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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Ret. General claims it was known Benghazi wasn't about video

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," May 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RET. BRIG. GEN. ROBERT LOVELL, U.S. AIR FORCE: What we did know quite early on was that this was a hostile action. This was no demonstration gone terribly awry. To the point of what happened, the facts led to the conclusion of a terrorist attack. The Afri-Com J-2 was focused on attribution. The attacks became attributable very soon after the event.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, R - UT: The CIA station chief is quoted as saying, quote, quote "not not an escalation of protest," end quote. Would you agree or disagree with the CIA station chief's analysis?

LOVELL: That it is not not an escalation? Absolutely. It was an attack. There was a lot of looking to the State Department for what it was they wanted, and in the deference to the Libyan people and the sense of deference to the desires of the State Department in terms of what they would like to have.

CHAFFETZ: Did they ever tell you to go save the people in Benghazi?

LOVELL: Not it to my knowledge, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: Retired brigadier general Robert Lovell, deputy intelligence director for Afri-Com, that's what he was talking about the J-2, that is that position. He was watching the night of September 11th from Stuttgart, Germany, real-time as everything was going down in Benghazi, and he was reporting it up the chain real-time. He says they knew right away that this was not tied to the video and that it was a terrorist attack. In fact, he had it tied to a group with ties to Al Qaeda, and they had a target list assembled in the first hours, according to the general.

With all of this, let's bring in our panel, syndicated columnist George Will, Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Among the new questions are old questions in new lights. There's first the testimony of General Lovell, which was very affecting because he is obviously deeply distressed about what happened. I gather the military will now have to say whether or not he was in a position to know all these things, and in its exercise of its oversight functions this is one of the things Congress should ask about. The military questions, what assets did we have? Could we have done more?  Is his assessment right? I assume there will be real dissent in the military.

The most riveting thing I've seen is in Catherine Herridge saying that even before the attack was over Mrs. Clinton sent out that press release. Now, Mr. Vietor in his discussion with you said, well, there was a pause in the attack. There was an attack and a pause and then it resumed again, and because there had been some turmoil in the region associated with the Internet video, it was reasonable for her to say that.

So then the next question is, three days later when the bodies come back to Andrews Air Force Base and she doubles down on the internet video saying to one of the parents of the dead Americans that we will arrest and prosecute the perpetrator of the video, did nothing happen in those three days to thoroughly undermine this narrative to which they were still clinging?

BAIER: Mara?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Yeah, I think that what happened today and the last couple of days shows that this is an issue that's not going to go away and it kind of got a new lease on life this week, I thought. It is something that is certainly going to dog Hillary Clinton. Now, Barack Obama doesn't have to run again, and I don't know what further trouble this is going to cause him. But this is a story that is going to be on the campaign in 2016, and I think it got a new lease on life because, especially with the Ben Rhodes e-mail, whether or not it was about other things other than Benghazi protests, what it paints a picture of is a White House determined to spin as best as it could and to put out a story that was the most advantageous to the president. It doesn't mean that they knew it was a terrorist attack and had nothing to do with the video and purposely lied, but you see the picture of a White House spinning.

BAIER: To that point, it has been an interesting couple of days watching Jay Carney in that briefing room deal with not just Ed Henry but other reporters from many other networks. Take a listen to this exchange today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the e-mail was not about Benghazi as you said yesterday and you say again today, why did the White House turn it over to a conservative group seeking information about Benghazi?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You would have to ask the State Department about how they responded to FOIA requests. I would again point you to the fact that -- I mean, all you have to do is read it, Ed, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BAIER: He went on to talk about the talking points. But that line, that the e-mail was not about Benghazi, I mean, that just can't sit well in that briefing room, can it, Mara?

LIASSON: No. I mena, it might have been about other things including Benghazi, but it was part of the Benghazi FOIA request.

BAIER: In fact, the line after the line that's focused on about the video says, "To show," telling Susan Rice, "We need to convey to show that we will be resolute in bringing people who harm Americans to justice." Now, there were no other Americans harmed in any other protest around the world.

LIASSON: Right. That was, clearly he was referring to the incidents there. I just think that, you know, this was something that could have had something to do with the video, the terrorists could have used it as a pretext. But this now has a lot of levels, and the only thing that's missing is evidence that the White House absolutely knew that everything they were being told about the video at the time was not true. They do have the CIA still to rely on to say, look, these talking points were sent to us by our intelligence community.

BAIER: The key part is that Mike Morell said he relied on analysts in Langley as opposed to people on the ground. And he chose to discount what his own CIA station chief was saying on the ground. That's kind of interesting.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I think what's really happened here is, what Mara says, this e-mail has sort of reopened this in the same way that in Watergate it was this sort of quiet, private discovery that there were tapes in the White House. It had also died down, and I think Richard Nixon would still be President of the United States today, by hook or by crook, had the tapes not been discovered. And that's what restarted it.

And this e-mail from the White House, that's what everybody had said, is there a way to -- is there any involvement here of the White House which makes it obviously a political issue, the reelection of the president overriding the truth. And that's why I think it's all real.

But watching Carney today, I have to say again, they don't pay him enough.  On the first question is, if this was a release of information for a request on Benghazi, how can you tell us it isn't about Benghazi, he simply says, I have no idea, ask the State Department. But then when you point out the fact that this is the only time -- well, it isn't the only -- there's one of these rare times when you get a high administration official going on all five shows. It happened only once in the Bush administration. It never happened in the Clinton administration. And if they had not been about Benghazi, does anybody imagine she would have been on the five shows because of a demonstration in Cairo? That's ridiculous.

The briefing, the appearance, it was all about Benghazi. Of course everything in the memo is about Benghazi. And when Carney denies it, he simply looks foolish.

BAIER: I didn't pull the sound bite, but a few weeks ago you said right here on this panel that Republicans should move on, that they should kind of leave Benghazi alone, that it was a dead end. Have you changed your perspective?

KRAUTHAMMER: Yes, because of the appearance of this memo. To me, it's the equivalent of what was discovered with the Nixon tapes. The point is that Republicans have done a terrible job in building the case. Even today, I have to say, the questioning was disjointed. It was not organized. If they had appointed a special committee a long time ago the way it was done in Watergate, we would have had answers on this and the country wouldn't be tired.

But what I did say was the reason it would not go anywhere is because the lack of interest of the other media. And what's changed now and we saw it in the briefing room is that I think the other media are somewhat embarrassed by the fact that, unlike Fox, they allowed themselves to be stoned and spun and rolled for a year and a half, and now the memo appears and it's obvious that they missed the story.

BAIER: Coming up, we'll talk about that interview with Tommy Vietor, former spokesman for the NSC.

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