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Rehnquist Hospitalized for Fever; Rove Controversy Continues

Aired July 13, 2005 - 14:36   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: I apologize. I've got to ask you to standby for just a second. Forgive me, Miles, forgive me.
We're just getting word into CNN that Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been hospitalized with a fever. As you know, there's been a lot of speculation over whether the chief justice was going to announce that he was about to retire. Sandra Day O'Connor, of course, came forward, announced that she was going to retire.

A lot of people were wondering who would come forward first. It was a bit of a surprise when we heard from Sandra Day O'Connor first, considering Chief Justice William Rehnquist's health. As you know, he's been suffering from thyroid cancer and his health has been ailing. But he's been keeping, believe it or not, his sense of humor through all of that.

This video that you're actually seeing of him, on the grounds of his home. There was a producer -- well, a lot of reporters outside his home, trying to get him to talk, trying to get him to answer questions about if he's going to announce his retirement soon. And a producer had shouted out, you know, "Chief Justice, are you going to retire?" and he turned around, and, with sort of his typical grin on his face and said, "That's for me to know and you to find out."

So he's been very quiet about his plans for retirement. But we are getting word now that well, maybe we might hear from him a little sooner than we thought, due to word now that we're getting that he has been hospitalized with a fever, as he continues to battle his thyroid cancer. So we're continuing to get more information in on the chief justice and his condition. We'll continue to follow this story, bringing you as much information as we can.

I know that Joe Johns has been working this story from the U.S. Supreme Court. We'll try and get him on the line. In the meanwhile, do we want to take a break or do we want to go back to Miles? We'll take it back to Miles O'Brien at Kennedy Space Center. Sorry about that, Miles. Didn't mean to interrupt your interviews.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Kyra, well, you know...

PHILLIPS: Well, forgive me, Miles, we do have Joe Johns on the line. I promise we will get back to you. Joe Johns, we got you on the horn. What do you know about the chief justice?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we do know that he was taken to ambulance -- by ambulance last night to Arlington Hospital, not too far from his home over in Virginia, right across the river from Washington D.C. Told he was suffering from a fever. It's important to note that the court is downplaying all of this at this stage. It's not clear how long he's going to stay. But it did become clear us to earlier today that the chief justice had changed his routine. He did not come into work. We saw security officers taking what appeared to be clothes out of his house, also his cane, apparently taking these things over to him at the hospital. We know he was taken there by ambulance, a report of a fever. And that, of course, is all we know.

He's 80 years old, suffering from thyroid cancer. He has been sick for a long time, though. A lot of people have said that he's been able to perform his duties as the chief justice of the United States. In spite of all of that, all of this, the backdrop to it, of course, is the question as to whether the chief justice might consider retiring. Absolutely no word on that. A continued guessing game. But, once again, the headline, as it were is that the chief justice, we're told, was taken to Arlington Hospital, suffering from a fever. The court downplaying it -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, let me ask you a question, Joe. Arlington Hospital, I'm writing this down. You got word that he was taken by ambulance and that folks have been bringing things to him, which would lead me to believe that this was an emergency situation. He didn't have time to gather up his things and head to the hospital.

So, you know, you think of a fever, you think that might not be that serious, yet here's somebody that's suffering from cancer. A fever is not a good sign. Do we know for sure if that ambulance ride was possibly be a 911 call and it was all about time?

JOHNS: Honestly, it's not clear at all. This is as much as we've been able to get all day. Some of us, obviously, noted that the chief justice did not come in today and obviously, there's a position here where you can watch cars going into the parking lot and we didn't see him come.

So, we knew that something was unusual. We got this basically cursory statement from the court telling us that he was taken to the hospital with a fever, by ambulance and that is, so far, the end of it.

No other details on the circumstances surrounding his departure; no clear indication as to what kind of condition he's in, but the inference we're being given, the suggestion, at least, is that it is not to be taken as extremely serious, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So if this does turn out to be very serious, Joe and he has not officially announced plans for retirement, is it -- do you have to hear it from him? Does he have to officially announce that he's retiring, or can a decision be made for him, if this indeed is a very serious situation and he may not be able to think very clearly about the next step?

JOHNS: Well, what is clear, obviously, is that a -- an appointment and confirmation to the Supreme Court of the United States is, as you know, a lifetime appointment and the chief justice has shown no signs up until now, of being unable to perform his duties, in spite of the present illness; the thyroid cancer.

So, it seems a bit premature, if you will, to start second- guessing those kinds of conditions without, as you know, enough information to tell us just how bad off he might be. The indication, clearly here from the court, is that this is not something to deem extremely serious. And that's about all the kind of guidance I can give you, without a more -- I wouldn't want to start guessing. You know how it is.

PHILLIPS: I know. Point well made, Joe Johns. I thank you very much. Continue to work the story for us. Let us know if you get any new information there, Joe Johns.

Once again, a hot day on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

We're going to take a quick break, but just to let you know what we're following at this point: The launch at Kennedy Space Center has been scrubbed. We're following that story, trying to bring you more information to maybe, you know, in the next day or so, could this lift off, still take place? Miles O'Brien is working that story on shuttle Discovery at the space center.

And then, once again, this news that just came in out of the Supreme Court and that is Chief Justice William Rehnquist being taken to the hospital last night by ambulance, suffering from a fever, we are told. The court down-playing the condition of the chief justice, 80 years old. He is at Arlington Hospital.

We're working both stories for you, as they're continuing to unfold live here on CNN. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PHILLIPS: Two stories, actually, we're continuing to follow for you right now here live on CNN: The first is Chief Justice William Rehnquist. We just got word a few moments ago, the chief justice was taken by ambulance to the hospital. He's now at Arlington Hospital. We were told he was suffering from a fever. We don't know much more than that. We know the court is down-playing what has happened, right now, to the 80-year-old chief justice, someone who's been suffering from thyroid cancer.

It hasn't affected his job as being able to work on the court, but now we are being told he did not come to work today. Everybody did notice that over at the Supreme Court and Joe Johns working the story for us, finding out that indeed he was taken to the hospital last night with a fever. We will continue to follow the status of the chief justice, William Rehnquist, now in Arlington Hospital.

Of course the other story breaking today, that we've been following for you and that is the scrubbed launch of space shuttle Discovery. After four years of getting ready for this mission -- and also the first launch since that fatal day in February of 2003, when we saw what happened to space shuttle Columbia.

A lot of eyes and ears waiting for this liftoff. A lot of family there at space -- Kennedy Space Center, hoping that this day would happen. But we thought it was going to be weather, it didn't turn out to be that, it turned out to be a low level cutoff switch. A faulty fuel sensor that scrubbed the space shuttle today. So, Miles O'Brien is working that story for us, of course, live from Kennedy Space Center.

We're going to talk about that more. Also, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, we will follow his condition.

Meanwhile, the secrets out, the pledge is off, the reporter's on the record and "wait and see" is still the view of the White House. The hue and cry continues over Karl Rove's outing of a CIA operative to a magazine reporter who very nearly went to jail, rather than identify Rove.

Now the deputy White House chief of staff has his source. Well, with Rove's apparent permission, Matt Cooper did name names today before a grand jury in D.C. And while President Bush was refusing quote, "To prejudge the leak investigation or to comment on the past White House denials of Rove's involvement," well that left Press Secretary Scott McClellan on the hot seat for the third day running.


SCOTT MCCLELLAN: He wasn't asked about his support or confidence for Karl. As I indicated yesterday, every person who works here at the White House, including Karl Rove, has the confidence of the president.


PHILLIPS: CNN's Kathleen Koch joins me now with the latest on where all this stands -- Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, this is the piece of paper that made today's testimony possible. What it is, is it is a letter from Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove's attorney to the attorney for "Time" magazine correspondent Matt Cooper, basically releasing him from his promise of confidentiality. And Cooper, when he came out after two hours -- two-and-a-half hours of testimony before the grand jury, was very precise on that point that he believes that it is only the source who can release the reporter from their promise of confidentiality.

Another point that Cooper made was that he has no idea whether or not a crime has occurred in this case, whether or not Rove has actually broken a law by revealing that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. And Cooper says, in his opinion, his role in this case is now over.


MATT COOPER, "TIME" MAGAZINE REPORTER: Well, I believe my testifying before the grand jury is over. I was dismissed and I was told there is no reason to expect that I would be called back. You know, it is, I think, this decision to go out and subpoena journalists has been an unfortunate one. I'm glad I got personal waivers that allowed me to do this. I do, you know, hope now though that the prosecutor really can get this done quickly, because it is crazy to have Judith Miller in jail.


KOCH: During the two-year investigation, Cooper says that he did not ever speak with Karl Rove, that on the advice of his attorney, his attorney believing that both -- as it indeed did turn out -- would end up being witnesses before the grand jury investigating this situation. Now Cooper did not say whether or not, at this point now, he intends to contact Rove and speak with him. Cooper said he did though plan to go back to "Time" magazine and begin writing up an article on his experiences before the grand jury. He pointed out, that yes, while grand jurors, attorneys, and federal prosecutors are barred by law from discussing what happens in the grand jury room, the witness is completely free to do so. Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right, Kathleen Koch, we'll stay on the story. Thank you.

He led WorldCom into the biggest corporate bankruptcy in history and now he's paying the price, doing time for his crime. Kathleen Hays joins us live from the New York Stock Exchange.

KATHLEEN HAYS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, this is a rags to riches story about a man who started out with nothing, and became an extremely successful CEO. Now, he's headed to jail. Bernie Ebbers cried in court as he was sentenced to 25 years in prison today, one of the stiffest sentences ever for a white collar criminal. Ebbers led WorldCom into the largest bankruptcy in history with an $11 billion accounting fraud. He's been ordered to report to prison on October 12th. Earlier this week a judge ruled Ebbers must forfeit most of his personal assets to settle a share holder lawsuit. Ebbers is the first of six former WorldCom facing sentencing this summer. The other five all pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate against their boss. Kyra?

PHILLIPS: Kathleen, what's going on the floor?

HAYS: You know these guys are -- there's some Western theme and I think they're having kind of a quiet day and every once in a while they just start whooping it up and we run down or look down. But you know, it's Wall Street. They're fun loving, high spirited people.

PHILLIPS: They're a bunch of wild cowboys. Exactly. I know. We know how crazy it gets down there. It gets bumped up a notch.

HAYS: I wasn't sure if you could really hear all that in the background.

PHILLIPS: We can hear it all right.

HAYS: With the sad tale of Bernie Ebbers. You want to hear how stocks are doing real quick?

PHILLIPS: That sounds great.


PHILLIPS: All right. Kathleen Hays, thanks so much.

HAYS: Thank you, Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We're going to take a quick break. More LIVE FROM, right after this.



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