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Public Statements

CNN "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" - Transcript

Interview

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BLITZER: Senator, you say you are more troubled now after your hour-long meeting with Ambassador Rice and acting CIA Director Mike Morell. Why is that?

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: The big concern that I have is there was an impression left and I certainly went into the meeting with this impression that the unclassified talking points, that is what she relied upon, and certainly that's in part what she said on each of the major networks.

But as part of her duties as ambassador to the U.N., she also reviews the daily intelligence briefings, including the classified versions. It's already been reported, Wolf, that the classified version, of course, said that individuals with ties to al Qaeda were involved in the attacks. That was then removed from the unclassified version.

So if you had reviewed those and then reviewed the classified, why would you want to go on and represent -- and leave out the al Qaeda portion? And what's particularly of concern is that in the interview with "Face the Nation" and "Meet the Press" not only did that fact get omitted, but also she said that al Qaeda had been decimated. So it really unfortunately left a misleading impression to the American people about what happened at the consulate in Benghazi.

BLITZER: The intelligence community analysts or whatever, they were suggesting they deleted the reference to al Qaeda because they were afraid that could give a tip-off to al Qaeda about some sources and methods and compromising the sources and methods. That's why they took that line out about al Qaeda from the declassified talking points.

You don't buy that?

AYOTTE: I think it's really troubling because it left a misimpression to the American people. It's very different when you tell someone that individuals with ties to al Qaeda are involved in an attack and you omit that, and I just don't understand -- how who they were trying to protect with the reference to al Qaeda.

We're tipping al Qaeda off? I think that al Qaeda knows that we certainly have pursued them around the world and so I just -- this doesn't make any sense to me.

BLITZER: Is it your opinion, assessment, Senator, that Ambassador Rice deliberately on that Sunday morning misled the American public?

AYOTTE: Well, certainly she misled the American public.

I think that she would say that. She would have to say that because she began our meeting today admitting that the representations about the video and the protests were wrong and the impression left the American people was misleading.

I don't know that I am in a position to question her motives, but it's deeply troubling to me that someone of that important position would go on every major news network knowing that she had obviously previously reviewed other classified reports that left a different impression with the omission of the important reference to al Qaeda and also saying on those shows that al Qaeda had been decimated.

BLITZER: Bottom line, Senator, if the president nominates Ambassador Rice to be the next secretary of state or some other Cabinet-level position, do you intend to do whatever you can to block her nomination?

AYOTTE: Bottom line, Blitz (sic), is where I'm left is, I'm still digesting what she has told me today. I have deep concerns.

But when you and I have talked about this before, I will certainly hold the nomination until we get a full and complete picture of what happened here, and some of those questions have been answered today. But she has not been nominated yet. I will certainly listen to additional information, but I'm very concerned. So that's where I'm at, but I haven't prejudged it.

BLITZER: Senator Ayotte, thanks very much for joining us.

AYOTTE: Thank you very much.

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