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Evidence Points to Benghazi Cover-up; Now Clear Security Requested in Benghazi Denied; News Description of Strange Behavior from Kidnapper; Ariel Castro's Daughter Horrified.

Aired May 10, 2013 - 13:30   ET

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


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Current top diplomat in Libya, Gregory Hicks, testified on Tuesday. He said there was no demonstration. He said there was an early report that the attack was coordinated by Islamic terrorists.

So information keeps coming out, people start debating it. There's reporting from "The Weekly Standard" and ABC News that shows the administration did help edit the talking points about the Benghazi attack on 12 different occasions. What does that mean? Is that a lot? What was the nature of those changes? That's what they're trying to figure out. It wasn't just written by the intelligence community, but there was a lot of input from the State Department as well.

Let's bring in chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, joining me down there from Washington, D.C.

Let's begin with this. When something like this comes, the first thing we want to say is, well, this is partisan, this is right going after the left. At this point, isn't it fair to say, Gloria, this goes beyond partisan picking?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it does. I think it's sort of a window into the way Washington works, particularly when you're in the heat of a presidential election year. Let's take a step back, OK, Chris? Just set the scene. You're in the fall campaign. There is a terror attack as we now know it on September 11th. The State Department has been asked as the administration's been asked by the congressional intelligence committees to provide them talking points. So when they're asked questions about this, they can actually talk about it with some amount of knowledge. What we're seeing in all of these e-mails going back and forth is the process at work, which is ugly, about how these talking points came to be. And in fact ended up you see Ambassador Rice there, and ended up to be used by her on her famous round of Sunday talk shows.

CUOMO: Right. But, Gloria --

BORGER: What we see in this process is that these talking points were edited to the point of inaccuracy.

CUOMO: Right. OK --

BORGER: The question is, is that a cover-up? Is it a whitewash? We don't know the answer to that.

CUOMO: I know. And you took my question.

(LAUGHTER)

That's exactly what I was going to ask you. Right?

BORGER: OK.

CUOMO: Because that's what this gets to, 12. What's the context? It sounds like a lot, but we have to know the nature and purpose of those changes, right? And --

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: So here's the context. Over at the CIA, they're looking at some of these points, which include mention of al Qaeda. And there's a sense from some at the CIA, you know what, we don't want to tip anybody that we're investigating al Qaeda on this, so let's take out some of the references to al Qaeda. What the CIA left in, apparently, was this sort of broader context of al Qaeda in Benghazi in that part of the world. Those were eventually edited out.

And there is an e-mail obtained by "ABC News" from someone at the State Department, which asks, why should we leave that in because, quote, "It could be abused by members of Congress to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings." So clearly, from a State Department official asking the question, why are we going to give members of Congress information, don't forget, in an election year, which they could turn around and beat us up with. And that's how you see in evolving.

CUOMO: Right.

BORGER: Everybody's got a different reason for editing it. And they edit it down to something that's totally turns out to be, in fact, untrue.

CUOMO: Well, look, untrue, obviously, would be the bar of it being completely unforgivable, but simply playing politics with a situation where you need to know what happened. We lost lives there. Also winds up making this go past the line of politics.

Let's bring in Jake Tapper, anchor of "THE LEAD."

Always good to have him.

JACK TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Chris. How are you doing?

CUOMO: I'm doing well. This situation is troubling. I think with good reason. People coming forward saying, did we know this attack was coming or did we not? Could we have done more and gotten help there sooner or not? These are legitimate questions, not just partisan pandering?

TAPPER: I think that's fair. Throughout -- obviously, there is this veneer of politics on all of this. And a lot of people who have been involved in the criticism are very partisan Republicans. That has been of benefit to the White House, which has not wanted to talk about this at all.

But having been one of those in the front row there at the White House while this was going on in September, very early on, I was asking Jay Carney, and my colleagues were asking Jay Carney, sources are telling us this was a terrorist attack, sources are telling us this had nothing to do with the anti-Muslim video, sources are telling us that the State Department did not do enough adequate preparation or planning, and there was always just a stonewalling, that's not true, that's not what happened.

When we started to break stories in September and October about the fact that there were people at the State Department who had been denying requests, from diplomats on the ground, in this very, very dangerous assignment, denying them, people in the White House were saying your sources are wrong, you're getting your information wrong, that's not correct. It's now very, very clear from a number of career diplomats at the White House, not partisan Republican talking heads in Washington, D.C., but career diplomats, who were taking these very dangerous assignments in places like Tripoli, that they were requesting security and the State Department was denying it.

CUOMO: Why? Any understanding of why they were denied?

TAPPER: If you look at the investigation, the internal investigation done by Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen, they say there just wasn't an understanding, a sufficient understanding, of how great the dangers were.

If one accepts that is true, then there has to be some accountability. Who didn't understand that? Why didn't they understand that? Has there been any repercussions for those individuals professionally? So far, the answer seems to be no. There were four individuals who were reassigned and there seem to be questions about whether or not they were even disciplined, but no accountability on any high level.

CUOMO: The most dangerous politics here would be those of avoiding this situation because of the partisan banter and not justifying those lives lost with the facts of what actually happened and so that we can learn going forward.

TAPPER: And as Gloria talks about, the context, it's also important to remember the political context. Not because we want to inject politics in this, this is a story about terrorism and career diplomats being killed, because this took place during a presidential election, September 11th and September 12th in the last two months of a heated presidential election, that one didn't know how it turned out not to be a close election really at all, but in September, nobody knew that.

One of President Obama's talking points was that the senior leadership of al Qaeda was on its heels, had been decimated, and that this was the success of his. Republicans say that the White House did not want to change from that message. Now, do we have evidence that that's why these talking points were changed? We have Victoria Nuland in these e-mails released saying she didn't want Congress to beat up on the State Department for not heeding the warnings. Was that because of politics, or because it was internal divisions? She wanted the CIA to be blamed more, not the State Department. We have to find out a lot more.

CUOMO: Going to unpack it on "The Lead" today?

TAPPER: Unpack it on "THE LEAD." We'll try to.

CUOMO: 4:00 p. m.?

TAPPER: 4:00 eastern, 1:00 pacific.

CUOMO: Every day.

TAPPER: Every day.

CUOMO: Every weekday.

CUOMO: Every weekday. It should be every day.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Speaking of days, I'm very excited for a new day.

CUOMO: Remember that when I'm calling and want you to come on in the morning.

(LAUGHTER)

Jake Tapper, thank you very much.

Gloria Borger, thank you very much.

We're going to take a break right now. When we come back, new descriptions of strange behavior by Cleveland kidnapping suspect, Ariel Castro. The mother of one of the victims says he reached out to her at one point while her daughter was still missing. What was that about? The details, straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: OK. Right now, we are waiting for this White House conference. We've been talking here about the questions surrounding Benghazi, the attacks there, what was known, what was not known. We're going to pick that up live as soon as we can get to it.

While we're waiting we want to go back to Cleveland because there are more disturbing accusations involving kidnapping suspect, Ariel Castro. The 52-year-old former school bus driver allegedly wasn't satisfied with seeing his victims in pain. He also reached out to one of the victims' family to witness their grief for himself.

CNN's Randi Kaye has the story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, HOST: Of all the people comforting Gina DeJesus' mother at a vigil last year marking the anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, one man now stands out, Ariel Castro. Not only did he comfort her mother while her daughter remained locked away in his home, but he played music and performed at the family's fundraisers.

Forensic psychologist, Kris Mohandie, has not examined Castro but says it's typical behavior.

KRIS MOHANDIE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST & FORMER LAPD PSYCHOLOGIST: Make no mistake, this is a man who potentially was a master manipulator of people's perceptions of him. And the idea he put on these different masks even to his own family is not unexpected.

KAYE: Given what we know now, that police believe Castro held Gina DeJesus captive in his home for more than nine years, along with Amanda Berry and Michele Knight, the very thought of him offering comfort is downright sickening for family members.

MOHANDIE: It enables them to blend in and avoid suspicion being cast upon them. Second, they can develop information about where the investigation is headed by pumping the family for information. And third, and maybe sometimes most importantly, it provides them with pleasure. They are there, they are fooling the family, they're seeing the pain that the family might be going through. And if this is a sadistic offender, that pain is going to be very gratifying.

KAYE: In fact, in the days and weeks following Gina's disappearance, Ariel Castro helped search for her. He hung fliers with her photo and attended rallies.

This community activist spoke with "ABC News" about it.

KHALID SAMAD, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: He came up, grabbed some fliers, hugged Gina's father. So he was definitely very, very sophisticated in his evil.

KAYE (on camera): And yet, there's another strange twist. Gina DeJesus and Ariel Castro's daughter, Arlene, were best friends. Arlene, in fact, was the last person to see her. Gina has given Arlene 50 cents to make a phone call so Gina didn't have money for the bus. Gina had to walk home instead and that's when she was taken.

Through tears, Arlene apologized to Gina on ABC's "Good Morning, America."

UNIDENTIFIED DAUGHTER OF ARIEL CASTRO: I want to say I am absolutely so, so sorry. I really want to see you, Gina. And I want you to meet my kids. I'm so sorry for everything.

KAYE: And another of Ariel Castro's children is also connected. His son, Anthony, wrote this article for the "Plain Press" back in 2004 titled, "Gina DeJesus's disappearance has changed her neighborhood." In it, he interviews Gina's mother, who tells him, now people are watching out for each other's kids. It's a shame a tragedy had to happen to really know my neighbors."

Little did she know one neighbor had taken her daughter and had no plans to give her back.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: You know, it's very interesting. Even though we know most abductions are done by somebody who is familiar with that family and the child that's often taken, it's still so upsetting to people in the community that the monster was among them the entire time. So many feelings of guilt that go along with that, about that they could have done or didn't do. His family having to live with the shame. Many layers to the tragedy here. Also remember, from an investigative standpoint, very important to understand as much as they can about Ariel Castro to see not just what he did with these three women, but who else is involved? How broad could this be? So it goes hand in hand in understanding him and this story and for investigators.

Now, at that point, it's 45 minutes past the hour right now. We are expecting a White House briefing where the administration is expected to field new questions about the Benghazi attack. As soon as that begins, we will bring it to you.

Right now, we'll take a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: Here is a tasty mouthful for you. Anthony Bourdain gives viewers a taste of the unusual, the weird and the exciting people, places and dishes that he explores each week on "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN." This Sunday, he heads to Tangier, Morocco.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN: The market for soup in Tangier is one of the best in all Morocco. The food stalls and vendors are still pretty impressive.

Wander the markets long enough and you're sure to stumble across the unexpected.

How about a lamb? Here nothing goes to waste. Charbroiled, crispy to burnet perfect, the meat is scraped off and served on a crusty lunch bread.

Not so adventurous, the indoor market offers a variety of smoked, cured and fresh meat.

(on camera): Smells good in here. This stuff looks good. Oh, I've heard this cheese is amazing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's good. Yes.

BOURDAIN: Can I have one? (voice-over): A favorite, fresh goat cheese wrapped in palm leaves.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, they're beautiful, aren't they?

BOURDAIN: That's good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

BOURDAIN: A little cheese, a little flat bread, the perfect Moroccan breakfast to go.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CUOMO: You just don't see enough hooves on menus anymore. But at least you get to see them here. Anthony's entire trip to Morocco, Sunday night, here on CNN, at 9:00 eastern and pacific. That's "ANTHONY BOURDAIN: PARTS UNKNOWN," Sunday night. Get your hooves fix there.

Any minute now, we're going to go to a White House press briefing where administration spokesman, Jay Carney, is expected to address new questions being raised about how the Benghazi attack was handled or potentially mishandled.

We'll take a break. Please stay with us. We'll bring you live coverage as soon as we have it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: OK, welcome back, everybody.

Want to give you a little breaking news here. CNN can confirm that Michele Knight has been discharged from Metro Health. So the third victim there in Cleveland is now home and she's asking for her privacy at this time. Completely understandable. We wish her the best as she can now be with family and start the process of healing from this traumatic situation she lived through. So there you have it again. Michele Knight discharged from the hospital, now home.

OK, we also have more news, a major development today in that deadly explosion, that fertilizer plant in West, Texas. Authorities have handled the location as a crime scene from the beginning. And now, new word that they're launching a criminal investigation into last month's blast. Remember, 14 people died as flames ripped through the facility there, nearly 200 others were hurt. The explosion was so powerful that it registered as an earthquake, devastating homes and businesses across the community. Only some 3,000 people there. So really devastating. Earlier this week, we learned investigators were able to rule out natural causes as the source of the fire.

A West, Texas, emergency volunteer, identified as Bryce Reed, was arrested early this morning for possession of a destructive device but, so far, we do not know of any connection between Reed's arrest and the criminal probe that was announced today. We'll stay on that for you, of course. And what we're monitoring here, mainly, is this expected White House briefing where administration spokesman, Jay Carney, is expect to address new questions being raised about the Benghazi attack. How was it handled? Did we know there was an attack coming, or was it random? These it rations of talking points, some 12 iterations, why so many, what do they mean, was this about putting politics over what happened to the real people there on the ground. Those are hard questions. When he comes up to take them, we'll bring it to you live.

First, a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CUOMO: We have some new information for you today out of the situation in Cleveland. Ariel Castro's daughter says she is horrified by what he is accused of. She described him as the most evil, vile, demonic criminal she's ever heard of. This, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Lori Segall, Angie Gregg says little things she never really thought about now make sense.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGIE GREGG, DAUGHTER OF ARIEL CASTRO: All these weird things that I've noticed over, you know, over the years, like about, you know, how he kept his house locked down so tight, certain areas, and, you know, how if we would be out at my grandma's having dinner, he would disappear for an hour or so and then come back and there would be no explanation where he went. Like everything is making sense now. It is all adding up. And I'm just -- I'm disgusted. I'm horrified.

LORI SEGALL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Did you ever see any signs of a 6- year-old there?

GREGG: I never saw signs in the house. I never saw, you know, her with him. But about two months ago. He picked me up, we spent the afternoon together, I just had some service on my car, and he showed me a picture that was in his cell phone, randomly, and he said, look at this cute little girl. It was a face shot. And I said, she's cute, who is that? You know? And he said, this is my girlfriend's child. And I said, Dad, that girl looks like Emily. Emily is my younger sister.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: Angie Gregg, a mother herself, having to explain the situation to her children. She says she never wants to see her father again. She says, quote, "I have no sympathy for the man."

That's it for me here in New York. We're going to give it over to Brooke Baldwin, live in Cleveland -- Brooke?

TAPPER: Hi, I'm Jake Tapper.