Return to Transcripts main page


U.S. Military Was Unprepared for Benghazi; Christie: "Mistakes Were Clearly Made"; Does Hillary Clinton Have An Iowa Problem?; Does Hillary Clinton Have An Iowa Problem?; Judge Rules On Okla. Same-Sex Marriage Ban; Third Person In Cockpit of Wayward Plane; Senate Passes Trillion-Dollar Spending Deal; Israeli Defense Chief Apologizes for Remarks against John Kerry; President Obama Weighs Changes to NSA Snooping; Probe Launched Into Water Disaster in West Virginia

Aired January 14, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.

Happening now, Hillary Clinton may have a little bit of a hitting problem in Iowa and amid new revelations about Benghazi, there are also new questions about her foreign policy record -- bumps on the road on the way to 2016. Stand by.

And a new clue in the mystery of that airliner that landed at the wrong airport. It turns out the pilots had some company in the cockpit.

And NFL head injuries -- why a federal judge won't approve a proposed settlement for former players.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We begin with some stunning new revelations about the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. While Hillary Clinton has been a lightning rod for criticism of the way the Obama administration handled the attack, hundreds of pages of declassified testimony from top U.S. military commanders now shows that the U.S. military was unprepared to prevent the attack, defend against it or come to the rescue of the diplomats.

Let's bring in our CNN foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott.

She's been going through these pages.

What are you finding out -- Elise?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these transcripts offer fresh insight into military decision-making the night of the Benghazi attack and reveal critical gaps in the military's ability to respond.


LABOTT (voice-over): The Pentagon was ill-prepared to respond to the attack in Benghazi, where four Americans died, according to newly declassified testimony by the commanders who directed rescue efforts.

Republican Congresswoman, Martha Roby, chaired the hearings.

REP. MARTHA ROBY (R), ALABAMA: We very clearly established that we weren't prepared. And it was because of the lack of communication in the days and months leading up to this.

LABOTT: Despite White House claims they beefed up security for the 9/11 anniversary, America's top general, Martin Dempsey, testified, "I don't remember Libya coming up specifically on our call with President Obama and his national security advisers to discuss potential threats on 9/11. In the run-up to September the 11th, the threat streams took us other places, other than Libya," he said.

Which is why then Defense secretary, Leon Panetta, had military aircraft stationed hours away in Europe.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: This was, pure and simple, in the absence, as I said, of any kind of advance warning, a problem of distance and time.


LABOTT: But Carter Ham, then the top commander of U.S. forces in Africa, pushed for more intelligence assets, concerned Eastern Libya was becoming a hotbed of extremism. "I don't know that I would go so far as to say that it would have prevented the attacks that occurred on September 11th," he said, "but it won't surprise you that as a military commander, I wanted more resources."


SUSAN RICE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The mobs we've seen on the outside of these embassies are a small minority. They're the ones who have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes.


LABOTT: Ham's testimony contradicts the administration's early claims, made by then un ambassador, Susan Rice, the attack grew out of a spontaneous protest, saying he, Panetta and Dempsey all quickly came to believe that it was terrorism.

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously dismissed the origins as irrelevant.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: The fact is, we have four dead Americans.

Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they'd go kill some Americans?

What difference, at this point, does it make?


LABOTT: The commanders all questioned the decision by Ambassador Chris Stevens to get rid of a military security team a month before the attack, suggesting it could have helped protect him that night.


LABOTT: Now the House Armed Services Subcommittee report comes out tomorrow. One interesting thing General Dempsey reveals in his testimony, Wolf, is that the U.S. military is not authorized to kill any of the suspects. They have to be captured alive, even though the State Department labeled them and Ansar al-Sharia, the organization believed to be responsible, as a terrorist group.

BLITZER: Yes. Interesting stuff. And I know you're still going through some of those documents.

Elise, thanks very much.

These revelations come just two weeks after the "New York Times" published what's now seen as a controversial report on its own very lengthy investigation -- an investigation that found no direct evidence of an al Qaeda role in the attack and supported the administration's initial claim that an anti-Muslim video fueled some of that mob violence in Benghazi.

The "New York Times" correspondent, David Kirkpatrick, wrote the story.

He's joining us now live now from Cairo.

David, thanks very much.

And before we get to some of those details, are you surprised by the new revelations we just reported that the U.S. military and the military commanders say they really were not prepared, even though this was the anniversary of 9/11, for some sort of either terrorist attack or, if necessary, a U.S. military response?

DAVID KIRKPATRICK, "NEW YORK TIMES": No, I'm not surprised at all.

To begin with, Ambassador Stevens himself was really the leading shaper of the United States' attitude and policy toward Libya. And he was quite confident of his own safety in Benghazi. He really felt like the people there were on his side.

So I can see that he wouldn't have raised alarms.

Beyond that, when you get down to the details of what happened inside the compound, the fact is that within 15 minutes after breaking through the door, the attackers found large cans of fuel sitting right next to the front door. And that's what they used to set the buildings on fire. So any intervention that would have seeked to save Ambassador Stevens' life would have had to have happened awfully fast, faster even than the team of CIA operatives just across town could make it to the diplomatic mission compound.

BLITZER: So you think that there was a blunder on part of the ambassador, Ambassador Stevens, that he wasn't himself adequately prepared for these kinds of terror attacks?

KIRKPATRICK: I don't want to say there was a blunder on Ambassador -- on the part of Ambassador Stevens. But I think that many people inside the government would say that there was an insufficient awareness of some of the dangers and dynamics among the militias present in Benghazi at that time, and probably an excessive confidence in the amount of goodwill that the United States had won for itself by supporting the rebels against Colonel Gadhafi.

BLITZER: Let's talk about a couple of controversial points in your amazing article that appeared in the "New York Times" on that Sunday a couple of weeks ago.

Dianne Feinstein, who's the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she's now quoted as saying this. She said, "I believe that groups loosely associated with al Qaeda were involved in the attack. That's my understanding."

Loosely associated. In your article, you suggest, after your lengthy investigation, no evidence of a direct al Qaeda involvement.

Are you with her when she says there was a loosely coordinated -- an attack that was loosely coordinated with al Qaeda?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, I believe what she said was affiliated, but more importantly, her spokesperson walked back those comments to clarify that she's not disputing my report, that whatever words we're using, she's talking about what I'm talking about, which is local groups on the ground, some of whom may openly share sympathies with al Qaeda or its goals, but none of whom were taking direction from al Qaeda, none of whom were not part of al Qaeda.

This can't reasonably called an al Qaeda attack.

BLITZER: What is the relationship between Ansar al-Sharia and al Qaeda?

KIRKPATRICK: Ansar al-Sharia (AUDIO GAP) of Benghazi (AUDIO GAP)...

BLITZER: I think we are having some problems with Skype.

David Kirkpatrick joining us.

Let's try to reconnect with David, because we were just getting to some of the really important questions, questions that he raises in that "New York Times" article.

We'll try to reconnect with David. Hopefully, that's what happens -- hopefully we'll be able to do that and update you on what we know.

But clearly, major developments on the whole Benghazi investigation right now.

Stand by.

We'll continue this conversation if we can reconnect with David.

Just ahead, does Hillary Clinton have a hidden problem in Iowa?

Why she needs to be careful of stumbling out of the gate, even if she's not yet in the race.

And can Chris Christie keep his White House hopes alive?

He says mistakes were made in the traffic scandal, but will he clear up the controversy?


BLITZER: We've managed to reconnect with "New York Times" correspondent David Kirkpatrick from Cairo.

He's joining us once again via Skype.

And, David, we're talking about your reporting in the "New York Times" there was no al Qaeda connection with the attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.

Dianne Feinstein, of the Senate Intelligence Committee, saying that groups loosely associated with al Qaeda were involved. I think she's referring to Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.

And you were about to explain, before we got disconnected, what that connection might be, a loose connection between al Qaeda and the attack in Benghazi.

Explain what you learned.

KIRKPATRICK: There's no connection between the two groups. And I don't think -- (AUDIO GAP)

BLITZER: I think we've -- unfortunately, that's it. That's what happens sometimes. We lose the connection with Cairo via Skype.

We'll try to -- hold on.

David, are you back yet?


BLITZER: OK, go ahead. Explain that there's no connection between al Qaeda and what happened in Benghazi. KIRKPATRICK: Yes. Ansar al-Sharia of Benghazi is a local group. And I think anybody in the State Department or the intelligence agencies would agree. They don't have any connection with al Qaeda.

They broke away from another militia called Refelet Zahaki (ph) in June of 2012. They are absolutely Islamist militants. They disapprove of democracy. They hate the US.

And in that sense, you might say that they share some resemblance with al Qaeda. But so do a lot of people in this part of the world. They are not an arm of al Qaeda.

BLITZER: All right.

What about this other notion that the video, the anti-Muslim video, you report, did play a role in sparking that attack on the U.S. mission there in Benghazi, resulting in the death of those four Americans?

Dianne Feinstein said in this interview in "The Hill" newspaper, that doesn't, quote, "jibe" with the information that she had.

But go ahead and tell us what you know.

KIRKPATRICK: Well, I would say that it was at least a catalyst for the attack. As I said, certainly many of the people who spearheaded the attack disliked the United States before that video came along and may even have been looking for an opportunity to hurt a U.S. interest in Libya.

That said, we had a journalist on the scene who interviewed guards outside the embassy -- the complex, some of the attackers, during the attack. And they were obviously and clearly animated in their anger at this film. There's no denying that it played a role in motivating many people who came to the scene.

BLITZER: So what, if any, mistake, from your perspective, did the United States ambassador, Susan Rice, the United States ambassador to the U.N., now the national security adviser, make when she went out on those Sunday talk shows?

KIRKPATRICK: Well, it's an obvious mistake that I think she would have acknowledged. There was no street protest. There was no unarmed (ph) street protest like there was in Cairo that night. This began as an attack, a plan to provide the attack. We get into a little bit of false dichotomy here.

It could plan surprise attack and also in part motivated by the film. That might not make sense to you, unless you've been to Eastern Libya and realize just how many people are heavily armed and ready to move on that kind of attack at any time.

BLITZER: One other question unrelated to Libya but to where you are in Cairo right now. I'm very worried about what's happening in Egypt. The potential there for some real violence. How worried should we be about a real civil war emerging with the Muslim Brotherhood on one side and the new military led government on the other?

KIRKPATRICK: You know, I'm not able to make predictions. That's not my line of work. Certainly, in recent memory, Egypt has experienced an armed violent Islamist insurgency in 1990s, and there are signs that something like that may be happening again, but you know, it's too soon to tell what kind of legacy the last three years are going to have over Egypt. Its revolution, it's election, it's democracy, political Islam, it's all up in the air at this time.

BLITZER: The decision by the U.S. congress, it looks like it's going to forward to reinstate the entire $1.5 billion a year in military assistance to Egypt. How is that going to play there?

KIRKPATRICK: I don't think it's going to surprise Egyptians. I think people here, especially people in government have realized for quite some time that what the U.S. cares about is stability and that includes maintaining its alliance with whoever is running Egypt as long as that person is someone they can deal with.

BLITZER: David Kirkpatrick is the "New York Times" correspondent in Cairo. Thanks, David, very much, and sorry for those technical glitches with Skype, but stuff like that happens and our viewers here in the United States and around the world certainly understand that. Thanks very much for joining us.

KIRKPATRICK: It's good to be here.

Other news we're following, including news in New Jersey. The governor there, Chris Christie, went before New Jersey lawmakers today for his state of the state address. Right from the top, he tackled the traffic scandal that's threatened to undercut his own White House hopes. Listen to this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: Now, the last week has certainly tested this administration. Mistakes were clearly made and, as a result, we letdown the people who are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better. Now, I'm the governor. And I'm ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch, both good and bad.

And without a doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again. But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state. This administration and this legislature will not allow the work that needs to be done to improve the people's lives in New Jersey to be delayed for any reason.


CHRISTIE: I am the leader of this state and its people. And I stand here today proud to be both.


CHRISTIE: But also, those of you who know me know I am always, always determined to do better.


BLITZER: Let's discuss what we just heard with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and our chief national correspondent, John King. Gloria, did Christie accomplish what he needed to accomplish today?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right at the out said of that speech, he took responsibility. He said mistakes were made. He did not say he made them, but he said mistakes were made and he pledged cooperation with the authorities in getting to the bottom of all of these issues. So, he got it out of the way early. He said what he needed to say and when he got the round of applause, it was because of his use of the word delayed, right? Our work will not be delayed.

BLITZER: He got a nice standing ovation.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Nice standing ovation. If you watch the pictures, it's the Republicans jumping up -- Democrats are sitting down. We see that during the standing (ph). You need here (ph) in Washington. We'll get it in a few days. Look, he did exactly what he needed to do by getting to it first.

His trademark is being blunt and being direct. His brand, his trademark is damaged right now. He's trying to get the tarnished off it and here's what -- you know, now, he has to cooperate. He said he will fully cooperate. Those inquiries will go forward. At least a half dozen of his inner circle -- going to be subpoenaed by that committee. So, this was a first page in the next chapter of Chris Christie. We don't know what the chapter is going.

BLITZER: Assuming he hasn't lied or anything like that, there's no smoking gun, could all of this actually wind up helping him, showing he's a straightforward kind of guy?

BORGER: Well, in many ways now, he's going to be defined by how he handles this mess and how he gets himself out of it and by showing cooperation, by standing and answering reporters' questions, you were there from what, two hours the other day. He gets back to his brand which is that I'm a truth teller and that, you know, I want to lead the state of New Jersey.

He needs to get away from the partisan, vengeful bullying kind of narrative that has now become the default narrative for him. He needs to start getting back to what he was in the first place when his popularity was higher, when people thought he was presidential, and when they trusted him more.

KING: But he's lost a key thing he had coming out of that huge re- election win. People don't fear him as much anymore. The Democrats are attacking him. There's a video up before the speech criticizing him saying he's embarrassed the state.

State Democrats will now feel more emboldened to challenge his agenda, because they think he's weakened by this and national Democrats will for going after him almost every second because they view him as such a threat if he could win the Republican nomination. There's still a huge question.

Are republicans going to nominate another northeastern moderate in their view and the view with many base voters? Christie has issues with the Republican base that go beyond this current environment. But, but, the political environment has changed so dramatically from those days right after his re-election where he was the golden boy of American politics, not just Republican politics but American politics. Now, it's got some tarnish.

BORGER: You know, there's a stature gap now. When people vote for a president, they want somebody who's exulted to a certain degree, somebody they trust, somebody they look up to even though we don't love our politicians. They still believe that there's a different kind of playing field for president. And I think now what Christie is suffering from is a little bit of a stature gap here.

He needs to get that stature back that he had after Sandy when he was at 73 percent approval and people felt he actually knew how to get things done and work for his constituents instead of working against them.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more on this later, guys. Thanks very much.

We're also going to have a special report on the state of Chris Christie, the entire scandal, full coverage of that coming up at the top of the next hour.

Other top stories we're following here in the SITUATION ROOM, a shooting at a New Mexico middle school sent at least two children to the hospital. Officials in the town of Roswell say they were called to the scene just after 8:00 this morning. The school was put on lockdown and police say they have a suspect in custody. There's no word on the victims' conditions. Not yet.

Just a short time ago, efforts to extend unemployment benefits for more than one million Americans fell short in the United States Senate. Two proposals failed to clear a pair of procedural votes as lawmakers grapple with a timeframe for additional benefits and the costs. Both sides say they hope to continue talks. We'll see where that goes.

JPMorgan Chase says it's replacing two million credit cards that were compromised in that massive holiday attack by hackers on Target, but two million is just a fraction of the 110 million cards impacted. Luxury retailer, Neiman Marcus, now says it was also targeted by hackers. Experts say other companies were also likely hit.

The president and the pope planning to meet. Secretary of state, John Kerry, said during a Vatican visit today, the president will sit down with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House says it doesn't have a specific date yet but alluded to a meeting in the near future. The president met Francis' predecessor, Benedict, in 2009 six months after President Obama took office.

Coming up, is Hillary Clinton facing a rocky road through Iowa if, if she decides to run for president again? Taking a closer look at some of the potential problems she could face in that critical state.

Plus, President Obama welcomes the NBA champs back to the White House. We'll have details of how he compares himself to the Miami Heat.


BLITZER: Hillary Clinton is the clear Democratic front runner if, if she decides to run for president, but could she stumble out of the gate in Iowa, the caucuses there? Could the former secretary of state also face some problems with her foreign policy record?

Joining us now, CNN political reporter, Peter Hamby, and "Time" magazine's Michael Crowley. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

Peter, you got a piece on, an excellent piece. Among other things, you quote State Representative Brian Meyer in Des Moines saying this, "Clinton needs to become more populist. People are looking for an alternative. Hillary is the frontrunner for a reason. A lot of people support her. But there is a group of progressives in Iowa and New Hampshire and elsewhere who want to see what the field is like and who gets in."

So, some folks -- Democrats, we're talking about, forget about the Republicans or the independent, Democrats right now, they're the ones who would participate in a caucus, they're not yet convinced she's the one.

PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. Part of this is Iowans like to be, you know, courted. They want the candidates to come out and talk to them. But you know, part of this is ideological. Hillary and the Clintons are viewed as sort of two centrist for the progressive left. And make no mistake, there's been a lot of writing recently, you know, with the election of Bill de Blasio of New York and Elizabeth Warren about this populous progressive moment that were in.

That's alive and well on the left in Iowa. So, you have that sort of ideological anxiety about Hillary Clinton, but you also have this kind of emotional anxiety, too. Democrats like to look ahead. They like to be told a story and grabbed by the heartstrings, unlike Republicans who nominate the next person in line. I got that sense, too, that they just wanted to see some new faces, some different candidates come out to Iowa.

BLITZER: Is that why you have Barack Obama beat her in the caucuses back in 2008?

HAMBY: That was part of it. Another part of it, it was her vote for the Iraq war in 2002. Iowa's Democratic base. It's very donnish (ph). There's a very strong anti-war strain in the Democratic Party out there and Hillary Clinton was not able to sort of overcome that vote. Barack Obama tapped into it. John Edwards tapped into it a little bit and she finished in third place.

BLITZER: In third place. A lot of people don't remember that. Michael, you got an excellent piece in "Time" magazine as well talking about her foreign policy record as secretary of state and why potentially that could hurt her. You write this, "Clinton backed a bold escalation of the Afghanistan war. She pressed Obama to arm the Syrian rebels and later endorsed air strikes against the Assad regime."

"She backed intervention in Libya. Clinton may have been the administration's most reliable advocate for military action." How is that likely to play in Iowa or New Hampshire or places like that?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it's going to be problematic, Wolf. And Peter, put his finger on it. She was too far to the right on national security issues for Democratic voters in 2008, the Iraq war, to some degree, Iran. It was a big problem. I think the Iraq war gave Obama his opening. I think that vote she passed in 2002 you could say really crippled her chance at the White House.

Since then, she's not really tapped back to the left on those issues. As I write, time and time again, she advocated the use of military force or intervention even in cases where it was very unpopular, the Syria airstrikes that the president was going to conduct, the Afghanistan war, which people were not happy about, and the Libya operation. The good news for her is that, of course, when she ran Against Obama in 2007-2008, the Iraq war was just a nightmare.

It looked hopeless and it was incredibly unpopular and sort of the number one issue on everyone's -- in everyone's head. And now, foreign policy has receded. We're out of Iraq and we're winding down Afghanistan. So, the good news for her is that people won't be as interested in those issues but you go through where she stands. She's just as far on the spectrum (ph), on the hawk side as she was and the country and the party have moved left.

BLITZER: So, there may be an opening for some Democrats to challenge Hillary Clinton the way that Barack Obama challenged her back in 2007?

HAMBY: Yes. If there is a robust in competitive Democratic primary, I think these issues will be debated. To Michael's point, though, about these topics kind of receding in the spotlight and the Democratic Party, I was out there a couple of weeks ago --


HAMBY: -- in Iowa, in Altoona, a suburb of Des Moines when Montana governor, Brian Schweitzer, came into town, sort of shrouded in his 2016 buzz.

BLITZER: Former --

HAMBY: Former governor. You're right. And kind of took a pot (ph) that Hillary, you know, name her, but criticize those Democratic senators who voted to go to war in Iraq. That line kind of fell flat with the activist in the room at this event he was -- about 70 sort of labor leaders and elected officials. They're concern to a much more economy driven, talking about wages in the middle class, income and equality and those sort of things.

But, I do think Michael is right. Her sort of hawkish foreign policy record is going to be addressed. He has a line in his piece about how there's two wings of the Democratic Party is (INAUDIBLE) and the passivist wing. The Iowa Democratic base is that passivist wing.

BLITZER: If Biden decides to run for the Democratic nomination in addition to Hillary Clinton, I don't see a whole lot of differences between Biden and Hillary Clinton with a lot of these national security foreign policy issues.

CROWLEY: I would say with one significant exception which is Afghanistan. Biden was very skeptical of the Afghanistan surge. He didn't want to escalate there. He thought we could do it with drones and Special Forces. So, in that scenario, you could see them having an argument about that.

By the way, not to get too far ahead of the game, but you could also have an interesting lineup in the general election. Imagine if someone like Rand Paul is the Republican nominee, I could imagine a Republican running to Hillary's left on some of these issues saying she wanted to get us mixed up in Libya and Syria and send more boys to Afghanistan for what? Marco Rubio opposed those Syria air strikes. So, these issues right now are churning, and their board (ph) is scrambled in interesting ways.

BLITZER: Two excellent articles by two great reporters. Guys, thanks very much for coming in, especially "Time" magazine, our sister publication, "Time" magazine.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER:, I want to recommend our viewers go there and read Peter's excellent article on Hillary Clinton.

Lebron James and company, they are now back at the White House for a second year in a row being honored by basketball fan in chief. The president congratulated the Miami Heat on the latest NBA championship and cracked some jokes at their expense and his.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have to say, I have never seen folks more excited than the Heat when they came last year. I mean, Lebron was so pumped up I thought he was going to give me a hug and knock me over, like the guy in sports center who hit the half- court shot. They won a team record of 66 games. At one point, they won 27 games straight. The second longest winning streak ever. Extraordinarily impressive. Almost as impressive as the Bull's 72 win season.

(LAUGHTER) OBAMA: This group has now won twice, but it's gone to the finals three times, and sometimes, it feels like they're still fighting for a little respect. I can relate to that.


OBAMA: I heard that all of you are getting ready to embarrass yourselves by singing some karaoke for Shane's (ph) education foundation. Just leave Al Green to the pros, people.



BLITZER: THE heat presented the president with a jersey with the name "POTUS" on it. POTUS being short for president of the United States and the number 44 since he's the country's 44th president. The Heat will play my Washington Wizard tomorrow night here at the Verizon Center. I will be at that game. Let's see how my Washington Wizards do against the Miami Heat. Let's hope for the best.

Up next, a third person in the cockpit. Could that have caused the pilots of the Southwest Airlines plane to land at the wrong airport? We're getting new information. Standby.

And old-school light bulbs. Are they winners or losers in the Congressional new spending deal? We're taking a closer look at both when we come back.


BLITZER: A significant decision in Oklahoma right now. A federal judge there has just struck down at least part of the state's ban on same-sex marriage, stayed the enforcement until appeals, though, are exhausted. Jeffrey Toobin is here, our senior legal analyst. All right. Explain what is going on. It sounds similar to what we saw in Utah, not very far away from Oklahoma.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this just happened minutes ago so I'm just trying to figure it out. But as far as I can tell, it's very similar to Utah with one very important exception. As you recall, the Utah judge struck down the Utah ban and allowed couples to get married right away.

What the Oklahoma judge did, a federal judge named Terrence Kern (ph), he said, the Oklahoma ban, in my opinion, on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, but I am staying. I am that is, I'm delaying the imposition of my order until it's gone through the appeals process.

BLITZER: So, where does it go next? Basically, they learned a lesson from Utah where in Utah, a thousands of couples got married. The state is not recognizing those marriages at least for now. The federal government is recognizing those marriages, but there are no more same-sex marriages taking place in Utah right now.

TOOBIN: I think you're exactly right. It was -- I think this judge learned a lesson of what happened in Utah. He didn't want to create the uncertainty that there is in Utah. however, what this means is two of these decisions are now heading to the court of appeals and I think in a larger sense what it means is that the United States Supreme Court is now growing ever more likely to have to take one of these cases and decide.

The really profound question that was at the outside of the earlier same-sex marriage cases before the Supreme Court but now is at the center which is, does the constitution require that every state in the union allow same-sex couples to get married? That core issue the court very much side-stepped but I think it's -- the day is approaching faster than many of us thought that the Supreme Court is going to have to revise that issue.

BLITZER: -- decisions in Utah and Oklahoma. Eventually, the Supreme Court is going to have to make a final decision.

TOOBIN: When you have different judges reaching different results, here, they're reaching the same results, but ultimately, other judges are probably going to reach different results. The Supreme Court can't dock (ph) those sorts of questions. And when you have so many judges addressing the same question, that's really why we have a Supreme Court.

BLITZER: While I have you, another decision by a federal judge today to reject that, what, $760 million settlement between the NFL, some players over concussions. What happened here?

TOOBIN: Well, this is a pretty unusual situation because most time when federal judges are confronted with a situation where the plaintiffs say it's OK with us, the defendants say it's OK with us, the judge signs on. But here, I think it's such an indication of the tremendous medical uncertainty surrounding football at this moment.

The judge said, look, I'm not sure $700 million is enough. You look at how many players are potentially at risk and how severely injured so many of them are. She said, look, I want you to go back to the drawing board and persuade me that this number is right or come up with a different number. I'm not satisfied that all of these football players who are so damaged with the medical science still pretty uncertain that this is enough money.

BLITZER: So, where do we go from here?

TOOBIN: Well, the parties go back to work. The NFL and the lawyers representing the union see if they can work out another deal, then try to persuade the judge that it's fair one, but if they don't reach a deal, then presumably, there will be a trial and a judge and even perhaps even a jury will decide how much the players, if at all, if any amount of money they are entitled to.

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey, thanks very much.

Other news we're following, there's a potential new clue in the mystery surrounding that Southwest Airlines plan that landed at the wrong airport. We're now learning of something that may have taken the pilots' focus off when they were about to touch down. CNNs Rene Marsh is working this story for us. What's the latest? What are you learning, Rene?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, new details suggest that a third person was in the cockpit, an airline dispatcher. Now, dispatchers, they work on the ground. They coordinate flight plans and help reroute planes. We don't know why this person was authorized to be in the cockpit, but it's not unheard of. That dispatcher is now on paid leave along with the pilots.


MARSH (voice-over): When southwest 4013 came in for a landing at the wrong airport with a dangerously short runway, the two veteran pilots had company in the cockpit. An airline dispatcher was in the jump seat behind the pilot and co-pilot, something that's common and airline approved. Investigators want to know if that third person created a distraction. Experienced pilots say landing at the wrong airport means one thing.

MARK WEISS, FORMER AIRLINE PILOT: Inattention. Now, whether that was for distraction, fatigue, or what the underlying cause was.

MARSH: An FAA rule says only conversations relevant to takeoff and landing are allowed during critical phases of flight. It's intended to eliminate distractions. Southwest dispatcher union makes the rule clear on its website. Cockpit voice recorders will tell investigators if it was violated. The NTSB is now reviewing the recordings.

They plan to interview the crew and dispatcher. Drug and alcohol tests are complete, but they are awaiting results.

WEISS: There's a myriad of reasons that are going to be looked at so that that NTSB hearing, when they can come up with that probable cause will say, OK, how do we mitigate this so this doesn't happen again.

MARSH: As for the plane, one day after successfully taking off from the wrong airport, it's back in service, suggesting this investigation is focusing on human factors and not mechanical mishaps.


MARSH: All right. And just in, we do have some photos of those recorders that we now know the NTSB will be looking at to get more information. Those are the recorders right there, and they are currently reviewing them.

Now this is new information. This new information about the third person in the cockpit, it is one of many factors investigators are going to be looking into and right now we should say just because that individual was in the cockpit, we are not saying at this point that that led to the mistake that the pilots made.

Additionally, Wolf, we do know from a source, they say that the FAA reviewed the controllers' actions, the controllers in the air traffic control towers and they found no wrongdoing -- Wolf. BLITZER: All right. Rene, thanks. I know this investigation is only just beginning. Appreciate it very much.

No fiscal cliff, no government shutdown. What's wrong with the Congress, if anything? Republicans and Democrats have now agreed on a roughly $1 trillion spending package. It's still got to be passed by the House and the Senate. It's more than 1500 pages long but our Capitol Hill reporter Lisa Desjardins spent hours and hours poring over all of these pages. She's here with us right now to talk about some winners and losers. And it's still got to be passed in the House and then it goes to the Senate.


BLITZER: But what -- who are some of the winners and the losers?

DESJARDINS: Well, think about this in a way. First of all, I guess, we all win because Congress finally rolled up its sleeves and did some of the hard work but, think about this, this bill, because of all the gridlock in Congress, Wolf, may be the most important policy legislation Congress passes this year.

So let's look at the winners, first of all. It's the nice guys, right? First winner off the top, little kids. Actually, this bill would add $1 billion in spending over the budget cut amount to Head Start programs across the country.

Now let's talk about adults, also some winners there. Salaries for federal workers and also for active duty military would go up by 1 percent. That's what their paycheck would reflect. That's the first pay raise for federal workers for three years, by the way.

And last, here's a winner a lot of folks might not expect, old-school light bulbs. You know, they're not that efficient but they are very popular. And so this bill would ban a program that was trying to sunset those light bulbs.

But, Wolf, here's the deal about that. As much as the federal government may not enforce that ban, you can still get your nice comfy light bulb for a while. Manufacturers might stop making them on their own.

BLITZER: But there are some losers, too?

DESJARDINS: Yes. There are a lot of losers in this bill. First, the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency, not a popular agency with Republicans, and they crowed after this bill that they have now cut the agency by 20 percent since 2010.

How about an entire nation? Russia. Russia has some things in here that Vladimir Putin will not like. More missile defense in Europe. Also this bill makes it harder for us to buy weapons from Russia that has to with helicopters and Afghanistan.

And one last one, this is sort of another unexpected one, painters, portrait artists. This bill would ban the government from paying for any new portraits for officials. And at $10,000 to $50,000 a pop, those add up fast.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we'll keep to see what happens. As I said, the House has to pass it, the Senate passes it, and then they'll be in business.

Lisa, thanks very much.

DESJARDINS: You got it.

BLITZER: Just ahead, explosive remarks by a top Israeli official about the Secretary of State John Kerry. They're sharply critical, deeply personal. Just getting word now an apology from that Israeli. Stand by.


BLITZER: Israel's Defense minister is now apologizing for some extraordinary remarks about the Secretary of State John Kerry. Those remarks clearly infuriating the State Department.

Let's bring in our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto.

First of all, tell us what the Defense minister said, the apology, the reaction. What happened?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this appeared in major Israeli newspapers and you don't get more critical or more personal than this. Listen to these comments.

"Secretary of State John Kerry who has come to us determined and he's acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and messianic feeling cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict with the Palestinians. The only thing that can save us if Kerry wins a Nobel Peace Prize and leaves us alone."

So you don't get more personal than this. And it even got criticism from Netanyahu and others there who have leveled some of their own criticism at the U.S., you know.

So here's his apology just coming in a short time ago. Israel and the United States share a common goal to advance the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Defense minister had no intention to cause any offense to the secretary and he apologizes that the secretary was offended by my words.

Now of course the fact is the secretary was offended. Both the White House and the State Department calling his comments, in fact, offensive and inappropriate.

BLITZER: And another matter the president is going to make a major announcement about NSA reforms on Friday. Today there was a hearing up on Capitol Hill. What happened?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Led by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy, asking very hard questions about whether the administration has exaggerated how many attacks this kind of mass data collection has actually prevented. And you have the pushback from both Democrats and Republicans, Senator Lindsey Graham, for instance, Senator Diane Feinstein, asking the members of the panel, could this metadata program have prevented 9/11?

Their answer? Yes, it may very well have. And the bottom line here is clear. On Friday what we're not going to hear from the president is that this phone bulk collection will end. The most we're going to hear are safeguards, some added safeguards, added restrictions.

BLITZER: Citizens that will be involved in the FISA court to make sure that --

SCIUTTO: Exactly.

BLITZER: -- they protect security and safety and privacy for Americans.

SCIUTTO: A public advocate.

BLITZER: Yes. All right. Thanks very much.

At the top of the hour we're going to have a special Report on the scandal now swirling about the New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

But up next, we have new developments in the chemical leak that left hundreds of thousands of West Virginia residents without safe water.


BLITZER: New developments in that chemical leak that left hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia without water. Now the state attorney general says he's launching a formal investigation.

CNN's Alina Machado is in Charleston, West Virginia, for us.

So what's the latest, Alina? What are you hearing?

ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Attorney General's Office says they plan to get to the bottom of what happened here and that their investigation will look at everyone, not just the company where this chemical leak happened. Now this development comes as the water ban is lifted in yet another zone in this area.


KATE LONG, RESIDENT OF WEST VIRGINIA: I hope people aren't just thinking this is West Virginia. This could happen anywhere.

MACHADO (voice-over): It's a scenario some fear might happen again, a chemical leak from a tank that gets into the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people, shutting down restaurants and businesses, and forcing people to rely on bottled water for days.

Usable water is flowing again for tens of thousands of people in Charleston, West Virginia. But questions about the level of government oversight at the plant where the leak happened and how it happened linger.

SALLY KOHN, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: How many people have to be drinking poisonous water before we finally realize there is a reason for government and a reason for regulation in this country.

MACHADO: Sally Kohn is an activist and writer. She says the privatization of the water supply and a lack of government oversight throughout the country could cause what happened in West Virginia to happen elsewhere.

KOHN: We have companies that are working with incredibly dangerous chemicals in pretty much every city in every town all across this country. And that's fine on some level. You know, we like corporations. We like corporations to do innovative things and it's good for them to want to make a profit. We need to balance that with effective regulations.

MACHADO: But some say regulation isn't the issue. It's implementation.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people.

MACHADO: Back in Charleston, Mayor Danny Jones believes the investigations and lawsuits that are now underway will provide some answers.

MAYOR DANNY JONES, CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA: If there had been environmental violations they will -- that will come out in the depositions.


MACHADO: So far more than 20 lawsuits have been filed in this incident -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alina Machado, thank you.

Happening now a SITUATION ROOM special report. State of the scandal.