CBS Touts GOP Talk of Benghazi 'Coverup,' Notes Petraeus Promoted 'Spontaneity' of Violence
On Monday's CBS This Morning, Sharyl Attkisson filed a hard-hitting report on the possible ties between former CIA chief David Petraeus's resignation and the continuing controversy over the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Attkisson spotlighted how Petraeus told several members of Congress that "video of the Benghazi attack supports an element of spontaneity, as the administration first claimed."
Anchor Charlie Rose also hyped Rep. Peter King's theory on General Petraeus's resignation: "The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says the timing of the resignation suggests a cover-up. Petraeus was scheduled to testify to Congress this week about the attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya." [audio clip available here; video below the jump]
The CBS investigative correspondent first noted during her report that "several members of the House and Senate...are confident that in the not-too-distant future, Petraeus will be asked to testify." Attkisson then played a clip of Senator Lindsey Graham commenting about the resignation on Sunday's Face the Nation. Host Bob Schieffer had asked the South Carolina Republican about whether there "ought to be a congressional investigation to sort this out, or is it best to just go on and leave it where it is?"
However, Schieffer didn't raise the issue with Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod later in the program. Instead, the veteran journalist played up how the President was seen "brushing away a tear" as he spoke to campaign volunteers and asked, "What was it like to be there?"
Near the end of the segment, Attkisson noted how "Petraeus isn't the only high-ranking official leaving his post since the Benghazi assault," and pointed out that "General Carter Ham is stepping down as commander of U.S. Africa Command. He was in charge of military operations in the region on that night."
The full transcript of Sharyl Attkisson's report on Monday's CBS This Morning:
CHARLIE ROSE: The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says the timing of the resignation suggests a cover-up. Petraeus was scheduled to testify to Congress this week about the attack that killed the American ambassador to Libya.
Sharyl Attkisson is on Capitol Hill. Sharyl, good morning.
[CBS News Graphic: "Politics Of Petraeus: New Questions Over Benghazi Testimony"]
SHARYL ATTKISSON: Good morning, Charlie. I spoke to several members of the House and Senate last night who are confident that in the not-too-distant future, Petraeus will be asked to testify.
ATTKISSON (voice-over): General Petraeus was scheduled to testify to Congress Thursday about Benghazi. Now, Acting CIA Director Mike Morell will fill that role. But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham told 'Face the Nation' that Petraeus is still the CIA's man who knows the most about Benghazi.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R), SOUTH CAROLINA (from CBS's "Face the Nation"): I don't see how in the world you can find out what happened in Benghazi before, during, and after the attack if General Petraeus doesn't testify.
ATTKISSON: Diane Feinstein, the Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, sees Petraeus's resignation the Friday before his scheduled appearances coincidental, but doesn't rule out a future appearance.
CHRIS WALLACE (from Fox's "Fox New Sunday"): Do you think you need to hear from Petraeus?
SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN, (D), CALIFORNIA: We may well, and we may well ask. I think that's up to the committee.
ATTKISSON: CBS News has learned that General Petraeus visited Libya at the end of October, and called several members of Congress the week before he resigned, saying that surveillance video of the Benghazi attack supports an element of spontaneity, as the administration first claimed. At least one Republican reportedly expressed strong disapproval to Petraeus over standing by that analysis.
Meanwhile, speaking at the University of Denver last month, Petraeus's biographer and alleged mistress Paula Broadwell revealed information about the attack that some say may indicate she was privy to sensitive information.
PAULA BROADWELL, AUTHOR (from October 26, 2012 speech at the University of Denver): I don't know if a lot of you heard this, but the CIA annex had actually – had taken a couple of Libyan militia members prisoner, and – and they think that the attack on the consulate was an effort to try to get these prisoners back. So, that – that's still being vetted.
ATTKISSON: Petraeus isn't the only high-ranking official leaving his post since the Benghazi assault. General Carter Ham is stepping down as commander of U.S. Africa Command. He was in charge of military operations in the region on that night. General Joseph Dunford is stepping down as the Marine Corps' second in command. The Pentagon calls both moves routine successions. Also, the Navy has replaced Charles Gaouette, a career admiral who commanded the USS Stennis aircraft carrier strike group in the Middle East, due to recent allegation of – quote, 'inappropriate leadership judgment not otherwise described'.
ATTKISSON (on-camera): There's been some tension between the State Department, the CIA, and the Pentagon in recent weeks as they worked, in the words of one official, to sync up their Benghazi timelines. Thursday, the closed-door hearing, intelligence officials will show senators a Benghazi surveillance video, with a timeline, for the first time. Charlie?
ROSE: Sharyl Attkisson in Washington, thanks.