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Susan Rice Gets White House Job; Samantha Power Chosen As U.N. Ambassador; Source: One Person Dead In Collapse

Aired June 5, 2013 - 14:30   ET

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


TOM DONILON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Finally, Mr. President, I've seen you represent the United States around the world and what you mean to the people around the world when you represent our country. When you step off that plane with the words United States of America, when you reach out to foreign audiences and speak to the basic aspirations we share as human beings, you send a clear message that America wants to be their partner. And that ability to connect to forge new bonds is a form of American power and influence that advocates our interests and ideals as well.

To Vice President Biden and Jill, Kathy and I have considered you dear friends for more than 30 years and it has been an honor to make this journey with you. To my colleagues and friends here at the White House and across the government, the American people will never truly know how hard you work in their defense.

To my long time partners in the senior leadership of the National Security Council, I could not ask for better brothers or sisters in this effort. To you, and all our remarkable national security staff, you're a national treasure and every day you get up, come here, devote your days to keeping our country secure, you are the best our nation has to offer and it has been an honor and privilege to serve with each and every one of you and I'm glad so many of you are here today.

And to my friends and colleagues, to Susan and Sam, congratulations. The nation is fortunate to have leaders of your intellect, compassion, character, and determination. Susan, you'll be an outstanding national secured adviser. Sam, you'll be an outstanding ambassador to the United Nations and I really appreciate your willingness to do this.

Finally, and most importantly to Kathy, Sarah and Teddy, as the president said, this job meant great sacrifices for you and each of you in your own way made a contribution to the country and I could not be more grateful.

So, again, Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity, the extraordinary opportunity to serve you and to serve our nation. I stand here 36 years ago almost to the day when I first came on the 18 acres of the White House to come to work, and I must tell you I leave this position much less cynical and never more optimistic about our country and its future. Thank you very much, Mr. President.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Thank you.

DONILON: Susan?

SUSAN RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Mr. President, thank you so much. I'm deeply honored and humbled to serve our country as your national security adviser. I'm proud to have worked so closely with you for more than six years and I'm deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.

As you outlined, we have vital opportunities to seize an ongoing challenges to confront. We have much still to accomplish on behalf of the American people and I look forward to continuing to serve on your national security team, to keep our nation strong and safe.

Tom, it's been a real honor to work with you again. You have led with great dedication, smarts, and skill and you leave a legacy of enormous accomplishment. All of us around the principle's table will miss you. And I wish you and Kathy and your family all the very best.

Above all, I want to thank my own wonderful family for their unfailing support. My mother, Lois, my wonderful husband, Ian, our children, Jake and Maris, and my brother, John, have all been my strength and my greatest source of humor. I'm also thinking today about my late father who would have loved to be here. I'm forever grateful to my family for their love and sacrifice.

I want to thank my remarkable colleagues at the U.S. mission to the United Nations. I am so proud of the work we have done together under your leadership, Mr. President, to advance America's interests at the United Nations. And Samantha, my friend, warmest congratulations. You're a tremendous colleague and the United States will be extremely well served by your leadership at the United Nations.

And I'm so glad we get to continue to work together. Mr. President, having participated in the national security decision-making process over the last four years, I admire the exemplary work done every day by our colleagues at state, defense, the intelligence community, and across the government to make our nation more secure.

I look forward to working closely with you, your extraordinary national security team, our country's most experienced leaders from both parties, and your superb national security staff to protect the United States, advance our global leadership and promote the values Americans hold dear. Thank you very much.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Thank you, Mr. President. From the day I met you, and you told me that you had spent a chunk of your vacation reading a long dark book on genocide. I knew you were a different kind of leader and I knew I wanted to work for you.

It has been my privilege here at the White House to serve you and it would be the honor of a lifetime to fight for American values and interests at the United Nations. Now that I have two small children, Declan and Rin, somewhere, the stakes feel even higher.

Thank you, Tom and Susan. I consider myself immensely fortunate these last four years to have collaborated with both of you. There are two no more dedicated professionals on this earth, no more strategic stewards of our foreign policy than these two individuals. And I'm honored and immensely humbled to share the stage with you.

I moved to the United States from Ireland when I -- with my parents who are here, when I was 9 years old. I remember very little about landing in Pittsburgh, except that I was sure I was at the largest airport in the history of the world. I do remember what I was wearing. A red, white and blue stars and stripes t-shirt.

It was the t-shirt I always wore in Ireland on special occasions. Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who had never been to America, I knew that the American flag was a symbol of fortune and of freedom. But I quickly came to learn that to find opportunity in this country, one didn't actually need to wear the flag, one just needed to try to live up to it.

For the next three months, I came home from school every day as my mother can attest, my dad can attest, and I sat in front of the mirrors for hours, straining to drop my brogue so I could speak and be American. Not long ago, my husband came across a letter written toward the end of World War II by his father who was a Navy lieutenant.

Dick had happened to stop briefly in San Francisco after his two years fighting for this country in the Pacific. And he wrote to his family on April 25th, 1945, the very day that the nations of the world were coming together in San Francisco to establish the new United Nations.

And in this letter to my mother-in-law, who I never had the chance to meet, he wrote excitedly conference starts today, the town is going wild with excitement. It is a pleasure to be here for the opening few days. Let's pray they accomplish something. Let's pray that they accomplish something.

The question of what the United Nations can accomplish for the world and for the United States remains a pressing one. I have seen U.N. aid workers enduring shell fire to deliver food to the people of Sudan, yet I've also seen U.N. peacekeepers fail to protect the people of Bosnia. As the most powerful and inspiring country on this earth, we have a critical role to play in insisting that the institution meet the necessities of our time.

It can do so only with American leadership. It would be an incomparable privilege to earn the support of the senate and to play a role in this essential effort, one on which our common security and common humanity depends. Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you, everybody.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: National security team announcements right now over in the Rose Garden over at the White House. John King has been watching this. We're going to go to Jessica Yellin in a moment. John, she doesn't need Senate confirmation, Susan Rice, to be his national security adviser. She's got the job now.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She has the job. Two new faces, Susan Rice and Samantha Power, called liberal hawks, called liberal interventionists. They have pushed for activity around the world, including military intervention in cases of human rights, however. We know the big question on that front is Syria. It would be interesting to see if the president would change his position at all.

Secretary Kerry at the State Department, still a relatively new face, has wanted the administration to be a bit more aggressive. Maybe it's arming the rebels. Maybe it's doing more so that's one thing to watch as they go forward. Susan Rice does not need confirmation. As you know, many Republicans, especially in the House, also in the Senate, still mad at her about Benghazi.

Thought she misled the American people, thought she was part of some administration statement. Some go as far as saying cover up, but the key voices, Wolf, in the Senate, number one, the question is will Samantha Power, who does need confirmation, will that become a proxy for the fight with the administration over Benghazi?

It seems like the lasting question maybe demands more information. Early indications are she might get roughed up a bit, but she's on a good path. The key to Republicans when it comes to Susan Rice, Bob Corker is the ranking Republican on foreign relations, Senator John McCain, Senator Lindsey Graham, Senator Kelly Ayotte, they have said maybe they would be the pick her, but they look forward to working with her. So on this day, a rough political climate, but things look OK.

BLITZER: What do they think at the White House, Jessica? Do they think that Samantha Power will have a rough ride through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the whole Senate?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they expect that there will be tough questions, but that she will get confirmed. They are confident of that. We have yet to see if it bears out. If I could shift for a moment away from the politics and just call your attention to something a little bit different here on a more personal note.

Because I know we'll talk a lot about the politics, but something unique here is you have two women appointed by the president now to very senior foreign policy roles, both of whom have very young children here at the Rose Garden at their announcement with the president. One child, Samantha Power child's so young, under a year old, that the child started to cry in the middle of the ceremony and was carried out because really just a baby at this point.

And sort of reflecting a sea change both in our culture and also the president's effort to diversify his cabinet and reflects what he promised to do when he ran for office -- an administration that reflects America. It also, I would say, in these choices reflects something about President Obama's character, which is he doesn't really like change that much.

These are both, people who are taking new roles, but have served in his foreign policy team in other capacities. Susan Rice has been at almost every national security meeting in the situation room. So he is continuing his foreign policy just with different faces no now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Both Susan Rice and Samantha Power were actively involved in his campaign back in 2007-2008 to win the Democratic presidential nomination and there were some tough words, both of them expressed in those days against the president's main rival at the time, who would be Hillary Clinton.

Susan Rice was pretty tough on her at the time and so was Samantha Power. Samantha Power at one point suggested to a Scottish newspaper she called Hillary Clinton a monster. She later made peace with Hillary Clinton over that, but that word monster describing Hillary Clinton certainly was something that was awkward at the time.

And at the time as you remember, John King remembers, she was sort of kicked off of that Obama campaign as a result of that one word monster. You want to make a quick point, Jessica?

YELLIN: I would say, she apologized to Hillary Clinton personally before the president's first inauguration and then she -- she and Secretary Clinton became very close allies in the first term, so close that she almost joined the State Department. There was talk of her joining the State Department until Samantha Power became pregnant. So that is something in the past, but very well remembered. I finally point out Samantha Power personally close to the president and first lady. They have a relationship dating back to days in Chicago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they certainly do. All right, let's get some Republican reaction now. Jason Chaffetz is joining us. He is a key lawmaker from Utah. He's been very critical of Susan Rice. You tweeted earlier today, Congressman, you thought that her views as far as the Benghazi situation was a concern and should disqualify her as the president's national security adviser. Go ahead and explain why you are so fiercely opposed to her getting this job.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Well, look, the president can select who he wants. He's obviously rewarding loyalty. What I'm concerned about is the national security adviser to look at intelligence and make judgment. A judgment is the key thing you look for. Obviously Susan Rice is demonstrating the case of Benghazi that she has very poor judgment.

She has said that she read the daily intelligence brief and yet went on those Sunday talk shows and perpetuated a myth, in fact, I believe a lie, to the American people. She's never apologized for that. She never helped set the record straight and it is something that I think she goes into this position without a lot of trust.

It is not as if she's made amends for this. She certainly has done nothing to help us get to the truth. If she is the true champion of justice as President Obama just said about her then she'll understand our relentless pursuit of the truth, which we have not yet heard about Benghazi. BLITZER: But you, of course, acknowledge that what she said on those five Sunday shows was based on the CIA's talking points that were provided to her and several occasions in those five separate interviews, she said, for example, on CBS, based on best information we have to date. On ABC, she said based on the information that we have at present. So if she was repeating what the CIA was suggesting was the best information they had at the time, why was she wrong?

CHAFFETZ: No. I disagree with that whole premise there, Wolf. What you have to look at is not only those talking points, but she embellished those and went beyond those talking points. I also still go back. I think the most important thing this White House needs to do, among many, is to release the September 12th e-mail. That is where the senior people within the State Department said that they told the ambassador from Libya that it was Ansar al Sharia Islamic extremists that committed this attack.

From that point forward, literally hours after the attack, truth was a casualty. We got further away from truth, we got to a myth, what I think is actually a lie. You to go back to what did the State Department, what did the Obama administration know and it's in that September 12th e-mail, you can't dismiss that and say it isn't part of the record. The White House has not released it.

The speaker of the House asked for it to be released. They should release it. It is unclassified and something that Susan Rice in her position at the United Nations should have been keenly aware of.

BLITZER: Do you have a problem with Samantha Power to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations?

CHAFFETZ: I don't know much about her. I want to give somebody the benefit of the doubt. I go through a rigorous Senate confirmation. I'm in the House, not the Senate. So it won't come across my desk, but I just simply don't know much about her. If she is ultimately selected, I wish her nothing but the best. We need a lot of help.

We haven't had a lot of success at the United Nations. It is hard to look back over the last several years and see where the United Nations has been helpful. We had explosions happen all over the world. I think the national security component has not gotten better.

We had, you know, the success with Osama Bin Laden, everybody pats the president on the back for that and the team that was around him. But above and beyond that, from Syria to North Korea to Israel to -- you name it, I have a hard time seeing any success from this administration.

BLITZER: Jason Chaffetz, the Republican congressman from Utah who has been at the forefront of these investigations. Thanks, Congressman, for joining us.

CHAFFETZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: John, very quickly, because we're out of time, but you heard the arguments against Susan Rice, what is does this say about the president of the United States, knowing that there would be this kind of reaction from a whole bunch of Republicans?

KING: The Congress is dead right to the president where the president is rewarding loyalty, number one. Number two, one of the knocks on the president, even some Democrats are saying this today that he's by nature insular. He keeps people around him that he likes. He's in a comfort zone for the second term.

It tells you that Susan Rice, national security adviser, brief key members of the House and the Senate if something happens in the world. She has to do a little diplomacy here. She failed to do that when the State Department was at play. She'll are to do it quietly. If she is going to convince these House members who were investigating Benghazi probably not, but she needs to start that process as we go forward. It is a tough job. She'll have a tough time.

BLITZER: It certainly is a tough job and for both of these jobs, U.N. ambassador and national security adviser. John, thanks very much. Jessica Yellin, thanks to you as well.

Be sure to tune in later tonight to Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT." She will have Congressman Chaffetz on to speak more about the appointment of Susan Rice as the president's national security adviser. I'm sure he'll have much more to say on this sensitive subject. Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT," later tonight on CNN, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. I'll have much more on this whole story coming up 5:00 p.m. Eastern in "THE SITUATION ROOM." In the meantime, let's go back to Brooke Baldwin. She is at the CNN Center -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you so much. As you have been watching what's been happening at the White House in Washington, we have had a lot of eyes and ears on a news conference out of Philadelphia as we continue to cover this breaking story here.

You see the aftermath of this four-story building, just crumbling to pieces, right around 10:45 Eastern this morning. Quick update for you, before we go to break, I've got some good news and some bad news.

Bad news first, according to Don Lemon and talking to his sources, there has been one fatality, one fatality here because of the building collapse. The good news, we listen to the fire commissioner in Philadelphia, Lloyd Ayers, and he was saying in this news conference that now an additional person, so 14, if you're following our math, 14 now pulled out alive. The search and rescue continues. More breaking news on CNN after this short break.

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BALDWIN: Coming up live on pictures out of Philadelphia. The aftermath, you see a couple of helmets, couple of guys, rescue crews, construction workers helping out, police, fire, all trying to rescue. This is an active search and rescue scene according to the Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and the mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, both of whom gave a news conference and just wrapped moments ago. Want to play a little sound for you and an update.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COMMISSIONER LLOYD AYERS, PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Apparently, what we have is -- we're in a transitional period. We have actually rescued, removed 14 people from the site. We have 13 of those persons that have been transferred to hospitals. The 14th person we don't have a comment right now.

The other thing is we're transitioning our members to get fresh personnel and staffing here, to continue to dig. We have two dogs that have come out to work the pile, to locate others so we can know exactly where we can dig.

We're preparing for 12 to 24-hour operation and we will be on the pile again, removing a little bit at a time, debris from that area so we can finish our search. We're going to continue until we have searched the entire area. It is an act of search and rescue right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just want to reiterate what I stated earlier, there is no additional new information, this is a permitted demolition site. The property owner STB Investments and I mentioned Mr. Richard Baciano is one of the owners of that investment. Also, there is Campbell Construction was on site, had an active permit that was pulled back in February.

And that's a pretty much all the information that we have at this point in time. We have been in touch -- we have been in touch with the owner to notify him, and, again, we're being constantly in communication with him, with the next steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hold on. Pulled is a technical term, meaning they got it. They went and received it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is called pulling a permit. Don't get excited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So just a couple of things. One, let's, again, keep in mind we did not know and we do not know how many people were actually in the thrift store this morning when the wall collapsed on the building. That is why the fire department, search and rescue operation continues. Still an active search and rescue scene.

Want everyone to be respectful of that and understand that that's the procedure and process that is going on. We did not know and we do not know how many people are actually in that store when the wall collapsed on the building as, of course, we would not know at any moment in time how many people are in any store, anywhere, at any particular point in time.

So the search and rescue will continue until we literally get to the basement and uncovered everything that we can possibly uncover and that's why also the search dogs are here with us this afternoon. Second, on --

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: OK, so this is Mayor Michael Nutter speaking, that was part of the news conference that wrapped just a couple of minutes ago and also speaking the fire commissioner in Philadelphia, Lloyd Ayers. This has been going on since just about 10:45 this morning. Keep in mind, this is still pretty fresh and we're just trying to parse through the information that we have thus far.

It sounds like they are still saying it is an active search and rescue operation there that is the still standing thrift store upon which that four-story building collapsed. So, again, to confirm, according to Don Lemon's sources, one person has been found dead as a result of this building collapse and at least 13 others have been pulled out and are hospitalized in total 14 people according to the fire commissioner pulled out. Just so we're clear there.

Also, before we go to break, we're getting new information here on a story I know a lot of us and a lot of you have been invested in, this 10-year-old out of Pennsylvania, her name is Sarah Murnaghan, here she is. Her situation is dire. Help talked to her parents. She is dying.

And according to her father who I talked to earlier this week, she has weeks to live. The issue has been getting her off of the child list for a pair of lungs and on to the adult list. They have been fighting. They want a rule change, not just for her, for other kids in her situation. We now have an update from the parents. It is becoming a legal matter. I'll get you that update on the other side of the break.

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