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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT
FBI Agent Identified; GOP Senator on Benghazi Battle; General Turmoil; What the White House Knew; President Obama Defends Susan Rice
Aired November 14, 2012 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Good evening. We start with breaking news tonight. You're looking live at Capitol Hill where David Petreaus is set to testify on Friday morning before the House Intelligence Committee into what happened in Benghazi.
Meanwhile, we're learning more tonight about the FBI agent who started the investigation that led to Petraeus' resignation from the CIA. He's been identified at Frederick W. Humphreys II, a third year agent and social friend of Florida socialite Jill Kelley. He says that infamous shirtless picture that he sent her was a joke and was sent years ago. He remains on duty and no action has been taken against him.
And at the White House, a newly energized and rather feisty President Obama is in a fighting mood over ambassador and potential secretary of state, Dr. Susan Rice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Senator McCain and Senator Graham frame and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me, and I'm happy to have that discussion with them. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador who had nothing to do with Benghazi, and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received, and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If the president thinks that we are picking on people, he really does not have any idea of how serious this issue is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The Benghazi battle turning into a hot issue. I'll talk to one of the senators taking the president to task, Kelly Ayotte. But we begin tonight with the latest on the Petraeus investigation.
CNN intelligence correspondence Suzanne Kelly joins me now.
Suzanne, welcome back.
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN INTELLIGENCE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Piers. Always nice to be here. MORGAN: So here's my overview of where we are with all this today on some of the key characters. We now know who this FBI agent was who began this whole investigation. Frederick W. Humphreys II. The soon-to-be glorious name to go with the story. He seems to be through friends, colleagues, whoever it may be clearing himself really in doing anything wrong, is that right?
KELLY: Yes, we have a couple of sources now who have come out and given a little bit more information about him and the nature of that relationship between him and a you said, it seems like it's more of a friendship with the families than anything else.
I think, you know, the real headline this week was that he had sent a shirtless photograph of himself to Jill Kelley. Well, sometimes when you get down to the bottom of things, and the facts start to come out, it's slightly different. We're told now it may be wasn't quite so sexy. Apparently it's been described to us by a couple of people as he was in a shooting range and there were some dummies where they have, like, the head and the torso all lined up, and he had taken off his shirt as part of a joke and stood in between them. So that then became the infamous shirtless photo.
I don't know about you, Piers, I don't find it all that sexy.
MORGAN: No. (INAUDIBLE) worse, really, but let's move to Paula Broadwell now. She had her security clearance suspended today. But what we're hearing again from sources is that she, too, in relation to confidential material found in her computer, she may be in the clear as well?
KELLY: Yes, Fran Townsend, our national security contributor, had reported this a little bit earlier this evening. That it appears as though the information that was on her computer may have been classified but that it really wasn't all that egregious, there wasn't anything there, that there were any serious concerns about national security. Possibly not even enough there to bring any charges against her. Now, of course, Piers, that will be up to the Department of Justice to decide whether or not charges will be brought against her, not -- it's not up to the FBI.
MORGAN: And finally, General Allen, he released a statement today saying he fully intends to cooperate with the inspectors and sincerely, quote, "appreciates the support expressed by the president, the secretary of defense, members of Congress, members of family." He clearly believes that he is in the clear, too, and the e-mails he exchanged with Jill Kelley were innocuous.
KELLY: Yes. His statement was pretty confident. It definitely didn't sound like it's something coming from a person who was worried that anything was really going to be come out, it was going to be all that damaging to their careers.
You know, it's quite possible, Piers, that at the end of the day, after all of this, General Petraeus was really the casualty of an affair, of, you know, how he had even phrased it himself as an incredible lack of judgment. And ultimately it was his decision to step down from that job, of course, the DNI, Jim Clapper, recommended that he do that. I'm told with a heavy heart that it wasn't an easy decision for him but it was his decision to do that. And it could be at the end of it that he is the biggest casualty out of all this.
MORGAN: Yes. Completely agree. Suzanne Kelly, thank you very much.
MORGAN: And joining me now is one of the senators taking on President Obama over Ambassador Susan Rice on Benghazi. Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, a member of the Senate Arms Services Committee.
Welcome to you, Senator.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: Getting very heated today between the president and you guys over this issue. How convinced are you that you're right in your suspicions that there is genuine foul play here?
AYOTTE: Well, I would say this. I think there are so many questions that need to be answered. More questions than answers. And that's one of the reasons why today we also called for the establishment of the Select Committee in the Senate. There are many committee that have jurisdiction over this. The Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee, Foreign Relations, Homeland Security, and I fear stovepipe investigation where we don't get to the bottom of it.
And so I think there are serious questions. I mean, for example, there were two prior attacks on the consulate. Why wasn't it reinforced? Why were security requests denied? And during it why couldn't the best military in the world respond during a seven-hour attack? And finally why were there misstatements and misrepresentations made about the nature of the attack by the administration to the American people following it?
So there are serious questions that need to be answered.
MORGAN: But in relation to U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, the president was very clear. She had nothing to do with Benghazi. Her only role was to appear on the press on the Sunday and repeat what she had been told by intelligence services. Do you accept that premise? Do you accept that she was told information by the intelligence services that she then repeated in public? Do you accept that part of the defense?
AYOTTE: Piers, I think it begs the question. Why would you go on every major Sunday show because you have to affirmatively put yourself out there if you had nothing to do with it? You know you have a certain responsibility, you have to be able to tell the American people the truth, and I think there are serious questions about it. We know that there were e-mails sent from the State Department within hours to the White House identifying that Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist group, had claimed responsibility. So the notion that the administration would put her out there and say go -- you know, go tell a story, I think, given her responsibility as U.N. ambassador, she also had to ask some questions about it. Why are you putting me out there versus the secretary of state, someone from the CIA, or even Secretary Panetta?
MORGAN: Does your instinct tell you that this is, you know, cock-up or conspiracy? Are we talking about a major cover-up by the White House designed to protect the narrative of we are defeating al Qaeda or was it simply just, you know, pretty poor performance by all the people out the line in dealing with this attack?
AYOTTE: Well, it's why we need to get to the bottom of all of these questions that I identified earlier and there are more questions, because it's either one of two things. You've said it. It's either blatant incompetence or misleading of the American people. So I would like to know the facts so that we will know exactly what happened. And most of all make sure this doesn't happen again.
We had four brave Americans that were murdered and frankly their families deserve answers and the American people deserve answers on this to make sure that we get to the bottom of it and doesn't happen again.
MORGAN: Senator, thank you very much indeed for joining me.
AYOTTE: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: I want to bring back General Mark Kimmitt. He's the former assistant secretary of state in political and military affairs and he's known David Petreaus for 25 years.
General, welcome back.
GEN. MARK KIMMITT, FORMER DIRECTOR, PLANS AND STRATEGY, CENTRAL COMMAND: Sure.
MORGAN: One of the things that struck me today is that you have all this going on with the generals behaving badly or in some cases not as bad as we thought, but still probably made inappropriately in case of General Allen. At the same time you have very serious things going on around the world. I'm talking in relation in particular to what's happening at Gaza and Israel, and the assassinations, it seems, of the top Hamas military leader today.
You know, this is a serious time for world affairs and that is why the focus really needs to be right back on to this pretty quickly, doesn't it?
KIMMITT: Well, I think that's right and I can assure you that while there may be some attention being played inside the beltway to this issue with General Petraeus and perhaps General Allen, Admiral Stavridis is well sighted on what's happening inside the European area and General Mattis is certainly focused on what's happening in the Middle East.
Those are the two commanders who have day-to-day responsibility for the are around Israel and the area around Egypt.
MORGAN: We've got some video of Ahmed al-Jabari. He is the military leader of Hamas who was blown up today in this car. You're going to see the explosion here. This has all been released on the Internet. And this sort of war on Internet going on as well as on the ground with both sides using it, really, I guess for their own propaganda purposes.
How dangerous do you think it is right now over there given what we're now seeing? They -- Hamas have threatened tremendous retribution, talking about the gates of hell being opened. What do you think?
KIMMITT: Well, I'm more concerned about what's going to happen in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is in power now. It's an unsteady power. They have to find that fine line between the secular military and the radicals Salafists and how they react to this latest incident will be instrumental to the instability inside of Egypt. If there's going to be a problem it will be inside of Egypt.
MORGAN: Let's turn to David Petreaus again. I was just talking Suzanne Kelly there about all the key players in this. It seems that one by one all the possible major security breaches are now being downplayed. And in the end it was simply left with General Petraeus having had an affair. An affair that was discovered through an FBI investigation into something else. Under these circumstances could he have possibly ridden this out, do you think?
KIMMITT: Well, he himself felt that he couldn't ride it out. He did the honorable thing and he resigned. He knew the effect that an announcement that he had been having an affair with someone not his wife -- he knows the effect that that would have on this organization and on the institution. Both the institution of the agency and of the military. And so he did exactly what one would expect of an honorable man and he tendered is resignation.
MORGAN: Now tell me this. We've had General Eisenhower, General McArthur, and General Patton, President Clinton, President J. F. Kennedy, all had affairs, all stayed in their jobs, all deemed to be great leaders. You know? Are we being a little bit too puritanical here? Haven't we just lost a great military and intelligent mind for sexual behavioral? And isn't it time collectively as a society maybe we looked at this or do you think that the discipline it has to be the case?
KIMMITT: Well, it's about ethical and moral leadership. We have a not conscript, not a draft army but an all-volunteer army. Our soldiers are looking to their leaders these days. Voluntarily for guidance. They're looking for leadership. They're looking for direction and they're looking for example. And in a volunteer army, when that is broken, when that trust and competence between the leader and led is broken, you've got to step down. But let's not forget, David Petreaus is a young man. After a period of reflection, after a period of somewhat of redemption, he still has a tremendous amount to offer the United States of America. I don't think we've heard the last -- and this is not the last chapter. So I would expect that after some period of time we will see him re-enter the public domain and continue to offer what he has offered up to this point.
MORGAN: Yes. And I think that will be a good thing.
Genera Kimmitt, thank you for going back. I appreciate it.
KIMMITT: Thank you.
MORGAN: Joining me now is Gregory Craig, he's a former White House counsel to President Obama.
Welcome to you, Mr. Craig.
GREGORY CRAIG, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Nice to be here.
MORGAN: Tell you, I'll leave my cars on the table. I find it, like many people, almost inconceivable that the White House, collectively, would have had absolutely zero knowledge of an FBI investigation with the director of the CIA. Tell me why I shouldn't be incredulous?
CRAIG: You should not be so excited over that issue. The FBI conducts many, many of investigations, Hundreds of investigations, sometimes they are high profile, sometimes they're less high profile. This clearly was a high profile investigation but routinely and ordinarily the FBI reports through the Justice Department and the Justice Department does not notify the White House or the president about investigations that are underway.
My experience is that we got told about indictments that were going to be coming forward or about arrests that were going to be made, but we were not consulted or informed about investigations underway. And there are a lot of good reasons for that. This is not just something that happens with Democratic attorney general, it happens with Republican attorney general as well.
MORGAN: Right. But let me just jump in there. Because this is just not any old investigation, is it? You're talking about one of the top intelligence agencies, investigating the chief of the other one.
MORGAN: And it's over a sex scandal that could potentially and has bring him down.
CRAIG: Well, it's -- there's a -- the issue of whether you want to have any appearance that there's political judgments being exercised as opposed to just pure law enforcement judgment exercise, and that's why there's no rules here. There are no laws here. There's really no conventions here other than under normal circumstances the FBI and the Justice Department does not include the White House or consult the White House in these kinds of investigations because no matter who is the president, you don't want the White House to be involved in making the decisions about prosecutorial issues.
Also you don't want to maximize disclose of evidence or privacy if these investigations don't turn out to be productive and lead to nothing.
MORGAN: And what we're told, though, is the investigation was concluded before the election, but the news was only imparted after the election. Now that obviously lends itself immediately to conspiracy theories. Why wouldn't they have just gone straight to the White House the moment they knew the investigation was concluded?
CRAIG: I'm not sure I understand what conspiracy you want me thinking about. It does seem to me that it's justified for me to go to the White House early and quickly and promptly if there is -- are issues of national security, there are missions that are being compromised, clandestine activities that might be undermined, or if there's a compromise of national security information or national secrets, or, alternatively, you would go to the White House if the president had to make a policy decision that would influence the outcome of the investigation.
None of those circumstances were here, Piers. This was a -- an investigation of a bunch of e-mails. And the allegation was not that anybody was involved in spying or espionage, the allegation had to do with private activity.
MORGAN: Unless of course the classified documents that now appeared to be on a computer turned out to be highly sensitive and that would take it to a different realm, wouldn't it?
CRAIG: But of course it would. But as I understand it, the -- it's probably the case that the Justice Department knew about this. The attorney general or people near the attorney general knew about this fairly early on. And made the decision that unless there was national security issues that had to be acted upon or actions taken, this should go the ordinary route. It should not be treated any differently.
As I understand it, the national intelligence community was not notified until Wednesday and the president himself was not notified until Thursday.
MORGAN: Greg Craig, I really appreciate you clarifying it. Thank you very much for coming on.
CRAIG: Happy to be here.
MORGAN: When we come back, another man who knows a lot about a White House in crisis, President Clinton's special counsel, Lanny Davis. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she's an easy target, then they've got a problem with me.
MCCAIN: If the president thinks that we are picking on people he really does not have any idea of how serious this issue is.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: The battle raging over Ambassador Rice and the strong word from President Obama and Senator McCain are at the heart of the issue of Benghazi and question so a cover-up.
With me now is Lanny Davis. He's the former White House special counsel to President Clinton.
Lanny, welcome back.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL TO CLINTON: Hi, Piers. Thanks.
MORGAN: This is all getting very heated. And I watched the president. He was very animated, very forceful, basically saying leave Ambassador Rice alone, come after me. But it's not as simple as that because she was the one sent out on that Sunday onto all the morning television shows. I know because I watched it happen. And she was the one spinning the line that came from intelligence. Now that intelligence may have been flawed but she was still the go-to person for the White House, wasn't she?
DAVIS: Yes. And I have been on the White House on Fridays and Saturdays as decisions are made who goes on the Sunday morning shows. There are important decisions in the White House every Friday and Saturday because sometimes policy is enunciated on these Sunday shows. So in this instance there had to be someone to address the tragedy at Benghazi, and Ambassador Rice was the prominent person available, and she was given talking points, my understanding and reported, by the intelligence community that was consulted on what to say.
Now that turned out to be wrong. And I have great respect for John McCain and Lindsay Graham. I consider them friends. And they are certainly right. This needs to be full investigated 100 percent. It's very, very serious. But that's different than saying there was an intentional misrepresentation. And I don't understand attacking Ambassador Rice, who was doing her job and saying what she was told was the truth at that particular, which turned out to be wrong.
MORGAN: Right. And of course the point made to the senator earlier on Anderson Cooper's show was that, you know, he defended stoically Condoleezza Rice after she herself of course was part of an administration dupe over Saddam Hussein's WMD. Very similar circumstances. And that had much more catastrophic consequences, you could argue. So I think it's a rocky path to choose, you know, who you're going to defend and not defend over faulty intelligence.
I mean I do not believe, from everything that I've been told by people close to her, that Ambassador Rice deliberately misled people. I think she reported faithfully what she had been given by intelligence.
Now how culpable that makes her, well, we'll see when the investigation continues I guess.
DAVIS: Well, just to remind my friend John McCain, who I have the greatest respect for and was a friend of my -- friend then Senator Hillary Clinton, that Senator McCain reminded me that you don't attack people's motives, you question their judgment. The judgment to put Ambassador Rice on these television shows without having all the facts was the judgment the White House made.
And President Obama has it exactly right. If there's criticism to be made, it was in that judgment. In retrospect. But certainly I don't understand impugning the sincerity of Ambassador Rice for doing what she's there to do and speaking what she was told to say.
MORGAN: As somebody who obviously operated with President Clinton through a very well publicized affair, what do you make of General Petraeus, now that we basically have worked out, this is probably just about sex and not about secrets being passed or anything else. Should he have resigned?
DAVIS: I personally -- it's his personal decision, I don't question his decision. I personally do not think he should have been asked to resign. I don't think it was necessary for him to resign. And I agree with General Kimmitt that we should look forward to a new chapter in his life. He is a great and courageous man with a personal weakness that many other people, men and women, share. And in this case public humiliation and embarrassment is the pain and the penalty and he stood up to the line and said and did the right thing for him. But no, I don't think it was necessary for him to resign.
MORGAN: Let's turn -- again to the fiscal cliff. I want to play you a comment today to CNN's Poppy Harlow from Warren Buffett, at the sage of all things economic. Let's watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN BUFFETT, CHAIRMAN, BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY: I have never in those 60 years of managing money for all kinds of people come up with an idea and said, Poppy, I've got this terrific idea to make us some money and you say to me, well, I would do it but the tax rates are too high. It's never happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: And I watched that whole interview. He was fascinating. I mean I find him a fascinating guy anyway. There you've got the richest guy in America, one of the richest two or three people in the world, and he's saying look, I have never seen in my entire career, any evidence -- but he was quite careful about spelling it out in detail. Any evidence of higher capital gains or higher income tax that he would be in America when income tax was 19 percent. Capital gains was double what it is now.
He'd never seen any evidence that it had ever affected investment or job creation. And he said look, President Obama must carry through now his plan to tax the wealthy more. And in fact, he began to bring in a new staging posting, where if you earn $10 million a year, you would pay a lot more new tax than if you earn $250,000 a year.
I thought he made perfect sense.
DAVIS: Not only did he make perfect sense but it doesn't really matter what party you're in if you look at any poll. If you ask the American people, should people earning $250,000, $500,000 a year or more pay more taxes now to help dig us out of this terrible, immoral $16 trillion national debt hole.
The Erskine-Bowles and Allen-Simpson commission said the answer to that is yes, but we should cut corporate tax rates. And remember the Buffett rule, Piers, which he said I shouldn't be paying less taxes than my secretary? That's all Barack Obama is saying is that if we're going to sacrifice, Bill Clinton and people like myself should be paying more taxes and that doesn't mean that we're not going to make investments, and Warren Buffett has it right.
MORGAN: Yes. And by the way, the stinking rich, if they're paying 1 or 2 percent more, will still be stinking rich.
Lanny Davis, very good to talk to you again. Thank you very much.
DAVIS: Thank you, Piers. Thanks for having me.
MORGAN: Coming next, Jake Tapper, covering the White House from the front lines, what he thinks of today's contentious news conference. That's coming up.
MORGAN: President Obama faced little tough questions today especially about Benghazi and the Petraeus scandal.
Jake Tapper is the ABC News senior White House correspondent. He's also an author. His latest book is called "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Ballad."
JAKE TAPPER, ABC NEWS SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thank you so much. It's great to be here.
MORGAN: It is almost perfect timing this book, because we were just discussing before we went on air that it concerns two great generals in the book, McChrystal and Petraeus and the kind of celebrification, if you like, of the generals. And they are both gone before the book has really even hit the streets. Could you have ever imagined, when you were out there embedded with these troops, that that would happen?
TAPPER: No. And the book is mainly about the grunts on the ground. But it does look a lot at how people like President Bush, President Obama, their secretaries of defense, and how these celebrity generals -- how their decisions end up affecting these guys at this very vulnerable outpost at the bottom of three steep mountains, just 14 miles from the Pakistan border.
One of the things that emerges in the book is that McCrystal and his aides are obsessed with the idea of the celebrity general, as Petraeus has become. Petraeus, if you read his press clips, would you believe he was the savior of the war in Iraq. They wanted McCrystal to be that.
And there is this hubris that takes over celebrity generals.
MORGAN: Hence the interviews with "Rolling Stone" for Stanley McCrystal, hence the biography that Petraeus did, which, in the end, brought him down in many ways, putting in contact with this woman.
TAPPER: They start to believe their own press clippings. That's the danger.
MORGAN: And they start to play the media game in a game that you and I know normally ends in tears. .
TAPPER: Well, we are a fickle bunch, aren't we, Piers? And one day we are nice to you. The next day we are not.
General McCrystal very much, from the beginning of the time he was appointed to the head of the forces in Afghanistan is -- from the very moment of his confirmation hearing, he and the White House are in this back and forth. And it is actually long before that "Rolling Stone" story with Michael Hastings, getting he and his aids to bad mouth the administration. It's a long tug of war and it ends up having disastrous and deadly consequences for the men at the bottom of this hill.
MORGAN: Because it must be a huge distraction, all this, for the guys. My brother has fought out there. And you don't want to have the generals involved in scandal and mayhem and media stuff. It is just a total distraction, isn't it?
TAPPER: It is. And I have to say, with the Petraeus story breaking, we had a book launch on Saturday night. And a lot of the troops in the book came, a lot of their moms, gold star moms, gold star wives. And when Petraeus was mentioned, it was just this incredulousness.
These men served in an area of the country where they would not see a woman for months, because every time they went into an Afghan village, the woman would either hide or be hidden from them.
MORGAN: And there is their boss having an affair.
TAPPER: Exactly. And it got so bad -- there's a scene in the book like this, where it was like they were on a planet where women do not exist anymore. There was a female helicopter pilot that would buzz over them every now and then. They would all run to the communications shed, just to listen to her voice. They were convinced she was absolutely gorgeous.
Meanwhile, what is Petraeus doing in Afghanistan a few years later? It is madness.
MORGAN: There is a theory that look, come on, we had great generals, McArthur, Patton, Eisenhower, they all had affairs. Great presidents, JFK, Clinton and so on, all had affairs. It is only modern, digital era unraveling all this stuff that is the problem. What do you say to that?
TAPPER: Well, I don't think the idea -- the problem is that General Petraeus had an affair. I think the idea -- the big problem is that he was director of the CIA and he walked right into one of the black mail-able situations you can have.
I mean, it is good that the FBI found out before the Russians or the Chinese. That's the problem. It's not that he is a general messing around. And certainly, even though according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that is not allowed, that's not what the press is focused on. The press is focused on the director of the CIA having this problem.
MORGAN: Perhaps the biggest story today is Benghazi, which is blowing up again. Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham and other senators pushing very, very hard now, getting very vicious in the rhetoric towards Ambassador Rice and so on. What do you think -- at the central plank of this, do you believe that Ambassador Rice is at fault? Or she -- as Barack Obama said today, she was merely passing on intelligence. She was not a key player in all of this.
And therefore, if he wants to make her secretary of state, he can do it. What do you think?
TAPPER: First of all, I was substituting for George Stephanopoulos that Sunday as host of "This Week." And we were trying to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. All the shows were trying to get Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to talk about Benghazi.
For whatever reason, she didn't go out. They put out Dr. Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador. It's very interesting today that President Says, you know, Susan Rice had nothing to do with Benghazi. Then I don't what she was doing on the show.
MORGAN: That was my reaction. Didn't she make herself a key player? She was the person put out by the administration to launch the defense. And she could have said look, we believe there are a number of possible theories here. That may have been a get out. But she didn't take that option.
TAPPER: She, I think, was a good soldier. She did what the administration told her to do. She read the talking points. .
MORGAN: Did she act in good faith, do you think?
TAPPER: I can't get inside her brain. I don't -- I think she was repeating the intelligence and what the White House told her to say. Because what she was saying was very similar to what everybody in the White House and the State Department was saying at the time.
So I don't think she was doing anything other than what she had been instructed to say. The big question is not whether this was one of the prominent theories, that it was all a spontaneous protest from the anti-Muslim video. It was, obviously, one of the prominent theories.
But on September 14th, at the White House briefing, I said to Jay Carney there are other people in your government who say that it is probably not the video, that it's something else here in Benghazi. And for whatever reason, it seems like I had better intelligence sources in the government than people in the White House did, because they were leaning heavily into this videotape theory.
MORGAN: Or as John McCain would have us believe -- and he's got a very strong point about this -- it may well just have been the narrative for the White House running for the election of we are defeating al Qaeda, is not helped if it looks like an al Qaeda type resurgence was up against the ambassador in Benghazi and, indeed, led to his death.
TAPPER: Without question, as somebody who was covering the Benghazi story in the months leading up to the election, and also covering the election, it was so politicized with the White House and the administration in a defensive crouch, because they thought every word they said would be twisted and unfairly attacked. And they didn't obviously want to interfere with a positive narrative about al Qaeda.
And Republicans putting out conspiracy theories, some of them not rooted in any facts or evidence, that it was tough to report on this. Because both sides were not acting normally, as one would hope they would.
MORGAN: Jake, it's a fascinating book, "The Outpost, an Untold Story of American Valor," a riveting read about this extraordinary battle, but more about the people on the ground doing the hard stuff for their country. Good to see you.
TAPPER: Thanks, Piers. Great to be here.
MORGAN: Coming next, taking on tonight's big stories and much more, including why they want to kill their dog? Meredith Vieira and her husband Richard Cohen join me live. I can't wait to hear this excuse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MEREDITH VIEIRA, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: You have been everywhere recently, pushing reform publicly and behind the scenes urging both the House and the Senate to pass legislation before this August recess. Why is that deadline so important to you? Why even set a deadline?
OBAMA: Well, because if you don't set a deadline in this town, nothing happens. The default in Washington is inaction and inertia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: President Obama interviewed by Meredith Vieira in 2009. Meredith has stopped doing a proper job for a living and is a special correspondent for NBC News. And she joins me now with her husband, Richard Cohen, who is out with a new book -- and I want to clarify this. You were furious when you came out here.
VIEIRA: Of course I was.
MORGAN: You don't want to kill your dog.
VIEIRA: Of course I don't.
MORGAN: Richard wants to kill the dog.
VIEIRA: It was I want to.
MORGAN: It's an important clarification. The potential dog killer is your husband.
VIEIRA: Yes. I'm the dog lover.
MORGAN: You're the dog lover. Well, we'll come to this.
VIEIRA: I want PETA to be very clear on this.
MORGAN: We will come to this an extraordinary book, "I Want to Kill the Dog," a little later.
But let's talk about -- talking extraordinary things, there is the president. He has just got it again, reelected, pretty convincingly, in the end, and immediately engulfed in the bizarre, lurid tale of generals and sex and whatever else. What do you make of it?
RICHARD COHEN, AUTHOR, "I WANT TO KILL THE DOG": I think the biggest mistake that has been made is starting the investigation to begin with.
MORGAN: I totally agree.
COHEN: I think that this was unnecessary. I think it was trampling on people's rights, privacy rights.
MORGAN: In the end, you have two women clearly competing for his affection. One who has been having the affair and one who hasn't, but is probably being quite flirtatious, as we know from the way she behaves around other generals. And that's what started this.
VIEIRA: Do we know that was the way she was with Petraeus?
MORGAN: No, we just think that Jill Kelley is generally a bit like that with all the military guys. That seems to be what's coming out of Florida. But either way, it is their little squabble. And yet she happens to have a friend who is an FBI agent.
And the next thing we know, the CIA director is being grilled by the FBI and has to resign. And actually without any security aspect to it, which now appears to be the case, you are left with an affair that would have remained uncovered. Now there may be a moral argument against it, which would have been different if he had been in the military.
But as a CIA director, is he the first of those to have had an affair? I very much doubt it.
VIEIRA: I doubt it. Nor will he be the last. He made the decision.
MORGAN: What would you have said. If you were on the "Today Show," how would you play this?
VIEIRA: I wouldn't be judging one way or the other if I was on "The Today Show." That is not my role, to judge him one way or the other.
MORGAN: Wouldn't your viewers instinctively have felt that?
VIEIRA: I don't -- I think they would have been split. I think there's some people who feel you have an affair, that is wrong. You should -- and there might be questions of security, national security. We don't know.
I mean, I think we're still learning all of that. But I don't think -- if you said that it's just a relationship, an affair, I don't think that's anybody's business, personally. I don't think it necessarily affects what he does. Nor does it mean that someone should demand that he step down. But he made that decision.
COHEN: I think every American -- every American should be sitting here tonight realizing this could happen to them.
COHEN: Except for me.
MORGAN: Is there something that you want to get off your chest? Now is the moment.
COHEN: No, I'm serious.
VIEIRA: I know what you mean.
MORGAN: Explain that. What do you mean? COHEN: Well, I mean, I think this was an egregious over reaching of authority. And it was really trampling people's privacy and rights.
MORGAN: Mick Jagger made an interesting comment today, or yesterday. He was launching the new Rolling Stones documentary, going back into the late '60s when they first came to America. He said America seemed a much more gentle place then. And certainly there were no smart phones. And none of us would have been reading emails from a general, let alone knowing about his affairs.
And I did read it and think, he has a point. It has become a much more aggressive society, because information is easy collectible. And a great general could be brought down because two women are squabbling over e-mails. It does seem, when you put it like that, doesn't it, just innately trivial and damaging?
VIEIRA: It is, absolutely. But you also have to wonder why, given the fact we all that -- why people put themselves in that situation, too. Somewhere you have to know that once you're in a relationship, it could easily get out.
MORGAN: I think is a very valid point. I think it was certainly a massive risk to take. He would have known -- I guess he would have know the repercussions. And she -- and the other women aren't young girls. It's not like a Monica Lewinsky situation, where you could argue she was too young to really realize the consequences. Here you're talking about women in their late 30s, 40s. It is a different game, isn't it?
VIEIRA: And it's just tragic, too, because of who he is and what respect everybody has for him and what he has sacrificed for this country. So all of that makes it just very sad.
COHEN: Anything you ever put on the Internet --
VIEIRA: Comes back to bite you in the end.
COHEN: Can come back. There is no systems.
MORGAN: There are no secrets anymore, are there?
Let's take a break and come back and talk about some of your ghastly secrets, why you want to kill the pet dog.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIEIRA: Hibernate. Hibernate. Hibernate.
GROUP: Keep it down, we're trying to hibernate!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Meredith Vieira's star turn on "Sesame Street." I'm back with Meredith and her husband, Richard Cohen. Richard, presumably you would have slaughtered those animals, right, because you are the author of this extraordinary book -- there's you family pet Jasper -- "I Want to Kill the Dog."
Why do you want to kill poor Jasper? What has he done to you?.
COHEN: I have never hurt an animal. And this is sort of tongue in cheek.
MORGAN: Tongue in cheek? There is a picture of him. There is a saw. And it says "I Want to Kill the Dog." This is how you are selling your book. There is a family slap on the back. They all are, lovingly caressing him. You, you want to murder him with a saw. What's it about? It's obviously a bit of a joke.
COHEN: It is a bit of a joke. It's about a dog who is the most annoying dog in the county, who has got a shrieking bark that never stops.
MORGAN: Are we talking about Jasper?
VIEIRA: Really? Don't start. I know too much.
COHEN: He's also a dog who thinks that Meredith is his wife.
COHEN: And does not let anybody near her.
VIEIRA: He's possessive, which often happens with an animal.
MORGAN: Who chose Jasper? You did?
VIEIRA: Well, our kids did. Our children did. No, no. We were --
MORGAN: I grew up in a family of animal lovers. I was like an animal tolerater. I had a cat called Rocky Balboa. That was about it. But I never got into the whole animal thing much. So I always felt a bit detached, probably like Richard does, from this sort of over obsessive -- come here, give me a cuddle, have a cry, and two years later you bury them.
VIEIRA: That is the coldest approach to an animal I have ever heard. Two years later you bury them? They're part of your family. You are going to die as well. You may not think so, but you will.
MORGAN: They all use to just never last very long. Why invest all of this emotional time in something that won't last?
VIEIRA: Because they're part of your family. It's something you love and that gives you love back. Did Rocky Balboa not love you?
MORGAN: Rocky didn't last very long. And the pet goldfish I had, I'd come home, they're upside down. Oh great, another one is gone. Then what do you do? Explain to you why Jasper is to integral to your life.
VIEIRA: I'm able to give love. And you have a problem because of obviously stuff that happened in your childhood, which is your issue. No, Jasper has -- in fairness to Richard, Jasper is a difficult dog. He's a barker. He is possessive. You know, we --
COHEN: He's a shrieker.
VIEIRA: He's a shrieker.
COHEN: He's a shrieker.
MORGAN: I can see why he thinks he's married to Meredith.
COHEN: U.S. subs in the Indian Ocean have picked up the shriek.
MORGAN: It's a very funny book. I have got to be serious for a moment. It's very entertaining and very amusing. And anyone that does love animals, or even feels the way that you do and I do, a bit ambivalent about it, it's a classic family pet story, isn't it?
COHEN: It is. It's about a family. It's about the pet pedestal. It's about pet culture, which is totally out of hand. And it's a -- a little bit of social commentary and a lot of comedy.
MORGAN: It's very, very funny.
Let's talk about things that aren't funny, but it's been very entertaining to watch the breakfast TV wars. The general feeling, Meredith, is that since the moment you left "The Today Show," it's all gone to hell in a hand cart.
VIEIRA: That's not true.
MORGAN: Not far off.
VIEIRA: Obviously things happen. There are ups and downs for shows. And right now, "Today Show," where I was and I love and I hope to do more pieces with them -- obviously that's -- my Heart and soul is with NBC. Going through more of a difficult time than we did a few years ago. But we will be fine. We certainly will.
And Don Nash was just named executive producer. He is fantastic.
MORGAN: That has all happened today. And there's now a female executive --
VIEIRA: Alice Wallace.
MORGAN: -- overseeing the whole thing. First time "The Today Show" has had a woman really at the top, right?
VIEIRA: Yes. In that capacity, yes. Although Debbie Kasofsky (ph) oversees the 8:00 and 9:00 and she is fantastic. So there are women in positions of -- executive positions for sure.
MORGAN: Could you be lured back?
VIEIRA: I'm doing stuff for "The Today Show."
MORGAN: No, I mean permanently back on the couch?
VIEIRA: What does that mean?
MORGAN: Whatever you want it to mean.
VIEIRA: No, no. They have a great team in Savannah and Matt. They are fantastic and Natalie. They are great. And Al. They don't need me for sure. Why do you give me that look?
MORGAN: It must be quietly satisfying. Even though I know you love the show and the people there. It must be satisfying to know that you were clearly that popular.
VIEIRA: But it has nothing to do with me. That's not the case.
MORGAN: I think you're too modest.
MORGAN: I used to love you on that show.
VIEIRA: Well, I love that show now.
MORGAN: You and Matt were like Lennon and McCartney.
VIEIRA: Which one was I?
MORGAN: He is the pretty one. So he would be -- no, I'm kidding.
You would be McCartney.
VIEIRA: Thank you.
MORGAN: He was Lennon.
VIEIRA: Thank you. I like McCartney.
MORGAN: Is it hard to get that kind of chemistry, do you think?
VIEIRA: I think chemistry is very difficult. And I think it's -- whenever you build a new team, you have to recreate that chemistry, whatever that chemistry is. It's going to be different in every group. But I can say, the people that do "The Today Show" now are individually fantastic and as a group fantastic. And they have -- and I believe they have real chemistry, because they truly like each other. And I think that that -- and they also do a great show. But, you know, kudos to "GMA." That's great.
MORGAN: If it doesn't work out, we'll just send Savannah off to Richard here. And he can get his saw out.
VIEIRA: Savannah is fantastic. And you are a trouble maker and you're going to hell.
MORGAN: I like them. I like all of the shows in the morning?
VIEIRA: Do you? Do you watch any of them?
MORGAN: I watch them all.
VIEIRA: You watch none of them.
MORGAN: I've got to go. We're a news shows. We don't hang around on your broke of TV. "I Want to Kill the Dog," Richard Cohen, terrifically funny book. Lovely to see you both.
VIEIRA: So good to see you.
MORGAN: Come back soon.
We'll be right back.
MORGAN: Tomorrow night I'll talk to Senator John McCain about his battle with President Obama over Benghazi. That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.