This morning on "Starting Point," Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, talks with Soledad about new CNN reporting detailing emails in the aftermath of the U.S. consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya.
Rogers says the emails confirm the consulate was a target, and was perpetrated by a terrorist affiliate of AQIM, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
"When you look at the entire timeline, Soledad, we know that there were threat streams from AQIM, Al Qaeda in the Maghreb and Ansar al Sharia, this group that was claiming responsibility that they referenced in the e-mail, is an affiliate of that Al Qaeda group," Rogers says. "This was clearly a targeted place, somewhere they wanted to have some terrorist success on the compound. So what you saw in the e-mails in that real time was a real description. And, as you noticed, there was no talk of demonstrations or other things. And it was clearly very early identified with a terrorist affiliate of AQIM."
Soledad also asks Rogers about conflicting reporting from the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal on what exactly happened.
"I think somebody latched onto what they wanted to hear in intelligence that was provided," Rogers says. "Remember, if you're an analyst and you do this for a living, you see all of this threat information about the consulate long before the September 1th attack on the consulate. We know twice that it's been attacked, which it tells you, by the way, Al Qaeda sponsored events, they want to - they'll continue hitting the target until they're successful. We saw that with the twin towers in the '93 attack, and then if successful 9/11 attack in 2000 - their success, not ours."
Rogers adds, "take a look at all of that stream of information, and then these e-mails that you just highlighted, it's really difficult to come to the conclusion up front that it was a spontaneous, not planned, part of a protest when none of that was in the early hours of reporting. So we're still trying to figure out what happened."
What I believe happened, Soledad, is that somebody saw something that they thought was the way that they wanted to talk about it, versus what the facts on the ground were, because, think about it, even when that narrative was starting to develop, oh, this was spontaneous, it wasn't planned, it wasn't really a terrorist attack, on September 13th we had another jihadist attack on an embassy in Tunisia. It was very serious, four people killed, not Americans, we had to evacuate the embassy, and they also went and stormed the American school there. So you see this pattern of activity is really hard to come to this conclusion that was just spontaneous, and just kind of happened.
The September 11 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans is certain to be a hot topic of discussion at tonight's foreign policy-based presidential debate.
A new Wall Street Journal report raises questions about the quality of intelligence following the attack. According to the story, "President Barack Obama was told in his daily intelligence briefing for more than a week after the consulate siege in Benghazi that the assault grew out of a spontaneous protest, despite conflicting reports from witnesses and other sources that began to cast doubt on the accuracy of that assessment almost from the start."
Rep. Chris Van Hollen discusses the presidential race and responds to the Journal's Libya report on Starting Point today.
"What this clearly shows is that the President and Susan Rice were presenting the American people with the facts as they were provided to them by the intelligence agencies, which really makes Romney and his team look pretty small with how he tried to exploit this whole thing for political purposes drumming up conspiracy theories," Rep. Van Hollen says. "From the beginning, the way that Romney has tried to exploit this for political purposes is a real violation of the traditions we have in this country when we come together at these moments of tragedy."
This morning on "Starting Point," Fmr. NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani weighs in on questions surrounding the circumstances of the U.S. Consulate attack in Libya.
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Soledad & Romney Advisor John Sununu sparred on topics ranging from the U.S. Consulate attacks in Libya to Mitt Romney's claims on coal, taxes and guns. And in the end, despite the fiery conversation, the discussion was ended amicably. Check out the video links below for more.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) on US Consulate attack in Benghazi & if Al Qaeda is stronger after President Obama took office.
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) weighs in on the Obama Administration's explanations for what happened in a U.S. Consulate attack in Benghazi.
Regarding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's claim of responsibility in overseeing U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, Chaffetz says he's glad someone is finally stepping up.
"I'm glad to see the Secretary of State – at least somebody's taking some personal responsibility," Rep. Chaffetz says. "But leading up to it, how did we get to the point where we diminished security in a very volatile type of situation? I think it's somewhere between patently false and totally misleading, this story that the administration spun coming out of this. They never said that terrorism was one of the potential parts of this. They very emphatic this was a video, this was a mob, this was whatever words they used. But clearly it was terrorism."
Chaffetz adds, "Look, when the Vice President came out in the debate and said, well, we had no idea they asked for more security. Ignorance is not really a great defense and even when Secretary Clinton said, look, security professionals made these decisions – no they didn't. The security professional that testified at the Committee said, 'We were under professional to come up to normal, quote, unquote, 'normalized' on a political timetable.' That is very concerning. When the security professional on the ground is saying we need more resources, just a few more resources, those are denied. In fact, they were diminished."
Rush transcript available after the jump.
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Obama Campaign senior advisor David Axelrod previews the vice presidential debates, saying that Vice President Joe Biden is looking forward to it and the pressure will be on Rep. Ryan to explain details.
“One feature of this debate that will be interesting is a few weeks a go, Soledad, Congressman Ryan was on television and when he was asked to explain how they’re going to pay for this $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy, he said, "Well, it’s too complicated in this short period of time." Well, now he has 90 minutes to do it so perhaps he’ll use his time that way,” Axelrod says.
Soledad also asks about Romney’s proposed tax cut, and asks why Democrats continue to refer to it as a “$5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy” even though some analysts say it's not true.
"What nobody disputes is that Governor Romney’s proposed $5 trillion in tax cuts that would be skewed to the wealthy," Axelrod says. "What he says is, ‘I’m going to offset it with $5 trillion in tax increases in the form of closed loopholes and deductions.’ But he won’t tell anybody what they are. So what we know is he’s got a tax cut that’s going to favor the wealthy and he’ll give us the details on how he’s going to offset that later. And if I’m the middle class, I’m saying, "Watch out," because we know how this ends. We’ve seen this story before.”
Axelrod also addresses the US Consulate attack in Benghazi, and the statements from the Obama Administration as to what happened. "No one has an interest in obscuring facts about this. The President, of all people, wants all the facts so that he can act on them and make sure that in the future, if there were deficiencies, that we address them," he says.
Full transcript available after the jump.
CNN National Security Contributor, Fran Townsend reports on new details regarding the consulate attack in Benghazi.
The Obama Administration's initial assessment of the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi determined that protests over an anti-Muslim movie led up to the attack on the consulate that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.
However, according to new information relayed by two senior State Department officials on a conference call with reporters yesterday, there were no protests before the attack and the streets were quiet.
Documents obtained by CNN also indicate that top security officials in Libya asked for extra security for the Benghazi consulate in the months before the diplomatic post was overrun, but received no response from superiors.
These recent revelations, as well as the information disclosed in a House Oversight Committee hearing set to happen today, will definitely have an impact on the campaign trail.
Jen Psaki, traveling press secretary for the Obama campaign, talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to discuss the new information and to weigh in on today's hearing.
Psaki says that it's "unfortunate" that the Romney campaign has made the Libya attack a political issue, asserting that "nobody wants to get to the bottom of [what happened] more than the president."
The campaign rep. also responds to recent polls that show Romney gaining ground in the presidential race.
"We don't get too high when things are high or down when things are down, and that's why we're running like we're five points down in every state," Psaki explains. "We knew this race was going to be close."
In just a few hours, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing to look into the murky circumstances and possible intelligence failures that led to the deadly September 11th attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.
The hearing comes just a day after a bombshell briefing from the State Department. During a conference call with reporters yesterday, two senior State Department officials said that violent protests over an anti-Islam video, which the Obama administration has blamed for the attack, never even took place in Benghazi.
"There had been nothing unusual during the day outside... There was nobody on the street," a senior official said. "Then at 9:40 they saw on the security cameras that there were armed men invading the compound."
Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz has recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Libya and he joins Starting Point today to defend his suggestion that the there was a coordinated effort between the White House and the State Department to scale down security precautions in the country prior to the attack.
"When intelligence information comes forward, it doesn't just go to the State Department, it also goes to the White House. That's why we have a National Security Council. So for the White House to claim ignorance on this is absolutely, totally not true" Chaffetz says.
The Congressman also defends his criticism of the Obama administration despite the fact that he voted to cut funding for embassy security.
"When you're in tough economic times, you have to prioritize things," Chaffetz says. "Libya was not a priority. I've heard because they wanted the appearance of normalization. That fit the Obama narrative going forward."