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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript


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Tonight, the State Department has no comment, neither does the CIA. Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson is on the Foreign Relations Committee. He says the administration is accountable, and he's demanding answers. And he's OUTFRONT tonight.

Senator Isakson, thanks very much for taking the time.

And as we can report, this is late r reporting here that we have tonight, but the intelligence community is saying, look, we made the changes. They were substantial. But we made them.

Do you believe it?

SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R-GA), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, it's the first I've heard of it, eastern. You got me on a surprise, but I know Director Clapper very well. I would -- I'm not going to question his word, but it's a little late given all the testimony we had. We had late September briefings with Director Clapper in the room where no such admission came out.

So I'm a little bit surprised, but somebody's got to fess up as to what was happened. It wasn't Susan Rice. It was somebody in the administration or intelligence community changed and we know it wasn't David Petraeus.

BURNETT: Do you think it's possible -- the question I asked there at the top -- that anyone at the White House could have known the full version of events or possible series of version of events and yes, they are handed an edited version, the same version which, of course, Ambassador Rice received, but they knew there were alternative ones that included a link to al Qaeda, that said the movie was not responsible, and that said it was preplanned, not spontaneous.

ISAKSON: For the administration to admit that it didn't know or wasn't informed of the information the director said he had was hard for me to believe and it means the administration really wasn't on top of their game.

You know, the most important issue we got here is a U.S. ambassador was murdered. First ambassador we've lost since 1979. Three others were killed. We were incapable of defending our embassy and we didn't have advanced intelligence to know the attack was going to take place.

That sends a horrible message to our diplomats and we need to know why the administration tried not to look the other way, tried to go on to Nevada, tried to not pay attention to what somebody in the administration knew was already a terrorist attack.

BURNETT: If it turns out that the DNI altered, as they said, significant, substantial -- I'm sorry -- substantially altered the talk points and they were the ones that did it, does that mean that Clapper should do what? Keep his job? Not keep his job? I mean, wouldn't that mean he's responsible?

ISAKSON: Well, you know, I heard Director Clapper's testimony in the late September secured briefing that we had. I can't discuss that. But nothing came up about any scrubbing of the information before it went to the White House.

My colleague, Senator Chambliss, is the ranking member on the Intel Committee. I'm sure with this now coming out, he would want to know why the director didn't say it originally and later did say it and when -- why he did that.

BURNETT: So, let me ask you about what the White House says in terms of their version. As you know, they said look, we only changed one word. Instead of calling it a consulate, we decided to call it a diplomatic facility.

So they're being very careful of yes, when it came into our hands, we only -- we only touched one thing. Do you think that's -- that's reasonable or not?

ISAKSON: You know, everybody's trying to parse around words around the situation. If Director Clapper has come forward and look what he has said is absolutely accurate and he did change the information, we need to find out if the White House really did know that and if they did, why they allowed it to happen? And once again, ask ourselves the question, why did we not have the intel in advance of the attack to know it was going to take place?


ISAKSON: And why weren't we capable of surrounding that ambassador and protecting his life?

BURNETT: Ninety-seven House Republicans, sir, as you're well aware, signed a letter to the president, urging him to not nominate Ambassador Rice for secretary of state. And the letter says, I just want to quote it here in part, "We believe her misleading statement over the days and weeks following the attack on our embassy in Libya that led to the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three others caused irreparable damage to her credibility both at home and around the world."

Is there a scenario where you would support or vote for her nomination for secretary of state if he not nominates her?

ISAKSON: First and foremost, we've got to get to the bottom of the truth. You don't shoot the messenger and feel the self satisfaction that you solve the problem. If we find out she read what she was told to read, had no other information to the contrary, we need to get at the root of the problem. But until this is worked out, until we know the facts, we don't need to have a nomination coming before the Foreign Relations Committee.

BURNETT: Even though at the time, there were many questioning already, just -- you know, sort of on gut and what they saw that spontaneous was an inaccurate word, you know that maybe she should have questioned those -- would you at all question her nomination or no? You truly believe that she was the messenger. She is innocent and always.

ISAKSON: I've been around the president long enough when he was in my party to know when you're asked to go on the top five news shows on Sunday morning and you're giving talking points, you don't question them, you read them.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. That's good. Fair that that might lead you to that conclusion.

So, is the final word, sir, that you are not satisfied with where we are right now? If the DNI, intelligence community is the one that did all the alterations, that's not the final say in your mind. You want more investigations still.

ISAKSON: I think we need to know why he didn't say that in the briefing that took place in the secured environment at the end of September. Long past now. I think we need to know why later, it came forward. And we need to know why the White House didn't know and if they didn't know, why they should have known.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Senator Isakson. We appreciate your taking the time as we continue to -- try to find out exactly what happened on September 11th and after about Benghazi.


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