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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Bush Finalizing War Plans in Iraq; John Negroponte Resigns; Democrats Set to Take Over Congress Tomorrow; New York Man Saves Teenager From Oncoming Train
Aired January 3, 2007 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. 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 tonight's top stories.
Happening now, shifting power and changing strategy just hours before Democrats reclaim control of Congress, President Bush is finalizing his new war plan in Iraq. Tonight we have new details of what lies ahead.
Also this hour, Pat Robertson's dire new prediction -- he says he has a message from God about deadly evil in the New Year.
And an amazing rescue on the rails -- a subway passenger one minute, a hero the next, and a terrifying choice along the way.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
At the White House tonight, President Bush is meeting with congressional leaders of both parties just hours before power shifts to Democrats on Capitol Hill. A big issue on their minds, Iraq, and what the president plans on doing in the coming days. We have some new information on the controversial troop surge option.
Let's begin our coverage with our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, you mentioned that reception, it just wrapped up here at the White House, of course about a half dozen of those from the House and the Senate, the Democratic Republican leadership including we saw incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband as well as incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his wife.
This is obviously an attempt for the president to reach out in a bipartisan way. But it certainly does not mean that he's taking their recommendations when it comes to his Iraq policy. Sources telling us to expect that the president will move forward in recommending an addition of U.S. troops perhaps anywhere from 20 to 40,000. Now how is this going to play out in the days ahead?
Well those who are familiar with deliberations of the president say that tomorrow he essentially is going to try to lay low, stay out of the spotlight and deference to the big day for Congress and Democrats. But it's expected on Friday that he will wrap up that process, the deliberations, the consultations and then Monday White House officials will reach out to members of Congress, place courtesy calls, essentially briefing them on the president's Iraq plan. And then it is expected likely Tuesday or Wednesday the president will present his plan to the American people in a national address -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Once he starts briefing members of Congress, though, I assume word is going to get out fairly quickly after that.
MALVEAUX: It certainly is expected that that is going to happen and the White House is working on some sort of plan to also brief the media at the same time. This is something that actually occurred when you saw Secretary Rumsfeld, the announcement of his resignation. It leaked from the Hill about the same time or so White House officials confirming it.
BLITZER: Suzanne, thanks very much. We'll watch every step of the way with you -- the power shift in Congress -- the key factor in the political debate over Iraq and the future of course of the war.
We'll be back here, by the way, in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow morning for special coverage of the start of the new Congress. "Power Shift: Democrats Take Control", our special coverage starts 11:45 a.m. Eastern right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As President Bush ponders Iraq's future, there's new information regarding what's happening in Iraq without Saddam Hussein. CNN's Ryan Chilcote is in Baghdad with more.
RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, at the heart of the controversy surrounding Saddam's execution lies the question who filmed and leaked the cell phone images of Saddam's final moments?
CHILCOTE (voice-over): So far it's a mystery. Iraq's government says it has detained a guard for filming and leaking the debacle. But a prosecutor who was in the execution chamber has pointed the finger at two government officials. Telling CNN, quote, "I saw with my own eyes two officials filming the execution. Maybe a guard also filmed it secretly, but I did not see that." Iraq's national security adviser was one of the officials in the room. He suggests someone outside of the group of officials may be responsible.
VOICE OF MOWAFFAK AL-RUBAIE, IRAQI NAT'L SECURITY ADVISER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) looking at Saddam, I have seen few people wandering around with their cell phones.
CHILCOTE: U.S. military, its spokesman says they would have handled it definitely. Once they handed Saddam over to the Iraqis, they lost control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then we had absolutely nothing to do with any of the procedures or any of the control mechanisms or anything from that point forward.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
CHILCOTE: Whatever comes out in the end may not matter much to Iraq Sunni Muslims. They've already watched the video of Saddam in the final moments of his life being taunted by Shiites chanting Shiite slogans. And there's no doubt who they blame -- Iraq Shiite-led government, the U.S. and the U.K.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We are denouncing this criminal act of this junior Bush and criminal Blair.
CHILCOTE: There have been demonstrations across the Sunni heartland. Perhaps most symbolically at this one, or an angry crowd of Sunni Muslims marched through a Shiite mosque and vowed revenge in the city of Samara Monday. The same mosque Sunni extremists bombed under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's leadership in February, escalating Iraq's already unprecedented level of sectarian killing to an even higher level.
CHILCOTE: Escalating Iraq's already unprecedented level of sectarian killing to an even higher level -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Ryan -- Ryan Chilcote reporting for us from Baghdad. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File". Hi, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, President Bush is expected to call for sending as many as 40,000 additional troops to Vietnam -- I mean Iraq -- next week. Escalating the war is now being called a surge. Stay the course has been relabeled. It's the new way forward. We did this in Vietnam, remember? The U.S. kept sending troops over there which only led to more people dying.
The same thing will happen in Iraq. The United States is now an occupying army providing over a civil war in Iraq. There is no way forward, just more death, injury in the squandering of our national Treasury. This country has its belly full of this failed operation in Iraq. Read any public opinion poll.
Is 3,006 deaths not enough? How many do you suppose it will take before President Bush's conscience begins to bother him -- 5,000, 10,000, more? How many? Meanwhile, the White House continues to try to get you to think that this is something it's not. The word surge is being used to camouflage the administration plans to escalate the war in Iraq.
And it's not just about the troops. The White House says they're looking at a whole range of options including on the economic front. This little misadventure is already cost us half a trillion dollars, and we're losing. But there's never been much of a market for reality in the Bush White House. It's all about the spin you know.
So next week when the president talks about sending more of your sons and daughters to die in Iraq, don't think surge. Recognize it for what it is. Here's the question. Will you support President Bush if he calls for an escalation of the war in Iraq? E-mail us at CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.
BLITZER: Flags and flowers, prayers and praise. Gerald R. Ford grew up and began his political career in Michigan. And that's where his amazing journey ends. He was laid to rest on a hill near the presidential museum that bears his name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And mine eyes shall behold and not as a stranger. Oh God whose mercies cannot be numbered. Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant Gerald Ford.
DONALD RUMSFELD, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: My God bless Gerald Ford and his strong and loving family. And may God bless the country he loved so much, served so well, and did so much to heal and strengthen.
JIMMY CARTER, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I still don't know any better way to express it than the words I used almost exactly 30 years ago. For myself, and for our nation, I want to thank my predecessor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Gerald R. Ford, he was a very decent, honorable man -- our deepest condolences to the Ford family.
And still coming up, she's poised to make history as the first female Speaker of the House, but there's a lot about Nancy Pelosi you may not necessarily know, including her deep political roots grounded far from San Francisco.
Also, the man being hailed as a hero -- saving a life in New York's subway in an act that left onlookers horrified at first. We're going to show you what he did. It's an amazing, amazing story.
And the religious broadcaster Pat Robertson issuing a disturbing warning of a mass killing -- on what is he basing that prediction? We'll tell you.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Democrats outlining an ambitious agenda when they take control of Congress tomorrow. And it will be up to one man to try to get that legislation through the U.S. Senate. That would be the incoming majority leader, Senator Harry Reid who has a sometimes volatile history with President Bush.
Let's turn to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She has an exclusive report from Capitol Hill -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Harry Reid has been on Capitol Hill for nearly a quarter of a century. And he's known as a scrappy fighter, somebody who really works hard on the Senate floor quietly. And he told us that that is really the kind of training that he got back in Nevada. He was an amateur boxer. And we went back to his hometown. He invited us there a couple of weeks ago. And we got a look at how he literally fought his way to power.
BASH (voice-over): Searchlight, Nevada, a dried-up mining town, a relic of the Wild West, a truck stop 55 miles from Las Vegas. Most of the 800 residents live in trailers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome to searchlight.
BASH (on camera): Thank you.
(voice-over): The one house belongs to new Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, shaped and scarred in Searchlight.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: I am a pessimist about everything in life. That way I have fewer disappointments.
BASH: In the distance of this vast property, a mine where his father worked, Kinky, young Harry's nickname would keep dad company.
REID: It was hard to make a living. The man that my dad worked for a lot of times wouldn't pay him or he'd give him bad checks that would bounce.
BASH: The memories can hurt.
REID: My parents both drank a lot. And I was always so glad when they were broke because they couldn't afford stuff then.
BASH: School ended in eighth grade, so Reid hitchhiked 42 miles for high school, went to college with a collection from the locals.
REID: Even though I was raised here, my mother always was able to instill in me that I was as good as anybody else.
BASH: To tour Searchlight is to find scars, like where his 58- year-old father shot himself to death.
REID: This house right here, that last room in the bedroom, that's where he killed himself.
BASH: The senator from Nevada fights for Sin City, but doesn't gamble or drink, a square looking guy who listens to hip songs on his iPod.
BASH (on camera): Cowboy (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BASH (voice-over): And how does he keep up with music? Get this.
(on camera): Did I read that you are a "People" magazine reader?
REID: Yes, I love "People" magazine.
BASH (voice-over): Harry Reid sums himself up this way.
REID: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Kris Kristofferson, his song, he's a walking contradiction.
BASH: And another thing people probably don't realize about Harry Reid is that he's a Mormon. He and his Jewish-born wife converted shortly after they got married. That was just after high school. He will be the highest ranking, a member of the Latter Day Saints in U.S. political history. He told us that he's well aware of how controversial his religion is. He says he just hopes people learn more about it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And who knew he reads "People" magazine -- Dana, thanks very much. Good reporting for us.
Nancy Pelosi now is only hours away from becoming the first woman Speaker of the House. To celebrate, her aides have planned several days of festivities. Today they got things rolling with a mass at Pelosi's alma mater Trinity University here in Washington. Later this week Pelosi will travel to her hometown of Baltimore where officials plan to rename a street in her honor.
Our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel has more on Nancy Pelosi's personal and political roots.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long before Nancy Pelosi first ran for Congress and Republicans labeled her a liberal from San Francisco, this was her home, the gritty East Coast Port City of Baltimore. Little Nancy, as she was known back then, was the youngest of six children born to Nancy and Tommy D'Alesandro, and their only girl. Lena Palmer lived just down the street.
LENA PALMER, "LITTLE ITALY" RESIDENT: Her mother was so happy when she got her. She had all boys. And she kept having children until she got Nancy.
KOPPEL: The year was 1940. And Tommy D'Alesandro, a former insurance salesman, was riding high, a powerful Democrat on Capitol Hill, representing Baltimore's "Little Italy", a tight-knit working class neighborhood of brick road houses, full of proud Italian American Catholics.
TOMMY D'ALESANDRO, III, NANCY PELOSI'S BROTHER: On Sundays when you walk down the streets, you could smell the sauce coming from, permeating from all these houses.
KOPPEL: D'Alesandro's oldest son also named Tommy remembers those as tough times when his family's front door was always open. And all six D'Alesandro children had to take turns manning a desk to help their father's constituents.
D'ALESANDRO: So Nancy began to meet people from all walks of life at the age of 13 and to deal with the problems of society at the age of 13.
KOPPEL: A lesson in grass roots politics Nancy and her brothers would never forget. Now as Congresswoman Pelosi walks into the history books becoming the first female Speaker of the House, she plans to pay tribute to her Baltimore roots. Professor Matthew Krenson (ph) says the visit could help her refashion her image.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That she's not just a well-dressed lady from San Francisco who's married to a millionaire. That she came from a working class ethnic religious neighborhood that she's one of them.
KOPPEL: And that message, one of Pelosi being of the people and valuing American values, Wolf, is one that Pelosi and the Democratic Party hope will resonate among the middle class Americans in the weeks and months to come -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Andrea thanks very much -- history about to be made here in the nation's capital. And this reminder to our viewers -- we'll be back right here in THE SITUATION ROOM tomorrow morning for our special coverage of the start of the new Congress, "Power Shift: Democrats Take Control", that coverage starts 11:45 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.
Up ahead tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM a top TV evangelist has a dramatic prediction for 2007. He forecasts a mass killing perhaps of millions of people. And who does Pat Robertson say told him this? We're going to tell you.
And regarding the Iraq war -- will Democrats play their ultimate trump card, the power of the purse? Our Brian Todd is standing by with a report.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield joining us from the CNN Center with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- hi Fred.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you, Wolf. The U.S. Senate will convene tomorrow but Senator Tim Johnson will not be there. He remains in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital. In a written statement released after an angiogram test today Johnson also struck an optimistic note saying the South Dakota Democrat is improving steadily, is responsive and is breathing on a ventilator only at night. Johnson fell ill in mid December and underwent surgery for a brain hemorrhage.
Two Duke University lacrosse players have been invited to return to school for the spring semester. Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were placed on administrative leave after being accused of raping a stripper last year. The university announced today that it was the right and fair thing to welcome them back. The district attorney dropped the rape charges against three players after the woman changed her story. They still face other charges. The third player has already graduated from Duke.
New York City officials are contemplating a compromise on a cell phone ban in the city's public schools. They are exploring the idea of installing special lockers where the phones can be locked up for safekeeping. The lockers would be in place outside the schools. The proposal has stalled court arguments on the cell ban. Meantime, parents who impose the ban say it infringes on constitutional rights -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred thanks very much for that.
Just ahead, Americans have spoken. How will Democrats now respond? After voters express their frustration with the Iraq war, might Democrats now react by restricting war funds?
And a serious split between the U.S. and Iraqi government over the execution of Saddam Hussein. Now that split could reach the leader of Iraq. There's fall-out under way right now. We'll speak about it with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist John Burns of "The New York Times". We'll be right back.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, will they all be able to simply get along? President Bush just met with congressional leaders of both parties. This just before a huge power shift as Democrats take control of both Houses of Congress tomorrow.
Also, the nation's first Muslim ever elected to Congress will use the Quran when he's sworn in. Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota will use a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Some critics have argued that only the Bible should be used to swear in members of Congress.
And home again -- President Gerald R. Ford was laid to rest today on a hill near his presidential museum in Michigan. It's the state where Ford grew up and began his political career.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
There are growing calls among some people opposed to the Iraq war for the new Congress to cut funding for the overall mission with many citing the November election as a mandate for voters for change in that mission. But will Democrats use the so-called power of the purse to enact it?
Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's got the story for us -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's wildly thought that control over the money is the Democrats' best leverage to bring about change in Iraq. But having that leverage and using it without political backlash will be difficult.
TODD (voice-over): Just before one of the deadliest months in Iraq for U.S. troops, millions of American voters told Democratic candidates we're counting on you to change the course of this war. Now as the majority in Congress, Democrats seemingly have an important piece of leverage over the president to do that -- leverage backed up by the Constitution.
STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: The power of the purse is the Democrats' main lever here. They can't force the president to change policy. All they can do is tell him that he can't spend any money.
TODD: Then why do we hear this from top Democrats?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: No one is going to cut off funding to the troops that I know of. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), INCOMING SPEAKER: As long as our men and women in uniform are in harm's way, Democrats will not be cutting off any funds to keep them safe.
TODD: Comments that earn a scolding from one of the most liberal of Democrats who also ran on an antiwar platform.
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: We have to realize it is not credible to simultaneously say that you oppose the war in Iraq and continue to fund it.
TODD: But analysts say for Democrats, it's not that simple.
KEN RUDIN, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Democrats have the problem of having to balance the fact that their constituency wants the U.S. out of Iraq, and as soon as possible. Balance that with the fear that Democrats have not always been tough enough for some people on issues like national security.
TODD: In order to avoid being painted as cutting off money for troops in arm's way, the Democrats are going another route, pressuring the Bush administration to put all of the money for the war into the regular budget, rather than emergency bills where they've been channeling much of the funds and where there's less oversight.
REP. JOHN SPRATT (D), INCOMING BUDGET CHAIRMAN: This is an enormously expensive engagement. Somebody's got to keep a tab on this. Somebody's got to ask for justification.
TODD: Will the White House go along?
TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will move toward making expenditures in Iraq and in the war in general, including Afghanistan, as transparent as possible.
TODD: If the White House doesn't do that or doesn't follow other Democratic plans for changing course in Iraq, there's already talk that Democrats will use other leverage, like blocking the president's judicial nominations. When I asked incoming House budget chairman John Spratt if he would go along with moves like that, he said he didn't want to respond to a hypothetical -- Wolf.
BLITZER: $2 billion a week. That's what U.S. tax payers are spending in Iraq right now. Brian, thanks for that -- Brian Todd reporting.
Now that Saddam Hussein is dead, what might that mean for the future of Iraq? Earlier I spoke with John Burns from Baghdad. He's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist with the "New York Times," who's long covered this war.
BLITZER: John, how angry are Americans right now, civilian and military personnel in Iraq, over the way Saddam Hussein was executed?
JOHN BURNS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, they're angry. They're angry, but more than that, I think they're disappointed. They're really seriously disappointed. That's what they tell us.
They've had to sustain blow after blow after blow, especially in the last year, all hopes confounded. And they had worked very hard in the 72 hours before this ghastly event happened to try and make sure that their part in this was conducted with decorum, with dignity.
They urged the Americans -- the Americans urged the Iraqis to follow suit. In effect, they wanted it delayed, they wanted proper legal procedures to be followed. They didn't want it on the first day of the Eid religious holiday.
Maliki swept all of this aside. In effect, rushed to the gallows. And you could see on General Caldwell's face today, the command spokesman, and in the voice of some very senior American officials here I've spoken to in the last 24 hours, a tremendous chagrin about this. And an acknowledgement, although it's not explicit.
I can tell you that they understand that, although people are shouting Maliki's name in Iraq and across the world, there's a good deal of a problem for the new government here. In the end, it's America that will be held accountable for this, failure or not.
BLITZER: Why did Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, reject these appeals from high-ranking U.S. officials to hold off, to delay? If you're going to hang him, do it right?
BURNS: Well, I'm inclined to say from what we saw of those ghastly scenes in the execution chamber, that the desire for revenge was overwhelming and just got the better of people, like Mr. Maliki, who themselves were victims. You can hardly talk to these Iraqi officials for more than a minute about this without their falling into a long and very searing narrative about the suffering that they went through, the torture, the years of miserable impoverished exile. That was one thing.
The other thing was that they had decided for curious kind of talismanic reasons, as I was told today by one of the officials who attended the execution, that they wanted this done in the year 2006. They wanted the year 2007 to being with a page turned.
Now, remember, the countdown to his execution, the turbulent argument to and fro that was going on, even as Saddam went to bed on Friday night, by the way, unaware that within a few hours he would be awoken to be taken to the gallows, that argument was taking place on the night of the 29th, 30th of December. They really couldn't have done it on the morning of Sunday, because the Shiite Eid festival would have begun. So they had to do it, from their perspective, that night.
And as a result, it was done in a rush. It was poorly organized. Now, of course, there's a kind of fight back. We're hearing today they've arrested the fellow with the cell phone, so they say.
And what they're doing is they're trying to, in effect, rewrite the history of what happened because senior officials in Maliki's office have been calling journalists today to say he wasn't dignified, he was very undignified. In the last moments -- you didn't see it on the TV -- he was appealing and pleading for American officials, as well he might, by the way, who had left him and handed him over a few minutes before.
There was a suggestion from one official that he might have been on tranquilizers. Perhaps that's true. I believe it's done in American prisons before executions.
They're very, very concerned about the notion that Saddam, the mass murderer, emerges from this with a certain sort of credit for his dignity and courage and that they, the victim community, all of this emerges as kind of bullying thugs.
BLITZER: We have 10 seconds. Nuri al-Maliki says to "The Wall Street Journal" he hates his job, the prime minister. How much longer do you think he can survive?
BURNS: Well, he may be saying that in anticipation of what he has long anticipated, that the United States will get tougher, that they will finally tire of him, and that some kind of parliamentary coup will be mounted against him. It's not impossible. That could happen and that he could be out fairly quickly.
BLITZER: John Burns doing some excellent reporting, as usual, for us. John Burns of "The New York Times."
Thank you very much. Be careful over there in Baghdad.
BLITZER: And the White House is responding to those recent reports that the Iraqi prime minister is growing weary of the demands of his job. Today the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow faced that question and had this answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: Prime Minister Maliki says that he wishes he could leave office before his term is over and that he wouldn't run again. Does the president think that he's still the right man for the job?
SNOW: Look, he's the dually elected leader of the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: Yes, but he is a man that says he wishes he could get out of there.
SNOW: Well, you know, again, I've read the stories. I don't have any further context on that. And, so, no further comment on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: According to yesterday's "Wall Street Journal," in a recent interview with the newspaper, the Iraqi prime minister said he is growing tired of the exhaustive demands of the job. And he added this, and I'll quote, according to the journal, "I wish I could be done with it."
This story is just moving, coming in from the "Associated Press" here into the situation room. Government official telling the AP that the national intelligence director John Negroponte will resign that position to become deputy secretary of state. The No. 2 official at the state department, Condoleezza Rice's deputy. No word on any explanation, why he would give up that position running the U.S. intelligence community to become the No. 2 official of the State Department. But we'll watch this story, get more information to you as it becomes available. AP reporting Negroponte will resign to become deputy secretary of state. No word yet on who might replace him.
Up ahead tonight right here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the hand of evil taking a terrible toll. The evangelist Pat Robertson shares a dire prediction with his followers. We'll tell you what it is.
Also ahead, if you had to make a dangerous split-second life or death decision to save the life of a stranger, what would you do? We have the tale of one New Yorker who now knows what he would do. You're going to want to see this incredible, powerful story. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: A mass killing that could claim the lives of millions of Americans. That's the prediction from religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, who says God is warning him of a catastrophic terrorist attack.
Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She has got details from New York -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this vision of doom is just the latest in a series of predictions and proclamations that have drawn attention to Pat Robertson and at times made him a lightning rod for controversy.
SNOW (voice-over): Television evangelist Pat Robertson says with confidence the message came to him straight from God: Evil people will come after the U.S. in the second half of 2007.
PAT ROBERTSON, "THE 700 CLUB": I'm not saying necessarily nuclear. The lord didn't say nuclear, but I do believe it will be something like that, that will be mass killing, possibly millions of people.
SNOW: Robertson regularly shares his predictions on his program, "The 700 Club." Last spring, he said God warned him there would be coastal storms, perhaps even a tsunami in the U.S. In 2004, Robertson said God told him President Bush would be re-elected in a blowout. Actually, Mr. Bush won 51 percent of the vote that year.
One religion writer says at the same time Robertson is drawing attention, he's widening the distance between himself and evangelicals.
JEFFREY SHELER, AUTHOR, "BELIEVERS": The eyes roll and people are really embarrassed by it. He is certainly not speaking for the evangelical mainstream when he says things of this nature
SNOW: Robertson often injects himself into controversial debates. In 2005, he chastised a Pennsylvania town for rejecting the teachings of intelligent design and choosing to only teach the theory of evolution.
ROBERTSON: I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover, if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city.
SNOW: Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network claims it has an audience of one million viewers. Experts say he's targeting a small group of evangelicals who believe in prophecies, but some suggest that he sparks controversy in an attempt to broaden his base.
Last January, Robertson created a furor suggesting former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke as punishment from God for removing Israeli settlers from Gaza. Robertson later apologized.
SHELER: I think he's willing to take his licks. He certainly knows that he has a penchant for doing this. He's had to apologize in the past, and yet he continues.
SNOW: Robertson also apologized after calling for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2005.
SNOW: Observers say while Robertson's cloud has diminished dramatically since the days in 1988 when he campaigned for president, it is the controversy that keeps him in the limelight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We invited Pat Robertson to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Unfortunately, he declined. At least for now he has an invitation to come back and join us. Mary, thanks very much for that. Mary Snow reporting.
Let's get to a story now about gloom and doom, not necessarily in a bad way. It's a story about an unselfish man who responded to an appeal for help and there were dramatic heroics involved. What would you do if you had just seconds to make a decision? Try to save someone's life or stand by and witness almost certain tragedy. One New York man had to answer that question with very, very little time to spare.
This is an amazing story and CNN's Randi Kaye has some details in New York -- Randi.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Wesley Autrey is a 50-year-old Navy veteran who has been living in Harlem most of his life. He works in construction and takes the same subway train at the same time every day. But what he did on the tracks yesterday has made him a hero of sorts.
KAYE (voice-over): Wesley Autrey noticed 18-year-old Cameron Hollopeter having a seizure on the platform. He lost his balance and ended up falling onto the live subway track.
Wesley told me he knew he had to save him, so he quickly handed his two little girls to a woman nearby and jumped on the track to save this man he'd never met. The subway horn was honking, the brakes were squealing. Wesley knew he didn't have much time.
WESLEY AUTREY, SAVED TEEN ON SUBWAY TRACK: I hopped down here. One feet there, one feet there. I looked. I see an oncoming train. See where that red and blue light?
KAYE (on camera): Yes.
AUTREY: But the farthest one. That's where the train was when I first went down. And each time I'd go, I looked at the train getting closer, getting closer and closer.
So the last time, the train was about right there where that wood is, and I'm like, you can't get him up. Go for the gutter. So I just grabbed like this, fell on top of him and locked my legs around him, both of them. And held him down, holding the head over here and leaned in the gutter.
KAYE: So he was on his back and you were on top of him.
(voice-over): Wesley stayed on top of Cameron in the gutter just a few inches below the live track. Four cars raced over them, so close the subway grazed Wesley's hat and left a black scuff on it. Hard to imagine, but Wesley wasn't hurt. Cameron is recovering in the hospital.
KAYE: Meanwhile, Wesley is trying to get used to his star status. David Letterman wants to interview him, Donald Trump is giving him $10,000, his kids have been offered a trip to Disneyland, and the New York Film Academy, which Cameron attends, the victim in this case, surprised Wesley with a $5,000 check plus $5,000 in scholarships for two of his children.
But Wesley is really a regular guy, Wolf. All he wants, he says, is for others to recognize that another's life is certainly worth saving.
BLITZER: What an amazing, amazing guy indeed. Thanks, Randi, for bringing us that story.
And to our viewers, you are going to want to know this. Randi is going to have a lot more on this truly amazing subway rescue tonight on CNN's "ANDERSON COOPER 360." You're going to want to see this. "A.C. 360" airs 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Up next, Jack Cafferty and his question of the hour. Will you support President Bush if he calls for an escalation of the war in Iraq? Jack will read your e-mail. That's coming up.
And later, the video of Saddam Hussein's execution, too uncomfortable to watch? CNN's Jeanne Moos finds out what you think. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack in New York for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is, "Will you support President Bush if he calls for an escalation of the war in Iraq?"
He is expected to do just that in a speech next week, perhaps calling for as many as 40,000 additional troops.
Rita in New York writes: "Your Freudian slip that President Bush is contemplating sending 40,000 more troops to "Vietnam, I mean Iraq" is well taken! It is Vietnam all over again. We all know it. If the Democrats go along for the ride, as they usually do, they don't deserve to be the majority in Congress."
Skip write from Fulton, Texas: "Any attempt by the president to escalate this war should be met with an immediate call for his impeachment. We, the voters, made it very clear in the recent elections that we've had enough. If Mr. Bush thinks he can spin his way around that and allow more of our fine young troops to be slaughtered in a phony conflict, he doesn't deserve the office of the presidency. Period."
Sheri in California: "I will whole-heartedly support President Bush if he calls for an escalation of the war in Iraq. My husband is a senior officer and a naval aviator with more than 20 years of service in the United States Navy. MY husband proudly serves this country and the president of the United States. That's his job. Period. But it's not newsworthy, is it, Jack? You'd much rather hear from disgruntled Americans. You'd rather televise news stories slanted with opinions from people who want all America has to offer as long as it's easy and free."
F.C., Beltsville, Maryland: "Not only will I not support it, but if he recommends additional troops in Iraq, I will begin lobbying my representatives to begin impeachment proceedings."
And Jim writes: "Our president should finally be satisfied; he has killed the man who tried to kill his daddy. It only cost us 3,006 fine young men and women. I think it's time for some adult supervision in the White House."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and read some more of these online -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, see you tomorrow.
Thank you very much.
Today the outgoing Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney took two major steps towards a possible run for the White House. He opened a presidential exploratory committee and launched a major initiative online.
Let's go to our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner for details -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, mittromney.com is just the latest in a series of potential Republican candidates who appear to be launching websites dedicated to their exploratory committees.
This is a pretty sophisticated effort. You go to the website, Romney has on it his -- what he thinks of the top ten issues for the nation. He says number one is defeating the jihadist, number six achieving energy independence. He also has a cool section called "Mitt TV", which has more than a dozen videos. And one of the videos is this one, called "This IS How IT Started", which talks about his work in the 2002 Winter Olympics, talks about his achievements as Massachusetts governor.
It also says on the website that he hasn't made a decision yet as to when he will officially announce that he's running for president. But some of the other potential candidates have also launched websites like this, John McCain, Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All righty. A lot of presidential explorers out there.
Thanks very much, Jacki, for that.
Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW".
That means Paula is standing by.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.
Haven't had a chance to say "Happy New Year" to you.
BLITZER: Happy New Year to you, too.
ZAHN: Thank you.
Coming up just about seven minutes from now, we're going to shine some light on America's hidden secrets, bringing out intolerance right out into the open. Tonight: the round-up of illegal workers the government accused of using stolen identities.
Well, now some people are accusing the government of being much too heavy handed. And they're talking about suing.
Plus, the story of a firefighter who was given a plate of spaghetti and dog food. Was it a harmless prank or out and outright racism?
The full story coming up at the top of the hour. A lot of contentious things to address tonight when it comes to issues of race.
BLITZER: Thanks, Paula, very much. We'll be watching.
Still ahead, the video of Saddam Hussein's execution. Too uncomfortable to watch? CNN's Jeanne Moos finds out what you think.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: It's unlikely you'll ever see it in its entirety on television, but Saddam Hussein's execution is all over the Internet and that's got our Jeanne Moos thinking seriously.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Execution uncut, unedited. Graphic, a rating of three and a half stars. There may be a question of grammar: hanging, hanged, hunged, hung. But death is at your fingertips if you're dying to see it.
(on camera): Have you looked at the Saddam Hussein execution tape, the raw version?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't want to see it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A definitely intimate moment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was absolutely gross, inhumane to show it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm sure that his neck was broken. I don't need to see it for myself.
MOOS (voice-over): But others do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In some crazy way, I wanted to see the method.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got what he deserved.
MOOS: The Iraqi government version was silent and sanitized of the actual moment of death, but not the cell phone video.
SADDAM HUSSEIN, FMR. IRAQI PRESIDENT: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
MOOS (on camera): To look or not to look?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm looking.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I'll be with her. I'll be looking, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I knew it was on the Internet. And it took me a while to finally say, "OK, I'm going to look at this."
MOOS (voice-over): It also took him a while to answer this question.
(on camera): Did you feel guilty looking at it?
(voice-over): A pregnant, six second pause...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It upset me. I don't know whether I felt guilty looking at it. But it upset me.
MOOS (on camera): Then you didn't feel guilty watching it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did I feel guilty? No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you?
MOOS: A tinge of guilt. You know, I can say, "Oh, I'm doing it because it's my job."
(voice-over): For some, the Internet search prompted soul searching.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I just went today.
MOOS (on camera): You look like you feel guilty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do.
MOOS: Do you?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't think we should be looking at it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Even signed up on to YouTube to do it, I'm embarrassed to say.
MOOS (voice-over): YouTube make us sign up and verify you're 18 if you want to see what one description referred to as "the director's cut".
(on camera): Suddenly the trap door opens and he's gone. But what struck me was the voices. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. That's exactly what I meant.
MOOS: The sort of clamor that...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The louder and the more violent it got. And I could feel myself sort of getting more and more agitated.
MOOS (voice-over): The TV networks didn't show all of it. We settled for our hanging noose graphic. It's a subject cartoonists couldn't help getting hung up on.
And already there's the "Dope on a Rope" doll selling for $25 on herobuilders.com.
The son of the woman who watched it said he wouldn't.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a person being killed.
MOOS: And it gave his mom second thoughts about supporting capital punishment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I thought I believed in it. But, after this, I thought, "Wow, I'm not sure."
MOOS: Time ran out for Saddam Hussein. But his death lives on on the Internet.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And please join us tomorrow as Democrats take control of Control. We'll be in the SITUATION ROOM starting at 11:45 a.m. Eastern with the best political team on television.
thanks very much for watching.
Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.
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