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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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BLITZER: All right. I want to bring in the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Peter King. He is joining us on the phone right now. In the aftermath of the latest information into the investigation into what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed in that attack. It's a terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. Is it true you're calling on the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to resign because of the comments she made on those five Sunday talk shows?

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN (via phone): Yes, Wolf. I believe that this was such a failure of foreign policy message and leadership, such a misstatement of facts as were known (ph) at the time and for her to go on all of those shows and to in effect be our spokesman for the world and be misinforming the American people and our allies and countries around the world, to me somebody has to pay the price for this. We have too much -- things go wrong and then everyone forgets about it the next day. I think we have to send a clear message and on such a vital issue as this where an American ambassador was killed where by all the accumulation of evidence at the time the presumption had to be it was terrorism. I can see why if they wanted to say it's too early to say it's definitively terrorism but to rule out terrorism, to say it was not terrorism at that time was a -- to me a terrible mistake to make whether it was done intentionally or unintentionally and to show the significance of that, I believe she should resign, yes.

BLITZER: Because there is a statement that the spokesperson, the director of public affairs for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence put out today they are saying it was obviously a terrorist -- an action, a deliberate and organized terrorist assault carried out by extremists affiliated or sympathetic with al Qaeda. That's today's statement. But they also said this, and let me read it to you because it might explain why Susan Rice and other administration officials were saying what they were saying and this is from Sean Turner (ph), director of Public Affairs Office of Director of National Intelligence.

"In the immediate aftermath there was information that led us to assess that the attack began spontaneously following protests earlier that day at our embassy in Cairo." The statement goes onto say that information was provided to the White House and Congress with a clear understanding that it was preliminary and could change. Quote "We provided that initial assessment to executive branch officials and members of Congress who use that information to discuss the attack publicly and provide updates as they became available. Throughout our investigation we continue to emphasize that information gathered was preliminary and evolving." And if you read closely what Susan Rice was saying, she was saying that was based on the information she and the administration had at the time when she was pooh-poohing this notion of an al Qaeda attack or something along those lines.

KING: Wolf, she was on five days after the fact. And I would agree that there may not have been conclusive evidence that it had to be terrorists, but there's far more evidence that it was terrorist than it was not terrorists and if she'd come on and said it's -- obviously there was some terrorist involvement here, we're not certain of the extent of it, but we're trying to find out. Instead she was ruling it out. And you know she may play over the semantics, but the fact is everyone came away from watching those shows the belief that the United States government was saying this was not a terrorist attack.

You saw what Jay Carney was saying days after that. But the whole predicate for that was set by Susan Rice's (INAUDIBLE) appearance on those shows. And to me she was clearly sending a message it was not terrorists and it was not -- even if you look what the DNI is saying (INAUDIBLE), but she -- what she should have said was that there is considerable evidence this could be terrorism. The fact that al Qaeda and the Mughrabi (ph) is a stronghold in that area. The fact that Anwar al Sharia (ph) is a stronghold on that area, the fact that there was direct and indirect fire coming in, there was heavy weapons involved, the presumption should have been leaning toward it being terrorism. If she wanted to say we're not absolutely certain of the extent of the terrorist control that would have been (INAUDIBLE). That would have been a legitimate statement. But to come out so clearly and deny and say there was no terrorist involvement, this was not a terrorist attack. That was I believe irresponsible. And whether she was saying it on her own or she was told to say it or whatever, the fact is she was the vehicle by which that misleading message was translated to the American people and the world.

BLITZER: Yes, remember this incident occurred on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi --


BLITZER: She went out, as you say, five days later. I looked it up and here's what she said on some of the shows and I'll read it to you.

KING: Sure.

BLITZER: She said "our current best assessment based on the information that we have at present is that in fact what this began as it was a spontaneous not a premeditated response to what had transpired in Cairo." She was paraphrasing -- she was using that line in her comments. So here's the question to you. Do you believe that this was just inadvertent that she had bad information given to her from the U.S. intelligence community or she deliberately sought to mislead the American people?

KING: Wolf, I don't know the answer. Either way it was wrong. It was intentionally or it was done through ignorance, but in either case I think we have to show that there is a price to be paid for such a gross misstatement of reality and of the facts. And, again, as ambassador to the U.N. and (INAUDIBLE) ambassadors to the world in that position, she's transmitting a message. And everyone watching those shows that day came away with a clear impression this was not a terrorist attack including Jay Carney whom for the next several days kept insisting it was not a terrorist attack.

BLITZER: And I just want to wrap it up by saying other administration officials were saying similar things, what Ambassador Susan Rice was saying including the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, including I think the secretary of state, maybe even the president in the immediate aftermath of what happened, but you're specifically calling for her resignation.

KING: She was the one who was sent out by the administration. She was the one who went from show to show. She was the one who was out front. She was the one who was there. And therefore she was going to get the glory of that. Now she should pay the consequences.

BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. Candy Crowley is here. She's the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." She interviewed Susan Rice on that Sunday immediately after the 11th anniversary of 9/11. We'll discuss that and more with Candy when we come back.


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