Tuesday, November 20, 2012 2:20 PM
Below is a CNN transcript of Rep. Peter King's appearance before the press after David Petraeus appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on November 16. King is clearly struggling with what he has heard from Petraeus: a version of Petraeus' September 14 briefing at odds with what King and, more important, the record as set at the time by the ranking Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger, recall. In a nutshell, on September 14, Petraeus emphasized a "spontaneous," video-driven protest that became violent as "extreme" groups opportunistically attacked the US compound (with RPGs and mortars). Petraeus spun this false narrative to the intell committee at a time when the US government already knew no protest whatsoever had taken place in Benghazi; rather, that the ambassador and three other Americans had been killed in a planned assault by al-Qaeda linked groups on the anniversary of 9/11. Petraeus' testimony, in other words, was a lie and an outrage -- but no one seems to care. Meanwhile, it is a crime to lie to Congress, oath or no oath.
On November 16, King made it clear that Petraeus had actually made things worse by changing his story; in this most recent testimony, the former CIA director maintained he attributed the Benghazi attack to a coordinated terrorist assault all along. Will any other members weigh in? Anyone?
...Let's listen to Congressman King.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: The original talking points prepared by the CIA were different from the ones that were finally put out. As far as General Petraeus, his testimony today was that from the start he had told us that this was a terrorist attack, terrorists involved from the start. I told him, my questions had a very different recollection of that.
The clear impression we were given was that the overwhelming amount of evidence is that it was -- rose out of a spontaneous demonstration and it was not a terrorist attack and I pointed out the following week when Matt Olsen said it was a terrorist attack and it made headlines because until then, the administration was saying it was not terrorists.
Again, it was very cordial, as you will. General Petraeus is an outstanding patriot. We shook hands before and afterwards. We all thanked him for his service. I think he has a different impression of the impressions he left on September 14th.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Chairman, can you tell us whether or not his affair or security surrounding his affair came up at all?
KING: Only in -- one question he was asked at the start, did that have any impact on his testimony, he said no.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How are the talking points different?
KING: The original talking points were much more specific about our prior involvement. And yet final ones, he said indications of extremists. Said indicate even though it was clearly evidence to the CIA that there was al Qaeda involvement.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did you get any idea why it was changed?
KING: They just said it goes through a long process, interagency process, and when they come back that had been taken out.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he seem concern that things have been changed? Was that surprising to him?
KING: He said at the time they didn't realize the full significance of that and that an unclassified statement this was acceptable. Again it's still very vague.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was Petraeus under oath?
KING: No. There's no given. No.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. King, are you -- did he allay any of your concerns? Are you satisfied with the presentation he made today?
KING: I'm satisfied with the ultimate conclusion he reached. I told him I honestly disagree with his recollection of what he told us on September 14th.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What did he say about the affair with Paula Broadwell?
KING: No -- there's no comment to that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did that make it -- did that make it hard, though, to get past that because of those salacious details have dominated the news? Did that make it hard to get to the brass tacks and (INAUDIBLE)?
KING: No. No. There was -- made clear at the start that would not be a focus of the questioning. And I would say 10 seconds into it, that was -- that was off to the side.
BASH: Is there a reason why you all wanted to hear from him is because since he briefed you the first time, he went to Libya? So he obviously had a bit of a trip report.
BASH: Is there anything you can tell us that he clearly learned from actually being on the ground?
KING: Yes, that would be classified. Other than the fact that they now clearly believe there was -- did not arise out of a demonstration. It was not spontaneous and it was clear terrorist involvement.
BASH: He said that straight up?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Mr. Chairman, (INAUDIBLE) right away.
KING: You know, this is ongoing. I mean this is -- it still can be -- obviously, you know, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and also people at the White House, to see if anyone at the White House changed their talking points.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you think you get to hear from him again on this and then also in the Broadwell situation?
KING: Well, you know -- we'll have to see. One day at a time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you saying he still couldn't provide any explanation at all as to why they came to that conclusion?
KING: He was saying --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: -- today that there's explanation?
KING: He was saying there are many strings of intelligence but he also stated that he thought all along he made it clear that there was significant terrorist involvement. And that is not my recollection of what he told us on September 14th.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How did he seem? Did he seem tired or worn down from this -- sort of what's been plaguing him?
KING: No. He was a strong soldier. Absolutely. He was very professional, very knowledgeable. Very strong. And again, spoke to him at the beginning of the hearing, end of the hearing. And he was a solid guy. I consider him a friend, which made the questioning tough to be honest with you.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How long did the testimony last?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why is that?
KING: What's that?
BASH: You said you consider him a friend, it made the questioning tough. Meaning --
KING: We can ask the questions. Sometimes in a hearing, the adrenaline is pumping, and you're going back and forth. Now you realize there's a tragedy here and you realized that he's going through an awful lot. On the other hand we have an obligation to find out what we could. So that's always --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give an indication --
KING: It's a lot easier when you dislike the guy when you ask them questions. I think you guys ask tough questions.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give any indication of how he felt about Ambassador Rice's testimony after watching tonight?
KING: He didn't watch the testimony.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he speak with her beforehand?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But you were saying that the points that the CIA gave the White House included al Qaeda involvement and afterwards that was taken out?
KING: But the CIA -- I don't know if it was with him -- said that the report -- the talking points were drafted were specific about al Qaeda affiliations or al Qaeda terrorist activities. They didn't have it in front of them. They said that was -- after it went through the process, whatever that process is, which they seemed unclear about, that was taken out.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, how long did the hearing last?
KING: An hour and -- he spoke for about -- he had an opening statement about 20 minutes. And so an hour and 10 minutes of questions.
BASH: Was he asked about the statement that Paula Broadwell made at a speech? You know, about the CIA?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you saying the DNI took it out or the administration took it out?
KING: No, that's the DNI. Well, again, it was not -- I guess it's how you define the administration because it also went to the Department of Justice, State Department, and I believe the National Security Council.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he talk about the films, the videos and how -- what he interprets?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what did he say about those?
KING: Well, I can't get into that. There was nothing -- nothing controversial.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But did you guys watch any films today like --
KING: No. No. We saw them yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yesterday? Senate Intelligence? KING: We saw them yesterday.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: You saw them.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he say why it was taken out of the talking points that it was al Qaeda --
KING: He didn't know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: He didn't know?
KING: They were not involved.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How could he not know?
KING: It was done -- process was completed and they said OK, go with those talking points.
KING: I got the impression about seven or eight -- seven, eight, nine different agencies.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he give you the impression he was upset that it was taken out?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he say the CIA said OK to the revised reports?
KING: No, they -- well, in that interim process they OK'd it to go. They didn't see -- yes, they said OK for it to go.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes. Who did he say -- who did he say --
KING: I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Who did he say he thinks committed the attack then?
KING: I would just leave it at al Qaeda affiliates.
BASH: (INAUDIBLE) awkward to have him in the room within a week after he resigned, under the circumstances in which he did?
KING: There was a certain amount of -- sure. Obviously all of us in the room, certainly myself, and all of us have a great regard for him. I've known him for nine years now. So it's -- I actually urged him to run for president a few years ago. So -- and I went to dinner with him. I consider him -- I know him fairly well.
BASH: Was there any discussion --
KING: Every time you see a human tragedy to a good person, it's tough to go through.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was there any discussion of the national security implications of his resignation?
KING: No. The resignation -- he just addressed in the beginning that he regretted what happened and that was basically it.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Sir, were there any talk of --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Were all members of the committee --
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The night of the attack about whether it was --
KING: As far as I know they were all there.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Was he involved in the actual decision-making the night of the attack?
KING: I don't want to get into that, but he was -- he was definitely fully aware of what was going on, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he ask for military backup?
KING: I am never going to get into that. I can't get into any of that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Did he stick to the story that the first attack was -- the first attack was spontaneous, but the second seemed to be more organized, the mortar attack, the second attack may have --
KING: I can tell you the spontaneous aspect is definitely minimized right now. It just is. It was primarily a terrorist attack.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: How about how -- I want to be careful about this. Did he address how he interpreted the anti-Muslim film and how that sort of got to be part of this discussion even though he downplayed it?
KING: It was based on reports that we're getting at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But OK. But -- so that was part of what was going into this intelligence product that they were creating?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And they got other information later that said this wasn't? KING: Well -- yes, but also -- they also at the time, prior to September 14th, had clear information that this was strong involvement with al Qaeda affiliates. And that was not made part of their presentation at the time.
BASH: Our understanding of the incident is that the former director was going to explain that he saw kind of two streams of intelligence, one suggesting maybe Ansar al-Sharia was involved and the other, which at the time was more robust, that it was the protest resulting from the anti-Muslim video? Is that the way he described it to you?
KING: He did but he said today that -- at the time he was also emphasizing the involvement of Ansar al-Sharia and my recollection was that he was actually minimizing the role of Ansar al-Sharia. That's it. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Is the hearing over?