Return to Transcripts main page

EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

CIA Sex Scandal; Fiscal Cliff Compromise; NASCAR Road Rage

Aired November 12, 2012 - 05:00   ET

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


ALISON KOSIK, CNN ANCHOR: Sex scandal at the CIA. Lawmakers now questioning who knew what and when about David Petraeus and his extramarital affair.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: Hurtling toward the fiscal cliff. Lawmakers leaving the door open for compromise in Congress.

KOSIK: Road rage on the NASCAR track. A crash leads to a wild melee between pit crews on live TV.

CHO: That was ugly.

KOSIK: It was.

Good morning, and welcome to EARLY START. I'm Alison Kosik.

CHO: Good morning, everybody. Glad you're with us. I'm Alina Cho. John and Zoraida have the day off.

It is 5:00 a.m. And let's get started.

Up first, more fallout from the sudden and shocking resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus, because of an extramarital affair. There are new details, and new questions this morning, about an FBI investigation that led to his departure. The FBI uncovered evidence of an affair between Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell, after she allegedly sent harassing e-mails to another woman she jealously thought was too close to Petraeus.

New York Congressman Peter King says there are far more questions than answers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R-NY), CHAIR, HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: This seems to have been going on for several months. And yet now, it appears that they're saying that the FBI didn't realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn't add up. And you've got this type of investigation, the FBI investigating e-mails, the e-mails leading to the CIA director, and it's taking four months to find out that the CIA director was involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: CNN's Barbara Starr is following this developing story. She's live at the Pentagon for us.

Barbara, good morning. Tell us, what is the status of the investigation right now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alina.

"The New York Times" is now reporting this morning that the investigation actually began some months ago. But, again, the questions continue to mount. It wasn't until election night that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was informed that this was all going on. The White House informed the next day, and the president the day after that.

So how you have an FBI investigation, which whatever went on did involve looking into the matters of General David Petraeus, your CIA director, and the president isn't informed. This is one of the key questions Congress, the congressional committee's concerned, they weren't informed.

So expect to see a lot more about this for the next many days. So there's clearly a lot of questions.

CHO: Barbara, that's right. Let's talk a little bit more about that because as you mentioned, the White House wasn't notified until 5:00 p.m. on election night. The president wasn't told until the Thursday after Election Day. House and Senate Intelligence Committees weren't told until last week.

I know the Justice Department likes to say that they followed protocol. There was no evidence of a national security breach and there was no criminal activity because Petraeus was a retired general.

And yet, isn't there a perception problem here? I mean, you've been covering the Pentagon a long time. Does this check out, in your opinion?

STARR: Well, you know, I think it remains to be seen. One of the wrinkles here is that the House majority leader, Eric Cantor, apparently was told about it by someone in the CIA back in October. That, according to press reports.

So how is it that some people knew and some people didn't? Sources are telling our producers and journalists here at CNN that there was no indication of a security breach by Petraeus, no indication of some unauthorized disclosure of classified information. But clearly, Congress is going to look into this a lot more. They want a lot more answers, Alina.

CHO: That's right. And the big question is will Petraeus testify on Thursday when the senate intelligence committee meets.

All right. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon -- Barbara, thank you.

KOSIK: And much more on the Petraeus scandal later on "STARTING POINT." Soledad is going to be talking with CNN military analyst, General James "Spider" Marks, and retired Army Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt.

CHO: Honoring America's military heroes. President Obama observed Veterans Day by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, as he does. He paid tribute to service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On this day, we thank all of our veterans from all of our wars, not just for your service to this country, but for reminding us why America is and always will be the greatest nation on Earth.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The president also pointed out that this is the first Veterans Day in 10 years that no Americans are serving in Iraq.

KOSIK: About 50 days to go until the fiscal cliff, and more signs that we could see a deal. The big news this weekend was conservative pundit and "Weekly Standard" editor Bill Kristol telling Republicans it was time to fall on their swords.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL KRISTOL, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: The leadership in the conservative movement has to pull back, let people float their ideas, let's have a serious debate. Don't scream and yell when one person says, you know what? It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won't, I don't think.

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 for a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of whom live in Hollywood.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOSIK: But the question remains, what would a deal look like and is there time left this year to put a full deal together?

Jonathan Allen is a senior Washington correspondent for "Politico". He joins us now from Washington.

Good morning to you.

JONATHAN ALLEN, POLITICO: Good morning.

KOSIK: So let me first get to -- I'll get to the fiscal cliff, but first want to get your reaction to the Petraeus story. There are reports this morning that the FBI and the Justice Department knew about this over the summer, as early as over the summer, and some members of Congress are complaining they didn't know about it.

ALLEN: Yes, members of Congress always wish they knew what was going on before they get informed of things. That's a typical complaint whenever the administration comes forward with something.

I would say this, there's either a situation where the FBI believes there's a potential security breach or there is not. If they believed there was a potential security breach they probably should have informed members of Congress so that something could be done about it or gotten Petraeus out of his job. What we've heard so far is they didn't believe that there was a potential security breach, which leads to the question of why David Petraeus ended up in the position he did.

And I think the answer is, he decided to resign. It's not entirely clear to me that he would have been forced to resign over this, but what he did do or maybe what he thought he was going to do was slow the story down, perhaps get some of the gory details out -- you know, sort of out as not part of the public domain. Obviously that failed.

KOSIK: Do you think that -- one more question on this. Do you think that the hearing this week on Benghazi had anything to do with it? Because now it looks like he's not going to be testifying.

ALLEN: I don't. Whoever gets sent up by the CIA to the hill is going to have to answer the same questions about Benghazi. This is obviously, you know, a personal -- I don't want to use the word tragedy, but certainly a personally tough time for the Petraeus family. They've got to deal with the fallout of this.

I think this is much more about his personal life, and his relationship with his family, than it is about testifying before Congress. The man's testified before Congress on any number of top issues before.

KOSIK: OK. On to the fiscal cliff. Do you think we're closer to a compromise, do you think Republicans, as Bill Kristol said, will sort of fall on the sword?

ALLEN: I don't think we're any closer to a compromise. In July, August of 2011, they were very close to a compromise, President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, basically had a deal in place, it ended up getting blown up at the last minute.

I think there is a -- perhaps, a new conciliation on both sides. I think they were waiting for the election to get over. I think the attitudes are positive on both sides. And I think they've got the framework for a deal already set up from last year.

So I don't think that there are any closer but I also don't think they were that far away last year in 2011.

KOSIK: Do you think that closing the loopholes would be enough for a deficit reduction package?

ALLEN: It doesn't appear that that's going to raise enough revenue to get to where the Democrats want that to be. Republicans say they don't want to raise rates. There are some -- there's some budget chicanery that can go on in terms of dealing with one baseline instead of another baseline. That's what it looked like Boehner wanted to do last year. So, there are a lot of different options here. It's interesting, Bill Kristol from "The Weekly Standard" appeared to be talking to Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist in those comments that he played earlier, talking about one person being able to hold this up. Grover Norquist, very influential in Washington, he's the guy that holds the line on taxes, holds Republicans' feet to the fire. It will be interesting to see how many of them are willing to depart from that.

KOSIK: OK. Jonathan Allen, senior Washington correspondent for "Politico" -- thanks.

ALLEN: Take care.

CHO: Other stories we're following. A devastating blast out of nowhere. Local and federal authorities are still trying to determine what caused a massive explosion that ripped through an Indianapolis neighborhood, killing two people, and injuring seven others.

The blast and fireballs leveled two homes and damaged nearly 80 others. It was felt some three miles away. Scores of residents had to be evacuated from the area. The damage is estimated to be more than $3.5 million.

KOSIK: A partial recount in that heated razor-thin race for Florida's district 18th congressional seat narrows the gap a bit between Republican Congressman Allen West and Democrat Patrick Murphy. But it isn't enough to trigger an automatic recount. Murphy is still ahead by a margin of more than half a percent. West's campaign manager is vowing legal action.

CHO: We're going to look at sports now. It was a nice run but the Atlanta Falcons are no longer the only undefeated team in the NFL. After winning their first eight games, the Falcons fell to the New Orleans Saints Sunday by a score of 31-27. New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees tossed three touchdown passes as he led the Saints to victory over Atlanta.

KOSIK: Alabama's run at another college football championship is in serious jeopardy after they were upset this weekend by Texas A&M. That sent the previously unbeaten and perceived unbeatable Crimson Tide from number one to number four in the BCS standing. Alabama's shocking loss has Kansas State and Oregon on course to play the national title game.

CHO: Superstorm Sandy no longer dominates the national headlines, but certainly if you hear -- if you live in this area you know it's still very much a crisis for people living in those hardest-hit areas. We are going to go live to New York's Rockaways coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. It's 13 minutes after the hour.

First came hurricane Sandy, then the nor'easter. Two weeks after it all started, people in the Far Rockaways section of Queens still do not have electricity. Not only that, it's tough to get around, as you can see there. People there are out of food, supplies, medication. They are desperate for help.

Our Victor Blackwell is live in Far Rockaway with an update.

Victor, good morning.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alina. The situation here still very sad, very dangerous. I start with the bad news that came for this community, the death toll from the superstorm sandy here in New York City has risen to 43. And that additional person was a 77-year-old man who lived in this Far Rockaway community who died at a hospital as a result of the injuries he suffered after falling down the stairs.

And you've mentioned that it's dangerous to get around. That's absolutely right. There is a very thick fog here, even a blowing mist that possibly you can see on the camera. You can't see really five, 10 feet in front of the vehicle as you're driving through this community. Now imagine the eight-foot sand dunes in the middle of the street from the sand that washed in from the storm just about two weeks ago.

Two elements of good news. First, the temperatures aren't as frigid as they have been after that snowstorm came through a few days ago. And, you can see over my shoulder, power is back on for some in this community. While on this side of the street there are lights for these people who are waking up in this community, but just take a few steps with me over here and I'll show you that this apartment building over here is still in complete darkness. All the people here still without power.

Now, the only light you see here is from our light here in this community. And maybe you can see what I was talking about, the mist blowing that makes it so difficult to see.

But we're learning from LIPA as a truck just rolled by not too long ago that there are still 95,000 customers without power across three counties, Alina.

CHO: Victor, the storm, as we've been reporting, caused about $50 billion, which is staggering, in New York alone. The governor, I understand, is going to be asking for some federal help, right? Talk about that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he's putting to the a plan, it's still being drafted. It's about $30 billion, asking for federal aid from FEMA, asking for money to update the travel and transportation here in the city of New York. Also, asking to upgrade the petroleum reserves, so that we don't have the problems we're seeing with gas lines and going to a rationing system of odd days for the tags and even numbers.

So he's putting together that plan and will submit it to Congress. The question is, will he get the money?

CHO: Victor Blackwell in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, one of the hardest-hit areas, post-hurricane sandy. Victor, thank you.

KOSIK: It's 16 minutes after the hour. Let's get you up to date. Members of Congress are demanding answers from the CIA, the FBI and the White House about the chain of events that led to the stunning resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus. He stepped down after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. The affair came to light because of an FBI investigation into alleged harassing e-mails Broadwell was sending to another woman close to Petraeus.

Investigators are still trying to figure out why a 64-year-old man walked into a Detroit area police station and opened fire. He shot an officer in the shoulder yesterday, before other officers returned fire and killed him. The wounded officer is expected to make a full recovery.

The news director at the BBC and her deputy are both out off a broadcaster report wrongly linking a former conservative politician to child abuse. Helen Boaden and Steven Mitchell are stepping aside. The head of the BBC, George Entwistle, resigned over the weekend.

CHO: Did you see this video yet?

KOSIK: Good TV.

CHO: If you haven't you should. Take a look at this.

A wreck on the track led to an all-out brawl during Sunday's NASCAR race in Phoenix.

Here's what happened: Jeff Gordon, number 24, intentionally took out number 15, Clint Bowyer in response to an earlier bumping incident. Now, when Bowyer got back to the garage area, that's what happened this, his crew came after him and the fight was on. Bowyer then tried to confront Gordon, but crew members managed to keep the two drivers apart.

KOSIK: As if NASCAR racing wasn't exciting enough, that adds another element to it, doesn't it?

CHO: It certainly does.

KOSIK: Once again, it's 5:17 in the morning. Time for your early read -- your local news that's making national headlines.

And experts warning that U.S. airlines may soon run out of people to fly their planes. According to "The Wall Street Journal," airlines are facing what could be their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s. It said more than half of American pilots are over 50, and there are not going to be enough qualified candidates to replace the thousands of pilots who will soon reach the mandatory retirement age of 65, and new federal regulations for newly hired pilots is making it even tougher.

CHO: You know what that means? Price hikes.

KOSIK: Oh, yes.

CHO: Airline prices are going to go up.

All right. From the "Hollywood Reporter", ruby slippers not included, but Dorothy's iconic blue gingham dress from "The Wizard of Oz" has a new home. Someone paid $480,000 for the dress at auction this weekend. For the record, it wasn't me.

The costume was one of several pieces of Hollywood history up for sale from Julien's Auction House in Beverly Hills. Items from Marilyn Monroe, Steve McQueen and Julie Andrews were also sold.

And for an expanded look at all of our top stories, head to our blog, CNN.com/EarlyStart.

KOSIK: Coming up: a look ahead to the opening bell on Wall Street, after what was a really rough week for your 401(k). We'll see you in a bit.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: Welcome back. It's 23 minutes past.

Minding your business this morning, U.S. stock futures are up, indicating markets will open higher this morning. The markets could use that.

But still a lot of volatility in the markets right now. And it's mostly because of the looming fiscal cliff.

KOSIK: Aren't we sick of hearing that?

CHO: Day 50.

KOSIK: Get used to it.

The S&P 500, the best indicator for the stocks that are in your 401(k), it's fallen about 2.5 percent since Election Day. This week, we're going to get several reports on the manufacturing sector. Those hopefully will give us a little bit of more insight into how economic recovery is going, drawing attention away from the gridlock in Washington over the fiscal cliff.

CHO: Yes, right, if that can really happen.

KOSIK: I don't know. The focus really is on the fiscal cliff.

CHO: That's right.

KOSIK: But Europe's debt crisis also in focus this week. Greek's parliament passed a budget for 2013 last night. This is really key. It's a key step that gets the country closer to $40 billion in additional bailout money from the European Union. And today, eurozone finance ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss the next steps for Greece and the overall debt problem in the region.

CHO: All right. Coming up, the FBI was investigating over the summer, yet the White House says it did not know about the affair involving its CIA director until after the election. The timing of the revolutions, and other questions in this bombshell scandal, coming up.

And if you're leaving the house right now -- if you're leaving really early -- you can watch us any time though at your desk top or your mobile phone. Just go to CNN.com/TV.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: The Petraeus affair shakes Washington. Lawmakers now questioning why they weren't told, even though the FBI had been investigating for months.

KOSIK: An American journalist believed to be held hostage in Syria, his parents making an emotional plea for his release.

CHO: The new coach of the L.A. Lakers, and it's not the guy everyone's been talking about. Can you believe it? It's not Phil Jackson. We're going to tell you who it was.

Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to EARLY START. It's 28 minutes after the hour. I'm Alina Cho.

KOSIK: And I'm Alison Kosik. John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin are off today. It is 28 minutes past the hour.

And we're learning more this morning about the dramatic downfall of CIA Director David Petraeus after an affair with his biographer. It's triggered new questions about an FBI investigation and demands from lawmakers concerned about a possible breach of national security.

CNN's Barbara Starr is following developments for us. She's live at the Pentagon. Barbara, good morning. Talk to us about the timing of this investigation.

STARR: Well, good morning, Alison.

Apparently, it all started several months ago when the FBI began investigating a complaint about harassing e-mails a woman was receiving. Those e-mails were tracked back to Paula Broadwell. So, the investigation proceeds. By all accounts, no evidence of any security breach at this point.

But, it's the timing that is raising questions. It was election night, last Tuesday night, when the director of national intelligence was first informed about the investigation. The White House, the next day. The president the day after that. And Congress did not find out until Friday as it was virtually happening.

This now raising numerous questions on Capitol Hill. How is it that the president wasn't told? How is it that the Intelligence Committees on Capitol Hill, which are supposed to be notified of any critical developments, were not told either? Alison?

KOSIK: Petraeus is supposed to, or was supposed to testify in Senate and House Intelligence Committee hearings on the 9/11 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including an ambassador. The acting director is now expected to take his place.

But can Petraeus still be called to testify? I mean more specifically, what is precluding him to testify other than a very embarrassing scandal going on? He still is most capable of being the star witness, don't you think?

STARR: Well, you know, Congress can always reserve the right and enacts a subpoena to compel him to testify. But the Senate Intelligence Committee chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, from California, said some things that give you a big hint about where this might be headed. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think you need to hear from Petraeus?

SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA: We may well. And we may well ask. I think that's up to the committee. I think we should have this first hearing, which is the way they wanted to set it up, and then, the committee will make the decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STARR: So, the man who will testify is Mike Morell, Petraeus' deputy at CIA, a longstanding, highly respected intelligence professional. Certainly, he has all the information. Maybe a political question now, Alison, does Congress want to compel Petraeus to come out in public after all of this and tell what he knows -- Alison.

KOSIK: But wouldn't it be more politically expedient to compel him instead of may well have him come and testify to put all these conspiracy theorists to bed?

STARR: Well, you know, politics always trumps, doesn't it? I think that it's an unprecedented situation. So, if they want to subpoena him, that may well be more of a political decision. The Democrats, of course, control that committee on the Senate side. On the House side, where it is controlled by the Republicans, perhaps, a different question and we will be watching very carefully to see if they have more of an appetite for making Petraeus come to Capitol Hill.

KOSIK: OK. Barbara Starr, thanks so much. We're going to have much more on the Petraeus scandal starting later today starting on "STARTING POINT." Soledad is going to be talking with CNN military analyst, General James "Spider" Marks, and retired army brigadier, General Mark Kimmitt.

CHO: We look forward to that.

Meanwhile, President Obama honoring America's veterans in a wreath- laying ceremony to mark Veterans Day, as he does every year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): The president marked the solemn occasion at Arlington National Cemetery, applauding the service of those who have gone above and beyond to serve their country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: Today, a proud nation expresses our gratitude. But we do so, mindful that no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The president also noted this is the first Veterans Day in ten years without Americans serving in Iraq.

KOSIK (voice-over): In New York City, they marched in the Annual Veterans Day parade, but this year was different. The United Veterans War Council, which organizes the parade, promoted Sunday's event as a rally for storm victims, collecting winter coats for those displaced and still without power two weeks after superstorm Sandy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (on-camera): It's great that they did that. People in the American West are still digging out after a major blast of winter. Parts of Utah, including Salt Lake City, were hit hard with snow. Our Alexandra Steele is here with a look at the forecast. Well, unbelievable. Some parts of that area got 48 inches -- Alexandra?

ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Aw! Fifty-one!

CHO: Unbelievable!

STEELE: Oh! You know, the first big storm really coming in in earnest. If you're a ski lover, snow bird doesn't even open until the 17th, but certainly, hey, maybe this is really a harbinger of things to come for a great snow season in the west. That was just so many (ph). So, let's take you right now to North Dakota to show you what it looks like on Saturday there, as well.

So, this first big storm coming in to Bismarck, crossing the country, and as it does, it's leaving its mark on a few different notes. Not only was the snow, but with the rain, even severe weather, and even temperatures dropping precipitously behind this. So, here's a look at the snow. There's 51 in Snowbird, in Montana, 23, Salt Lake picking up 15 inches.

So, storm system moving eastward. This is it. This is the cold front. Much colder air behind it. Temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below average behind this. Ahead of it, certainly warmer than average. Big picture, warm ahead of this front along the eastern seaboard and the southeast. Colder behind it, believe it or not, the next system coming in to the pacific northwest, hot on the heels of the first one.

Here's the future radar with this front. This is through Tuesday. Tomorrow, unfortunately, it makes its way to the eastern seaboard, those hit so hard by Sandy. And then, of course, the nor'easter, kind of a quick hitter, though, for the day on Tuesday. But look what happens temperature-wise behind it.

To give you a little perspective, Chicago, 70 yesterday, 36 today, and really, these temperatures, too, Syracuse, 70 today, in the 40s by Tuesday, New York, 40s by Wednesday, and all incredibly warm, guys, today on the east. Temperatures in the 60s, but then, this front moves through, and it's a potent one. Temperatures dropping off 20 degrees.

CHO: Yes. You don't know whether to wear a coat or not. Meanwhile, I think Rob's off because he's skiing in Park City, Utah, right?

STEELE: Right. That's right. If you know him, you think he would be.

(LAUGHTER)

STEELE: But I think, actually, he's in New York doing some Superstorm Sandy work.

CHO: He needs a rest.

STEELE: Yes, he does.

CHO: All right. Thanks so much. We'll check back with you later.

STEELE: All right.

KOSIK: All right. Sunday night football action, the Bears and Texans in Chicago. It was a big night for Houston's Arian Foster. He rushed for 102 yards on 29 carries and scored the game's only touchdown. The Texas defense was all over Jay Cutler. They nabbed two interceptions before knocking him out of the game with a concussion. Final score, Houston 13-chicago 6.

CHO: All right, guys. The L.A. Lakers have a new coach and it's not Phil Jackson. Former Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni will replace Mike Brown, who was fired last week. D'Antoni has signed a four-year deal with the Lakers. Now, ESPN says Lakers management wanted Phil Jackson to return for that third stint as coach, even met with him over the weekend.

But Jackson, apparently, wanted more than the Lakers were willing to pay. They couldn't come to terms. Apparently, he wanted a limited travel schedule and a two-year contract worth $10 million.

KOSIK: Demands, demands, demands.

CHO: Lakers said, yes, we love you. Not that much.

KOSIK: Exactly.

All right. The fallout over the David Petraeus scandal continues to grow this morning. Key members of Congress, they want to know why they weren't in the loop while the FBI investigated the CIA director's affair. We'll talk about that coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHO: All right. Thirty-nine minutes past.

Questions continue to mount over the shocking resignation of CIA director David Petraeus, citing an extramarital affair with his one- time biographer, Paula Broadwell. Some Congressional leaders saying they should have been alerted earlier in concerns of a breach of national security.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FEINSTEIN: We received no advance notice. It was like a lightning bolt. The way I found out, I came back to Washington Thursday night. Friday morning, the staff director told me there were a number of calls from press about this. I mean, this is something that could have had an effect on national security. I think we should have been told.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: The retired four-star general released a statement on Friday announcing his resignation, saying, quote, "After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours."

With us for this morning's panel, Richard Socarides is a former senior adviser to President Clinton and writer with TheNewYorker.com and Oliver McGee, Republican strategist and author of "Jumping The Aisle" who joins us from Washington. Great to see you both.

Richard, let's begin with you. I want to talk a lot -- a little bit more about the timing, because there are a lot of questions about this, right? The best information that we have is the FBI was alerted in early summer about these e-mails between Broadwell and another woman. They started investigating.

And yet, the White House wasn't told until 5:00 p.m. on election night. The president wasn't told until two days later. The House and Senate intelligence Committees weren't told until last week. You worked for President Clinton. You were a senior adviser. You know about the inner workings of the White House. Does this seem right to you?

RICHARD SOCARIDES, WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: Well, it seems like there's some confusion around exactly what happened and what people were thinking early on. I mean, I think that when you say that the FBI knew in the summer, I think there was some people who worked with the FBI who knew.

I don't think the director of the FBI knew until mid-October, or perhaps, even later. And certainly, the justice -- it's unclear when the Justice Department was informed. But it is fairly remarkable that in a situation like this that the president and the White House would not be told until, you know, right before his resignation. And certainly, I think the mistake that was made was that Congress ought to be informed at the same time that the senior people on the national security establishment are told.

CHO: Right, particularly, when you're talking about the CIA director. This is not a low-level resignation we're talking about or a scandal involving a low-level member of the administration. Having said that, Richard and Oliver, I want to get to you, because the Justice Department points out that it followed protocol.

That, there was no national security breach as far as they know, and there was no criminal wrongdoing because Petraeus was a retired general. Having said that, Congressman Peter King spoke on Candy Crowley's "State of the Union" yesterday. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It seems to have been going on for several months, and yet, now, it appears at the saying that the FBI didn't realize until Election Day that General Petraeus was involved. It just doesn't add up. And you have this type of investigation, the FBI investigating e- mails, the e-mails leading to the CIA director, and taking four months to find out that the CIA director was involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHO: Oliver, I understand his point there, but, the Justice Department says it followed protocol. It pays very close attention to these types of things in terms of notification. Shouldn't that be enough?

OLIVER MCGEE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes, it should. Essentially, what we're looking at is the questions of executive judgment. And executive judgment about empathy, asking proper questions, and ultimately, service. And, when we look at the service of General Petraeus, he's a war hero.

And essentially, the role of Congress and even the executive branch is to ask the appropriate questions, but at the same time, have empathy in regards to the personal choice, the personal life, at the same time, is there really a national security question associated with that personal choice and personal life? And so far, what I'm seeing right now that there is not.

CHO: All right. Let's talk quickly about the fiscal cliff, because it's 50 days to the fiscal cliff. President Obama, as you know, has invited Congressional leaders to the White House on Friday. For those who don't know, we were talking about $60 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts at the end of December.

It will affect 90 percent of Americans. I think everyone agrees there will be some sort of compromise, right? The question is, Richard, what will it look like?

SOCARIDES: Yes. I think, you know, the message from the election to everyone is that people want government to work. And I think the moment is right. I mean, there's a mood after the election where people want Republicans and Democrats to come together to reach some common ground. So, I do think they will come to an agreement.

We don't know exactly what the agreement is. I think President Obama is right to stand firm, to stand his ground, and say that any deal is going to have to involve increasing the tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. And I think that should be the case. And hopefully, the Republicans will come around to this. But yet, I think the Republicans have some good ideas at the Democrats --

CHO: Well, let's talk about that very quickly, because I've got to wrap, Oliver. Bill Kristol as you know, conservative pundit, "Weekly Standard," sort of dropped a bombshell on Sunday when he said that Republicans need to fall on their sword. That it's -- it's time that, that they agree to what the Democrats want. Get this over with.

The Republicans lost the election. I mean, is it time for the Republicans to sort of come to the table and give a little bit more?

MCGEE: Well, ultimately, what the American people are going to observe is the project in negotiation. Negotiations about finding joint value. I agree with Richard, the election is a time for hope and optimism. And that's what we have. Hope on the left with regards to jobs and optimism on the right with regards to growth.

So, falling on the sword for growth or falling on the sword for jobs is really not going to add value. What the American people said in going back to the founding fathers is, if the Romney 47 and the Obama 47 can't agree the six percent basically went to Obama as a result of the perfect storm between Isaac and Sandy, and basically, they're saying we're going to use the tools the founding fathers gave us which was gridlock.

(LAUGHTER)

CHO: Oh, please.

MCGEE: So, really --

CHO: Say it isn't so.

MCGEE: I know. Say it isn't so. But ultimately, that's a lesson for us all in our process of political management to come to the table and watch these two types in President Obama and Speaker Boehner to really come to the joint to value negotiation. I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio, the queen city of Ohio, and John Boehner, as well.

And we Cincinnatians as Speaker Boehner may say, is that we can get to the table and we can negotiate. He's already sent a signal that he wants to do that. And I believe that President Obama wants to do that, too. They both have an interest.

The White House line is saying if we don't have a deal here, we're going to go into recession while Boehner is saying business is telling him, hey, let's stop the bonds market from falling apart and let's make sure that we can pay our national debt.

CHO: All right. Republican strategist, Oliver McGee, let's hope for a Kumbayah moment. Richard Socarides, writer from TheNewYorker.com, thanks to you both this morning.

MCGEE: Thank you.

KOSIK: Mystery surrounds a missing American journalist thought to be held hostage in Syria. Coming up, his parents' emotional appeal and why some say the clues found in a video that they just don't add up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Parents of a missing American journalist in Syria are now in neighboring Lebanon this morning making an impassioned appeal for their son's return. They say 31-year-old Austin Tice was in Syria on his way to Lebanon when they lost touch with him last August. In September, they say he appeared blindfolded held at gunpoint on a video posted on YouTube.

This is a screen cap that you're looking at. But there are questions about the authenticity of the video. Videos like it are usually shared through extremist websites, not on YouTube. Also, what his captors are wearing would not normally be found in Syria. Arwa Damon is in Beirut. She joins us now. Arwa, often, the parents talked to reporters a short time ago. What did they say?

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They had one really straightforward point, and that was a plea to anyone who may have any information on the whereabouts of their son who may be able to help them bring him back home safely. Austin crossed into Syria illegally from Turkey earlier in the year, went missing in Mid August on the outskirts of Damascus.

His parents are saying that they are reaching out, both directly and indirectly, and have been to the Syrian government. The Syrian government, according to his parents, saying that they have no information on the whereabouts of their son. They have also been reaching out to various other groups inside Syria.

They had been able to retrace Austin's last steps to that Damascus suburb, but since then, he has not been heard of. The questions raised in the video, because of the questions regarding its authenticity have led some people, including some people in the State Department, to believe that the Syrian government does, in fact, have him in their custody.

When it comes down to the parents, what has been incredibly difficult for them has been this blackout when it comes to any sort of concrete information on the whereabouts of their son.

KOSIK: Also some new developments, Arwa, on Syria. Anti-government forces have joined together to form one coalition group. What can you tell us about that?

DAMON: Yes. This newly formed group just formed yesterday, in fact, in Doha, comes after a series of very intense meetings between the Syrian National Council. That was the body that was trying to establish itself as the legitimate government of Syria in opposition, but it was viewed by many within Syria, and by the U.S. and other western nations as being, perhaps, too Islamist, too controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood.

This new coalition that has formed that the U.S. has already come out and said that it will initially support is supposed to represent Syria's all walks of life. The head of the coalition, interestingly, is a former Sunni imam from Damascus. He's very well-respected, considered to be a moderate. His two deputies, one of them a very prominent businessman, a known activist and a woman, very well known for her advocacy of women's rights.

The next hope, of course, is that this body will be able to garner the political, financial, and potentially, perhaps, military support of the opposition has been asking for for quite some time now, Alison.

KOSIK: All right. Arwa Damon, thank you very much.

CHO: All right coming up. Lance Armstrong's shameless tweet sticking it to the man and saying, "look at the jersey." We're going to show you what he said next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KOSIK: Welcome back. It's 5:57 in the morning. Take a look at the top CNN trends on the web this morning.

CHO: I can't take these away. Lance Armstrong posting this shameless tweet over the weekend with the heading back in Austin and just laying around with his cycling jerseys in the background there.

Cycling's ruling body stripped him of those titles after one of the most damning doping reports ever, accusing him of taking performance enhancing drugs. Armstrong has never admitted using drugs or answering the charges.

And to check out other top CNN trends, head to CNN.com/Trends.

KOSIK: And this is interesting. The folks at "SNL", the producers, the writers getting their first crack at the 2012 election this weekend. Check it out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON SUDEIKIS, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I still love you, America. I do. But you've hurt my feelings very, very much.

(LAUGHTER)

TARAN KILLAM, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Father! Hello, father.

SUDEIKIS: Hello, Tagg.

(LAUGHTER) KILLAM: I'm so very angry, father.

SUDEIKIS: Uh-huh.

KILLAM: I wish I could punch America in the face. I do, I tell you.

SUDEIKIS: Well, no, no. This is not a time for anger, Tagg.

KILLAM: So, what's next for you, father?

SUDEIKIS: Oh, I don't know. There's so much I want to see and do. I'd like to learn how mayonnaise is made.

(LAUGHTER)

SUDEIKIS: As I like mayonnaise very, very much.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: According to poll data, President Obama's victory on Tuesday was due largely to his popularity with both college students and the unemployed. So, basically, Obama became president the same way Budweiser became the king of beers.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After this week's election, 19 women will now hold seats in the Senate which is the highest number ever. And no one is happier about that than the pantsuit industry.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: EARLY START continues right now.