coming from. People have been warned. There was actually the Israeli military dropping leaflets in some of the neighborhoods here warning people not to be around some of the Hamas militants, not to be in areas where they know there are weapons caches because those places would be targeted and we have seen that again and again and again, but certainly civilians are also being caught in some of this crossfire.
COOPER: All right, Fouad Ajami, thank you. Sara Sidner, stay safe, Frederik Pleitgen, Noga Tarnopolsky as well. Thank you very much.
Let us know what you think. follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight throughout the hour.
Up next: what former CIA Director David Petraeus will tell Congress when he testifies on the Benghazi attack tomorrow. We have got some sources that have some information on that.
Plus, reaction to the video that lawmakers got to see today of the attack on the consulate as it unfolded, the first time they have seen that. We're told it was surveillance video from a drone. We will talk to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and see what they think happened on September 11 in Libya. We will be right back.
COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight.
We are learning what General David Petraeus will say tomorrow when he testifies before the Senate and House Intelligence Committees on the Benghazi attack. We're told he wants to set the record straight about what happened September 11 at the U.S. Consulate compound in Libya.
Ambassador Christopher Stevens as you know and three other Americans were killed in that attack.
CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been talking to her sources to find out what the former CIA director will say tomorrow. She joins me now.
Barbara, you have new information on what members can expect to hear tomorrow from Petraeus as he talks to members about the attacks. What do you know?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Anderson. That's right, I have spoken to a source who is directly familiar with Petraeus' thinking, what he's planning to try and say on Capitol Hill tomorrow.
He wants to testify, he wants to clear up any, what he believes are misrepresentations of what he has said in the past and what he thinks really happened in Benghazi. First up, this source says that Petraeus will acknowledge that he knew quite quickly immediately afterwards that it was Ansar al-Sharia, that Libyan al Qaeda sympathizer group, that was responsible for it.
But they had some conflicting information. He also had some 20 reports that it might have been related to that riot that broke out in Cairo just before the attack regarding that anti-Islamic film. There had been rioting in Egypt and, of course, this is the contradictory thread of the narrative here, that it was riots that -- in Egypt that led to the attack on the embassy in Libya on the consulate in Libya.
So he's going to talk about having these two threads of information, but his sense right from the start that it was a terrorist attack by Ansar al-Sharia, a pretty murky group, a pretty loose collection of characters.
COOPER: This is interesting to me. Just to be clear, your source is saying General Petraeus knew almost immediately or felt that it was a terrorist attack, knew the group involved, even though he told members of Congress three days after the attack that it could have been spontaneous.
And there's also the statement made by the director of national intelligence on the DNI at the end of October who put out a statement saying in the wake of criticism of Ambassador Rice, saying that early reports indicated it might have been linked to -- might have been a spontaneous demonstration and Ambassador Rice went out on Sunday saying -- five days after, saying it was possibly early reports were spontaneous demonstration had been hijacked by other groups.
So if he had a gut feeling or knew, I don't get why the DNI would have put out that statement if Petraeus was saying it was a terror attack or felt it was.
STARR: Well, here's what we're looking at. We're looking at two threads of intelligence.
One is, who was responsible? The second one, what was their motivation? And the sense is that these two threads of intelligence began to cross. You could have had these Ansar al-Sharia people start the trouble and they could have supposedly been motivated by the riots and the video.
But what we know now is Petraeus feels at some point the CIA was able to largely disprove that the video played a central role. The problem is the timing. They didn't disprove those 20 reports until after he briefed Congress.
COOPER: OK. Barbara Starr reporting at the Pentagon, appreciate that. Fascinating stuff tonight. We will see what he says exactly tomorrow.
Now a look at today's briefings on Benghazi. In closed-door sessions, you might not have heard this, members of the congressional Intelligence Committees watched a video that was recovered from the U.S. Consulate compound in Libya showing them what happened as the attack unfolded.
Some of the video was taken by a drone according to lawmakers we spoke with.
Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill for us tonight. She's got more reaction to the video. What have you learned?
Dana, what have you learned?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the video we're told was actually a combination of what was recovered from the consulate, actual closed-circuit video, and video that was gotten from drones above.
And what we're told is -- at least I'm told by one source who is in one of the briefings -- is that you could actually see the attack real-time, including Christopher Stevens, the ambassador who was one of the four Americans killed, being dragged out of the attack.
The other thing that is just -- clearly was chilling, this is according to Senator Roy Blunt, who told CNN earlier today that it was really amazing, he said, to see the length of this attack. You really got to see that the attack started at a certain time and then many, many hours later, it was not until then that you saw the final two Americans actually killed.
COOPER: As for the rest of the video from that briefing, I understand members really seemed to have had different interpretations of what it shows, right?
BASH: The video and also just the briefing that they got overall, they were here, senior intelligence officials were here all day today, Anderson, briefing the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, and you're right, it was like a political Rorschach test.
Talking to Republicans, they came out saying what they saw, what they heard really underscores their feeling that the administration should have known that it wasn't a demonstration, that they should have known that it was al Qaeda or at least an al Qaeda affiliate that was responsible for this from the get-go.
Talk to Democrats coming out, and they said, no, it's pretty clear that the administration was cautious because they were basing their comments on information from the intelligence community, especially Ambassador Rice. In fact, one Democratic lawmaker said that he asked point-blank a question about whether or not Ambassador Rice had the real-time information when she went out just on that Sunday after the attacks, and the answer that he said he got was yes.
COOPER: So one of the administration's toughest critics on Benghazi obviously has been Senator John McCain. We talked to him last night on this program. He was pretty upset when he encountered one of our colleagues from CNN in the Capitol today. What happened?
BASH: Well, the backstory here is that Senator McCain, of course, as you said, he is really out there trying to get Watergate- style committee hearings in order to root out the details of what really went on in Benghazi.
It turns out when he was having a press conference to call for that, he was missing a closed-door hearing on this very issue, on Benghazi. So Ted Barrett tried to ask him about that, about why he missed it. Didn't go so well. Take a listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TED BARRETT, CNN PRODUCER: Senator McCain, listen, I understand that you missed this briefing yesterday.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have no comment. I have no comments about my schedule. And I'm not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media.
BARRETT: Is there -- is there...
MCCAIN: I will not -- I have no further comment.
BARRETT: Is there a legitimate feeling that your complaining about wanting more...
MCCAIN: I have no further comment. I have no further comment. I have no further comment.
BARRETT: Why can't you comment about that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment. And who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: McCain's office did give us an answer later in the day that it was a scheduling error. That's the reason why he didn't attend that particular briefing.
I should say that he wasn't the only Republican not to attend. Most of the Republicans on the Homeland Security Committee actually didn't attend. Only three of eight did. I should also tell you that these hearings have been going on all day today and the one in the Senate, at least Senator McCain did attend. He was there for hours. I watched him go in and out.
COOPER: Dana Bash, appreciate the reporting on that.
Joining me now are two congressmen who watched the video in question today. New York Republican Peter King joins me and California Congressman Adam Schiff.
Congressman King, you were in that briefing today. You saw the surveillance, the drone video recovered from the Benghazi compound. Is there anything about what you saw today that changes your assessment of the situation? Because you have been a tough critic of the administration.
REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Yes, not really the video. I didn't see much controversial about the video. Maybe Adam will disagree. I thought it was objective. I don't think it really answered the questions either side would have had. My objection was that contrary to what Dana said, the Democrats were saying, one Democrat said, I try not to make it partisan, is that I don't believe that the talking points that were given to Susan Rice contained all the intelligence the intelligence community had.
Without going into detail, there were several reports clearly stating that al Qaeda-affiliated groups were involved in the attack and were very heavily involved in the attack and that did not make it into the talking points, did not make it into the final talking points that were given to Congress or to Susan Rice, even though they were in the original talking points. That's a real issue as to why that was taken out.
And I just feel that there are still many unanswered questions as to who actually put the final version of the talking points together. That was not answered today.
COOPER: Congressman King, you have been tough on Susan Rice based on the fact that she went out on TV and what she said, but tonight it sounds like you're saying she wasn't given all the information that did exist within the intelligence community. We just heard also Barbara Starr reporting that tomorrow Petraeus is going to say he felt it was a terror attack from the get-go, but there were other strains of intelligence.
Is your problem less with Susan Rice and what she said and more with the information she was given? Because the DNI basically put out this statement the end of October saying the information Susan Rice talked about is what we put out, is what the intelligence community put out.
KING: Well, that's not true, that's not true.
Today, they said that their talking points were not the ones that were given to Susan Rice. Somebody, it appears maybe in the White House, or the National Security Council, changed those talking points. So the administration does have the responsibility on that.
COOPER: You're saying it's not her fault, it's more the fault of the information she was given?
KING: Well, yes, but the information is -- it appears by the White House. The intelligence community in their original talking points had in there about the al Qaeda affiliation.
That was taken out after it left the intelligence community, so it appears that somebody in the White House did that.
COOPER: OK. Interesting.
Congressman Schiff, what was your interpretation of about what you heard today?
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: I think we had the most comprehensive chronology of what took place in Benghazi.
I think it really shed a lot of light minute by minute, hour by hour, what took place, and it convinced me that there was no effort to politicize the information we were being given. It also convinced me on the point involving our United Nations ambassador that she was given the same early assessment that we were, the same ultimately inaccurate assessment.
So for those lawmakers that have been attacking her, I think it's completely unjustified. We had an unclassified summary, as the ambassador did. That summary said that it looked like a spontaneous protest that extremists hijacked, that there were indications that there were extremists involved in that. That's precisely what the ambassador said.
So I think it was really quite a vindication of the ambassador, but more than that, I think it answered a lot of questions about the chronology. It still though, Anderson, left open questions about why the intelligence community got it so wrong initially, and they did spend a lot of time going over that today. I don't think it was deliberate or malicious in any way, but we do have remaining questions to get at, at why better information didn't come up more quickly.
COOPER: Do you make the distinction that -- Congressman Schiff, do you make the distinction that Congressman King just did, that some of the -- that there were different strains of intelligence that some in the intelligence community had and put out, but that the talking points Ambassador Rice got did not reflect that?
SCHIFF: Well, there were conflicting strains in the intelligence and, indeed, in different iterations of the assessments we got, it characterized the events in Benghazi differently, some very slight, some more substantive differences.
So I think what the ambassador said was clearly consistent with what they told us at the very same time, and we were given a brief literally -- some hours before the ambassador, we were given a briefing statement in the late afternoon of Saturday.
She appeared on those shows Sunday morning. It was very consistent with what we were told and they told us this is our best assessment. So I can hardly fault someone for going forward with what the intelligence community is saying.
Had the ambassador gone forward with something different than what the intelligence community said was their best assessment, then she would have been opened up to criticism.
COOPER: Congressman King?
KING: Yes. The intelligence community said that al Qaeda was involved. That was taken out by someone in the White House. The intelligence community did give an accurate estimate...
COOPER: That's not what the DNI said, right?
KING: I'm telling you what he told us today. I'm telling you what was their reporting on 12th, 13th and 15th. There were intelligence estimates saying al Qaeda was directly involved, al Qaeda affiliates were directly involved.
Somehow, after that was prepared by the intelligence community, that was taken out after it went to the White House. That is a very serious issue. Also, General Petraeus, I have great regard for General Petraeus. When he briefed us that morning, he made it clear he did not think this was a terrorist attack.
I have great regard, but he is sort of rewriting history here. He totally downplayed the terrorist aspect, including Ansar al-Sharia, who he said there were some people in the crowd from Ansar al-Sharia. He never said that they were involved in the attack as a group.
COOPER: Congressman Schiff?
SCHIFF: Anderson, I need to correct the record here.
I don't think there was any indication that the White House ordered anything taken out of the intelligence assessments.
SCHIFF: Peter, I don't think that's accurate. There were assessments that were given to us...
KING: No, the talking points...
COOPER: One at a time.
Congressman Schiff, continue.
We had a variety of assessments and, indeed, we have got now a full binder of the raw intelligence data that we have gone through, some that makes specific mention of who they think might be involved and others that don't. But there has been no indication that the White House somehow ordered or deleted specifics from our intelligence assessment or said we can't go into this or try, we're trying to shape it or politicize it. I just don't think that's consistent at all with what we have been informed.
COOPER: Congressman King? KING: Talking points were prepared by the intelligence community, that were prepared for that weekend, for Ambassador Rice and others, said that there was al Qaeda -- there was direct al Qaeda involvement in the attacks.
When the final talking points were printed after they left the intelligence community, that was taken out of the talking points. When we asked, where did it go, it went to the National Security Council and that was taken out. Nobody from the intelligence community can tell who outside of their community took it out. All they know is after it left them, somebody changed it. The only other people that had access to it were the White House.
COOPER: I'm at a disadvantage because I obviously have not seen the same documents you have.
But, Congressman Schiff, that's not your understanding of the documents you saw?
SCHIFF: No, that's not my understanding. And if you look at the -- the summary we were given that could be publicly revealed, they didn't choose to make reference to the specific terrorist organizations that were involved, and that's probably not the level of detail they wanted us to discuss publicly.
But the suggestion that somehow, that this was orchestrated by the White House or there was some political purpose behind it, that is completely inconsistent with what's been presented to us.
COOPER: All right.
KING: Not at all. Not at all.
COOPER: Obviously two very different perspectives. We'll learn more when Petraeus testifies tomorrow. Gentlemen, appreciate both of you being on the program. Thank you very much.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead, the backlash over Mitt Romney's candid remarks in a conference call to donors. He said President Obama won the election because of policy gifts he gave -- gifts that he gave to his core voters, the Latinos and others.
We talked about this on the program a little bit last night. A lot of heat today is coming his way from his own party. We'll talk to Republicans about that next.
COOPER: The single largest criminal fine ever on record, BP agrees to pay billions of dollars in penalties for the deadly explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico back in 2010. We'll talk to the father of one of the rig workers who died.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: More "Raw Politics" now. Remarks that Mitt Romney made on a conference call with campaign donors about why he lost last week's election are drawing a lot of heat today. He said that President Obama won votes by offering gifts -- those were his words -- to certain voters. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via phone): What the president -- president's campaign did was focus on certain members of his base coalition, give them extraordinary financial gifts from the government, and -- and then work very aggressively to turn them out to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: An example if one of those so-called policy gifts, free contraceptives, which Romney said were, quote, "very big with young, college-age women." He also said Obama care was a gift that mobilized Hispanic and black voters.
It's certainly not the first time that Romney's drawn fire for remarks caught on tape. This time the heat is coming from his own party. Republicans, among others. Here's what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said today on "THE SITUATION ROOM."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: Wolf, this is completely unhelpful. This is not where the Republican Party needs to go.
Look, we want -- if you want voters to like you, the first thing you've got to do is to like them first. It's certainly not helpful to tell voters that you think their votes were bought. That's certainly not a way to show them that you respect them, you like them.
We need to stop being the dumb party. We need to offer smart, conservative, intelligent ideas and policies. That's how we win elections. We don't win elections by insulting voters.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in the wake of the election, obviously, a lot of Republicans, not just Jindal, are doing soul searching, you might say, about how they can better appeal to groups that voted for Obama. Romney apparently didn't get that memo.
Joining me now, CNN contributors and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin and Ann Navarro, and "New York Times" op-ed columnist Charles Blow.
Ann, I want to start with you. You've been very -- tweeting extensively on this. You said you were livid at Governor Romney for this, that the comments were offensive. You said he actually needs to take a look in the mirror. What do you mean? ANN NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think he needs to figure out what were his own flaws. What were the deficiencies with his campaign?
I get it, OK. He was talking to 300 of his top donors, people who had helped him raise almost $1 billion. And he needs to explain why he lost. And it's easier to blame somebody else than to look in the mirror and blame yourselves for your shortfalls.
But I think it's Mitt Romney who's got to figure out why did he get 27 percent with the Hispanic vote? Mary worked for George W. Bush White House. George W. Bush got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. It wasn't because he was giving away gifts or freebies.
And it's just the wrong message to say that Hispanics, blacks, young people, are nothing but takers, and that that's why they voted for Barack Obama. I find it terribly offensive.
COOPER: Mary, I've got to say, when I heard this I was reminded of that 47 percent hidden camera tape of Mitt Romney. I want to play just a little bit more from this conference call, one of the two he held with donors. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY (via phone): It's a proven political strategy, which is give a bunch of money from the government to a group and guess what? They'll vote for you.
Let me tell you what I would do if I were a Democrat running four years from now. I'd say, you know what? Dental care ought to be included in Obama care.
Immigration, we can solve, but the giving away free stuff is a hard thing to compete with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So Mary, what do you make of the calls? What of his comment?
MARY MATALIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm glad you played some more, and I completely agree with Anna. He was -- you never know in what context this was said. It's just like the 47 percent.
But the reason I became a conservative -- I grew up a liberal Democrat. The reason I became a conservative is so everybody, no matter of race, gender, class, could have the same opportunities for upward mobility. That's the better way to say what he's saying.
You don't get -- women don't get upward mobility opportunities because they get free contraception. The Obama campaign was ruthless and open and loud about their targeting, that they wanted youth, they wanted women, and they wanted minorities. And they -- it's not -- they won because they had better turnout, and they did it, ran a better campaign. So I think Anna's right. I don't know that he isn't examining what else went wrong with the campaign. I wouldn't lead with this. I can't expect a man as smart as him would think that this was the reason he lost this campaign.
COOPER: Charles, I mean, to you, did these comments echo the 47 percent comments? Or how do you interpret them?
CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": I think they absolutely echoed the 47 percent. And it's actually a really unfortunate timing for Mitt Romney and the Republican Party for this to come out right now, because you had an opportunity for people, at least some people, to kind of forget about the 47 percent, or let that kind of fade into the distance during the last couple months of the campaign. And also, he did, I think, give a rather gracious kind of concession speech.
But this brings back to the fore the idea that he was not misspeaking when he was discussing the 47 percent. It's an incredibly condescending way to think about the American electorate and about the presidency of the United States, that the president would use the U.S. Treasury as some sort of massive -- massive cynical vote-buying machine and that people would fall for that. That that is the only thing that they want in a candidate, is someone who will give them handouts.
It goes back to that narrative of the makers versus the takers which, I think, is kind of a coded message that people use when they want to kind of denigrate minorities, young people, people who they don't think are smart enough to make decisions based on policy.
COOPER: Major developments in the major oil spill and developments back in 2010. BP agreeing today to plead guilty to pay a giant fine, billions of dollars. We'll tell you how much, and we'll talk to the father of a rig worker who was killed to find out if it's enough.
COOPER: Tonight, BP, the company that spent so many months pointing fingers and claiming ignorance has agreed to plead guilty to felony charges relating to 11 workers' deaths in the Deepwater Horizon explosion, and to lying to Congress.
BP has also agreed to a record $4 billion settlement.
More than 2 1/2 years after the rig exploded, who can forget these images? The deep below the water's surface, a geyser of oil that it took BP 85 days to stop that gusher.
We spent months reporting on the fallout, two months in the region alone to see it up close, and it was -- well, it was sickening. Every day, we invited BP to come on the program. After weeks of saying no, they finally said yes on May 19. After that they never came on the program again, but we kept on asking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: For weeks now, literally weeks, we invited BP CEO Tony Hayward to come on 360. Again today, the answer was no.
As always, we invited BP executives to come on the program tonight. We invite them every single night. Other than the one time they've shown up, they basically don't return our phone calls anymore.
We're going to keep asking. We hope they change their mind.
As always, we invited BP to be on the program tonight. Of course, they said no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, we weren't the only ones with questions, of course. Congress held hearings. BP's chief executive at the time, Tony Hayward, was called to testify. Here's how that went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, FORMER CEO, BP: We don't yet have all the answers. I'm not prepared to speculate.
I had no prior knowledge.
I haven't drawn a conclusion.
I can't recall that number, no, sir.
I don't believe.
I'm afraid I don't.
I don't know.
I was not involved or aware.
I don't believe.
I had no prior knowledge.
I don't know.
I can't speak to...
I haven't seen this. I don't believe. As I said, I don't believe.
I don't know.
I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: That's basically how it went. It was this remark from Mr. Hayward that really took everyone's breath away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYWARD: We're sorry for the massive disruption it's caused to their lives. And we're -- there's no one wants this thing over more than I do. I'd like my life back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, he wanted his life back. Remember, 11 people died in the explosion. Gordon Jones was one of them. His father, Keith Jones, joins me now.
Keith, how do you feel about today's settlement? I know you said this came as a surprise, since you hadn't really heard any updates in over a year about the criminal investigation?
KEITH JONES, FATHER OF GORDON JONES: Well, we hadn't, that's true, and -- and I think most, if not all, of the family members that were on the conference call this morning, for example, are pleased just that this page has turned.
It was just kind of lingering out there. We didn't know what was going on, and I certainly understand that from the government's point of view. You don't want to talk about everybody -- about negotiations that are going on and so forth, but it's nice to have that behind us, I think.
COOPER: In addition to the settlement, two BP employees have been indicted on manslaughter charges. For you, is that enough in your view, or do you think more people should be charged?
JONES: Based on what I know about what caused the accident, I certainly think that more people are culpable than the two who were charged. The two who were charged were the company men. They were BP's representatives -- chief representatives on the rig.
I still think that there were other people who made decisions that were just as bad and led just as directly to the Deepwater Horizon explosion as -- as the things that the company men did.
COOPER: And obviously, I mean, no one wanted anybody to get killed, not these company men, not anybody in management, but do you think these decisions, bottom line, were just being made based on money. Just on saving money?
JONES: Yes, I do think that. Maybe I'll be proved wrong someday, but I don't think so. Every decision that they made that has been called into question that I know of, was always made to save time or save money. And of course, time is money on an oil rig. So not once did they decide to do -- do things the more expensive and safer way.
COOPER: I think you and I have talked about this in the past. But I always hate that word "closure," because I don't think in a case -- in something like this where you've lost a son, in your case. There -- I think that's a TV -- it's a made-up word.
But your son Gordon was killed just three weeks before one of his sons, Max, was born. I'm just wondering, how are both of his kids doing now?
JONES: They're doing great. They are both healthy, happy, big little boys. Max looks just like his dad, and so it's nice, every time I see him, to see Gordon's big smile on his face.
COOPER: That's great. Well, Keith, I appreciate you talking to us. I know it's not easy. And my best to your family. Thank you.
JONES: Thank you very much, Anderson.
COOPER: Remember all of those whose lives were lost.
Still ahead, major developments in the investigation into the David Petraeus sex scandal. We'll tell you about the new CIA investigation on that, next.
COOPER: It's been 17 days since Superstorm Sandy hit, and in New York, more than 25,000 households still without power. The question is not only why so many people lost electricity but also what can be done to prevent this kind of scenario from happening again.
Tom Foreman tonight reports in "Building Up America."
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For all the angry people still without power after Sandy, there may be few more frustrated than a man who lives hundreds of miles away. He's with the American Society of Civil Engineers. His name is Otto Lynch, and he is certain the storm's impact did not have to be so bad.
OTTO LYNCH, AMERICAN SOCIETY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS: No, the damage did not have to be this bad at all. With a little bit better planning, we could have certainly eliminated much of the damage.
FOREMAN: What he is talking about is the subject of some highly advanced research at Georgia Tech. A lowly but critical part of the electrical grid, the power pole.
REGINALD DESROCHES, PROFESSOR, GEORGIA TECH: It's focused on trying to get a better understanding of the vulnerability of some of these wood poles as exposed to, in this case, extreme wind loads.
FOREMAN: Specifically, researchers are studying what makes a power pole break? Its age, the stress from wind, water, ice, or flying debris. Combine all of that with weather patterns, and they are creating a comprehensive map of tens of millions of poles, so utility companies can replace vulnerable ones before big storms hit. MIROSLAV BEGOVIC, PROFESSOR, GEORGIA TECH: It is important to identify which ones are the most compromised and how to direct those funds without wasting huge sums on unnecessary treatments and unnecessary replacements.
FOREMAN: Others believe the National Electrical Safely Code should also be rewritten to require more robust poles, especially where powerful storms are likely.
(on camera) Lynch insists that would cost less than $100 per pole, and he says if such measures had been put into place years before Sandy came calling, he estimates power losses might have been half as bad.
LYNCH: You know, even if it's just 25 percent, that's 25 percent less people that didn't lose power.
FOREMAN (voice-over): And in a tough economy, building up America begins with keeping the lights on.
Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.
ISHA SESAY, HLN ANCHOR: I'm Isha Sesay with a "360 Bulletin."
Today President Obama got a first-hand look at part of New York City devastated by Superstorm Sandy. He met with local officials and with residents struggling to get their lives and homes back together. The president vowed federal agencies will be involved in the rebuilding effort.
The CIA is starting an investigation into former director David Petraeus and his, quote, "general conduct." A U.S. official says the investigation will include whether he used CIA resources in carrying out his affair with Paula Broadwell.
Also today, Attorney General Eric Holder spoke publicly for the first time about the Petraeus scandal, saying the Justice Department did not tell the White House about the FBI's investigation, because it was determined that national security was never at risk.
And the FDA is investigating the dietary supplement 5-Hour Energy after receiving reports of 13 deaths by consumers who may have used it. This doesn't mean the supplement played any role. However, the agency says, three deaths may have a preliminary link. Five-Hour Energy contains caffeine and other ingredients.
We'll be right back.
COOPER: OK, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.