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CNN INSIDE POLITICS

Bret Michael Edmunds In FBI Custody; Mother Nature In Control of Fires, Experts Say; U.S. Loses Thriller to Germany in World Cup

Aired June 21, 2002 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to now continue our coverage of the search for Elizabeth Smart, and the next phase of this investigation involving the questioning of Bret Michael Edmunds, once he returns to consciousness. And we're going to go to Washington for that with Judy Woodruff.

Hi there, Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Fredricka, thanks very much. With us now is a former FBI agent, William Daly. He's joining me from New York. Mr. Daly, based on what you're hearing here, is this a promising lead, to find a man that police weren't even calling a suspect?

WILLIAM DALY, CONTROL RISK GROUP: Well, I certainly think it's important in the investigation. I can't say that it is a promising lead, other than it helps us rule out or rule him in further into the investigation.

At this point, just as kind of refreshing of the issue, is that he has been wanted for questioning, because he was seen in the area living in his car, and seemed to disappear around the same time that Elizabeth did. So certainly, those two events led them to be interested in him.

Perhaps he could provide some information about things that he saw. But as well, they want to rule him out as a suspect, as well -- even though the they haven't called him suspect, they'll do a search of his vehicle and do an interview with him.

WOODRUFF: Well, does the fact that he's been gone for two weeks -- they haven't been able to find him. They now find him 2,000 miles away. That makes him more suspicious, does it not?

DALY: Well, don't forget, he was wanted on some state charges and there were some outstanding warrants for him. So he was someone who appeared to be on the run, appeared to be trying to fly below the radar and not to be seen.

We don't know at this point why he continued to run, whether it's because he was concerned about those other charges, or because of being wanted in this investigation. So, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. But I still think at this point, the way police have been answering the questions, the way they've been very direct, leads us to believe that they still only want to know whether or not he has information to help them. And they don't feel directly now that he is a suspect.

WOODRUFF: All right, William Daly, a former FBI agent, thank you very much for joining us.

With us now on the telephone is Teresa McCabe. She's with the Martinsville, West Virginia city hospital. Ms. McCabe, what can you tell us about Bret Michael Edmunds? Is he in intensive care, is that correct?

TERESA MCCABE, MARTINSBURG CITY HOSPITAL: Yes, he is, Ms. Woodward. And actually, our hospital is in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The city hospital in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

WOODRUFF: Thank you.

MCCABE: Sure.

WOODRUFF: What can you tell us about him and about his condition, about when he checked himself in, and so forth?

MCCABE: Basically, I have few details. But I can tell you that yesterday morning -- that would be Thursday, June the 20th, at approximately 5:15 a.m. in the morning, Mr. Edmunds presented to our emergency department, under a different name. Certainly not his, not as Bret Edmunds.

He was seen in the emergency department, was admitted to our intensive care unit at approximately 10:30 a.m. yesterday morning and has been a patient in our intensive care unit, in serious condition, since that time, again, but not under the name of Bret Edmunds.

WOODRUFF: What can you tell us about what he was treated for, what was wrong with him?

MCCABE: I can't really comment on anything related to his treatment or diagnosis. That is all considered confidential information. And I apologize, but I cannot comment on that.

WOODRUFF: How did you or others at the hospital go about finding out what his true identity is?

MCCABE: Again, I'm not sure of all of the specific details.

I know I was notified, as the director of marketing for the hospital, at about 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. I received a call from the intensive care unit, was asked to come down, and was told that. And, again, I don't know the specifics, but something made the staff, the nursing staff suspicious. And, as they began to look through some items and ask questions and so forth, again, they were very suspicious and decided to contact the FBI. Within 30 minutes, the FBI arrived on the scene and pretty much took charge of the situation. And, by 3:00 p.m., they had him positively identified as Bret Edmunds.

WOODRUFF: When you say the nursing staff looked through some items and it made them curious or suspicious, can you be any more specific about what it was?

MCCABE: Well, just identification, personal items that he had brought in with him when he was admitted, wallet, that kind of thing, for any kind of I.D., for anything that would identify next of kin, that kind of thing.

Any time you have someone who is in serious condition in the intensive care unit, it is always good to have some sort of family or some sort of contact information...

WOODRUFF: Sure.

MCCABE: ... in the event that is needed. And, again, that's apparently when suspicion was raised.

But, again, perhaps the FBI -- and the FBI has asked that we refer any specific questions related to those types of incidents to the Salt Lake City bureau. They perhaps might have more information on that, because they have been interviewing staff, of course, and have the specifics there.

WOODRUFF: We can say that the federal marshals office has told us that there were -- that the name that he had given was not the right name, but there was a phone number there that was correct. And so, we have been reporting that the number was called. His mother was apparently reached in Utah. And then, at some point after that...

MCCABE: Well...

WOODRUFF: Go ahead.

MCCABE: I can confirm that the federal marshals were here on the scene. They have been here, as well as the FBI and local law enforcement.

WOODRUFF: Just finally, what are the conditions in which he is being held? We assume there are guards; there is security around where he is. Is he conscious? Can you tell us about that?

MCCABE: Again, I can't speak specifically to his condition, other than to say that, again, he is in serious condition in the intensive care unit. He is conscious.

The intensive care unit, once he was positively identified, was secured immediately. We did have three other patients in that unit who were relocated outside of the unit, still here in the hospital. And the intensive care unit is totally locked down at this point and will remain that way as long as Mr. Edmunds is a patient here.

WOODRUFF: All right, Teresa McCabe is with the Martinsburg, West Virginia, City Hospital.

Ms. McCabe, we thank you very much for joining us.

MCCABE: Thank you, Ms. Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: Thank you. Thank you.

We are going to take a short break. When we come back: an update on more terror alerts today across the country and an update on those wildfires spreading now in several states out West.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: There was a new security alert issued today by the FBI. It says terrorists may be interested in using fuel trucks to attack targets in the United States and overseas. Fuel depots, Jewish schools and synagogues are listed as possible targets. The FBI notes the information is not specific and is uncorroborated.

Now, this comes as our new poll reflects American's anxiety about terror: 57 percent say they now believe terrorists are likely -- are very or somewhat likely to strike on the Fourth of July. Perhaps adding to their concerns, a Las Vegas man says that he overheard a cell phone conversation in Arabic in which people were discussing a possible Independence Day attack on that city.

Michael Hamdan says he reported the information to the FBI.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL HAMDAN, OVERHEARD CELL PHONE CALL: One party talking, and it seems there is many people in this side talking to one, another individual telling him exactly in Arabic -- which I'm going to say it in English, of course -- "We are here in the city of corruption, the city of prostitution and gambling, the city of the unbelievers. And they are talking about freedom? We are going to hit them in the day of freedom."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WOODRUFF: Hamdan says he picked up that conversation on his cell phone while he was trying to place a call to his wife last Saturday. Since he was born in Lebanon and speaks Arabic, he says he was curious. And he listened in. The FBI says that it's too early to determine if Hamdan's claims are accurate. Agents plan to interview him again and give him a polygraph test.

Well, now we turn to an immediate danger out west. And that is wildfires. Winds gusting up to 45 miles an hour are fanning the flames in East Central Arizona. Officials say there is an 80 percent chance that the two major fires in the area will grow together. Now, that could produce a fire capable of devouring tens of thousands of additional acres; rivaling the region's other big wildfire: the Hayman fire southwest of Denver, Colorado, which has consumed about 137,000 acres.

Well, CNN's Bill Delaney is in Show Low, Arizona, right now near the state's mammoth Rodeo fire -- Bill, give us an update on the status right now of those fires.

BILL DELANEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, being buffeted by those high winds you're talking about, that's what it is all about here: high winds fanning the enormous fire, the Rodeo fire, the largest fire in the history of Arizona, getting a very graphic demonstration of the problem here.

Another graphic demonstration: Judy, if you look over my shoulder, that seeming wall of cloud, that is not cloud; that is smoke from the Rodeo fire, smoke going some 30,000 feet in the air and fanned by these high winds that are buffeting us here where we are and buffeting that fire several miles away.

Now, fire officials here saying today a recipe for disaster, a worst-case scenario here in Central Arizona: severe drought, those high winds, and abundant heavy-timbered forest, bone-dry, in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, 5,000 people evacuated already, at least 15 homes destroyed, probably many more. Fire officials simply haven't been able to get to many towns to assess the damage there.

Where I am, in this town, on the fringes of the fire, everyone here, 15,000 people in the region, where I am awaiting possible word of having to evacuate in as little as an hour -- most cars here gassed up. And many people have already packed up their houses, although we don't know whether the fire will actually reach here or whether it will stall out where it is at this point, but, as I say, at this point, very much a worst-case scenario here, fire officials say, here in Central Arizona, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, Bill, it doesn't sound like firefighters are close at all to containing this. What do they say about that?

DELANEY: Well, what they say is pretty simple: Mother Nature is in control of this fire, not firefighters. Firefighters say, yesterday and today, they have had to just simply step back from the fire, what they call a bleacher fire, when firefighters literally just give up, decide there's nothing more they can do, and sit back and watch it burn.

Now, there's some hope here, Judy. The winds are expected to diminish, to a degree, Sunday and into Monday. But that good news is tempered by the fact that nobody expects to see any rain in this region for at least two weeks -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Bill, what about the cause? Any thought being given to the fact that so many people are moving into these areas that were previously unsettled?

DELANEY: Well, you know, Judy, when nature takes its course every few years, the fires burn. Now that so many people have moved into this area, some of them building million-dollar homes, retreats from places like Phoenix, we're much more careful about fire precaution.

Now, ironically, that leaves much more abundant fuel for fires when they do break out. And it is believed this one was set. Law enforcement officials are looking into that. When the fires do break out, they can become as catastrophic as what we are seeing now -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Bill Delaney, reporting from Show Low in East Central Arizona, where, as you just heard, those fires, at this point, out of control.

We're going to take a break, but before we do, we want to show you some pictures. Aerial pictures have just come into us. This is Martinsburg, West Virginia, the hospital there, the City Hospital, where Bret Michael Edmunds, who authorities in Salt Lake City want very much to question in connection with the disappearance of 14-year- old Elizabeth Smart -- she has been missing for two weeks.

Edmunds was seen in the area around the time of her disappearance. They have been looking for him. He showed up, apparently, yesterday afternoon, yesterday morning, at this hospital, turned himself in to the emergency room. We don't know very much about his condition, apparently a drug overdose. He is now in intensive care under heavy security, heavy guard.

And we do know that officials in Salt Lake are on their way to question him. But, in the meantime, the FBI, the federal marshals are keeping a very close watch on this man, who is described as in serious condition.

We'll take a break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: Rudy Giuliani's divorce is front and center again in the New York tabloids, with new details about the financial price the former mayor is paying for his split from Donna Hanover. Hanover demanded more than $30,000 a month in spousal support. But "The Daily News" reports that a judge denied that request yesterday.

Hanover also asked for almost $40,000 a month in child support, plus more than $1,100 a month to cover expenses for the family dog. The judge upped Giuliani's monthly child-support payments to $8,000, but he nixed any dog support. And Giuliani was ordered to pick up the costs of his children's schooling, their summer camp, and other so- called add-ons to the tune of $12,000 to $16,000 a month.

This style note from Capitol Hill: It was no accident that a number of Republican senators and their aides wore seersucker suits today. Minority Leader Trent Lott declared this Seersucker Friday, in keeping with a Southern tradition for men to wear that particular style of suit on the first day of summer. Looks pretty handsome.

And now we move on to capital games: We're not talking about political maneuvering. We're talking sports, from a big congressional baseball game last night to a celebration of World Cup soccer this morning, despite the fact that the U.S. lost 1-0 to Germany.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it is a bobble-head doll, Landon Donovan. And all the women in the crowd really like him.

But this is exciting, to think that, at 7:30 in the morning, you can get this many people on Capitol Hill to be out, after we worked late at night. And I understand, at RFK Stadium, they have got thousands up there. So, soccer is taking hold in America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really proud of Bruce Arena. I think he excelled at the college level. He excelled at the MLS level. And now he's taking the team into the quarter-finals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I like a lot of the young players. What is so great to see is all of our efforts over the last 10, 15 years in developing young American stars like Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley and Pablo Mastroeni.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so disappointed. We were so close. It was an unbelievable game. We scored, except for the fact they had this guy throw it out of the box. So much pressure on the outside of the net, we all went wild, thinking it was in. It wasn't.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole thing has been such a thrill, the entire two weeks. I haven't slept in the last 48 hours. So, right now, it is all kind of a blur. But, as I look back over it, I'm sure there will be lots of moments I will remember for the next four years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Beautiful night for a ball game. We're at the home of Bowie Baysox for the 41st Congressional Baseball Game, here with the expert, Chris Cillizza, of "Roll Call."

CHRIS CILLIZZA, "ROLL CALL": Well the game started, Sid Yudain, founder of "Roll Call," started the game in the '50s. And the idea, I think, was to get people, get congressmen out from the usual back-and- forth of partisan politics. It was suspended very briefly by Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House, in 1958, because too many members were getting hurt, actually, but restarted again in 1962.

You've got a lot of ex-athletes in the House, or ex-athletes in their own mind, I guess. So, a lot of them come out. And they like to get on the field, strut their stuff a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I'm sure a lot of these folks out here, they try to keep in shape. But I'm sure, like any weekend warrior, they may have some problems once they get on the field and start running around for the first time.

CILLIZZA: Right.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Any problems here since it has been reinstituted?

CILLIZZA: Well, not everyone in Congress is the young one that they are in the Major Leagues, so you have got some older guys out here.

There have been on-and-off injuries -- a couple of the most notable ones: Mike Oxley, congressman from Ohio. He actually broke his arm in a collision in 1994. And, in 1996, we sent two members to the hospital in a collision: Mel Watt from North Carolina, who will be out on the mound tonight, the hurler; and Tim Holden from Pennsylvania. So, both of them collided and went to the hospital. Tim Holden fractured his jaw. So it's a contact sport. For those people who say baseball is not a contact sport, it is, at least the way the members play it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, the coveted "Roll Call" trophy.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The Republicans also were pretty feisty there on the basepaths. I think that was the key.

MCCABE: They were. Well, Grand Old Party, but nice young legs. So, they did a pretty good job in terms of stealing bases, So, all in all, a good game. And I think we raised about $100,000 for charity, too. So...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Well, that's the perfect -- so, it was a perfect night for a game. I can't wait for next year.

CILLIZZA: No kidding. We're ready.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: All right.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WOODRUFF: See, Washington doesn't need professional baseball. It's got the best amateur baseball.

We have got Bill Schneider's "Political Play of the Week" coming right up, but first let's go to Wolf for a look at what's ahead at the top of the hour on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" -- hi there.

WOLF BLITZER, "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS": Hi, Judy.

Breaking news in the case of the missing teenager, Elizabeth Smart. We'll have live updates on how authorities found the man wanted for questioning in the case, Bret Michael Edmunds. We'll also get reaction from Elizabeth Smart's aunt. Also, the FBI issues a new warning: Terrorists may use fuel trucks to attack American targets. We'll tell you about a near miss, in addition, between a planet and a huge asteroid.

All that and more right after INSIDE POLITICS.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: With everything else going on on President Bush's agenda, tonight, raising some $2.5 million in political money.

With that in mind, our Bill Schneider is here to tell us about the "Play of the Week," Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Indeed.

When President Bush goes to Florida tonight to raise money for his brother's campaign, he'll set a new record and he'll come home with the "Political Play of the Week."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Forget the World Cup. Today, the Bush team sets a new world record: $100 million raised for his party and its candidates in one election so far.

QUESTION: How do you feel about outpacing your predecessor when it comes to fund-raising, which you're about to do?

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've got good candidates. Right here, one of the great candidates in the history of Florida.

SCHNEIDER: Democrats are in a dither.

TERRY MCAULIFFE, DNC CHAIRMAN: That's how the president gets to be the $100 million man, a number he will reach today when he raises another $2.5 million at a fund-raiser in Florida for his brother.

SCHNEIDER: But, you know, Democrats are not shy about going after big money. Remember the Clinton fund-raising controversies? What made Bush the new champ? The new campaign finance reform law has a lot to do with it. The parties are scrambling to raise soft money before it becomes illegal on November 6.

Put these two facts together: President Bush is immensely popular, but the race for control of Congress this year is a dead heat. So, gaining a big-money edge becomes crucial for Republicans. And Bush is the guy who can do it. He does it without appearing too political.

BUSH: I promised the American people that I'd do my best to change the tone in Washington, D.C., to elevate the discourse, to bring people together.

SCHNEIDER: Most Americans don't think politics plays too big a role in President Bush's decisions, partly because September 11 put President Bush above politics. But $100 million is a lot of politics. To do politics without seeming to do politics is pretty good politics.

In fact, it's the "Political Play of the Week."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SCHNEIDER: President Bush is seen as a less political creature than President Clinton was. President Bush has Karl Rove to do politics. But President Clinton was Karl Rove, his own brilliant political strategist.

WOODRUFF: You know, you say they're about to end soft money, but, in fact, the Federal Election Commission, meeting this week, is looking at letting -- in fact, they're on the verge of letting people continue to raise soft money, federal candidates, as long as they do it through state parties. So, is this really coming to an end?

SCHNEIDER: Well, they have voted to create a couple of loopholes.

One would allow federal candidates to suggest contributions as long as they don't ask for the money. Another would allow soft money raised by state parties to be used for e-mails and Internet activity, which are becoming more important. Well, that has got a lot of reformers like John McCain very upset, because they know that big money can get through very small loopholes.

WOODRUFF: We're going to be watching that one.

SCHNEIDER: Exactly.

WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bill Schneider.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

WOODRUFF: We're going to take a break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOODRUFF: That's it for INSIDE POLITICS. Thank you for joining us. "WOLF BLITZER" is next. I'm Judy Woodruff.

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