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CNN "CNN Newsroom" - Transcript - Benghazi and the Boston Attacks

Interview

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Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

BLITZER: Let's follow up on the president's news conference.

At one point, over at the White House, the president specifically, in response to a question from our own Jessica Yellin, the president specifically said Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina -- and in the president's words -- "is not right on this issue," referring to the criticism that Senator Graham has leveled against the Obama administration for the build-up to what happened in Boston, also on the Benghazi killings in Libya as well.

Senator Graham is joining us on the phone right now. He's in Phoenix, Arizona.

Did you have a chance, Senator Graham -- I assume you did -- to hear the exchange between Jessica Yellin and the president at the news conference?

SEN. LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Yes, somebody played it back for me. And I just say, Wolf, with all due respect to the president, we've had eight Americans killed in the last seven months by radical Islamists, four in Benghazi, four in Boston.

And I think our systems are degrading and I stand by that statement. It's not like I relish saying that. I just think it's true. And Benghazi, multiple warnings were coming out of our consulate, our Ambassador Stevens. They were ignored. Request for security was denied. The consulate became a death trap for 71/2 hours. Nobody could come to the aid of the people who were under attack.

And after the attack, Susan Rice and the administration told the narrative that just didn't hold water. It wasn't a spontaneous event caused by a video.

Boston has got its problems, too.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let me play the clip. This is the president, speaking at the news conference, responding to Jessica Yellin's question.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lindsey Graham, who's a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has said that Benghazi and Boston are both examples of the U.S. going backwards on national security.

Is he right?

And did our intelligence miss something?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I'm sure it generated some headlines.

I think that what we saw in Boston was state, local, federal officials, every agency, rallying around a city that had been attacked, identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined.

We now have one individual deceased, one in custody; charges have been brought. I think that all our law enforcement officials performed in an exemplary fashion after the bombing had taken place. And we should be very proud of their work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: "Very proud of their work."

All right, Senator Graham, you want to directly respond to this part of what the president said?

GRAHAM: Absolutely. Great work by the Boston Police Department, great courage by the Boston people, all of the police organizations in the Boston area, the FBI to catch the guy afterward.

The FBI had a photo of the suspect and I still don't know why that didn't ping the system to say we've already talked to him. But my concerns are about what happened before. He was interviewed in 2011, the older brother was; got a warning letter from the Russian intelligence service sent to the FBI in March and the CIA in November.

He goes back to Russia and Dagestan in 2012, Wolf, and DHS picks him leaving and coming, but they don't share the information with the FBI or the CIA, so he's never interviewed. They never share this guy's presence with the Boston Fusion (ph) cell, who's supposed to be tracking terrorists in the Boston area.

And when he comes back in June of 2012, he goes on a YouTube channel, a website, on the Internet for the whole world to see and embraces radical Islam.

A guy that's already in the system that's suspected to be a radical Islamist is now on the Web inside the United States, embracing radical Islamist ideology and the rest is history.

So, this is stovepiping. The FBI and the CIA not being informed of his travels back to Russia, when he gets on the website, nobody comes back to him and say hey, listen, in 2011, you said you loved America; you wanted to be an Olympic boxer.

What are you doing now, interacting with these radical Islamic websites? Our systems are failing, in my view.

BLITZER: I guess the argument that some administration officials have made is that the FBI, after they got that initial tip from Russian intelligence back in 2011 -- and the president specifically said the Russian intelligence agency alerted the U.S. to the older brother and mother, the president said today, and mother as well, as potentially being sympathizers -- the president then said they did, the FBI, they went out and interviewed the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and the mother.

And after their investigation they came up with nothing. So they closed that file.


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