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THE SITUATION ROOM

Another U.S. Helicopter Downed in Iraq; Tim Russert Testifies in the CIA Leak Trial

Aired February 7, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And happening right now, another U.S. helicopter down in Iraq. The rising death toll raising new questions.

Are American forces suddenly vulnerable not only on the ground, but in the air?

A TV news star turns star witnesses in the CIA leak trial. And for the first time, you'll hear what a top former White House aide wanted to keep secret -- tapes of his own grand jury testimony.

And another Clinton presidency?

That's what some conservatives fear the most about 2008.

Does former Majority Leader Tom DeLay have the answer for fellow Republicans?

I'll speak with the man they used to call "The Hammer." That's coming up this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Stunning revelations in the CIA leak trial. It's all on audio tape, as the vice president's former top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, tells White House secrets about the outing of a CIA operative.

We're going to get to that shortly. We're going to play those tapes for you.

First, though, a dramatic and deadly day in Iraq. At least six people were killed in Baghdad in a new wave of bombings and shootings. Three dozen bodies were also found in the streets of the capital. Another painful blow for the U.S. military -- a Marine Corps helicopter went down in the Al-Anbar Province, killing all seven Americans on board. Insurgents say they shot it down. The U.S. military, however, isn't so sure.

Still, is it part of a disturbing new pattern?

CNN's Michael Ware is in Baghdad. But let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, first.

She's got the latest details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there is growing concern about the fate of U.S. helicopters in Iraq. A thorough review is underway.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The fifth helicopter down in Iraq in just over two weeks. This time, a Marine Corps CH-46 in Al-Anbar Province. Military officials say it may have been mechanical failure. This after four shoot-downs and the military trying to figure out if there is a new enemy threat against its helicopters.

GENERAL PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: At this point in time, I don't know whether or not it is the law of averages that caught up with us or if there had been a change in tactics, techniques and procedures on the part of the enemy.

STARR: January 20th, 12 soldiers killed when an Army Black Hawk crashed. January 23rd, five civilians killed when a small private helicopter was brought down. January 28th, an Apache gunship is downed. Two crewmen killed. February 2nd, two more Apache crew members killed north of Baghdad.

With Iraq's roads becoming IED killing zones, transport helicopters are increasingly relied on to move troops. Apaches provide vital airborne defense for troops in combat on the ground.

U.S. military helicopters often are large, slow moving targets vulnerable to attack by shoulder-fired missiles, rocket propelled grenades and small arms. The threat is readily seen in Baghdad. Helicopters fly low and fast, zigzagging across the city to avoid some threats.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: And, Wolf, that is the problem. There is no magic solution to keeping helicopters safe. Sometimes they fly high to avoid small arms. Sometimes they fly at low altitudes to avoid surface-to-air missile threats. There simply is not one single answer to this very difficult problem -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you very much.

So is this latest helicopter crash part of a deadly new pattern? Are U.S. forces now fighting a new war, not only on the ground, but also in the air?

Joining us now from Baghdad, our correspondent, Michael Ware -- Michael, we've all known for years now how dangerous it is for U.S. military and civilian personnel to drive around Iraq with the improvised explosive devices and the gunfire.

But in the last few weeks, we've seen how dangerous it is to fly around Iraq, as well. And the ramifications are enormous.

Talk a little bit about that.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, since the invasion back in 2003, more than 50 helicopters have come down from Iraq's skies, as many as half of them from hostile fire. Indeed, we saw during the invasion itself an Apache strike on one of the southern cities, a stronghold of the Republican Guard, was beaten back.

So this airborne warfare has been a factor from the beginning.

Now, what we've been seeing is the insurgents learning how to mask their fires so that these helicopters are flying into walls of lead. We are also hearing lots of reports about missiles coming in. We don't know exactly what the cause is so far.

Five choppers down in two and-a-half weeks. It's still too early to call it a pattern or a new phenomenon, though it certainly raises questions, particularly given the military says four of those five came down as a result of hostile fire.

BLITZER: It's got to make it more difficult -- I assume they're -- the insurgents, the terrorists, the enemy in this particular case, whoever they may be, are improving their capabilities in dealing with these choppers and other U.S. aircraft.

WARE: Absolutely. As they are in almost all areas of the warfare at play here. I mean, everyone from President Bush himself to American commanders in the field have repeatedly called this a thinking, adaptive enemy.

Every time the Americans introduce a new tactic, the insurgents adjust.

One of the interesting things about these helicopter strikes is that at least two of the recent five -- and perhaps we'll find out more -- have been claimed by al Qaeda. The Islamic State of Iraq claiming it's now set up air defense battalions.

That, in fact, may be a propaganda stretch, but maybe we're seeing al Qaeda honing a new technique that is, hopefully, to them, going to be able to make an impact on the American operations in the sky.

BLITZER: We know back in the '80s, the Mujahedeen, as they were called, the guerrillas fighting the soviets in Afghanistan, used those Stinger, those shoulder-fired missiles, very successfully against soviet helicopters, soviet aircraft. They lost hundreds of them and in the end they pulled out.

Is it a stretch to see a pattern developing that they're trying now to use some of those Mujahedeen techniques in Iraq?

WARE: Well, Wolf, I think it is far too early to say yet. But I mean what was clear during that Afghan conflict, the -- you know, the Arab and Afghan Mujahedeen holy warriors -- precisely what these insurgents call themselves -- Mujahedeen. The impact that striking at these that were, until then, were relatively immune, had on the soviet effort.

Now, should the insurgents find a way to try and do that to the American forces here, I'm positive that's something they would put a lot of energy into, particularly given the fact that in so many ways, the coalition, the U.S. Army, does not own the roads here in Iraq, certainly not to the degree to which they'd like. And that's why there's so much reliance on air travel and the movement of people and material by air.

BLITZER: And so many of those shoulder-fired missiles were provided by the CIA through Saudi Arabia and other sources to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, as a lot of us will recall.

Michael, thanks very much for joining us.

WARE: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I got a firsthand, exclusive look at just how dangerous it is for U.S. helicopters flying over Iraq when I was there in March of 2005.

During that trip, I took a flight from Kuwait. We went over the desert, to the Gulf and then eventually to the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qassar.

After we lifted off in a U.S. Navy helicopter, we flew very low to the ground, so low that you could actually see our shadow as we were flying over the ground. Flying that low, of course, makes you more vulnerable to machine gun and small arms fire, even RPGs.

As we approached the Iraqi coastline, you could see ground and sky -- lots of it -- ground and sky all of the time. That's because the pilot is taking dramatic evasive maneuvers, flying low and fast, zigzagging to avoid sniper fire, the type of fire that may have been responsible for the recent downings of those U.S. helicopters.

And you could also see here I sat right alongside one of the two gunners of that helicopter and that makes that kind of a ride even more nerve-wracking. If the helicopter doors are wide open, so are the windows. The gunners constantly scanning the ground, looking for insurgents who might try to take a shot at the chopper.

The gunners keep their fingers on the triggers, literally, at every second. They're always looking to see what's coming in from the ground. Often the chopper will bank sharply. And falling out of those open doors, by the way, is a very real possibility, except for the safety straps worn by the crew. Those are critical.

This is what U.S. helicopter crews face day in and day out, flying over what is now becoming, obviously, very, very hostile territory. And, by the way, it's a lot more dangerous now than it was back then when I was flying in those Black Hawk helicopters over Iraq.

We went from Baghdad to Falluja to Mosul, all over the country. And I can testify, it was a dangerous, dangerous business.

Jack Cafferty is in New York -- Jack, as dangerous as it was then -- and I can testify that I was scared...

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know what you mean.

BLITZER: ... it's a lot more dangerous right now.

CAFFERTY: The record should show, Wolf, that you did have the safest seat in the...

BLITZER: That...

CAFFERTY: ... in the chopper.

BLITZER: That is absolutely right.

CAFFERTY: U.

BLITZER: I sat in the middle...

CAFFERTY: You were in the middle.

BLITZER: I was so strapped in, I couldn't move. I could shut my eyes and think about pleasant thoughts.

CAFFERTY: Well, and if you're going to get in one of those, I'd call ahead and reserve the safest seat. That just makes good sense.

The government's obscuring the actual number of wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to veterans groups and some lawmakers. They say that some Pentagon reports intentionally leave out the number of troops who sustain non-combat injuries.

When it comes to wounded troops, the number that's often cited -- and you hear this all the time -- is about 23,000.

But that takes into account only those who are wounded in combat. And if you look at the troops wounded in other ways, the total number of wounded troops closer to 53,000 -- more than double the number that we hear all the time.

Senators Barack Obama and Olympia Snow have introduced legislation that will require the Veterans Affairs Department and the Defense Department to keep "honest figures" on the wounded.

Senator Obama says it doesn't make any difference if someone is wounded by enemy fire or in some other way, the effects on the soldier and his family are the same.

But Defense Department officials say the way they used to tally the casualties was misleading and might have made injuries and combat wounds appear worse than they really were. They say half the non- hostile injuries are from vehicle accidents and a third are from sports injuries. So the question is this -- critics say the Pentagon is intentionally obscuring the total number of wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do you think that's the case?

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

Now back to Air Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack, for that.

Still to come, new developments in the scandal rocking NASA, that astronaut love triangle. The space agency holding a news conference just a short while ago. We're going to have the latest details for you.

Also, potentially damaging testimony at the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby from NBC News Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert.

And for the first time, we're about to hear audio recordings of Libby's testimony before the grand jury.

And the former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay giving an urgent warning to fellow Republicans about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Tom DeLay standing by live, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're getting some new information on this horrendous fire that's been burning in Kansas City, Missouri for the past couple of hours at a chemical plant there.

Carol Costello is watching it.

What's the latest -- Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, I think the fire is going to burn for quite some time. The fire chief just held a news conference just a couple of minutes ago. He said they did some air monitoring tests. There's no sign of pollution in the air.

Still, all civilians within a mile radius have been evacuated.

They're still trying to figure out how to put this thing out. The big concern is, is there are 30,000 gallon tankers on site and they're afraid those may be on fire. They just don't know.

The fire is so intensely hot, they can't get close enough to do anything, so they're trying to figure out whether just to wait and let the fire burn itself out or to move in. They're going to make that decision probably in a half hour or so.

So we'll keep you posted on that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thank you, Carol.

We'll stay on top of this story.

Let's go back to Iraq.

For a little while, it looked like the Bush administration would face an embarrassing defeat on Capitol Hill, as Democrats and some rebel Republicans rallied for a resolution against the increase of U.S. troops in the war.

But that has all changed, at least for now.

Let's turn to our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.

She's following all of the developments and there is some new information coming in -- Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, all day long, senators have been racing to the Senate floor, racing to the press gallery to talk about Iraq. But that's all they're doing, talking.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BASH (voice-over): It's now clear the Senate will not vote on Iraq any time soon. But the debate is as heated as ever -- not about the president's Iraq policy or plan, but about who should pay the political price for the Senate deadlock.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: Soldiers are being shipped as we speak, without the Senate having to take a vote on whether or not that surge should take place. So, in that respect, their stalling has probably benefited the president.

BASH: Democrats argue Republicans are on the wrong side of public opinion, pointing to polls like this, which show 64 percent of the public wants Congress to vote for a resolution opposing more troops in Iraq.

And, CNN has learned, Democratic campaign officials are likely to run radio and newspaper ads targeting Republican senators up for reelection, like New Hampshire's John Sununu and Oregon's Gordon Smith, saying they stood in the way of an Iraq vote.

Senate Republicans are waging their own public relations effort to get their side of the stalemate out.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: We are not stifling or shutting down debate. They are. Hello up there.

Is there any way that you can discern that?

BASH: Arguing that Democrats are responsible for the standoff because they won't let Republicans vote on a resolution promising to fund troops in Iraq. SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It is literally impossible to address the debate on Iraq without addressing the most fundamental issue, which is whether or not our troops are going to be supported when they are asked to defend us.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: Now, the Republican senators who are being targeted by Democrats, John Sununu and Gordon Smith, both tell us that they are confident they will be able to beat back the Democratic attacks by arguing to voters what their position is. And that is that they are both opposed to the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, regardless of whether they actually vote on it. And they both remind us that it's -- that November, 2008, Wolf, is a long way away.

BLITZER: The maneuvering in the Senate is legendary on these kinds of matters.

Thank you for that, Dana.

And coming up, something very unusual that's coming out of the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial right now. We're going to be playing you some audio tapes of his testimony to the grand jury that indicted him. And we'll also have that plus damaging -- potentially damaging details of his new testimony.

Also, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay -- he says Senator Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States unless Republicans act. We're going to ask him why, what he wants the GOP to do. Tom DeLay, here in THE SITUATION ROOM, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The shock of November's elections may be wearing off, but some conservatives are already having bad dreams about 2008. Those dreams involve a Hillary Rodham Clinton presidency.

One key Republican left Capitol Hill as some sort of scandal took over, and, as a result, he is here with us.

That would be the former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Thanks very much for coming in.

TOM DELAY (R), FORMER HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

Hillary Clinton -- you fear she may, may be unbeatable right now, is that right?

DELAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Why?

DELAY: Well, if you -- if you study the opposition, as I do, you know that the -- those that worked in the Clinton White House didn't just go away. When they left the White House in 2001, they went to work and they've built the biggest, most powerful coalition that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime.

And they used that coalition in the last election. And that coalition is available to Hillary. A lot of money, a lot of coordination, coalitions of different groups working together, very well coordinated, a lot of good strategy.

BLITZER: Some...

DELAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the right.

BLITZER: Some talented staff who have been through it...

DELAY: That's right. That's right.

BLITZER: ... getting a president elected on two earlier occasions.

DELAY: That's right.

BLITZER: You're quoted as saying this in thepolitico.com: "If the conservative movement and Republicans don't understand how massive the Clinton coalition is, Hillary Clinton will be the next president.

DELAY: That's correct.

BLITZER: All right, so what do you think your fellow conservatives in the GOP need to do to stop Senator Clinton?

DELAY: Well, first and foremost, they need to go back and show their base that they haven't lost their principle, they haven't lost their way, that they will fight for what they believe in. That will energize the base.

Obviously, Hillary being nominated will energize the base. And, at the same time, they have to build and bring people together to fight for what they believe in.

BLITZER: Who in the Republican that can generate, that can mobilize that force best?

We've seen in the polls the two frontrunners are John McCain and Rudy Giuliani.

Can they do it?

DELAY: Well, I don't know. We're going to have to wait and see.

BLITZER: You know both of these men.

what do you think of them?

DELAY: The party is crying for leadership.

BLITZER: Do these -- is one of these two guys, the leader the party is crying for?

DELAY: Well, certainly -- certainly Giuliani is a leader. He's already demonstrated that. And I've also seen that he's sort of got the Ronald Reagan syndrome, that if you are a leader and people perceive you as a leader, they will forgive you of some of the things that they may disagree with you about.

BLITZER: On some of the social issues like...

DELAY: Exactly.

BLITZER: ... gay rights or abortion rights.

DELAY: Exactly.

BLITZER: Or gun control?

DELAY: I won't. I won't.

BLITZER: You could...

DELAY: I want...

BLITZER: Could you see yourself supporting Rudy Giuliani if he becomes the Republican nominee?

DELAY: I can't vote for somebody that's for abortion. I just -- I never have and I never will.

BLITZER: So you could never forgive him on that, even though he says I abhor, I hate abortion, but he believes in a woman's right to have an abortion?

DELAY: Well, he and I disagree fundamentally -- and that's fundamental with me.

BLITZER: And that issue is overarching, as far as you're concerned?

DELAY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: What about other social conservatives or conservatives in the GOP? Could he overcome that hurdle with them, because you like his stance, presumably, on fighting terrorists and the war in Iraq?

DELAY: Well, I don't like his gun control. I don't like his approach to gay marriage.

BLITZER: He says he opposes gay marriage, although he supports gay rights.

DELAY: Now he does. He didn't just a year ago. So -- but, he shows leadership and others -- I mean I'm not the majority, although I think half of our party votes for someone that's pro-life and will not vote for someone that's not.

BLITZER: So you think it's unlikely he could get the Republican nomination?

DELAY: I don't know. I think it's way too early. It's also a situation of if not Giuliani, then who?

BLITZER: Well, I heard...

DELAY: As compared to what?

BLITZER: I heard you say that Giuliani is a leader, even though you disagree with him on several of these social issues.

What about John McCain?

I didn't hear you say he was a leader.

DELAY: Well, John McCain certainly is -- is leading right now in our -- in our primary. I don't think he'll get very far because he is not -- does not reflect the vast majority of the party.

BLITZER: On what issue?

DELAY: On many issues. You name it. He also -- there's a lot of conservatives that fault him for our situation right now...

BLITZER: Well, give us...

DELAY: ... because of McCain-Feingold. And...

BLITZER: The campaign financing...

DELAY: Yes. The lack of understanding of what the constitution guarantees and what rights it guarantees.

BLITZER: So is it just that or is there something else you don't like about him?

DELAY: No. I just -- it's not that I don't like it about him...

BLITZER: No, no, no, he's...

DELAY: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: ... on the issues. On the issues.

DELAY: Well, there's a lot of them that are running and it's way too early, particularly on our side. I don't think it's too early on the Democrats' side.

BLITZER: It's a wide open race right now.

DELAY: It's wide open.

BLITZER: Who do you like? Who's -- who do you feel comfortable with, that they can fit the description of being a leader and also you feel comfortable with on the issues?

DELAY: Well, Mitt Romney is a leader. But I want to make sure that what he now says he believes is fundamental to his world view.

BLITZER: Because he's accused of flip-flopping.

DELAY: Exactly. I want to see -- I want to see action, not words. I want -- I like -- Governor Mike Huckabee is my favorite. I've known him for 20 years. I know what kind of man he is. He's an incredible leader and was a great governor in Arkansas. And his world view is almost identical to mine.

BLITZER: So you like -- would you think that -- because there's been a lot of buzz about Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, the man you worked with for many years.

Do you think, A, he will get into this race; and, B, if he does, could he get the Republican nomination?

DELAY: I think he could get the Republican nomination. I think Newt is a brilliant man. His speaking ability is so far above and beyond anybody else's. He can stimulate a crowd of people to march out of that room and fight the battles in the streets. And he has that great gift of ideas.

So...

BLITZER: Would you like him to run?

DELAY: I like all of them. I...

BLITZER: You like some more than others?

DELAY: Some more than others. You know, it's sort of -- it's got a -- it's going to be damned if you and damned if you don't. If Hillary actually becomes president of the United States, it may be the best thing that ever happened to the Republican Party.

BLITZER: Explain that.

DELAY: Well, it was the best thing that ever happened to the Republican Party that Bill Clinton was president of the United States. We were able to get the majority and hold onto it for many, many years. Part of that was Hillary, particularly in...

BLITZER: With her health care plan?

DELAY: With her health care plan. And their disdain for the military and homosexuals and a whole lot of other issues that showed that they were way too far to the left...

BLITZER: One final...

DELAY: For the American people.

BLITZER: One final question, Congressman, before I let you go.

How much blame do you put on the president right now -- his policies, his stance over the last six years -- for the predicament the Republican Party has?

DELAY: Oh, I don't blame the president at all. I think circumstances presented themselves. We did sort of lose our way and we were -- we were not being able to communicate what we've done -- what we were doing to the American people. Things started breaking down.

But more important than all of that, the Democrats were ready for this situation. And with that coalition that they put together, they were able to win an election with no vision, no ideas, no agency -- and they even hid their leaders for the month before the election.

BLITZER: A grudging admiration for the Democrats from Tom DeLay.

DELAY: Yes.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Congressman, for coming in.

DELAY: My pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

And coming up, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and a high flying controversy.

Is she trying to fly like a VIP or simply doing what security and precedent call for?

We're going to have details of this controversy.

Plus, major new developments this afternoon in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, including the release of audio tapes of his testimony before the grand jury.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, gunfire erupting along the border between Israel and Lebanon. Israeli military sources telling us their forces were fired on by Lebanese troops, but Lebanon's military is accusing the Israelis of entering their territory. The situation there now described as very tense.

We're staying on top of this story.

Also, the U.S. military investigating the crash of a Marine Corps helicopter in Iraq's Al Anbar Province. All seven people aboard killed and insurgents claiming responsibility. It comes amid more carnage in Baghdad, including some three dozen bodies discovered today.

And NASA now says it will review its psychological screening process in the wake of the scandal rocking the space agency. Officials also say they'll re-examine the screening of the astronaut, Lisa Nowak, the screening she received now that she is charged with trying to kill a woman she saw as a romantic rival.

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

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, coming under fire from Republican critics who accuse her of first-class ambitions when it comes to using U.S. military planes.

Let's check back with CNN's Carol Costello. She's been investigating -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, ever since 9/11, the House speaker has been authorized to fly on military aircraft for security reasons. Former House speaker Dennis Hastert used military planes to fly to and from his home state of Illinois. Speaker Pelosi needs to fly to and from California. It's the "how" that sparked an ugly partisan battle.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): The charges against Nancy Pelosi are strong -- an abuser of power who desires a luxury taxpayer-funded Pelosi One to ferry her family friends. They are so loud, the speaker spoke out.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: It has nothing to do with family and friends and everything to do about security.

COSTELLO: But her words did not quiet Republican Congressman Adam Putnam, who has accused Pelosi of wanting not only a military plane that could fly coast to coast without refueling, but one of the most luxurious planes in the Air Force's fleet, the C-40, which boasts a private bed and entertainment center and a crew of 16.

REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R), FLORIDA: There are corporate-sized aircraft that exist that can serve this same function. So why does she need 42 seats? Why do we need an airplane that costs $22,000 an hour to operate?

COSTELLO: That bit of info came from the conservative "Washington Times" through unnamed congressional sources. Critics wondered why Pelosi couldn't use the planes her predecessor, Republican Dennis Hastert, had used, the smaller C-37A or C-20. Both planes are capable of flying coast to coast without refueling under optimal conditions.

Pelosi says the debate has been mischaracterized.

PELOSI: The only misrepresentations could be coming from the administration, and one would only have to wonder why.

COSTELLO: But her ally in Congress, John Murtha, says he does know, telling us off camera the Pentagon is leaking information to "The Washington Times," saying, "... they're making a mistake when they leak it because she decides on the allocations for the Department of Defense."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: So there's probably more battle to come. We did wonder how Mr. Hastert used military aircraft. Former members of his staff tell us he used the planes only during the legislative session to fly home and back about 80 times a year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So the story will continue, presumably. We'll watch it. Carol, thank you.

A military spokesman, by the way, tells us that the House speaker is authorized to use any of the planes in the 89th airlift wing. They include the C-32, a military version of the Boeing 757. It has a range of some 5,500 nautical miles.

The C-40, which is based on Boeing's popular 737, that plane can fly up to 5,000 nautical miles. There are also two smaller planes, as you mentioned, the C-20, which is equivalent to a Gulfstream III, which is the plane the former House speaker, Dennis Hastert, usually flew. It has a range of almost 3,700 nautical miles.

And the C-37A, which is the military version of the Gulfstream V, it can fly up to 5,500 nautical miles.

In theory, each of those planes could fly coast to coast without refueling, but that would also depend on multiple factors, including winds, payloads and reserve fuel requirements.

Can you spell "Giuliani," as in the presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani? Misspell the name in your Web browser and you may be surprised to see where it takes you.

Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton has a closer look -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, if you mix up the "I" and the "U" in rudygiuliani.com, you'll end up here, on YouTube, at a video from 2000 of then Mayor Rudy Giuliani from a skit that he did with Donald Trump. There he is dressed as a woman.

And this isn't the only place this Web address has taken people in the last few weeks. A couple of week ago, it was redirecting people to the Web site of Democrat John Edwards. After that, to Republican Mitt Romney. And after that, to this news article from 2002 about Giuliani.

Behind all this? A Maryland high school senior who registered the site. He tells us that he is politically undecided. He says that he's partial to Mitt Romney, but also likes John Edwards.

As for Giuliani, he says he has no strong dislike of the former mayor, but that last year he was looking around for Web sites of misspellings of presidential hopefuls and this is the only one he could find available. An adviser for the exploratory committee of Rudy Giuliani tells us that they are very comfortable with the Web address that they have and the amount of traffic it is getting. That official Web address is joinrudy2008.com -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for that, Abbi.

Up ahead, a star prosecution witness contradicting key testimony in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby. That would be the NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. We're going to have details of his potentially damaging testimony.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: I want to get right back to Carol in New York.

You're following a story, a developing story out West, Carol.

COSTELLO: Yes, in Washington State. There's a court martial going on.

Lieutenant -- Army Lieutenant Ehren Watada, the judge overseeing the case has now declared a mistrial. Ehren Watada had refused to go back to serve in Iraq because he thought the war was illegal. If convicted of these charges of desertion, he could face four years in confinement.

Again, the judge overseeing the case has declared a mistrial because he says that Lieutenant Watada had not fully understood a document he signed admitting to elements of the charges against him. So you can safely say that's a technicality. The judge will no doubt schedule another court-martial a few months from now.

When we get the exact date we'll pass it along.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's interesting. He thought the war in Iraq was illegal. That's why he didn't want to serve there. He said he was ready to go to Afghanistan and serve there, where he thought the war was legal.

All right. We'll stay on top of this story, Carol, with you, for that.

Let's check in with Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

Coming up, we'll be reporting on new outrage in the case of two Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing their jobs. One of those agents has been severely beaten in prison. The Department of Homeland Security now admits that it lied to the United States Congress. Leading members of Congress are simply furious.

We'll have that story. And a blistering assessment of the leadership and management of DHS. Government auditors now say the federal government has left gaping holes in our defenses against terrorism.

We'll have that report.

And a rising number of states refusing to implement one of the most effective measures to counteract terrorism, a national driver's license. The author of the Real ID Act, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, joins us here. He's among our guests.

And three of the country's best political analysts and commentators will also be with us.

We hope you will as well.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see you in a few minutes.

Thanks very much, Lou, for that.

And coming up right after "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, they are going to Iraq to provide security. But are American contractors getting all the protection they need? Congress now looking into it.

We're going to have details, 7:00 p.m., here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But up next, major new developments in the trial of Vice President Cheney's former top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. We're going to take you live to the courthouse.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: And this just coming in. Some dramatic and significant new developments in the trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.

NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert taking the stand today and directly contradicting the sworn testimony at the heart of Libby's defense.

Meanwhile, we're hearing for the first time what Libby actually told the grand jury that indicted him in his own words.

Once again, let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us from just outside the federal course here in Washington -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we just got these audiotapes. What you are about to hear is the excerpt of what Scooter Libby told Patrick Fitzgerald in his grand jury testimony about a very, very key meeting. That meeting, July 10, 2003. It's a conversation over the phone, rather, where Libby claims that he heard for the first time that the wife of administration critic Joe Wilson worked for the CIA. Libby says he heard this from Tim Russert of NBC News.

This is the exchange between Libby -- he's speaking first -- and prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald of what Libby claims Russert told him during that July 10, 2003 conversation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LEWIS "SCOOTER" LIBBY, FMR. CHENEY AIDE: "Did you know that his wife works at the CIA? "

PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: And you said?

LIBBY: "No, I don't know that."

FITZGERALD: And his response?

LIBBY: "Yes" -- something like, "Yes, yeah, all the reporters know."

FITZGERALD: And your response?

LIBBY: "No, I don't know that."

(END AUDIO CLIP)

TODD: Libby claiming there that he did not know until that conversation with Tim Russert that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.

Tim Russert just took the stand this afternoon and completely rebutted that, saying that the wife of Joe Wilson never came up at all in that conversation. It was never mentioned, that he never told Libby what Libby claimed on that tape to have been told by Tim Russert, that Libby never brought it up, that Joe Wilson's wife was never even mentioned in that conversation.

So you have a key claim and counterclaim just this afternoon, Wolf. It's been a dramatic day. These audiotapes being played today, yesterday and Monday. Tim Russert taking the stand just this afternoon.

BLITZER: How did the defense team for Lewis "Scooter" Libby, how did his defense team handle this damning testimony in the cross- examination of Tim Russert?

TODD: They handled it actually very deftly. They tried to punch holes in Russert's memory, as they've done with so many other witnesses, trying to essentially question his memory of whether there was one conversation with Scooter Libby or possibly more.

There was a little bit of doubt about that, but Russert was clear on the stand. He said, "I recall only one." They also said -- the defense attorney, Ted Wells, essentially said, "You, Tim Russert, you have a reputation for being a great journalist, very thorough, very careful. You mean to tell me in the course of that conversation that you never asked Scooter Libby one time about the wife of Joe Wilson?" Because it had been in the news all that week.

And Russert said, "No, I was in listening mode. Scooter Libby was calling me to complain about what things that had been said about him on other NBC programs. I was in a mode to listen to his complaints. I did not ask him about that."

BLITZER: What was his demeanor during his testimony today, Tim Russert?

TODD: He appeared to me to be very, very even keeled. He was very deliberate on the stand, he was very clear about his memory. He was very clear that this essential claim of Scooter Libby's that he heard from Tim Russert for the first time about Valerie Plame-Wilson's work at the CIA, Tim Russert very clearly stating that did not come up, and he appeared very deliberate and very -- you know, just very even keeled throughout. Did not seem to get rattled at all.

BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you very much.

Brian Todd's outside the courthouse.

Just want to explain to our viewers, the reason Tim Russert's on crutches, he had an accident in his home a few weeks ago. He took a bad fall. That's why over these past few weeks he's been forced to use those crutches.

The CIA leak scandal is shedding some light on how the White House managed to try and shape and get its message out, the message it was clearly trying to deliver.

Our senior national correspondent, John Roberts, is here with more on this. What are we learning? What does this say about the White House's efforts to engage in this kind of public relations, if you will? What have we learned from all of this?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing, Wolf, is what we believed was happening at the time, but now with the benefit of this testimony from Scooter Libby, has really been -- had a light illuminate what's going on, or what supposedly went on in the White House. This idea of a very aggressive White House pushing back hard against a story that it believed could be really damaging to its case for Iraq, and as it turned out, the case for Iraq completely fell apart, which makes the White House look even worse for doing this.

Now, successive White Houses have done this. This White House done it on other occasions, but what's really interesting that this Libby testimony points to is the level involvement of the vice president's office in it. The amount of influence that he had. It really sort of reinforces his perception as the dark lord who is over there in his own world controlling things. The fact is, Libby said that he went to the president to ask for some of this prewar intelligence to be declassified, then told Libby to go out there and peddle it to a select group of reporters, while at the same time people like George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, who was then the national security adviser, and Andy Card, the then chief of staff, had no idea that this was going on. And, in fact, in meetings were saying, well, should we ask for some of this to be declassified?

Meanwhile, Libby is there sitting on his hands all the time, leaking this information.

BLITZER: And also, as the administration's case was beginning to unravel, we saw some divisions clearly develop inside the White House. Talk a little bit about that.

ROBERTS: And that was illuminated by Libby's testimony as well, that he believed that he was being set up to be made a scapegoat. It seemed that there was a real division between the staff of the president and the staff of the vice president.

Dick Cheney, according to Scooter Libby, got wind of that as well, this idea that he wasn't going to allow the guy who stuck his neck out to be thrown into the meat grinder. But you'll remember it -- I was there in the briefing room at that time - that Scott McClellan came out very early on in all of this and tried to exonerate Karl Rove. And it wasn't until some weeks later, apparently now, according to Libby's testimony, after he complained to the vice president, the vice president said he would do something about it, that McClellan came back out again and said, look, I talked to Karl Rove and Scooter Libby about this.

Both of them said that they didn't have anything to do with it. McClellan falling on a sword that he didn't even know was there.

But it just shows how these people were lining up. And it was Libby who took the fall.

The interesting thing about all of this, Wolf, is that if the White House had have just come clean in the beginning, none of this probably would have happened. If they had have come forward to say, yes, we really disagreed with what Ambassador Wilson was saying, we wanted to get the word out, none of us leaked the name of Valerie Plame, because as it turns out, they weren't the source. Richard Armitage from the State Department was the source. They probably could have saved themselves all this trouble.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right.

John, thanks very much.

And coming up next, critics say the Pentagon is intentionally obscuring the total number of wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Jack Cafferty wants to know, do you think that's the case? Jack with "The Cafferty File" when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown papers tomorrow.

On the West Bank, an Israeli police officer shoots teargas canisters during minor clashes with Palestinians protesting against Israeli excavations near a religious site important to both Jews and Muslims.

In northern Italy, archaeologists unearthed a pair of human skeletons embracing each other. They're believed to be more than 5,000 years old.

In Greece, police clash with demonstrators protesting against university reforms.

And in India, helicopters cross each other during an air show.

Some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That was an interesting picture of those skeletons, wasn't it?

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: Did you notice one of them had its mouth open? The other one was listening.

The question this hour: Critics say the Pentagon is intentionally obscuring the total number of wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do you think that's the case?

Robert in North Venice, Florida, "This administration and all of its departments have been trying to hide everything they can from the American people for over six years now. The fact that the Pentagon has not allowed us to see the flag-draped coffins of the dead arriving back from Afghanistan and Iraq is unbelievable in a great democracy like ours. Is the Pentagon hiding casualty figures, too? It would sure keep with the Bush record so far."

Jim, U.S. Air Force retired, Laurel, Mississippi, "Yes, the facts are being covered up by the Congress and DOD. And it will continue until the American people say enough is enough already. My grandson leaves tomorrow for Iraq."

CJ, "This is honestly a semantic question. Wounds are inflicted, injuries just happen. In a war zone, they are all casualties and should all be reported, but as separate categories. This sort of thing is the result of excessive propaganda practices, everything gets spun and then plain English becomes impossible."

Dan in Elgin, Illinois, "We've not seen the extent of the casualties. The extent of the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder cases won't appear here for many years. Mental health cases are difficult to quantify."

John in Marlton, New Jersey, "I wouldn't call it obscuring. I'd call it lying. I think everyone in the Pentagon needs to rotate through Iraq for a little taste of what's going on."

And Daryl rights from Ontario, "Hiding the wounded? Come on. This is the Pentagon. It's all about transparency, like Guantanamo Bay, WMD, and the costs in Iraq."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile and read more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are we still getting a flood of e-mails that are coming in to your questions, Jack? Has that increased in recent weeks or has it decreased?

CAFFERTY: I don't know. I don't pay that much attention.

We get a pretty healthy sampling. It depends on what the questions are, whether they touch a nerve in the audience.

They also -- they also depend on the news cycle and what's kind of in the news. Leading up to the midterms, there was a lot of interest in the elections and we got tons and tons of mail. Then it slacked off. And it just, you know, kind of depends a little on what's going on in the news.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. See you in an hour.

We'll be back in THE SITUATION ROOM.

In the meantime, let's check in with Lou in New York.

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