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Eric Holder Speaks Out on CIA Scandal; Conflict in Israel

Aired November 15, 2012 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour, now. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, in for Brooke Baldwin.

Fears of all-out war, as rockets and shells criss-cross the skies between Israel and Gaza. The conflict between Israel and Hamas is getting bloodier -- today's death toll, 18. Three Israelis killed in rocket strikes from Gaza, while an aid worker reports 15 Palestinaians were killed by Israeli strikes.

And this, many believe, was the tipping point. An Israeli airstrike yesterday killing nine people, including the young child of the target, Ahmed al-Jabari. Jabari was a founder and a military leader of Hamas. He was in that vehicle -- the group that controls Gaza's government, Hamas, that is.

Well, today, Palestinians carried his body through the streets on the way to his funeral. And, as they mourn, Israeli forces are giving the play by play of their offensive on the Israeli defensive -- Defense Forces, rather, Web site. It reports the spots under attack are Hamas missile launch sites. And Israel is not just taking out the launchers. Its teams are detonating rockets in the air. Watch.

Israel says it's responding to what's been called the raining of bombs by Hamas on Israeli areas that border Gaza.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: No government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire and Israel will not tolerate the situation.

This is why my government has instructed the Israeli Defense Forces to conduct surgical strikes against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Let's go live now to Fred Pleitgen.

Fred, paint the picture of what's been happening there.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Fredricka.

Well, I'm in a town of Ashkelon, which is actually one of those towns that's repeatedly been targeted by missile strikes coming from Gaza. They also have one of the missile interceptor systems that you showed just now. It's called the Iron Dome system. And the Israeli Defense Forces have said that they have intercepted at least 80 rockets coming out of Gaza in the past days alone, not just around Ashkelon, but around other places as well.

That one place where the three people were killed is only about 11 miles northeast of here. And what's going on here is the airstrikes by the Israeli military are ongoing, they're ongoing in Gaza, but also the barrage of rockets coming out of Gaza is ongoing as well.

Certainly the Israeli military saying it will not let up and in fact says that it has the capabilities, the means and the will to even expand the operation in which the short term will probably mean, Fredricka, more airstrikes on targets in Gaza, especially those missile launch sites that you were talking about, but possibly also in the future.

The Israelis have deliberately not taken this off the table, possibly also a ground operation in Gaza -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Fred Pleitgen, thanks so much in Southern Israel for that update.

Meantime, right now, joining me is an iReporter who has been waking up to the sounds of rockets.

Adele Raemer is a teacher who lives in Kibbutz Nirim, a small community in Israel on the border with Gaza.

So, Adele, what have you been experiencing?

ADELE RAEMER, ISRAELI CITIZEN: Well, we have been experiencing sporadic rockets fire, sometimes more often than others.

This morning, last night, it was at a psychopathic rate. This evening so far, it's been less often, but the thing is we don't -- what we get here -- we're so close. We are less than two kilometers away from the border which means that they have the short range mortars that they shoot at us and there's no warning for that. The only warning you get is the explosion.

In fact, when I was talking to Janelle (ph) earlier, as I was talking to her, there was an explosion in the background and she heard it. It's been -- it's crazy. Nobody should have to live this way.

WHITFIELD: Janelle being our booker here on the show.

How long has this been carrying on? How long have you felt like you and your neighbors have been under attack or dodging these strikes?

RAEMER: Well, it's been almost the past eight years that, you know, we have had the shooting, but it's only, I don't know, the past year or so, like it gets -- the breaks between shootings just gets shorter and shorter and lately it's been literally every day, numerous times a day all around -- all around the Gaza environs.

WHITFIELD: So, kind of without explanation, it will escalate, it will quiet down?

RAEMER: Yes, yes.

WHITFIELD: So, are you in agreement...

(CROSSTALK)

RAEMER: I will wake up in the morning some time and I will see that it's a foggy morning and I will think, oh, this is a good morning for them to be able to start shooting. You know?

WHITFIELD: So, are you in agreement with the way Israel is handling this, that it is launching attacks against what it believes to be the missile launch sites of Hamas?

RAEMER: Look, I'm not a politician. I'm a teacher. I just live here. I want to get on with my life.

And I know that most of the people, I'm sure that most of the people that live on the other side of the fence want to get on with their lives as well. So, I mean, what the politicians do, there's not -- I just want to find peace. You know? I just want to be able to go out and walk my dogs in the morning or in the evening and not have to worry that I'm going to have to run and duck and hide because I'm being shot at.

WHITFIELD: Yes, with no firing on either side.

RAEMER: I have to trust my government to be doing what they need to do in order to protect me.

WHITFIELD: Adele Raemer, thanks so much for your time. All the best and good luck.

RAEMER: Thank you very much. And if anybody's interested in reading about it, we do have a Facebook group that I started about a year ago that depicts life on the border. It's called Life on the Border With Gaza and it's apolitical and it's just about people here in the area on Facebook writing about what it's like to live here, and people abroad reading about it because it's in English.

Your listeners are more than welcome to check that out and go see what it's really like here.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Adele. It looks like we have pulled up the home page of that site right there.

All right. Israel says it's targeted more than 200 terror sites and its defense forces have launched a campaign to tell people in Gaza and Israel to get out of harm's way. It's tweeted for operatives to stay underground, sent out leaflets warning civilians in Gaza and also issued this video message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: Despite the fact that Hamas operates from civilian areas, the IDF has consistently taken measures to minimize casualties to innocent bystanders by placing phone calls, recorded warnings and leaflets all intended to alert civilian bystanders, deploying weapons systems which enable pinpoint accuracy in order to minimize collateral damage, delaying ground and aerial strikes in populated areas or even canceling altogether them whenever collateral damage to civilians is likely.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Joining me right now, Bobby Ghosh, an editor at large for "TIME" magazine who's reported extensively on the Middle East.

Bobby, good to see you.

What do you make of how social media is playing into this rising or escalating conflict now between Israel and Hamas? We know it's been going on for years, but something has reignited it within recent days if not weeks.

BOBBY GHOSH, DEPUTY INTERNATIONAL EDITOR, "TIME": Well, yes. Social media is doing two things. It is giving people around the world an almost ringside seat in to this particular clash in a way that they haven't seen before, so this is -- this is very different in that respect.

But it's also allowing the two sides, the IDF and Hamas, almost to talk to each other almost in real time while the fighting's going on. Of course, when I say talk to each other, this takes the form of taunting and cursing at each other and it's almost -- it's very primal and primitive that way.

This is how man fought battles hundreds of years ago. You looked your enemy in the eye and you yelled curses and insults at each other while you were trying to kill each other. And strangely this postmodern technology of social media is bringing us back in some ways to that place.

WHITFIELD: And given the arsenal of social media, do you feel as though this is the beginning of what could grow in to a regional conflict?

GHOSH: Well, that would depend on whether there's a ground offense, how Hamas responds. One of the big questions is, what happens next?

In the past, whenever there's been a skirmish or even a full-scale battle of this nature, at the back of everyone's mind was the knowledge that there was a peace process, that eventually when saner minds prevailed or when people ran out of bullets that they could return to a peace process.

There is no peace process now and there hasn't been one for several years. So when the wise counsel prevails, when somebody runs out of ammunition, where do they go next? That's the great uncertainty that makes this different.

WHITFIELD: This conflict goes back generations, but what is it about why now Israel felt compelled to assassinate the Hamas military leader and carry on with these attacks?

GHOSH: Well, you don't assassinate a military leader of Hamas, somebody who spends a big part of their life hiding from such an airstrike, you don't assassinate them just on the spur of the moment. That part of the operation was clearly something a long time in the planning.

They had to track him, they had to know where he was going and where he would be at any given point. That's something that has probably been in the works for weeks, for months, years possibly. The immediate provocation Israel says is the escalation in rocket attacks from Gaza in to Israel.

And I was hearing in my earpiece the woman you were speaking to, Adele, I think, confirming that the rate of rocket fire seems to have gone up. That seems to be the precipitative event at this point.

WHITFIELD: Bobby Ghosh, thanks so much with "TIME" magazine. Appreciate your time.

GHOSH: Any time.

WHITFIELD: This information just in. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder answering a question about the investigation involving the former CIA Director David Petraeus and whether it impacted national security.

Joe Johns joining us live now from Washington with more on this -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Fred.

For the first time, Attorney General Eric Holder answering questions about this case, the David Petraeus case. The central question here in Washington, D.C., has been why the Justice Department failed to or chose not to alert people on Capitol Hill that they were investigating an alleged extramarital affair that could end up and did bring down the top man at the CIA?

The attorney general's answer to that question, it wasn't a matter of national security. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I will say that with regard to that issue, what we did was conduct the investigation in the way that we normally conduct criminal investigations. We do so in a way that -- so they can be seen as being done in an impartial way.

We follow the facts. We do not share outside the Justice Department, outside the FBI the facts of ongoing investigations. We made the determination as we were going through the matter that there was not a threat to national security.

Had we made the determination that a threat to national security existed, we would, of course, have made that known to the president and also to the appropriate members on the Hill. But, as we went through the investigation, looked at the facts and tried to examine them as they developed, we were very -- we felt very secure in the knowledge that a national security threat did not exist that warranted the sharing of that information with the White House or with the Hill.

But when we got to a point in the investigation -- it was very late in the investigation after a very critical interview occurred on the Friday before we made that disclosure and got to that point where we thought it was appropriate to share the information, we did so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: So again, Eric Holder explaining why he didn't tell the Congress, why he didn't tell the president about this investigation of David Petraeus. It was not a national security threat.

By the way, this had been going on months and months. Probably started all the way back in the spring, Fred. The other thing we need to say and I think you probably said it before on this program, Petraeus is expected to testify on Capitol Hill tomorrow to the Intelligence Committees of the House and Senate. He is expected to just talk about Benghazi there. We're told he doesn't want to talk about this affair.

It will be behind closed doors. My bet is he might get a question or two about the rest.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Something tells me he is going to get a question about both those matters. All right. Joe Johns in Washington, thanks so much.

All right. Still ahead, President Barack Obama meeting with Sandy victims as folks run out of patience in the Northeast.

Plus, we are just learning of charges against a couple of BP employees now over the Gulf oil spill.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: New details today in the oil rig disaster that has cost oil giant BP billions.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced last hour that two BP officials are each charged with 22 counts of manslaughter, a third official charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the worst oil spill in history and the punishment doesn't stop there. BP will pay a record $4.5 billion fine to settle criminal charges.

An explosion on BP's oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico killed 11 people in April of 2010. Millions of barrels of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, devastating the environment, tourism and costing many people their jobs.

Ed Lavandera joins me now from the Florida Gulf Coast.

Ed, what is next in this case? ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are still a vast number of lawsuits that are still pending and potential fines that BP still faces, so by no means is this announcement today of this $4.5 billion settlement BP's made with the federal government really the end of the road.

But this also includes an almost $1.3 billion criminal fine which is the largest as you mentioned ever levied here in the United States, also, almost a little more than $2.3 billion that will go toward the restoration and the environmental research that will be needed in the Gulf.

Remember, there are a lot of people on the Gulf Coast who still say we're still seeing the effects and haven't fully understood the effects of the oil spill and what it's done to marine life in the Gulf waters, so a lot of that still being researched and still being dealt with dramatically.

And there's also a $525 million fine to settle claims with the SEC. There's also a wide-ranging number of things that have happened. There are criminal charges that the company has pled guilty to as well as three employees that now face criminal charges including manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, as well as withholding information from investigators.

And one of the things that BP will also have to do is deal with these officers that will be put in the company to deal with ethics and process issues and they will be under probation for the next five years, so a lot of their exploration and the way they do business according to this Justice Department settlement will be under heavy scrutiny for several more years.

WHITFIELD: All right. Ed Lavandera, thanks so much from St. Petersburg.

All right. It is his second visit to the region. President Obama touring the devastation left in Sandy's wake. He met with the victims along Staten Island., Far Rockaway and Breezy Point.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came up here right after the storm, was on the Jersey side, and I promised to everybody that I was speaking on behalf of the country when I said we are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete. And I meant it.

So I'm going to come back today, but I'm also going to be coming back in the future to make sure that we have followed through on that commitment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: His visit may not have impacted the 4,500 people still without power, their anger directed at the power companies for failing to prepare for and respond to Sandy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAURA BRENNAN, NEW YORK RESIDENT: We're not in a Third World country. I'm on Long Island. My taxes are sky high. I pay so much money each month to LIPA.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Long Island Power Company, LIPA, is now the target of a class-action suit and its chief operating officer is stepping down. Both LIPA and Con Ed have been subpoenaed over their sluggish response to the storm.

All right, less than three hours from now, 18,000 people could hear that they're out of a job. That's unless the maker of Twinkies pulls back on its threat.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Twinkies on the brink. We all recognize the iconic junk food, sponge cakes with three little holes in the bottom with the white filling inside.

Well, Hostess, the company makes Twinkies and Ding Dongs, Zingers, Sno Balls, and those chocolate cupcakes with the kind of squiggly white line on top -- we could go on and on -- is threatening now to shut down unless 5,000 striking workers return to their jobs by 5:00 p.m. Eastern today.

We're less than two hours away from that deadline.

(FINANCIAL UPDATE)

WHITFIELD: All right, sex and finance scandals in the U.S. military. Defense Secretary Panetta has had enough -- more on his order of an ethics review and a deeper look at what some are calling a culture of courting generals next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A review of ethics training for generals has been ordered by U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The order comes in the wake of the sex scandal that led retired General David Petraeus to resign as director of the CIA.

Barbara Starr joins us now from the Pentagon.

So, Barbara, it's not just Petraeus. There are other cases that I guess have precipitated Panetta's response. Right?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Fredricka.

Of course, General John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan, under review, investigation for sending potentially inappropriate e-mails -- two other four-stars just went through investigations for irregularities in their travel and expense accounts. A number of lesser, if there's such a thing, generals and admirals also in recent months under investigation for a variety of things.

So, Panetta has now issued an order saying he wants the Joint Chiefs of Staffs to look at ethics training for senior military leaders.

But what are we talking about here? You know, it's basically, you know, don't cheat on your wife. Don't cheat on your taxes. Don't go get too drunk in public. You know? And don't cheat on your expense account. You think it'd the blinding flash of the obvious, wouldn't you?

But we have talked to a number of officials who say Panetta is just very aware of the public perception right now and he wants to make a case to the senior leadership and to the American public that the Pentagon's taking this seriously, that they're trying to do something about it.

But really, Fred, you know, this is something all senior leaders should already know.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. And then there are now I guess concerns about the relationships between military bases and civilians who get kind of VIP status.

STARR: Right.

WHITFIELD: What's that all about?

STARR: Yeah, you know, this all is generating, again, public concern, public interest since the matter of Jill Kelley, the other, other woman in Tampa, Florida, came to light.

So, you know, these parties, these socialites, is this appropriate for senior military leaders to be around these kinds of people?

Let me just sort something out for everybody. At military bases around the country, they have very legitimate, very extensive community relations programs. There are jobs involved, housing, schools, churches, shopping, you know?

There's all the regular community-relations stuff. Environmental concerns, so that communities know that their military bases are good neighbors. All of that is the regular course of doing business.

The concern in the Kelley matter is, was somebody trading on their access to these generals for their own personal gain potentially? That's where this goes wrong.

WHITFIELD: All right. Barbara Starr, thanks so much.

STARR: Sure.

WHITFIELD: Another popular energy drink under investigation. This time, 5-Hour Energy. The FDA looking in to more than a dozen deaths being linked and dozens more hospitalized. More on the 5-Hour Energy investigation coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, if you're drinking one of those 5-Hour Energy drinks, you should know the FDA is investigating 13 deaths reported as "adverse events" after drinking the dietary supplement. It is not yet known whether the energy shots caused the deaths.

The company has responded to the report saying it's, quote, "unaware of any deaths proven to be caused by the consumption of 5-Hour Energy," end quote.

There's a deadly epidemic unfolding in the U.S. right now that you may not know about, prescription drug overdoses, killing more people than car crashes.

That's just one of the startling statistics Dr. Sanjay Gupta uncovered while investigating his new documentary, "Deadly Dose."

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, I had noticed certainly an increase in the number of pills being doled out in hospitals, but it was a call of former President Clinton -- he called me -- that really got my attention.

He told me about two of his friends who had both lost sons within a few days of each other, accidental deaths due to prescription drug overdose, and he said someone dies like this 19 minutes in this country.

So, we decided to shine a big, bright light on this and we talked to President Clinton, as well. Listen to what a little bit of what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: This may be a statistic you know. I was surprised by it, but 80 percent of the world's pain prescriptions are in this country -- 80 percent. Does that surprise you?

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I didn't know that. No, because ...

GUPTA: Is that a cultural problem?

CLINTON: Yes. It is cultural. You know, people think, oh, I've got a headache or I've got this or my elbow's sore or whatever.

And, look, I don't want to minimize. There are a lot of people who live courageous lives in constant pain. They're in pain all the time for reasons they can't control. They need relief and they should get it.

But there's no question that since we represent five percent of the world's people and far less than 80 percent of the world's people with above-average incomes, we got no business popping as many pills as we do.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: Now, Fred, people have a preconceived notion of who these people are that are dying, but oftentimes it's your friends, your families, your neighbors. It's not people who you would think of as addicts.

There are people who have legitimate pain that need to have those pain concerns addressed, but, you know, we consume 80 percent, again, of the world's pain pills in this country.

Ask yourself, do you really need to get that pain pill when you're at the doctor's office? Don't misuse these pills. Don't ever take them with alcohol because that could kill you. And that's a message that needs to be said.

And, finally, go to the medicine cabinet. Do it today. Get rid of pills that you may have sitting around. You yourself might take them. Your kids might take them. That can be a problem.

Fred, back the you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Sanjay, thanks so much. Sanjay's new documentary, "Deadly Dose," airs this Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

All right, they're often right there in the middle of the violence, photojournalists risking their lives to capture gripping images from the frontlines.

This man has done it for years and now an HBO documentary is turning the camera on him and others. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: They're witnesses to war, the men and women who risk their lives to capture and reveal the truth about the deadliest wars across the globe.

Now, the camera is being turned on them in a new HBO documentary which airs on Mondays through November. War photographers like Eros Hoagland are profiled.

Instead of running away from the gunfire in places like Juarez, Mexico, known as the "Murder Capital" of the Western world, Eros runs toward it, taking groundbreaking pictures. Eros's joining me now from San Diego.

Good to see you. You've been doing this for years. You've been in conflict zones from Iraq to Afghanistan, Mexico, so tell us about your experience in Juarez that you feel many people wouldn't necessarily know about. A lot of people have read about it, but this is a place you have dared to go and photograph.

EROS HOAGLAND, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Yeah, thank you for having me.

I think the main thing to take away from Juarez is that the amount of violence and killing was so extreme that everybody in the city and the surrounding areas is affected by it.

You just -- everywhere you go, you meet someone that's been affected directly by the violence and the state corruption and the drug industry. And it's just tremendous.

WHITFIELD: And tremendous, too, is the risk that you take and other photographers take in order to get some of these images.

You do this at what cost? You have to establish relationships for some of these subjects, right?

HOAGLAND: Yeah, certainly you have to establish relationships, but on the other hand, you have to be careful of getting too close, as well.

WHITFIELD: And how do you do that?

HOAGLAND: Time on the ground, you just have to meet people and you have to move slowly and talk to people.

And that's the most -- that's the first step in our profession. You have to put yourself out there and engage with people and get a lay of the land and try to understand exactly what the situation is that particular day because it's very fluid.

WHITFIELD: So, is there a way in which to convey how long it takes for you to establish that relationship with people who generally do not want to be photographed before you're actually able to pull out your camera and get some of these images?

Or are you even kind of setting conditions with some of the subjects so that, say, in the instance of the image that we're seeing right now, you know, the face is covered up?

You know, are there kind of deals set with some of those subjects who saying, you know, I don't want my identity revealed, but I don't mind you getting close enough to see what it is I do?

HOAGLAND: Right. Well, certainly, more and more these days, people are very leery of their picture being taken, of their identity being published, especially with the Internet when everybody can see it around the world almost immediately.

So, in certain cases, you have to come up with an agreement where, like, OK, I'm not going to show your face or whatever it may be. And, other times, people are kind of oblivious to that worry or threat.

And then you also have to kind of renegotiate with yourself, am I willing to expose this person? They don't seem to be concerned, but, you know, you might believe that it's a danger to them and they don't even know it.

So, it's -- you're constantly balancing how much, you know, you're going to show and, in terms of establishing that rapport, you know, sometimes it just happens instantly and sometimes it goes over the course of several days, several weeks. WHITFIELD: Eros Hoagland, thanks so much. The documentary is called "Witness," part of a series of HBO airing every Monday night throughout the month of November.

I'm sure in a lot of cases you don't even tell your family where you're going until after you've returned from that assignment because I would imagine they worry sick about you all the time, Eros.

Thanks so much for your time.

HOAGLAND: You're very welcome. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: OK.

President Obama and President Abraham Lincoln together at the White House? Well, kind of.

President Obama's hosting the screening of "Lincoln" tonight and some historians aren't too thrilled about what's in that movie. That's coming up next.

But first, imagine being separated from your family for a year. For more than 100 soldiers from the D.C. National Guard and Army Reserves, that's how long it's been since they have been home. And we were there for their reunion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you. Welcome home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being in America again, it's like everything you always dreamed of.

SPECIALIST ANTEVIA ERVIN, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD: A bunch of mountains, a bunch of rocks. I'm happy to be back to see grass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back, man. Glad to see you, man. Love you, boy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Likewise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Love you guys.

SERGEANT DARRELL COUSAR, 273RD MILITARY POLICE COMPANY: I carried that around with me every day. She gave it to me to kind of just remind me of what I got back at home and make sure I get back safe. You know?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome home! Welcome home!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, man, welcome home!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Welcome back, 273rd (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go tell Amy (ph) I said, Daddy loves you.

SERGEANT YVETTE JONES, D.C. NATIONAL GUARD: Yes, I love it. It feels good. It feels very good to know that people miss you as much as you miss them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right, we're hearing that there are new signs of wiggle room and possible compromise for fiscal cliff negotiations. Hours ago, a group of moderate House Democrats made a big push for some bipartisan bonding.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPRESENTATIVE RICK LARSEN (D), WASHINGTON: We also need to look at inflated or ineffective programs and every program has to be evaluated, has to be scrutinized.

But we're also not going to just cut our way out of this hole.

REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER (D), TENNESSEE: Every day that we wait costs America another $11 billion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: The new Democratic coalition sent a letter to the president and congressional leaders urging immediate bipartisanship.

Congress and the White House have to cut a deal before January 1st otherwise massive tax hikes and spending cuts kick in.

A leading Republican says the GOP may be willing to bend a little more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Yesterday, the president said he had an open mind when it came to finding a solution to these things. He said he's happy to listen to other people's ideas. I take that as a good sign.

If the president's got an open mind, maybe he'll see that Republicans are the ones who've expressed a willingness to step out of our comfort zone if it actually leads to a solution. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: McConnell suggested Republicans might be willing to consider increasing revenues if Democrats cut spending and rein-in entitlement programs.

All right, here's a presidential perk that you might not have heard of. Sneak previews? President Obama will be screening the new Steven Spielberg movie, "Lincoln," at the White House this afternoon. He'll be joined by the cast and crew.

The movie set to release tomorrow follows our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, in the waning days of the Civil War, but some critics are saying Hollywood and history aren't on the same page.

CNN entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This fight is for the United States of America.

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" offers a window back in time to the weeks preceding the end of the Civil War and passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congress must never declare equal those whom God created unequal.

WYNTER: But for some critics the movie's limited snapshot of Abraham Lincoln's presidency paints an incomplete picture of history.

ERIC FONER, HISTORIAN, AUTHOR: As cinema, it's very, very good. As history -- I'm a historian -- it leaves something to be desired.

WYNTER: Eric Foner, whose book, "The Fiery Trial -- Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery" won the Pulitzer Prize for history, says the film's narrow focus exaggerates the president's role in ending slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This settles the thing for all coming time.

FONER: The emancipation of the slaves is a long, complicated historical process. It's not the work of one man, no matter how great he was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blood's been spilled to afford is this moment now, now, now.

FONER: It was not Lincoln who originated the 13th Amendment. It was the abolitionist movement. It's only in the 1864 that Lincoln changes his mind and decides he's in favor of this amendment.

WYNTER: Acclaimed screenwriter Tony Kushner based the movie script in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's bestselling book, "Team of Rivals."

TONY KUSHNER, SCREENWRITER, "LINCOLN": We were enormously accurate. Steven and I both cared a lot. We worked with Doris. We worked with a couple of other Lincoln historians. What we're describing absolutely happened.

FONER: It's not a question of being wrong. It's just inadequate.

It gives you the impression that the ratification of the 13th Amendment is the end of slavery. Slavery is already dying at that moment.

WYNTER: In fact, he says if the 13th Amendment had not passed in January 1865, Lincoln had pledged to call Congress into special session in March.

FONER: And there the Republicans had a two-thirds majority and would ratify in a minute. It is not this giant crisis in the sense that the film is portraying it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shall we stop this bleeding?

WYNTER: And one aspect of the film that's not being questioned is Daniel Day-Lewis masterful depiction of the 16th president.

STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR, "LINCOLN": The most important thing was to get Lincoln done right.

FONER: Daniel Day-Lewis, I think, presents a very plausible Lincoln.

I recommend that people see it and then read a book about Lincoln.

WYNTER: Because while it's based on real events, "Lincoln," the movie, is not a documentary and a full understanding of history doesn't happen in two hours and 29 minutes.

Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Each week we're shining a spotlight on the top ten CNN Heroes of 2012. Today, we want you to meet one who is on a very special mission.

Mary Cortani is an Army vet who helps returning U.S. troops many of whom suffer from the invisible wounds of war such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Mary joins us now from California.

So, Mary, good to see you. You are a former Army dog trainer who matches veterans with man's best friend. So, give me an idea how gratifying is it to pair up these dogs with veterans?

MARY CORTANI, 2012 TOP TEN CNN HERO: Oh, it's unbelievably gratifying. It's an amazing journey, working with them, matching the dogs, seeing them train together, learn to be a team, get back out there, navigate life, create their new normal and find joy back in their life and do things we take for granted. There's no words to describe how gratifying it is.

WHITFIELD: And how has being selected a top ten CNN Hero kind of built upon your organization? How has it enhanced it?

CORTANI: It's been an amazing journey. The only word I can keep saying is, wow. Pinch me. Is this real?

The positive publicity, the awareness to the issue which is really for me what the CNN Hero award is about is bringing awareness that our men and women are coming home facing challenges that they haven't faced in the past or been recognized for facing in the past. And we need to be there to help them.

WHITFIELD: Well, tell me about these healing powers that these dogs seem to have with the vets.

CORTANI: You know, the healing powers have to do with the canine- human bond and the ability of the canine to sense the changes that occur within our emotions and our chemistry and our moods and however you want to describe it and react to it because their basic natural instincts is what we tap into.

And it's one of the things that helps them get back out in the real world.

WHITFIELD: Mary Cortani, thanks so much and congratulations on being one of our top ten honorees, becoming the CNN Hero of the Year, potentially, and potentially receiving $250,000. All the best to you.

And, of course, to you at home, you can go to CNNHeroes.com to vote for your favorite. All 10 will be honored live on December 2nd at our CNN Heroes, an all-star tribute hosted by Anderson Cooper.

All right, that's going to do it for me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Time now for "The Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer.