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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Supreme Court Vacancies; G-8 Summit; Tropical Storms

Aired July 5, 2005 - 17:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST, WOLF BLITZER REPORTS: And happening now, you're looking at a live picture of New Orleans, which may be just hours away from barring the brunt of Tropical Storm Cindy. He have a new forecast just coming in to CNN.
Stand by for WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.

Diplomats in danger: Iraq's insurgents find new targets for terrorism.

Tropical trouble: one's closing in on the Gulf Coast, the other, brewing in the Caribbean. We have our eyes on the storms.

Fireball: he was fueling his Ferrari when it suddenly exploded in flames.

DERRICK WALKER, FIRE SURVIVOR: I was checking myself out, thinking I've got to be on fire.

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS from our studios in Washington.

I'm John King, in today for Wolf. Thanks for joining us.

We begin with a developing story: All eyes along the Gulf Coast are on Tropical Storm Cindy and Dennis, one of which is threatening to become the first hurricane of the Atlantic season. There's a new forecast just out this hour. Meteorologist Bonnie Snyder is in the CNN weather center in Atlanta with the latest.

BONNIE SNYDER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, John, you're right, one of these will become a hurricane, that's for sure. But what's interesting about Cindy is, it's gained strength over the past few hours. Now, maximum sustained winds with Cindy are at 70 miles per hour, or near 70 miles per hour. There are gusts higher than that.

But already we're seeing significant amount of rainfall with the system; already bringing teeming rain to the coastal sections of Louisiana, especially the southeastern parishes and on into further to the east as well, towards Alabama and Mississippi.

Not too bad just yet, but this whole region from Biloxi, Gulfport, even towards coastal sections of Florida are also going to be under the gun, because as this system works its way in, we're likely to see flooding throughout much of the Gulf Coast.

Another change in the forecast is the tropical storm warnings: They've been updated and extended further to the east. So, now we're seeing the potential for a gradual turn to the north-northeast. So, the storm warnings have now been extended to Destine, Florida, and a tropical storm watch is extended further, as well, to the east.

So, really anywhere in this area really has to keep a close watch on Cindy, as this storm progresses and works its way in. We're expecting landfall with Cindy later on. I'd say late tonight into the early hours of tomorrow.

Here's the latest forecast track for Cindy as it makes landfall. Once again, even after the center of circulation makes landfall, we're talking about a major concern for flooding along coastal sections of Mississippi and Alabama, as this storm works it's way inland.

So, it could possibly turn into a hurricane before it makes landfall. Right now, winds with Cindy are at 70 miles per hour, but this is not the only tropical system we're concerned with.

Tropical Storm Dennis has formed today and this one also, could potentially be very problematic towards the weekend. We're watching for Dennis, possibly, to turn into a hurricane as early as tomorrow.

Take a look at the forecast track for Dennis and you'll see by tomorrow afternoon as it approaches the islands of Cuba, into Jamaica, we're expecting hurricane-force winds, meaning winds exceeding 74 miles per hour. And that will classify the storm as a category one hurricane, but the concern is with Dennis is, as it slowly works its way into the Gulf of Mexico, the water here is very warm.

So, it has all the energy it needs to intensify. Therefore, this weekend, especially Florida, the sections of Florida, really keep a close watch on Dennis. Because even though there's a wide of cone of what we call uncertainty, we could see the storm working its way toward Florida area over the weekend.

We'll keep you up-to-date on both of these tropical storms -- John?

KING: Bonnie Snyder, with the latest at the CNN Weather Center. Thank you very much, Bonnie.

And as we keep an eye on Dennis, let's return our attention to Tropical Storm Cindy and go to Louisiana now, where Colonel Perry Ebbert is the director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security. He joins me now by telephone, as you watch a live picture of rain in New Orleans.

Colonel Ebbert, let me just begin with this simple question: When have you been told to expect landfall? Do you assume the storm will be a hurricane by then and what are your initial preparations?

COLONEL PERRY EBBERT, NEW ORLEANS HOMELAND SECURITY, We've been watching this storm for the last two days, John, and we're coordinating through our state and our regional effort down here. As you well realize, that we are just one of the parishes that are in low-lying areas. So, it's a joint-coordinated effort. We're anticipating anywhere, depending upon where the track comes from, three to six inches of rain, which obviously, will cause us some local flooding. We've coordinated in some of the low-lying areas further down river in Plaquemines Parish and St. Bernard Parish and Jefferson Parish, we've moved certain equipment to high ground and moved some of the people out of the very low coastal regions.

KING: I assume the primary concern at this point is flooding?

EBBERT: It's flooding, because the winds will not be that severe, even at 70 miles an hour. We shouldn't have any major wind damage, but we're living in a bowl down here, we're always concerned about lots of rain water.

KING: You say, "living in a bowl,sir," help us understand, for those not paying attention to your part, how has the rainfall been this summer in the sense that -- what's the situation of the water table, how much water can you absorb before you have high flooding?

EBBERT: Well, we're -- in Jefferson Parrish and into New Orleans, we're internalized into a bowl, surrounded by levies. So, when you get water that rains into the levies, we're below sea level, we have to pump that water out of the bowl into either Lake Pontrain or the Mississippi River. So, we actually are below sea level in the city.

KING: And in terms of your preparations, sir, do you go to a higher level, more personnel involved in something like this, or is this an every-year occurrence?

EBBERT: Well, we don't have much choice in this part of the country; that this is a tremendous team effort down here, really under the state and the regional of region one, to coordinated efforts between all these parishes that -- just evacuation planning for hurricanes is a multi-parish, state exercise, as you might imagine.

Trying to move and plan to move 1.2 million people out of an area when you have to cross a bridge to get out, is a real coordinated effort between a lot of people. So, we work very hard throughout the year to be able to handle circumstances of serious storms.

KING: Well, Tropical Storm Cindy, just shy of hurricane strength, making its way toward New Orleans. Colonel Perry Ebbert, we thank you for your time today, sir. We'll let you get back to your preparations and we wish you the best of luck over the next several days.

EBBERT: Thank you.

KING: And now, another developing story --

KING: Thank you, sir.

And now another developing story: A first court hearing for the man accused of kidnapping two Idaho siblings, one of whom was rescued this weekend, the other, now presumed dead. CNN's Rusty Dornin is live in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with the latest developments -- Rusty?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, it was a very unusual court appearance, at least for me, I've never seen one of these first appearances that is completely closed-circuit television. Joseph Duncan is three miles away from here in jail. He was on TV, the judge is here, but was not in the courtroom where we were.

You're looking at a screen where you see the prisoner, Joseph Duncan, dressed in his, you know, his prison duds. He was manacled at the waist and to his feet and in the lower right-hand corner, you can see the judge, Scott Wayland (ph).

Now, he read him his rights, asked him if he understood those. Duncan said, "Yes." Then, he charged him with two counts of first degree kidnapping with the intent to rape, commit an unnatural act and other lewd and lascivious acts.

Now, those two charges carry the maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment, in Idaho. There is now bail for that. He also had another fugitive charge, which apparently had a $2 million bond. That's what the judge set. They also appointed an attorney for him, a public defender, Glenn Nelson.

At one point, Joseph Duncan asked if he could ask his attorney a question or ask a question in court, but wanted to talk to his attorney first. Nelson -- he whispered in Nelson's ear and the public defender decided that this was not the time and place for that.

So, the next time that we will see Joseph Duncan in court is unclear. There is no time set. He will go back to jail. He will talk to the public defender's office apparently and they will set a date for a preliminary hearing at some later time.

Meantime, there's going to be a press conference in Saint Regis, Montana, which is where the remains were discovered. It's yet to be confirmed whether those remains that were found are actually those of Dylan Groene.

But he has been charged two counts: First degree kidnapping for Shasta and Dylan Groene -- John?

KING: And Rusty, you say, "yet to be confirmed," those remains, they believe to be Dylan Groene. Yesterday, investigators were saying they hope to get word back from the crime lab within a day or two. Any change in that assessment or any expectation of when they will have the information?

DORNIN: Well, I mean it's possible they could do it at this press conference today, but they did say it would take 72 hours, because apparently the remains had to be processed at the lab -- the FBI lab in Quantitco, Virginia. So, that might take another few days.

KING: All right. Rusty Dornin for us, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Thank you very much, Rusty. President Bush landed in Europe just a short time ago. We'll go live to Denmark, just ahead, where the president has a message about Iraq.

And we'll look on what's his agenda for this week's G-8 Summit.

Missing in Aruba: Natalee Holloway's mother makes a tearful plea for international help to find her daughter.

And a lucky escape: A motorist in Washington watches his Ferrari go up in flames, but gets out of the way just in time.

Find out how. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In Iraq, al Qaeda's main ally may now be targeting some of America's allies in the War on Terror. In the latest wave of attacks, insurgents have foreign diplomats in their sights.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING (voice over): Bloody attacks are a daily event in Iraq, but the target here, a sign of a new insurgent strategy. Bahrain's envoy to Iraq was wounded in this kidnapping attempt and treated for a hand injury at a local hospital. Bahrain has temporarily closed its mission.

Pakistan's ambassador says his convoy came under fire as he headed home from work in the same neighborhood. The attacks came three days after a third Muslim diplomat, Egypt's top envoy to Iraq, was kidnapped in Baghdad. An Islamic website posted a message purportedly from Iraq's al Qaeda wing, claiming responsibility for kidnapping the Egyptian. The message attributed to the terror group headed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al Zarqawi said the envoy, Ihab al-Sherif, was in its custody and that more information would be released later. Al-Sherif was to be the first ambassador do represent an Arab state in post-Saddam Iraq, a move hailed by the United States just last week as proof Iraq was being welcomed back into the Arab fold.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: You can see that also the international community knows what's at stake, knows that the Iraqis can succeed and is mobilizing to support them.

KING (voice over): An Iraqi government spokesman called the attacks on diplomats a clear effort by insurgents to scare away governments trying to help Iraq with its political transition and reconstruction.

LAITH KUBBA, IRAQI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (through translator): These terrorist groups only aim for destruction, but they have absolutely no political view or goal. So they target the whole of humanity, not only Iraq.

KING (voice over): And this from the Pentagon on the Egyptian's abduction.

LARRY DIRITA, PENTAGON SPOKESMAN: If in fact it is true that al Qaeda has snatched this diplomat, I think it suggests that what we know to be the case, that al Qaeda has targeted those countries that are trying to cooperate in the success of Iraq's emerging democracy.

KING (voice over): And there is no letup in insurgent attacks on more traditional targets. This bus carrying government workers was fired on in Baghdad's Amariyah (ph) neighborhood. And north of Baghdad, a water supply plant was the target.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Now these attacks on diplomats are a blow both for Iraq's new government and of course a set back to the United States. Let's go live to our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel. Andrea, you heard the Pentagon condemning the Egyptian's abduction. What is State Department doing?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack, today, Secretary of State Rice called up the Egyptian foreign minister to offer, in McCormack's words, any help that the U.S. might make available to the Egyptians. But clearly, John, the latest string of attacks, which seem to be deliberately targeting both Arab and Muslim diplomats, certainly isn't going to help the Bush administration's push to get more countries to send diplomats to Iraq.

KING: And Andrea, any reservations at the State Department about the timing of this? The secretary of State, as you well know, was almost gushing with the fact that Egypt was prepared to elevate its envoy to an ambassador. Is there any concern there that they're rushing other countries to raise the flag, if you will, in such an uncertain security environment?

KOPPEL: Well, nobody is saying that explicitly, but I did talk to Arab diplomats who are based in Washington. And what they told me was that, look, they feel they're in a bind, because on the one hand, they want to show support for the new Iraqi government; but on the other, they feel that their diplomats are vulnerable. They don't have -- the Arab world doesn't have military presence in Iraq, and so they feel that they don't have adequate security there in an incredibly volatile situation. As one diplomat told me, he said, look what happened to the diplomat from Bahrain. He was in a three-car convoy, and yet gunmen were still able to hurt him, they were able to fire upon his car. John.

KING: Dicey diplomatic and security situation. Andrea Koppel at the State Department, thank you very much.

And when we come back on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, a mother's cry for help.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETTY HOLLOWAY-TWITTY: It is now that I ask the world to help me. Two suspects were released yesterday who were involved in a violent crime against my daughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Natalee Holloway's mother pleads for international help to solve the mystery of her daughter's whereabouts. We'll go live to Aruba for the latest.

Will President Bush soon have two Supreme Court vacancies to fill. The status of Chief Justic William Rehnquist.

And is cable TV pushing the envelope too far when it comes to indecency? The TV ratings battle you may not have heard about.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: President Bush is on his way to the G-8 summit in Scotland, but stopping first in Denmark as a gesture of thanks for its contributions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Bush also spending some of this travel time focused on that Supreme Court vacancy back home. Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is in Copenhagen, and joins us now live. Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, President Bush earlier today taking advantage of the eight hours aboard Air Force One before touching down. President Bush, we're told by his press secretary, Scott McClellan, spent a couple of hours on the plane going over those briefing papers of at least a half-dozen, we're told, possible Supreme Court candidates. He consulted with his chief of staff over the weekend about it. We are told that the president believes it will at least take a couple of weeks for that process to actually get a name out and before he starts doing those interviews. We're told the president was not happy with some of the criticism that has been aimed at at least perhaps one of his candidates, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Conservatives already saying that he is much, much too moderate. President Bush today saying that he believes they should tone down this heated rhetoric.

Now, of course, here in Denmark, there was no heated rhetoric earlier today. The president, the first lady and their daughter, Jenna, received a warm welcome from Queen Margaret II and Prince Henry. They will be staying at the Fredensborg Palace tonight. It is the queen's favorite summer residence. And of course, President Bush as well as Prime Minister Rasmussen will make remarks tomorrow together.

This is about a courtesy call that the president is paying to Denmark really just simply to say thank you. The State Department calls Denmark one of its closest, even an excellent ally when it comes to the War on Terror. Denmark, as you know, has about 500 troops in Iraq. It also has peacekeeping missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo as well as the Balkans; was one of the first who came forward as what the president likes to say, the coalition of the willing, the U.S. invasion against Iraq.

Now, I should tell you however that the president is not goings to be venturing far from the palace. There are protests that have been organized. We're told that they're gathering outside of the palace and again of course tomorrow outside the U.S. embassy. Many Danish people very upset about the U.S. invasion when it comes to the war in Iraq and also, of course, U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

All of this, John, of course, leading up to the big event. That is going to be tomorrow afternoon. That's when the president goes to Scotland for the G-8 Summit. Two big items on their agenda, of course -- moving forward, pushing forward to give more aid to Africa as well, of course, tackling climate warming and global change.

John.

KING: Suzanne Malveaux for us live in Copenhagen. Safe travels, Suzanne. We'll talk to you tomorrow, I'm sure.

And there's already controversy on the eve of the G-8 summit. The host prime minister, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is a close ally, of course, of President Bush, but he's been told not to expect any special favors when it comes to his pet projects -- global warming and fighting poverty in Africa.

Joining me now, our world affairs analyst, former Defense Secretary William Cohen. He is chairman and CEO of The Cohen Group here in Washington. Let's start on the issue of the G-8 and the personal politics between President Bush and Tony Blair. One would argue, oh, boy, if there's anyone in the world President Bush owes a favor to, it is Tony Blair. Yet the White House says, nothing special.

WILLIAM COHEN, CNN WORLD AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, he does owe a lot to Tony Blair. But on the other hand, he understands that he can't be seen as making some sort of a preemptive concession during the course of the discussions. Aid to Africa is important to Tony Blair, but it should be very important to us as well as a great humanitarian effort that needs to be undertaken.

KING: Let me stop you on that point, just because I don't think anyone could disagree with that point. But your thoughts on how to deliver it. There are some, even poor farmers in Africa, if you read international reports this week saying, of course, we want your help but our governments are corrupt. Why give money to the government?

COHEN: Yes, what these groups are saying, it's not necessarily a question of money, although certainly they would want to have more, but the question of how to deliver it. Whether you have direct aid going to governments that are seen as being open, honest and free of corruption, then that is one avenue you might pursue. But it may be going to NGOs, nongovernmental organizations, who can deliver assistance, be it medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and others, who have a history of being able to produce the kind of results that are necessary.

But this is the equivalent of a tsunami effort. If you look at what happened to the victims of the tsunami, the same thing is happening -- on a different level to be sure -- but the same thing is happening with AIDS, disease, poverty in Africa. We have an obligation to help in a major way.

KING: And as that debate unfolds, I want to shift your attention to Iraq. Three diplomats now in a matter of a week targeted, one kidnapped, two apparent attempted kidnapping today, all three from predominantly Muslim nations. What does that tell you about the tactics of the insurgents?

COHEN: It tells me it's just another one of their tactics, from beheadings to suicide bombers now to targeting diplomats to the infrastructure. It seems to me the Arab nations have to speak out loudly on this issue. And frankly, if it were me, I would call upon them to say don't just send more diplomats. Tell them you're sending your militaries, as well. Tell them every time they target a diplomat, we're going to increase the level of our commitment to secure their safety. And we're willing to put the muscle behind that effort.

KING: And why do you think that hasn't happened, more overt help from the Arab nations? Are they reluctant to help the government in Iraq, or are they more worried about what might happen in their own countries, internal opposition?

COHEN: I think they're still concerned about a number of things. Certainly they're concerned about the Middle East peace process, which is not fully engaged as of yet. We have the Gaza evacuation or the removal of the settlers from Gaza coming up. That's going to cause lots of consternation and potentially lots of violence. They're concerned about that. I think they're also concerned that the United States still is seen perhaps as an occupying power, that the Iraqi government hasn't taken control yet. And it puts them in a Catch 22 situation. Waiting until the Iraqi government can support itself in the way of security presents a problem for them. If they wait too long, they'll never be able to gain that kind of security.

So I think the obligation right now is step forward, commit troops to help secure the people in Iraq as well.

KING: And I want to ask for your unique observations. You were the secretary of Defense. The Pentagon has gone almost silent on the issue of what is going on in the mountains of Afghanistan right now, where we know Americans are missing. Some have been killed. Americans missing. We presume a search-and-rescue mission underway there, but the Pentagon has said because of operational security, they are saying nothing about what is going on.

What is your assessment, sir? What do you believe is going on there?

COHEN: I believe they're still searching for the missing Special Forces personnel. They don't want to compromise that mission. He may be in hiding. He may be in the possession of the insurgents or the Taliban as such. They're going to maintain radio silence and communication silence till they're satisfied that they've either extracted him safely or they need to take other kinds of action.

KING: Are you surprised we haven't seen more of this? So many Soviet helicopters shot down back in the day when they were operating in Afghanistan. This tragedy involving U.S. troops, are you surprised there hasn't been more of this even up in that terrain?

COHEN: Well, it depends on how many people we're putting there. It could be that we're obviously searching for high value targets, perhaps even bin Laden himself, but certainly his lieutenants. And to the extent you have a larger presence, then that presents a larger target. It may be we're using very low numbers of individuals going in covertly. And when you present a very big picture of a Chinook coming, with a helicopter that size at sunset, it presents a very inviting target, and we lost 16 brave men.

KING: And that operation obviously continues. Our world affairs analyst, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, thank you, sir.

COHEN: Good to be here, John.

KING: "Time" magazine agreed to turn information over to a special counsel. Coming up, we'll tell you why that may not be enough to keep reporter Matthew Cooper out of jail.

The Supreme Court. One justice is leaving. Is another on his way out?

And about those letters and numbers popping up on the screen on cable TV. We'll tell you why they're there and what they mean.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: And welcome back.

A Ferrari owner has an amazing story to tell after a fiery explosion at the gas pump. He's okay, and we'll hear from him later this hour.

But first, a quick check of other stories "Now in the News."

The man accused of kidnapping two Idaho siblings made his first court appearance in Coeur D'Alene via closed-circuit TV today. Joseph Duncan was ordered held without bail. The convicted sex offender was arrested Saturday with eight-year-old Shasta Groene. Police say they believe her brother Dylan is dead.

Two tropical storms are taking aim at the United States. Cindy is closing in on New Orleans with winds around 70 miles an hour. That's just shy of hurricane strength. And farther south, Dennis is heading in the same general direction. Forecasters say it could also become a hurricane before making landfall.

Last minute lobbying is underway in Singapore where the International Olympic Committee votes tomorrow on the site of the 2012 summer games. Paris is seen as the favorite. London, Madrid, Moscow and New York are also in the running.

An emotional plea from the mother of Natalee Holloway, that Alabama teenager who disappeared more than a month ago in Aruba. CNN's David Mattingly is there and live for us now with the details.

David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, in just the last two hours, we have witnessed a very loud demonstration of commitment by the Aruban government in the search for Natalee Holloway. All eyes were on the sky as Dutch F-16s roared over head on their first test passes over the island. They were brought here by the government with special equipment: infrared devices and cameras to give this relatively small island -- just 16 miles long and six miles wide -- a very high profile and high tech examination. The jets appeared almost 24 hours exactly after a judge released two more suspects in this case. Satish and Deepak Kalpoe went home after being interrogated behind bars since June 9th, the judge apparently deciding there was not enough evidence or information to formally charge them or to hold them any further for questioning in this case.

Natalie's mother today used some very strong words and some tears to express her disappointment.

BETTY HOLLOWAY TWITTY, NATALEE HOLLOWAY'S MOTHER: It is now that I ask the world to help me. Two suspects were released yesterday who were involved in a violent crime against my daughter. These criminals are not only allowed to walk freely among the tourists and citizens of Aruba, but there are no limits where they may choose to travel.

MATTINGLY: The attorney for the two young men maintains their innocence. He says even though that they are free to travel right now, that the two brothers and their family have no plans to leave the island. The only person who remains in custody right now is 17-year- old Joran Van Der Sloot. He was the last person known to see her alive, seen walking to a beach with her all those weeks ago when she disappeared. John?

KING: David Mattingly live for us in Aruba on this developing story. Thank you very much, David.

Failing fast or rapidly recovering: it depends on whom you ask. We'll look at arguments for and against a Rehnquist retirement from the next Supreme Court.

And then cable TV fends off complaints with a rating system. Will parents buy into it?

Also, a trip to the gas station ends in flames. You won't want to miss this dramatic story.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: There's no word yet, of course, on whom President Bush will name to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. This will be Mr. Bush's first chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice, but it probably won't be his last. CNN's Brian Todd has been looking into that.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the justice whom many believed the president was going to have to replace was not Sandra Day O'Connor. And it is now Chief Justice William Rehnquist on whom all the speculation is centered. It's a spotlight the Chief, as he's called, has never been comfortable with.

WILLIAM REHNQUIST, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT: I, George Herbert Walker Bush, do solemnly swear.

TODD (voice-over): He's seen seven presidents come and go, presided over one president's impeachment...

REHNQUIST: And the resolution as amended is agreed to.

TODD: ...another's razor thin victory. And now, William Hubbs Rehnquist finds himself the object of the Washington game that by most accounts he detests: speculation about his future.

SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER, (R) PENNSYLVANIA: When I saw him recently and saw how well he looked, compared to how he was when he administered the oath to the president a few months ago, and having some insights myself fighting Hodgkin's cancer, I thought the chief was going to stay on.

TODD: But impressions of the chief justice's health are sharply divided, even among people who have seen him at the same event. Has he improved or weakened since his diagnosis of thyroid cancer last October, his emergency tracheotomy and weeks of chemotherapy and radiation? Certainly the answer will not come from Rehnquist himself, an intensely private man.

But we spoke to former clerks for Rehnquist and a Supreme Court scholar, who say his health will play a large role on his decision on whether to step down. In step with that, they say, is his desire to do what's right for the court.

PROF. RICHARD GARNETT, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME LAW SCHOOL AND FORMER CLERK FOR CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST: Well, Chief Justice Rehnquist believes that he's been given a position of trust and that he has stewardship obligations to the court. And in my view, it's those obligations, more than anything else, that will be shaping his decision.

TODD: Court sources and former colleagues say there are two justices whose retirements weigh on Rehnquist. Some say they'd be surprised if Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor had not talked, at least informally, about who should step down first, given an unspoken sentiment among justices that, unless personal considerations warrant, they should not leave two vacancies on the court at once. And they say Rehnquist remembers the demise of Justice William O. Douglas, who suffered a massive stroke in 1974, was mentally incapacitated while still on the bench and refused for nearly a year to retire.

Rehnquist was on the court when that happened and sources say that's not the legacy he wants.

(On camera): Some people connected to the court say it's best to simply read into this what is actually happening. Court sources tell CNN Chief Justice Rehnquist has already hired three clerks for the coming fall term, and they've all been told to report to work this month as scheduled -- John?

KING: Brian Todd, seems pretty clear there, he wants to stay.

Thank you very much, Brian.

A special counsel is pressing on with his probe into a government leak that resulted in the public disclosure of a CIA operative's identity. The prosecutor told the judge today that he still wants to bring a "Time" magazine reporter before a grand jury.

CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken has the details -- Bob?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, tomorrow could be a day of reckoning: Two reporters are going to go into a Washington courtroom, but it's totally uncertain whether they'll come back out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANKEN: Matt Cooper's bosses at "Time" magazine had already turned over the documents, including his notes and e-mails, over his objections. But the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, insists on papers filed with the court: That's not enough, Cooper must also testify or face jail.

As for Judith Miller, her employer, the "New York Times," has not budged and neither has she. And she too, face the prospect of incarceration after the court hearing.

Fitzgerald also opposed requests from the reporters for judge to impose house arrest if he does sentence them, instead of prison. All of this, because somebody blew Valerie Plame's cover, which might have been illegal. Plame, we now know, was an undercover CIA operative.

She's also the wife of Joe Wilson. Wilson was the former diplomat who was charging the administration that put out misleading information about Iraq's nuclear efforts. Columnist Robert Novak reported the information, citing administration sources. Miller did not.

Cooper wrote about it in "Time," after the Novak column appeared. "Time," by the way, is owned by Time Warner which also owns CNN.

Fitzgerald was named a special investigator to find out who leaked the information and whether it was illegal. The records "Time" magazine turned over show that cooper spoke, in that critical week of July 2003, to Karl Rove, now the White House deputy chief of staff.

Rove's lawyer insists his client did not give out any confidential information on Valerie Plame. The attorney goes on to say he has been assured that Rove is not a suspect.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FRANKEN: Whatever happens to Cooper and Miller, many in the media worry that all reporters will have, as a result of this case, a much more difficult time getting information from anonymous sources whose anonymity they might not be able to promise -- John?

KING: Bob Franken, for us, setting us up for more to consider tomorrow, a momentous day in this case.

Thank you, Bob.

And joining us to discuss the CIA leak probe, as well as the recent retirement of Supreme County Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, is the former attorney general of the United States, Edwin Meese.

General, thank you for joining us.

Let me start with the CIA leak investigation and the prospect of putting two reporters in prison. Standard operating procedure for the Justice Department or is this an extraordinary case?

EDWIN MEESE, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it's extraordinary. I can't remember any situation during the time I was attorney general at the Department of Justice, in almost four years, put any reporters in jail. So, I think it is a rather unusual case.

KING: And can you see, if Mr. Fitzgerald is watching, is there some compromise that you would recommend or do you think in this case, because of the stakes, a covert CIA operative operative's name's being disclosed -- although these two reporters were not the ones to do it initially, can you see a way out here?

MEESE: I don't know. I think it's a very difficult case. I'm surprised the case has even gone this far, because I don't think this was really a covert agent. She was some sort of administrative person at the CIA, I think, at the time this occurred and I think, perhaps, this is an exaggerated case in its entirety.

KING: Exaggerated within the Justice Department or exaggerated because of the political ramifications?

MEESE: I think for all of those reasons. I have a hard time understanding why this much effort has gone into this particular case.

KING: All right. Well, let's move on to something else in which a great deal of effort is going into it, including your involvement, sir: The president has to pick a new Supreme Court justice. You have you been among those brought in by the White House to consult on reaching out to fellow conservatives, perhaps to help defend this nominee whenever we get the name of the president's choice. You have been involved in some White House meetings.

I want to ask you first about the whole controversy over a man who has the job you once held, Alberto Gonzalez. Word on the street and I talk to many of them, is that many social conservative groups are saying: No way, Mr. President, do not do this to us. We don't trust Alberto Gonzalez. Are they -- friends of yours telling you to relay that message to the president?

MEESE: Well, actually, until and unless the president makes a nomination, I've determined not to make any comment about any of the candidates. I think it's inappropriate. This is a very delicate, very sensitive time. The president's considering a lot of candidates and I think it would be improper to try to make any comments on one or the other.

KING: So, you won't even say whether you're getting heat from colleagues? You have access to the president, let's take all the names out. Are peopling calling you up and saying: Ed, you're going to the White House, you're seeing Karl Rove and all these other people, tell them --

MEESE: The comments that I've made to the White House and the information that's been requested of me, has really been the process of how you go about this. I was there when Sandra Day O'Connor was appointed, I was in the White House at the time. I was there when Bill Rehnquist became chief justice, Antonin Scalia became an associate justice and Tony Kennedy was put on the court. And so, I know a lot about the process, I know some of the pitfalls and that's why I've been talking to the White House.

KING: And you know, sir, based on the experience you just relayed to us, that going all the way back to that time, in the Reagan administration, conservatives have waited for this moment. They thought they would get it sooner and they see themselves now with the White House, Mr. Bush will server eight years, they have been in the majority in the Congress now, both chambers, for 10 years and they see the judicial system as the last, if you will, hallmark -- piece of the government under what they believe to be liberal control.

Take a step back. What is this moment, from a conservative looking a chance to tip the balance of the court?

MEESE: Well, I think for a conservative and those who are interested in good government, it's exactly what the president has said it is and that is time for him to appoint a person who is faithful to the Constitution and who understands the role of a Judge and that is to interpret the law and not to make up the law, as unfortunately as happened sometimes, and not to make it up to satisfy some political prejudice, some policy goal or perhaps, the agenda of some special interest group.

KING: And as the president goes over his list, one of the dramas here in Washington is that you always get what you think you're going to get. Take us back and -- take us back and then look in today's history -- let's take for example, Justice O'Connor: Did you get -- in her 24 years, was she what you thought she would be when Ronald Reagan put her on the court?

MEESE: Yes, I think she was. I -- she has been a contrary to what some of the liberals are trying to say, that she's some sort of a moderate or some sort of a liberal. Sandra Day O'Connor has been a very dignified judge, an outstanding justice in many ways.

Obviously, anyone could differ on particular cases, but she's the one who gave us very important decisions against racial discrimination in the Aderan case and teh Crosin (ph) case. She's the one who filed the dissent in the infamous Kelo case, just recently, which said the government could take a person's home in order to provide a private property with something that would raise economic benefits.

I think she's been a very good justice. I think she's carried out. I think Ronald Reagan would be proud of her.

KING: And I want Attorney General Ed Meese on the record on this point: Some conservatives say Roe V Wade should be overturned. Read the Constitution, simply not there; the bases for the Roe V Wade decision is not in the Constitution. Other conservatives say you have to take society into account. It has been the law of the land for a quarter-century now and therefore, you do not reverse precedent willie-nillie (ph).

What is Ed Meese's position on what should happen there?

MEESE: Well, my personal position, and we recognize I'm not a candidate for the Supreme Court, is that the Roe against Wade was never in the Constitution. All of the -- almost unanimously, the legal scholars at the time thought it was the wrong decision and as far as whether it should be changed in the future, I think the court will have to determine whether it is such -- so wrongly decided, as I believe it is -- it's a lot like the Dredd Scott decision, it was the decision and the court made a mistake and I believe mistakes should be corrected.

Just like Plessy against Ferguson, which enshrines separate but equal as a concept in the law. That was wrong and it wasn't until Brown against Board of Education that we made some changes, even though they mistakenly did not overrule it specifically at that time.

KING: Attorney General Edward Meese, we -- sir, we thank you for your thoughts today and we hope you'll come back as this process unfolds.

The president said today it's going to take several weeks, it looks like, before we get his choice. So, this may go on a bit longer than many of us thought.

MEESE: I'll be glad to be here.

KING: Ed Meese, thank you so much.

MEESE: Thank you.

KING: And coming up at the top of the hour: LOU DOBBS TONIGHT. Kitty Pilgrim in for Lou today and she's standing by in New York with a preview -- Kitty?

KITTY PILGRIM, HOST: Thanks, John. 6 p.m. Eastern, President Bush receives a warm welcome in Denmark tonight, but will the president face some of his toughest critics of the G-8 Summit? We'll tell you about that.

Also: What in the world is Beijing thinking? China tells our congress to stop interfering in China's bid to take over a major U.S. energy company.

And, a dramatic warning tonight about bird flu, one of this country's top experts on infectious diseases will joining us.

All that and more at the top of the hour, but for now, back to John King -- John?

KING: Thank you, Kitty. We'll be watching.

Controlling the remote: Can a warning label protect your children from inappropriate television?

Also: Ferrari in flames -- dramatic pictures of a drive a his beloved car.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Have you noticed something different recently while watching cable TV? No, not that Wolf actually took a few days off. That ratings box, in the upper corner of your screen, has gotten bigger. The cable industry says it's an effort to give parents more control over what their kids watch, but it's part of a broader campaign to keep the government from having remote control. CNN's Mary Snow reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It started with Janet Jackson's bare breast during the 2004 Super Bowl network broadcast. A curse during a televised awards show by rocker Bono heated things up, and complaints grew about indecency and sex on network TV.

That was on the networks, but a year and a half later on cable, you'll now see this. And this on cable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's much more choice today.

SNOW: The cable industry has tuned in to the complaints about indecency, and spent $250 million to educate parents on how to control what their kids watch on TV.

Part of the effort: An enlarged ratings system on screen, similar to the one used in movies.

Have parents noticed? Some industry observers say, not so much. But politicians did.

BILL MCCONNELL, BROADCASTING AND CABLE: A lot of lawmakers were threatening to hit cable -- cable networks with the same type of indecency restrictions that broadcasters face. A lot of that talk has died down.

SNOW: While the talk may have died down, it hasn't died.

CHARMAINE YOEST, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Putting a warning label on something is not a license for them to just dump raw sewage into our culture.

SNOW: The clash over culture has put the media industry overall on guard.

JIM DYKE, TV WATCH: When they talk about smut and pornography and sewage on television, they're actually talking about some of America's most popular shows.

SNOW: Shows like "The Simpsons," that a group called TV Watch says may not be for every kid, but certainly shouldn't be banned.

The group is a coalition recently formed of media companies like Viacom and NBC, along with conservative and liberal groups. Their message -- parents, not the government, should control the remote. They say complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about indecency don't represent the majority views of Americans.

DYKE: The FCC is almost being controlled by a heckler's veto at this point.

SNOW: Others say, though, that the government needs to be more involved in TV regulation, and they compare it to monitoring the environment.

YOEST: It's something that affects all of us, and so we need the government to be involved in policing what the television industry is doing.

SNOW: Cable TV has certain legal protections the networks do not. And observers wonder how FCC restrictions may impact the cable industry in the future.

(on camera): The question remains as to whether the high court can block regulators the way parents can block television shows.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Ferrari on fire. We'll tell you the amazing story of a driver and his classic car. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: A Washington state man is out of a car, and a pretty nice one at that. But amazed as anyone that he's lived to tell his story. You'll understand why when you see the surveillance tape of the fire that almost killed him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DERRICK WALKER, FIRE SURVIVOR: All of a sudden, I can feel the heat, and then I can see it. I can see the flames coming up. And I lose all my breath. It just disappeared from me.

KING (voice-over): Derrick Walker was filling up his 1977 Ferrari, when the car burst into flames.

WALKER: And then you see it surround me, and then you see it completely surround me.

KING: Seconds later, the station attendant ran out. He pulled the pump hose from the burning car, and put out the flames with a fire extinguisher.

WALKER: He's a pretty old guy, I think, because he stepped right in there.

KING: It was too late to save the Ferrari. It's a total loss. But Walker is keeping his situation in perspective.

WALKER: I can replace the car, you know. It's no big deal. I mean, it is a big deal, it's going to hurt a little bit, but I'm fine, you know. That's the big deal for me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And as for the cause: A Bellevue fire spokesman tells us it appears a leak from the car's gas tank or gas line was ignited by heat from the exhaust pipe. Pretty amazing pictures.

And remember, you can always catch WOLF BLITZER REPORTS at this time right here, 5:00 p.m. Eastern. I'll be back tomorrow. Until then, thanks for watching. Have a great evening. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now, and Kitty Pilgrim filling in for Lou, and she's standing by.

KITTY PILGRIM, GUEST HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Hi, John. Thanks.

END

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