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AC 360 LATER

Benghazi Questions; Presidential Race; Death Penalty Debate

Aired October 31, 2013 - 22:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Evening, everyone. Welcome to "AC360 Later."

Tonight, Vice President Hillary Clinton or how about vice president candidate Chris Christie? How the Obama campaign considered the first and why the Romney campaign considered and rejected the second, just two of the inside details coming out from the new campaign tell-all from the authors of "Game Change." John Heilemann and Mark Halperin have written a sequel: "Double Down: Game Change 2012."

It's not out until next week. We're getting early details and it will have a lot of people talking.

Here to talk tonight, Andrew Sullivan, founder of The Dish. AndrewSullivan.com is his Web site. Also Amy Holmes, anchor of "The Hot List" at TheBlaze.com, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio.

And I want to start though with John McCain of "The New York Times" who broke the story tonight, has exclusive details to share with us about this new book, really fascinating details.

Talk about how the Obama White House considered Hillary Clinton and what they did about it.

JONATHAN MARTIN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Sure.

This is the end of 2011, the fall of 2011. President Obama's numbers were really bad at that point. And there were a handful of his top aides who were trying to figure out a way forward. How can we be competitive in next year's reelection, win next year's reelection given the political predicament we're in?

One of the options they looked at was replacing Hillary -- I'm sorry -- Joe Biden with Hillary Clinton on a ticket in 2012.

COOPER: When you say looked at it, they polled it in a focus group?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Two things, right, the polling and focus groups, asking voters how would you respond, for example, to Hillary campaigning with President Obama, those kinds of questions. The person who was advocating for it aggressively was William Daley, then chief of staff to President Obama, not for dumping Biden, per se, but for looking at that possibility, exploring through research what doing so...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: And did the focus groups tell them?

MARTIN: They concluded that it would help but not sufficiently to make that bold of a move.

There was some sort of marginal benefit to doing it, but it wasn't sufficient. What they don't know in this book and what Daley wasn't sure of when I talked to him today on the phone was if President Obama himself knew.

(CROSSTALK)

ANDREW SULLIVAN, ANDREWSULLIVAN.COM: Another thing he didn't know.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Exactly. That's right.

AMY HOLMES, "THE HOT LIST": He would have just read about it in the newspaper.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Also for Chris Christie, the news on that was that...

MARTIN: Twice considered, twice scratched off. He was on the original short list for Romney in 2012. Then Romney was leaning towards Paul Ryan. At the last minute, one of Romney's top advisers really urged him to reconsider Christie. This is Stuart Stevens, who, some of your viewers know, was sort of Romney's chief strategist, was bombarding around with YouTube clips showing Christie at his best.

Romney did reconsider. They did a sort of a crash event as they call it, last-minute info trying to compile a dossier on Christie. They ultimately could not get enough info on Christie. There were unanswered questions on a variety of topics. And Romney wasn't comfortable I think taking that gamble given what had happened four years earlier with McCain picking Sarah Palin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Is there something in Chris Christie's background that led them to believe there was a problem? Because, I mean, my understanding of Chris Christie, he's been a prosecutor for much of his life. Those aren't the kind of jobs that generally create vetting problems.

MARTIN: Right. Well, the phrase they used in the book is really potential unexploded land mines littering his background. Now, there's no proof that any of that stuff would have ultimately been harmful to the campaign. It was just the fact there were unanswered questions. Unlike the other potential...

SULLIVAN: By unanswered, you mean he failed to answer those questions adequately.

MARTIN: Exactly. Unlike the other possible V.P.s who they were vetting, they did not get the level of information from Christie that they wanted.

There's a memo actually in this book from this vetting team. They sort of quote from it at length where they run down the issues where they have knocked out enough background on Christie. They say in bold letters in this memo, if he's the pick, have to find more on X, have to find more on Y.

So I think Romney was worried about a scenario where you pick Chris Christie and all of those questions are raised in the weeks after the rollout.

(CROSSTALK)

RICK LAZIO (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Beth Myers, who headed this up, was former chief of staff.

MARTIN: Your friend. Right?

LAZIO: My friend Beth Myers, she's incredibly methodical. Each of the potential short list people had their own vetting team so that there was no taint going from one to the other.

And I think in the end, my sense was that, of course, Ryan ended up getting picked, but Rob Portman was really -- the senator from Ohio was the runner-up.

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: ... very fast is that today when I talked to the Chris Christie folks about this issue, instead of responding, they actually arranged Beth Myers herself, the chief Romney vetter, to e-mail me and use that as their response, which to me speaks to the establishment wing of that party's respect, perhaps fear of Christie that they could get Beth Myers to stand up for Christie and do that.

COOPER: I just want to quickly bring in Candy Crowley, CNN's chief political correspondent, anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION."

Does it surprise you that they would poll test, that they would focus group Hillary Clinton as potential V.P. over Biden?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No. The way focus groups and poll testing goes, it's pretty much everything. What color should they -- do people respond better to this color?

But obviously you're spending money on this, so it was something that was considered at some level. But I wanted to point out a tweet from David Plouffe tonight. He was the 2008 Obama campaign manager, he was in the White House in 2011. He said, "Never any consideration of a V.P. HRC switch, not even entertained by the only person who mattered or most of us. Back to Halloween."

That's pretty hard pushback from a guy who should have known, but there you go.

MARTIN: Well, according to the book, Plouffe himself was part of a small group that was aware of this going on. Again it's not that they were looking to dump Biden. It's that they wanted to do due diligence in exploring what Hillary would get them politically.

What were the health issues with Christie? As I understand, they were worried about some undisclosed or failure to disclose fully a health record?

MARTIN: He didn't disclose that he's overweight.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: No, I think they wanted more details, a sort of full rundown, full physical examination. And it seems like from my reporting they hadn't gotten that.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: What the protesting and focus grouping wouldn't have told them, I don't think, unless you have more information on this, is if dumping Joe Biden in and of itself would have been seen as weakness, as a Jimmy Carter moment for President Obama.

And also on the Chris Christie stuff, not disclosing, I think that also plays into Chris Christie being kind of a loose cannon and not a team player. So was it interpreted that way as well?

MARTIN: Yes. At the staff level in the book it's very clear that the Romney folks were unhappy with the level of information coming from the Christie people in Trenton, New Jersey, and that there was a sort of press for more and more and more. They just were not getting it.

SULLIVAN: What I find fascinating on this, Anderson, is that Christie and Clinton are probably going to -- very well might be the two nominees next time around. Both were considered for veep and decided against. And it just shows you that some of the assumptions about them being great successes, I'm not so sure.

COOPER: There's also a lot of stuff about President Obama's relationship with former President Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: But came around on it, it seems like.

MARTIN: It's sort of a love story in the end, right. COOPER: Love story.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Because President Obama, as you guys know, just is so different in terms of his style from President Clinton.

There's this great scene in the book where they're here in New York and they're pulling up to a fund-raiser, I think at the Waldorf, and they're in the limo and President Clinton is telling a story to President Obama. It's like one of those moments where it's like, hold on. And he's coming to a punchline. For Obama, it's just like reaching for the door to get out.

And it is so hard for Obama at that point. At that dinner I guess an hour or so later in the Waldorf, Obama calls in staffers from both his office and Clinton's office to give him some cover so he doesn't have to have dinner with Clinton one-on-one.

HOLMES: Be trapped alone with him.

LAZIO: They couldn't be more different.

COOPER: Candy, they did come -- certainly President Obama did seem to come around on President Clinton and really believe he needed him.

CROWLEY: Yes. He proved helpful in getting him reelected.

There's nothing like helpfulness in getting reelected to bond a couple of people. We have seen it with Reagan and Bush. We have seen it with Dole and Bush. History is sort of littered with politicians who hated each other and then realized they needed each other. I think that pretty much describes these two.

TOOBIN: In Jonathan's story about the book, when Obama gets the call from Mitt Romney conceding the election, his first call afterwards to say thank you is to Bill Clinton.

MARTIN: He turns to Jim Messina, his campaign manager, and says, get Bill on the phone.

SULLIVAN: Because Bill's speech at that convention was the most important speech of the campaign.

MARTIN: And to this day, if you talk to Democratic activists, they will point to that speech.

HOLMES: So, Congressman, I have a question for you, as a former politician. What do you make of this basically like dumping all this into a book and we're still not even done with the first year of Obama's presidency?

LAZIO: It's just the era that you live in, right, so that everything is out there. There's very little sense anymore even among people currently in office to maintain some confidentiality and not leak things out.

HOLMES: There's a story that President Obama doesn't know the name of his top five bundlers? Wow. That's out right now.

LAZIO: People are always -- they're looking for ways in which they can push it away from themselves, it's not my liability, it's somebody else's liability.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

SULLIVAN: Isn't that part of what Obama said he was going to do? He was not going to be one of those people who was constantly doing favors.

And of course Clinton is a transactional politician. He's always doing favors for you. He's calling in this chit, that chit. Obama is just so not like that. And, look, if you have ever been cornered by Bill Clinton, whether -- I know someone how was just stuck on the running machine right next to him. He won't stop. He will not stop talking to you.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: You mean he goes to the gym?

SULLIVAN: Yes. Now I think he does.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: I wouldn't mind someone talking to me next to me on the running machine. I'm so bored out of my mind.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: You try it for a few minutes with him.

LAZIO: One time I remember I was going to the Middle East as part of a delegation, and he was on the Air Force One and we were going over there and he came over and I was beat. We got up really early. He was sitting there with his unlit cigar. He came up and he was just talking to us. I said, how do I summon up the courage to tell the president of the United States I'm tired, could you go away? I love talking policy, but I'm done.

COOPER: What did you ultimately do?

LAZIO: I think he eventually...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Clinton himself had his issues with Obama. There's a scene in the book where Clinton is in Little Rock and I think it's the 20th anniversary commemoration of Clinton announcing his candidacy for president. Clinton is just going to everybody at the party and just dumbfounded and said, why isn't Obama better at this stuff? He's good at the hard stuff, but he's bad at the easy stuff. It was Clinton's line.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: It's easy for Clinton.

MARTIN: It's like why can't he put it on an index card in bullet point messages?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: He said he wanted to be a transformative president like Ronald Reagan and not sort of play favors like Bill Clinton.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Your famous cover story, Andrew, in the '08 campaign, right, was goodbye to all that. And that was Obama as the sort of clean break from all the baby boomer narcissism of 1990s. And Obama embraced that by the way in his campaign.

SULLIVAN: Right. He did.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Candy, do you have any sense of what kind of relationship they have now? Do they talk on the phone? Does President Obama do that kind of stuff?

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: I don't think they're BFFs, no.

We found out I think about the time that Hillary Clinton left the White House -- and, by the way, he has a better relationship with her than he does with her husband. But the fact is that when she left, I think that was about the time we found out that they had never that they had never -- that Michelle and Barack Obama had never had the Clintons to the White House for, hey, hang out and have some dinner.

You would think that would be sort of natural. It was a long time before President Obama ever called President Clinton for advice. It was -- 2008 was pretty raw between the two of them.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Isn't that remarkable, Candy? The real story is that -- the Obama-Clinton reconciliation in that campaign? There have been many bitter primary campaigns in which they have not pulled together at the end for this party. The Obama-Hillary Clinton unity in that campaign was really staggering, it seems to me.

CROWLEY: Yes, I just -- I don't know. I think I'm more cynical than you are. I figure a politician looks around and says this guy can help me and so he's my buddy. So, no, that doesn't surprise me.

I will say in terms of Chris Christie, when you all were talking about Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton who may be up against one another in 2016, I don't think there are probably any two happier people tonight they were not on either of those tickets at this point, given where the president is in the polling, the kind of challenges he's looking at.

I'm sure she's happy to be looking from the outside in and I think Christie is, too.

COOPER: Candy, it's great to have you on the program. Thank you very much, Jonathan Martin as well. Thanks. Fascinating stuff.

Tonight, let us know what you think. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. Tweet using #AC360Later.

Up next, congressional Republicans who have been complaining about not getting answers they want about the deadly attack in Benghazi may soon be hearing from more people who were actually on the ground during the attack. We are back in a moment with that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Congressional Republicans may soon get some of the testimony that they have been demanding more than a year after the terrorist attacks that killed four Americans the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

So far, sources say only one of an estimated two dozen CIA operatives has testified before Congress. Now CNN's Drew Griffin has learned that a House Intelligence Subcommittee is scheduled to hear from other CIA security officers, including former Navy SEALs and former Marines, who are expected to give more details on what happened in Benghazi.

Back with Andrew Sullivan, founder of The Dish, Amy Holmes, anchor of "The Hot List" at TheBlaze.com, senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and former New York Republican Congressman Rick Lazio.

What do you make of -- Jeff, I know you have strong feelings on the reporting on Benghazi.

TOOBIN: This is a nonstory.

Benghazi was a tragedy. It's not a scandal. Republicans are going to investigate this until the end of the Obama administration. They will find nothing, because there's nothing to be found there. There's no scandal. These are brave, honorable people who were killed in the line of duty just like Foreign Service officers and CIA officers have been killed in the line of duty before.

There is nothing there in terms of a scandal. But Republicans can continue doing this as long as they want.

COOPER: So Susan Rice saying that there was links to the videos, to you, that's not significant?

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: It was in the immediate aftermath, it was unclear what happened. They corrected their statements within a day.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: They didn't, though, Jeffrey. President Obama went to the U.N. and he gave a speech saying that this was about a YouTube video, almost attacking free speech, frankly, saying that as the United States we will not stand for this sort of insult to Islam.

He said this two weeks after -- after it was well-known that it was a planned coordinated terrorist attack.

TOOBIN: Explain to me...

HOLMES: Had nothing to do with the YouTube video.

TOOBIN: What is the scandal here? What happened that justifies all these investigations?

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: So let me say three reasons why I think it matters. Number one, for the first time in 30 years, American diplomats were killed on diplomatic soil, on U.S. soil, number one.

Number two, it matters for people that are going into the Diplomatic Corps and whether or not they trust their nation when there's information that they could be at serious risk as the ambassador had communicated whether or not we took precautions to actually address that, whether we could execute on it.

Next, once there was a firefight and we knew there was lots of reasons why this was predictable that we were going to be at siege at that particular compound...

HOLMES: On 9/11.

LAZIO: ... and we were advised either by the principal consultant to that embassy after the United Kingdom's embassy had been attack, as predicted and as called for by al Qaeda, that we should either move it, move the location or beef up security.

That was ignored. Then, once we were under fire and it was over an hour before they found out nobody was coming, and, of course, the firefight ended several hours later when in fact there might have been some cover and some lives could have been saved.

TOOBIN: And the entire reason that the Republicans have been pursuing this is to implicate Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

(CROSSTALK) TOOBIN: So wait a second. So your complaint is that there weren't reinforcements sent quickly enough. Did Hillary Clinton not send those reinforcements? Did Barack Obama not send those reinforcements?

HOLMES: We don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Oh, you don't know. You know what? This is the thing.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: And we still don't know what the president was doing that night. He won't release that information.

And when you say there's nothing there, then why aren't these witnesses being allowed to speak to Congress? Why does Lindsey Graham have to threaten that he's going to block these appointments just to talk to people that our Intelligence Committee has a right and a duty to interview?

TOOBIN: Republicans block appointments as matters of general principle.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: The perfectly qualified nominee for the D.C. Circuit, Patricia Millett, was denied a vote because Republicans wouldn't give her a vote. Lindsey Graham doesn't need some excuse to block Obama's appointees.

Republicans do it as a matter of course.

HOLMES: Why won't the CIA let these people speak to our elected representatives who need to get to the bottom of this and have that responsibility and duty and have top-secret meetings all the time?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: One argument they're making is that there's going to be -- there's a criminal investigation going on and it could interfere with that. I talked to a CIA officer earlier tonight who said that's ridiculous, that as a former undercover CIA officer he used to testify all the time and his cover wasn't blown.

HOLMES: Do we believe that Dianne Feinstein is incapable of holding a secret interrogation, an interview of these folks?

TOOBIN: There have already been two major investigations, all of which have shown no conspiracy.

If Republicans want to spend their time...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: You're using the word conspiracy. I'm not using the word conspiracy. I'm talking about getting all the facts.

TOOBIN: We don't know all the facts about the Civil War. If you want all the facts about something, you're never going to get it.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Well, this only happened two years ago vs. the Civil War.

TOOBIN: You're looking for some sort of smoking gun to implicate the president and Hillary Clinton. That's all that anybody...

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: And there's nothing there.

LAZIO: So here's where I think they have it wrong, though, the administration.

So you're talking about a closed door, closed to the press, top- secret briefing by the Intelligence Committee. Nobody's going to grandstand.

TOOBIN: Oh, no, not a chance.

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: There's no cameras there. There's no cameras there. There's no ability to grandstand in a closed door.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: I see no reason why these hearings shouldn't go on forever as far as I'm concerned if that's what the Republicans think is worth doing.

But I cannot see where on earth this ends. I cannot see the huge scandal ready to be unveiled. I do not understand the passion around this that has been generated among Republicans. I think only Republicans will be interested. And I think, increasingly, a lot of independents...

HOLMES: Well, that's a shame. That's a shame.

SULLIVAN: Well, no, because they seem completely deranged about this.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: They seem to have lost an perspective.

HOLMES: Excuse me. Two of the parents of these murdered men have said that they do implicate the White House because the president's duty is also as commander in chief, and to have that duty in terms of do we send in military support for these folks or do we just let them die on a rooftop, because it's 9/11 and we don't want to start a regional war?

TOOBIN: And the Republican investigations of the 13 attacks on American Embassies under the George W. Bush administration, how did those go?

HOLMES: I'm glad they had these investigations.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: They didn't have them. There were none.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: There were no diplomats killed on these attacks.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Yes, our ambassador was murdered. I think that is well- established.

TOOBIN: No, of course it was, yes.

COOPER: Well, wait a minute. Weren't CIA operatives and Navy SEALs -- at least CIA operatives killed in Eastern Afghanistan, blown up? It was shown in the movie "The Hunt for bin Laden."

HOLMES: Certainly.

LAZIO: A diplomatic facility...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: It was a forward operating base, a U.S. forward operating base.

SULLIVAN: I would like to know what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. I would love an investigation into that. I would like an investigation into the CIA's war crimes, a much more serious matter, that we have not -- the head of the CIA destroyed the evidence of their torturing, destroyed it.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: What responsibility do you believe that President Obama has to make that information available to you to satisfy your curiosity? What was going on in Benghazi that it was under attack?

SULLIVAN: I'm not curious about it. I'm not.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: ... possibility of allegations of arm trading. You just said you want to know about it.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: I do. It's part of the process. Republicans can investigate all they want.

I just don't know what you're doing it for.

LAZIO: Listen, if nothing new comes out of it, it's not going to move the political needle, if that's what we're concerned about. Right? I don't think that is what most Republicans are really concerned about.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You don't believe politics is at the core of this?

LAZIO: No.

COOPER: You think it's concern about what actually happened to those four Americans and fixing the problem?

LAZIO: I think many Republicans feel it was a humongous failure in intelligence and more importantly in execution.

COOPER: But you don't see them using this as a cudgel against Hillary Clinton for her possible...

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: I wouldn't say that Republicans in the past haven't used -- I wish they hadn't used it for fund-raising and things like that, because I think it sort of distracts from what the principal issues are here. But...

SULLIVAN: Why would they use it for fund-raising, if they're only just trying to get to the truth?

LAZIO: You find people on both sides.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: No, I'm just asking specifically on this side.

LAZIO: I wish they hadn't done it.

SULLIVAN: It speaks to their motivation, though, does it not?

LAZIO: But my point is that if you have these additional questions, if the administration and the CIA makes these people available, if they don't have to be subpoenaed, if they don't have to be compelled to speak in a confidential, closed-door national security briefing where lots of incredible secrets have been told, then if they allow them to speak and there's no new information, then I don't think it's going to go anywhere more. So why go through the effort of stonewalling them?

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Why the stonewalling?

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: Tell me, who's stonewalling what?

COOPER: That the CIA operatives who were actually on the ground, undercover CIA operatives had not been -- the allegation is they have been allowed to...

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: The allegation is that they have been prevented somehow from testifying. And I have not seen a single piece of evidence that proves that.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: You have the complaint that they're not allowed to testify, they're not allowed to come in.

SULLIVAN: Who's complaining?

COOPER: Lindsey Graham.

HOLMES: Well, we just discussed Lindsey Graham is threatening that he's going to put a block to the nomination.

COOPER: Anyway, it seems like they are now going to be testifying.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Why is there no bounty on the heads of these terrorists that killed these four men? Another question that the State Department can't answer.

SULLIVAN: Another question you want to ask precisely to propel this actually rancid lie that somehow the president of the United States...

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Why aren't we dedicating ourselves to catch these terrorists?

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Andrew, your turn.

SULLIVAN: I find the insinuation behind that really vile.

HOLMES: You may.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Andrew, go ahead.

SULLIVAN: It's vile because to accuse the president of being essentially in league with al Qaeda and indifferent to his own ambassador and our staff is such a vile accusation, the insinuation, and just asking questions about that.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: I think it is vile to blame an innocent American who made a YouTube video for what we know was an organized terrorist attack.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: It was a mistake.

HOLMES: It was a mistake that was repeated over and over at length and by the president of the United States to the world community.

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: The person who made that mistake has been denied -- was denied becoming secretary of a state. There was a political price paid for that for Susan Rice. I think she did screw up.

HOLMES: She got a promotion. Are you kidding me?

SULLIVAN: She was supposed to be secretary of state, Amy.

(CROSSTALK)

HOLMES: Well, so she says. John Kerry has a different idea.

SULLIVAN: The real agenda here is to insinuate that this president is somehow a traitor to his country. You know that's what's going on.

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: I totally reject that. I think that's absolutely not the case.

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: I think threat's what the left, how they want to define it.

SULLIVAN: I'm listening to it.

LAZIO: But I'm saying I think that people with all good faith are trying to get to the bottom of this, ask the right questions and to be able to lay this out. Who has been held accountable in the State Department for this? Has anybody?

(CROSSTALK)

SULLIVAN: A whole bunch of people have been fired.

LAZIO: Nobody's been fired. Not one person.

(CROSSTALK)

LAZIO: Nobody has been fired.

HOLMES: Demoted.

LAZIO: Not one person has been fired for this catastrophe on U.S. -- basically U.S. soil.

SULLIVAN: Well, you might have my sympathy on that.

LAZIO: In terms of accountability, to me, that's an outrage.

COOPER: We got to end it here.

Up next, support for the death penalty is at its lowest level in four decades. We are going to take that up with the panel that will join us all together when "AC360 Later" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome to "AC 360 LATER." The topic on the table right now the death penalty. A recent Gallup poll says support for the death penalty is at its lowest level since 1972. The majority of Americans are still for it, though. Sixty percent say they're in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers; 35 percent say they are opposed. Support for the death penalty peaked in 1994 at 80 percent. There's been a gradual decline ever since then.

We're back with our panel: Andrew Sullivan, Amy Holmes, Jeff Toobin and Rick Lazio.

Jeff, are you -- you're legal analyst. Do you support the death penalty?

TOOBIN: I don't, although I have in the past. I am a -- it's a good thing I'm not running for office, because a big flip-flopper on this.

But I think this is really one of the big stories in American life. Part of it is the public. But it's also in the legal system, the number of prosecutors asking for the death penalty, the number of death-penalty verdicts from juries, the number of executions have all been dropping dramatically.

COOPER: Why are prosecutors asking for it less? Because of the length of time involved?

TOOBIN: In part it's the expense of these cases is enormous. But also, they are reacting to juries. I think it all stems from two things. One is crime is down in this country. One of the great social science mysteries of the past 20 years is why is crime down so much? Here in New York it's most dramatic but all over the country it's been going down. And the other thing is DNA evidence and the exonerations because of DNA and the tremendous work the Innocence Project and other lawyers have done to show how imperfect our legal system is. And that translates directly into jurors saying, "You know, we're just not sure enough to impose the death penalty as much as we have in the past."

And you take those two things, just you know, fewer murders to prosecute and more reluctant jurors, and you have a really dramatic change in how the public -- in how the death penalty is used.

COOPER: Do you think that continues?

LAZIO: It seems to me that it there's -- it depends on the types of crime that you're talking about. If you're talking about a Sandy Hook or a situation where there's mass murder, children involved, terrorist inspired activity, my guess is that you'll continue to see pretty strong support.

And even -- not that our legal system should reflect public opinion -- but obviously people, still a majority of Americans still do believe that there are some exceptional circumstances, some particular class of murders, the worst of the worst, where it's such an outrage against society that the death penalty is appropriate.

HOLMES: I grew up in the land of serial killers in Seattle where we had Ted Bundy, we had the Green River Killer. So I am pro-death penalty in those extreme sorts of cases.

But I agree, with the DNA advancements and the good work of the Innocence Project that Americans are seeing that innocent people are put into Death Row.

But a question I have, and Jeffrey, maybe you know the answer to this. Interestingly, California by far has the most people on Death Row. I looked it up. They have 731. But they have no executions. They don't execute their prisoners.

TOOBIN: It's a completely preposterous situation in California. They -- since the death penalty came back after the moratorium in 1976, they have executed, I believe, fewer than ten people. And they have 700 people on Death Row.

Basically, the system is at complete loggerheads. The legal system cannot process those appeals. And they just -- they don't have the resources; they don't have the time. So these people sit on Death Row even though everyone knows that the vast, vast majority of them will never be executed. I think at some point, California being the more liberal state that it is, will probably just either legislatively or through the electorate or through a governor say, "You know what? We're going to just put all these people on life without parole."

COOPER: Isn't it interesting how things which were once considered complete air-tight evidence against somebody are now sort of being viewed as junk science. Was it you who wrote about that at "The New Yorker"?

TOOBIN: No, it was David Grand, my colleague.

COOPER: Arson investigation.

TOOBIN: David Grand wrote the famous piece, arson investigation. That's why DNA has been such a service. Because DNA is good science. DNA is science that came from the laboratory into the courtroom.

Arson investigators, hair and fiber analysis, handwriting analysis, eyewitness testimony, we're discovering how flawed all of these things are. False confessions. And that's why I think jurors are starting to say, "Look, we just don't want to take the risk of executing the wrong person."

LAZIO: And DNA has been an incredibly powerful tool for prosecutors. But keep in mind that's only really relevant in cases where, for example, there are some sample left behind.

TOOBIN: Sure. And there's a lot of cases where you have that.

LAZIO: So you have a shooting, for example, with no casing, nothing to actually identify.

SULLIVAN: We've come a long way since Bill Clinton rushed from his campaign to preside over the execution of a mentally-challenged African-American man to prove his bona fides against crime. And I think all the factors that Jeff has pointed out are absolutely true.

For me I have to say, I find it hard to talk about this politically or even legally. I have -- I think of it morally. And I find the power of the state deciding that someone is beyond redemption and should be murdered to be, for me at least -- this comes from my faith, of course -- wrong. Just wrong. We cannot -- we cannot take someone's life. We cannot deny that person the possibility of redemption.

LAZIO: Why -- This is where I don't really understand the -- I appreciate it, but it's -- why is it OK to take somebody out on some terrorist battle field, some drone strike with no process, no fact finding? Why is that OK morally, but having a full airing, a vetting, a trial, jury of peers, conviction, evaluation of the issues afterwards in terms of sentencing...

HOLMES: And appeals process.

LAZIO: And appeals process. Will have enhanced...

SULLIVAN: In Catholic teaching it would be this. It would be there are situations when war is just, and in those situations, which are very constrained on the Catholic moral teaching, you can commit murder in warfare. And that -- you're not talking about an enemy of the state you're fighting as opposed to a citizen in your own polity in which you have -- over which you have total power.

I think when you've already got someone locked away forever, when they can't do any harm to anybody else, then the death penalty becomes, I think, a form of vengeance. And I know -- I can totally understand why the victims of crime, the family of victims, would feel this way.

HOLMES: Why the community feels this way.

SULLIVAN: Why the community feels that way. I really do, obviously. At the same time, I think we're less a country if we do it.

We've actually got to take a quick break. We're going to switch gears completely. Get you ready, here's a question to think about. Is a 9-year-old opera phenomenon who taught herself to sing proof that incredible talent is innate or something that can be learned? I'll talk about that next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. You may have seen this. If not you should. A 9-year-old girl blew everyone away with a recent performance on "Holland's Got Talent." I didn't know there was a show in Holland. I didn't know there were enough people in Holland, but there are.

SULLIVAN: Brutal.

COOPER: Not brutal. To fund a show? Like a regular show?

HOLMES: A proud and strong country.

COOPER: No, it is. I'm from there originally, I think.

Anyway, no one -- not the judges, not the audience -- was expecting this. It's incredible. Take a look.

Not saying they don't have talent. Just saying how many singers are there?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was incredible. That was from the Puccini opera. Nine-year-old, her voice is obviously amazing. Even more incredible, this little girl says she taught herself to sing by watching YouTube tutorials. No formal voice training.

That, of course, got us thinking about natural talent or genius, whatever you want to call it. Is it something that you're born with, or can it be taught?

The panel is back with us. I also want to bring in Daniel Coyle, who is the author of "The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born, It's Grown. Here's How."

Daniel, thanks for being with us. So is it -- is this something that is innate, just a natural talent, or is it something that, through practice, through rehearsal, you actually can develop?

DANIEL COYLE, AUTHOR, "THE TALENT CODE": It looks natural, doesn't it? I mean, it gives you chills. But in fact, when you look closely, she illustrates a couple of really powerful things about the way talent is grown.

The first is she grew up with this windshield. She was immersed in music. Father a musician, brother, mother.

And the second thing is she practiced. That method of practicing by training yourself on YouTube is actually perfectly aligned with the way the brain acquires skills. By reaching toward something and by loving it so much that you keep reaching over and over again. And you grow a very fast, fluent brain that way.

COOPER: I'm reminded of Malcolm Gladwell in "The Outliers" writing about the Beatles, who spent, you know, some 10,000 hours or more in the club in Hamburg and elsewhere, just practicing, practicing -- performing for six hours in a row, seven hours in the row. And that was sort of the crucible that formed them.

Do you buy that -- whether it's 10,000-hour rule? Or is there something to that in your opinion, Daniel?

COYLE: Absolutely there is. And the difference, really, is in the quality of the practice. And when you picture this little girl staring at an image of something she loves, you can see that musical identity in her, that love that's driving her. And when she reaches for that over and over again, it changes your brain. You can -- there are brain scans that will show the way the brains will change in response to intensive practice. They get faster. They get more accurate, and you get better at whatever you're doing. Whether that's playing the Beatles or singing.

TOOBIN: Daniel, what's the difference between someone who works 10,000 hours and becomes a genius and someone who works 10,000 hours and just doesn't turn out to be that great?

COYLE: Yes, well, sometimes it's opportunity and sometimes -- you know, genes do matter. Genes do change the way we have, especially when it comes to character, emotional discipline, control, things like that, toughness.

But, you know, in the end what we do know is that everybody has the same path forward. No matter who you are, if you practice intensively, if you find something that really connects to your identity and you reach for it over and over again, you're building yourself that talent.

COOPER: So your advice for parents out there is, what, expose their kids to the widest range of things possible and see what sticks?

COYLE: Yes. I'd say a couple of things. I mean, you know, one is to not be so much like a tiger parent. Be more like a Johnny Appleseed parent. Throw stuff out there and see what your kid stares at. To stare is to think. It's the most important signal our kids give us.

And the other thing is to give them a little bit of space. Give them a little bit of space to discover what it is that really connects to them.

SULLIVAN: What I love about the whole practice argument, is that it really -- it kind of defies our idea that we can control our lives by instantly, that we can just change everything.

The most great human excellence, and you see this; it's in Aristotle. It's in all the great -- through Daniel Coyle (ph). We aren't just creatures of habit. And we -- our character is what we are used to doing. And what we do makes us different people.

And Pascal was also interesting. If you just keep doing the right thing every day, eventually it will become second nature to you. And that second nature is what we need to get.

The rationalist brain, our culture, doesn't want to really believe that. It wants to believe everything can be changed overnight or you can learn something instantly. It doesn't want to believe that things require practice and practice and practice. And that includes also, I must say, even politics and other forms of life where we think we can ideologically, in abstract terms, change everything but we can't.

HOLMES: But certainly, it seems to make common sense that things take practice. But I listen to all this, and I hear a lot of pressure. What are these kids being told: "You can become a genius. You can sing like this opera angel on this Holland talent show if you just stare at YouTube enough"?

COOPER: But see, I think -- I think when I look at like "American Idol," you know, I see all these people who have no talent, and a lot of them do. But a lot of them have never been told, "You know what? You're actually not very good." And it's the first time somebody actually says to them, "You know what?" They've been coddled all their life by their parents, saying, "Oh, you're a genius. You're fantastic" when they're actually not.

TOOBIN: But it's also, I think, people have that spark in them or they don't. I'm a big golf -- I'm a big golf fan. Tiger Woods has often been accused of having his father push and push and push him to -- you know, to play golf all the time. And what Tiger has always said is, "You don't understand. I pushed him. I wanted to be a great golfer. I wanted to practice all the time." And that's something that, you know, you can't teach. You either do or you don't want to do it.

COYLE: Well, you can't teach it, Jeff. I love that point. That's a good. But you can make it more likely by filling the windshield.

Think about the environment that little girl who sang grew up in. Every day watching her father, a professional organist, play; watching her mother play; watching her brother, who's quite good at the violin, play. That -- who we stare at determines who we become. And so if we fill our windshield with those people, that ignites.

We know how the circulatory system works and how the respiratory system works. Our motivational system works by staring at someone we want to become.

COOPER: We've got to take a break. Daniel Coyle, great to have you on the program. Thank you very much. It's fascinating stuff.

Up next, some stories you might not have heard, you might have missed. I'll ask the panel "What's Your Story?"

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back. Time for "What's Your Story?" where the panel shares a story that caught their eye. I'm actually going to lead off. I haven't done one in a couple nights.

This is a sad story that I saw, actually, on Towleroad.com originally. A tumbler, a really amazing gymnast named Kalon Ludvigson from Pocatello, Idaho -- that's him there -- is paralyzed. He had a tumbling accident during a demonstration during a practice and is apparently having trouble with his insurance company. And anyway, a GoFundMe page has been set up to try to help him pay his medical bills. He's just starting to get some feeling back in his toes, but he cannot walk. It's GoFundMe.com/Kalon -- K-A-L-O-N -- Ludvigson. It's on the screen there. I'm also going to tweet it out. But we certainly wish him the best.

Andrew, what's your story?

SULLIVAN: Australia has just discovered that it has almost as much oil reserves as Saudi Arabia. An amazing new shale oil discovery.

COOPER: That's cool.

SULLIVAN: That's amazing. I'd much rather import oil from Australia than Saudi Arabia.

HOLMES: Here, here.

COOPER: Amy, what's your story?

HOLMES: My story is Cory Booker being sworn in today in the United States Senate. And it was just really great and uplifting to see that happen.

And in my old stomping ground, I worked with the former Senate majority leader. And I actually texted him today to see if he had any words of advice for Mr. Booker. And he does, in fact. He says to Mr. Booker, "Listen carefully and engage graciously." I think a lot of voters would appreciate that.

COOPER: All right. Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: The court of appeals here in New York over -- threw out the judge who in the stop-and-frisk case. Shira Scheindlin had -- was the judge who ruled that stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional here in New York. And the court of appeals took her off the case, in part because of the interview she gave to me in "The New Yorker," and it was an absolutely outrageous ruling by the Second Circuit. She did nothing wrong.

COOPER: We're out of time. We'll have to get yours next time. Sorry, Congressman.

Thanks to our panel. That does it for AC 360 LATER. Thanks for watching. We'll see you tomorrow night. "BLACKFISH" is up next.