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Hillary Clinton Concludes Benghazi Testimony; Analysis of the Benghazi Hearing; Katie Couric to Interview Manti Te'o

Aired January 23, 2013 - 11:30   ET


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D-NJ), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: The other one is the changes in the department have clear lines of authority and responsibility for security matters instead of silos and looking more at a horizontal nature. And I understand that that is underway.

A lot has been said about resources here. You know, Secretary Gates used to famously argue that there are more people in military bands than in the entire Foreign Service. It seems to me that surely we can finding the funds to protect our diplomats who serve on the front lines. And I am concerned when the ARB says that the State Department has been engaged for years in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work, and that has conditioned the thinking of some in the State Department, that it is imperative for the State Department to be mission-driven, rather than resource constrained, particularly in increasingly risky parts of the world.

So I look forward to immediately working with the ranking member and reaching out for Chairman Royce to get that transfer authority within the existing budget. It's not about additional money; it's about taking money that has already been appropriated so that you have the ability to start working, and the next secretary has the ability to start working, to protect our people as robustly as we can. And failure to do so, I think, is going to be a poor judgment on this Congress if we can't get you at minimum that transfer authority.

And finally, I know a lot has been made about the question of what was said and what was not said, and I simply think about that in the context that there are lessons to be learned there as well.

In our drive to produce information about a tragedy, an incident, we want to be able to get information as quickly as possible, as we should.

But I think what we know and what we don't know is equally as important. And maybe the admonition that we should know before we speak is incredibly important. That would have been incredibly important when we were told that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

And as someone who voted against the Iraq war in the House and didn't believe based upon what I was able to review that there was such information, I look when we talk about tragedies, and certainly Benghazi was a tragedy, when we lost 4,486 American lives in Iraq and thousands who have been injured and changed their lives forever and increased the influence of Iran, I think from my own personal perspective, that was truly a tragedy, and so there are lessons to be learned here.

There will be questions for the committee to be able to ask for the record for the close of business tomorrow since we don't expect you to be too much longer in your position. And with the thanks of the committee for your appearance here today and your service.

And, Senator Corker, a final word.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: I want to actually add three more takeaways, and I know they're based not only on testimony here today, but conversations we've had over the last several days. You alluded to the over the transom issues that the State Department and the White House deal with on a constant basis. I think this committee will be useful, and can be useful, in setting a long-term expiration of what our national interest is so that we look at this over a longer term context. I know you alluded to that in your testimony.

Secondly, I know we've talked extensively about the importance of having a full authorization; that that actually would be helpful to people like you who come in for a very short period of time, for us to help set those priorities. That would be something you would embrace and something this committee has never done since I've been here.

And thirdly, that we live in a world now where we know that Al Qaida is going to be a threat in North Africa for years to come, and we need to have policies that realize that and address it.

I too thank you for your service. I know a lot of nice things will be said again tomorrow when you come here, but thank you so much. I appreciate it.

MENENDEZ: On that bipartisan note, and with the thanks of the committee, this committee is adjourned.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And so there you have it. They were supposed to spend 90 minutes. They spent 21/2 hours, the Secretary of State, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're watching CNN's special live coverage surrounding Secretary of State's Hillary Clinton's testimony on Capitol Hill.

It was a sometimes very emotional, sometimes very fiery appearance regarding the deadly attack on the United States diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

First of all, listen to this.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator.


BLITZER: That was the Secretary of State responding to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, getting very, very fiery in rebutting his accusations.

But listen to this, for a very different side of the Secretary of State.


CLINTON: For me, this is not just a matter of policy. It's personal.

I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag- draped caskets off the plane at Andrews. I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, the sisters and brothers, the sons and daughters and the wives left alone to raise their children.

It has been one of the great honors of my life to lead the men and women of the State Department and USAID.


BLITZER: She really gets emotional. She's choking back tears. Jake Tapper has been looking and watching all of this with me. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill. We'll get to her in a moment.

But, Jake, this was vintage Hillary Clinton. She responded to the direct accusations, the challenges, but the Republicans especially -- and we're going to get to this shortly -- John McCain -- they were not -- and Rand Paul was very tough on her. They were not backing down.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And Republicans were focused on two areas of criticism.

One, of course, the fact that the administration -- specifically the United Nations Ambassador, Dr. Susan Rice, initially in the Sunday show appearances, on all five Sunday shows that Sunday, but also in initial discussions about what happened in Benghazi, this -- the word was that this was not a terrorist attack; this was a spontaneous protest because of that anti-Islam video which, of course, turns out not to have been the case.

And a lot of Senators, Ron Johnson and John McCain especially, were focused on why were these talking points false. Specifically Johnson said that Dr. Rice was purposefully misleading the American public.

Dr. Rice, of course, has said that she was not, she was merely using the talking points provided by the intelligence community and there was no effort to mislead. She was providing as much information as she knew at the time. The other area where there was significant criticism, of course, came from Senator Rand Paul, who was talking about the lack of accountability, how come nobody was fired.

He said that if he had been president at time -- and this is somebody who does harbor presidential ambitions -- if he had been president at the time, he would have relieved Secretary Clinton of her job, specifically for not having read all of these cables from on the ground in Libya, of diplomatic personnel requesting more security in the month leading up to the attack.

BLITZER: And she had acknowledged an earlier question, she had not read all those cables; she had not been fully briefed on the diplomatic security situation in Benghazi, Libya.

But I want to play another clip for you for a moment -- I'm going to bring Dana in -- where she gets emotional a second time. Listen to this.


CLINTON: The two hardest calls that I made were obviously to the families of Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith. And it -- you know, they, I have to say, they were extraordinary in their responses and their understanding of the pride we had in both men and gratitude we had for their -- for their service.


BLITZER: Yes. Were you surprised that she got as emotional in discussing the death of Ambassador Chris Smith (sic) and the other -- Chris Stevens and the others?

TAPPER: No, because she has been reaching out directly to these individuals. And, of course, these were people who were killed on her watch at the State Department. She went through a list early in her testimony of all the individuals who had been killed at diplomatic compounds.

And you have to remember, of course, unlike soldiers, who there is inherently a risk of the threat of life or death, a lot of diplomatic people, we don't perceive them in this country as necessarily putting their lives at risk. We think, oh, they work for the State Department; their job is not as dangerous.

And it's not true. And people like Secretary Clinton have now learned that firsthand. She, of course, knew that because of her time working with her husband in the -- in Bill Clinton's administration, all those diplomatic people, personnel killed in the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

But the other point to make is, from sources close to her, this really did take a very, very strong emotional toll on her. And in addition to an exhausting job, I think probably it's all part and parcel of the exhaustion we've seen that she's been suffering from.

BLITZER: She certainly has been.

Let's go to Dana up on Capitol Hill. Dana, the exchange she had with John McCain -- John McCain praised her at the beginning, but then point by point by point, he went after her specifically. He didn't mince any words. This was a dramatic moment.

DANA BASH, CNN SNEIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The two of them have a long-standing relationship. They were pretty close when they served together in the Senate. They traveled together internationally.

But John McCain has been the point person, the leader of the crusade on this Benghazi issue, trying, as he says over and over, to get to the bottom of why many, many things went wrong.

Listen to the way he put it and listen to her reaction.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZ.: I categorically reject your answer to Senator Johnson. Why is it that the administration still refuses to provide the full text of e-mails regarding the deletion of references to Al Qaeda and terrorism in the talking points?

Why do we care? The classified information had been included; it gives an entirely different version of events to the American people. Going to the American people and tell them what happened, then you ought to have your facts straight.

CLINTON: Well, Senator, I understand your very, very strong feelings. You knew Chris; you were a friend of Chris; you were one of the staunchest supporters of the efforts to dislodge Gadhafi and try to give the Libyan people a chance. And we just have a disagreement. We have a disagreement about what did happen and when it happened with respect to explaining the sequence of events.


BASH: You saw there, both of them were pretty pointed but very respectful. You could see their underlying relationship there.

One thing I also want to point out is that, as Jake was talking about, these talking points -- we heard about it really ad nauseam over the past several months -- and that is because Republicans say that they believe that this is case in point of -- from the perspective of some of them, that this was -- that there was a cover-up inside the administration.

John McCain has said that time and time again, a cover up going up to the highest level. So that's why they are really continuing to harp on that.

But one of the things that has also been going on over the past 21/2 hours behind me is a very important political subplot, and that is 2016, the next presidential election. Hillary Clinton, obviously, is being talked about big time in the Democratic side. Two Republican Senators on the dais, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul also talking about it. I've talked to Rand Paul myself. He has not denied that he is interested in taking the reins from his father, Ron Paul, who ran unsuccessfully a couple of times.

Listen to the way he addressed Hillary Clinton.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility. I think that ultimately with your leaving, you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11, and I really mean that. Had I been president at the time and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable.


BASH: So you saw there, pretty pointed against Hillary Clinton, also saying that it's a failure of leadership, trying to sort of give her a backhanded compliment, saying that he appreciates her taking responsibility but clearly laying the blame at her feet himself for not reading the cables.

She made clear -- she didn't really actually answer his question that -- it was clear she sort of -- you know, the look on her face, I think, told it all.

But she said, I'm Secretary of State. We have, you know, thousands of people working in our building. It's their job to read the cables. And that really was one of the underlying discussions here that she talked about with Democrats and Republicans, that, you know, she did have a lot of discussions about security, broad discussions.

But on this particular issue, security at this consulate, she said that she was not made aware of the specific requests from Chris Stevens.

BLITZER: Yes, she did indeed.

Dana, stand by; Jake, stand by. We're going to continue our analysis of what happened, a dramatic 21/2 hours before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Much more of our special coverage here in the CNN NEWSROOM right after this.


BLITZER: For the first time the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, today answered very specific questions about what happened in Benghazi when four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, were killed on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, last September 11th it all went down.

She came before the committee. She was supposed to testify for 90 minutes. She spent 21/2 hours answering questions in her testimony.

Jake Tapper is here. Dana Bash is up on Capitol Hill.

Remember the context, also, Jake. It was happening in the midst of the tail end of the election campaign. And the Republicans keep making allegations against the Obama administration.

They tried to paint a positive picture about the decimation of Al Qaeda, if you will for political reasons, rather than sharing the specific information they had about what happened in Benghazi directly with the American -- on one of those five Sunday talk shows, you were filling in for George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week." And you had Susan Rice appear before your show.

Do you remember how she responded? This was five days after the attack in Benghazi?

TAPPER: Well, first of all, I remember we were all requesting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton because the attacks obviously were under her purview. And if not her, then perhaps the national security adviser, Tom Donilon, just in terms of booking.

But that's not who the White House put out. The White House controls this. They control this process of Sunday shows and guests with an iron hand. And they --


BLITZER: Were you surprised when Susan Rice was the designee?

TAPPER: Well, yes, because as President Obama later said, she really had absolutely nothing to do with security decisions in Benghazi or in Libya writ large. She's the ambassador to the United Nations. I didn't know exactly what she was doing there, other than she was a high-level State Department official and a recognizable name.

She came armed with the talking points. It seemed pretty obvious at that point, even before that point based on conversations I'd had with other officials in government, that this was not the result of a spontaneous protest because of the Muslim video, that this was something -- it was too well coordinated.

BLITZER: It was a planned attack, a terrorist attack and that was obvious, as Senator McCain says, in the classified information that they had. But they deleted that Al Qaeda-specific reference in the public talking points that she was given.

TAPPER: That's right. And the question is, was it deleted so that the intelligence officials would -- because they were worried about warning the bad guys, the terrorists in that region of Africa that they knew who they were?

Or was it for political reasons that the Obama administration had this talking point that Al Qaeda was being decimated, and it was fewer than two months before the presidential election and he didn't want to ruin that talking point? Those in the White House obviously say that it was purely for intelligence reasons. They were not confident enough in the intelligence at that point to say to a certainty that, without question, it was a terrorist attack by such-and-such group, whether Ansar al-Sharia or another one. And, in addition, they didn't want to let any of the bad guys that they were wise to them.

BLITZER: Dana, I was sort of surprised myself how tough Senator McCain -- was certainly surprised how tough Rand Paul was. They -- neither one minced any words in going after the Secretary of State.

I suspect that's going to be a prelude to what's going to happen this afternoon when she testified before the House Foreign Affairs committee. There are a whole bunch of Republicans on that panel who have some real tough, specific questions for her as well.

BASH: There certainly are.

I mean, in a way, I actually am not that surprised. And I -- in fact, I know you have, too, seen John McCain get even more aggressive with the person on the other side of the dais sitting in the witness chair.

And Rand Paul, as we've talked about, has -- likely has aspirations for higher office.

But, yes, absolutely. That always tends to be kind of the atmosphere here on Capitol Hill. The Senate generally is sort of more staid and the House, they're, you know, kind of more rabble rousers, for lack of a better way to say it.

And I was told earlier today by a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Republican chairman said to Republican members in a meeting, please be respectful.

You know, for the most part, even at this hearing, they were tough questions but they were respectful.

In the House, I think there is a genuine respect for her, Republicans and Democrats. But there certainly are a number of new members that the leadership seems to be a little bit worried about, trying to make a name for themselves and sort of maybe soliloquies and not really be looking for a specific answer. So it will be a very interesting dynamic over there.

BLITZER: That's supposed to start at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, right, Dana?

BASH: Correct. And that's supposed to be 90 minutes as well. But as you mentioned, this went a whole lot longer, perhaps because Hillary Clinton herself decided to give a lot of pretty long and lengthy answers.

BLITZER: We'll see how long that hearing goes in the House, a lot more members in the House Foreign Affairs Committee than on the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Dana will be joining us; Jake will be back. I'll be back, 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Complete wrap in "THE SITUATION ROOM." Our special coverage will continue right after this break.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everyone. This is NEWSROOM. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, picking up where Wolf Blitzer left off after our special coverage of the Benghazi hearings on Capitol Hill. And there's another really big story that's playing out across this country right now.

I don't have to tell you that it's really cold. It is so, so cold in so many states. And there are images that will tell you that.


BANFIELD (voice-over): It's hard to show cold until you see someone like this throwing a cup of hot water. That's not a joke. That's what happened to the cup of hot water when it's around 30 below zero. Reporters in North Dakota demonstrating.

Yes, that's what it feels like, folks.

And here's what a t-shirt looks like when it's wet on a hanger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes a little sound like a drum, that's how cold it is. Get the nail there.

BANFIELD (voice-over): That's a banana. That's a banana.


So, look, yes, you can't see cold unless you do these fun stunts, but meteorologist Chad Myers joining us now to talk about -- I love stunts and I love it when they can show just how cold it is. And the truth of the matter is, while that's fun to watch, this is deadly and it's dangerous.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is, especially for all those folks that have to work outside. I'm talking the ramp workers at airports. We're talking people that are working outside, firemen, policemen that are working outside directing traffic. You have to think about this and you have to take breaks out there.

It is cold everywhere from New England all the way back even into North Dakota. Grand forks, North Dakota, right now, it is 5 below zero when you look at the thermometer. But it feels like 29 below to your skin. Feels like 7 below in Albany, 1 below in Scranton. And you say, OK, well, there you go, guys. All this cold air coming in here, what just happened to global warming?

Well let me just give you an idea what happened to global warming. This is actually caused by the fact that there is no ice up here in the North Pole. The stratosphere has warmed up. The jet stream has dipped on down because of that. And so this cold front, this cold air is directly responsible for the lack of this -- from the lack of the sea ice that we have to the north. We get to that in the next hour. BANFIELD: Oh, Chad, well, that makes perfect sense because all those dipsy-dos used to hit me in Winnipeg, Canada, as I was growing up. And now here we are in the United States. Chad, thank you, and I know you're going to continue covering this today for us.

I got another big story I want to bring your way, the gripping tale of a rising football star and a make-believe girlfriend. It's made the rounds on TV and gone viral online. It's now sailing into a brand new chapter this morning.

And two words describe best what's in store for Manti Te'o: Katie Couric. She scored the big interview with the Notre Dame linebacker. And in the first teaser bites to be released, he's admitting that he lied about the girl.

But -- and this is a big but -- he's saying only briefly. He lied only briefly after he learned that she didn't exist. Remember, Te'o had said that he was duped into believing his online girlfriend was real, a girl he'd never met in three years, a girl who died of cancer? ABC's "Good Morning, America" aired this this morning.


MANTI TE'O, NOTRE DAME LINEBACKER: This girl who I committed myself to died on September 12th. Now I get a phone call on December 6th, saying that she's alive and that I'm going to be put on national TV two days later. And they asked me what the same question? You know, what would you do?


BANFIELD: What would you do, L.Z. Granderson, joining us live now. He's a senior writer at ESPN and a CNN contributor.

We only have a minute left, but I want you to just to give me your take on that very short bite which, of course, Katie Couric will air in its entirety, I believe, tomorrow. What does this tell you, anything?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It tells me that we won't ever know the real truth. There's no way you can convince me that this person went through this whole 3-year ordeal and that he didn't find out until December. It just doesn't add up. When you look at all the interviews that happened prior to this -- to the Katie Couric interview, it just doesn't make any sense to me.

BANFIELD: It doesn't make sense, but does it assuage some of his critics? I know the sportswriters are getting -- taking it on the chin. Is he going to get a break with what he said?

GRANDERSON: You know, the jokes will never go away at this point. All he can do is try to get drafted by the NFL --

BANFIELD: Will that be affected?

GRANDERSON: I don't think so. As long as he physically is able to perform at a high level, I don't think his draft status is going to be hurt at all.

But if he doesn't perform well in the NFL, then you will continue to hear about the girlfriend that wasn't there jokes. But if he starts well in the NFL, he'll be fine and we'll forget all about it.

BANFIELD: And you came in to do this. And I appreciate it. And you know that you only got a short segment because of Hillary Clinton's very important hearing.

GRANDERSON: Hillary is kind of important.

BANFIELD: She's very important.

L.Z. (INAUDIBLE), thank you for that. More to come, obviously, as the full interview is going to air.

Thanks for watching this very short portion of NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. We have a lot more coming after the break, NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL. I'm going to stay with you. We're going to go right back into those Hillary Clinton hearings on Capitol Hill. And they aren't over yet, either. Back after this.