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Karl Rove To Testify Again For Grand Jury; President's Speech Leaves Public Wanting For New Information; Interview with Senator Patrick Leahy
Aired October 6, 2005 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 pm here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where news and information from around the world arrive in one place simultaneously.
Happening now, it was billed as a major speech in the wars on terror and the war in Iraq, did the president give new details or stay on message? We'll tell you what Mr. Bush said and the reaction to his words.
Right now, he may be the most feared man here in Washington. Will the prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation hand down indictments? And if so, will they lead to the White House?
Is the president in trouble with his base? Are conservatives breaking with the president over his Supreme Court nominee? I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Did a top White House official intentionally reveal the identity of a CIA operative? Is a federal prosecutor finally closing in? We begin with the dramatic new development in that CIA leak story. Let's go live to our national correspondent Bob Franken -- Bob.
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And the top White House official to whom you refer is Karl Rove, deputy White House chief of staff, long-time top political adviser to President W. Bush.
Let me back away a second and use a term we're hearing repeatedly. And that is target letter. A target letter in a federal prosecution is a letter that grand juries will frequently send to somebody to say he or she is about to be indicted. That person has the chance to go before the grand jury.
The attorney for Karl Rove, Robert Luskin insists his client has not received a target letter. Nevertheless, he will be going back to the grand jury at the request of the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, to testify for what will be the fourth time.
The lawyer Robert Luskin says, "my client has been and will cooperate voluntarily, that this was a voluntary agreement to go back and testify."
Now, Karl Rove has been mentioned by reporters as one of the sources of information that came out about Valerie Plame. Valerie Plame is the undercover CIA agent who was identified in July, 2003. She's the wife of Joe Wilson who had been a harsh critic of administration claims that Iraq was accumulating weapons of mass destruction. That has caused this investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald has been mandated to go and try and find out if a law that does not allow for the intentional naming of an undercover operative had been broken.
It's an investigation that has seen one reporter who has gone to jail, Judith Miller. She identified as her source Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who is the vice president's chief of staff.
Now, through this, there has been no charging decision made according to the attorney for Rove. He says he was told by Fitzgerald that there has been no decision yet about charges.
President Bush has repeatedly dodged questions, however, about whether if somebody in his administration is indicted, whether he would be removed. Nevertheless, one of the top members of the administration, Karl Rove, will be going back to the grand jury. We could not find out exactly when that would be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I have been told now by several sources, Bob, that -- sources involved in this investigation, close to the investigation, close to the investigation, representing all sorts of the people who have been testifying before this grand jury that what they're concerned about is not necessarily Patrick Fitzgerald indicting someone for the initial crime revealing the identity of a clandestine CIA officer, but perhaps for perjury, obstruction of justice, the coverup, if you will, lying to the FBI or misleading the FBI. That seems to be potentially one of the directions of Fitzgerald. What are you hearing?
FRANKEN: Well, I'm hearing that. B, one would always be surprised if an investigation like this did not include that. The other thing I should point out is the names of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are not the only names that have come up about members of the administration present and former.
BLITZER: Bob Franken, reporting for us. Bob, thank you very much.
Let's go to the White House. Our correspondent there, Dana Bash, is following this story, as well. Dana, what are you picking up?
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, you've heard Bob talk what we know about Karl Rove. One interesting, very open question is, what about Scooter Libby? You were talking about him before.
We spoke with his attorney last week when Judy Miller was released from jail and she of course, testified before the grand jury. And at that time, last week, Scooter Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate told us that in fact, he had no indication that he was a target of this investigation. In fact, that he had not had any contact with the special prosecutor up until that point for about a year. Since then, Wolf, we have not been able to get any of our calls returned from Joe Tate. And he's really been silent on this issue. So, it's a big question where Scooter Libby is in this as we speak.
Now, as for the way the White House is responding to this, very much as they have been over the past several months. They're not saying much. Listen to Scott McClellan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Has any member of the president's staff informed him that in recent days, they have become a subject of the CIA leak investigation?
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: First of all, that's an ongoing investigation, too. And the president directed that we cooperate fully with that investigation. As part of cooperating fully, that means to not comment on it from here. And I'm not aware of any -- I'm not aware of any new developments.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, very careful in terms of what they're saying publicly. But I can tell you, Wolf, they are paying very close attention, as you can imagine, behind the scenes trying to figure out what, if anything, happens to some of their colleagues here at the White House.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, we're going to have more on this Karl Rove testimony, that's coming up this hour and the next hour. But the president delivered what the White House earlier in the day had billed as a major speech on the war on terror and the war in Iraq. For our viewers who didn't necessarily listen to the speech, give them an update.
BASH: Well Wolf, we had heard from this White House that they had planned to give major speeches on Iraq many times before. And certainly they were updates. This particular speech was actually supposed to be given in and around September 11. And the focus was very much on Iraq and terrorism.
BASH (voice-over): With support for Iraq at an all-time low, the president cast his unmistakably familiar stay the course refrain in new stark terms.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives, to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.
BASH: Mr. Bush tried to put near daily terrorism in Iraq in a global context connected to bombings in Bali, London and Egypt.
BUSH: Focused ideology. A set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. BASH: And as he urged patience in Iraq, the president compared U.S. fights against communism and fascism to terrorism saying its leaders seek a totalitarian empire.
BUSH: Enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.
BASH: He spoke in a strikingly personal way about Osama bin Laden, chiding him as a hypocritical son of privilege.
BUSH: He assures them that his -- that this is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride.
BASH: To critics who say war in Iraq created more radical terrorism, this rebuttal.
BUSH: I would remind them that we were not in Iraq on September 11, 2001. And al Qaeda attacked us anyway.
BASH: But Democrats, emboldened by Mr. Bush's political struggles, hit back.
SEN. JOHN ROCKEFELLER, (D) WEST VIRGINIA: The president is wrong about that. I think what's going on in Iraq has enormously fueled the war on terrorism, it's given hope to lots of new iterations, new forms of terrorist groups all around the world.
BASH: The White House had promised the speech would contain unprecedented detail. Aside from new rhetoric, the sole new fact was boasting of ten thwarted attacks, three inside the U.S.
BUSH: The enemy is wounded. But the enemy is still capable of global operations.
BASH: But he did not elaborate. And it was not on this fact sheet released with the speech. Aides pointed to a 2003 plot to blow up a New York bridge and one involving Jose Padilla, accused of planning a dirty bomb attack. They were not prepared to back up the rest.
MCCLELLAN: Those are two off the top of my head. I'll be glad to see what additional information we can get you.
BASH: And the White House says they are looking for more information to back up some of what the president claimed. But they do say that some of it -- most of it could be classified, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash is our White House correspondent.
The president's pick for the U.S. Supreme Court, the White House counsel Harriet Miers, got one ringing endorsement today from an earlier pick of the president. That would be the first lady, Laura Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Do you think the nominee Miers will be a good example for the supreme court as well?
LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: Yes, she is. Yes. I think she'll be really terrific.
QUESTION: Did you have some input into that?
L. BUSH: Not much. But I'm thrilled.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But the Miers' nomination has provoked a chorus of complaints from conservative groups. Will Senate Republicans join the revolt? The nominee is on Capitol Hill today lobbying for herself.
Our congressional correspondent Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill. He's not lobbying for himself, but telling us what's going on. What's is going on, Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a bit of bad news for Harriet Miers. Just in the last few minutes, a meeting just broke up between Harriet Miers and Republican Senator Sam Brownback. As you know, he's a key barometer in all of this, a senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee. He's looking at running for president in 2008. He's already voiced concerns.
He came out of this long meeting a couple of minutes ago, and said he still has concerns, and can see himself voting against this nomination, even if the president personally lobbies him.
He said the reason is that he's still very frustrated. He does not have any idea where the nominee stands on key issues. He called it troubling. He compared it to a, quote, CSI type of operation, trying to divine Harriet Miers' views on issues like abortion.
Most telling, I asked Sam Brownback directly, were you impressed by her? We heard so many senators come out of meetings with John Roberts this summer and say how impressed they were. Brownback dodged that and said, quote, "she's a very decent lady." And left it at that.
Now, earlier in the day, Republican senator Lindsey Graham also went bend closed doors with Harriet Miers. He had a much different view. He came out of that saying he's inclined to support her nomination. He still has an open mind, but he's inclined to support it. And in very direct terms, he told conservatives to calm done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SC) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Just shut up for a few minutes and just give the lady a chance to find out who she is. You know, people are not really -- people want -- they want their 15 minutes of fame. This ain't about Harriet, it's about them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now Wolf, Democrats are watching this squabble within the Republican party with glee. I spoke a short while ago with the Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, and asked him about this bit of a battle. And he said, quote, "don't believe in getting involved in other people's problems." You get an idea. He said that with a smile.
Democrats are watching this from afar. And we heard there was going to be Democrats leading the charge against whoever the nominee would be. But instead, we're seeing Republicans do that. And in fact, Democrat Chuck Schumer earlier today said that in fact, all the work is being done by Sam Brownback, Trent Lott and other Republican senators, not Democrats at this point -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Henry reporting for us. Thanks, Ed, very much.
Let's check in with Jack Cafferty once again. He's joining us from New York. Hi Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Wolf? We'll get to the question of the hour in just a minute.
You might remember, it was a week ago today here in "the Cafferty File," we were talking about the fact that some U.S. troops who go to Iraq to risk their life for this country had to buy their own equipment. And not only that, but the things like the body armor that they bought, they were unable to be reimbursed for the cost of that stuff, so you had families pay like up to a thousand dollars to buy body armor for these kids and they couldn't get the money back. Well, effective immediately -- it was announced today -- that troops who buy their own body armor will be reimbursed by the Pentagon. So, that's good news.
BLITZER: It's about time.
CAFFERTY: Yeah. I would think so. We've been over there for like three years or something, right?
CAFFERTY: All right. We just heard Ed Henry's report. Much of the opposition to President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee, Harriet Miers, coming from an unlikely source: the right. The conservatives -- although some Republicans have already stated their support, the anger from many on the right can not be good news for President Bush. The question this hour is how likely is it that Harriet Miers will become a Supreme Court justice? CaffertyFileCNN.com.
My guess is, this ain't happening. I don't think she's going to make it.
BLITZER: Do you think they pull -- withhold the... CAFFERTY: I just -- she has to be confirmed by the Senate, right?
CAFFERTY: I think -- I don't know. When these hearings come along, everybody has been very reluctant to reveal any information about this lady. You would think the distinguished senators on that panel -- at least some of them -- will ask some pointed questions about her views. And I think at the end of the day, everybody's going to feel like there's no meat in the sandwich. We can't get a handle on what she's all about. And I think that anxiety might provoke a rejection of her as a nominee to be on the Supreme Court.
That and a token will get you on the New York subway, but I just -- you know, it's just a feeling I have.
BLITZER: All right. Well, you usually have pretty good feelings.
CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know about that.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. We'll get back to you.
Coming up, much more on Harriet Miers. Did her nomination spark a revolt by conservatives? We're looking into that story.
Plus, this story: the CIA leak. Top White House official once again going before a U.S. grand jury here in Washington. What's the potential political fall-out of this investigation for the Bush administration. We'll check in with Paul Begala and Rich Galen. They're standing by in our "Strategy Session."
And in our political radar, he's gone five years without a veto. Will the president's streak finally run out? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's return to our top story this hour. The presidential adviser, Karl Rove, will testify yet again in that CIA leak probe. His testimony is voluntary. Sources say federal prosecutors, though, have warned they can not guarantee he won't be inducted. Here to discuss that and other issues, CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala and Republican strategist Rich Galen. Thanks, guys, very much, for joining us.
Paul, I'll start with you. What do you make of this latest twist? Because I was under the impression after Judith Miller of "The New York Times," that was really the last little nugget in this investigation that the special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was ready to wrap it up. But now he wants Karl Rove back for a fourth time.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it's odd. The fourth time. And this time, the signals are clear, no guarantee that he won't be indicted. According to press accounts, his attorney is no longer denying that he's gotten a target letter, which is a potential step toward an indictment.
RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. He is denying it.
BEGALA: He is? Well, not in the paper this morning.
GALEN: Well, he is.
BEGALA: That's good to know.
The problem here is, Karl has a day job. He supposed to be running the Katrina relief effort, probably the most important domestic spending initiative since the Tennessee Valley Authority. He's the president's principle adviser. Believe me, I've been through these things. Not as close as Rove. And I never went in a grand jury. But you can't do both of these things at once.
And this White House is crippled right now. And they're going to have to figure out how to solve it.
BLITZER: Do you agree?
GALEN: No. I think -- well, of course -- first of all, I think it's -- you -- I think said it correctly, he's voluntarily agreeing to testify, which leads me to believe that there are some little strings left over from Judith Miller last week that the prosecutors wants to tie up. And Rove did not, by the way, say that he wanted all kinds of guarantees. He just said, sure, I'll come in. And essentially said, I'll come in and do it. And he'll testify. And that will be that.
BLITZER: Assuming that the original law that was passed 20 years ago revealing the identity of a CIA clandestine officer -- that that's a hard law to prove. You've got to show intent. You got to show damage. You got to show all sorts of things. Conspiracy is less difficult, supposedly, to prove. Perjury, obstruction of justice. Do you suspect, Rich, that this prosecutor is looking at something beyond the original crime, if you will?
GALEN: As happens so often in maybe in every single cases in both the case of the president and the speaker that I was involved in, neither one was ever, ever find a dime for the original issue that they were accused of. Both paid, I think the exact amount $300,000 for other things that fell out of the original investigation.
This happens all the time. What we don't know is who -- whether it's Judith Miller, whether it's one of somebody in the White House, whether it's somebody else altogether, no idea.
BEGALA: But the (INAUDIBLE) have to sort themselves out. There are a host of laws that could have been violated here. The Espionage Act, which is just mishandling classified information, not as high an intent bar. Section 1001 of the criminal code, which say you can't lie to a federal investigator in any circumstance. But that will sort itself out.
The political issue is real, though. The president, through his spokesman, told us that Karl had nothing to do with this. He told us that Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of the vice president had nothing to do with this. Whether they committed a crime, I don't know, but they had a lot to do with the leaking of this woman's identity. And so we were...
GALEN: You can't say that, Paul.
BEGALA: The political problem the president has is he misled us.
GALEN: No, that's --
BEGALA: They're at the heart of this whole thing.
GALEN: No, they're not. They happen to be the people that everybody focuses on every time they get called up. You don't know whether they're being asked to provide yet one more telephone log that may or may not include any of this. You can't say they're at the heart of this. That's absolutely a mischaracterization.
BEGALA: The president, through his spokesman, said Rove and Libby had nothing to do with this. We know from Matt Cooper, from "Time" magazine, who's written a full account of his role in this, that Rove was a source for Mr. Cooper and "Time" magazine as to Ms. Plame's identity -- Mrs. Wilson's identity. They did not tell the truth. That's a political problem. May not be a crime. It may be a crime, but politically we know their credibility is in tatters.
GALEN: We can wind ourselves into the ground here -- and I know we're going to have to stop, but what Rove said about the conversation with the "Time" magazine reporter was that it was about something else all together. At the end of the conversation, this matter came up and it's still unclear who raised it first.
BLITZER: I suspect, based on everything I've heard about Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor who's investigating this allegation, if you will, he's very hard-nosed. He's very determined. If someone tried to mislead the grand jury, if someone lied to an FBI agent, if someone did anything untoward whatsoever, he's going to try to nail them.
GALEN: Which I think is perfectly legitimate. I think they should be.
BEGALA: The thing that gets overlooked in a lot of this coverage is, the potential damage to national security here is enormous. It's enormous. When you violate the cover of a CIA operative -- she was -- I don't want to reveal anything that's classified. I don't think I know anything that's classified anymore, the years I've been out of the government -- when you have someone who is clandestine, in this case, she was part of a cover company that was doing business. Anybody who was doing business --
GALEN: No, at the time --
BEGALA: (INAUDIBLE) Brewster Jennings -- it's been publicly released -- it was an energy company.
GALEN: At the time she was not undercover. She was not a covert -- and we call them officers, not agents.
BEGALA: We're arguing different things. Her identity --
GALEN: No, we're not. We're arguing whether or not she was a covert agent at the time and I'm saying she was not.
BEGALA: Her identity -- no, this is what I'm saying: Her identity and her cover as a company has been blown. Therefore anybody who helped us, who helped America, in the war on terror by giving us information in the Middle East has probably not been put in a position to help us again, if I can say it delicately.
GALEN: But there's nothing illegal about talking --
BEGALA: This has compromised our national security enormously.
I'm not talking about the legal case. I'm talking about the national security damage.
GALEN: I'm talking about that too. She was not undercover, and when all this happened, she was --
BLITZER: But you know what, Rich --
BEGALA: Yes, I do; everybody knows.
She was working in counter proliferation as an analyst at the CIA at the time, but the CIA did refer this case to the Justice Department for investigation. There were officials at the CIA who believed then and believe now -- based on information that I've had -- that potential serious damage to national security occurred.
GALEN: Are you two guys being defenders of the CIA? I want to mark this day down.
BEGALA: I'm an enormous defender of the CIA. They do help to keep us free. Anybody who reveals the identity of a covert agent ought to go to prison.
GALEN: She was not a corporate (SIC) agent at the time. I don't disagree with that a bit.
BEGALA: Anybody who helped that company she worked for -- she was not the only person with that cover.
BLITZER: We'll continue this down the road. Paul, Rich, thank you very much.
Still ahead, more on Harriet Miers. Are Democrats split over the president's Supreme Court nominee? Coming up, my conversation with Senator Pat Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Later, FEMA's new boss was in the hot seat today on Capitol Hill. Did he get a grilling? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Here are some looks at some of the hot shots coming from the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.
In Montana, winter storm soccer match. The athletic director at the State University in Billings rolls giant snowballs off the field to clear the way for the game.
In California, firefighters on the scene. Several thousand acres have gone up in flames.
In Bali, Indonesia, prayers after the weekend bombings. These girls celebrate the Hindu holy day of Galungan, or victory over evil.
And in Germany, a polar bear takes in a sun bath and a little relaxation at a zoo. Better than a day at the spa.
Today's hot shots. Thanks to those photographers.
While many conservatives are up in arms over the president's pick for the Supreme Court, some key Democrats seem unperturbed. The nominee -- the White House counsel, Harriet Miers -- has been meeting with Republicans and Democrats. Yesterday, she met with Senator Patrick Leahy. He's the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
Senator Leahy is joining us now live from Capitol Hill. Senator, thanks very much for joining us. Listen to what your leader, Harry Reid, said on the Senate floor Tuesday.
SEN. HARRY REID, (D) NEVADA, SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Even at this early stage of the confirmation process, I will say that I am impressed by what I know about Harriet Miers.
BLITZER: Senator Leahy, are you as enthusiastic about Harriet Miers as Senator Reid is?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT: You know, I've been here with 13 nominations to the Supreme Court since I first came to the Senate. I learned long ago what you do is you wait till the hearing's over and then you make up your determination whether you're for or against a person. I find it interesting the number of people who jumped out almost the first day after John Roberts was announced -- actually for the same seat that Harriet Miers has now been nominated for. They jumped out and said, this is the person we're all for him, and now the second person's nominated for the same seat, they're expressing some concerns.
I would urge everybody, why don't you let the process go forward. We know very, very little about her. The president says he's known her for ten years. We're going to be lucky to have ten weeks to really get to know who she is before we vote. Why don't we wait till it's over and make up your minds. BLITZER: You were on CNN on AMERICAN MORNING on July 12th. You had some interesting comments. The president referred to them yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAHY: I talked, as each of us have, with a number of the current justices. I know they see a number of benefits that could come to having somebody from outside the judicial monastery.
GEORGE W. BUSH: One of the most interesting ideas I heard was, why don't you pick somebody who hasn't been a judge? Why don't you reach outside the -- I think one senator said the judicial monastery. I thought it's an interesting idea.
BLITZER: You're smiling, Senator Leahy. Is Harriet Miers your idea?
LEAHY: You know, the president called me -- I was up in Vermont on Monday -- to talk to me about this nomination. He said remember, Pat, you're the one that gave me the judicial monastery thing. I probably should have said, outside the judicial monastery, maybe even outside the White House complex. But the basic concept is one I suggested to President Reagan, to former President Bush, to President Clinton. None of them took me up on it. I think it is good to have somebody who has not been a judge but who's been extremely distinguished in legal fields in other areas, who might come in on the court.
We've had past precedents: Hugo Black was an example of that. Earl Warren was an example. A number of other people, noted law professors -- and they improved the Supreme Court by doing that.
BLITZER: Senator, you met with her yesterday. Were you impressed by what you heard when you asked her? I assume you asked her about Roe vs. Wade, abortion rights for women. Did you?
LEAHY: No, I didn't. I told her I will probably have to meet a couple more times. This was sort of an initial meeting. I did not know her well, even though I think she's met before with a lot of the members of the Judiciary Committee. I really had only one talk of any in-depth with her before.
This was just the beginning. I wanted to have some idea of how she viewed the court, how she viewed the role of a Supreme Court justice.
I told her, as I think Senator Specter did, that both he and I would have some very real questions about cases coming forward, judicial philosophy, how somebody might rule.
Now, one thing that did impress me -- I did ask her about the fact that some have been going out and saying, "Well, we can say for sure -- we have total assurances she'll vote this way or that way, whether it's on Roe vs. Wade or anything else." She told me that nobody has the authority to speak for her. She has not authorized anybody to make such statements. She disavows such statements, whether -- I think it was Dr. Dobson and others who have been saying that -- and understands that, of course, a nominee has to be independent, even of the president who appointed him or her.
BLITZER: Dr. James Dobson, Focus on the Family. Thanks very much, Senator Leahy, for joining us. Do you know when the hearings are going to start?
LEAHY: We're still trying to work that out. This is a very busy time during the Senate. And it could be December.
BLITZER: Well, they want her confirmed by Thanksgiving I thought.
LEAHY: I want her confirmed once we know a lot more about her. The president has had 10 years to learn who she is. I want to have at least 10 weeks to find out who she is.
BLITZER: Senator Patrick Leahy, thanks very much for joining us.
Coming up, Katrina aftershocks. A month and a half since the hurricane struck. Our Ali Velshi standing by. He'll explain what's going on right now.
Plus, she made news wherever she went. So where is she now? I'll have the latest chapter in the Cindy Sheehan saga. That's coming up in our "Political Radar." Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Our Zain Verjee is joining us once again from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at some other stories making news -- Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Wolf, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, warned today -- warned Iran specifically -- not to meddle in Iraq. He issued the admonition after declaring that new explosive devices used to kill U.S.-led troops resembled devices also used by the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah.
Iran's ambassador in London said the allegations are not supported either politically or even by physical evidence.
The Associated Press is now reporting that Central America's death toll from foul weather, exacerbated by Hurricane Stan, has risen to 198. It increased after the bodies of 40 people were pulled from the site of a landslide in Guatemala.
Mexico is air lifting relief to the region. Southern Mexico was hit by the same storm, killing at least six people and leaving behind floods and destruction.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has declared New Orleans officially dry. A spokesman said today that the Corps has completed pumping out the city, flooded first by Hurricane Katrina and then again by Hurricane Rita. He does say that there may still be pockets of standing water in the Ninth Ward.
And researchers for Merck and Company say the first large study of an experimental cervical cancer vaccine showed it to be 100 percent effective in the short term. The vaccine is designed to prevent virus strains that most commonly cause this variety of cancer. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women and the number-two cause of cancer deaths in women. The study's findings will be presented tomorrow -- Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain Verjee, thanks very much for that.
It's been more than five weeks since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. But the deadly storm is still affecting the overall economy. Our Ali Velshi is joining us once again with the bottom line -- Ali?
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
This stuff's affecting markets. We heard last week that consumer sentiment, the polls which talk about what consumers are going to do, how they think the economy is going to do, suffered a real setback after Katrina. It's a combination of the high energy prices taking a bite out of your budget and the fact that job losses are showing up on the scene.
Now, we're going to get the unemployment report out tomorrow. I'll tell you about that in a second.
But today is the day that chain stores report their sales in September, corresponding to last September. Of the stores that were open a year ago, they compare the sales.
And the numbers are mixed. Stores that sold basic goods, the Wal-Marts and Costcos, they did fairly well. The high-end stores did well, Neiman Marcus, companies like that.
The ones in the middle, the mall-based stores, the ones that would typically be where you buy that extra purchase, the ones where you would be taking your car to go. When we hear the people are not going to malls as much, they suffered. The Gap, Ann Taylor, companies like that found there's a bit of a setback.
So we've got some mixed results. This, of course, is very important, Wolf, because we're going into the holiday shopping season now.
BLITZER: And that's going to be a big chunk of everyone's revenue, assuming things go well.
VELSHI: That's right. And now we look at job numbers coming out. Those will be out tomorrow. The government, as you recall, after Katrina saying that about 400,000 jobs will be lost. Well, today's job numbers suggested 363,000 people are looking for work as a direct result of Hurricane Katrina. We'll get an update on those numbers tomorrow.
But all of this mixed into the same pot, Wolf, suggests a bit of a slowing down on the economy. The other danger, of course, with those energy costs, Wolf, is inflation. And we heard people from the Fed talking about that today, that we might have to keep a close eye on it -- Wolf?
BLITZER: They're always looking at that. All right, thanks very much, Ali, for that report.
Coming up, more on our developing story this hour. The top White House advisor, Karl Rove, will testify yet again before that grand jury looking into the leaking of a CIA officer's name.
Plus, how exactly should terrorism suspects be treated? The Senate has voiced its vote. Now the issue moves to the House of Representatives. Could the president weigh in eventually with a veto?
And it's an important strategy from the White House, trying to convince the president's supporters of Harriet Miers' qualifications, and trying to convince the Senate, as well. Are you convinced? Jack Cafferty's been going through your e-mail. He's standing by.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Thursday, the acting head of FEMA says he's never been a fan of no-bid contracts. In the weeks after Katrina hit, FEMA contracts, totaling more than $1 billion, were awarded without any competition. Now David Paulison tells the Senate panel all such contracts will be reopened to bidding.
The Senate voted 90-9 last night for an amendment to a Pentagon spending bill that set standards for the treatment of prisoners in U.S. military custody. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan today criticized that vote, saying the language is unnecessary.
Earlier, McClellan had predicted a presidential veto. If the president does end up vetoing the bill, it would be his first veto in almost five years in office.
Anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan got a hero's welcome from a hometown crowd in Oakland, California, after wrapping up a cross- country bus tour that started out near the president's ranch in Texas. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, told the crowd that, quote, "lies" took her son. She said she'll continue her protest until the troops are brought home.
Up next, sharks. Researchers are studying some that swim thousand of miles from home and then back. Now new proof of what that says about the makeup of their populations.
And Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, will testify yet again in that CIA leak investigation. What are the political and legal ramifications? We're checking all of that. Jeff Greenfield's standing by.
Plus, we'll find out what the blogs are saying when we get the situation online. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
President Bush trying to mend some fences today when he paid tribute to the conservative publication "National Review" and its founder, William Buckley. Many conservatives, though, are angry over the president's choice of Harriet Miers for the U.S. Supreme Court. Can the president protect his right flank?
Joining us now, our CNN senior analyst Jeff Greenfield here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: How you doing?
BLITZER: All right. Let's get to that in a second.
Karl Rove, he's going to testify now for a fourth time before this grand jury investigating the CIA leak. Give us your immediate reaction.
GREENFIELD: The first reaction is, of course, we don't know what this means, which doesn't stop us from talking about it. But if you look at the whole last few weeks, the idea that Karl Rove is coming in an unusual situation.
The story today is he has not been assured one way or the other that he is or is not. Nobody's told him he's not being indicted.
You look at where the Republican Party, both in Congress or where the president's been the last three months, and it reminds me of -- I think it's an old blues song -- "If it weren't for bad news, I'd have no news at all." It's exactly what they don't need, particularly given the trouble they're having, as you alluded to a moment ago, with their conservative flank on a range of issues of which Harriet Miers is just one.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk about Harriet Miers. How surprised have you been these past few days, the reaction from the right to the president's pick?
GREENFIELD: It was puzzling to me at first, because -- David Broder today, I thought, nailed it. Both in what she said at the White House, the kind of code words about the original meaning of the Constitution, this suggests to me, as one of her colleagues has suggested, this is probably a real conservative, in a judicial sense, who's likely to be more conservative, oddly, than Roberts.
What was the right angry about? And I think -- I was at this other tribute to Buckley yesterday, so it was mostly conservative. BLITZER: In New York?
GREENFIELD: No, here in Washington.
BLITZER: Here in Washington.
GREENFIELD: They wanted a clear-cut battle. They thought they'd earn it. James Dobson said right after the election to the president, "We reelected you." And more than anything else, they wanted a clear- cut, movement conservative for the court.
Harriet Miers may vote along with Scalia and Thomas. They don't think they got that. They think the president, because he was politically weak -- this is their analysis -- went to a trusted friend, which also bothered them a little.
Some of them said, "You know, you keep telling us, 'Trust me.' This is not the way the system's going to work." And I think they feel cheated of their kind of Armageddon. "Let's have us versus them, and let's stake this out, conservative-liberal." And they don't feel they got it, no matter how she might vote.
BLITZER: So you hung out with a lot of conservatives yesterday. Today you spent some time with some liberals, some Democrats. What's their reaction?
GREENFIELD: Well, there was a presentation by two very smart Democratic strategists, Elaine Kamarck and Bill Galston, who helped shape the Clinton, more centrist approach in the '90s.
One of their big arguments -- they were trying to look at what happened to the Democrats -- is, "We Democrats can't win a mobilization election." They're telling their left that ain't going to work.
So their argument is, "We have to begin to talk about social issues. We have to begin to move a little bit," they would say, "to the middle." Where I think this is relevant is the one real danger for the Republicans. It's way too early to know what's going to happen next year.
But they won this last time because they did mobilize. They out- mobilized the Democrats. If they're disheartened by Harriet Miers, by Tom DeLay, by the fact that the president is a big spender -- you know, they're very angry about the prescription drug bill, the highway bill.
If they sit on their hands next year, that's real trouble for the midterm election. We don't know that's going to happen, but it's this perfect storm, not to mention the whiff of scandal, you know, DeLay indicted, the White House procurement chief now indicted.
Lord knows what this means for Karl Rove or other top officials. It may be nothing. But there's a sense, I think, that the biggest concern Republicans ought to be having right now is, is their base, which won them the election last time, going to sit this one out next year?
BLITZER: Going to mobilized or as opposed to being now -- don't forget Bill Frist, his stock trading...
GREENFIELD: Yes, but my hunch...
GREENFIELD: I have a feeling, of all the things they've got to worry about, that's a two. These others are a higher number.
BLITZER: Jeff Greenfield, thanks very much.
GREENFIELD: Good to see you.
BLITZER: We'll delve more into the heated reaction over the Miers nomination from supporters and detractors. But first, more on Karl Rove's upcoming testimony before a U.S. grand jury in the CIA leak probe. It's already on the blogs. Not a surprise.
Our Internet reporters, Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton, are joining us now with the situation online.
What are you picking up?
JACKI SCHECHNER, BLOG REPORTER: Well, Wolf, I'm going to fly solo on this one. But we wanted to give you early reaction online to the news that Karl Rove is going to testify again.
It is clearly the liberals who are jumping all over this, first from ThinkProgress.org. This is from the Center for American Progress. They're actually comparing today's news to a past article in the "Los Angeles Times," or a past quote from the "Los Angeles Times," in fact, that "Luskin said that Rove has already shared everything he has with the prosecutor." So wondering why he's going back now to talk, if he's already said everything he has to say.
From the Huffington Post blog -- this is Lawrence O'Donnell who's posting. Now, he was the one who first came out online and said that Karl Rove was "Time" Magazine's Matt Cooper's source in this investigation.
People are going back to him now and wondering what his predictions are going to be. Now, again, this is all speculation, because this is all very, very early online. But again, Lawrence O'Donnell is a quality source online for bloggers because he was the one who made that Karl Rove prediction initially.
He is saying now he thinks it's going to be three high-level administration personnel and then he says one unindicted co- conspirator in what he calls "Plamegate."
On the conservative side, we did find one so far, Lifelike Pundits, saying they suspect that Karl Rove will, in fact, be indicted. If that's the case, he should be suspended without pay. If he is cleared, then he should be reinstated. And if not, of course, he'll be in jail. But don't let him resign. Fire him and get it over with.
And finally, from John Aravosis at AmericaBlog, he wonders if this is Karl Rove agreeing to cop a plea. He hopes he's going to turn on President Bush. He says he knows that's not likely, but a girl can dream.
Wolf, we'll send it back to you.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thanks very much. It doesn't take those bloggers very long to get some reaction.
Zain Verjee is joining us once again from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news.
VERJEE: Hi, Wolf.
Residents near a wildfire at the Mexican-U.S. border were ordered to evacuate today as the flames appeared to move in their direction. The fire began in Mexico and jumped the border near San Diego yesterday. It's burned 2,100 acres on the U.S. side and about 1,000 Mexican acres. Forestry officials are saying that it's about 10 percent contained.
In Montana and in western Idaho, it's snow that's creating weather problems. Electricity's out to thousands of homes and businesses after a heavy wet snowfall weighed down trees, which in turn fell onto power lines. Utility crews have been working for two days to restore power. They expect it to finish by day's end.
Researchers say they now have proof that shark populations are connected over thousands of miles of ocean. Now, there was one study that was done, and it logged the travels of a great white shark named Nicole who swam 12,000 miles from South Africa to Australia and back. It took about six months to do that.
Another track summoned sharks from summers in Alaskan waters to winters off Hawaii. One shark tracker says the behavior suggests that the conservation management of the species will require international cooperation.
How about that, Wolf?
BLITZER: I suspect there's going to be a new movie on sharks coming up pretty soon, like the penguins. Thanks very much, Zain, for that.
Still to come, we've asked for your thoughts on the Harriet Miers nomination. Jack Cafferty's been going through your e-mail. He's standing by with your answers.
And at the top of the hour, we'll get back to our top story. Karl Rove will testify again in that CIA leak investigation. We'll have more on the implications, the fallout. All that, coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Jack Cafferty joining us again with "The Cafferty File." He's got some e-mail to share with our viewers -- Jack?
CAFFERTY: Indeed I do. Thank you, Wolf.
Much of the opposition to President Bush's latest Supreme Court nominee is coming from an unlikely source. That would be the conservative right. Several conservatives, including Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi, columnist George Will, are questioning the president's choice of White House counsel Harriet Miers.
So the question this hour is: How likely is it that Harriet Miers will become a Supreme Court justice?
Theresa in Petal, Mississippi: "I think it's highly likely that Miers will be confirmed. After all, it only took 42 minutes to confirm Michael Brown as the head of FEMA, and look what a good job he did."
Dan in Cincinnati, Ohio: "If someone with as mediocre a judicial background and as notorious a personal background as Clarence Thomas can be confirmed, then Ms. Miers will definitely make it. The vote will be close. It may cut across party lines far more than for Chief Justice Roberts."
Rick in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, writes: "Not a chance. Apparently, when our president says, 'Trust me,' no one does, not even members of his own party."
Don writes this: "Ever hear of a trial balloon, Jack? Miers is not expected to make it to the Supreme Court. This way, the president can put forward someone even less moderate. Just a guess."
And Bima in Los Angeles writes: "Bush should withdraw her nomination and appoint Diana Ross instead. Ms. Ross is just as qualified. She's a woman. And she's African-American. We'll have Diana Ross and the Supremes, and the court will rock."
BLITZER: You know, Jack, have you seen the new article in the new issue of "Vanity Fair" that is so praiseworthy of you? Have you seen that yet?
CAFFERTY: Well, I -- you know, they got to fill those magazines with something.
BLITZER: They love you.
CAFFERTY: They do?
BLITZER: Our viewers do. CAFFERTY: Well, that's nice. I'm happy. No, somebody told me that "Vanity Fair" had written a couple of nice words, and I appreciate it.
BLITZER: Very nice words about Jack in "Vanity Fair." Thanks very much, Jack.
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