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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Obama to Delay Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan; Republican Says Benghazi Committee for Going After Hillary Clinton; Where Does Bernie Sanders Take Campaign Now; Ben Carson Pauses Campaign; New Tensions Across Israel. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired October 15, 2015 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: So the president does not want to be known for -- he had always said he wanted to get us out of the Afghanistan situation, but, hence, as you're pointing out, it kind of is an endless war. He would like to call it something more of a police action, a security force being left behind. But when you have 9,800 troops, 10,000 ultimately, with al Qaeda, with the Taliban, and with ISIS surrounding you, it's still a very dangerous situation, Afghanistan. So the president can't check mark this off as something that was fully achieved on his watch.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And, Jim Acosta, it will now be an issue the next president has to take up. President Obama says there will be 5500 troops in Afghanistan when the next president takes office. But that new president will have to make a decision one way or the other what to do with them.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. If you're wondering why Barack Obama's hair has gone gray, look at Afghanistan and Iraq. Events on ground have not gone his way with events planned for his legacy. You're right. When you talk about the president saying, just a few moments ago, "I do not believe in an endless war," that is right out of the rhetoric of the progressive base of the Democratic Party. I think this issue of what to do about Afghanistan is now going to be thrown right into the mix. We're going to have to find out to see what Hillary Clinton thinks about this decision that the president is making. My suspicion is, because she's more moderate, more like a hawk on these issues -- remember, she supported the president going after Osama bin Laden -- that she'll likely support this decision by the president, and Bernie Sanders won't. My thought is Bernie Sanders won't support this decision by the president.

At the same time, while this might sound like endless war, John, what you do hear from people inside the administration, people who talk to the administration about these foreign decisions, is they'll point to what happened after the Cold War. We still have military bases inside Germany. We still have military bases in Japan, South Korea. That is the legacy of World War II and the Cold War. It's possible that instead of fully withdrawing from places like Afghanistan and Iraq as the war on terrorism drags on and perhaps winds down over the next 15, 20 years, 30 years, you'll just have to have a U.S. presence in certain parts of the world to make sure there's no backsliding. BERMAN: And the glass half-full category for this White House, they

feel they have leadership in Afghanistan for the first time in a long time --

SCIUTTO: That's right.

BERMAN: -- that they can work with.

Jim Acosta, Jim Sciutto, Nick Paton Walsh, Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, Douglas Brinkley, thank you all for being with us. A very big moment for this administration.

Coming up for us, the biggest sin you can commit in Washington, telling the truth. That's what a Republican now says about the Benghazi Committee. He says the goal, to go after Hillary Clinton.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:37:18] BERMAN: A new claim this morning the Benghazi commission is driven by politics, and that claim, again, comes from a Republican. Richard Hanna, Congressman from New York, says the committee was designed, in part, to come after Hillary Clinton. This comes a week before Clinton will testify before that committee, a day before her closest aide will.

We'll talk more about this with CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein; and former RNC official, Mike Shields. He is also the head of the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC.

Mike, I want to play you that from Republican Congressman Richard Hanna. He said it during a radio interview. Let's listen.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

REP. RICHARD HANNA, (R), NEW YORK: Sometimes the biggest sin you can commit in D.C. is to tell the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah. Yeah.

HANNA: You know, and I -- this may not be politically correct, but I -- I think there is a big part of this investigation that was designed to go after people and get an individual, Hillary Clinton.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BERMAN: Mike, it's a week before Hillary Clinton is scheduled to testify. The last few weeks all there has been is this drip, drip, drip of accusations of this committee, this commission, this investigation being political. Can Republicans, can they reverse this narrative in five, seven days?

MIKE SHIELDS, DIRECTOR, REPUBLICAN CONGRESSIONAL LEADERSHIP FUND & FORMER RNC OFFICIAL: Yeah, I mean, first of all, Congressman Hanna doesn't serve on the committee. I sort of disagree where he's going with this. Let's look at the bigger picture of how politics plays a role in this. This committee was impaneled by John Boehner, who so people accuse in Washington of not being partisan enough, but it's a bipartisan committee, and its job is to look at, did politics play a role in the cover-up of what happened in Benghazi, because the attack happened about a month before the 2012 presidential elections. Since that time, the administration and the State Department were not transparent about what happened, and were there political motivations behind why they didn't want to know what happened, why they ran out this story that there was a video tape that caused the attack, and it wasn't al Qaeda. From the very beginning, was, is there a political motive behind what's going on? I think what you'll see next week is the panelists -- the people on the committee are going to be asking legitimate investigative questions of Hillary Clinton, of Huma Abedin tomorrow, that are not going to be in politics. They're not going to be asking her about her presidential campaign. They're going t be trying to find out the truth. I think that will speak for itself. And all these commentators that are not on the committee will see what the committee's all about.

BERMAN: Carl, it was an interesting moment for Hillary Clinton. On that debate stage, Bernie Sanders essentially gave her a free pass saying, I don't want to talk about the e-mails, about what happened before. Nevertheless, it's not going away. Her closest adviser, Huma Abedin, scheduled to testify behind closed doors tomorrow. Next week, Hillary Clinton testifies publicly. What does she need to do in these next seven days?

[11:40:05] CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Be open, be truthful. But this is a witch hunt. I've said it is from the beginning. The Benghazi Committee is a witch hunt. That doesn't obviate the fact that her server -- and we need to separate these two things -- Hillary Clinton has not been all together truthful to say the least. That's her political problem. And the server problem and the FBI investigation of the server and the general election coming up and the Republicans being able to still go after her as a candidate about her truthfulness is different than this witch hunt. But has this committee overstepped its bounds? Absolutely.

BERMAN: So, tell me what she does then when she's before that committee? Her debate performance, widely lauded. People think she did a good job on the debate stage. What will a good job before this committee be in terms of politics?

BERNSTEIN: First of all, she'll probably attack them and their legitimacy, incite these people we're talking about today, including Congressman Hanna and what he's said. She needs to make the issue the committee and stay away from the fact she's not been forthcoming about many things, namely her server. There's going to be a mix of things. The real question is, why does this committee continue to exist? We know what happened in Benghazi. There have been numerous investigations, great stories in "The New York Times," other newspapers. At the same time, we have a lot of questions remain and an FBI investigation about the server and they're not necessarily inextricably linked.

BERMAN: They'll have their biggest chance to explain to the American public next week why they exist. We'll see if they take that opportunity. Mike, I want to talk more about the Democratic race right now. Bernie

Sanders, his campaign saying they're going to stop with some of the big speeches to 20,000 people, 10,000 people, focus on smaller events. He's also doing things like dancing with Ellen DeGeneres. I have to show you that video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: A strong effort, Mike Shields. What does Bernie Sanders do? I know you're not in the business of giving Democrats advice but where does he take his campaign over the next several weeks?

SHIELDS: Well, look, Bernie Sanders is causing a huge problem for Hillary Clinton. I know everyone wants to say how well Hillary Clinton did in the debate the other night. Of course, if I went and played basketball against a bunch of third graders, everyone would say I was a great basketball player. Bernie shook her hand on the debate stage and everyone sort of cheered that, well, we've sort of put the e-mail thing behind us. The problem is the number-one search on Google during the debate was Hillary's e-mails. Really, the effect of what Bernie did was he brought an issue up to a lot of people that didn't know about it. The number-one search on social for a candidate was Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders is still connecting with young voters, connecting with the left, the Occupy crowd that is the real base of the Democratic Party and that's causing huge problems for Hillary Clinton, who's out of touch, you know, she's facing a scandal. Her campaign has been off message almost the entire campaign. So, the more he keeps gaining ground like this, the more Hillary will move to the left. You heard that a little bit in the debate. The more these debates goes on, and Bernie pulls her to the left, the harder it is for her to win in the general election. I think Bernie Sanders is causing a humongous problem for Hillary Clinton.

BERMAN: We will see.

Carl Bernstein, Mike Shields, thank you for being with us. A big couple of days ahead. Again, Huma Abedin testifies tomorrow, Hillary Clinton next week before the Benghazi Committee. Bernie Sanders, who knows where he will dance next.

Ben Carson puts his campaign on hold, sort of, to sell books. What's going on here? We're going to ask a key adviser.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:47:24] BERMAN: This will no doubt lead to even more questions about when Donald Trump might drop out of the race. New polls showing expansive leads in crucial early voting states. In South Carolina, Trump has twice the support of his closest rival, Ben Carson. In Nevada, he's up by 16 points. Is it time to pick out the gilded curtains for the Oval Office? A more immediate question for us today is, what is his closest rival,

Ben Carson, going to do about him? It might surprise you what he's doing on the trail right now -- actually, not on the trail right now, putting a pause on campaign events and he's on a book tour.

Let's discuss this with Carson's business manager, a very close adviser, Armstrong Williams.

Nice to see you in person.

Let me read you a quote from "The National Journal," a well-known writer, Jim Garrity, writes today, "Why on earth would any serious campaign for president decide to stop campaigning at a moment? Will he skip any campaign events next year for the paperback version?

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, BUSINESS MANAGER FOR DR. BEN CARSON: Where did the news come from that Dr. Carson has suspended -- has suspended his campaign --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: Douglas Watts quoted ABC News saying you guys aren't doing public campaign events, public advisor --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: I just spoke with Doug Watts before coming on this set. He was misquoted by an ABC reporter. That is not true.

BERMAN: So doing campaign events, rallies --

WILLIAMS: Rallies, talking to his staff continues.

WILLIAMS: Fund-raisers, yes, but public campaign events --

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: He does events. He does. He talks with his campaign. He talks with people in the fields and the different places. He hasn't suspended his campaign. It's just not true.

BERMAN: Suspending. No one is saying suspending the campaign. Saying a couple weeks of a break from campaign events to focus on the book tour, the reason being to keep the finances separate. For FCC reasons, you can't sell a book for campaign money, and vice versa.

WILLIAMS: You can be on a book tour, John, and the first 30 seconds of the questions by the interviewer can be about the book and the rest of the interview is all about the campaign. So, whatever he's doing on tour, all the questions still center around his being in the campaign, his break -- gaining closer ground on Donald Trump. I understand why the campaign may have those concerns, but it doesn't changes much. Dr. Carson is still interacting with massive people and talking about his views, campaign and policies.

BERMAN: This is interesting. Another case, in a long litany of cases right now, where, in a way, the Carson team thinks the media has misrepresented his views or what's really happening.

WILLIAMS: No one is saying the media has misrepresented his views. I'm sure Doug Watts was trying to explain, trying to keep a fine line between FCC guidelines. And Dr. Carson has a book out that he's talking about on the campaign trail and he's also talking about issues and policy. It's a very delicate situation. But Dr. Carson has not suspended. He's talking about issues that Americans care about.

[11:50:17] BERMAN: There was another article in which you were quoted, that has been interesting. There have been all these statements that Dr. Carson has made, whether it be about Muslims, whether it be about arming Jews during the Holocaust. The perception now is, according to this article, the campaign thinks, you know what, this controversy has been good for us. Every time there's a blow up and the media runs around and focuses on this, Ben Carson seems to gain. Do you think that's true?

WILLIAMS: Listen, John, listen, Dr. Carson's comments about Muslims, comments about the Holocaust, it has to do with principle. He's not saying this because he thinks that there's going to be more ching, ching, ching at the cash register or he's going to solidify his support with his base. It's about what he believes. You don't want to hurt or harm people, underestimate especially the enormity of the holocaust, the impact it's had. All Dr. Carson was saying in that moment was that, I think most people would agree, if you're fighting a tyrannical government, your chances are better if you're armed. And also, I mean, where would we be today if the British had disarmed us during the American Revolution.

BERMAN: And I heard Dr. Carson make that argument, but I wasn't asking about that specifically, but do you have the sense the campaign has benefited from these comments?

WILLIAMS: Yes, well, his base -- his base has responded financially, verbally. They identify with what Dr. Carson is saying. It's not because they're anti-anyone, it's not because they're insensitive. They just believe that Dr. Carson is speaking their heart, showing real leadership and telling an uncomfortable truth. Leadership sometimes is just not popular. Sometimes you can say things -- I'm sure the establishment candidates will say it better because they're trained. They have handlers. They are training. Dr. Carson is authentic. He's natural. He says what comes natural. It may not always come out the best way but everyone knows his intentions are well meaning and it's never to harm.

BERMAN: Armstrong Williams, thank you for coming in and talking to us in person. We appreciate your willingness to talk to us. Thank you, sir.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, Israel is asking all licensed gun owners to carry weapons now. They want everyone on guard, they say, after a series of attacks by young Palestinians. Later, we're going to speak live to Israel's U.N. ambassador about this violence.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:55:48] BERMAN: New tension across Israel today. Israel stepping up security after a wave of stabbings. Government officials telling people there, if you legally own a gun, and many Israeli citizens do, then carry it. That's just one measure the country is rolling out after a recent string of attacks on Israelis, many involving young Palestinians.

Joining me now, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you for being with us.

DANNY DANON, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thank you for having me, John.

BERMAN: A lot of people are asking this question. Are we now seeing a third Intifada in Israel?

DANON: Unfortunately, we're seeing a tide of terror that is washing the streets of Israel. Everyone is a target, men, women, children. When you board a bus, you're afraid to stay on the bus. We fear stabbings. We fear throwing rocks. We are worried about it. The prime minister has taken these security measures. We have dealt with terrorism in the past. I'm sure we will prevail. We will overcome this wave. First, we need to stop the incitement coming from the Palestinian leadership.

BERMAN: You said it's a new wave of terror. It is an uprising. Is it now a movement?

DANON: Don't want to label it now or give declaration, but we will deal with that and when you fear a new wave of terrorism, you see kids involved, youngsters involved. Last Monday, kids. I have three young children. 13 years old, Palestinian, took a knife and stabbed an Israeli, who was 12 or 13 years old. Stabbed him 15 times. Then the Palestinians say he's dead. And they made him holy. By the way, he's not dead. He's in Israeli hospital. He's being treated. But how can a Palestinian boy go out of his house to stab Israeli kids? The main issue is to stop the incitement coming from the Palestinian leadership.

BERMAN: You have the Israeli government instituted a new series of security measures blocking off some areas of the city, checkpoints and others, calling on Israeli citizens who are licensed and authorized to carry weapons to start carrying guns. Explain to me these new measures.

DANON: We have to take those measures to protect our civilians. I'm sure the NYPD or any other democracy would have done the same to protect its citizens. We deployed forces to region of tension. I think we know this is for the short term. For the long run, is to stop the incitement that actually inflames the violence in the region.

BERMAN: How do you deescalate the tension right now? Because when you have 13-year-old kids willing to risk their lives to murder Israeli citizens, what's driving a 13-year-old Palestinian child to commit murder?

DANON: You should look at the root of the evil. It starts with education. When you go to a Palestinian public school, you see the curriculum, you see the textbooks. You see they dehumanize the Jewish people. When you watch the public television of the Palestinian people, you look at a show for children in the afternoon that tell the kids, your heroes are not football players, your heroes are not celebrities, your heroes are the people who are willing to commit suicide, attacks against Israelis. So that's what's happened when a child live in such an atmosphere. He wants to be involved and he takes part in the action. I think they should leave the children out of the conflict. They should speak about peace. Yes, we have disagreements. We should negotiate those disagreements. But not sending kids to stab Jews. This is not the way --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: -- negotiate these agreements. Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming to the United States not too long from now. Should he sit down? Will he sit down with Abbas?

DANON: Absolutely. He said it very clearly. I'm telling you, Prime Minister Netanyahu is willing to meet Abbas everywhere, any time. It can be in Jerusalem, Ramallah, or in Washington, D.C.

BERMAN: Does it scare you when you see 13-year-old kids taking up arms?

DANON: Absolutely. Because I --

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: But does it scare you that the atmosphere allows this to happen?

DANON: I think when you brainwash young children -- and we have seen it in different parts of the world, unfortunately. When you see kids fighting and they don't know what they're fighting about, I think we all should be worried about that. We should all demand from the U.N. and from the international community to condemn the usage of children for violent acts.

BERMAN: Ambassador Danon, thank you very much.

DANON: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Appreciate your time.

DANON: Thank you.

BERMAN: That's all for us AT THIS HOUR.

"Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.