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Clinton Says Lewinski was 'Loony Toon'; Feds Expand Same-Sex Marriage Rights; Kenneth Bae: 'I Have Not Lost Hope'; Paper Rethinks Christie Endorsement; Lewinsky Scandal Resurfaces

Aired February 10, 2014 - 13:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Right now, a narcissistic loony toon. That's how newly released documents say Hillary Clinton described Monica Lewinski to a close friend. The question: why is all of this coming out now, and do voters still care?

Also right now, rethinking Chris Christie. A New Jersey newspaper says it blew it by endorsing him last year and now calls Christie the most overrated politician in the country. We'll speak with the editor behind those comments.

And right now, coming to America solo. The French president's decision to come alone has people talking, and White House staffers scrambling.

Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

A revealing glimpse today inside the mind of Hillary Rodham Clinton during one of the lowest points of the Clinton presidency and her marriage. Clinton has written before about the shocking affair between president Clinton and the then-White House intern Monica Lewinski, but newly discovered papers from a deceased family friend now explain how Clinton was able to forgive her husband and salvage their relationship.

CNN's Erin McPike has been looking into all of this for us, and it's pretty fascinating. But tell our viewers what you found.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, according to these papers that were written by Clinton's family friend, Diane Blair, Hillary Clinton had said that Bill Clinton's affair was a lapse, essentially, and as you know, he had said that he had caused problems in their marriage before. But she said he tried to break it off, and then he tried to manage Monica Lewinski.

But all of this is very interesting, given what Republican Senator Rand Paul has been saying in the past few weeks.


MCPIKE (voice-over): Hillary Clinton forgave Bill Clinton years ago for his affair with Monica Lewinski, someone she called a "narcissistic loony toon," according to old writings first unearthed by conservative site The Washington Free Beacon. Though she called his behavior gross and inappropriate, Mrs. Clinton confided to friend and colleague, Diane Blair, that she blamed her husband's transgressions on the personal toll, the deaths of his mother, her father and friend Vince Foster took on the president. She said the affair was meaningless and consensual, not a power play by Bill Clinton.

An interesting twist, now that Republican Senator Rand Paul has called the 42nd president a sexual predator and is challenging Democrats to avoid raising campaign money with him.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KY: If they want to take a position on women's rights, by all means do. But you can't do it and take it from a guy who is using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.

MCPIKE: He tells CNN "It isn't her fault the way her husband behaved," but he also called them "a fundraising team."

Team Clinton hasn't responded, but supporters say Bill Clinton's past is ancient history. Of course, Paul has a history of needling the Clintons, especially the former secretary of state, for her handling of the death of four Americans in Benghazi.

PAUL: Had I been president at the time, and I found that you did not read the cables from Benghazi, you did not read the cables from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable.

MCPIKE: A tragedy Clinton addressed during a speech last month in New Orleans.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: My biggest, you know, regret is what happened in Benghazi. It was a terrible tragedy, losing four Americans, two diplomats, and now it's public so I can say two CIA operatives.

MCPIKEsaMCPIKEmc: Saturday night in Houston, Paul hit harder.

PAUL: We're talking about six months of ignoring repeated, one after another, requests for security. But then the coup de grace, and the thing that I think should limit Hillary Clinton from ever holding office. When she was asked for reinforcements, she turned down reinforcements, and we should never, ever have a commander in chief who won't send reinforcements.


MCPIKE: But according to a new book about Hillary Clinton that releases Tuesday called "HRC," a book that was discussed on ABC's "This Week" yesterday, former General David Petraeus does not agree with Rand Paul. He reportedly told the book's authors, quote, "like a lot of great leaders, her most impressive qualities were most visible during tough times. In the wake of the Benghazi attacks, for example, she was extraordinarily resolute, determined and controlled." And what I think is very interesting about that, Wolf, is you now have two very high-profile Republicans in defense, both Petraeus and former defense secretary Robert Gates, basically coming to Hillary Clinton's defense on security issues and Benghazi, especially when Republicans say they're going to make that such a big issue if she does run.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to learn a lot more about the book's authors and the book later tonight on "PIERS MORGAN." The two authors of this new book on Hillary, they're going to be our special guests. So we're anxious to see that, 9 p.m. Eastern. We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up later this hour, as well.

Erin, thanks very much.

Gay rights are calling it a landmark announcement. The Justice Department is expanding its recognition of same-sex marriages. That recognition will now include federal legal matters such as bankruptcies, prison visitation and survivor benefits. In a speech at the human rights campaign gala over the weekend, the attorney general, Eric Holder, announced the action he's taking today.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I will issue a new policy memorandum that will for the first time in history formally instruct all Justice Department employees to give lawful, same-sex marriages full and equal recognition to the greatest extent possible under the law.


BLITZER: Bringing in our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

So Jim, how will this affect the 34 states where same-sex marriages are not legal?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first we should point out that Attorney General Eric Holder is going to issue a memo sometime this afternoon to make official essentially what he revealed over the weekend, that the federal government is going to recognize same-sex marriages in all 50 states, even in those states where same-sex marriage is currently not legal.

And as you mentioned a few moments ago, Wolf, this is going to really pertain, as Eric Holder said, to areas where the federal government has jurisdiction: bankruptcy court cases, other federal court proceedings, survivor benefits issues and so on.

And so this is really leading social conservative groups to attack the White House. The Family Research Council came out with a statement over the weekend saying that this was another example of the administration's, quote, "lawlessness."

But Eric Holder in that speech to the Human Rights Campaign, Wolf, said this is really about equal protection under the law. And he also framed this as a civil rights issue, saying that this really belongs in the same category as the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, Wolf.

BLITZER: So are some civil rights leaders, recalling the civil rights movement back in the '60s, are they happy with this comparison? Because there are some African-Americans, for example, who disagree with that comparison.

ACOSTA: That's right. And this White House has heard about this, as you know. The president has been evolving on this issue for many years. But slowly but surely, Obama administration has really been striking out on its own, on this issue of same-sex marriage.

And as a matter of fact, I mean, just look at the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. delegation that was sent out to the Sochi Olympics. That delegation really was to reflect the administration's stance on same- sex marriage, on gay and lesbian rights issues.

And then just this morning, Wolf, you'll know that over the weekend, a football player by the name of Michael Sam from Missouri announced that he is gay before the upcoming NFL draft, considered a very big move in the sports world. But get this. The first lady and the vice president have tweeted their support to Michael Sam.

Let's put the tweet from FLOTUS -- @FLOTUS, the first lady, on screen. It says, "You're an inspiration to all of us, @MikeSamFootball. We couldn't be prouder of your courage both on and off the field," signed M.O. That's, of course, an indication that the first lady tweeted this herself. And Michael Sam has responded back, thanking the first lady for her support. Vice President Joe Biden has also tweeted his support.

So really this issue, Wolf, and we've seen this develop over the last several years, has become a very big civil rights priority for this administration, Wolf.

BLITZER: FLOTUS, of course, standing for "first lady of the United States"...

ACOSTA: That's right.

BLITZER: ... like POTUS stands for "president of the United States."

ACOSTA: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much.

Other news we're following, new disturbing video emerging of Kenneth Bae. He's the American missionary being held in North Korea. The video was taken Friday at a meeting he had with the Swedish diplomat. And just this morning, Korea's state-run news agency said a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea had arrived in Pyongyang.

Jim Sciutto is our chief national security correspondent.

What's going on over here, Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's extremely rare to get this video from inside the labor camp where he's being held to a very rare view of him, and he's the longest-held American in North Korea.

And what we see is some sobering video of a tired and noticeably thinner Bae in this conversation with a Swedish diplomat recorded on Friday in this labor camp. Remember we reported on Friday that he had been sent back there from the hospital where he'd been treated. And we get a rare view of him there, certainly not himself.

We also got a view earlier of the kind of work Bae is doing in this prison camp, working in a field. You can see on the left-hand side, one of the guards overlooking him.

Now, in this video, Bae says he's doing his best to stay strong, but he's very worried about his health, and he says he's lost as many as ten pounds while he's in camp.

Here's what he had to say.


KENNETH BAE, AMERICAN MISSIONARY HELD PRISONER IN NORTH KOREA: I'm trying to stay strong mentally and spiritually, and trying to stay strong emotionally, as well. But -- but my main concern right now is that my physical condition, during hard labor for eight hours a day, for the next couple months can be difficult. So if they can do something right away, it would be the best way to do it.


SCIUTTO: Very soft-spoken Bae there. He added a message to his family, saying he has not lost hope, has not given up. He also says that he hopes North Korea will allow a U.S. envoy into the country, Wolf, to negotiate his release.

BLITZER: Where do efforts to get his release stand as far as U.S. officials are concerned?

SCIUTTO: Well, stalled, because over the weekend, the North Koreans rescinded an invitation for the former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, Robert King. He's an expert on -- actually, that's wrong. He's a North Korean human rights expert at the State Department. But they rescinded his invitation to come into the country.

It's believed that's in connection with U.S.-South Korean military exercises going on. State Department said they're deeply disappointed. They also reiterated that those exercises have nothing to do with the case of Robert Bae.

As you noted, another former U.S. diplomat arrived in North Korea today. That is Donald Greg. He was a former U.S. ambassador to South Korea. But I'm told by the State Department, this is not connected to the Bae case. They're in there for another trip with diplomats, American diplomats, to build connections there. But certainly valuable, at least, to keep that conversation going while you have... BLITZER: He was a well-known diplomat. He was U.S. ambassador to South Korea during the Bush administration. The fact that he himself is there, that's significant. We don't know exactly what he's doing, though.

SCIUTTO: No question. They say just in general to build bridges between the two countries. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if he would bring up the Bae case. But the State Department says that's not the express reason for his visit.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure that he's there, at least with a tacit blessing from the State Department.

SCIUTTO: No question. The State Department also has mentioned the possibility of the Reverend Jesse Jackson going to North Korea, which he has offered to do to help discuss specifically the case of Kenneth Bae.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on that front, as well. Thanks very much.

The former president, Bill Clinton, he's under fire. Is he a liability to Hillary Clinton if she decides to run in 2016? Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, standing by. She'll weigh in live.

Plus, a little bit later, taking back an endorsement. A New Jersey paper says it blew it by backing Chris Christie for re-election as governor of New Jersey. I'll talk to the head of the paper's editorial board. We'll find out what led to the do-over.


BLITZER: Next hour, the panel investigating the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, meets. They'll go over responses to subpoenas sent out over the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal. But so far, two of the people at the center of the controversy have actually ignored the subpoenas, the fired campaign manager, Bill Stepien, the fired deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly. On Tuesday, Chris Christie heads to Chicago for an economic summit. Tuesday night he'll headline fund- raisers for the Republican Governors' Association. But as the "Chicago Sun Times" reports, none of the four Republicans running for governor of Illinois will be there. Instead, they're choosing to distance themselves from Chris Christie, at least for now.

Surely a different tune for the New Jersey governor. Back in October, the Newark-based "Star-Ledger" endorsed Christie in his bid for re- election, saying, "he's the most remarkable political talent America has seen since Bill Clinton." Today the newspaper calls him the most overrated politician in the country, and they say they, quote, "blew it" by endorsing him last year.

Joining us now to explain this pretty dramatic change is Tom Moran. He's the editor of the editorial page of "The Star-Ledger."

Tom, thanks very much for coming in. I assume this is all because of the so-called bridge scandal, right? TOM MORAN, EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR, "THE STAR-LEDGER": That's most of it. But I would say, we -- if you look at the actual endorsement, we had a lot of problems with him then too. This was a close call to begin with and a divided vote on our board. So we had called him overrated way before.

When we're talking about him as a politician, if you've ever seen him perform, he's the best I've seen since Bill Clinton. If you see him in a town hall setting. That was his political performance we were talking about.

BLITZER: And so -- but you obviously had other concerns, but you decided that he was best for New Jersey. But now you say the bridge scandal is one issue. What other factors forced you to effectively rescind that endorsement?

MORAN: Well, the bridge one is by far the biggest piece of it. There you have a serious abuse of government authority and it was directly related to Christie's inner circle. That issue of time for traffic problems came from his deputy chief of staff. And no one believes it stops with her. It goes higher. And the question is, how much higher. So that's the big one.

But I think we've also seen since then other things come out that are disturbing, especially in his use of the Sandy aid. His -- the recovery effort here has been pretty seriously botched, and we've seen evidence recently where he's diverted money to towns that didn't really need the help in order to win endorsements for his re-election. The worst case we have so far is in Belleville and Essex County. $7 million for a senior housing project that have been years in the work, and Belleville wasn't very damaged by Sandy. And when you think, we've still got thousands of families out of their home without not enough money to help put them back, that's pretty outrageous too. So that weighed in somewhat.

BLITZER: So, clearly, you don't necessarily accept his very firm denials?

MORAN: Well, his denials are whether he knew this was going on at the time. We are told by David Wildstein and his chief enforcer at the Port Authority that evidence exists that that's not true. But I'm not passing judgment on that until we get serious evidence.

What we know is people in his office ordered this. And that this is a life-threatening thing. It was a major inconvenience for thousands of people. So whether he personally ordered that and knew about it or not, I think it counts against him pretty seriously.

BLITZER: Because he says, you know, he was outraged when he heard his deputy chief of staff had made that -- had sent that message, go ahead and get some traffic jams going on over there -- I'm paraphrasing, obviously.

MORAN: Correct.

BLITZER: He says he didn't know anything about it. He was outraged. And as soon as he found out that morning, he fired her. That's not good enough.

MORAN: No, I'd be skeptical about that. I mean know, Wolf, that he fired her - he did not call her into his office and say, what the hell happened here? Why did you close the bridge? He just fired her and didn't speak to her. He's looking the other way. I think he's making a great effort to try to keep some definability and some distance.


MORAN: But it's hard to believe, given his style of management, this is a guy who is a micro manager, who gets appointed to tiny little boards, physical therapy boards and stuff he involves himself in. This is a pretty major thing. And during the time it went on, Mike Drewniak (ph), his spokesman, had dinner with David Wildstein, the man that was behind it, while the lane closures were going (ph). So, you know, I'm skeptical.

BLITZER: Yes. I never understood - and we've got to wrap it up. But I never understood why his deputy chief of staff, who had worked with him, Bridget Anne Kelly, for so long, why he never at least gave her the courtesy of a phone call or a meeting, saying what were you thinking, what were you -- is there any logical explanation you possibly could have had? What was going through your mind? Apparently he just decided to fire her without even giving her an opportunity to explain her position, which never was clear to me why he was doing that, unless -- and there was some legal reason why his lawyers were saying, don't even talk to her because she's in big trouble. If you talk to her, you could be seen as coaching her. You could be in legal trouble yourself. Unless there was some legal rationale, which I, obviously, still don't understand. You see any rationale at all for him not even giving her the courtesy of a phone call?

MORAN: No, unless he knew that she knew he knew. In other words, she -- if he called her into his office and she said, well, as you remember, we discussed this bridge closing, so what do you mean? That's one possibility. The other is just that he wants to keep as much distance as possible. As I say, I think the right attitude right now is skepticism and dig for more facts. But even with what we know for sure, this should be damaging to the governor. It's his office and his senior people who did this.

BLITZER: Tom Moran is the editor page editor of "The Star-Ledger." Thanks very much for coming in.

MORAN: Sure thing. Thanks for having me, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up later, an American working with al Qaeda could become the subject of a targeted killing by the United States. We'll have a live report from the Pentagon. That's coming up.

But next, will Bill Clinton help or hurt if his wife runs for president again in 2016? The Monica Lewinsky scandal surfacing once again. We're going to discuss with Gloria Borger when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: So could Bill Clinton's affair with a White House intern hurt Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in 2016? Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here to discuss.

Gloria, it's all coming to a head right now. These papers that have just been discovered from her deceased friend in Arkansas, Diane Blair, Hillary Clinton referring to Monica Lewinsky, according to Diane Blair, as a narcissistic loony toon and said that her husband tried to break off his relationship with her -- sort of thing, I guess, is titillating to a certain degree. But it's, what, 16 years ago.


BLITZER: In her memoir that she wrote back in 2003, Hillary Clinton wrote this. "I could hardly breathe. Gulping for air, I started crying and yelling at him. What do you mean? What are you saying? Why did you lie to me? I was dumbfounded, heartbroken, and outraged that I'd believed him at all." That was back in 2003, when she -- he acknowledged to her, confessed that he did have this affair with Monica Lewinsky. So I guess the bottom line is, this has all come up because of Rand Paul right now and his wife making these comments. Will the voters really care all these years later?

BORGER: No. No. As you point out, this is 16 years old. If you are inclined to want to dredge up all of this because you don't like Bill and Hillary Clinton, you'll do it, OK? And that's one of the reasons Rand Paul is doing it. And we can talk about that.

But in terms of learning anything particularly shocking from these Blair papers, I don't think - I don't think we really are. I mean what we see is a wife who is defending her husband, as she did publicly. Publicly she was talking about the right wing conspiracy, as you'll recall, because you covered it. Privately, she's talking about the reasons that he may have done this and saying, you know, he was not a predator. And so we've kind of known this has been her thinking. Is it interesting? Sure. As a footnote to history? Absolutely. Is it dispositive in one way or another about whether Hillary Clinton should be president of the United States? Of course not.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Rand Paul. Now, in fairness to Rand Paul, his wife gave an interview to "Vogue" magazine in which she described Bill Clinton as a sexual predator. He was asked about it later on "Meet the Press." He doubled down. And as we noted last week, he then tripled down over the weekend.


BLITZER: He's not backing away from this at all.


BLITZER: He's going, you know, full speed ahead --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Against Bill Clinton.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: So, why is he doing this?

BORGER: Well, and I've talked to people close to Rand Paul, and I think it's part of a campaign strategy. He is, right now, thinking about running for the presidency. He's trying to appeal to the Republican base. The Republican base doesn't like Bill or Hillary Clinton. And what he's trying to do is brand himself as somebody who will take them on. And what I was told is that Bill and Hillary are, quote, "running as a team." And that it's fair to attack "them." They understand that Bill Clinton will be one of her greatest advocates if she decides to run. So I think they're letting people in the Republican Party know that Rand Paul is no holds barred. We're going to - we're going to go after the Clintons -- and that's a plural -- when we need to. And I think that he feels that within the Republican Party base this is a way of distinguishing himself as a fighter against Hillary Clinton.

BLITZER: I think it will help them among that base. I don't know if he gets the nomination -

BORGER: Right, well -

BLITZER: How much it will help him in a general election, but it certainly -

BORGER: Well, and you can talk about the impact with women -


BORGER: And younger women in particular it might not work so well.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, see you later in "The Situation Room."


BLITZER: And later today - tonight, in fact, on CNN, Piers Morgan will speak to the authors of a new book on the former first lady. So what's really driving Hillary Clinton right now? You can watch Piers Morgan's interview later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Coming up, pressure from Congress on the NFL demanding a name change for the Washington Redskins. That's ahead.

And a little bit later -- but up next, the Obama administration is on high-level discussion about staging an operation to hunt down and kill an American who's helping al Qaeda. You're going to hear what the Pentagon has to say, when we come back.