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NEWS FROM CNN
Giving Precious Doe a Name; Wilbanks to Make Amends; British Elections; Holocaust Remembrance Day
Aired May 5, 2005 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Unfolding this hour on NEWS FROM CNN, giving Precious Doe a real name. Police in Kansas City now say they know it, and they also say they know who killed her four years ago. Our Drew Griffin is now live on the story in Missouri. We'll go there in a moment.
And two small explosions rock New York City, hurting no one, causing little damage, but fraying nerves in a big way. We're live on that from Midtown Manhattan.
Also, an especially somber day for Jews and for people of all faiths worldwide. It's called Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Nobel prize winner and Auschwitz survivor, Eli Wiesel, shares his thoughts with all of us.
First, some other headlines.
Two men are dead following a shooting inside an office building in northwest Houston. A Cameron Oil spokesman says his company occupies the entire building. The Associated Press reports police are investigating the incident as a murder-suicide.
California authorities say a tractor trailer is the 12th vehicle hit by gunfire in recent weeks in the Los Angeles area. No one was hurt. The driver did not realize someone had shot at him, but heard something hit his truck. Co-workers discovered the bullet hole when he returned to his company's truck yard.
The man charged in a string of highway shootings in Ohio is waiting to learn his fate. Jurors in the trial of Charles McCoy Jr. are now in their first full day of deliberations. They must decide whether McCoy was legally insane, as his lawyers contend, when he carried out the shootings, killing one person.
Among the most popular stories this hour on CNN.com, Jennifer Wilbanks, the so-called runaway bride, will make amends according to her attorney for the money and time spent on the search for her. New details on this story coming up momentarily right here on this program.
Up first, she touched all of our hearts when her headless body was found on the side of a dirt road in Kansas City only four years ago. Now the little girl that was simply called "Precious Doe" has a name, and police say they have arrested her killer.
Our Drew Griffin is in Kansas City, Missouri. He's got late- breaking developments -- Drew.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An incredible story here, Wolf. After not knowing her name for four years, the people of Kansas City learned that this little girl whose picture we're going to show you is named Erica Green. She has been the subject of so much attention here in Kansas City, and today the prosecutor in this case announced he is charging the mother with first-degree felony murder count and says that now at least Kansas City can resolve the situation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE SANDERS, JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI, PROSECUTOR: It's good to finally be able to give a name to the child. It really gives us and the community and us in law enforcement a sense of purpose. Because now that we have her name, we know that we -- who we are going to be fighting for when we go to court in the months and years ahead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRIFFIN: They will be going to court against Michelle Johnson, the mother of Erica Green, who apparently has confessed in a jail in Oklahoma that her husband kicked this child, the child laid unconscious for a couple of days. They disposed of the body together by taking her to a park. Michelle Johnson is saying it was her husband, who is yet unnamed, who decapitated the girl and then disposed of that head separately in a park.
What's also incredible about this case, Wolf, is that Kansas City never gave up with her. Precious Doe Committee was formed almost immediately. And every year they have remembered her, trying to get this case solve.
None more than Alonzo Washington, who joins me today. And Alonzo put this newspaper ad in the newspaper last week that led to this incredible tip.
Why did the city and you not give up on this child?
ALONZO WASHINGTON, ACTIVIST: Well, this was a metaphor. If we're here in Kansas City, and we allow our children to be thrown away by garbage, something is wrong.
When this case began, it wasn't that many people involved. I came out and challenged the community to get involved, to put a memorial there to never let Kansas City forget. And I thought of innovative ways to get tips. So I'm so glad that that ad produced the lead that I had, and that's what cracked the case.
GRIFFIN: And that lead led to police going to Oklahoma to interview this woman. They have arrested her. The prosecutor in the case says more arrests expected possibly later today.
Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: And what about the husband? Maybe I missed that part, Drew. What's happening with him? GRIFFIN: The husband has been named -- in the probable cause statement, Wolf, the husband has been named only as that, "the husband." We don't know if the husband that she is currently with is that husband who took part in this crime. We expect much more from the prosecutor later today, as promised. He said, in fact, charges should -- additional charges should be filed very soon.
BLITZER: Drew Griffin reporting for us. We'll check back with you. Thanks very much, Drew. What a sad story that is.
Other news we're following, making amends. The attorney for the so-called runaway bride from Georgia says it's just what Jennifer Wilbanks intends to do. And there's word that could include some community service.
CNN's Carol Lin is in Gainesville, Georgia, where the attorney is expected to speak on Wilbanks' behalf a little bit later today.
What is the latest, Carol? What's going on?
CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're learning more about a deal that may be in the works with the city of Duluth to pay them back for the huge expense, anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000 in this search for Jennifer Wilbanks, who in fact was a runaway bride.
We're also learning more about her physical and emotional condition. We have heard from Jennifer Wilbanks' attorney that she is simply physically and emotionally unable to even complete her sentences. She is in seclusion right now, trying to gather her thoughts. Her attorney has said, in order to deal with these emotional difficulties that she should start writing down her thoughts, and that she may be seeking professional help.
I also just got off the phone with the mayor of the city of Duluth. What she said is, instead of writing a big check for $40,000 to $60,000 for the expense in the search, the police and the volunteers, the search for Jennifer Wilbanks, that the mayor of Duluth would be willing to consider some community service.
When I said that there are people calling into talk radio saying that they want to see this woman picking up trash on the side of the highway, the mayor said of course no such thing, that she envisions that Jennifer Wilbanks, with some of her medical background and her nursing background, may be able to participate in, say, a community service like a blood pressure station at a county fair. Something of that sort, something that would take advantage of her medical background.
The mayor says that this is an idea that she is instructing the city's attorneys to discuss with Jennifer Wilbanks' attorneys. She was unsure of whether that conversation has actually taken place yet. But we are waiting to hear more from Jennifer Wilbanks' attorney at 4:00 this afternoon, Wolf, here at the Lakeside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Georgia, which is Jennifer Wilbanks' home town. We're going to hear from the attorney, as well as we expect to hear from the pastor of this church, Tom Smiley. And hopefully we'll have more information then, as well as perhaps more details on whether there will be criminal charges filed against this woman -- Wolf.
BLITZER: But we won't be hearing directly from Jennifer Wilbanks other than perhaps a written statement, is that right, Carol?
LIN: It's very unlikely, Wolf. Because the picture that her attorney is painting right now is a woman who is in complete seclusion who needs professional help. She did not go into detail whether that was psychiatric counseling, but she definitely was indicating that there may be steps further beyond than just the church counseling that she's getting from the Lakeside Baptist Church.
BLITZER: All right. 4:00 p.m. Eastern we'll be watching. Thanks very much. Carol Lin reporting for us.
Now let's get to a CNN "Security Watch" from New York City. Two small explosions earlier today outside a building that houses the British Consulate and several other offices. The exact target still very much a mystery, if, in fact, it was a target inside that building.
CNN's Jason Carroll joining us now from outside. He's on the scene for us.
We heard from the mayor, we heard from the police chief. What is the latest, Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The bottom line, Wolf, at this point no one has claimed responsibility for what happened. And that is a point that both the mayor and the police commissioner made clear when they spoke to us not too long ago.
Let me just briefly recap what happened out here while you take a look at some of the pictures of what we found when we got out here.
Investigators say that the explosive devices that were used were actually stashed inside one of the planters that were located in front of the building. The police commissioner called them "relatively unsophisticated." He also described exactly what the improvised explosive devices looked like.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND KELLY, NYC POLICE COMMISSIONER: The NYPD bomb squad, in conjunction with the FBI and our awesome explosion experts, believe that the devices were novelty grenades filled with black powder and then detonated possibly by using a fuse that was ignited by hand.
No timing device appears to have been employed. We believe that the two devices were similar but not identical.
(END VIDEO CLIP) CARROLL: There are several businesses, as you mentioned, that operate outside of -- out of that building. Caterpillar has an office there, for example. The Weather Channel as well.
The British consul general says he sees no connection between the explosions and the elections taking place in the U.K. today. In fact, he says, once allowed back inside the building for his office, it will be back to business as usual.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR PHILIP THOMAS, BRITISH CONSUL GENERAL: This is election day in Britain, so they are keen to get on with their work. We have a party here this evening to follow the results of the election. And we'll want to carry on with that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: I want to talk a little bit more about the investigation very quickly, if I could. Police are saying that they are interviewing, questioning a person of interest, a man who was loitering in the area. That man is now being questioned.
They'll also be questioning security guards and doormen in the area, possibly to try to see what information they can get from them. They'll also be reviewing the video security monitors that were located outside the building to try to see if they can get some clues from that.
But, once again, at this point, both the mayor and the police commissioner saying it's too early to draw any conclusions. They just want to continue with their investigation, telling people here in New York City, despite the fact that it was a scare, to continue on with your lives, go back to business as usual -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jason Carroll on the scene for us. Jason, thank you very much. We'll be checking back with you throughout the day for new information.
To our viewers, please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
Now to the latest in the case against Lynndie England, the soldier whose guilty plea in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal was thrown out by a military judge yesterday. That legal curveball has left the case very much in limbo right now.
Our Susan Candiotti is joining us now live from Ft. Hood, Texas, with the latest.
What is the latest, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, just a little while ago, Wolf, a spokesman here at Fort Hood tells me that prosecutors are already meeting to decide their next move. Of course, there's no timetable on how long that will take. Naturally, this includes a wide range of options that include dropping the case against Lynndie England and re-filing charges against her. But military experts say the latter is more likely because of all the worldwide attention to very serious allegations of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison and because the groundwork in this case has already been laid.
Now, the mistrial was prompted by what ex-military lawyers call a questionable move by defense attorneys to put England's ex-boyfriend on the stand, Charles Graner. Because the testimony that led to his conviction has not changed, and he's appealing his conviction. Graner testified that he was following orders at Abu Ghraib and so was England.
Now, the judge said Graner's testimony casts doubt on Lynndie England's guilty plea, where she already admitted that she had abused prisoners at Abu Ghraib, so the judge declared a mistrial. Now, if the charges are re-filed, England's lawyers may have to try to re- negotiate a plea deal, and it's up in the air as to whether they would be able to get the same kind of terms -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Susan Candiotti with the latest on this story. It keeps changing every single day. Susan, thank you very much for your solid reporting.
A related story. Military investigators have cleared a U.S. Marine who shot three unarmed Iraqis inside a Falluja mosque in November. The Pentagon says the Marine acted within military law and will not be charged.
An embedded television reporter caught one of the shootings on camera. Marines say the mosque had been the source of small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.
So when does the conduct in the heat of war cross a legal line? Joining us now with some perspective, former U.S. Air Force attorney Scott Silliman. He's now professor of law at Duke University Law School, executive director of the Center for Law, Ethics and National Security.
Scott, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's talk about Lynndie England for a second. What an amazing shift. There is a plea bargain agreement, she's supposedly going to get a reduced sentence, maybe two years, maybe less. And then the judge during the sentencing part of the trial throws it out and says there's a mistrial.
How unusual is this?
SCOTT SILLIMAN, FMR. U.S. AIR FORCE ATTORNEY: Well, it is unusual, Wolf. But in military practice, the judge did exactly what he had to do.
In military practice, an accused can only plead guilty if it's a provident plea, if they know they're guilty, if they're convinced they're guilty. A little bit different from civilian practice.
Here, when Graner took the stand, testified what she did was a legitimate act, that created the conflict, the judge had to throw out the plea. It caused a mistrial and, as Susan said in the lead-in, we're back to square one.
BLITZER: So basically, when she put that dog leash around the neck of one of those Iraqi detainees, she was -- she said early on she had been ordered to do that. And then in the sentencing part, even though she pleaded guilty, she said -- the judge said, well, if you were ordered to do it, you're not necessarily pleading guilty.
SILLIMAN: Well, that's exactly correct, Wolf. But again, the key testimony that busted the plea was Graner's.
And as you've already indicated, many -- many people wonder why the defense actually called Graner to the stand in sentencing. It was a high-risk move, and I think it backfired for the defense.
BLITZER: The whole notion, though, of what happens next, there are various options. They can start again from fresh, there can be negotiations, plea negotiations between her defense attorneys and the prosecutors, or the judge can simply throw out the whole business and we forget about it and Lynndie England goes on her way. What do you suspect will happen next?
SILLIMAN: I think the Army's going to want to take this back to a court-martial, Wolf. There's just too much at stake.
She is the most visible face of Abu Ghraib, and for the Army just to drop charges and not go forward from this point, I just don't think that's going to happen. The question will be, will they add additional charges on?
The plea agreement's out. The Army can do whatever it wants to, bring all these charges, and additional ones if it wants to. We should know shortly.
BLITZER: What do you make of this other case today, unrelated, but involving three unarmed Iraqis who were shot by a Marine in a mosque in Falluja? We saw the videotape that emerged. Now the military saying they're not going to file any charges, that this Marine was acting according to the military code of conduct.
SILLIMAN: It's a close case, Wolf. All your viewers have seen that videotape, and the question is simply one of self-defense.
If that young Marine believed that those Iraqis on the floor were exhibiting some kind of hostile intent, then he is perfectly justified in using deadly force. But it's a factual question.
Did he perceive a hostile intent? And the Marine investigators who apparently concluded that he did, therefore they're not going to bring charges.
BLITZER: Scott Silliman, professor of law, Duke University. Thanks very much for joining us.
SILLIMAN: My pleasure.
BLITZER: More news coming up, including nuclear weapons and the threat that terrorists may get their hands on the bomb. Coming up, a look at efforts to keep terrorists from obtaining some of the world's most dangerous weapons.
And later, in depth on one of the most powerful and controversial people in the U.S. Congress. Tom DeLay, how he's risen to such a prominent position.
You're watching NEWS FROM CNN, and we're back in a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
A report out today renews a call for a faster paced global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism. Former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn co-chairs the nuclear threat initiative. He's presenting findings from a study called Securing the Bomb 2005, The New Global Perspective. Among other things, the report calls for securing nuclear stockpiles worldwide using a strict standard and making a single U.S. official responsible for keeping nuclear weapons out of terrorists' hands.
I spoke with Senator Nunn just a few moments ago.
BLITZER: Senator Nunn, thanks very much for joining us.
This is an issue that you've been working on many, many years, going back to your days as chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate. Loose nukes, as we used to call it. But now, after 9/11, it takes on so much more of an ominous meaning.
How realistic, first of all, is it that al Qaeda or some other terrorist group could get their hands on a crude nuclear device?
SAM NUNN, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: Wolf, no one can say precisely what the odds are of a group like al Qaeda getting materials or a weapon. What we can say is that they're trying to, and that's been well documented by Lee Hamilton and Tom Kean of the 9/11 Commission and by intelligence services and by intelligence services around the globe.
And we also can say that we have much more risk now than we should be willing to tolerate and that we can dramatically reduce that risk. No guarantees here, but we can make significant strides towards greatly reducing the risk that terrorists would get nuclear material.
And if they don't get nuclear material or a weapon itself, there's going to be no weapon. They would have to get highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and the world has got to secure that material at the source wherever it is around the globe. BLITZER: That's the best way to deal with this problem, make sure they don't get their hands on it. The other problem is, if they do, how do we protect ourselves in that kind of a circumstance?
You have a new report that you worked out and you released here in Washington today, Securing the Bomb 2005: The New Global Imperatives. Give us a couple of the major recommendations that you make, the kind of -- the kind of action that needs to be done today.
NUNN: Well, this report was really authored by Harvard, Managing the Atom Project, which is Matt Bunn and Anthony Wier. We commissioned it. Our foundation commissioned it, and we do that every year. It's the first -- it's the fifth report we've issued.
This report shows good news and bad news. The good news is that we are making progress. The bad news is we're making progress very slowly. And the gap between the threat and the response of not just the U.S. government, but all governments, and particularly U.S. and Russia, that gap is very significant.
There's a whole set of prescriptions here. The bottom line is, in 2004, we increased the amount that we had secured in Russia by 4 percent. That's not very much when you consider we've basically, over about an 11-year period, we helped secure about 50 percent of the material in Russia.
BLITZER: The nuclear...
NUNN: The nuclear material that could be used to make a bomb. We've secured about 50 percent. So the job's half done.
BLITZER: Because that's pretty shocking when you think about it. Over the -- it's more than a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the independence of these former republics, especially in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, where they did have nuclear material. And half of all of those thousands of warheads are not really secure?
NUNN: This is not warheads. This is material that is not in warheads. The warheads is another whole...
BLITZER: That's secure?
NUNN: Well, we hope it is. That's another -- that's missing from the agenda. We're doing nothing on tactical nuclear warheads. We hope the Russians are. We don't have...
BLITZER: You're dealing with uranium and other kind of material that is used for a bomb?
NUNN: That's right. Material.
We have to hope that the Russians are securing their nuclear -- tactical nuclear stockpile. But what we really need is we need President Bush and President Putin -- next week, it would be great in they said, let's have transparency between the two of us on the number of tactical nuclear weapons we have, as well as accountability of those weapons.
BLITZER: Well, what's the problem -- what's the problem that you see from the Russian side?
NUNN: Well, from the Russian side, they are much weaker than they were with conventional forces, and so they rely more on the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons in any kind of scenario. And when we say tactical nuclear weapons, we're talking about weapons that could be easily stolen or transported or sold because they're small weapons, but they have an awesome amount of nuclear power.
So this is one of the things I call missing from the agenda. The material itself that's not in the weapons, the highly enriched uranium and plutonium, there's enough material in Russia to build 60,000 to 80,000 more weapons.
Now, the Russians aren't going to do that. But if a terrorist got even a small amount of that material, it could be devastating. And there's material like that, not in that quantity, but there's material like that in over 40 countries around the globe.
BLITZER: So there's still a lot -- a lot to do on that front.
BLITZER: Talk a little bit about this film, this documentary that you're about to release.
NUNN: Well, everything is visual in the world these days, Wolf -- and as you well know better than anyone. So we're trying to basically educate and entertain people with a film that shows the real dangers that we've just been talking about.
The scenario relates to, in this case, al Qaeda trying to get nuclear material in a couple of different ways, in a couple of different countries. Not Russia. And also trying to buy a tactical nuclear weapon.
And so it unfolds. Fred Thompson plays the role of president of the United States.
BLITZER: One of your former Senate colleagues.
NUNN: That's right, and a great actor. Fred's done a great job.
And it's about a 45-minute film. And it's going to be available for people to get free as long as we have funds to give them free by ordering from lastbestchance.org.
It will be available as of May the 18th. So we hope a lot of people will see it, and we hope that it will be an instrument for educating people and getting behind the work of Senator Lugar and others who are really making this a top priority.
BLITZER: There is no greater danger in the world today than nuclear terrorism. Senator Nunn, thanks for getting behind this, not just now but for more than a decade. You and Senator Lugar have been instrumental in pushing this cause.
NUNN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Senator.
BLITZER: And when we come back, election day in Britain. What it could mean for the war in Iraq. Just ahead, though, the latest on today's voting and what it means for the British prime minister, Tony Blair.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Decision day in Britain. Voters have just five more hours to head for their village halls, schools, even pubs, yes, pubs, to cast their ballots by the end of the day. Prime Minister Tony Blair expected to have won a third term, but no one knows. Probably, though, not by a landslide if, in fact, he's re-elected.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, joining us now. He's watching it all from London.
It's a little bit different covering an election in Britain than the United States. What are some of the differences you've noticed in the past few days you've been there, Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, one of the big similarities I've noticed is negative campaigning. It's very nasty here. The billboards are nasty. The opponent, the conservative opponent to Prime Minister Blair, has actually called him a liar many, many times. And that is a very big similarity, unfortunately, to the United States.
One of the differences, of course, is no paid political ads on television. How about that? But in Britain, you can go to the movies, and guess what? An ad for a politician will pop up on the movie screen, and you can't turn it off!
BLITZER: I guess they got a captive audience in those movie theaters. All right, let's talk about some of the things you're looking for in today's election as we go forward in these coming hours.
SCHNEIDER: People expect Tony Blair's Labor Party to win a majority, but the question is how big? Right now, his majority is 166 seats in the House of Commons. If that majority is cut very low, if it goes way below 100 seats, then he could be in trouble. Even though he'll be re-elected, he may be under pressure to hand over power to Gordon Brown, his chancellor, who is actually the secretary of the treasury. He's campaigning as a team with Gordon Brown. That will be a signal that while people want Labor to stay, they want Blair to go. The reason: Iraq. A second thing, turnout. In the last election, British turnout was actually lower than in the United States. It could get lower still today. That too, will be a signal that a lot of voters are refusing to vote for Blair because of Iraq. But they can't vote for the conservative opposition, because they also supported the war in Iraq.
Third thing to watch for, the size the vote for the third party, which is the Liberal Democratic party. That is the only party that opposed the Iraq War. If the Liberal Democrats get a very large vote today, that will be a signal of anger and discontent over Iraq.
BLITZER: The polls close at 10:00 p.m. in England. Local time, that would be 5:00 p.m. Eastern time. And presumably, the exit polls will be announced by the networks there right at that time. What do you know about how good these exit polls in England are, as opposed to let's say the exit polls here in the United States? Which, as we all know, have been rather spotty, shall we say, in recent years.
SCHNEIDER: Spotty is the word, Wolf. The exit polls here being done by our partners ITN. We're going to have an exit poll forecast right at stroke of 10:00 p.m. London time, 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, at the top of your show, in the United States. Will they be reliable? I'd say they'll be about as reliable as those were in the United States, which is to say, be careful.
Because here in Britain for the first time ever, they are allowing people to vote by mail without any reason, just for convenience. And the forecasts are that as many as one in five voters are voting by mail and they may not be exit polled by the pollsters. So we've got to be very careful with those polling forecasts.
BLITZER: All right, Bill Schneider will be joining us exactly at 5:00 p.m. Eastern when those exit polls are announced. We'll top our "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" with that development from London, when the polls close there. Thanks very much, Bill. We'll have you back in a few hours.
President Bush took some time this morning to observe a national day of prayer. The president said the observance has a long history in America and we should use our freedoms, he said, wisely.
On a related note, reported in "The Wall Street Journal" today, the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center finds a slight increase in the number of Americans attending religious services at least once a week. Scientific studies have shown those people enjoy better than average health, lower rates of illness and a reduced mortality risk over a given period. Perhaps a good reason to attend church, synagogue, mosque, and attend religious services.
Representative Tom DeLay is known as "The Hammer" here in Washington in the U.S. Congress. How he rose to the powerful position of House majority leader -- our Candy Crowley has been looking into that story, and she'll have a detailed analysis and report right after this short break.
BLITZER: Welcome back to NEWS FROM CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. He's the number two Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, a master fundraiser whose actions have landed him in hot water with the House Ethics Committee more times than any current member of the U.S. Congress. And even now, Tom DeLay faces yet another ethics investigation.
So how did he reach the pinnacle of power? Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley takes a closer look.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An American patriot, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay of Texas.
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Thank you.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a long way from the limelight to Laredo. But that's where Tom DeLay was born and where his story begins. The book on DeLay's personal life is full of blank pages. Little has been written because little has been said.
BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It wasn't really as if he hid his personal life from us. But he didn't wear it on his sleeve either.
CROWLEY: Tom DeLay was the second of four children in a family dominated by a man described as a boisterous, domineering alcoholic.
J.D. HEYMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE": Was a terribly demanding parent and had a way of communicating that his sons had always disappointed him.
CROWLEY: After his father died in the late '80s, DeLay stopped talking to his mother and siblings. In a 2001 interview in "The Washington Post" magazine, Maxine DeLay said of the son she calls Tommy: "I see him on TV and it helps. I keep all the tapes."
DeLay says nothing. He is Texas-born and bred, save the five years the family spent in Venezuela, while his father, a wildcatter, worked the oil fields. Charlie DeLay wanted Tommy to be a doctor. And he seemed on track, a top high school student and athlete. But two rambunctious premed years at Baylor were followed by an invitation to leave.
LOU DUBOSE, AUTHOR, "THE HAMMER": He got crossways with the administration because something that had happened at Texas A&M. Baylor is a Baptist institution. Painting something green, you know, smalltime vandalism involving sports.
CROWLEY: DeLay graduated from the University of Houston, a biology major. He went into pest control.
DUBOSE: He got a job mixing rat bait in Houston and ended up gradually working himself into a position in which he could buy an exterminating company.
CROWLEY: His business drew three separate IRS liens for not paying payroll and income taxes. He tangled with business partners, twice settling out of court.
But the years were most notable as a launching pad. The exterminator grew to loathe regulations. He called the EPA the gestapo of government. Tom DeLay went into politics.
BEVERLY CARTER, PUBLISHER, "FORT BEND SOUTHWEST STAR": He came in and told me that he was running for state representative as a Republican. And I said, oh, yay. I'm a Republican too. And he said, well, you're about the only one out here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the legislature probably, all but maybe 20 members, were Democrats. So, when Tom won, it was unusual.
CROWLEY: He was the Republican representative from Sugar Land and he was a lot of fun, able to master both the legislative process and the art of auctioneering.
DELAY: Fourteen thousand dollars. I got a $14,000. Make it $15,000.
CROWLEY: DeLay's stint in the state legislature was unremarkable, but he was well liked by all parties.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom was a good sport. You could tease Tom and he would take it and he would tease back. So, when things would come -- if DeLay got up there, we would start chanting DeLay, DeLay.
CROWLEY: The Texas legislature meets for four months every two years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will come to order.
CROWLEY: The pay is so small, few can live on their own in Austin. In 1981, six of them shared a condo. Brewer, DeLay, two more Republicans, two more Democrats. They called themselves the "Macho Manor Group" and hung out at the Broken Spoke.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm good, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you remember the old TV program called "Cheers," it's kind of a spot like that. But you have got to put it in the country western setting.
CROWLEY: They talked issues, partied, pulled practical jokes, and over time DeLay's antics earned him a rep.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom had a real strong reputation of having a very good time while he was there. In fact, he got the name "Hot Tub Tom."
CROWLEY: After six years as a state lawmaker, Tom DeLay spotted an opening and took his shot. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He filed for that open seat and grabbed on to Reagan's coattails and he won election to the House.
CROWLEY: Tom DeLay was moving on and up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order. Members elect and their guests.
CROWLEY: He arrived in Washington as he left Texas, a true believer in fewer regulations, lower taxes, smaller government and a swaggering party hardy guy.
REP. DAVID DREIER, (R) CALIFORNIA: There were a few times I remember in the '80s when, you know, I was there and Tom was having a very good time and all.
CROWLEY: DeLay by his own account consumed up to 12 martinis a night prowling receptions and fund-raisers that make up social life in the city of politics. And then one day that first term, "Hot Tub Tom" was reborn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; He was converted in the offices of Frank Wolf, a Virginia Congressman who gave him a James Dobson tape, changed his life.
CROWLEY: It was a tape about fatherhood. It moved DeLay to tears. He knocked off the hard liquor, became a regular churchgoer, rededicated himself to his wife and child, developed an unshakable faith.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A deep and profound belief in evangelical Christian ideology and politics. And a feeling that that is the deliverance of this country. And it will make us a better democracy and a better culture.
CROWLEY: Still, there was very little he could affect for most of his decade in Congress. DeLay with a back bencher, a newbie in a minority party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the Republicans are working.
CROWLEY: Things would change with time and cookies.
BLITZER: So how did home-baked cookies help the political life of the House Majority Leader Tom DeLay? You can find out during the second hour of CNN's "LIVE FROM," part two of Candy Crowley's report. That's coming up 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 11:00 a.m. Pacific. You'll want to watch that.
When we come back, remembering the Holocaust, 60 years later. Up next, we'll hear from a survivor, Elie Wiesel. He's a keynote speaker at an emotional international event commemorating the end of World War II happening today at Auschwitz.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Sixty years after the end of World War II, Jews worldwide are observing Yom Ha'Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Thousands of people from more than 50 nations gathered in Poland today to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau. Organizers say the goal is to make people more aware of the Holocaust and to promote tolerance. Just before leaving for Poland, the Holocaust survivor and keynote speaker Elie Wiesel spoke with me about his experiences during the war and the origin of today's march.
BLITZER: Elie Wiesel, thanks very much for joining us. Tell us a little bit about the background on this march, 60 years later, from Auschwitz to Birkenau.
ELIE WIESEL, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR: We can't actually -- 18 years ago run (ph) from Israel, people became arranging this kind of operation, bringing thousands of young people from all over the world, but from Israel as well. And they spend a whole week in Poland going from camp to camp to camp to camp, learning about what had happened there, and then they go for one week in Israel.
I think this is the most important educational endeavor with regard to the Holocaust that exists. What they do there, what I'm going to do -- I've been there twice. They meet in Krakow, and they engage in discussions, and then we go to Auschwitz and we march literally from Auschwitz to Birkenau, to the land, and the ceremony is a very impressive ceremony. The words that I would say there, I couldn't see anywhere else.
BLITZER: Sixty years ago exactly to the day, tell our viewers where you were?
WIESEL: Sixty years to the day, I was in (INAUDIBLE). We had been liberated on April 11th by the American army. We were also supposed to be the last convoy to -- the last transport to leave (INAUDIBLE). Had we left, I wouldn't be here today, Wolf, talking to you.
BLITZER: How old were you at that time?
BLITZER: And you survived how many years in that concentration camp?
WIESEL: I came from Hungary. The Hungarian Jews were the last large Jewish community that was taken. And we spent a year or more, both in Auschwitz (INAUDIBLE). And we were still in (INAUDIBLE) waiting to go anywhere. We had nowhere to go. So every day we would read the lists of the survivors. And I knew my father. He died while he was there with me. I knew my mother and my little sister disappeared the night of my arrival. So I thought maybe I had some older sisters. They weren't there, and I didn't want to go back to my hometown. Who would I find there? What for? We were 400 adolescents in the same situation. The youngest was eight, and the oldest was 18. And finally General De Gaulle, who was then the president of France, he offered us shelter in France. But I remember those days after the war as in a haze.
BLITZER: Do you ever look back and -- and I'm sure you do -- ask yourself why you survived and so many others under the same circumstances didn't?
WIESEL: Wolf, I swear to you, I was the wrong candidate for survival. When I was a child I was always sick. My parents would take me from doctor to doctor. I was not ready for that. I was the wrong person to survive. And I don't know why. (INAUDIBLE) my father was alive. We were still in Auschwitz and then the first days in (INAUDIBLE), I know I had to leave because if I die, he would die. But then he died. And between his death and liberation, my life was not a life of a human being. I lived, but didn't know I was alive.
Why the last day I wasn't taken, I have no idea. Some people say it was a miracle. I don't use that word. Because if God decided to perform a miracle for me, he could very well have performed a few miracles for more people, other people, some of them worthier than I. I don't know. Maybe it has no meaning. But because of that, what I try to do with my life now is to confirm meaning of what had no meaning then.
BLITZER: Yet, things along those lines are still going on in the world today. In Darfur, in Sudan, elsewhere in Africa. We saw the genocide in Rwanda only a few years ago. How do you reconcile -- how do you deal with the atrocities, given your personal experiences and the experiences of European Jewry.
WIESEL: Wolf, you know -- I'm sure you know that I was trying in all of these tragedies to pull the alarm, really, by being successful. What does it mean? It means simply that the world has not learned the lesson. We tried to talk, we tried to give the lesson. We tried to tell the world, look, you cannot be indifferent. Indifference to evil is evil. And people didn't listen and they still don't listen. And therefore -- exactly, we had Rwanda and we have Darfur now and so many other tragedies in Bosnia, and I know that.
And often if I'm close to despair, it is because I quote always Kafka. You know, in Kafka, there's always the messenger who cannot deliver the message and that is the tragedy. And my feeling is it's worse where the messenger has delivered the message and it didn't change anything.
BLITZER: Elie Wiesel will be among those involved in the so- called March of the Living, from Auschwitz to Birkenau, on Thursday. Elie Wiesel, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.
WIESEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And he did participate in that March earlier this morning. CNN LIVE FROM comes all of our way at the top of the hour. Joining us now with a bit of preview, Kyra Phillips. You have two and a half hours to fill, Kyra. Give us a couple of nuggets.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We do. We got a couple for you, Wolf. A Palm Beach County sex offender now on the loose. And now we're getting word there might be two. But let's tell you about the first one. Police they're searching 24/7 now for a man they say has nothing to lose. His name, Patrick Bell (ph)> He spent six years in prison for sex crimes against children. Now he's ripped off his tracking device and he's taken off. We'll have an update on that investigation.
And here's a story that "LIVE FROM" has been on for years now. The case of Emmett Till, a name we'll never forget. His murder galvanized the civil rights movement. Now after 50 years, Emmett Till's remains will be exhumed. The reason: evidence for murder charges. The Justice Department says there are individuals, possibly six people still alive, that could be charged with this racial killing that shocked our nation. We're going to talk to a forensics expert, Wolf, coming up.
BLITZER: Those are two very compelling stories. We'll be watching. Kyra Phillips will be with Miles at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Thanks, Kyra.
BLITZER: We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: I'll be back later today, every weekday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Among other things, I'll speak with Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer. He's here in Washington. We'll talk about the Australian hostage seized in Iraq and the potential impact on Australia's commitment to keep troops in Iraq.
Also, remember, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, the first exit poll results in England from the election there. Will Tony Blair be re-elected? Bill Schneider will be standing by to give us those results right when the polls close, 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching NEWS FROM CNN. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "LIVE FROM" with Kyra Phillips and Miles O'Brien, as promised. That's coming up next.
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