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PAULA ZAHN NOW

President Set to Nominate Supreme Court Justice; London Terror Attacks, President Bush Picks Supreme Court Nominee, Couple Educates Public About Danger of Pools to Children

Aired July 19, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Thank you for joining us, as we talk about this very important breaking news tonight, 8:00 p.m. in the East.
If you are just joining us, here is the latest from Washington. A senior administration official tells CNN that President Bush will nominate John G. Roberts to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Roberts is a Federal Appeals Court judge in Washington, D.C. He's 50 years ago. He's been a federal judge for just the past two years. And 25 years ago, he was a clerk for Justice William Rehnquist. He also argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court. And one hour from now at the White House, President Bush will make the announcement in a nationally televised speech.

It's a discussion that will affect your life for years to come. We're going to bring you the president's speech right at the top of the hour.

But our team coverage starts right now with White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, congressional correspondent Ed Henry, chief national correspondent John King.

Let's start straight off the bat with John King.

Good evening, John. A lot of speculation about who the president would ultimately pick. Why is Mr. Roberts his man?

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Because like the president, he is a conservative, Paula.

This is a president who, when he was first elected, many they said, he won a contested election. He'll never propose that big tax cut. And he did. Throughout the presidency, people have seen moments where they thought the president would tack to the middle. This is a president who is a conservative. This is a president who campaigned on a promise to put conservatives on the bench.

And tonight, senior administration officials tell us he will make the case that he is delivering on that promise. He will call Judge Roberts a mainstream conservative, someone he believes is reflective of the electorate that reelected him just last year. Mr. Roberts has only been on the federal bench for two years, and on the D.C. District Court of Appeals -- that is viewed as the step just below the Supreme Court -- for two years. So, there's not a great paper trail for his critics to go through.

Democrats are already suggesting they will look at every record they can, although they're not questioning his legal credentials. This is a man well known at the court as well, once a clerk, to then Associate Justice, now Chief Justice William Rehnquist. He worked as an attorney in the Reagan White House. Conservative groups, Paula, already cheering this nomination.

We expect a multimillion-dollar ad war to begin, perhaps as early as daybreak tomorrow. But the White House believes it has a good strong conservative who will have the support of conservative groups without a doubt, enough Democrats, the White House believes, to get through confirmation, after a bruising, but not too bloody of a battle the White House is predicting tonight, and we now have this pick.

Every president wants picks to the Supreme Court. This president waited more than four years to get one. He will introduce that nominee less than an hour from now, and then what will certainly be a contentious nomination fight will begin -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, it's interesting that you noted that there's such a short paper trail, because he just served just two years on the appellate court.

But I think one thing that is interesting to note -- and a Republican was telling me this earlier today -- this is a man who got a great deal of attention during the Florida recount. He was working behind the scenes. And people perceived him as the heavyweight that gave the president ultimately a big boost.

KING: Well, it's interesting you raise that point, because his law firm was involved. And it's been very hard in recent weeks, as his name has emerged as someone we knew was under very serious consideration, and, indeed, in recent days, was among the handful of finalists for this job, to try to get people to tell us publicly what exactly did he do in the recount, what exactly was his role. They're very hush-hush about that, because the last thing the White House wants to do is have this man portrayed as a political partisan, if you will.

They say, sure, he is a Republican. He has a Republican pedigree. Sure, he and his law firm were helpful in the recount effort. But the last thing they want to do is suggest that this pick was made for any reason, for partisan reasons, partisan political reasons. The president will make the case he looked at the complete legal record of this gentleman.

He also served as a deputy solicitor under Ken Starr. He is familiar with arguing cases before the Supreme Court, the court on which the president now wants him to sit. But that -- make no doubt about it, Paula. Anything critics can do to make him political...

ZAHN: Well...

KING: ... not a judge, if you will, will be in this fight. ZAHN: Well, it's not like they need a whole lot of ammunition here, John. I mean, can't you almost see the Democratic response to this $18 million Republican ad campaign? You know exactly what they're going to say. This is the guy who helped get the president elected.

KING: If -- I will tell you this now. The White House would be thrilled. If that is the only weapon the White House has against Justice -- Judge Roberts, now justice nominee Roberts, is that he helped the president more than five years ago in the recount battle, this White House will take that fight any day of the week.

They expect the fight to be much more over abortion and the social issues. And they expect left groups, if not the Democrats on Capitol Hill themselves, liberal groups, to suggest he is somehow far right of the mainstream of this country. But if that is the ground on which the critics want to fight, the White House would welcome that fight.

ZAHN: Well, John, if you wouldn't mind standing by, we would like to come back and talk more about, if he ends up on the court, what that might ultimately mean to the balance on the court.

Let's quickly go to Suzanne Malveaux, who is standing by at the White House, who has been listening to these bits of information all day long.

Besides the name of this nominee, what else have you heard in the last five, 10 minutes?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, according to one official I spoke with, they said that he had three choices. Basically, he could go for consensus, he could go for legacy or he could go for broke, meaning essentially go to satisfy his basis, his conservative base.

That's obviously the decision that the president has made. He's made a pledge all along that he would go with the conservative. The only question of course is just how conservative. John is right. He's going to have a battle head. What we're expecting within just moments here at the White House, White House counselor Dan Bartlett, as well as White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will be briefing reporters.

They will be giving us kind of the background, the ticktock of the president's day, how he actually made this decision and came to this decision. But the president has made it clear all along that this is the kind of candidate that he was certainly hoping for. And, again, he doesn't have very of a paper trail. He's well liked in Washington, well liked in this White House. The president feels comfortable with him. This is someone that you will see the president quickly embrace.

ZAHN: Do we have any sense, Suzanne, tonight of who the final three finalists were? We heard an awful lot of names bandied about over the last couple of weeks. And then, today, the rhetoric became particularly heated.

MALVEAUX: Well, interestingly enough, one of my sources, someone who I've been speaking very closely and very closely to the deliberation process here, predicted that it would be John Roberts, said that either look at John Roberts or look at Priscilla Owen as another possibility.

And, of course, as you know, there was a lot of talk over Edith Clement, Judge Edith Clement, whether or not she would be one of the people that was selected. She certainly was one of the front-runners, a lot of talk about that. She was one who the president interviewed just over the weekend for a couple of times. But, ultimately, the administration and the president decided that they would go for their base, to make their base happy.

And then, if there's perhaps another vacancy along the line, perhaps they can look at somebody a little bit more moderate.

ZAHN: All right, Suzanne, please stand by. We're going to quickly go to your colleague Ed Henry, who is on Capitol Hill right now.

Ed, just quickly to recap for the folks just joining us, for the first time in 11 years, the president has an opportunity to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. We have just learned that, at the top of the hour, the president will announce that Judge John Roberts, who's now on the U.S. Court of Appeals, is his man.

Any congressional reaction so far? I know we've just known about this the last 10 minutes or so.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We actually -- we actually have gotten some immediate reaction from the office of Senator Democratic leader Harry Reid. He'll obviously be a key player in all of this.

His spokesman, Jim Manley, issuing a pretty -- pretty much noncommittal statement at this point -- quote -- "The president has chosen someone with suitable legal credentials. Now he needs to demonstrate to the Senate that he has a commitment to core American values of freedom, equality and fairness" -- much different statement, of course, than we heard from a key conservative group, Progress For America, who just moments ago put out a statement saying John Roberts has impeccable credentials as a former law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

And, as John King mentioned, get ready for this ad war on both sides. From Harry Reid, he's going to be noncommittal. He doesn't want to jump out hard against John Roberts yet, but he also doesn't want to commit, obviously. The Democrats want to leave open the option of a filibuster. And they're going to be careful. Another key player to look in all this is this group of the gang of 14 moderates.

One of them, Democrat Joe Lieberman, in recent days has been quoted as saying he believes John Roberts is someone who is -- quote -- "in the ballpark." He'll be closely scrutinized, but someone in the ballpark. That's a pretty good start for John Roberts with that key bloc of 14 moderates, seven Democrats, seven Republicans -- Paula.

ZAHN: You also have Senator Ben Nelson out there saying he's not thinking that you're going to be talking about the nuclear option here. It seems that some of the rhetoric has even cooled down in the last 24 hours.

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

And there have been some members of that gang of 14 who have been saying in recent days they think that the president may actually be able to pull the rug underneath some of these groups spending millions of dollars by picking someone who has, as we've heard, obviously, is conservative, but could be considered a mainstream conservative, not someone potentially that Democrats could paint as a far, out-of-the- mainstream conservative.

That's the hope at the White House, obviously, that they can paint him as a mainstream conservative and that potentially the gang of 14 moderates can actually end up supporting him, and that this might not be as big a battle as some people expected, all too early to tell. You can guarantee the groups are going to try to make it a big war. Some partisans on each side of the aisle in the Senate will try to make it a war.

But some of the folks in the moderate -- moderate camp may actually try to pull both sides together and may, as you mentioned, cool the tensions -- Paula.

ZAHN: Ed Henry, you just used some interesting language, may not be the battle they envisioned.

But no matter what the shape or the outlines of the battle, it's going to be an expensive one, John King just outlining that the Republicans are willing to spend $18 million to defend their nominee. And we know that the Democrats were all giving key talking points to react to tonight's news.

We'll have more on the politics of it. But let's talk more about the legal issues involved in the president's selection of John G. Roberts.

Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, who doesn't look so senior, joins us right now.

I know this name doesn't come as any great surprise to you. You have been saying for many days now that the president probably would pick legacy over consensus, as Suzanne Malveaux just reported, or go for broke. He's going to pick someone that pretty much mirrors the way he views things legally.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, apparently, although the great gift of a Roberts nomination to the president is that people in the know, people who know John Roberts, people who are familiar with his personality, with his background, say he is very conservative. But there is precious little on paper that the Democrats can use to point to how conservative he is. You know, there is this one brief that we will be hearing about a great deal. I actually think it's two briefs.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: And I can read a small portion of that right now to people.

TOOBIN: Please.

ZAHN: Help people understand why there will be so much reaction coming from the critics of this man.

He wrote in a brief, when he was deputy solicitor general -- quote -- "The court's conclusion in Roe is there is a fundamental right to an abortion finds no support in the text, structure or history of the Constitution."

TOOBIN: In other words, Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

ZAHN: Thank you with that interpretation.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Right, in a brief signed by John Roberts.

However, John Roberts was an attorney in the solicitor general's office representing a client, George Herbert Walker Bush, who believed that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. And he was representing his client. Whether that sentiment reflects his own views or is simply what he was doing on behalf of his client, that will be a big, big subject in the confirmation hearings.

ZAHN: And, in the confirmation hearings, are you allowed to ask that direct question? Sir, do you think Roe v. Wade should be overturned?

TOOBIN: You bet you're allowed to ask it, and you bet you're allowed not to answer once it's asked.

(LAUGHTER)

TOOBIN: I mean, that is going to be a big part of these hearings, trying to dance around the subject of getting a sense of where John Roberts stands on Roe v. Wade. This is a very smart guy. He's argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is awfully good practice.

ZAHN: Yes, almost three dozen times.

TOOBIN: For answering -- for answering the questions of the senators. He's going to be prepared for that question.

I don't expect we are going to get a categorical answer from John Roberts on where he stands about Roe. But, certainly, when we hear about his approach to the Constitution, whether he believes that the Constitution should be interpreted as it was in its original text, when it was -- when it was ratified in the late 18th century -- that's Justice Scalia's view -- or should it be a living document, something that evolves with the times. Justice Brennan, others agree view -- that view.

He'll have to define his terms -- his view in that way. And we'll learn a lot.

ZAHN: But even if it ends up that that is what he supports, overturning Roe v. Wade, you were also saying today that doesn't necessarily mean this decision gets overturned with a court that has been split 5-4 on so many key issues.

TOOBIN: Right, although the last time this court considered the question of abortion, it was 6-3 for abortion rights. In the Casey decision in 1992, there were six votes, including Justice O'Connor, for preserving Roe v. Wade.

This presumably would only change it to 5-4 if, in fact, John Roberts, as many people suspect, would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. So we're not quite there yet. We'll see.

ZAHN: I know you're not a political guy. But there was some interesting language Ed Henry just used that Harry Reid, quoting Harry Reid, in reacting to this announcement, just said -- quote -- "He has suitable legal credentials," when, in fact, the White House was telling us they are substantial legal credentials.

What semantics would you use to describe this man's legal history?

TOOBIN: Well, I think he is a very distinguished lawyer. This is the kind of lawyer that people have been talking about for 20 years, about being on the Supreme Court.

He is someone who has a gravitas, who has an intelligence, who has the kind of experience that makes him a plausible candidate. Harry Reid, like any politician, has to bow to reality. He is obviously a plausible candidate. He does have suitable credentials. The question is, should he be confirmed? Does he have the soul, does he have the values that we want on the Supreme Court?

That's what the Democrats are going to have to fight about. But, certainly, when it comes to credentials, there can't be any argument that John Roberts isn't qualified.

ZAHN: And I have one question I'm going to pose on the other side for all the women watching in our audience tonight, who were hoping the president would listen to his wife, Laura Bush, who said on a trip from Africa that she was hoping that Sandra Day O'Connor would be replaced by another woman. Why didn't the president listen to the first lady?

TOOBIN: Well, Paula, and don't be a sexist. There will be men who want an answer to that question as well. You know, I think a lot of people think there should be more than one-ninth of the Supreme Court that's women. But is that a reason to vote against John Roberts?

You know, I don't think it really goes anywhere as a political issue. But it is a fact now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if John Roberts is confirmed...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Is the sole remaining woman on the Supreme Court.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: ... on the Supreme Court.

ZAHN: Well, thank you for going political there for me for a moment.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Our senior legal analyst.

We're going to come back to this a little bit later on the show. We'll continue to talk with our correspondents throughout the hour, as they have an opportunity to gain more reaction to the president's speech, which obviously has not happened. But in advance of this important speech at the top of the hour, we have learned that he will nominate Judge John Roberts to fulfill the vacancy by Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

And we'll have the very latest for you on the other side. Please stay right here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You're looking at a live picture of the White House tonight, where, about 42 minutes and 17 seconds from now, the president will make official his nominee for the vacancy of Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. CNN has confirmed that judge John G. Roberts is the president's choice.

You see a little of his background up on the screen right now. The Democrats are saying tonight -- or at least Harry Reid, one of their leaders -- that this is a man who has -- quote -- "suitable legal credentials," the White House saying that this is a man who has a substantial legal background.

Let's quickly go to Suzanne Malveaux, who is standing by at the White House, to get a better sense of the president's decision-making. It was just about two hours ago that six names were still being floated as potential candidates for this president.

MALVEAUX: Well, Paula, we're told by senior administration officials really how the day unfolded, giving a little bit of color here. And we're told that, when the president went to the G8 Summit in Denmark, he started off with 11 names. It was a diverse group of people.

Then we're told that he interviewed at least five of those candidates. We are told that, when it came to Roberts here, it was on Friday that he met with Roberts at the White House. This was after his trip to North Carolina. We're told that the two of them met at a residence in what was called kind of a comfortable area where he could get to know him in a kind of relaxed setting, that he wanted to know him professionally, as well as personally.

We're also told that, of course, that that meeting last about an hour. Then he took him on a tour of the White House, to the Lincoln bedroom, we're told, to the Truman Balcony, to give him a sense of the lay of the land, if you will, just to get a sense of what he was like, his personality.

Then we're told that it happened last night, when the president essentially made his decision. But it was not until this morning, we're told, that he made his absolute final decision about this. That is when he went to his vice president and senior staff and shared the news with them. And then we're told that, approximately 12:35, he was having lunch in the residence with the Australian prime minister, John Howard. He stepped out of that lunch.

He made a phone call to Roberts and he gave Roberts the good news at that moment. And then he walked back into the residence. We're told at that time he told Howard and he told the first lady -- and I'm quoting here -- "I just offered the job to a great, smart, 50-year-old lawyer who agreed to serve on the bench." That is what he said to his wife, as well as Howard.

And then we are told that, around 7:00 tonight, that is when Roberts and his wife came here to the White House, that they shared a dinner in the residence with the president and the first lady. And that is how it all unfolded -- Paula.

ZAHN: Do we know, in the end, if there was one specific issue that caused the president to come to this conclusion, when he looked at the background of Mr. Roberts?

MALVEAUX: Well, it's not one specific issue. What we do know is that, all along, he has pledged that he would nominate a conservative.

But we do know, however, very important to the president, because he looked at a number of candidates, candidates that he felt were all qualified, was one that he felt comfortable with, also one that he felt could serve his conservative base, that he could look at them and say, this is someone who shares in your beliefs. This is someone who I can put forward who I am proud of, but, also, that kind of comfort factor very important for the president.

ZAHN: We know that the Republicans are getting ready an $18 million campaign so this is a nominee that doesn't get, in the vernacular, Borked, because they felt he was left very vulnerable in the very early hours after his nomination was made. Where do they think John G. Roberts is vulnerable when it comes to confirmation hearings? MALVEAUX: Well, they know that they're going to have a tough time with this. I mean, obviously, this is not something that the Democrats were expecting. They were perhaps thinking that they would get someone who was more of a consensus candidate.

They are certainly hoping that the fact that he has a little paper trail, that would allow him to move forward. There are some things that he -- this White House believes that he will not answer those specific questions on certain positions, and that the fact that he has so little background when it comes to the paper on several positions will put him in a strong position.

ZAHN: All right. Well, it hasn't taken long, Suzanne, even as we are speaking, for NARAL Pro-Choice America to come out and declare John G. Roberts an unsuitable choice for Supreme Court justice.

Let me quickly read this to you. And maybe you can expand on this -- quote -- "Americans deserve a nominee who respects this country's culture of freedom and personal responsibility and who understands the profound effect his decisions have on our everyday lives." They go on to report their extreme disappointment and obviously saying that what they expect is a battle over Roe v. Wade, pointing out that 65 percent of the American public actually support Roe.

What else can you tell us about what they're anticipating on this front?

MALVEAUX: Well, as you know, of course, that is one of the hottest issues, and that is going to be at the forefront of this, the focus, is over abortion rights.

That's something that the White House believes that they are ready for. But, at the same time, they believe that this is the one person who fit the criteria they were looking for, the one person who also fit the criteria of the person who would be a consensus candidate, a consensus, in the sense that both Democrats and Republicans could see some issues alike and some issues in agreement.

ZAHN: One area where the president and the first lady are not in agreement was whether a male should replace Sandra Day O'Connor, a female. We had heard that the first lady, in her traveling -- or travels -- to Africa last week saying it was her hope that Sandra Day O'Connor would be replaced by another woman.

Has the first lady lost her influence in the White House on this one?

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: Well, she certainly hasn't lost her influence here at the White House. She was pleased with the decision, we are told, when he made that announcement. But, of course, it would have been her preference that it was another woman. And there were a lot of female candidates who were being considered for the post.

But, ultimately, the president said that he was looking at a wide range, and he wasn't necessarily wedded to that idea.

ZAHN: Well, we thank you so much for the update. We know you have more phones to work. Thank you for giving us a much better idea of how this decision came down much earlier today on the president's part.

Just a quick programming note. At the top of the hour, the president will be making a live speech about his nominee for the Supreme Court, John G. Roberts. We'll be carrying it live.

In the meantime, we're going to have more analysis of who this nominee is all about and, if he is confirmed, what his ultimate impact could be on the Supreme Court.

We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You're looking at a live picture of the Supreme Court tonight, as we're a little more than 33 minutes away from the president's speech on his choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.

His man is John G. Roberts. We're going to quickly put up on the screen some of the little facts that we know about him and his legal background, one of the more impressive ones of -- at least as far as his supporters are concerned, is the final one on this graphic, that he's in fact argued more than three dozen cases before the Supreme Court.

We, throughout the hour, will be trying to get a little more information on how the president came to his decision, and, if this man is ultimately confirmed, what it might mean to the balance on the Supreme Court.

But we also want to move on now to some important news out of London on the terror bombings. Just a couple of hours ago, crews removed one wrecked subway car from the Edgware Road station in London. Investigators plan to do some forensic tests on it. Six people, as you might remember, died in the Edgware bombing at all four bomb sites; 52 people died, plus the four bombers themselves.

As for them, everybody still wants to know how four young men from the British city of Leeds could have turned into terrorists.

What we've learned on that score now from senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Internet images like these of Saudi warriors announcing their intent to kill may well have helped transform the four London bombers from sports-loving young Muslims into killers. DR. MARC SAGEMAN, FORMER CIA OFFICER: There really is no need of a mastermind, because all the guidance and all the strategy and tactics are already on the Internet. And those people can download what's already on the Internet.

ROBERTSON: Investigators will be looking for that kind of material on the computers that were among the first items seized at the Hamara Community Center in Leeds. That's where three of the four men in the terror cell are known to have met.

Mohammed Sidique Khan, the oldest, is believed to have befriended sports-loving Shahzad Tanweer and Hasib Hussain by having them join him in weight-training classes. But what happened to transform them into bombers?

SAGEMAN: The three of them, that core group, the one of Pakistani descent, came together over a period of about a year-and-a- half, and seemed to have mutually escalated a devotion to Islam.

ROBERTSON: At the time, videos of jihadis fighting in Bosnia and Chechnya were circulating in their close-knit Muslim community, along with manuals on the Internet on how to carry out attacks.

LORD AHMED, BRITISH HOUSE OF LORDS: And there's been identity crisis within these young people, who have been looking out for the answers.

ROBERTSON: Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and other British Muslim leaders are under pressure from the prime minister to silence extremist Muslim clerics whom the British government says radicalize Muslim youth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These young people have been involved with some violent ideology, political ideology, which has been taught either in this country or abroad.

ROBERTSON: Khan and Tanweer went to Pakistan last year, and British investigators want to know more about who they met and what they did. But Sageman suggests the bombers may already have been committed to terror before they ever went there.

SAGEMAN: Those people motivated each other. They don't really need to go to Pakistan or to any training camp.

ROBERTSON (on camera): British investigators are still far from drawing their own conclusions. But the prospect a terror cell could create, educate and radicalize itself without ever leaving home compounds concerns that just weeks before the bombing, the country's terror threat level was lowered.

Nic Robertson, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And still ahead, we want to come back to tonight's breaking news, reaction to the president's Supreme Court nominee, John -- judge, that is, John G. Roberts. I'll be talking with one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee when we come back to get a better sense of what kind of fight this president might have on his hands. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. We are less than a half hour away from President Bush's announcement of his Supreme Court nominee. We're going to bring that to you live. But we already know from an administration source that his choice is federal judge John G. Roberts. Joining me right now, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. This is Mr. Roberts speaking back in 1993, I believe. But the man you're seeing on the screen right now is Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Senator, always good to see you, welcome.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Thank you.

ZAHN: Do you think this man will be confirmed?

SESSION: I certainly do. He was one of the most fabulous witnesses we've ever seen before the Judiciary Committee. He's argued 39 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, virtually no lawyer in America only a handful would have argued that many. And he did such a good job before the committee. There was some effort to block him at the beginning or give him a hard time. But he had been counsel for President Reagan. He'd been in the administration in the years past. But I thought he just won people over. There was no doubt that he was a superior intellect as he did his work there in the Judiciary Committee.

ZAHN: There are people saying that he is attractive from the president's point-of-view because he doesn't have much of a paper trail. How do you know this is the right man for the job?

SESSIONS: You know, you never know about justices. They frequently turn out differently than you'd expect. We have a real record of that. But I think John Roberts has indicated clearly throughout his writings and his personal speeches and things that he is committed to faithfully interpreting fairly the Constitution and the laws of the United States. He has a sense that we've been making a mistake by being political from the bench. He does not believe in that philosophy. So he will be perfectly consistent with the kind of judge that President Bush promised to appoint. And I think his record of fairness and the respect he's held by the whole legal community will make it easy for the Democrats to support him also.

ZAHN: You already have reaction from groups like NEROL saying that they oppose his candidacy, that he is -- quote -- "an unsuitable choice" to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Is this a man, you think, that would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

SESSIONS: You know I don't know what his views are about that. I would just say this that the groups have raised a lot of money to engage in this fight and I suspect anybody that is nominated will be attacked by these groups. I think it will just be incumbent upon the senators not to let those groups decide the matter for him -- for them, but to listen to what he says, listen to how he handles himself before the committee, and I think they will be impressed this time as they were before. And, you know, he was confirmed unanimously, by unanimous consent after a very, very strong vote in the Judiciary Committee.

ZAHN: But very quickly, here in closing, Senator, when you say you have to listen to what he says, a lot of people think he spoke pretty powerfully in a legal brief that he was deputy solicitor general when he was working for the first President Bush at the time. And people think because of that case, you can extrapolate from it that he would very much like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

SESSIONS: Well, you know, Roe versus Wade is an important Constitutional decision that many people are questioning the legitimacy of in terms of how sound a reasoning it was regardless of whether they agree with the results. Many, many liberal commentators have raised questions about the legal reasoning of Roe versus Wade. I don't know what John Roberts has said about that. But I'm sure that his reasoning is sound.

He will be faithful to the Constitution and will be -- he was raised at the highest rating, ABA, the American Bar gives, editor of "The Law Review" at Harvard. He's just been exceptional in any way. And his reputation for fairness and integrity is really superb.

ZAHN: Very, very quickly, in closing, a lot of people are saying this is not a consensus candidate; this is a legacy candidate on the president's part. How ugly could things get during confirmation hearings?

SESSIONS: Well, I hope they don't get ugly. I'm hopeful that the Democrats who voted for him before will see in him the kind of nominee they would expect President Bush to submit, the kind of nominee that they can respect, the kind of nominee that has the respect of some of the very top Democratic lawyers in the country, like Lord Cutler and Seth Waxman, former solicitor generals in the Democratic administration. So I think they're going to find him a good nominee. But the groups, the outside groups that are raising money to attack whoever President Bush submits, they're not going to be happy. That's for sure.

ZAHN: Well, it's going to be interesting to watch these ad campaigns on both sides, isn't it, Senator?

SESSIONS: Well, it is. I think...

ZAHN: Let the games begin, right?

SESSIONS: Maybe we'll have a little bounce from the other side. In the past, it's really been the left groups that have driven this process.

ZAHN: Well, we will see what -- the administration spending, I'm told, some $18 million on this campaign that will unfold, with probably an equally aggressive return volley from the Democrats.

Senator Jeff Sessions, as always, great to see you.

SESSIONS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much for your time.

And we're standing by for the president's announcement at the top of the hour. We will bring that to you live.

In the meantime, we have a story coming up that I especially want you to stay tuned for because you or your neighbors may have a killer in your backyard.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I looked down and I saw a yellow shirt floating in the pool. He was face down in the pool.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Do you know the two simple steps that could prevent swimming pool tragedies? Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: This week most of us from the West Coast to the East are sweltering in 80, 90, even 100-degree heat. So a dip in the pool sounds pretty good. But if you have little kids, you need to know that every year about 250 children under five drown in pools. Now, a Connecticut mother and father are determined to change all that. Their story from Gerri Willis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERRI WILLIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In terms of the number of children killed every year, a swimming pool is 12 times more deadly than a loaded gun in the closet, nine times more deadly than the stranger who abducts and murders. But to most people teaching kids to survive in the water is not a high priority. Kim and Stu Leonard are trying to change that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll do it until the day I die, talking about this, so will Kim. And we just hope we can save a life. And you know where little Stuy (ph) is today?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: With God?

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: He's up in heaven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's up in heaven.

WILLIS: The Leonards never imagined this would be their life's work, but their determination is born from personal tragedy. They had it all: a beautiful family, successful chain of gourmet food stores, a vacation home in the Caribbean. So, when January 1st, 1989 rolled around, there was a lot to celebrate: a new year and their daughter's third birthday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was putting balloons up around the pool. And our little, almost 2-year-old son, Stuy (ph), was helping me. He was handing me the balloons. And I was putting them up. We were having a great father/son event going on, and I went to put one of the balloons up there and I looked down and he wasn't there. So, you know, I could smell the birthday cake being baked in the kitchen, and I figured Stuy (ph) ran in to see Kim to lick the icing bowl or something. So I put the balloon up. I get off the ladder, and I go walk into the kitchen, and I said to Kim, "Where's Stuy (ph)?" And she said, "I thought he was with you." So we said well, then he probably went into the bedroom to get his teddy bear. We ran into the bedroom. There's his teddy bear laying on the bed. And our heart just raced. And now we started screaming and panicking and shouting and running. Has anybody seen Stuy (ph)?

WILLIS: Stuy (ph) had chased a balloon that had drifted into the Leonard's swimming pool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I remember after -- it seemed like just minutes, we -- I looked down. I saw a yellow shirt floating in the pool. And he was face down in the pool. And I dove in and got him. We administered CPR. You know, we administered CPR. It was too late.

WILLIS: The Leonards' 21-month-old son had drowned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I felt I was being an attentive dad. And the only thing is I took my eye off of him for a few seconds. And by the time we could locate him, it was too late. I mean nothing in your life can prepare you for that moment.

WILLIS: And nothing could prepare the Leonards for the pain that followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we found was we just started getting mad at each other. You know Kim was why weren't you watching him better? And I was like, well, you know, how come you weren't watching him? I was setting up for the party. Was I supposed to be watching him? We got angry at each other. And then you start to blame -- blame comes into it. At some point, you get to a point where you accept what happened. And you realize, you know, a tragedy happened to me. There's nothing you're going to do to turn it back. It's not going to help us to blame each other.

WILLIS: The Leonards knew that for the sake of their family they had to find a way to move beyond the pain. Part of the healing has come from helping others. In the year following their son's death, they created the Stu Leonard III Water Safety Foundation. To get the message out, they've raised more than $1 million to publish books, produce videos and pay for swimming lessons for more than 10,000 kids. At the heart of their campaign? Two simple solutions they believe can keep kids safe. Teaching toddlers to float on their backs and blow bubbles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't panic. When they do fall in the pool, if they just learn to blow out and roll back and enjoy life and just lay there, they could get rescued.

WILLIS: Even if that buys a child only another 30 seconds to a minute, the Leonards say that can be critical when a parent's attention has wandered. But safety experts believe parents should do much more. By installing redundant layers of protection, including a back door alarm, a fence with a latch, a pool alarm, and safety drains. As for the Leonards, they say they just want to save lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, we can take the tragedy that happened to us and we could help others prevent the same thing. You know, from happening to them what happened to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: In addition to the tips, Gerri Willis just mentioned, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has some others: make sure someone is always supervising children around the pool, learn CPR, and keep a phone by the pool to call for help.

Well, the wait's almost over. The president getting ready to announce that Judge John G. Roberts is his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court to replace outgoing Sandra Day O'Connor, who's retiring. We're going to go back to Washington in just a minute and get a better sense of who the man is, and if confirmed, what impact he might have on some critical issues before the Supreme Court.

We'll be right back. Please stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And you're looking at a picture of the Supreme Court today and a cloudy night in Washington, D.C. Ten minutes away from President Bush's speech where he will announce to the nation who his choice is to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court and that man is federal judge John G. Roberts. We will have the president's address here live.

We're going to quickly now go to John King, who has been with us throughout the night, and Wolf Blitzer, who joins us from Los Angeles now, to talk more about the president's announcement.

But first, John, I understand you have some new information to share with us about how this announcement might unfold tonight.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, what you're going to have is the president -- not only the president on this fascinating night for the Bush presidency, introducing his pick at the White House in just a few minutes, the president will make brief remarks, ask for a civil confirmation process, and then we are told Judge Roberts also will make a very brief statement. He is subject to Senate confirmation, so he will say very little, but he will thank the president for this opportunity. And he will essentially introduce himself to a primetime audience around the United States.

The White House picking this primetime moment, this high stakes introduction because it knows there will be a tough confirmation battle ahead. And Mr. Bush is trying to frame it from the first moment of this discussion, not only with what he says, but by introducing Judge Roberts and his family, his wife and his two children. This is a conservative. This is a president who promised to appoint conservatives. As you noted, Paula, the battle lines already taking shape, so the president trying to, if you will, get out ahead, go on offense first.

ZAHN: You noting that there's no exaggeration calling it a tough battle ahead. We know that, and we mentioned this earlier, that $18 million is expected to be spent, right, by special interest groups to support John G. Roberts.

Wolf, I just finished interviewing Senator Jeff Sessions, who's on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I posed the question, how do you know this is the right guy when so little has been written by him, only two years on the appellate court, so little has been said by him. And he said, "You never know until you get to the confirmation hearings." Where do you think he's vulnerable? What do you think his strengths are?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, even during the confirmation hearings, we might not learn a whole lot about his views on some of the most sensitive issues like abortion rights for women or gay rights or affirmative action, prayer in schools, a lot of these very sensitive issues, which he could have a decisive sway on for the next 30, 40 years. He's only 50 years old. He's going to be around, assuming he's a healthy man, for a long time to come. A lot of these issues, we won't know where he comes down until he actually decides as a member, as one of the Supreme Court justices, assuming he is confirmed.

So his paper trail might be thin right now, but he does have a long-standing reputation in the Washington legal establishment as a good solid, rock solid conservative, someone who's been in and out of government, served in the Justice Department. And also, has been a prominent private attorney in Huggin & Hertzon (ph), one of the best known Washington law firms. So he's pretty well known inside the political establishment. And he's got those credentials that the president wants. The question is, is he as conservative along the lines of Anton and Scalia and Clarence Thomas, or more along the lines as the outgoing justice Sandra Day O'Connor. And I suspect we won't know the answer for several years.

ZAHN: Of course, John King, what everybody is trying to gain an understanding tonight of is whether he's in favor of abortion rights or not, given the fact that he helped write a legal brief when he was a deputy solicitor general in support of the first President Bush's position in a case that would involve overturning -- not overturning Roe v. Wade, but weakening Roe v. Wade, right?

KING: Yes, he said that the view of the Bush Administration at the time that that case was wrongly decided and there was no support for the Roe decision in the Constitution. You just showed pictures of Judge Roberts in 2003 at his confirmation hearing in 2003. At that hearing, he said he was going what any good does. He was representing the position of his client. He would not say at that hearing what his personal opinion is on the abortion issue. And that is the line the Bush administration will draw.

Judge Roberts will go up to Capitol Hill tomorrow morning. He will meet with the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate. The chairman, who is a Republican, and the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, the first courtesy calls. The White House trying to get this off to a good start but the White House has made clear, ask if you want, this nominee will not say how he would vote on specific cases. They say that was out of bounds for President Clinton's picks, and will be out of bounds for their picks as well.

ZAHN: All right. Wolf and John, we're going to come back to you in a couple of minutes.

Just about six minutes before the president's speech. The big announcement right around the corner. Please stay with CNN. We will bring you the president's speech live as well as the remarks of his nominee John G. Roberts.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: You're looking at a beautiful picture of the White House all lighted up tonight. About three and a half minutes before the president will make a speech announcing to the nation that he has chosen John G. Roberts as his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor who is resigning on the Supreme Court.

Let's quickly go back to Wolf Blitzer who's standing by in Los Angeles tonight.

Wolf, a little bit earlier we were talking a little bit about the president not listening to his wife's advice to pick another female to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. There's also been a lot of talk about that this is not necessarily a consensus candidate. This is more of a legacy candidate. So what does this choice tell us about who President Bush is?

BLITZER: Well, it tells us that he's a man who makes up his mind and is politically very, very astute. He's probably going in part with his own gut instincts. This is a man he's come to known somewhat over the years. He's been very involved in Republican legal circles over the years in Washington, including the -- in the 2000 campaign when he was involved behind the scenes in supporting the Bush decision in the aftermath of the disputed Florida recount and all of that. But I think it's smart in this sense, it's going to be very hard for the conservative base, the religious conservative base of the Republican Party, certainly, to oppose him. Although some might have wanted someone even more conservative. And it'll probably be pretty hard for the mainstream of the Democrats in the Senate to oppose him as well given the fact that the president could have gone further to the right and had an in-your-face kind of nomination. So it's politically probably pretty smart for the president and says his political antenna are probably very, very good at this stage in his career. ZAHN: And finally, let's end on that political note, with the Republicans holding a clear majority in the Senate, what are the chances that the Democrats could really mount a fight here, an effective fight against the candidate?

BLITZER: Well, in terms of the filibuster, if there's going to be a filibuster, remember, there's the gang of 14, seven Democrats, seven Republicans who said they had an agreement that they wouldn't -- there wouldn't be filibuster unless it was somebody totally out of the mainstream among those Democrats. And I suspect those seven moderate Democrats are going to find it very difficult to go along with a filibuster. And they would hope the sway -- they would hold a decisive vote in whether or not you get to that magic number of 60.

ZAHN: Wolf Blitzer, thanks for doing the math for us, appreciate it. Always good to have you with us.

CNN primetime continues with "LARRY KING LIVE." The president will take to the airwaves in a little less than a minute from now to talk about his nominee to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

So glad you joined us tonight. We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. Good night.

END

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