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Live Coverage of Rep. Peter King Press Conference; Israel Gaza Fighting Intensifies; Petraeus Testifies on Benghazi; Israel/Gaza Fighting Intensifies; Petraeus Testifies on Benghazi; "Shirtless FBI Guy" Discounts; Wartime in Opera; Coaches vs. Cancer

Aired November 16, 2012 - 09:15   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Appreciate it. Nice to have all of you with us. "CNN NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello begins right now.

Hi, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Good morning. Stories we're watching right now in the NEWSROOM.

The General on the Hill. David Petraeus answers questions before Congress on Benghazi and maybe the affair that ended his career.

A group of veterans, some wounded in Iraq, are hit by a train and all during a parade in honor of them. Now the feds are jumping in to investigate.

And John McCain gets testy with a CNN producer when asked why he missed an important meeting about Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have no comments about my schedule and I'm not going to comment how I spend my time to the media.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: But wait until you get hit -- wait until you hear him get really angry.

And what do Spirit Airlines and that shirtless FBI agent in the Petraeus scandal have in common?

(LAUGHTER)

Just wait. We'll show you more.

NEWSROOM starts now.

And good morning. Happy Friday to you. I'm Carol Costello. We begin in the Middle East and the piercing sound of an air raid siren. It is a chilling sound, becoming all too familiar as rockets continue to fill the air over Israel and Gaza and a planned cease-fire to coincide with a visit to Gaza by Egypt's prime minister may not be holding up. Senior international correspondent Sara Sidner is in the middle of it all. She has more for you from Gaza City.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What is happening on both sides of the Gaza/Israel border looks and feels like war to anyone who has to live with it, no matter what the governments on either side have declared.

This is a small taste of what it felt like in Gaza over a 24-hour period.

(On camera): 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 to capture on camera. But you saw that flash. This is what we have been dealing with all day. We've also been dealing with -- I'm sorry, the power has just gone out. We've 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.

(Voice-over): The booms and smoke from targeted air strikes from morning to night left more than a dozen people dead, including militants, women and children.

And in southern Israel, a window into what residents endured there when hundreds of rockets, shells and mortars flew over from Gaza. Some were blown to bits by Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system. Others landed with deadly force. Three people died in this apartment building after a rocket struck it.

This is the worst fighting Israel and Gaza residents have seen in four years. And if you listen to the government leaders from both sides of the border, life here may not return to normalcy for a while.

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.

SIDNER: And that's not all. Israel's military said it was bringing in its reserves to prepare for the possibility of a ground war in Gaza.

Hamas' deputy foreign minister told CNN his government won't back down in the face of a threat either.

GHAZI HAMAD, HAMAS DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER: They should not feel that it is an area that you can come and kill people and after that, you go home. You should pay the price. You feel that if the people are not safe, your people in Tel Aviv will not be safe. People in Beer Sheva will not be safe, Ashdod will not be safe. SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Gaza City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: All right. And the fighting continues in Gaza City. We're going to talk a little bit more about that in just a minute. But we want to bring you in live now to Washington. You see Peter King there, the Republican. He just exited a hearing that David Petraeus was testifying in. Of course, surrounding what happened in Benghazi, Libya.

Let's listen to Congressman King.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out. As far as General Petraeus, his testimony today was that from the start he had told us that this was a terrorist attack, terrorists involved from the start. I told him, my questions had a very different recollection of that.

The clear impression we were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence is that it was -- rose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack and I pointed out the following week when Matt Olsen said it was a terrorist attack and it made headlines because until then, the administration was saying it was not terrorists.

Again, it was very cordial, as you will. General Petraeus is an outstanding patriot. We shook hands before and afterwards. We all thanked him for his service. I think he has a different impression of the impressions he left on September 14th.

(CROSSTALK)

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Chairman, can you tell us whether or not his affair or security surrounding his affair came up at all?

KING: Only in -- one question he was asked at the start, did that have any impact on his testimony, he said no.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are the talking points different?

KING: The original talking points were much more specific about our prior involvement. And yet final ones, he said indications of extremists. Said indicate even though it was clearly evidence to the CIA that there was al Qaeda involvement.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you get any idea why it was changed?

KING: They just said it goes through a long process, interagency process, and when they come back that had been taken out.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he seem concern that things have been changed? Was that surprising to him?

KING: He said at the time they didn't realize the full significance of that and that an unclassified statement this was acceptable. Again it's still very vague.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was Petraeus under oath?

KING: No. There's no given. No.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. King, are you -- did he allay any of your concerns? Are you satisfied with the presentation he made today?

KING: I'm satisfied with the ultimate conclusion he reached. I told him I honestly disagree with his recollection of what he told us on September 14th.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did he say about the affair with Paula Broadwell?

KING: No -- there's no comment to that at all.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did that make it -- did that make it hard, though, to get past that because of those salacious details have dominated the news? Did that make it hard to get to the brass tacks and (INAUDIBLE)?

KING: No. No. There was -- made clear at the start that would not be a focus of the questioning. And I would say 10 seconds into it, that was -- that was off to the side.

(CROSSTALK)

BASH: Is there a reason why you all wanted to hear from him is because since he briefed you the first time, he went to Libya? So he obviously had a bit of a trip report.

KING: Yes.

BASH: Is there anything you can tell us that he clearly learned from actually being on the ground?

KING: Yes, that would be classified. Other than the fact that they now clearly believe there was -- did not arise out of a demonstration. It was not spontaneous and it was clear terrorist involvement.

BASH: He said that straight up?

KING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, (INAUDIBLE) right away.

KING: You know, this is ongoing. I mean this is -- it still can be -- obviously, you know, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and also people at the White House, to see if anyone at the White House changed their talking points.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think you get to hear from him again on this and then also in the Broadwell situation?

KING: Well, you know -- we'll have to see. One day at a time.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you saying he still couldn't provide any explanation at all as to why they came to that conclusion?

KING: He was saying --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- today that there's explanation?

KING: He was saying there are many strings of intelligence but he also stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement. And that is not my recollection of what he told us on September 14th.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did he seem? Did he seem tired or worn down from this -- sort of what's been plaguing him?

KING: No. He was a strong soldier. Absolutely. He was very professional, very knowledgeable. Very strong. And again, spoke to him at the beginning of the hearing, end of the hearing. And he was a solid guy. I consider him a friend, which made the questioning tough to be honest with you.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long did the testimony last?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why is that?

KING: What's that?

BASH: You said you consider him a friend, it made the questioning tough. Meaning --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: We can ask the questions. Sometimes in a hearing, the adrenaline is pumping, and you're going back and forth. Now you realize there's a tragedy here and you realized that he's going through an awful lot. On the other hand we have an obligation to find out what we could. So that's always --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give an indication --

KING: It's a lot easier when you dislike the guy when you ask them questions. I think you guys ask tough questions.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give any indication of how he felt about Ambassador Rice's testimony after watching tonight?

KING: He didn't watch the testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he speak with her beforehand?

KING: No.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But you were saying that the points that the CIA gave the White House included al Qaeda involvement and afterwards that was taken out?

KING: But the CIA -- I don't know if it was with him -- said that the report -- the talking points were drafted were specific about al Qaeda affiliations or al Qaeda terrorist activities. They didn't have it in front of them. They said that was -- after it went through the process, whatever that process is, which they seemed unclear about, that was taken out.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, how long did the hearing last?

KING: An hour and -- he spoke for about -- he had an opening statement about 20 minutes. And so an hour and 10 minutes of questions.

BASH: Was he asked about the statement that Paula Broadwell made at a speech? You know, about the CIA?

KING: No.

BASH: OK.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you saying the DNI took it out or the administration took it out?

KING: No, that's the DNI. Well, again, it was not -- I guess it's how you define the administration because it also went to the Department of Justice, State Department, and I believe the National Security Council.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he talk about the films, the videos and how -- what he interprets?

KING: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what did he say about those?

KING: Well, I can't get into that. There was nothing -- nothing controversial.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But did you guys watch any films today like --

KING: No. No. We saw them yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yesterday? Senate Intelligence? KING: We saw them yesterday.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You saw them.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he say why it was taken out of the talking points that it was al Qaeda --

KING: He didn't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He didn't know?

KING: They were not involved.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How could he not know?

KING: It was done -- process was completed and they said OK, go with those talking points.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: I got the impression about seven or eight -- seven, eight, nine different agencies.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give you the impression he was upset that it was taken out?

KING: No.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he say the CIA said OK to the revised reports?

KING: No, they -- well, in that interim process they OK'd it to go. They didn't see -- yes, they said OK for it to go.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. Who did he say -- who did he say --

KING: I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who did he say he thinks committed the attack then?

KING: I would just leave it at al Qaeda affiliates.

BASH: (INAUDIBLE) awkward to have him in the room within a week after he resigned, under the circumstances in which he did?

KING: There was a certain amount of -- sure. Obviously all of us in the room, certainly myself, and all of us have a great regard for him. I've known him for nine years now. So it's -- I actually urged him to run for president a few years ago. So -- and I went to dinner with him. I consider him -- I know him fairly well.

BASH: Was there any discussion --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Every time you see a human tragedy to a good person, it's tough to go through.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there any discussion of the national security implications of his resignation?

KING: No. The resignation -- he just addressed in the beginning that he regretted what happened and that was basically it.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, were there any talk of --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were all members of the committee --

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The night of the attack about whether it was --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: As far as I know they were all there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he involved in the actual decision-making the night of the attack?

KING: I don't want to get into that, but he was -- he was definitely fully aware of what was going on, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he ask for military backup?

KING: I am never going to get into that. I can't get into any of that.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he stick to the story that the first attack was -- the first attack was spontaneous, but the second seemed to be more organized, the mortar attack, the second attack may have --

KING: I can tell you the spontaneous aspect is definitely minimized right now. It just is. It was primarily a terrorist attack.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How about how -- I want to be careful about this. Did he address how he interpreted the anti-Muslim film and how that sort of got to be part of this discussion even though he downplayed it?

KING: It was based on reports that we're getting at the time.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But OK. But -- so that was part of what was going into this intelligence product that they were creating?

KING: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And they got other information later that said this wasn't? KING: Well -- yes, but also -- they also at the time, prior to September 14th, had clear information that this was strong involvement with al Qaeda affiliates. And that was not made part of their presentation at the time.

BASH: Our understanding of the incident is that the former director was going to explain that he saw kind of two streams of intelligence, one suggesting maybe Ansar al-Sharia was involved and the other, which at the time was more robust, that it was the protest resulting from the anti-Muslim video? Is that the way he described it to you?

KING: He did but he said today that -- at the time he was also emphasizing the involvement of Ansar al-Sharia and my recollection was that he was actually minimizing the role of Ansar al-Sharia. That's it. OK?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the hearing over?

KING: Yes.

COSTELLO: All right. You just heard from Congressman King there that the hearing is over. But we want to back up just a little bit to let you know what's been going on.

The disgraced CIA director David Petraeus has been testifying before a House committee and has been since early this morning. The subject, Benghazi, Libya, and why four Americans including a U.S. ambassador were murdered at a U.S. consulate.

Also on the agenda, was there a cover-up? Did the general know from the get-go that the Benghazi attack was terrorist related?

You heard the date mentioned in that press conference, September 14th, because it didn't seem like it on September 14th when the then CIA Director Petraeus briefed lawmakers on what happened.

Here's how Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger described that meeting back in September.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: I'm going to try to tell you what I can that's not classified. We had a meeting with Director Petraeus, giving us a chronological -- telling us in a chronological order exactly what we felt happened, how it happened and where we're going in the future.

In the beginning we feel that it was spontaneous. The protest -- because it went on for two or three hours, which was very relevant. Because if it was something that was planned, then they could have come and attacked right away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Now according to Congressman King, that's not what Petraeus said exactly today.

CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash, you were at that presser. Fill us in.

BASH: That's right.

I think a couple of interesting things that we heard from Congressman King. And that is the way that he, and frankly some other members of Congress, received the information, the impression they got from the information the first time and only other time that General Petraeus briefed them right after the attacks was that the more likely scenario was that this was violence resulting from demonstrations, resulting from that anti-Muslim video and that he mentioned the idea of extremists groups being involved but that that was minimized. That is not what Petraeus cold them behind closed doors.

So, I think you have a difference of emphasis and a difference of memories on what the emphasis was. And that was really -- it sounds like it's kind of in the weeds but it's really critical to this whole question as you mentioned of cover-up, or whether or not they really did give the information immediately that they had on what they are concluding now, that there really was an extremist element involved and this was a planned attack.

COSTELLO: OK. So that leads us now to Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who went on national television and said this attack in Benghazi, Libya, was probably because of this anti-Muslim film.

BASH: Exactly.

COSTELLO: She had talking points, right? Where did those talking points come from? Did they come from Petraeus and the CIA? Were they edited later by the White House? Do we know?

BASH: We don't know. You heard Peter King was asked that specific question. According to him and some others, we still don't know exactly where the disconnect was, if you will, between what the intelligence community now says that they believed at the time and the talking points that ended up with Susan Rice that ended up on television that Sunday afterwards.

So, it still doesn't seem to be very clear what went on.

One other interesting note, I think, from what he said, of course -- the reason why he is now the former CIA director is because of the affair that David Petraeus had. He resigned one week ago. The question was whether or not that would come up at all. He said, yes, it was addressed at the beginning and he regretted what happened and that they didn't really address it at all after that.

Which I think is noteworthy. Obviously, there's a big elephant in the room when you have somebody like that come in a week after he resigns in disgrace. And so, I actually asked if it was awkward. He said sure, of course, it was awkward.

COSTELLO: I can only imagine.

So, now, if I heard Peter king right he said the House hearings are over. Now Petraeus moves over to the Senate hearings, right?

BASH: Exactly. And he should be there now.

I have to tell you that there's a bit of a cat and mouse game going on. At this point, the cat is winning. In this scenario, we're the mice, we the news media, because he has been protected by the House and Senate committees so far.

We have tons of cameras around here. You can see some of the hubbub behind me, cameras outside the Capitol complex, at various doors, to try to get a picture of him coming in, much less try to talk to him. And they worked very hard to bring the former director in, in a secret way, talked to some police officers and others who kind of had a sense of the movements and it was not an easy thing to bring him in without being seen. But they did it and they clearly did it on purpose.

COSTELLO: Well, you heard Peter King, Dana. I mean, they're friends. They've had dinner together.

He is well-liked among lawmakers. Maybe that's a bit of why.

Dana Bash, thank you so much. We'll get back to you later in THE NEWSROOM.

Coming up next, we're going to tell you more about Gaza. Live pictures for you now. The shells just keep on falling both in Gaza City and in Israel. We'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: All right. We led the news with this. This is a live picture out of Gaza city. The rockets continue to fall there. You can see smoke there in the distance in Gaza City.

Rockets also continuing to fall in Israel. Israel, actually, we saw pictorial evidence that Israel is getting ready for a ground war. So, things are really escalating there.

We want to talk about that and what it might mean not only for Israel and Gaza and the Palestinian people, but the United States as well.

Kenneth Stein is professor of Middle East history and political science at Emory University. Nicholas Burns was an undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush. They join me now.

Welcome to both of you.

Nicholas, are you there? Oh, good, there you are. I just wanted to make sure.

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Yes.

COSTELLO: Ken, I wanted to start with you.

If Israel decides to conduct a ground war, what might that mean? What would that look like?

KENNETH STEIN, PROF. OF MIDDLE EASTERN HISTORY, EMORY UNIV.: Well Israel will only conduct a ground war if it feels its civilians -- its Christians, its Muslims, its Arabs, its Jews and its state are not being bombarded. If the rockets stop, then there won't be any ground invasion.

COSTELLO: Well, there's no evidence right now that the rocket are going to stop falling, because they've been falling for the past two days. So, ground war, like?

STEIN: Ground war possible. Israelis -- Benjamin Netanyahu said we're only interested in a surgical attack. That might go into something a little bit broader. Whether Israelis use aircraft, just ground forces remains to be seen. But the goal, of course, is to stop the attack and stop the hitting of the Israeli civilian population.

COSTELLO: So, Nicholas, what does this mean to the wider region if Israel decides to go ahead and conduct a ground war?

BURNS: Well, the first thing I would say is that Israel has a right to defend itself and Hamas started this. And that's the objective reality. Hamas has been firing rockets into southern Israel for the better part of last week. And the Israelis have tried to intercept those. And now, you have the extraordinary spectacle yesterday of missiles being fired at Tel Aviv, 40 miles away.

And so, from a U.S. perspective, certainly, the Obama administration has been supportive of Israel. You've seen a lot of condemnation of Israel by the non-align movement. But that's led by Iran. So, you would expect Iran to twist the facts here.

I think that this is going to be a problem for the wider region if there is a war in Gaza, obviously, because it brings in the uneasy peace between Egypt and Israel, the Camp David Accords that we shepherded in 1979.

The Egyptian prime minister is in Gaza today. There's a three-hour truce. Israelis have agreed not to strike while the prime minister is there. The Israelis have been very careful to say publicly we want to maintain the peace treaty with Egypt.

But I don't think the Egyptians or Hamas should be under any delusions here, if Hamas rockets continue to be fired into Israel, the Israelis have the responsibility to protect their civilian population.

COSTELLO: And, of course, Egypt has already reached out to President Obama and the United States, saying help us stop the violence there.

So, Ken, the United States is going to get sucked into this, regardless?

STEIN: No, I don't think the United States is going to get sucked in. The United States has provided weapons and equipment and material and air dome to prevent rockets from coming in. I think the United States is much more interested in what impact will Hamas' success or failure have upon the rest of the region.

Here, we have to think about Jordan and King Abdullah's instability. I think we worry about insurgencies in general, Hezbollah and Hamas. Would they -- would Hezbollah, if it felt that Hamas was successful, would it start something from the north?

And I think Israel, over the broader perspective, is very interested in being sure that Hamas is put back on its heels and not able to attack Israel. That becomes very important for Israel in the long run if it decides some time in the future it wants to go after Iran. It would be worried about to go back, it would be worried about retaliation, and it certainly doesn't want it from the south, which would be Hamas and certainly from the north, from Hezbollah.

So, I think there is the immediate Israel versus Hamas. There's a broader of Hamas' success or not success. And then there is what Israel might do some time down the road, vis-a-vis Iran.

COSTELLO: Nicholas, you've been involved in these kinds of things. Surely, there's some, you know, quiet negotiating going on between the United States and Israel to calm things down or am I wrong about that?

BURNS: Well, I think -- I think the Obama administration has rightfully been supportive of Israel. But what the administration is clearly trying to do is to enlist the support of some of the Arab states. I would think that Qatar would be one of them. It's emir was just in Gaza 10 days ago to convince the Arab states to get on with Hamas and convince them to pull back because Hamas is going to create a major problem if they continue these rocket attacks.

The other thing that the Israelis and Americans are worried about, of course, is spill over from the Syrian civil war on Israeli's northern border. You saw last weekend that Israeli tanks actually fired into Syria because Syria had been lobbing rockets into northern Israel. Maybe they were going after rebel groups and misfiring.

But nonetheless, Israel's sovereignty now has been assaulted both in the Golan Heights in the north and also now in the southern part of Israel bordering Gaza.

So, it's a very, very difficult strategic situation for Israel in the midst of this turbulence in the Arab world.

COSTELLO: You're not kidding. Button it up for us, Ken.

STEIN: I think we have to be careful about suggesting that the Egyptians will want to break the treaty between Israel and Egypt. There's a lot in it for Egypt. Mr. Morsi has got to be a pragmatist because he knows he cannot alienate the United States, the IMF, the World Bank. He doesn't have the oil that Khamenei regime had in '79, '80 and '81. So, he may want to impose a measure of Islamism on his society, but he also knows he can't alienate the West, which provides him what he needs. COSTELLO: Ken Stein, Nicholas, thank you so much for enlightening us. We appreciate it.

BURNS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: We're going to take a quick break. We're going to be back with much more in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Thirty minutes past the hour. Good morning to you. I'm Carol Costello. Happy Friday.

Stories we're watching right now in THE NEWSROOM:

Former CIA Director David Petraeus testifying on Capitol Hill about the deadly attacks in Benghazi, talking about what he knew and when.

But the firestorm over Benghazi, it just keeps getting more explosive. Here are members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a briefing on the attacks yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: What is clear is that this administration, including the president himself, has intentionally misinformed -- read that lied -- to the American people in the aftermath of this tragedy.

REP. GARY ACKERMAN (D), NEW YORK: A quarter of a billion dollars in security upgrades that you refused to make in this committee, and then you have the audacity to come here and say, why wasn't the protection of these people provided for? And the answer is because you damn didn't provide it!

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

COSTELLO: OK. So that's the backdrop to hearings today that include the disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus who actually said this morning that he knew almost immediately that the Benghazi attack was not a spontaneous event but terrorist-related.

So, what will come of all of this?

Joining me now, CNN contributor Maria Cardona and Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist. Maria, you're a Democratic strategist.

Welcome to both of you.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you, Carol. Good morning.

RON BONJEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

COSTELLO: This is so complicated.

So, Ron, I don't know if you heard Peter King this morning, but he said General Petraeus, as he testified before a House committee, said that he knew almost immediately that the attack in Benghazi was terrorist-related and not connected to that anti-Muslim film.

So, what does that say to you?

BONJEAN: Well, it says that this issue is even more confusing than we thought, because you had more than 20 intelligence reports that related the attack to that anti-Muslim video that created worldwide outrage. And now you have our former CIA director, General Petraeus, saying that it is -- it was actually a terrorist group and that he knew and he had -- he knew about that.

And that's amazing to us because that was not what we were led to believe. And so, that's why I think it's very important that the House and Senate Intelligence Committee talk to him, get down in the weeds and start asking the important questions to find out what went wrong. Where is the disconnect here?

COSTELLO: Let's talk about that disconnect, Maria, because you heard that Republican congressman call President Obama a liar. Is he right?

CARDONA: No. And that is absolutely outrageous, Carol. And I think that is what is leading to this kind of protracted and ugly fight, which is exactly what the American people did not want coming out of this election. They wanted their leaders to work together and on something as important as Benghazi, I think that every party leader needs to understand that they should dial it down a notch and really figure out what happened here.

I mean, we're talking about the deaths of four Americans. We're talking about an intelligence community that is under fire. And that should be of concerned to both parties. And I agree with Ron, that we need to figure out what the CIA knew, what General Petraeus knew, because it also goes to Susan Rice, Ambassador Rice and what she said, which came directly from the talking points that the intelligence community put together for her.

So we all need to step back and really work together to figure out what happened here.

COSTELLO: You know, the strange thing, if General Petraeus is to blame when he was CIA director, he's already gone. So, you can't exactly fire him, Ron.

BONJEAN: No, that's absolutely right. But let's look at the back drive here. The back drive here was the election of the -- the presidential election here.

And we have talking points that are provided to Susan Rice by the intelligence community, but the intelligence community is saying those talking points were changed. They had that al Qaeda-like elements attacked the embassy. And those -- that detail was taken out of her talking points by someone over at the White House or someone close to the White House.

When she got on the air, those are completely different talking points, and that's what we're talking about. That's why we need to get to the bottom of this to find out who changed the story? Why did the story change?

COSTELLO: Well, we'll find out, hopefully, after these three hearings wrap up.

Ron Bonjean and Maria Cardona, thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

CARDONA: Thanks so much, Carol.

BONJEAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Why exactly is John McCain so testy? He explains, next.

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COSTELLO: Disgraced former CIA Director David Petraeus still in the hot seat this morning. He's now in a Senate committee hearing answering questions about Benghazi. What exactly happened? When did he know that it was a terrorist attack that had nothing to do with that anti-Muslim film?

Earlier this morning, he testified before a House committee. Peter King, a congressman, a Republican Congressman. He belongs to the House Homeland Security Committee, just to make it clear for you. He came out of those hearings early this morning and here is what he had to say about Petraeus' testimony.

OK. We'll get to that a little bit later. We'll have Peter King for you later on in THE NEWSROOM.

CNN has learned that many Republican senators who have been demanding answers in the Benghazi attacks skipped an important top secret briefing by White House officials yesterday. That includes one of the most critics, John McCain.

At the time of the briefing, McCain was holding a press conference to demand a Watergate-style investigation into -- you guessed it -- Benghazi.

CNN producer asked why he missed the meeting, and McCain went off.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I have no comments about my schedule and I'm not going to comment on how I spend my time with the media.

TED BARRETT, CNN PRODUCER: I mean, is there , is there --

MCCAIN: I will not -- have no further comment.

BARRETT: Is there a legitimate feeling that you're 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?

MCCAIN: How many times do I have to comment?

BARRETT: Why can't you comment about that?

MCCAIN: Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment. And who the hell are you to tell me whether I can or not?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Last night on CNN, McCain explained his outburst to Piers Morgan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCAIN: The thing that was amusing about it, it's not a big deal. But I said I have no comment and he said, "You can't have no comment." I said, "What? I can't have no comment? Since when, you know?"

But, look, these back and forth things happen. These guys follow you around. Reporters follow you around. They have your job to do. And sometimes I'm nice to them and sometimes I tell them to take a hike.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: McCain also explained it was a scheduling error and he said he attended a different briefing later on Benghazi. He also pointed out that he's on three of the four committees that are investigating what happened in Libya.

So, what do Spirit Airlines and that shirtless FBI agent in the Petraeus scandal have in common? We'll show you.

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COSTELLO: So that shirtless FBI agent who found himself smack-dab in the Petraeus scandal has something in common with Spirit Airlines. Actually, if you need a cheap airline, it turns out that shirtless guy is good news for you.

Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange to explain it all.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is an interesting one. Nothing like a half naked guy to help you sell your tickets, right? So, what Spirit Airlines is doing is kind of dovetailing that half-naked FBI guy into this promotion it has, saying, don't lose your shirt on high fares. What it's doing is it's promoting it's $29.80 one-way fare including on Thanksgiving.

I know it sounds cheap, but by Spirit standards -- not so outrageous. Of course, there's a catch because Spirits got some hefty fees, including up to 50 bucks for your carry-on. There's also $10 booking fee, up to $17 usage fee. And if you want to eat or drink anything on the plane, Carol, you better have that credit card ready because I bet you're going to pay for that stuff, too.

COSTELLO: I was just laughing about that ad. It's a weird country we live in, isn't it?

KOSIK: I know. How do you think half-naked FBI guy, Spirit Airlines? I don't get the connection but they clearly do.

COSTELLO: Maybe the real shirtless guy has another career in mind in the future.

KOSIK: Perhaps, yes.

COSTELLO: Alison Kosik, thanks so much.

College coaches and a game on the court and a cause off it. We'll talk to two of best whose teams are playing in the "Coaches Versus Cancer Classic."

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SGT. CHRISTIAN ELLIS, U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.): I identified so much as being a combat Marine. I didn't think anything else outside the world would matter. People started noticing other talents of mine.

I met Charlie Amber. He issued me a challenge. I want you to create a story that I can possibly be turned into a musical. I had this idea, and the story being this opera, Fallujah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Crawling in her sleep --

ELLIS: All aspect of this opera comes from the experiences of my own life. I joined the Marine Corps because I was one of those young men that didn't have any goals in life. And so I thought I would be this kick-ass guy with all of these cool machine guns on both hands and at time when I perceived to be war was what I took off the movies. That was before I got into the combat zone. But when we first -- when we got there, that's when everything changed.

2004, we were deployed to Fallujah. I mean I remember what we went through was quite significant. It was intense. Things got heavy, I mean, we prayed we make it up. The pain has been so intense the guilt has been so extraordinary.

It's been rough. You know I have dealt with suicide many times. It's going to be in your face how I did not realize this is what war was like. This is what veterans go through. This is what veterans experience on a day-to-day basis.

So this whole process from the beginning has helped me accept and calm a lot of the turmoil in my head. Coming home is not easy at all. Coming home for any combat veteran is probably the most difficult thing they will ever have to do. I still struggle, I struggle hard, but the best part is I do see that light.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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COSTELLO: Tonight's college doubleheader on the hard court of Brooklyn's Barclays Center will have a purpose beyond basketball. The Acura "Coaches Versus Cancer Classic" features a semi-final round tonight with a championship and consolation game tomorrow night. You can watch all the action on our sister network TruTV.

BYU and Florida State tip-off at 7 p.m. Eastern and later Notre Dame takes on St. Joseph's and their head coaches join us now. Welcome, gentlemen -- Mike Brey of Notre Dame and Phil Martelli of St. Joseph's. We're so glad you're here.

MIKE BREY, HEAD COACH, NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL: Thank you.

PHIL MARTELLI, HEAD COACH, SAINT JOSEPH'S MEN'S BASKETBALL: Good morning. Good to be with you.

COSTELLO: It's great to have you here. Your teams are playing each other, but you also have a common enemy. I would like each of you to tell us you how you have been touched by cancer. Let's start with you, Mike.

BREY: Well, my father had a malignant melanoma in the mid-'90s and it really opened my eyes to this whole cancer battle. When I got the job at the University of Delaware as the head coach we started a program there and then since we've been at things here at Notre Dame it's been very powerful. Two of my starters tonight have fathers, one Scott Martin's father is battling cancer as we speak and my point guard Eric Atkins' father passed away from prostate cancer when he was in tenth grade.

So you it touches close to the heart for me.

COSTELLO: Oh it sure does. And Phil, how about you?

MARTELLI: Well, I was fortunate not to have it in my family, but the coach that hired me at St. Joseph's, Jim Boyle, he literally fought it for seven months but it wasn't just him that fought it. Every member of his family, every former player of his, every business colleague. And it just wears you out, but it also gives you the belief that we're doing something bigger here than playing a basketball game.

COSTELLO: Absolutely. Coaches versus Cancer has raised a whopping $85 million to fund research and provide services. How can people watching tonight's game contribute, Mike?

BREY: Well, you know, the local American Cancer Society and nationally has been so involved with this. There is going to be things throughout the broadcast tonight in both games where how you can get involved and we just want to raise awareness and battle this thing. You know, the one thing about it, the stats we're making great progress in beating this thing and now is the time to raise more money and keep the pressure on to maybe find a cure for this dreaded disease. COSTELLO: When we think of a coach fighting cancer, we think of the late Jim Valvano (ph). Tell us what kind of inspiration he's been Phil.

MARTELLI: Well, the V Foundation, they have just capitalized on the passion and the fire that Jim Valvano brought. In our situation with Coaches versus Cancer Norm Stewart and Jim Boeheim (ph) and Jim Calhoun, all of these guys, they're not just survivors, they're heroes. Everybody out there, you will meet somebody today that's going to say "I beat it." And you know what, we would like to have that toughness on our team.

All of these people that have faced this and stared at this sucker right in the eye and said, you know what, I can beat this, we would like to pass that onto our players.

COSTELLO: That's just terrific. Ok. I have to turn our attention to basketball now so I will address you as coaches. So Coach Brey, you have been highly successful at a school that's known for its football team especially this year. How has enthusiasm for Notre Dame Basketball changed since you came there 12 years ago?

BREY: You know, we have been on a great roll, Carol. We have been very consistent, especially the last six years we've become a key player in the big east and now we venture into the ACC. I love our group this year. We have a lot of returning veterans off a team that won 22 games. So it is an exciting time. This is a great test for us this weekend and Phil's team is very talented. This is a great match up tonight.

COSTELLO: Yes. It's nice to see you sitting there so calmly next to one another.

Thank you so much. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and Saint Joseph's coach, Phil Martelli, we appreciate it.

BREY: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Reminder for you -- you can watch tonight's games on TruTV starting at 7 p.m. Eastern. The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts in two minutes.

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