Send To Printer Email to Friend

Highlight of the transcript of CNN's Crossfire, aired May 16, 2002

NOVAK: Senator Durbin, just to clean up a factual question, the August briefing of the president -- today, the chairman of the House Committee, Congressman -- House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Goss, said his committee essentially had the same information. Just let me finish. He said that.

DURBIN: I'm not answering. Go ahead.

NOVAK: Yeah. The -- your chairman, Senator Graham, said your committee had the same information. Senator Shelby -- this was -- that sound bite was 24 hours old, and Senator -- this morning --Senator Shelby this afternoon says he had the same information. Were you -- were you playing hooky at work that day when the committee...


NOVAK: ... when they had that information. Why did they say they had information?

CARVILLE: Well, give him a chance to answer the question.

DURBIN: It's a serious enough question that, after all these statements, I went back to look at it. I pulled out the August 7 memo that was sent to the Intelligence Committee, and I looked at the daily policy briefing that is given to the president, and they are totally different.

The president was given a much more complete briefing that had specific references to terrorists and hijacking. The briefing sent to Capitol Hill to the Intelligence Committee had no reference whatsoever to it. None whatsoever.

NOVAK: So you're saying your chairman just was mistaken? DURBIN: No. No, I was standing next to him when he made it clear that what we received was a summary of a summary of a summary. What bothers me is the suggestion from Mr. Fleischer that somehow the Congress dropped the ball here. The fact is that the administration, the executive branch has the responsibility for law enforcement, and...

NOVAK: Well -- just a minute. Just a minute. There is a difference on opinion.

But I -- I just want to get one thing straight. You know, Senator Allen said that nobody was trying to cause this thing to happen, and there's a kind of implication -- a nasty implication in a lot of the things that somehow the president -- I don't know -- wanted this to happen, I'd like you to listen to something that Trent Lott, the Senate minority leader, said on the floor just about an hour ago.

Let's listen to it.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Does anybody really think that this president or any president of either party at any time would know that we were going to be attacked and not take necessary actions to try to deal with it? I don't believe the American people really think that.


NOVAK: How do you respond to that?

DURBIN: Bob, there's always an opportunity for a cheap shot politically in Washington. Within hours after September 11, there were people saying, "It's a failure of the Clinton intelligence. The Congress didn't put enough money in, Clinton didn't put enough money in intelligence." Do you remember that? It was one of the only things...


DURBIN: What I would just tell you is that Senator Lott is correct. Neither President Bush nor president Clinton would have ever wished this tragedy on the American people. What we have a responsibility to ask hard questions. Did the FBI do its job? The honest answer is no. The Phoenix memo was an explicit memo of danger which died on a desk.