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Angelina Jolie Has Double Mastectomy; Russia Expelling American As Spy; White House On IRS Targeting; White House Holds Press Conference
Aired May 14, 2013 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: This is CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from Washington. We're following several major stories today. Russian security forces detained a U.S. Embassy worker in Moscow whom they claim actually works for the CIA and tried recruiting a member of Russia's special services. A live report just minutes from now.
Then, Prince Harry toured Superstorm Sandy damaged areas in New Jersey. We'll have the latest on the storm-ravaged area.
And Angelina Jolie says she has had a double mastectomy.
We're also watching two live events this hour. The attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, he's talking about Medicare fraud, but he's expected to take questions from reporters. These questions almost certainly will include the A.P. phone records, the IRS scandal that's unfolding, more questions on Benghazi. We're also waiting for the White House press briefing. It was supposed to start a half an hour or so ago. Jay Carney, the White House Press Secretary, will be going into the briefing room. We'll have live coverage of the attorney general and Jay Carney this hour.
Meanwhile, the Oscar winning actress, Angelina Jolie, reveals to the world a very personal decision to have a double mastectomy. The 37- year-old mother of six wrote about her surgery and breast reconstruction in a "New York times" op-ed article that was out today. She says she did it as a preventive measure after learning she carries a gene mutation that made it extremely likely she would develop breast cancer. Her mother, who was also an actress, died of ovarian cancer at the age of 56.
Angelina Jolie wrote this. Life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take on and take control of. Joining us now, Dr. Susan Love, the former director of the Revlon UCLA Breast Cancer breast center and the president of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation. Dr. Love, thanks very much for joining us. What was your reaction when you heard about Angelina Jolie's op-said, what she disclosed there and what can you tell us about the gene mutation that Angelina Jolie has?
DR. SUSAN LOVE, PRESIDENT, DR. SUSAN LOVE RESEARCH FOUNDATION: Well, I was really sorry to hear that Angelina Jolie had to go to these extremes and have a preventative mastectomy. But unfortunately that's all we have to offer women who have the gene for breast cancer right now. We don't have good prevention. And this gene actually predicts for both ovarian and breast cancer. So, it's likely her mother had the gene as well and that's why she got ovarian cancer. And then, Angelina decided to get tested to see if she had it. And it's a reasonable thing to do in that situation, although the gene is not that common, actually, in women in general.
BLITZER: Should -- let's get a little perspective. Should all women be tested for this gene? Angelina Jolie says the test costs about $3,000, which is obviously pretty expensive.
LOVE: All women should not be tested for this gene. It is not that common. And the people who should consider being tested are ones who have a lot of breast or ovarian cancer in their families. And, if possible, it's always better to have someone who has cancer be tested rather than someone who doesn't have cancer because then you can see if there really is a gene in the family. It's very expensive. You can only get the test done in this country by Meri Genetics. And, in fact, it's in the Supreme Court right now whether it's legal for them to patent the breast cancer gene. And we'll find out soon what the Supreme Court thinks about that.
BLITZER: How far along are we in finding a cure for breast cancer?
LOVE: Well, we're better than we were. We have a lot of treatments, but they all have significant collateral damage. The chemotherapy causes heart disease, can cause Leukemias. The radiation can cause problems. The surgery certainly causes problems. And it's much -- it would be much better if we can find a prevention of the cause of breast cancer and prevent it. In my professional career, we figured out that cancer of the cervix is caused by a virus and we have a vaccine, and we should be able to do that for breast cancer. And that's what we work towards at the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation.
BLITZER: The reconstructive breast surgery that Angelina Jolie had, tell us a little bit about that. The options she faced as she went ahead with this major decision.
LOVE: Well, she has -- she had two set options or three. She could have her ovaries out, which would both reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer but plunge her into immediate menopause. She could have her breasts removed, which would remove -- which would remove the risk of breast cancer. And what they do is leave the skin but take the breast tissue out, and then put an implant in in its place so that you look pretty normal afterwards.
BLITZER: Susan Love -- Dr. Susan Love, thanks very much for that perspective. We appreciate you joining us.
LOVE: Thank you.
BLITZER: In Moscow today, echoes of the cold war tensions rising between the U.S. and Russia after Russian security forces detained an American diplomat, accusing him of working for the CIA. They say they caught him red handed trying to recruit a member of Russia's special services, the intelligence agency there.
Brian Todd is following us -- following the story for us. Brian, the American detained has been released. What exactly was he accused of? Where is he now?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Russian Counterintelligence Agency, FSB, says he was trying to recruit a staff member of one of the Russian special services. This man who they identified as CIA Officer Ryan Fogel, the Russians say was detained briefly by them and then handed over to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. But the embassy so far has not commented and U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul is not commenting. We just reached the CIA which is also not commenting. What's very curious here is that the Russians also released video of this man wearing this almost comical-looking wig. They released images of what the FSB says are his belongings including wigs, a knife, dark glasses, a taxicab map of Moscow. It's so stereotypical of the spy craft and Eric O'Neil, the former FBI counterintelligence officer who took down spy Robert Hanson says he thinks this was staged by the Russians, that they placed all this material on him.
O'Neil says, why would a CIA officer who is actually doing some recruiting be running around Moscow with really bad wigs and all that other stuff? O'Neil believes this was manufactured for political purposes by the Russians to develop some kind of anti-American sentiment. And I ran that by an official at the Russian embassy here in Washington this morning. He refused to comment on that -- Wolf.
BLITZER: He was detained, as you point out, by the FSB, the counterintelligence agency in Russia. Tell us a little bit more about this agency.
TODD: Well, it's the Russian's main domestic security agency, it's the main successor to the legendary Soviet State Security Agency, the KGB. Its main responsibilities are counterintelligence, internal security, counterterrorism. Now, when the KGB was reorganized into the FSB in the late 1990s, one of its first directors, Vladimir Putin, who was a veteran KGB official in the 1980s. Of course, he's now Russia's president. Eric O'Neil says this kind of stage craft in this particular detaining of a potential spy is one of Putin's trademarks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd will have more in the "SITUATION ROOM" later today as well.
Let's go to the White House. Jay Carney, the press secretary, has just walked in and he's going to be answering some questions.
(BEGIN LIVE FEED)
QUESTION: -- Benghazi talking points, IRS reviews of political groups, Justice Department review of journalists' phone records, and in every instance, either the president or you have placed the burden of responsibility someplace else.
On the Benghazi talking points, it's been political motivations on the Hill. On the-on the IRS, it's been the bureaucrats at the IRS. And on the Justice Department issue yesterday, in your statement, you said those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. But it is the president's administration. So I wonder, doesn't responsibility for setting tone, setting direction ultimately rest with the president on these matters?
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, the responsibility to set tone and to focus on the priorities of the American people is absolutely the responsibility of the president, and you see and hear him do that every day as he fulfills his duties as president.
You know, I think you have to separate these issues. And I think if you look at the answers the president gave yesterday in response to questions, on the one hand, about the clear political circus that Benghazi has become and his response to questions about the reports of activity by the IRS, I think you see something different.
He made clear that if the reports about the activity of IRS personnel prove to be true, he would find them outrageous and he would expect that appropriate action be taken and that people be held responsible. He has no tolerance for targeting of specific groups, conservative groups, if the reporting is true on this, and he would expect action to be taken.
But this is a matter, when it comes to the IRS, that is under review by the independent inspector general. We have not seen that report. It is our understanding that its release is fairly imminent. And once we have that report, we'll be able to assess next steps.
So at this point, we have to, you know, wait for the action of an independent investigator, if you will, the inspector general, before we can jump to conclusions about what happened, whether there was a deliberate targeting of groups inappropriately, and-and if that's the case, what action should be taken. But you can be sure-and I would point you to the president's response yesterday-what his feelings are about this kind of action, if it, in fact, took place.
On the issue of what is a Department of Justice investigation, as I understand it, you know, the president is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be unfettered in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information. He also, of course, recognizes the need for the Justice Department to investigate alleged criminal activity without undue influence.
And as I said yesterday in my statement, other than press reports, we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the Associated Press. We are not involved at the White House in any decisions made in connection with ongoing criminal investigations, as those matters are handled, appropriately, by the Justice Department, independently.
And I understand there are a lot of questions about the reports about DOJ's actions. And from my background, I understand them well. But in this situation, where the department appears to be conducting a criminal investigation, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to have answers to those questions. I don't have them. And I have to refer you to the Department of Justice.
QUESTION: If I could then go back to the IRS issue, the president did use the word "if" these activities had taken place. But there has been an acknowledgment on the part of the IRS leadership that these things did, indeed, occur. So I wondered why the president used that phrasing in claiming that it was an outrageous...
CARNEY: Well, those from the IRS who have spoken about this obviously have much greater insight into what took place than we do. We have to-we have not seen the report. We have not, you know, independently collected information about what transpired. We need the independent inspector general's report to be released before we can make judgments.
You know, one person's view of what actions were taken or what that individual did is not enough for us to say something concretely happened that was inappropriate. I think if you look at some of what's been said, you know, that the actions were inadvertent or not or-or constituted something that was specific and inappropriate or not, and I think that what we have to do responsibly is wait for the independent inspector general's report to be released before we assess next steps.
But, again, if you look at what the president said yesterday, he was very clear that if there was deliberate, specific targeting of groups, that would be outrageous and would require, in his view, action be taken.
QUESTION: And that action, would-would there be something that the White House could do unilaterally?
CARNEY: Well, I think that we have to wait and see what next steps are, because, obviously, there is, you know, a significant amount of independence of the IRS as-obviously, as well as any I.G. And we have to-we have to wait for what the I.G. assesses before we can decide what next steps might appropriately be taken.
QUESTION: Jay, it's now clear that senior tax officials knew about this extra scrutiny of conservative groups since 2011, which means also during the election and that this was withheld until after the election. Should the White House have been informed earlier?
CARNEY: My understanding is that when there is a review, as there was and is by an inspector general, that when the end of that process is nearing and a report is about to be released, a notification is appropriate and routine. And that is what happened, and that happened several weeks ago. Prior to that, there was no knowledge here at the White House.
Now, before I make judgments about or anyone else here makes judgments about whether, you know, the White House should have known more or others in the administration should have known more, we have to find out what exactly happened. And that's why it's important for us to wait for the release of the inspector general's report, which, you know, will hopefully be fairly imminent.
QUESTION: Based on the reporting, do you have any concerns that this was withheld when it could have been a big story during an election?
CARNEY: Well, we have-we have-we have serious concerns about what's been reported. I think you saw that reflected in what the president said. And, again, it's been reported, and we have to make sure that the independent review of this by an inspector general is revealed and we can assess that and assess what actually happened, what motivations there were behind whatever actions were taken, and then decide what action is appropriate and who should take it.
QUESTION: When did the president find out about the Department of Justice subpoenas for the Associated Press?
CARNEY: I mean, we-let me just be clear. We don't have any independent knowledge of that. He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road.
QUESTION: What was his reaction to that? Does he believe that this was an overreach?
CARNEY: All I can tell you is that I cannot and he cannot comment specifically on an ongoing criminal investigation or actions that investigators at the Department of Justice may or may not have taken. It would be wholly inappropriate. And if-if we did comment on it or if we did have insight into it, you would appropriately ask why and- you know, is that correct procedure? Because it would not be.
So I can't comment on the specifics of that, but I can tell you that the president feels strongly that we need a-the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism, and you saw, when he was a senator, the president co-sponsor legislation that would have provided further protections for journalists in this regard. And he is also mindful of the need for secret and classified information to remain secret and classified in order to protect our national security interests.
So there are-there is a careful balance here that must be attained. But I think it's important to look at the president's past here to understand where he comes from in this-broadly-broadly speaking, where he comes from in regard to issues like this. But we simply can't comment on a specific investigation.
QUESTION: President Obama's being compared to President Nixon on this. How does he feel about that?
CARNEY: Again, I don't have a reaction from President Obama. I can tell you that the people who make those kind of comparisons need to check their history, because, you know, what we have here with one issue in Benghazi is so clearly, as we're learning more and more, a political sideshow, a deliberate effort to politicize a tragedy. The president feels very strongly about that; you heard him address that yesterday. CARNEY: On these-on these other issues, these are-these are things that we are finding out about and we need to wait appropriately for independent action to be completed before he can in any way take action or comment specifically on it.
You know, I think that it is a reflection of the-you know, sort of rapid politicization of everything that you have that kind of commentary. Everything becomes, you know, a huge political issue when-if you look at the facts, and I think Benghazi is instructive in this-the real issue is that four Americans died and we need to do everything that we can, as the president has committed himself to doing, to finding out who did it, finding out why and to taking the steps necessary to ensure that our diplomatic personnel are protected and our facilities are protected so that what happened in Benghazi doesn't happen again.
Instead of trying to score political points, which Republicans have been doing since the hours after the attack. And it's-it's very unfortunate. And it's not what the American people expect us to do because what-going back to Jim's original question, you know, the-the president is here to try to achieve the things that he told the American people he would try to achieve, and that they supported him in two elections now in trying to achieve.
And, that is to focus on the middle class, to help in any way he can to strengthen the middle class, to help the country build the economic foundation that's essential for the kind of dominance economically in the 21st century that this country enjoyed in the 20th. And, that is-you know, that is what he spends his time focusing on-that, and the paramount interests of protecting the national security of the United States.
QUESTION: You say, check our history, rapid commentary, but you have to understand and hear how it sounds like the administration might be hiding something. So, can we take these one at a time? On the IRS, no Friday, they gave one version of the story that's changed several times since then. So can you just state plainly, does the president believe that they're being truthful? And, does he think that the leadership there needs to change?
CARNEY: Well, I don't how (sic) that-I don't understand how that tracks with your first sentence about assertion here.
We have seen the reports, as the president said, and if the reports are true he would consider them outrageous.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) IRS has acknowledged that some of this wrongdoing has happened. So the president and this administration could agree...
CARNEY: And I think you heard the president say, yesterday, that if it turns out to be the case-and again, there's a-there's a lot of reporting, not all of it complimentary, some of it contradictory...
QUESTION: But Jay he also limited (ph) to one. He said there was IRS personnel, which sounded like it was isolated. We've now learned that it was... CARNEY: How could IRS personnel be isolated? That could be the entire agency. I mean it's-it's-what he's facing...
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) the Washington D.C. office, does he...
CARNEY: But Jessica he's basing-Jessica...
QUESTION: Is he concerned this is a broader problem?
CARNEY: He's concerned by the-he's concerned by every report he sees on this. You can believe that he is concerned by that. And that is why he looks forward to finding out what the I.G. report says, and then deciding what next steps need to be taken if-and who needs to take them. And that's, you know-instead of rushing to conclusions or, you know-you know, perpetrating consequences, before we even know specifically what happened and the whole story would be inappropriate for a president to do.
And so, again, he made clear what his view of this action if there was specific deliberate targeting of conservative groups or any groups inappropriately he would be outraged. And, he finds the suggestions of that to be outrageous. But, we cannot and we should not pre-judge the outcome of an investigation...
QUESTION: And what is the (inaudible) of his outrage-what is the consequence of his outrage?
CARNEY: We'll see. You know, how could he possibly say what the consequence will be before we know what the facts are. Shouldn't we let the facts be revealed by this independent inspector general report before we make some conclusive judgments about what actually (INAUDIBLE) before we know what the facts are.
CARNEY: Shouldn't we let the facts be revealed by this independent inspector general report before we make some conclusive judgment about what actions need to be taken?
QUESTION: On the IRS-DOJ story, we understand that you guys can't involved in a investigation that could touch the White House and the administration, and that is a legal violation and it's a legal issue that happened. But this involved multiple months, multiple locations, many phones.
Is the president at all concerned that the threat of the investigation, about the breadth and depth that the DOJ is using to pursue leaks in general, which has become a priority for this president, he's prosecuted in this administration more people for leaks than every other president put together.
CARNEY: Jessica, what I can tell you is that this president believes strongly in the First Amendment and is a strong defender of the First Amendment. He believes strongly in the need for the press to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism. He also believes strongly as a citizen and as president in the need to ensure that classified information is not leaked because it can endanger our national security interests. It can endanger American men and women around the world.
But I cannot and he cannot appropriately comment on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation for the reasons that you yourself just raised.
QUESTION: It's not about the specifics of this investigation.
CARNEY: You-you listed the specifics of the investigation, or at least as reported.
QUESTION: Is he concerned at all about the precedent this is setting? And that this is the legacy of his attorney general?
CARNEY: "This," I think, refers to this investigation, so I cannot comment on that. What I can tell you is the president absolutely believes in the need for a-the press to be able to pursue unfettered investigative journalism. And you saw that in- prior to his arrival in this office when he was a senator and cosponsored legislation that would enhance protections for the media and-and the principles that are behind that effort are ones that he holds to this day.
But I-I can't-I can't, then, take that to a specific case that's been reported in the press-again, that we learn about from the press, appropriately. Because if we learned about it any other way, it would be inappropriate.
QUESTION: Will you comment on it after the case is (inaudible)?
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Jay, can you say categorically that nobody at the White House and nobody on the president's political team had any knowledge or was involved in any way in the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS?
CARNEY: Yes. QUESTION: Absolutely not?
CARNEY: I mean, look, we found out about this in-or at least the counsel's office was notified about this investigation, this activity, potential activity very broadly just a few weeks ago. And beyond that, you know, we have to-we learn about everything we know about this from what we see in your reports. So that's why we have to wait for the inspector general's report before we can assess, based on that and what it tells us, what we know about what happened and what didn't, and what actions should be taken. And then decide on what next steps should be taken. QUESTION: Are people going to be fired over this?
CARNEY: Again, that-we'll have to see what the report concludes and what-what else needs to be done to find out, if necessary, what happened. The reports that we've seen are very troubling and if true, depending on the reports, because there's been a series of different ones, but if it is true that there were-there was a knowing effort to target specific organizations, as reported, conservative organizations, that would be outrageous, in the president's view. And there-and there should be consequences.
QUESTION: And while you clearly can't comment on the Justice Department investigation, as a principle, does the president approve of the idea of prosecutors going through the personal phone records and work phone records of journalists and their editors?
CARNEY: I-I appreciate the effort to generalize the question, but, obviously, that goes right to the heart of some of the reporting on this specific case. I can tell you that the president believes that the press, as a rule, needs to be-to have an unfettered ability to pursue investigative journalism and...
QUESTION: How can it be unfettered if you're worried about having your phone records...
CARNEY: Well, again, I can't-I can't respond to this in the specific. And, you know, I-I am very understanding of the questions on this issue and-and appreciate the-the nature of the questions. And I think they-they go to important issues and they go to the fundamental issue of finding the balance between-when it comes to leaks of classified information of-of our nation's secrets, if you will, between the need to protect those-that information, because of the national security implications of not protecting them on the one hand and the need to allow for an unfettered press and its-in its pursuit of investigative journalism.
So this is a balance that the president believes is important that we have to find. And, you know, how he views these issues can be seen in-in the-the actions and proposals he's made in the past. But when it comes to this specific case, I simply cannot get into the details of our view or his view of it at this time.
QUESTION: Just a last question. And just a last question. Is all of this, all this swirl of controversy and stories affecting the president's ability to pursue his agenda?
CARNEY: The president is focused on what he believes the American people expect from him and from their leaders in Washington. And you have seen that, and you will continue to see that in-in the days and weeks and months ahead.
Overwhelmingly, Americans are concerned about continuing the recovery out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, building on the job creation that we've seen, continuing to expand and make more secure the middle class, taking the necessary steps to invest in our future so that our economy can grow later, and that means bipartisan cooperation on things like investing in infrastructure or in innovation, in the kind of investment-in the innovation hubs that the president talked about in Austin last week.
You know, these are the issues that he's focused on. They include comprehensive immigration reform, which he is constantly discussing with leaders and members of Congress, a bipartisan effort that he believes can and should produce a law that he can sign that reflects the principles that he's laid out a long time ago. So there's a lot of work to be done, and he's focused on that work.
Chip, good to see you.
QUESTION: Good to see you.
CARNEY: Welcome back.
QUESTION: I appreciate that. As you know, numerous members of Congress over a period of a couple years wrote the IRS and asked if conservative groups were being targeted. Those officials did not respond. If it turns out that those officials did know at the time that they were-that conservative groups were being or had been targeted, should those officials be punished?
CARNEY: That goes into-I mean, the "if" phrasing is appropriate. If what we're seeing in some of these reports about specific targeting and actions taken by personnel within the IRS turns out to be true, then, you know, people should be held accountable. And-and what that means in concrete action, we'll have to see, based on-on the information and the facts that are gathered, principally, at least at first, by the inspector general.