Skip to main content
Search
Services


 

Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

White House Spring Cleaning; Unlikely Witnesses in Moussaoui Trial; Chinese President Talks Trade in Seattle; Ari Fleischer Interview; New Details Emerging About Confrontation Between Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney And Capitol Hill Police Officer; FBI Wants To Comb Through Jack Anderson's Records; Alternative Fuels

Aired April 19, 2006 - 16:59   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, job changes over at the White House. One of the president's senior aides says goodbye to his job while another says goodbye to some of his responsibilities. With at least one job opening and possibly others to come, it appears the boss in chief is looking for a few good staffers.

Meanwhile, what might these staff changes mean? I'll speak with one man who knows his way around the White House. That would be the former Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And is the president of China on a shopping spree in the United States? Ahead of a meeting on trade issues with President Bush, among other issues, President Hu Jintao deals with Boeing and Microsoft and even tastes the flavor of Seattle with some Starbucks coffee.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a developing story. The most well known house in the country is undergoing a deep spring cleaning. There's a major job resignation and a job realignment, as well, in the Bush administration. Yet, Democrats say the spring cleaning is no more than changing the curtains while the view stays the same.

Our White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano is joining us now live from the White House. She has the latest -- Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after nearly three years on the job as the president's chief spokesman, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan today announced his resignation. Now, the move not entirely a surprise.

It was about two weeks ago that CNN first reported the new White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, was interested in reshaping the White House communications operation and legislative affairs. Nevertheless, it was clearly an emotional moment for Scott McClellan has he made that announcement earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I have given it my all, sir, and I have given you my all. And I will continue to do so as we transition to a new press secretary over the next two to three weeks. Thank you for the opportunity.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I -- first of all, I thank Scott for his service to our country. I don't know whether or not the press corps realizes this, but his is a challenging assignment, dealing with you all on a regular basis. And I thought he handled his assignment with class, integrity. He really represents, you know, the best of his family, our state and our country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

QUIJANO: Also announced today, a significant change in the duties of senior adviser Karl Rove. No longer will he be focused on both policy and politics. Instead, against the backdrop of the congressional midterm elections coming up in November, he will focus solely on politics. The move an indication of the wide latitude Josh Bolten has in his new position as chief of staff.

Now, also, we should mention, that we are told by senior officials not to expect any more personnel announcements this week. They also note that the White House communications director, Nicolle Wallace, is at some point expected to leave to join her husband who is now in New York. But no time frame given. Aides are saying only that the White House is being flexible is working with Nicolle Wallace on that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Elaine, thank you very much.

So, who might replace Scott McClellan? And what changes in the Bush administration might still come? Let's talk about this with our senior national correspondent, John Roberts.

You spent a lot of time, first of all, with Scott McClellan over the years when you were the chief White House correspondent over at CBS News. What was he like to work with on a day-to-day basis?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, he could be -- he could be charming sometimes, he could be frustrating at time. You know, he really ran the gamut from one poll right to the other. But always behind the scenes -- you know, I didn't really know him personally, but in a collegial type of way, and you know that from your time at the White House. You get sort of buddy-ish with these guys, but you don't actually become friends.

He was always very nice. And he was very fair and very friendly. And he had a smile on his face more often than not, which in that job is very, very difficult.

BLITZER: It's a tough job, as all of us know. They work really, really hard, these guys. Sometimes they do it well, sometimes they don't do it so well.

ROBERTS: Like stepping into a hurricane every time you come out there.

BLITZER: Yes. Any time you've got to deal with people like us.

ROBERTS: Exactly.

BLITZER: It's never...

ROBERTS: Who would want to deal with you or me on a daily basis?

BLITZER: It's never that easy to begin with.

What are you hearing about replacements?

ROBERTS: Well, I think it's pretty clear from what she said last hour that Torie Clarke is taking the job, don't you?

BLITZER: I think it's pretty clear she's not taking the job.

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: No, I mean, I don't know. You know, people talk about Tony Snow. Rob Nichols, who used to be over at the Treasury Department, is very well respected in the White House.

I don't think it's going to be Dan Senor, who is the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority. He just got married. He refused a job at Google because it would have forced him to move to the West Coast, away from his fiancee. So, unless she gets transferred by her network to Washington, I don't see that he'd pick up and move.

BLITZER: He married Campbell Brown of NBC News.

ROBERTS: He did. So, you know, I don't think it's Torie. I don't think it's Dan.

Also, Dan's got a couple of problems because he helped out Paul Bremer with that book that was somewhat critical of the Bush administration. So there might be a bridge or two there that's still on fire.

So, you know, I think the money is probably riding between Rob Nichols and -- and Tony Snow. Though, Trent Duffy, the former deputy press secretary, gets mentioned on occasion, as well.

BLITZER: What about the Karl Rove decision to step back from policy and to focus specifically on politics?

ROBERTS: You know, I don't -- I don't buy this Democratic argument that it's a demotion. And, by the way, they've got to come up with a new line other than changing the deck chairs on the Titanic. It's a little old. There were Republicans that have been saying for a long time it was a stupid move to give Karl Rove both politics and policy, that the politics was far too important, consumed far too much of his time. He didn't have time for the policy. Fine, if you want to reward him with a deputy chief of staff title, that's great. And maybe the only way they could to do that was to get him involved in policy.

But Ken Duberstein told me late last year -- Duberstein, formerly of the Reagan administration, of course -- said, you just can't have him spread so thin. He's too important on the political front. There's too much riding on the election this year. And with Republicans apparently in the trouble that they are in, in those congressional races, they need somebody who can focus on that full time.

BLITZER: John Roberts, stick around, because I know you are working on an important piece, on a story that our viewers are going to be really interested in, the FBI going after some documents of the late columnist Jack Anderson. You are going to come back for that.

John Roberts, thanks very much.

Just ahead, I'll speak with a man very familiar with the inner workings and the changes over at the White House. Before there was Scott McClellan, that was Ari Fleischer, President Bush's first press secretary. We'll talk about today's developments. That's coming up.

In the meantime, our Zain Verjee is standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta with another close look at some stories making news -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, big crowds of stalled passengers, worn nerves and a few tense hours. That was the scene today at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport today, when screeners at a checkpoint saw something suspicious in a carry-on bag.

All checkpoints were evacuated for a while. They were reopened a little more than an hour ago, but aviation officials are saying that flights still may be delayed by two hours or more. The delays could snarl air traffic nationwide.

The Midwest has been hit by the largest outbreak of mumps in more than 20 years. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Judy Gerberding says more than a thousand cases are reported in eight states, 815 cases are in Iowa. The rest are in Minnesota, Kansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri and Oklahoma. Dr. Gerberding says the vaccine is the best protection against mumps, which is passed by coughing and sneezing

U.S. Embassy officials in Kabul, Afghanistan, confirm one person, an Afghan security contractor, suffered minor injuries in today's explosion in the city's diplomatic district. The explosion is believed to have been caused by a rocket. American Embassy staff rushed to a bunker in the command, but a spokesman says the U.S. mission was not hit. The blast is under investigation. At Saddam Hussein's trial, the judge says handwriting experts authenticated the former dictator's signature on a document that ordered the deaths of 148 Shia men and boys. Those killings are among the crimes Saddam is charged with. They were punishment for a 1982 assassination attempt in the town of Dujail.

The trial is now recessed until next Monday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much.

Up ahead -- well, before we go to up ahead, let's bring in Jack Cafferty. He's up ahead. In fact, he's coming up right now -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm here for you, Wolf.

Things are getting bad for President Bush. Friday, the new issue of "Rolling Stone" magazine hits the newsstands with this cover. Look at this. Not very flattering. Funny, but not very flattering.

Inside, one of American's leading historians, Sean Wilentz, asks in an article, "Is George Bush the worst president in our nation's history?" He evaluates Bush on four major points: credibility, domestic policy, foreign and military endeavors, and executive misconduct.

His conclusion: "George W. Bush's presidency appears headed for colossal historical disgrace."

It gets worse. Next week, the new issue of "Vanity Fair" comes out. Watergate veteran Carl Bernstein suggests in a compelling article that it's time for a formal investigation of the Bush presidency along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee investigation of Richard Nixon.

Bernstein says, "It's essential that the Senate Vote -- hopefully before the November elections, and with overwhelming support from both parties -- to undertake a full investigation of the conduct of the presidency of George W. Bush."

Bernstein suggests it might even be a way for Republicans to save themselves in the upcoming midterm elections.

So, here's the question: Is it time for the Senate to undertake a formal investigation of the presidency of George Bush?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Not such a flattering cover of "Rolling Stone" magazine.

CAFFERTY: Isn't that awful?

BLITZER: Let's show that to our viewers one more time...

CAFFERTY: Put it up again. BLITZER: ... because it is -- there it is. "The Worst President in History?" That's a question mark.

CAFFERTY: Where is it? I can't see it. Oh, there it is.

BLITZER: There it is. One of America's leading historians assesses George W. Bush.

All right, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's terrible.

BLITZER: Stand by. We'll get our viewers to weigh in on that as well.

Up ahead, more on the resignation of the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan. We'll talk about it with his predecessor, Ari Fleischer. He'll join us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, China's president on a shopping spree in Seattle. We'll show you why he put business before politics on his U.S. trip, but how the two are really tied together.

Plus, gas prices soaring. Can technology offer a cheaper alternative? We're going to show you what the future may hold. Miles O'Brien standing by with that.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lawyers trying to save Zacarias Moussaoui from the death penalty are calling some unlikely witnesses to testify in his behalf, relatives of people killed on 9/11. Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is outside the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, with the latest.

What's going on, Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the testimony has shifted from a debate over Zacarias Moussaoui's mental health to, as you said, hearing from relatives of some of the people killed on 9/11. This is a stark contrast to the testimony we heard earlier in this trial from family members who gave heart-wrenching details and told stories of how their lives were simply shattered by the loss of their loved ones.

This testimony is much more upbeat. I mean, these are -- these are family members who say, yes, we have suffered a loss, but we have moved on, we have managed to pick up the pieces, and we want to remember the good things about our loved ones. As one of the family members said on her way outside of court, "Not one family speaks for all the 9/11 family members." Her name is Marilyn Rosenthal, and she lost her son Josh in the World Trade Center.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARILYN ROSENTHAL, MOTHER OF 9/11 VICTIM: I felt it was the patriotic thing to do. I really did. That's my only -- that's my only motivation.

My son's been memorialized in half a dozen different ways so that we can remember him, you know, always. So, I don't know that I did it for him. I did it because I thought it was my duty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Wolf, no mention of Moussaoui, no mention of the death penalty, no mention of where they stand on any of those issues. Just stories about their loved ones and how life has moved on.

That testimony continues and court should wrap up in about 15 minutes.

BLITZER: How many more days are we expecting this to continue, Kelli?

ARENA: We expect the jury to get this, to start deliberating, on Monday, if things go as planned. At least that was the judge's guidance this morning.

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you very much.

Kelli Arena reporting for us.

Coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, will talk about his successor Scott McClellan's resignation today and the ongoing White House shake-up. Stand by for that.

And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, Exxon outrage. Details of the CEO's massive retirement package, why some call it a shameful display of greed, while others say it's well earned.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Happening now, the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, is en route from Washington State to Washington, D.C., where he will meet tomorrow with President Bush. But Mr. Hu chose to start his four-day U.S. visit in Seattle.

Let's bring back Zain. She's got more on this whirlwind tour of the Chinese leader -- Zain.

VERJEE: Wolf, jets were, in fact, on Mr. Hu's agenda this morning as he toured the giant Boeing facility in Washington. China's President Hu Jintao didn't open his visit in the world's most powerful capital, but instead, with America's business powerhouses. It's all a strong signal of just how important U.S. foreign investment and technology is to China.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE (voice over): Not just window shopping at the Boeing plant today. China's President Hu Jintao has spent some serious money ahead of this visit. China committed to buying 80 Boeing 737 jets worth about $5 billion.

PRESIDENT HU JINTAO, CHINA (through translator): I sincerely hope that the cooperation between Boeing and China will be even more successful in the future and will further expand in scale. And I also sincerely hope that the economic and trade relations between our two countries in general will prosper further and fly higher, just like a Boeing plane.

VERJEE: The Boeing deal is part of a massive Chinese buying spree in the U.S., with Beijing spending about $15 billion on American goods in the past few weeks. A gesture some say is intended to address American concerns that the U.S. buys more from China than China buys from the U.S.

China had a record $202 billion trade surplus with the U.S. last year. Americans are also worried about intellectual property rights violations in China.

U.S. industry groups estimate 90 percent of DVDs, music CDs and software sold in China are pirated. The Chinese government says it's taken action, closing shops in Beijing selling pirated DVDs.

And President Hu reassured Microsoft chairman Bill Gates that he's serious about protecting intellectual property. China's agreed to pre-install Microsoft software in Chinese computers, a significant advance in the ongoing dispute over software piracy.

Mr. Hu visited the Microsoft campus and was the guest of honor last night at a lavish dinner hosted by founder Bill Gates at his home. It wasn't the White House state dinner the Chinese president had hoped for but was denied, but it came close.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: Instead of the dinner, the White House is throwing a luncheon tomorrow in Mr. Hu's honor. This is his first trip to the U.S. since taking office back in 2003. But tomorrow is going to mark the fifth time he's actually met with President Bush. Other issues expected to be discussed, China's human rights record, Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and U.S. policy toward Taiwan -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Zain, thanks very much for that report.

Oil also on the agenda for President Hu's meeting tomorrow with President Bush.

Our Ali Velshi is joining us now with "The Bottom Line" on that -- Ali.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.

Well, as Zain said, President Hu Jintao is in Seattle. He's rubbing shoulders with the leaders of Microsoft and Boeing and Starbucks. But when he gets down to Washington tomorrow, the nice- nice might be over and it might be replaced by tough talk on trade imbalances, China's currency, and, of course, energy.

One of the most pressing issues could be oil. The U.S. and China are number one and two when it comes to oil consumption. But China's growth in demand for oil, like everything else, is through the roof.

Now, estimates are that China's demand for oil in the next five years could add as much as 14 bucks to the cost of a barrel of oil. And that means that China readily deals with nations like the Sudan and Iran and it deals aggressively with major U.S. suppliers like Canada and Venezuela. So, you can expect President Bush to make his concerns known about those issues.

Now, speaking of oil, Wolf, if I sound like a broken record, it's because we've broken another record. Crude oil settled at $72.17 -- I'm sorry, $72.70 a barrel. That's up nearly a dollar from yesterday.

And if you filled up your car this week, you know that $3 a gallon isn't too far away. For some people in America it's already here. AAA now says the national average for regular unleaded is $2.80.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

BLITZER: Not as robust gains as yesterday. But still, gains. Gains are better, I suppose, than going down.

Thanks very much, Ali, for that.

Coming up, fuming about high gas prices? What if there was another cheaper way to fuel your car? We're going to tell you about some promising options. Stand by for that.

And he stood at the podium before Scott McClellan. The former White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer, I'll speak with him one on one about today's shake-up over at the White House.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

More on our top story now. Bush administration shake-ups, including the resignation today of the White House press secretary, Scott McClellan. Might McClellan's departure help right what many say is a shaky ship?

For some insight, we'll turn to our CNN senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield, to look back at some of the prior dealings between the press and the president -- Jeff. JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: Wolf, there may be a less important story than who will replace Scott McClellan as press secretary, but offhand, I can't imagine what that is. Who is at that podium just doesn't matter that much. But, how the White House deals with the press and what that signifies, that is a very different matter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD (voice over): It was McClellan's misfortune to hold the job all through President Bush's steady decline in public approval. And while his robotic performances didn't help, except with his face time on "The Daily Show"...

MCCLELLAN: There is an ongoing legal proceeding...

... leading to an ongoing legal proceeding...

... an ongoing legal proceeding...

... an ongoing legal proceeding...

... an ongoing legal proceeding.

But you can't separate that question from the legal proceeding.

GREENFIELD: It is impossible to argue that this was the cause of Bush's woes. And as far as the hostility between the White House and the press corps goes, this is pretty much par for the course.

President Kennedy charmed the press with his manner and his whit. But he was angry enough with poor coverage to publicly cancel his subscription to "The New York Herald Tribune."

President Johnson doled out leaks and inside dope to favored reporters but wound up seeing the presses hopelessly addicted to the Kennedy memory.

President Nixon tried threats, promising to challenge the lucrative broadcast licenses of "The Washington Post" and dispatching his vice president, Spiro Agnew, to attack the media as a band of unelected, snobbish, biased elites.

SPIRO AGNEW, FMR. VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This goes on daily in the editorial pages of some very large, reputable newspapers in this country.

GREENFIELD: Ronald Reagan offered a kind of benign neglect, often suggesting he couldn't even hear the questions and relying on his communications skills to reach the electorate directly.

And President Clinton, seen by many conservatives as the beneficiary of a liberal press, actually got much more negative coverage in his first six months in office than did his GOP predecessor, even before the Monica Lewinsky affair turned coverage especially tough. As for President Bush, he's governed at a time when the rise of an alternative media, radio talk shows, FOX News, the bloggers, have offered the public a steady challenge to what conservatives see as the political bias of the mainstream press. Think of what happened to Dan Rather and CBS News over its Bush and the National Guard story.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GREENFIELD: So, why, then, have the president's numbers dropped so dramatically? In large part, it is because on a host of issues, Iraq, Harriet Miers' Supreme Court nomination, immigration, port security, and spending, it has been conservatives who have raised strenuous dissents. And that is something a new face at the press podium will not fix -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeff, thank you very much. Solid report.

Scott McClellan took over the job of White House press secretary after his boss resigned. That person is the first to serve President Bush in that job, and he knows his way around the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now here in THE SITUATION ROOM is Ari Fleischer, the former White House press secretary.

Ari, thanks for coming in.

ARI FLEISCHER, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Was Scott McClellan pushed?

FLEISCHER: No, I don't think so. No.

Scott got asked that question today, and he said no. As Scott explained, it's a hard job, and being there as long as he has been there, it's tough to do that long.

BLITZER: But, for weeks, people have been speculating -- reporters have been speculating -- that he's on his way out. They're looking to other people. They're talking with other people. If he wasn't pushed, at least he was indirectly getting the message that they wanted to change the communications of the White House.

FLEISCHER: What I think is going on, Wolf, is, just like with Andy Card, I think this was selfless by Scott, and I think that Scott understood that the president was looking for a sense of change, a sense of a new dynamic at the White House staff, and he is so good to this president that he said that he would be part of that change. And he chose to do so now.

And, you know, Bill Clinton had five press secretaries over eight years. It's a grinding, grueling job. Scott had it for almost three years. That's a long time.

BLITZER: It is a long time, and he went through a lot -- a lot of embarrassment, especially toward the end.

The whole Dick Cheney hunting, shooting accident, the way that was handled was awful, by the White House's own admission. And Scott McClellan took a lot of the personal blame, I take it because he didn't intervene more directly, or wasn't even brought in on the loop on how the information should be released to the American public.

FLEISCHER: Well, I couldn't tell you if that one episode was anything that really put it over the top or not.

I think what happens, when you're the White House press secretary, is, there are a cumulative series of episodes -- and there always will be -- it doesn't matter, Democrat or Republican, what White House you're in -- the pace and the pressure that's brought on you by both internal events and the press corps adds up over a while. And it just does burn you out and wear you down -- the same token, the most exciting, wonderful job anybody could ever imagine holding, but the most grinding, pressure-filled job.

BLITZER: It's a tough job. I have worked with a lot of White House press secretaries. I know how hard it is.

But, just getting back to that Dick Cheney hunting accident, Cheney pointed out he didn't have any media advisers with him, so, he let one of the women who was on that hunting trip release it to a local newspaper, and it sort of deeply embarrassed the White House. And the press secretary certainly takes the fall for a lot of that.

FLEISCHER: Well, the press secretary catches all the public bullets. There's no question about it. This comes with the territory.

I defined my job as being a human pinata, and that is just the way the job goes. And, so, whether it's something that was under your control -- and this certainly wasn't under Scott's control -- or not, it still bears pressure and it adds up to the press secretary facing the pressure.

BLITZER: Something that always haunted him involved the way he handled the whole Valerie Plame-CIA leak story. He was asked by reporters whether top officials were involved, specifically Scooter Libby, who was then the vice president's chief of staff, Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff, top political adviser, and Elliot Abrams, a top official on the NSC.

And he said he went and spoke with all three of them personally. They assured him they had no role in leaking the name of Valerie Plame to the news media. Listen to what he told the reporters on October 7, 2003.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT MCCLELLAN, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I spoke with them, so that I could come back to you and say that they were not involved. I had no doubt with that in the beginning, but I like to check my information to make sure it's accurate before I report back to you, and that's exactly what I did.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now, we know -- now know two of them were involved in leaking this information: Scooter Libby and Karl Rove. Elliot Abrams was not involved.

But when a White House press secretary goes to top officials, looks them in the eye, and says, "I have got to go out and talk to the press; you have got to tell me the truth," clearly, at least the impression we're getting is, these two guys didn't necessarily tell Scott McClellan the truth, and he paid a significant credibility price with the press as a result.

FLEISCHER: Well, I think one of the things that all press secretaries, going back to time immemorial, will tell you is, they are dependent on the information that is provided to them.

Press secretaries do their best. We use our judgment about what can be or what should be passed on to the press. Of course, the press always wants everything to be passed on; they want to hear it all, so that it can be speculated about, even if you're not quite sure.

Every press secretary has to find that right point at which...

BLITZER: But what does the press secretary...

FLEISCHER: ... you're comfortable talking about it.

BLITZER: ... if he subsequently -- or she subsequently -- determines that a top official lied or misled them?

FLEISCHER: Well, in -- in this case, Wolf, I never talked to Scott about this, so, I'm not going to address any of the specifics of it.

But, as a general matter, I think the thing for press secretaries to do, when you're given information that you didn't observe with your own eyeballs, so you can say, this is so, is to just do what the press does, which is an attribution, which is, such-and-so said to me the following, and then you just state what such-and-so said. And, therefore, you're conveying information from whoever it may have been who said it.

And I think it doesn't matter what the issue is. Press secretaries cannot possibly know everything about everything that takes place in that big building, involving every soul inside it. And that's one way to handle it.

BLITZER: Karl Rove, the deputy White House chief of staff -- the architect, as the president calls him, the political strategist -- he's losing, now, his policy portfolio -- Joel Kaplan coming in to take over as deputy chief of staff in charge of policy, meaning, when issues like Katrina or port security or immigration come up, Karl Rove's not going to be involved in those policy decisions.

He's going to be involved in politics, as opposed to policy. Is this a slap in the face at Karl Rove?

FLEISCHER: Well, I think Karl will still be involved; he just won't be directing them.

Karl, even before he had that title, was still involved in policy, because that's how the president wants the White House to run, and Karl had that type of acumen.

BLITZER: It looks like a slap in his face.

FLEISCHER: Well, I think, really, what it is, is part of Josh putting his stamp on the White House, and Josh streamlining operations, so there will be a sole, unique focus on policy, which is very good and healthy.

BLITZER: Because the impression you can get -- and I might be wrong -- and you can correct me if I -- if you think I am -- is that they didn't think he was doing a good job on these policy issues. He does a great job on politics. And, so, they said, you know what, we're going to move somebody else in, somebody Josh Bolten, the new White House chief of staff...

FLEISCHER: Right.

BLITZER: ... presumably has greater confidence in.

FLEISCHER: Well, I just think, Wolf, that policy is so important, it deserves a singular focus. Policy can be where the creativity comes from, ingenuity, new ideas for the president's remaining two-and-a-half years, which is a long time.

New ideas is essential to all presidents, particularly as they get on with their office. And having a unique focus on policy, I think, is a good move, regardless of how it juggled Karl or didn't juggle Karl. He will still be involved in policy.

BLITZER: All right, we don't know who is going to be the new White House press secretary, but do you have any advice for whoever is coming in? I know there's a tradition among White House press secretaries to offer a little advice in a very unique way.

FLEISCHER: Well, there is, Wolf.

There is actually a flak jacket, a protective flak jacket that hangs in the White House press secretary's closet. And inside the pocket are notes, an unbroken chain that have been written from Gerald Ford's press secretary to Jimmy Carter's and forward, all the way until the note I wrote to Scott. Now it will be Scott's time to write a new note to his successor. They're private messages from press secretary to press secretary about how to survive in that job.

BLITZER: And you want to share your advice, what you gave Scott McClellan when you stepped down?

FLEISCHER: Well, I will keep a lot of it private, but I -- one of the most important things I wrote to Scott was, "Make time for your family and keep your sense of humor."

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But, when you're the White House press secretary, you have no time for anything other than that. That's an all-consuming kind of job.

FLEISCHER: It doesn't matter what you do in life; you have to make time for your family.

BLITZER: Ari Fleischer, thanks very much for joining us.

FLEISCHER: Thank you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, new details of the case involving Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the Capitol Hill cop. We have the incident report. Our Brian Todd standing by to tell us what it says. Stay with us for that.

And the FBI turns the tables on the family of the legendary muckraker, the columnist, the Pulitzer Prize winner Jack Anderson. Now, agents want first crack at the late journalist's private papers and are taking steps to try to get them. Our John Roberts standing by with this fascinating and very important story.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

There are new details emerging right now about the confrontation between Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and a Capitol Hill police officer.

Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He has actually seen the police report on the incident. He's joining us now live with an update -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, for such a brief report, this document does give some important new information on the officer's version of events and on the officer himself.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The report does not list Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney by name, only as S-1, for suspect.

But the document, obtained by CNN, does name the officer she allegedly hit last month. He's listed by Paul McKenna, also as C-1, or complainant. The report says officer McKenna -- quote -- "stated that he was physically assaulted by S-1. S-1 struck C-1 in his chest with a closed fist." CHIEF LOU CANNON, FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: I don't think that he's going to suffer any damage from this physically, but I'm sure that there's -- you know, there's an emotional impact that this will always have upon him.

TODD: Lou Cannon of the Fraternal Order of Police, along with one source in the Capitol Hill Police, say Officer McKenna, who is white, is a three-year veteran with the force, is known as a very professional officer, has no disciplinary record, and has a good reputation with African-American colleagues.

CANNON: The African-American officers stated that they -- they like him, that he's an incredibly nice guy, and would -- quote, unquote -- "give you the shirt off his back."

TODD: Capitol Hill Police would not discuss McKenna's record. Contacted by CNN, McKinney's attorneys would not comment on the police report, but stressed, she has not been charged with a crime.

McKinney's aides would not comment. Earlier, McKinney accused an officer of inappropriately touching her, and the Capitol Hill Police of racial profiling -- this after McKinney went around a metal detector.

Capitol Hill Police deny both accusations. And even McKinney has toned down her rhetoric.

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: I am sorry that this happened at all, and I regret its escalation. And I apologize.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Will that apology be enough to avoid charges? A grand jury in Washington is still considering whether to indict Cynthia McKinney -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much for that update.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs. He's getting ready for his show. That begins right at the top of the hour. Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, at 6:00 Eastern, we will be reporting on the staff shakeup at the Bush White House. Will a staff shuffle result in new policy directions? We will have a special report for you. And communist China's president shows checkbook diplomacy isn't a uniquely American strategy.

And, after a state dinner with Bill Gates, President Hu will even talk with President Bush tomorrow. We will have that special report.

And among my guests tonight, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Pete King, and the Georgia State Senator Chip Rogers, who authored legislation in Georgia that requires law enforcement now to check the status of immigrants. It appears that government can work, maybe just not in Washington.

We will have all of that and a great deal more for you at the top of the hour here on CNN. We hope you will be with us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, very much, about 15 minutes from now.

Now to another law enforcement matter that has filled with Washington intrigue. It concerns a famous journalist and a paper chase for his possibly revealing notes.

Our senior national correspondent, John Roberts, is joining us once again. He's got the story -- John.

ROBERTS: Hey. Good afternoon to you, Wolf.

This is the sort of story that Jack Anderson, Washington's legendary muckraker journalist, would have loved to have chased himself. The FBI wants to comb through his records of decades of work, looking for old classified documents that he may have obtained before his death in December of last year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS (voice-over): In a letter this week, Anderson's family told the FBI, "Not a chance are you getting your hands on those documents."

KEVIN ANDERSON, SON OF JACK ANDERSON: If we are ordered by a court, we would not comply. And if that results in jail time, both my 79-year-old mother and I are prepared to sit in jail.

ROBERTS: The FBI claims the documents are government property, in a statement saying: "No private person may possess classified documents that were illegally provided to them. There is no legal basis under which a third party could retain them as part of an estate."

Anderson's archives, nearly 200 boxes worth, are being donated to George Washington University, kept in this warehouse outside the nation's capital. They document an aggressive style of journalism that earned Anderson exclusives and enemies.

JACK ANDERSON, JOURNALIST: The CIA is trying to botch up Australia now?

ROBERTS: President Richard Nixon and former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover both had it in for him.

But G.W. professor Mark Feldstein, who is overseeing the archive, is surprised how far the FBI is going now.

MARK FELDSTEIN, PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Jack Anderson made sport of the FBI for five decades. The irony that they would pursue him now, even past his grave, is something that even J. Edgar Hoover didn't try. ROBERTS: Just like the family, George Washington University officials vow, in the spirit of Jack Anderson, the FBI will get nothing from them.

FELDSTEIN: I think they didn't come after him while he was alive because he would have died, rather than give it to them.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: The FBI could always try to subpoena the documents, but law enforcement officials say, the FBI is cautious about getting heavy-handed with the family.

All the FBI will say right now is that it's working with Anderson's family to resolve the matter in a way that it is in the best interest of national security.

But, Wolf, right now, that would be appear to be a one-way negotiation.

BLITZER: It's a chilling story for a lot of journalists out there. I know that everyone is going to be watching this case very closely.

John, thanks very much for that.

It turns out, George Washington University's Web site contains the most comprehensive information on the journalist Jack Anderson.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by with that -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, you can actually hear Jack Anderson in his own words, interviews conducted by professors at the George Washington University -- it's playing behind me now -- in which Jack Anderson discusses how he was pursued by the government during his long career as a reporter.

He discusses various things, like being followed by the CIA during the Nixon administration. He says that he was followed by a bright yellow car, and he actually set his children on the agents at one point.

There are other references to former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. This is all part of the Journalism Oral History Project at the George Washington University -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Up ahead, is it time for the Senate to undertake a formal investigation of the presidency of George W. Bush? It's our question of the hour. Jack Cafferty, he's standing by with your e-mail.

And this note: Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, he helped Exxon earned massive profits. Now he's retiring with a massive pension. We are going to have some new details of why some people are so outraged, yet others aren't.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: If you didn't know, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So is Jack Cafferty -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, the new issue of "Vanity Fair" magazine out next week, Watergate veteran Pulitzer Prize winner Carl Bernstein suggests is time now for a formal Senate investigation of the Bush presidency, along the lines of the Senate Watergate Committee investigation of Richard Nixon.

Bernstein suggests it might even be a way for Republicans to save themselves in the upcoming midterm election. The question we asked, is: Is it time for the Senate to undertake a formal investigation of the presidency of George Bush?

Leon in Orlando, Florida: "More than time. The Senate and the whole legislative branch have failed to do their job in so many ways. There should have been real debate before both the president and Congress committed us to this stupid Iraqi war. Well, one impeachment at a time."

John in Jacksonville, Florida: "It's past time. If the Democrats controlled Congress, we would all be saying President Cheney right now, God help us. But anyone who thinks the Republicans will initiate a presidential investigation six months from election time is whistling in the breeze. Not going to happen. Unlike Democrats, Republicans don't eat their own."

John in Albuquerque, New Mexico: "Carl Bernstein is 100 percent right. And he ought to know, having been immersed in the sordid details of the Nixon administration and its criminality. Bush has been treated with kid gloves by the media for most of his presidency. Time to take those gloves off, before his madness takes us to nuclear war in the Middle East."

Ann in Bakersfield, California: "Carl Bernstein is little more than a glorified gossip columnist. His opinion of President Bush is nothing more than one liberal's opinion. History will judge President Bush. The media will have no say."

And Toni writes: "It's well past time. If the present Congress wants to save their skin in November, there is no other route for them to go. The public is disgusted with the deceit and incompetence of the Bush regime. And they are becoming equally disgusted with a Congress that refuses to stand up and take their jobs seriously" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, yes, you read the whole article, Carl Bernstein's article in "Vanity Fair."

CAFFERTY: I did. BLITZER: Give us a bottom-line synopsis. It was pretty eye- popping.

CAFFERTY: It's eye-popping because of the parallels that he's able to draw, the Watergate investigation, resulting from a very small occurrence. That was the discovery that that office had been broken into.

He thinks the -- you know, the leaking of Valerie Plame's name amounts to a parallel kind of event. And he kind of starts there and goes through a whole litany of things that he sees as paralleling the deception and the cover-up and the deceit of the Nixon administration. He thinks the Bush administration is practicing the same tactics.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you back here in an hour in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, are you tired of paying almost $3 a gallon for gas? Some of you are paying more than $3 a gallon right now. In the shadow of skyrocketing gas prices, the question comes up again: Is there a better way? It may be closer than you think. Miles O'Brien standing by.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Rising gas prices are making headlines right now, as we all know. But is there a cheaper alternative down the road?

CNN's Miles O'Brien shows one possibility in today's edition of "Welcome to the Future" -- Miles.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you may know, Earth Day is coming up this Saturday, April 22. And the focus on reducing pollution this year is coupled with a grim economic fact: The price of gasoline is rising rapidly, as we begin to run out of oil.

Solving both problems is prompting a lot of smart thinking about what else we can use to fuel our economy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN (voice-over): By now you've probably heard of alternative fuels. From hydrogen gas to biodiesels, the list of energy sources is long.

Nathaniel Greene of the Natural Resources Defense Council says his money is on ethanol, an Earth-friendly fuel that's cost effective, too.

NATHANIEL GREENE, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: There are so many ways that we can make it, switchgrass, corn kernels, wood chips. One of the exiting things about this next generation of ethanol technology is that they have the potential to be not just cost competitive with gasoline, but actually cheaper.

O'BRIEN: Something Brazil is already embracing -- in fact, 75 percent of Brazil's new cars burn both gasoline and ethanol. And Greene says it can happen here, too.

GREENE: Ethanol is great, but it's not a silver bullet. We need to have more efficient vehicles as well that we're putting this fuel in. We need a government commitment to do this and do it in a smart way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: Nathaniel Greene says the transition from gasoline to ethanol is a relatively easy one, because ethanol is a liquid fuel. We are already putting small amounts of it in our gasoline. And it's not toxic or hard to transport, like hydrogen gas would be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miles, thank you very much.

And, today, NASA scientists are -- say they are one step closer to understanding how the universe works. And it has everything to do with what happens when two black holes collide.

Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is watching this online -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a computer simulation of what happens when two black holes collide.

And scientists say this is helping them understand Einstein's general theory of relativity, not the one that we know and love. This one has to do with the relationship between gravity and time and space. Now, black holes are the extreme of gravity. They suck everything in. And, when they collide, they create ripples and waves. And scientists say that all of space jiggles like a bowl of Jell-O.

This is a big deal for NASA, they say, because they had never been able to do this before. The formulas have been so complicated, they keep crashing the computer -- and not just any computer, but the supercomputer that we know at NASA.

So, anyway, go to the Web site, NASA.gov. Take a look. It has got all sorts of pictures and information, Wolf, and the video I just showed you.

BLITZER: Pretty fascinating stuff. Jacki, thank you very much.

I will be back in one hour in THE SITUATION ROOM. Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starting right now. Lou is in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

Search
© 2007 Cable News Network.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us. Site Map.
Offsite Icon External sites open in new window; not endorsed by CNN.com
Pipeline Icon Pay service with live and archived video. Learn more
Radio News Icon Download audio news  |  RSS Feed Add RSS headlines