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CNN NEWSROOM

Inside the Petraeus Investigation; Crisis in Syria

Aired November 12, 2012 - 15:00   ET

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


TED ROWLANDS, CNN ANCHOR: Top of the hour. I'm Ted Rowlands, in for Brooke Baldwin.

We are going to start with the woman who called the FBI and triggered the investigation that led to the downfall of David Petraeus. Jill Kelly is the woman on the left. On the left -- on the right -- on the left is Holly Petraeus. She is the wife of David Petraeus. The Kellys and the Petraeuses are described as family friends.

And we have just received this video, this is Jill Kelly leaving her family's home in Tampa, Florida, earlier this afternoon.

Let's turn to Suzanne Kelly, our CNN intelligence correspondent.

Suzanne, Jill Kelly went to the FBI some time late last summer saying, she had gotten some harassing e-mails. How did those e-mails lead to the sexual affair that undid David Petraeus?

SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ted, a government source who is familiar with the investigation confirms to CNN the FBI probe that led to that resignation of the director on Friday was announced after Jill Kelly contacted them about e-mail that she said she received and she thought was threatening.

And it turned out to be from Paula Broadwell. The source says the e- mail was jealous in tone but did not know more about the content of it or if there was more than one e-mail. The source said Kelly went to the FBI in Tampa where she lives. And despite living in Tampa, though, Kelly has been known to be on the Washington social circuit, according to this government source who had actually met her at a Washington party, Ted.

ROWLANDS: Now, is there any suggestion that the relationship between David Petraeus and Jill Kelly, like the relationship between Petraeus and Broadwell, was at all sexual in nature?

KELLY: There is no evidence that surfaced about that so far. We do know that General Petraeus has been talking with friends, a lot of friends over the weekend, and even as recently as today who offered support to him and that he's been pretty forthcoming with them about the details of the relationship with Paula Broadwell, saying it began two months after he took over as director of the CIA, ended about four months ago and the two were seen together in Washington as recently as a month ago.

But he's insisting to friends there was only one affair and one woman. ROWLANDS: So we should be clear that the woman that we saw leaving her house in her yellow dress, Jill Kelly, there is no evidence that she had anything but a platonic -- or a friendship relationship with David Petraeus.

Let me ask you this, what do investigators really need to know before they can say with 100 percent certainty that the affair between Broadwell and the head of the CIA didn't compromise national security?

KELLY: You can be sure that the e-mail exchanges, telephone exchanges, any texts that may have gone back and forth between the two of them would have been scrutinized by FBI special agents. They're looking at information that was passed back and forth, was any of it classified, was any of it inappropriate, did it go beyond there? Those are all the thing they look at.

Law enforcement sources are telling us that they don't believe that there was a national security risk involved in this and that they were more looking at a criminal nature of the initial e-mails that were sent, was there a crime committed there? So, national security, while it is a very, very pertinent and important question, doesn't appear to be at center of this.

ROWLANDS: Suzanne Kelly all over it as this story continues to unfold, Suzanne, thank you.

A lot of us are asking who exactly is David Petraeus? In the span of three days he's gone from national hero to yet another national cautionary tale.

Joining us now from Washington, Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES." He's also "Newsweek"'s Washington bureau chief.

Howard, your column today at CNN.com suggests that David Petraeus had a lot to do with constructing his own image, which was quite good. He devoted a lot of time talking and courting journalists. Correct?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That is exactly right. This is a guy who when he was a four-star general and even as a junior officer was portrayed as practically being able to walk on water. He was on magazine covers, he was touted as a potential presidential candidate, and that was no accident.

He gave a lot of access to selected journalists, not the kind of access that perhaps that Paula Broadwell got, but nonetheless little journalists travel with him in war zones and just call them to talk off the record or on background to keep those relationships strong.

ROWLANDS: Has the media given him a pass because people like him and he had a stellar record? If this was a guy that had some controversy in his past or maybe wasn't real courteous to people and had a bad reputation, people would have been all over him, but the tone seems to be more of a, oh, that's too bad, than a, I can't believe he did this.

KURTZ: That's right, Ted, not entirely giving him a pass, of course, but the tone undoubtedly very sympathetic instead of, think of the typical public figure or politician that gets into trouble in some sort of sex scandal. We're all over those people, dumb, moronic, couldn't keep his zipper zipped.

And in the Petraeus situation, the whole underlying tone has been much more, what a tragedy, a great man who made a mistake. We saw this when he became CIA director and there wasn't -- you would think, with given the situation in Benghazi, the fatal attack there and questions swirling about the role of the CIA, there weren't a lot of stories about Petraeus, why isn't he addressing the questions?

And now that he has had to step down -- and this may turn as we learn more about it -- I think the journalists maybe are exhibiting the natural human tendency to be a little bit more courteous and sympathetic towards somebody they know, trust and perhaps admire.

ROWLANDS: And in irony of ironies, among the people that Petraeus courted, of course, was Paula Broadwell. He granted her unusual access when he was running the war in Afghanistan. And she, in turn, produced an extremely positive book about Petraeus. She defended the book right here on this program last February. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PAULA BROADWELL, AUTHOR, "ALL IN: THE EDUCATION OF GENERAL DAVID PETRAEUS": Not a spokesperson for him. And if, you know, showing the role model to other people in the world or other readers is a repugnant thing, then I'm sorry. But I think the values that he upholds and tries to instill in his organizations are valuable and worth pointing out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: So in a sense, would you say that Petraeus' campaign to build his own images is eventually what brought him down?

KURTZ: I guess you could say that.

Paula Broadwell certainly has given all of us a lot of video with the television she undertook on behalf of her book "All In." And Jon Stewart famously asked her, so is the controversy of whether Petraeus is awesome or insanely awesome?

(LAUGHTER)

KURTZ: But at the same time, had Paula Broadwell not sent those e- mails -- we don't know the full nature of them -- to Jill Kelly, as you just reported -- and I feel sorry for Jill Kelly getting swept into the media spotlight here -- then none of this would have come out.

But maybe Petraeus trusted her, his biographer, his admirer, just a little too much.

ROWLANDS: I'm sure you will have more on this on "RELIABLE SOURCES" next weekend. Howard Kurtz, thank you.

KURTZ: Thank you.

ROWLANDS: Up next, the parents of an American last seen in Syria are overseas begging for help. You will hear from them and the one piece of information that does give them some hope.

Plus, it's a tragedy every neighbor fears, a mystery explosion rocking a neighborhood and destroying homes. I will speak live with the Indianapolis fire chief about what may have caused this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: The parents of a missing American journalist last seen in Syria are in the Middle East to try to find their son.

Debra and Mark Tice travelled to Beirut, Lebanon, but they are still no closer to knowing what has happened to their son, Austin. The last time Austin Tice spoke with his family was August 13, when he was about to leave Syria for Lebanon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA TICE, MOTHER: We have no idea who is holding Austin and that is the primary reason that we have come to Lebanon is to try to find out where Austin is, and establish contact with him and bring him safely home.

MARK TICE, FATHER: Everyone we have spoken to -- and we have spoken to everyone we can -- has said the same thing, that they are unsure where he is, they don't know who he's with, where he is. We're hoping for answers and we're here appealing to the people in the region to have compassion on our family.

To whomever has our son right now, we ask you to treat him well, keep him safe, and return him to us as soon as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: The Tices say the Syrian government has told them it has no idea where their 31-year-old son is, but the couple was encouraged by an October YouTube video showing him a captive, but alive.

Focusing on the battle in Syria, the sides are now better defined. This is the leader of the newly formed National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution. The group was established in Qatar on Sunday as a way to unite the scattered forces. Its first and main objective, to push out President Bashar al-Assad, putting on the record what has been playing out in the streets for more than a year.

This YouTube video which CNN cannot confirm allegedly shows anti- government forces shooting at regime choppers. The opposition groups say Assad's crackdown has led to 35,000 deaths since March of 2011 and many thousands more wounded, included, these victims reportedly hit in a Syrian town near Turkey.

I want to bring in CNN executive director, editor Ted Lister now, who spent several months in the region last year. Tell us, Tim, how does this new alliance change the game in Syria?

TIM LISTER, CNN EXECUTIVE EDITOR: There has been a lot of really interesting developments in the space of a couple of weeks, Ted.

Actually, it goes back a news conference that Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, gave in Croatia just before the election when she said the Syrian National Council, which is who we have been talking to for the last 18 months, really passed its sell-by date.

ROWLANDS: Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We made it clear that the SNC can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition. They can be part of a larger opposition, but that opposition must include people from inside Syria and others who have a legitimate voice that needs to be heard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LISTER: So that made this meeting in Doha that has just finished really important simply because all sorts of people were coming to this meeting.

There was plenty of squabbling. It went on for five days. Eventually the Syrian National Council says, OK, we will become part of this bigger group. And that bigger group has real street credibility. It's led by a moderate cleric who had to flee the regime, had suffered at the hands of the regime. Its number two is a businessman who has been imprisoned by the regime, now has prostate cancer but is fighting on.

So they have real credibility. Add to all that changes on the ground. The Free Syrian Army has begun to reorganize itself into five different fronts. It has begun to push its senior officers out of Turkey and back into Syria. And most importantly, it has begun to make it much more difficult for the regime from the south to supply the north. There's lots of fighting around places like Maaret al- Numan, where the FSA has a really big military base under siege, it's been under siege for three weeks.

It is almost impossible for the regime to use this main road to resupply Aleppo. They have also cut off the rebels, the road that links Idlib with the coast. There is a lot of stuff going on the ground that is beginning to allow the rebels to carve out an area of influence.

ROWLANDS: How much -- you talk about the bringing together of all the different rebel folks, but there is a lot of chaos within those groups. How much of that is a concern that you do have people that are sympathetic to al Qaeda or jihadists?

LISTER: Oh, yes. There are a lot of jihadists. There is probably 1,000, 1,500 foreign fighters in Syria now. There is groups like the Al-Nusra Front, which if you like punch above their weight. They are really influential insofar as they will carry out suicide bombings -- or rather suicide bombings in Aleppo and Damascus have been claimed by Al-Nusra.

There are other jihadist groups in there. They are not by any stretch of the imagination the majority of the fighters. And in fact the Free Syrian Army is very suspicious of them. But so long as chaos continues, the violence continues, there is no political solution, they will thrive on this vacuum and that's a big concern to the West, which is why you're seeing this new sense of urgency.

ROWLANDS: Bottom line, will this new coalition put the rebels in a better position to accomplish their goal of overthrowing Assad and bringing some stability to Syria? What does the world community think of that?

LISTER: I think the regime shows no signs of going away anytime soon. They still have a massive arsenal at their disposal. They have only perhaps used 20 percent of it up until now. You also have this monstrous humanitarian crisis, 2.5 million people inside Syria needing help by early next year, 400,000 refugees in Turkey, Jordan already.

ROWLANDS: Can the world just watch this then play out, slowly, like it is or...

LISTER: I think with the U.S. the view is, if we get involved, it will be counterproductive. We need to encourage the right people to take over the opposition politically and militarily. We need to get them to coordinate better. We need them to organize, targeting better and that's what you're beginning to see now as they go after the military bases and try to take those out.

ROWLANDS: And this is the first step you believe in real change in terms of organization with the rebel forces?

LISTER: The declarations are there. It is the action on the ground that will follow, that will determine whether this is really going to make a massive difference, but it also reminds you of Winston Churchill when the allied forces defeated the Axis powers in North Africa in November of 1942.

He said this isn't the end. It is not even the beginning of the end, but it might just be the end of the beginning and that I think is how we have to look at this.

ROWLANDS: All right, Tim Lister, thank you.

LISTER: Thanks, Ted.

ROWLANDS: Back here in the U.S., two homes obliterated, doors and windows found blocks away. An Indiana neighborhood is rocked by a deadly explosion. But the cause is a mystery.

Up next, we will speak live with the fire chief in Indianapolis about what may have been the source of this.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: A devastating blast out of nowhere, two people are dead, and an Indiana neighborhood is in ruins. The explosion and fireball flattened two homes and damaged 80 others. But what caused this deadly explosion is still a mystery.

Want to bring in Brian Sanford, the chief of the Indianapolis Fire Department.

Chief Sanford, there were no reports of gas odors before this blast, but gas mains in the neighborhood are being inspected. Is gas likely the cause here?

BRIAN SANFORD, INDIANAPOLIS FIRE DEPARTMENT CHIEF: Well, Ted, it is really too early for us to tell at this point. It is an ongoing investigation.

Our fire investigators from the Indianapolis Fire Department and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department are working together to figure out just exactly what did happen and it is an ongoing investigation. We are working with Citizens Gas investigators also. They are actively participating in the investigation. So, although we're unable to determine just yet what happened, we hope to have an answer here in the next few days.

ROWLANDS: You say just yet. You seem to be on to something. What are the possibilities? It just seems so crazy that 80 homes could be affected by an explosion just out of nowhere.

SANFORD: Well, it was obviously a large explosion, and as you say, it affected 80 homes, 30 of them to the point where they're uninhabitable at this point. We're expecting as many as 10 of those homes to have to be totally demolished.

So very large explosion, and the teams have been able to rule out any kind of high explosive. Certainly, we're, again, working with Citizens Gas. There is, you know, some possibility that gas could be involved. But that is too early to know that for sure. And even if it is gas that is involved, what may have caused it to pocket or what may have caused an ignition source, all of that has yet to be determined if, in fact, it goes that direction.

ROWLANDS: I now "The Indianapolis Star" has reported the homeowner where the explosion took place thinks it is a faulty furnace. Is that something you're investigating?

SANFORD: The investigators are looking at everything. Obviously, with the amount of devastation that was there, with the seven injuries and the unfortunate two fatalities, we're taking this very seriously.

And they are going to hand-dig out the whole area and they're going to get to the bottom of what happened. And don't want to speculate on what the final outcome would be at this point. ROWLANDS: I know you're -- the call out to your guys was that there was a house fire, but, boy, people on the ground there are in shock. Take a listen to what some of them had said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANDY WAGNER, HOME DAMAGED: Most people have texted me from far away. It's not just that they heard it, they actually felt it. It is a concussion.

DEBBIE WAGNER, HOME DAMAGED: Yes, and we thought maybe a truck had run into our house, and then I thought earthquake. Then I thought -- then I came downstairs and saw the glass all shattered and thought did someone shoot at our window? And then we went outside and you could already see the fire.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: Amazing.

All right, well, Chief Brian Sanford, with the Indianapolis Fire Department, we appreciate your time here. And let us know when you do figure out what happened there in that Indianapolis neighborhood. Thanks, Chief.

Well, he's the man stepping up as General David Petraeus' replacement. Do you recognize him? Well, unless you're a D.C.er or a CIA insider, you probably don't. So who is now leading the CIA? A look at Michael Morell, his experience and the role he will play in the Benghazi hearings, that's coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: The spectacular fall from grace of David Petraeus has thrust into the spotlight a man largely unknown to the public. Michael Morell now is the acting director of the CIA and will testify later this week about the deadly attack on the U.S. state consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

With us now from the Pentagon, Chris Lawrence.

What do we know, Chris, about Michael Morell?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ted, unlike David Petraeus who kind of rode into town as the war hero, the star general, Mike Morell is the complete opposite of that.

He's a company man through and through. He started with the Central Intelligence Agency more than 30 years ago as an economic analyst, sort of has risen through the ranks over the years. In fact, he was with former President George W. Bush on the day that the World Trade Centers were hit by the al Qaeda planes on September 11.

In fact, he was in the elementary school when President Bush got the news. And when President Bush asked him who do you think is responsible, without even seeing much intelligence, he reportedly guessed initially al Qaeda.

So this is someone who has been involved in the fight against terrorism over the past decade or so. He is said to have the utmost confidence of President Obama, several U.S. officials telling CNN that the president thinks very, very highly of him. The one thing that may work against him in terms of getting the job full time is that traditionally CIA directors do not come from within the agency. They come from outside.

ROWLANDS: So, Morell, not David Petraeus, will be at the hearings this week on Libya. Will the Senate Intelligence Committee receive a statement from Petraeus or any other information from him concerning the attack on Benghazi or do they need it? Does he know everything that Petraeus would know?

LAWRENCE: Ted, from what we're told, everything that David Petraeus knows about Benghazi, Mike Morell also knows, that there will be no drop-off in the questions that can be asked of Mike Morell that could not have been asked of David Petraeus.

Whether David Petraeus will be asked at some point to contribute something to these findings, we know Petraeus did travel to Libya very recently, met with some folks there on the ground. Whether he will be asked to include some of those notes or simply Mike Morell will be presenting those as part of his briefing, not sure yet.

But everything we have heard from sources says Mike Morell is completely in the know about Benghazi.

ROWLANDS: All right, Chris Lawrence, live for us from the Pentagon, Chris, thank you.

The nation is set to plunge over the fiscal cliff in less than two months. And the whole world is watching. But the big question right now is, will Washington do something to stop it?

We will talk to one of the leading voices on the nation's debt, former Senator Alan Simpson, the co-chair of President Obama's debt commission, but, first --

On the heels of Veterans Day, we're putting veterans in focus this week, including a colonel who is the first double amputee to command an Army post. He embodies the sacrifices and triumphs of our veterans.

Meet Colonel Gregory Gadson.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLONEL GREGORY D. GADSON, GARRISON COMMANDER, FORT BELVOIR, VIRGNIA: May 7th of 2007, my vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq.

I remember the explosion very clearly. It is something I'll never forget and, ultimately, over the next two weeks I would lose my legs above the knee. Well, hen I came home, of course, wounded, that was a new experience for me. I had never come home without my troops. I really felt alone.

I did say absolutely enough is enough. It was -- not that I got to a point where I felt like I was going to take my life or anything like that, but I just didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

I just wanted to just crawl in my hole and kind of collapse on myself. I'm very grateful and thank God I didn't do that.

For me, when I tried to quit, when I tried to crawl into that shell, it was very uncomfortable because that wasn't who I was.

I'm the garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Virginia. We support a base, including about 51,000 personnel.

All right, so, we're going to add battalions, but we're going to lose brigades, right?

All of our services appreciate the value that someone has, regardless of what they don't have anymore.

This event that happened to me doesn't define me, and it is not something I dwell on.

I wouldn't characterize myself as a hero. I mean, ultimately, those that really pay in full measure are heroes.

I just say, if you know a veteran out there, then just tell them thank you and their family. I never get tired of hearing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: We're going to be hearing more and more about the so-called fiscal cliff in the days ahead.

Congress has until January 1st to reach a deal and avoid $7 trillion in tax hikes, hikes and spending cuts that would kick in over the next decade.

Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming knows a lot about our nation's debt troubles. He's the "Simpson" in the Simpson-Bowles debt reduction program we hear so much about. He also co-founded the new "Fix the Debt" campaign at FixtheDebt.org.

Good to see you, sir. Fifty days ...

ALAN SIMPSON (R), FORMER WYOMING SENATOR: Thank you very much, you bet.

ROWLANDS: Fifty days until the deadline, are you confident that this Congress will avoid the fiscal cliff at all costs or would they allow us to go over the cliff? SIMPSON: I'm not confident at all because right now you have the leaders of both parties saying some rather nuanced -- some rather subtle that maybe it wouldn't be bad for their party if it went over the cliff. They have their own definition of why that would be good and the Republicans say that and the Democrats say that.

Now, that's absurd to me, but they're actually talking that way and, as Erskine Bowles says, that's like betting your country. How could you be stupid enough to think that going over the fiscal cliff and the chaos of the fact that there is 7.2 trillion bucks worth of money flowing around in a big pot and selection date of December 31st and go to far and you throw it into recession, you do too little?

But, I mean, if the Bush tax cuts -- go ahead, $3.8 trillion in 10 years. Got to raise the payroll tax about from 4.2 back to 6.2. Where the hell was the AARP when they allowed that special blood stream of Social Security money to get cut?

ROWLANDS: So there is no ...

SIMPSON: I mean, it's madness. You've got the ...

ROWLANDS: There is no doubt in your mind that this cliff indeed is a cliff. It is a steep cliff. It's not one of these manufactured, nonsense deadlines that lawmakers avoid and then they at the last hour come up with something and congratulate themselves at a news conference and we move on or kick they the can down the road a bit? This is the real deal?

SIMPSON: This is the real deal because it doesn't have anything do with Democrats or Republicans or the president. It has to do with the people that have loaned us 16 trillion bucks.

Every day, we borrow 3.6 billion bucks. Every buck we spend, we borrow 41 cents. And the reason they put this package together so it would blow up is to take $600 billion from security and $600 billion from non-security because they knew when they put that package together, no one would be stupid enough to let that happen.

Well, don't bet the ranch on that one. They could do it and they will do it. They will do it if it gives their party advantage. They've forgotten they're Americans first.

Americans first, not Republicans or Democrats. And the president has to get off his can and lead -- lead.

ROWLANDS: There seems to be some movement, post-election. I want to play something for you something conservative writer Bill Kristol said yesterday and I'm sure you've heard this. Maybe the GOP should consider taxing the wealthy. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000. Make it $500,000. Make it a million. Really? The Republican party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: What do you think? Did the election make a difference here? Did it take losing this election to get conservatives to maybe talk about this at least?

SIMPSON: Well, everybody ought to be talking about everything, but let's get serious about taxing the rich.

Let's do better. Let's confiscate everything that anybody who makes a million bucks a year confiscate everything they own, every swimming pool, every yacht, every overseas place, every airplane. That would run the country for about nine months. Who is kidding who?

You can't spend. You can't cut spending your way out of this hole. You can't tax your way out of the hole and you can't grow your way out of the hole.

You have to use a blend and anybody telling you differently is a fake.

ROWLANDS: You've launched a new group, Erskine -- with Erskine Bowles called the Campaign to Fix the Debt. Are you trying to revive some sort of Simpson-Bowles?

SIMPSON: Well, we're like Lazarus rising from the dead. Except I don't have that kind of hair, but I think he had hair.

Nevertheless, of course. We have about 300,000 signatures, FixtheDebt.com. We have CEOs of principle corporations in America saying you can't let this happen.

Let me tell you, it is called putting heat on congresspeople and the heat is coming and the heat now -- and don't forget, they only have 15 days of session to solve this.

But they don't have to pass a bill, don't have to get into this. If they would just get together so somebody could see on a sheet of paper, put it on the back of a matchbook that 34 Democrats and 38 Republicans and 150 Dems in the House and 160 Republicans voted for a plan that would deal with everything and put a trigger on it so that they had to move and that will get the markets off your butt and you can get your country rolling again, just by doing a plan.

ROWLANDS: Senator Alan Simpson ...

SIMPSON: But it has to be bipartisan.

ROWLANDS: Absolutely.

Senator, thank you. Appreciate it. We'll be talking to you over the next few weeks as this deadline gets closer and closer. Alan Simpson, thank you. SIMPSON: You bet. We'll be off of the witness protection program by then.

ROWLANDS: All right. Appreciate it.

Well, it's been almost a week since voters in Colorado and Washington state passed measures to legalize the recreational use of pot and it looks like prosecutors in Washington are already taking action. Scores of people facing marijuana possession charges could get off scot-free.

We'll explain and talk about what's next, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: Turning prison grounds into greenhouses and organic gardens, that's the focus this week on "The Next List."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Beyond these rows of razor wire, believe it or not, greenhouses and compost bins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm free except for the fence behind us and the tower. I mean, I walk around out here I have -- anywhere the gardens are, I can go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: I have this duty, this job, you know. It makes it sufferable.

GUPTA: Hardened criminals tending organic gardens, this Sunday on "The Next List."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: Well, just days after Washington state voters legalized marijuana use, two of its counties are taking the vote to the next level, dropping more than 100 criminal cases. All misdemeanors for possessing less than an ounce of pot, the country -- or the counties are Pierce and King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN SATTERBERG, KING COUNTY PROSECUTING ATTORNEY: There seems to be no point to me to continuing to try to prosecute people, put them in jail, get criminal records on people, for conduct which is going to be legal in a couple of weeks.

I think it is pretty clear what the people of the state of Washington intended by this vote, which is for simple possession, adults, under an ounce, this should not be a crime and that's an easy directive for me to follow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: Criminal defense attorney Joey Jackson is "On the Case," joins us from New York.

Joey, is this a little premature, Initiative 502 just passed last week. The federal law still stands that marijuana is illegal.

JOEY JACKSON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, how are you doing, Ted? Good to see you and happy Veterans Day. Go, veterans of America. You do a great job.

Well, listen, you know, it comes down to a question of discretion and it's a discretional question at both the federal level and at the state level. Why?

Because we all know, you and I both know, for more than 40 years, right, the federal government has said, no, to marijuana. They've said it is illegal.

And, so, therefore, because of our supremacy clause, right, which is Article VI, Section Two of the Constitution, the feds, it is illegal there and the feds have supremacy over the states.

So, if it is illegal at the federal level, whatever a state does, it is illegal there as well. However, there is always the question of discretion. The people have spoken in these respective states and I think the federal government may, in fact, respect that right and, therefore, say because the people have spoken at the state level, we're not going to do anything.

And now, of course, Ted, we see at the state level them saying, you know what? It is only a couple of weeks until it becomes illegal anyway. Let's leave them alone. Let's drop these cases. Let's not further prosecute.

ROWLANDS: Yeah, but don't local law enforcers have to uphold the law, no matter if it's state or illegal? Because, right now, we're in a window where it is illegal, both state and federally.

Let's say a state prosecutor finds someone is evading his federal taxes, but he doesn't have to let the federal authorities know about that either. I mean, where does this end? You would think that just ...

JACKSON: You're right.

ROWLANDS: Why come out and say it? Maybe off -- maybe in the back room, they're going to say, guys, stop working the cases, but kind of taking a leap there, coming out in public and making a statement.

JACKSON: It is a great point and who knows what they're doing in those back rooms, Ted, right?

But, look, the reality is -- but the reality is this. We both know that prosecutors are political entities and prosecutors respect the will of the people. They're elected officials and, if their populous has made a decision and there decision is that there are other things that are much more important than focusing on this, you would have to think that those prosecutors, as we see here, Ted, are going to respect the people and they're going to say, you know what? We're going to use our discretion not to prosecute.

It's a lot like, you know, people speed all the time, but police can only catch one or two at a time, so it's selective enforcement. The government has made a decision locally because of these initiatives in Colorado and, of course, in Washington state where they have said, we're going to legalize the recreational use and, as a result of that, we're not going to go forward and prosecute these people and, those cases that are pending, you know what, let's just dismiss them.

ROWLANDS: Let's take a quick listen to a little bit more from the prosecutor and see what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SATTERBERG: All told, we had 175 cases that were in some stage of prosecution, either referred by police for filing or had been filed. Those are the cases that today we are deciding to not move forward on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: The bottom line, too, and we should make people realize, this is possession under an ounce. It's a misdemeanor. We're not talking about dealers that were trafficking and all that, so this ...

JACKSON: And 21-and-over, right.

ROWLANDS: Yeah, 21-and-over, low-level.

But what if the ballot is overturned? Is the prosecutor obligated to go back and try to bring these people to justice?

JACKSON: You know what, I think it always is in the prosecutor's discretion to do what they think is appropriate to the people and, therefore if they've made that decision, Ted, at the local level that we're not going to do this and they have, of course, calculated everything and said, we're going to dismiss it.

Then I think they're comfortable with the notion that this is how we're going to stand on this issue and, regardless of legally whether or not it is overturned, whether the feds decide to swoop in and say, supremacy clause, it is illegal federally, Controlled Substance Act, 1970, I think you're still going to see these people say, you know what, the prosecutors, we're letting it go and those people who were arrested for it, they can go in peace.

I think that's what we're going to see here.

ROWLANDS: All right, Joey Jackson, "On the Case." Joey, thank you as always.

JACKSON: Good to see you, Ted.

ROWLANDS: Shocking allegations of sexual abuse on "Sesame Street," the man who's given voice to Elmo takes a leave of absence.

The accusations, details and denials about an alleged relationship with a teenaged boy, that is coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: The voice behind the award-winning and beloved "Sesame Street" character, Elmo, a puppeteer named Kevin Clash, has taken a leave of absence from the show, denying accusations he had an inappropriate relationship with a teenage boy.

Nischelle Turner joins me with more. What's going on here? What's he being accused of?

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: He's being accused of having a relationship with a 16-year-old. The alleged victim is now 23-years old.

Clash, however, insists that the accusers was not under age at the time of the relationship. Sesame Street Workshop first heard from the accuser about this back in June. They conducted their own investigation and they said, quote, "We took the allegation very seriously and took immediate action. We met with the accuser twice and had repeated communications with him.

"We met with Kevin who denied the accusation. We also conducted a thorough investigation and found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated."

Now, during their investigation, the Sesame Street Workshop did find that Clash used company e-mail for a personal relationship and determine that had he, quote, "exercised poor judgment and violated company policy regarding Internet usage" and for that, Ted, he was disciplined.

ROWLANDS: What has Clash said about this publicly? Has he made any comments?

TURNER: Yeah, he actually has and he's not denying that there was a relationship, but he is vehemently denying there was any wrongdoing.

We just received a statement from him and here's what he told us. He said, quote, "I am a gay man. I have never been ashamed of this or tried to hide it, but felt it was a personal and private matter.

"I had a relationship with the accuser. It was between two consenting adults and I am deeply saddened that he is trying to characterize it as something other than what it was.

"I am taking a break from Sesame Workshop to deal with this false and defamatory allegation."

Now, we also reached out to the attorneys that we have reason to believe are representing the accuser, but they haven't even been willing to admit, on the record, that he's a client of theirs yet.

So, Ted, there's still a lot of facts to sort out here.

ROWLANDS: All right, thank you, Nischelle Turner. Lots still going on there. Appreciate it. And Nischelle Turner coming to us from Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a sex scandal unfolds in the U.K. forcing more top BBC executives to step aside. The turmoil and the fallout spread inside one of the world's most respected news networks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROWLANDS: Scandal claims more victims at the BBC. In a shocking twist of events, this man, the head of the BBC, quits as director- general after a report wrongly alleged a conservative politician was involved in child abuse.

This just a couple of weeks after the BBC had to apologize for failing to air sex abuse allegation about its own TV personality, Jimmy Savile.

And today, two heads of BBC's news department also stepped aside.

And how about this for timing? Today is also the first day on the job for the new head of "The New York times," Mark Thompson, formerly of the BBC. He continues to face questions over his handling of the Savile allegations.

Lance Armstrong cut ties with Livestrong, the cancer support group that he founded 15 years ago.

The Livestrong Foundation says Armstrong has voluntarily resigned from its board of directors. In a statement, Livestrong says, "We are proud of Lance's indelible contributions to the global effort to eradicate cancer and his ongoing personal commitment to improving the lives of its survivors."

Armstrong was stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles last month. Armstrong denies that he ever cheated.

It's the top of the hour and time, of course, as it always is, for "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer.

Wolf?