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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Rep. Chris Cannon; Senator Warner Reacts to Iraq War; Lawyer for Former Congressional Page Discusses Foley Scandal
Aired October 6, 2006 - 17:00 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, new details in a growing scandal. In an exclusive interview, we'll talk to the lawyer for a former congressional page who could be crucial to the Mark Foley investigation.
Also, critical assessment. A key Republican supporter of the Iraq war says Iraq is now drifting sideways. Senator John Warner just back from a visit to Iraq, we'll tell you what he says might happen should Iraq fail.
And it's 5:00 p.m. in Raleigh, North Carolina were a fire burns at a hazardous waste plant. Thousands have fled in the fear the air is too toxic to breathe. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM.
Exactly one week after a Florida congressman resigned in disgrace, the scandal he left in his wake continues to grow by the day if not by the hour. Now we are learning more about a former congressional page who allegedly received lurid Internet messages from former Representative Mark Foley. We have all the latest developments. That's coming up this hour. Joining us, our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's standing by. CNN's Rusty Dornin is standing by as well. But let's begin this hour with CNN's Brian Todd. He has an exclusive interview with the attorney for one of the young men at the center of all of this. Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from this attorney we have the name of a former page who is very crucial to this investigation. Twenty-one-year-old Jordan Edmund. He is one of the former pages referred to in ABC News' original report on explicit instant messages allegedly sent by Congressman Foley. Today CNN spoke with Edmund's attorney, the well-known Stephen Jones of Oklahoma who also represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Jones tells us he has been in contact with the FBI, but his client has not, yet.
TODD (voice-over): A former congressional page at the center of the Foley scandal, a young man who faces many questions. His high- powered attorney answers some of them.
STEPHEN JONES, ATTY FOR FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: Jordan hasn't done anything wrong. He's a witness. He will cooperate fully with the investigation, both the House investigation and the Department of Justice.
TODD: Stephen Jones says he represents Jordan Edmund. But Jones would not confirm Edmund exchanged instant messages with Congressman Foley. Edmund finished the page program in 2002. The alleged exchanges first reported by ABC News mistakenly left with a user name on the network's website traced by a blogger, CNN and other news outlets to Edmund, include this. From Maf54, ID'd by ABC as Foley. You're in the boxers too? The reply, nope, just got home. Maf54, well strip down and get relaxed.
JONES: They read like some of the novels that are on the market. But I haven't read all of them and I don't know whether they are true or they've been added to them. I'm still playing catch-up.
TODD: Pressed further on when these alleged communications might have taken place.
JONES: I don't know what the allegations are other than Congressman Foley allegedly acted improperly. I don't know whether he did or not.
TODD: Another key question, was there physical contact with the congressman?
JONES: I'm certain that there was no physical involvement between Jordan and Mr. Foley.
TODD: But we also asked Jones about an item on the Drudge report citing two people close to Edmund saying he goaded Foley into the exchanges as part of a prank. While ABC News reports that is not accurate this is what Jones said.
JONES: I don't want to say that there might not have been an element of a practical joke in it. But it seems pretty serious on its face.
TODD: Later in the interview...
JONES: It sounds like a piece of fiction.
TODD: CNN, along with one of our affiliates has also spoken with Brad Wilson who was a page a year before Edmund. Wilson says Congressman Foley's behavior made some pages uncomfortable. He says Foley never made any overtures towards him, but did approach a friend.
BRAD WILSON, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He asked my roommate when he is coming to Florida and then followed that question with the phrase 18 is the magic number. And that threw up red flags and was bizarre for all the pages.
TODD: Wilson said he thought that meant the age of 18. We called Mark Foley's attorney David Roth for reaction to Stephen Jones' comments and Brad Wilson's accounts. Mr. Roth has not yet returned our calls. One important note, Stephen Jones says his client has not yet met with Federal authorities. He did indicate he might meet with one as early as next week. Wolf.
BLITZER: So when Jones says it's a piece of fiction, these allegations that this could have been a prank or a hoax. He's referring to that item that appeared in the Drudge report?
TODD: That is correct. He says he doesn't read the Drudge report. It's not part of his normal reading, but he says it appears to be a piece of fiction. But remember, he also said in that portion that we did air, he's not ruling it in or out whether it was a prank.
BLITZER: We'll try to get them to explain exactly what he means. He's going to be speaking with us live this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. My exclusive interview with Stephen Jones. That's coming up in a few minutes.
Also, investigations into the Foley scandal are unfolding right here in Washington. But what about in Florida? CNN's Rusty Dornin is joining us now live from West Palm Beach. You are in the district where former Congressman Foley presided.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And of course Federal officials are leading an investigation into any cyber crimes that might have been committed. And of course state officials here are going to be looking into what happened here in Florida. And as one investigator told us, cyber crimes are very difficult to both prove and to even investigate.
DORNIN (voice-over): His office is in lockdown. Capital police won't allow anyone to touch Mark Foley's computers in his office but investigators. In his home district in Florida, his congressional office is also locked, just a phone number left telling the media where to call. Governor Jeb Bush has said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will help with an investigation of any possible wrong doing by Foley in Florida.
The first rule is for there to be a crime in Florida, one of the two people involved in an electronic communication must be in the state. In one instant message exchange posted online that ABC says was between Foley and a minor the minor asks, what are you doing in Pensacola? The answer, now in my hotel room. Detective Dave Lafont (ph) has investigated cyber sex crimes in Florida for six years. We asked him to take a look at the instant messages that have been made public so far. What you've seen so far on these instant messages, is there anything that's breaking Florida law?
DAVE LAFONT: I haven't found anything yet, no.
DORNIN: Because it hasn't crossed the line?
LAFONT: It depends on who you ask. But from a police standpoint in trying to arrest someone and develop evidence to charge someone with a crime, I don't see anything yet.
DORNIN: Soliciting sex and sending pornographic materials to minors are both considered to be crimes here. But just talking about sex or even flirting about it with anyone under the age of 18 isn't illegal. Even though he's sexually explicit, it's not breaking the law. What would he have to do that would break the law?
LAFONT: The person communicating here with the child would have to ask the child to commit a sexual act here.
DORNIN: Like masturbation?
LAFONT: That would be a sexual act, yes.
DORNIN: One of the toughest things investigators have to prove in cyber sex crime cases is that the communication was actually written by the suspect. To do this, computers must be confiscated and logs examined to see where the person was when they logged onto the Internet. The IP address can often pinpoint that and show where they were online.
DORNIN: And of course, we have no idea whether those e-mail messages and instant messages were all of the ones that will be investigated. Of course, others could come up. State investigators meantime would likely turn over evidence of any crimes that they did find to Federal authorities. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Rusty. Thank you. Meanwhile the scandal is hovering over the U.S. capitol with all eyes still on the House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash joining us now live from the Hill with the latest. Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a day after the speaker went before cameras to make his case today, he's having a much quiet day, instead making some calls behind the scenes to conservatives, to some colleagues, but still making his case that his resignation would hurt the party, not help.
BASH (voice-over): GOP leaders who took shots at the speaker earlier in the week renewed their support and allies rallied around him in a more public way.
REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R) FLORIDA: The speaker of the House in my view did not know that any of that had occurred.
BASH: Senior GOP officials are voicing hope the worst is over.
VIN WEBER, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: I would say the panic is out of people's voices, but a deep-seeded concern remains. Those members that have been polling regularly and were in that season where members of Congress are doing regular tracking polls, have found a dip in Republican ratings across the board.
BASH: On the campaign trail, Republicans in tight races are still seeking cover from the Foley fall-out. Tom Kean Jr., a Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey announced Hastert should resign as speaker. He is the head of the institution and this happened on his watch. In Indiana's conservative ninth district, Barron Hill became the second Democrat running for Congress to air a TV ad using Foley against his GOP opponent.
BARRON HILL FOR CONGRESS AD: And $77,000 from the House leadership, who knew about, but did nothing to stop sexual predator Congressman Foley.
BASH: And in a Florida debate Thursday night, Republican Clay Shaw defended Hastert, carefully.
REP. CLAY SHAW (R) FLORIDA: Until all the facts are out there, I think it would be wrong to be in judgment of anybody.
BASH: Ron Lewis of Kentucky was the first of several nervous Republicans to cancel planned events with the speaker. His spokesman concedes, Hastert's campaign schedule has been quote, pared down. However the speaker will appear at a Chicago fundraiser with the president next week.
BASH: Now some Republicans are trying to make the case that the Foley scandal may not at least immediately show a major impact when it comes to this political year. David Winston of the Winston Group did a poll that he shows virtually no nationwide change in how Americans intend to vote. He also said though that Mark Foley now has an 87 percent name ID. On the other side, Wolf, Democrats are standing around their own polls trying to make the case that when it comes to specific races that were already very close, this Foley story is having a negative impact on Republicans.
BLITZER: That was certainly suggested Dana in that "Time" magazine poll that came out last night. Our sister publication "Time" magazine had a poll last night that showed significant potential impact against the Republicans as a result of the Foley investigation. Dana, thanks very much.
For that, Jack Cafferty is in New York with the Cafferty file. Dana, Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thanks Melissa, whatever (INAUDIBLE)
BLITZER: You've used that line before.
CAFFERTY: Well, it works, you know, whatever works. Those evangelical Christians, all those folks who gave President Bush the White House in 2000 and 2004. A whole bunch of them have gone missing. And what's worse, is a lot of them are running for the exit doors long before it was learned that the family values party had a Republican congressman drooling after the male pages on Capitol Hill trying to have sex with them. And it was before Dennis Hastert destroyed whatever credibility he has left by trying to make everybody believe it was all the Democrats' fault. Brian Ross who broke the story for ABC News has said he got the Foley e-mails from Republican sources. The latest Pew Research poll shows 57 percent of white evangelical Christians are likely to vote for Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. That has plummeted from 75 percent who said they would vote for President Bush right before the 2004 presidential election. They also found 42 percent of evangelicals think Republicans govern in a more honest and ethical way than Democrats.
That number's down from 55 percent just since the beginning of this year. And the Pew Research people told us, we talked to them this afternoon, half these interviews for this poll with the evangelicals done before the Mark Foley scandal even broke. And while Foley is history and could face criminal charges for his behavior, Dennis Hastert insists he's not going anywhere. My guess is as long as he's staying, the evangelicals won't be returning. The question is this, how important is the evangelical vote for the Republican Party in the upcoming midterm elections. E-mail us email@example.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Back to you, Helen.
BLITZER: The short answer is whatever your name is, the short answer is it's very important.
CAFFERTY: You bet it is.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
Up ahead, one Republican lawmaker raising some eyebrows about statements involving the Foley scandal. Congressman Chris Cannon, he's standing by to join us live to explain what he meant by some of those controversial comments.
Also, a somber analysis from the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He says the situation in Iraq is quote, drifting sideways.
Plus, fire at a hazardous waste plant sends thousands of people fleeing from their homes. This is a dramatic story. We are going to update you on what we know. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. My next guest suggests that while Congress certainly has some responsibility to protect young pages from harm, the congressional pages and their parents must also play a role. Republican Congressman Chris Cannon of Utah is joining us now live from his home state. Congressman, thanks very much for doing it. As you know, you were on a local radio station KSL in -- are you not hearing the congressman? Congressman, can you hear me? No, I don't think he can hear me.
REP. CHRIS CANNON (R) UTAH: I'm not hearing.
BLITZER: All right, Congressman. We are going to try to clarify that. We are going to see if we can work this out. Can you hear my now, congressman? Unfortunately, he can't hear me. Let's take a quick break. Let's take a quick break. We'll be right back with Congressman Chris Cannon.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're joined now by Congressman Chris Cannon of Utah. Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Let's get to some of the controversy. As you know your home state of Utah, you were on KSL, a radio station. And you said these words. I want to play them. And better understand what you meant. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CANNON: These kids are actually precocious kids. It looks like maybe this one e-mail was a prank where you had a bunch of kids sitting around egging this guy on, you know. So it's -- the world's a complicated place and we just have to do the best we can.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Congressman. Let's get a couple of issues that you raise here, precocious kids. You're referring to the former congressional pages who may have received or have engaged in elicit or lewd Internet e-mail with former Congressman Mark Foley. And the criticism of you is that you are blaming the pages instead of blaming Foley. These were 16-year-old guys, basically who worked as congressional pages.
CANNON: Look, in the first place, Foley is the guy who was the predator. And that's where the blame belongs. What we are talking about is what you do in an institution where you have a bunch of kids who are young and who are subject to these kinds of influences. And the answer is we need to do some things at the institution. We did a great deal in 1983. We need to review it now and see if there's anything more. But what I was trying to say there is that kids today are precocious and I gave an example there of one story that was published in Oklahoma.
But I think the point more importantly is for all parents everywhere, not just parents of pages -- we have an environment today where you can't take phones away from kids. You can't take instant messaging away. You can't take text messaging away. And so you have people, you have kids who are subject to these influences. And by the way, they think they are smart. They are precocious. They know a little more than we knew when we were kids. And as a result of that, they may put themselves a little bit more in danger.
And so what I was trying to say in that interview is parents, we will do what we can institutionally. But you have to take some responsibility to tell kids what the limits are. And the kids need to know what those limits are and assert those limits so they can be kept safe from predators like Foley. And of course unfortunately today, we probably have a growing number of predators because we have more pornography available and more people addicted to pornography.
BLITZER: Because the criticism that's been leveled. The comparison is that if a woman dresses provocatively --
CANNON: That's just ridiculous.
BLITZER: And then he's raped. She potentially could be blamed for that kind of assault.
CANNON: And that is just not of course where we are going. But the point here is you don't want your kids to be hurt by predators. And so help them understand what the limits are. This is not about blame. There's only one guy to blame here. That was the guy in power, the guy with authority, the guy who was reaching down to 16, 15-year- old kids and doing things that are improper. That's the blame. And that's the only place I've ever suggested there is blame. On the other hand, as parents I've got eight kids. I want my kids to understand what the limits are. And I think every wise parent who is concerned about his kids is going to try to help them have rules that will supplement their judgment because 15 and 16-year-olds sometimes don't use great judgment. And so this is about how parents can help protect kids. It has nothing to do with provocativeness or any fault. A 15-year-old kid cannot be at fault when he's dealing with a congressman.
BLITZER: Now the suggestion that you make that there may have been one e-mail showing that this was all a prank where you had a bunch of kids sitting around egging this guy Foley on. Is there any evidence to suggest this was a prank?
CANNON: Well, there was a story in the Oklahoma newspaper where one of these kids I think was from. And the point is not that they are egging him on or that they are in charge. But the kids sometimes lack judgment. And parents need to help them understand where they can exercise and where they should look at limits.
BLITZER: Here's another clip from that interview you gave to KSL. I want you to give us some context for what you meant here. Listen to this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CANNON: I've been thinking about this and I need to hesitate. But there's really not much you can do except educate kids as to the dangers. Frankly this is the responsibility of parents. If you get online, you may find people who are creepy. There are creepy people out there who will do and say creepy things. Avoid them. That's what you have to do. And maybe we can say that a little more to the pages.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Give us the context of what you meant when you said maybe we could say a little bit more to the pages.
CANNON: The creepy referred to of course, Foley. But what I was saying before that was, look, institutionally we've looked at where we are. We've done a lot to protect kids. I'm not sure how much more you can do in the context of the new technology where you have phones, cell phones and text messaging and that's where kids are alone. You can't say look, you've grown up with computers, but while you are a page you can't deal with computers. So the point is when you can't protect them from people who have access to them through computers, you need to do something else. You need to help supplement their ability to understand what they are doing and what the downside is and how to avoid problems online. That's what I was trying to say if I didn't get that out. I think I probably did. But that's at least the point I was trying to make. Parents need to feel like they can do something to help their kids and protect their kids and help prepare their kids for the circumstances which they may find themselves talking with a predator like Mark Foley.
BLITZER: Whom you knew quite well. Did you have any idea congressman that this guy had a problem?
CANNON: Well, Mark had exaggerated affectations. I don't think anybody didn't know that he was -- what his orientation was. That didn't mean that anybody had a clue that he was hitting on kids and pages. That's appalling. But his orientation I think was obvious.
BLITZER: In other words, you knew he was a homosexual.
BLITZER: But a lot of leaders, at least one or two or maybe even three years ago knew there were suggestions that he was involved in inappropriate e-mail with some of these congressional pages. Here's the question. To those who had that suspicion, who were told yes, there could be a problem, maybe not all the lurid details that we've learned over the past few days. Do they, like Dennis Hastert, the speaker or other congressional Republicans, do they deserve to be punished in effect, be forced out as a result of this?
CANNON: Well it depends what we find out about it. Look, I'm a great supporter of Denny Hastert. He's a fine human being. We are one week into this thing. And Mr. Foley resigned the first day and left a chaotic environment where we are just finishing up with lots of work to do. So I think that if somebody's responsible and somebody knew and didn't have, or didn't take the proper steps. Then that needs to be resolved. Somebody may need to resign. We've had a couple of resignations already. On the other hand, I think it's highly premature to jump to the conclusion that the speaker did something inappropriate here. I just think that's wrong.
BLITZER: Here's what the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate Tom Kean Jr. of New Jersey put out a statement today, a simple statement. I'll read it to you. Hastert should resign as speaker. He is the head of the institution and this happened on his watch. I urge House leaders to go further by appointing an outside panel to review the matter immediately. This disturbing situation is another reason why the public holds the Congress in such low esteem. Is Tom Kean Jr. right?
CANNON: Well, I don't think there's any question but this draws negative attention to the institution of Congress. I think he's highly premature to suggest that the speaker did something wrong or that something other than just a -- that happened now. Some people knew there are mistakes that are out here. I think that probably the page committee should have had a bipartisan approach to it. But those are things that have to come up, have to be considered over time, not in the context of the heat of the moment. And to take a person like Denny Hastert who is, I think, a great man and a thoughtful guy and a good administrator and hang him out to dry on this when we don't know what happened. I think it's just premature.
BLITZER: Congressman Chris cannon. Thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
CANNON: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Cannon Republican of Utah.
Let's get now to a CNN exclusive in the Mark Foley scandal. We've learned that a former congressional page who might figure into the scandal has just hired the lawyer who once represented the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh. That would be Stephen Jones. He's the lawyer. He's joining us now from Enod, Oklahoma. Mr. Jones, thanks very much for coming in.
JONES: Thank you very much for having me.
BLITZER: All of us are familiar, of course with your work representing Timothy McVeigh. How did you get involved in this case?
JONES: Well, I was telephoned Wednesday and asked if I would represent Jordan, what the problem was. And I met with them probably oh, within the hour. And we had a nice visit. And I agreed to represent him at that time.
BLITZER: Why does he need a lawyer? Now let's just get it straight. Jordan Edmund was a congressional page. How old is he now?
BLITZER: He's 21. He's from Oklahoma. Why does he need a lawyer?
JONES: First, Wolf, he's not from Oklahoma. He's working in Oklahoma now. But he's from originally southern California, along the San Diego, Carlsbad area and so he's not from Oklahoma. Why does he need a lawyer, because this is an official investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice, presumably by the House Ethics Committee and frankly there is a velocity of media coverage. And he wanted somebody that could help guide him through it. Explain to him what his obligations were and be with him. And he called me and I'm happy to help him.
BLITZER: Based on what you know. Did he have this lurid e-mail exchange with former Congressman Foley?
JONES: I don't know that he did. I've seen the e-mail. I'm having it reviewed. I'm reviewing it myself. I've spent 40 years dealing with bogus documents before I would want to say it's a valid or invalid document, I need more time to study it.
BLITZER: Well what does your client say, though? He knows whether or not he was engaged in this kind of IMs or instant messaging with the former congressman?
JONES: Nice try, Wolf. But you know I can't discuss with you what my client has told me.
BLITZER: But you can't say either way. In other words, this is attorney client privilege?
JONES: Well, I'm not so much claiming attorney client privileges. I'm claiming the privilege of not speaking until I know all the facts.
BLITZER: So you're right now assessing whether or not the transcripts of these instant messages are in fact authentic.
JONES: That is correct.
BLITZER: The whole nature, though of if in fact they are authentic, what does it mean for your client, basically as part of this investigation?
JONES: Well, I don't think that there's any question that Jordan would prefer his privacy. I mean the matter is embarrassing. His friends are calling him, they're offering him their support. I'm visiting with you. Clearly I'm sure that he wishes that he'd never been a House page, maybe. But, nevertheless, his name has been brought into it and he made it clear to me that he wants to cooperate with the investigation. That whatever he is asked, he will testify under oath truthfully to what he knows that may be relevant. And it's up to other people to decide whether it's relevant. He also understands that it's important to him. It's important to the House as an institution, which he served. And it occurs within a political context. Now, against that, there's his right of privacy. I think that some of this creates some danger for him, so I'm sure that he's torn. But, where it came down on was that he would answer the questions and he would do it truthfully and cooperate.
BLITZER: Has he already started cooperating? Has he already been questioned by -- whether state or federal authorities?
JONES: No. I have been in contact with the appropriate authorities. And I believe that they are interested in interviewing him. But again, I'm not directing the investigation.
BLITZER: Could you clarify, Mr. Jones, this whole notion out there, The Drudge Report suggested it, that this was all a prank, a hoax that some of these former congressional pages were egging on Mark Foley, if you will. What do you make of this?
JONES: Well, Wolf, I watch you. I watch Susan Candiotti. I don't read The Drudge Report. And frankly, I haven't read The Drudge Report on this. It's been told to me what was in it, it's on my desk. It's not a high priority item. But from what I do know, this was not a prank.
BLITZER: This was not a prank, not a hoax. This was a very serious, serious issue? JONES: Any time I receive telephone calls from the Department of Justice, I assume it's serious. And I assume this is serious.
BLITZER: I want you to respond to what we heard from Congressman Chris Cannon of Utah. I don't know if you heard the interview that we just did with him. But he said in a radio interview earlier, in fact, let me play it for you. What he said in the radio interview and get your reaction since you represent one of these former congressional pages. Listen to this, Mr. Jones.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CHRIS CANNON: These kids are actually precocious kids. It looks like maybe this one e-mail was a prank where you had a bunch of kids sitting around, egging this guy on, you know. So it's, the world's a complicated place -- complicated place and we just have to do the best we can.
(END OF AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right the notion that these are actually precocious kids. What do you make of that?
JONES: Pages are children. Admittedly they are older children, they are not recognized by the law as mature adults. They are not adults. They can't vote, they can't serve in the armed forces. Now whether one wants to call them precocious, I think is an individual characteristic. Certainly working on the floor of the House of Representatives is a life-altering experience and I'm sure a very exciting one. I don't think some congressman was set up or ensnared by a group of House pages.
BLITZER: And this other suggestion that Democratic operatives may have been behind this whole releasing, the timing of this. Have you seen any evidence -- I take it your client, Jordan Edmund is not a Democrat. He works for a Republican. But have you seen any evidence out there based on what you know Mr. Jones, that this is all part of some sort of Democratic Party conspiracy? Or put together by a bunch of Democratic or liberal operatives?
JONES: I think the Democrats are frankly treating it opportunistic. But I don't have any evidence that they initiated it.
BLITZER: So walk us ahead the next few days. What happens next from your perspective as the attorney representing one of these key former congressional pages clearly at the center of this fire storm.
JONES: Well one of the reasons that I talked with you, is first you are a responsible journalist. And secondly, it gives me an opportunity to say that we need the process to go forward. I know it's political, but there's 30 something-odd days before the election. And everyone needs to cooperate that has relevant information and give it. And we will be working toward that. Now, aside from that, I don't think that every page should be tarnished. Every congressman should be tarnished. You point the finger at somebody, four fingers point back at you. I would like some respect for the privacy of my client. I think he's done a courageous thing by his willingness to contact a lawyer, to employ one to assist him to answer the questions. And I think that's where we should focus. Then, once the results are established, once we know the facts, then we can draw the appropriate lessons and make the appropriate decisions.
BLITZER: Stephen Jones is the attorney for Jordan Edmund, one of the former congressional pages clearly at the center of this uproar. Mr. Jones, thanks very much for coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
JONES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.
And coming up, a key Republican supporter of the Iraq war says Iraq is drifting sideways. We're going to tell you of the dire consequences Senator John Warner is warning about for Iraq.
And a fire burning at a hazardous waste plant in North Carolina. Now some fear the air may be too toxic to breathe. We'll have the latest. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A key Republican supporter says it's frightening to think what would happen in Iraq should the government fail. And Senator John Warner says the Iraqi government is not living up to its fundamental responsibilities. Let's go to our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Jamie?
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's no secret that the policy in Iraq is not working as well as the U.S. had hoped. But when the top member of the Senate Armed Services Committee begins voicing doubts, that's a wake-up call.
MCINTYRE (voice-over): Citing what he calls the exponential rise in the number of deaths, both U.S. and Iraqi, along with the failure of the government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to disarm the warring militias, Republican Senator John Warner is sounding a dire warning. While he still has hope, it's fading fast.
SEN. JOHN WARNER, (R) ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: I assure you in two or three months, if this thing hasn't come to fruition, and if this level of violence is not under control, and this government able to function, I think it's a responsibility of our government internally to determine is there a change of course that we should take?
MCINTYRE: Just back from meeting with Iraqi officials and U.S. commanders in Baghdad, Warner is giving voice to what many inside and outside the Pentagon are coming to believe. Namely, the U.S. strategy of standing down as Iraqi forces stand up, is failing.
COL. DOUG MACGREGOR, (RET.), U.S. ARMY: This change that the senator is talking about is long overdue. We have no business occupying central Iraq. It has been enormously wasteful. The change that's indicated is departure at the earliest opportunity.
MCINTYRE: But even as Warner says the situation is, in his word, drifting sideways, he argues withdrawal would simply turn the Iraqi oilfields into a treasury for the world terrorist movement. And he expressed continued faith in U.S. commanders.
WARNER: We just have to stand behind them and give those military operations that time needed to succeed.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
MCINTYRE: So what's gone wrong? Well Senator Warner interestingly blames himself along with former Sincom Commander General Tommy Franks for not asking the right questions about Iraq's history and culture. He says they should have paid more attention to the lessons of Lawrence of Arabia and the British experience. That would have helped them anticipate how difficult a transition to a democracy in Iraq would be. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Jamie, thank you. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon. Still to come, Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana seeking another term while battling allegations he took bribe money and tucked it away in his freezer. Now he's being endorsed by an unexpected ally.
And in our 7:00 p.m. eastern hour, the special challenges of going against the grain in the largely conservative Republican Party. Take a look at what it means to be gay in the GOP. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now near Raleigh, North Carolina officials are testing air quality for possible toxic chemicals after a fire at a hazardous waste plant. Thousands of residents have been evacuated. Firefighters desperately want to put out the blaze and must carefully approach the fire. Amanda Rosseter is in Apex, that's near Raleigh, with the latest. Amanda?
AMANDA ROSSETER: Wolf, we're here in the command center right outside the evacuation area in Apex. We understand right now there are still three small fires that are burning under that collapsed building. Hazmat teams are still working to put out those hot spots before they give the all clear to the evacuees. This all started overnight with a massive explosion of fire at the EQ Industrial Services building, that's a waste management facility here in Apex. The initial concern and the concern throughout the night and throughout the day was for the noxious fumes and the smoke that came from that fire. Because the plant housed pesticides, oxides and chlorine as well. Sixteen thousand residents, about half of Apex evacuated overnight. Some of them got a knock on the door from police officers overnight. Others got a reversed 911 call telling them to get out of their homes. Right now they're still waiting to get back in. Many staying with family and friends. Others in local shelters that have been set up by the Red Cross. They're not giving the all clear to them until the hazmat teams can get in there, put out those fires and determine if there is still a threat. Wolf?
BLITZER: Amanda thanks very much. Amanda Rosseter reporting from North Carolina. Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Lou?
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf thank you. Rising outrage tonight after judges on the ninth circuit court of appeals have ruled that a proposition 200 is invalid in Arizona. Just the latest example of judges overturning the will of the people on voter identification. We'll have a special report.
We'll also be reporting tonight on the rising threat to the integrity of our election system. Many state legislators are so worried now about the threat toward democracy from e-voting machines. They're refusing to buy them.
And our public education system failing an entire generation of Americans. Now some of our biggest cities are taking bold action to reform their schools. We'll tell you all about that. All of that and a great deal more coming up at the top of the hour. Please be with us. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Lou, sounds good. Thank you very much. And up ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Embattled Democratic Congressman William Jefferson gets a surprising ally and a ringing endorsement. We'll tell you who it is, that's coming up.
And, evangelical Christians helped the Republican Party in marching to victory in 2000 and 2004. But could things change this time around in the wake of the Mark Foley scandal? And will it hurt the GOP's chances of a success? What you're telling Jack Cafferty, that's coming up in The Cafferty File.
BLITZER: Welcome back. In New Orleans apparently one good show of loyalty deserves another. The embattled Democratic Congressman William Jefferson is getting a surprise endorsement in his re-election bid despite the congressman's being accused of stashing bribe money in his freezer. Our gulf coast correspondent Susan Roesgen is in New Orleans. She has the details. Susan?
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN GULF COAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that federal investigation has already cost Congressman Jefferson his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. But he is still running for his ninth term in office. And while most of the state's political heavy hitters have deserted him, he has just picked up the endorsement of New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, (D) NEW ORLEANS: So help me God.
ROESGEN: At Mayor Nagin's inauguration in June, Congressman Bill Jefferson was able to bask in the glow of the winner he had endorsed. A flattering appearance in the limelight for a man who had been chased down the halls of Congress by reporters a few weeks earlier. After federal investigators said they found $90,000 wrapped in foil in his freezer. While Jefferson has always maintained his innocence, many of his friends and colleagues have run for cover. Not Mayor Nagin. He says Jefferson was one of the few politicians to support him in his recent close race for reelection. And now Nagin says he will reciprocate and Jefferson says he's thrilled to have the mayor's support.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
ROESGEN: And Congressman Jefferson said he was thrilled in a written statement, Wolf. But however, he might have been better off not to get the mayor's endorsement, because political analysts here call it the Nagin curse. Nearly every candidate Mayor Nagin has endorsed in the past has been decisively defeated.
BLITZER: Susan, thanks very much for that. Susan Roesgen joining us from New Orleans. As we head into the crucial midterm elections, stay up to date with the CNN political ticker. The daily new service on cnn.com gives you an inside view of the day's political stories. See for yourself. Easy way to do that, go to cnn.com/ticker.
Up next, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The Republican Party and its appeal to core conservatives. A new poll says guess what, it's slipping. Jack Cafferty wants to know how important is the evangelical vote for the Republican Party in the midterm elections? He'll read your e-mail. Jack Cafferty coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty in New York. Jack?
CAFFERTY: That lawyer you interviewed, wasn't that Timothy McVeigh's guy?
BLITZER: Yes, Stephen Jones, he represented Timothy McVeigh.
CAFFERTY: And McVeigh's dead, right?
BLITZER: Yes, he is.
CAFFERTY: If I was shopping for a lawyer, I don't know if I would look for a guy whose last client went to the gas chamber.
BLITZER: Well you know he acknowledged blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City.
CAFFERTY: Well I guess it was an unwinnable case. Anyway, a new poll suggests the Republican support among evangelical voters dropping sharply since the 2004 election. The question is, how important is the evangelical vote for the Republican Party in these midterms? Kane writes from Hawaii, "To be sure, the evangelical vote is important for both political parties and for the country. If the evangelicals vote Democratic, they'll be sending a message it's time for the country to move in a new direction. If they vote Republican, evangelicals will be condoning the behavior of the Republicans. It's that simple and I pray the evangelicals will do the right thing."
Mickey in Maryland writes, "Now that Diebold is securely in place throughout the country it's not that important." Mike in Waxahachie, Texas, what a great name, Waxahachie. "The evangelical vote's the only way the Republicans can hope to win any of the contended races. They're the only voting block that looks at one very narrow set of criteria. They promote a government of exclusion. As such, they have many of the same qualities as the Taliban." Ron in Indiana, "I don't know, but the party seems to think it's important. For 20-plus years they have paid lip service to this block of voters, promising many things and not delivering. If a sex scandal doesn't faze them, nothing will."
Doug in Sierra Madre, California, "It's very important. They can use the help from anyone who would pray while they prey, note the difference in spellings." And James in Michigan, "Without the American Taliban voting, the menu for Christmas dinner will be roast elephant." If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile where you can read more of these online. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jack, see you back here in an hour. NASA officials today are celebrating some never-before-seen images coming in from mars. Let's bring in our internet reporter Abbi Tatton. Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the robotic rover opportunity has been trekking across mars for 21 months to get to this crater. The Victoria crater. It's a half-mile across. And now it's there, the rover opportunity is sending back images that have NASA scientists jumping with excitement. Of nearly 50-foot thick layers, exposures of rock containing previously unseen patterns that could help determine what mars was like in the past, whether mars was ever habitable. Now key to all this are these rovers shown on the NASA website here moving around the surface of mars and bringing back these images. These were only supposed to be going on a three month mission but they've been going much longer and sending back these images of things never before seen from the surface of mars. Wolf?
BLITZER: Abbi thanks very much. Remember we're in THE SITUATION ROOM 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern. Back in one hour at 7:00 p.m. eastern. Much more coming up. Let's go to Lou Dobbs though, he's in New York. Lou?
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