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Alberto Gonzales Finds Job on the Line; Changing Lanes in Atlanta; Missing Georgia Boy
Aired March 14, 2007 - 08:59 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Heidi Collins.
Good morning, everybody.
For the next three hours, watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday, March 14th.
Here's what's on the rundown.
Thirty minutes from the opening bell. We'll be watching those numbers today. Wall Street shaken by subprime mortgage defaults. Will the crisis affect your mortgage appraisal?
HARRIS: HOV lane changes beginning this hour in Atlanta. Bigger signs, rumble strips, new warnings, prompted by a deadly bus crash 12 days ago.
COLLINS: A study says it's true -- overweight men are jolly. Do love handles act as an emotional pick-me-up?
Fat and happy in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: At the top this hour, taking stock of your money. We are watching the markets this morning after the Dow plunged 242 points. The reason? Investors rattled by concerns over risky mortgages.
A new day of trading gets under way in less than half an hour. Susan Lisovicz joins us from the New York Stock Exchange.
(STOCK MARKET REPORT)
HARRIS: Mortgages, the markets, and your money -- how someone else's risky loans may be affecting your bottom line. Personal finance editor Gerri Willis makes that connection for us coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Prosecutors fired. Their former boss finding his own job on the line. This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejecting calls for his resignation. Critics say his firing of eight U.S. attorneys may have been politically motivated, and Democrats in Congress are demanding answers. They may issue subpoenas for officials in the White House and Justice Department.
Earlier on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," we spoke with Gonzales.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Why don't you give us a self- evaluation. How do you think you did your job through all this?
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, obviously, I think that there were mistakes made here. And I think that part of the problem is...
O'BRIEN: I was asking not mistakes made. That's passive. The question is, how did you do your job? Do you feel like you did a good job?
GONZALES: I think that I did make some mistakes. And we're going to -- we're going to take steps to ensure that that doesn't happen again.
But ultimately, I work for the American people, and I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. And he'll decide whether or not I continue to serve as the attorney general. I'm focused on identifying mistakes that were made here, correcting the mistakes, and also I'm focused on doing the work for the American people and protecting neighborhoods, protecting kids.
O'BRIEN: Should -- is it time, when you couple all this together with some of the other issues, the Patriot Act, transgressions in the FBI's office, and other issues that your critics would talk about, is it time for you to step down?
GONZALES: I don't know what Patriot Act transgressions you're referring to. If you're referring to...
O'BRIEN: I'm talking about the Federal Bureau of Investigation overstepping their bounds in use of the Patriot Act, going after private citizens and their records, in some cases, they admit, illegally.
GONZALES: NSLs, national security letters, were around long before the Patriot Act provisions came into place, and reauthorization of the Patriot Act actually included numerous safeguard protections for civil liberties and privacy rights.
O'BRIEN: But the question is, Mr. Attorney General, is, do you feel it's time for you to step down?
ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That will be a decision for the president of the United States to make. I think if you look at the record of the department...
O'BRIEN: But should you tender -- should you offer your resignation? Is it time for you to offer your resignation?
GONZALES: That is -- that is a decision for the president of the United States to make. I'm going to be focused on identifying what went wrong here, correcting those mistakes, and focus on doing good for the American people.
O'BRIEN: But the decision on whether to offer your resignation is yours, is it not?
GONZALES: I'm focused on doing my job.
COLLINS: Newly-released e-mails show that the Justice Department and White House had discussed the dismissals for two years before the firings. Alberto Gonzales and his firings of eight federal prosecutors outraged bills (ph) for some people. You'll hear from one critic who may surprise you. He joins us coming up in the NEWSROOM.
Changing lanes. After a deadly crash, this hour work begins on an Atlanta freeway. New safety measures after that bus crash that killed seven people this month.
CNN's Greg Hunter joining us now live.
Greg, have they started the work on Northside Drive yet?
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, the Georgia DOT guys are right down there right now closing off the lanes. You look down here, you can see the guys in the lime green, you know, safety shirts. They're closing down this lane to start work on it.
Now, this is the only lane they're working on today. And this is the lane that bus came up.
It came right up this lane, it came right over here. It went right across this intersection. Thank goodness there weren't any cars that were coming by. And it ended up hitting that fence, which is now repaired. And the bus, of course, flips over down on the pavement below.
The question is, what are they going to do to change the signs? And a bigger question, according to one expert we talked to, are the changes they're doing actually going to make it safer for people driving on this highway?
Take a look.
HUNTER (voice over): On the I-75 HOV ramp in Atlanta where the fateful accident occurred, the word "Exit" will be added to the HOV diamond. The "Stop Ahead" signs will be bigger and painted on the road.
But one safety expert says drivers should be warned earlier they won't be exiting on the right.
FRED HANSCOM, TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH CORP.: Drivers don't expect left-hand exits.
HUNTER: Fred Hanscom, who's worked on highway safety issues for state agencies, including the Georgia DOT, says there should be a yellow left exit sign a half-mile before the ramp, not just the HOV diamond, and the I-75 sign that's there now.
HANSCOM: It's confusing in that it conveys to a driver, you just follow this and you don't have to worry about a left-hand exit.
HUNTER: And going into the ramp, what Hanscom says is the most badly mismarked of all the signs.
(on camera): This lane should be marked I-75 with the diamond over here.
HANSCOM: And that sign should be right over the lane. It does go to I-75, which is right where my pencil is.
HUNTER: And this sign should say "Left Exit" or "Exit Left" in yellow...
HUNTER: Background with black letters, and there should be an arrow pointing right down here?
HANSCOM: That's correct.
HUNTER (voice over): Georgia's Department of Transportation insists the current signs already meet safety standards, but is making the signs bigger and more visual to avoid another horrible accident.
HAROLD LINNENKOHL, GEORGIA TRANSPORTATION COMM.: We've realized the need that, OK, there's some of our system that has been in place for a long time, that we could even do more.
HUNTER: What's needed, says Hanscom, is more and better signs that drivers can see early enough to avoid serious accidents. He also says sometimes it takes a big accident like this before authorities act to improve sign safety.
(on camera): In your opinion, it's been mismarked for years?
HANSCOM: It has indeed.
HUNTER: Now, some of what they're doing today on this ramp, and this ramp only, they're going to make the stop sign where you can see the back of it here. They're going to make that about twice as big. They're adding stop signs over there, they're changing the paint, they're putting rumble strips, they're adding signs across the road.
Now, our expert that we talked to, Fred Hanscom, says they really need to be down there, changing the signs down there. And they are changing. They're actually putting an exit sign down there. But he says -- when he says the worst area is right down there, that there ought to be signs actually over the highway with arrows pointing down as "Exit" and arrows pointing down on I-75.
According to the GDOT person I talked to this morning, Mark McKenna (ph), he says they're considering that, but that's an engineering project. They've got to put a big arm over there, they have to have something strong enough to hang the signs. They're considering that.
They're also considering the signs down the road. But so far, they're only changing the stop signs, the pavement, and other signs to try to make this safer now, today.
Back to you.
COLLINS: Yes. It kind of begs the question, is it a little too late, Greg? I mean, does it actually imply that this original signage was not correct?
HUNTER: The Georgia Department of Transportation says the signs met all the safety standards. The expert we talked to, Fred Hanscom, who also sits on the board of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, the MUTCD, says they weren't correct, that there's a manual for this and it's all based on driver expectation.
And when driver expectations are met, for example, you get off on a right-hand exit, there's less problems. But when you get off on a left-hand exit -- excuse me a right-hand -- a left-hand exit, he says that's when you interfere with driver expectation, and there's a better -- a more important need to make sure those exits are marked better, and also there's a uniform way to do it.
He says that they weren't marked correctly. Georgia Department of Transportation says they are.
We'll see what happens in the future -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. Quite a conflict of views there. All right.
Greg Hunter for us live on top of I-75 there this morning.
Greg, thank you.
HARRIS: Police have a person of interest, but the search for a missing 6-year-old boy still comes up short. Reporter Nikki Preede of our affiliate WJXT has the this update.
NIKKI PREEDE, REPORTER, WJXT (voice over): Sue Rodriguez (ph) is wearing her grandson's picture around her neck. That and a bracelet are helping her get through this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My heart keeps telling me he's alive somewhere. PREEDE: Christopher Barrios vanished Thursday. He was last seen playing on this swing set. Rodriguez (ph) says their neighborhood, their community, has not been the same since his disappearance.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a wonderful kid. He's always jolly and happy, always full of energy.
PREEDE: Rodriguez (ph) believes that Christopher is still alive and she hopes he can hear what she has to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Christopher. And granny misses you a whole bunch.
PREEDE: In a strange twist, it's Rodriguez's (ph), Christopher's grandmother's neighbors, that are in jail in connection with the investigation into the 6-year-old's disappearance. Both claim to know something about it, though police have followed every lead and at this point don't know if either is being honest.
Thirty-one-year-old George Edenfield was arrested Friday. He's a registered sex offender and admitted to having contact with Christopher. That's a violation of his probation. Fifty-seven-year- old Peggy is charged with giving police false statements. Officers say her stories just kept changing during interviews.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The mother and her son both gave us statements that there's a good likelihood that missing Christopher is over here. And that's where I went back to look.
HARRIS: WJXT reporter Nikki Preede joins us live now from Brunswick, Georgia.
Nikki, good to see you.
I have a quick question for you. I understand you have some new information. Has another arrest been made?
PREEDE: Yes. Actually, they made another arrest in the early morning hours. And from what we understand from Glenn County police, that person is also related to the man that they are calling the suspect in this case, 31-year-old George Edenfield. These charges are also for obstructing justice, giving police false information.
We want to give you a live look at what's happening now. You can see over my shoulder here the volunteers, the searchers, are gathering. Also, about three-tenths of a mile down the road from where we're standing there's about a dozen canine units, units from all over south Georgia that are hitting on a specific wooded area that from what we understand from police is where they're being pointed by the man that they do have in jail.
We'll give you a live look of what's happening now. The volunteers, the searchers, are gathering about three-tenths of a mile down the road from where we're standing. There's about a dozen canine units hitting on a specific wooded area that, from what we understand from police, is where they're being pointed by the man that they do have in jail, this 31-year-old that they are calling the suspect.
HARRIS: I know you're going to be focused on new developments in the case today.
Nikki Preede for us.
Nikki, appreciate it. Thank you.
COLLINS: Chad Myers joining us now with all the weather from across the country.
HARRIS: Problems with the pumps. A report says new ones installed after Hurricane Katrina don't work properly, and engineers knew it.
Another new -- well, another New Orleans outrage, that's coming up in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Taking fire for his views on gays, the Joint Chiefs chairman re-ignites debate on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
Our military analyst weighs in coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Looking fat and feeling fine. Overweight men, big belly blitz. Dr. Sanjay Gupta coming up in a live NEWSROOM report that will surprise you.
COLLINS: Risky mortgages sapping your investment portfolio? Wall Street rattled by a subprime default.
Market watch all morning right here in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A bit of a retreat from the Joint Chiefs chairman. General Peter Pace calling homosexuality immoral, but now saying he should have kept his personal opinions to himself. Pace is not apologizing for the remarks. He says he should have kept the focus on policy, though.
Pace set off a firestorm of controversy with his comments in the "Chicago Tribune" in support of military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEN. PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts. So, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" allows an individual to serve the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Did the general shoot himself in the foot?
Well, CNN military analyst, retired Brigadier General David Grange, joining us now from Chicago.
General Grange, thanks for being with us.
What was your initial reaction when you heard Peter Pace say these comments?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I understand where the chairman is coming from. It is his personal view. He probably regrets talking about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that well. But there are some good reasons why that policy is in effect that has nothing to do with your personal view.
COLLINS: Sure. Let's talk about that. Let's help people to understand why the policy came out in the first place 14 years ago.
GRANGE: Well, I don't think that the military wanted to say that there's a certain type of people's -- their particular views, sexual views, as an example here, affects how well they can fight. It has nothing to do with someone being a good warrior, nothing to do at all. But do you say that you openly support that or that you don't?
So, the policy was kind of a compromise. The policy came up, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which means that there's no witch hunts that go on. No one looks for a particular type of person to drum them out of the military.
If people keep things to themselves, so be it, it's their personal lives. But when it was -- when it is known, then the action would be taken to remove the person from the military because that is the policy right now.
COLLINS: Well, over the course of those 14 years, General Grange, has anyone ever lost their job because of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?
GRANGE: You mean put out of the Army because...
GRANGE: ... it was known that they were homosexual?
GRANGE: Yes, they have.
What does it do for -- if you could speak to it by way of being in command of troops, what does it do for morale? I mean, are there questions that come out about people? Are there -- does everyone really keep it to themselves? I mean, what is the overall picture in all of this?
GRANGE: Well, you know, obviously in the military there's been incidents of people being put out because they were known to be homosexual. In 30 years, I never had that issue myself. But it's all about -- the issues that I've dealt with had to do with good order and discipline.
In other words, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, the implications are the same if there's a breach of good order and discipline or someone breaks a policy. And so, my experience has been actually putting out more people because of heterosexual issues, especially with the growing number of women in the military. But it doesn't affect how well a person can fight.
That just happens to be the policy right now, whether you believe in it or not. It could be that it's time to re-look at the policy in the United States of America.
COLLINS: Well, let's talk about that. Should there be a new policy? And what direction would it follow?
GRANGE: Well, I think probably very similar to what is going on many other nations that had a policy like ours or just -- they actually confronted people directly. But now they have changed, and homosexuality is not something to be discriminated against, and they allow that in their armed forces. And it appears that it's not a readiness issue.
Again, it would be no different if something happened immorally, man and man, man and woman, woman on woman. It doesn't matter. And if there's a breach of readiness or of the law, then they're put out regardless.
COLLINS: General David Grange, we appreciate your time here today. Thanks so much.
GRANGE: My pleasure.
HARRIS: Car running, shots fired, shootout caught on the dash cam. Look at this. The rest of the story in the NEWSROOM.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Could there be a relationship between your waistline and your mental health? It turns out there is.
I'll have those details as well straight up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: Big bellies? No problem. Researchers call it the Santa Claus phenomenon, referring to fat men. Are they really happier?
CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us.
Where are you, Los Angeles this morning?
GUPTA: Yes, bright and early here in Los Angeles, Tony. Top of the morning to you.
HARRIS: Always good to see you. You've got some results. Well, we have to say this is a surprising study.
GUPTA: Yes. You know, it's interesting, Tony.
There have been a lot of studies sort of looking at this relationship between one's diet, one's weight, and their overall mental health. A lot of studies on this. This is one of the largest ones.
Forty-five thousand people studied, trying to look at this relationship between people who are obese and their likelihood of one of the robust indicators of mental health, which is suicide. And some sort of surprising, I guess, results, to some extent, finding that 42 percent less likely to attempt or complete suicide if you are obese.
Now, a lot of people are surprised by that. Let me give you a quick couple of rundowns here as far as what this means.
First of all, this is based on body mass index, and they quantified obesity by saying your body mass index is between 30 and 40. Ideally, you want it between about 18 and 25.
Now, as I mentioned, Tony, this is something that has sort of been out there for some time. This is a larger study. But there's a couple of theories as to why this might be.
One is that people who tend to eat these comfort terms -- it might be more than just a term -- but these comfort foods with lots of carbohydrates might actually be releasing insulin, might cause increased production of serotonin, and those are both feel-good hormones. Also, the fat itself, the excess fat as you see there, could release a hormone known as leptin, and that could be a mood enhancer as well.
Tony, an interesting study here. Again, this has been out there, but not sure entirely what to make of that.
HARRIS: You know, there's a song from, oh, the '60s or so, that goes, "If you want to be happy for the rest of your life..." -- I'll change the second line because I'll get us all in trouble -- but does this mean if you want to be happier, particularly as a man, go out, eat, get fat?
GUPTA: Not unless you -- not unless getting heart disease, diabetes...
GUPTA: ... and all the other chronic diseases associated with obesity make you happy. You know, I think the answer is obviously no.
But what I think is interesting scientifically here, Tony, what you're alluding to, is what can we learn from this? Is leptin, is insulin, serotonin, are these medications as a result -- being produced as a result of this fat somehow being used to target and prevent suicide and prevent some of the -- the worst manifestations of depression? Perhaps.
And I think that's where science is sort of leading us. Obviously, the answer is not to go out and eat more. Not now.
HARRIS: Yes. Are there any implications in this study for women?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it was interesting, Tony. So, this was all men. This study was done purely of men.
And we asked specifically about women, and we were told the results probably don't translate, for a couple of reasons. One is, the hormonal matrix in women is just different than men. No surprise there. There's more estrogen and progesterone, so different things at play here.
But it might also have a lot to do with sort of the social stigmatization. If you will, Tony, I mean, it's still accepted, it's OK in some ways for a man to be overweight, to be obese, more OK than it is for a woman. So, the social stigmatization may outweigh any of the beneficial effects women might get.
So, it doesn't seem to translate to women -- Tony.
HARRIS: This is fascinating.
Sanjay, great to see you from Los Angeles, wherever you are.
GUPTA: Good to see you as well. And I'm pretty happy and not too obese.
HARRIS: There you go. I'll join you on that one.
GUPTA: All right. See you.
HARRIS: And good morning, everyone. Welcome to CNN NEWSROOM.
I'm Tony Harris.
COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins.
Good morning to you.
Boy, we are watching the numbers today, aren't we? People clapping their hands there as we take the opening bell live -- excuse me. A lot of people clearing their throats I think today.
HARRIS: Yes. I think you're right.
COLLINS: Yesterday's Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 246 points -- there's the opening bell -- before the day was over yesterday. Sitting at 12,075 and it's all about the sub-prime lenders and what this is going to mean for all of us today. Asian markets reacting to these numbers. We're going to bring up our Susan Lisovicz in just a little while to talk more about this as everyone really concentrates on those numbers. They tell us not to. They tell us not to take it day by day.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: There's something more cooking here.
COLLINS: Of course there is, but you try to remain optimistic.
HARRIS: Another big story we're watching today, the nation's top prosecutor and allegations he put politics ahead of the law. Alberto Gonzales under fire and on CNN. He makes his case ahead in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Raising floodwaters, a dangerous rescue caught on tape. The story from Texas in the NEWSROOM. Susan Lisovicz is also standing by. Want to bring her in now and gives us a look at the very opening of the bell here. Hi, Susan.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi and I have good news for you. There's a little bottom fishing in the first minute of trading. The Dow is actually opened just slightly higher and that's not unusual. You do get people trying to look for some bargains. Whether it can build from there is another question entirely. Let me just give you a couple of examples of why there's a lot of fear about this sub-prime meltdown and how big it really is and how many more companies could be affected.
H&R Block, synonymous with tax preparation, today said that it will post $29 million more in pretax losses from exposure to sub-prime mortgages than first reported last month. That stock was down a couple percent in the pre-market. Lehman's, the big financial powerhouse, it's reported its profits are up 14 percent, but it was offset by weakness in the U.S. residential mortgage sector. And GM, you know it for its cars, well, it had a finance unit that it sold, GMAC, but the negotiations to sell it were prolonged because of the value of that company and its exposure to the sub-prime lending area.
On the other hand, you know, when things come down as dramatically as we have seen in the sub-prime sector, you know, there are people, there are individuals, there are companies that say, you know, this is the time, this is exactly the time to buy. Goldman Sachs's, the big investment company, yesterday reported record quarterly profits and earnings. Today according to "the Wall Street Journal," that company says it wants to get deeper into sub-prime because it thinks that some of these players have been knocked down so hard, you can really get some bargain basement prices. So, there you have it, completely different ways of looking at it. And right now the Dow is modestly higher, up 37 points in the first 2 1/2 minutes of trading. Heidi.
COLLINS: Wow. It's going to be another interesting day from where you are. We'll continue to check in with you, Susan Lisovicz, and let us know if we need to come to you at any time.
COLLINS: Thanks so much Susan.
I want to quickly now get you to our Barbara Starr, CNN's Pentagon correspondent, because apparently there has been sort of issue with the U.S. Navy sub, the military losing contact with it. We're talking Barbara about the "USS San Juan."
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Heidi. Some days it's good to be able to report the good news from this perch here in the Pentagon. The U.S. Navy had a terrible scare overnight, but we do want to tell people everything turned out OK after a couple of heart- stopping hours. The U.S. Navy submarine "San Juan" was operating submerged off the coast of Florida overnight and for several hours the U.S. Navy lost contact with the submarine with about 130 crew members on board. They couldn't make any contact with it. There were even reports of red flares in the water, which is a distress signal.
The Navy started a search operation overnight. They still couldn't make contact with the submarine and then they went to the extraordinary step of making a declaration that a U.S. Navy submarine had been sunk. That triggered the step of beginning to notify the family members of the crew. The submarine is based out of Groton, Connecticut. Family members were notified overnight. But the good news is that within about two hours of beginning to notify family members and the top U.S. military leadership being informed overnight of this potential disaster, within about two hours they suddenly made communication with the submarine again.
And it turns out the "USS San Juan" didn't even know that anybody was looking for it. They didn't know that they'd lost communications. So, it is good news this morning. It could have been an absolute disaster. The Navy did go to that full-blown submarine sunk search and rescue procedure. Good news to report this morning and now of course what they're trying to figure out is what went wrong, why it is that for several hours they didn't have contact with the U.S. Navy submarine, Heidi.
COLLINS: Wow. That is certainly the question. I can't imagine the worry, the stress of the family for that very, very long two-hour period. My goodness. Barbara, we know you're following this one. Thanks so much.
Still to come in the NEWSROOM, a wrong turn, a deadly plunge. Now trying to keep a tragedy like this bus crash from happening again. You'll see how in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: The nation's top lawyer making the case that he should keep his job. This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales rejecting calls that he resign. His critics suggest partisan politics were behind his firing of eight U.S. attorneys and Democrats in Congress are demanding answers. They may issue subpoenas for officials in the White House and the Justice Department. Earlier on CNN's "American Morning," we spoke with Gonzales and one of the prosecutors he canned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUD CUMMINS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY: The evidence now seems abundantly clear that some of these decisions were made for other reasons that may not be too attractive, political pressure from outside the department by politicians and party people, just the desire to place friends and acquaintances that wanted to be U.S. attorneys in U.S. attorney positions and the attempt to create the vacancies to do that.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I value their independence and professionalism, what they do in the community and this was not -- these decisions were not based for political reasons. We made an evaluation. I directed an evaluation within the Department of Justice. I charged my chief of staff to look to see where we could do better in districts around the country. The decisions were not based in any way on retaliation, were not based in any way to interfere with an ongoing public corruption case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Gonzales concedes his department mishandled those dismissals. It is worth noting, however, that there's no mention by any critic of criminal misconduct. Alberto Gonzales and his firing of eight Federal prosecutors outraged (INAUDIBLE). You will may hear from one critic who may surprise you. He joins us live in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: Road crews out this hour, their focus, the site of that deadly bus crash in Atlanta. They're making some changes to the commuter lane exit and several others like it, bigger signs, brighter striping on the ramp, new safety measures after that deadly crash killed seven people almost two weeks ago. Authorities believe the bus driver mistook the commuter lane exit for an interstate lane. The vehicle went up the ramp and plunged off an overpass. The driver and his wife were killed along with five ball players.
Swept away on floodwaters near Austin, Texas. Workers from a utility company managed to reach the couple, but the fast-moving waters forced them apart. A short time later, the woman was pulled to safety, but the search goes on for her husband. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital.
HARRIS: Let's get another check with weather now. Chad Myers is in the weather center. Chad, what are you following this morning?
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: All that rain that came down over Texas in the past 48 hours. If you live in the northeast, you probably have never ever seen what's called a dry water wash or an actual road that will go down into the river and then back up the other side without a bridge. And they occur in the hill country, in parts of Texas, and they're normal because a lot of times the hill country is very dry. There's not a drop of water in those washes. But all of a sudden, when the water comes up, they become very dangerous, especially at night when you can't tell that there's water in the wash. You have to be very careful. There's signage all over the place.
Look at this area here from San Antonio southward all the way to Corpus Christi, everywhere that you see that red, that is six inches of rain or more in 48 hours. Clearly, all of those washes are full of some water there today. From Alexandria back to Louisiana, seeing some showers, even some coming into New Orleans. There's a live shot from our Gulf coast bureau with an X at the end, and that would be the Crescent City connection bridge. Do you know that that is the fifth most heavily trafficked bridge, toll bridge, in the U.S.? 63 million vehicles go over those bridges every year, awful lot of people, 50 cents an axle. That's pretty good. That's almost like winning the lottery if you can get all that for 50 cents. But anyway, there's an awful lot of traffic that's going to get wet today. We are expecting some strong, possibly even some severe weather in that area today. Guys, back to you.
HARRIS: All right, Chad. Appreciate it. We knew that.
COLLINS: I totally knew that.
HARRIS: You knew that it was fifth, not fourth.
COLLINS: I knew it was fifth And I even knew how much they charged.
HARRIS: That's your story and you're sticking with that?
COLLINS: Completely. It's only 9:42. We've got a long way to do.
HARRIS: Thanks, Chad.
HARRIS: Word of faulty flood pumps installed in New Orleans despite warnings that they didn't work properly. They were supposed to provide a new ring of protection in addition to levees and other pumps like this one. But an Associated Press report says the new pumps are being taken out and overhauled because of excessive vibration. The report cites other problems too, including overheated engines, broken hoses and blown gaskets. The AP says the pumps were installed in the rush to prepare for the 2006 hurricane season. The season was mild and the pumps were never pressed into service.
COLLINS: The bridges to nowhere. They're back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like a horror movie where the villain just doesn't die. You think it's killed, you think it's killed and it just keeps coming back from the dead. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: What's in it for me? We're going to ask that question for you coming up in the NEWSROOM.
HARRIS: And there is no going back after this wedding. A bride leaves her family behind for good. Marriage in the Middle East in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: OK, so we're back, checking the numbers again, not that we want to obsess over anything, but it is certainly a story of the day. Dow Jones Industrial Averages up about 21 points there, 22 now, 12,097. Nasdaq is up about six as well. So, this is certainly a better direction than we went yesterday. All of these sub-prime lenders are really becoming the story today and how they're affecting the Asian markets, as well, so we're going to watch it for you.
HARRIS: The nation's top prosecutor himself standing accused, did Alberto Gonzales play politics in his firings of eight U.S. attorneys? He concedes he mishandled the firings. No argument from our next guest, a veteran of the Justice Department, Bruce Fein, served under Ronald Reagan as an associate deputy attorney general. Bruce, great to see you.
BRUCE FEIN, FMR ASSOCIATE DEP. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Nice to be with you this morning.
HARRIS: We hashed out some of these issues in a conversation earlier this morning, can't wait for folks to get the full breadth of your view on this. But first of all, let's listen to what the attorney general said to Miles O'Brien this morning on "American Morning."
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ALBERTO GONZALEZ, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: U.S. attorneys, I value their independence and professionalism, what they do in the community and this was not -- these decisions were not based for political reasons. We made an evaluation. I directed an evaluation within the Department of Justice. I charged my chief of staff to look to see where we could do better in districts around the country. The decisions were not based in any way on retaliation, were not based in any way to interfere with an ongoing public corruption case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: Ok, Bruce, what do you think?
FEIN: Well, those are statements but they're not corroborated by what the e-mail traffic between the White House and the Justice Department demonstrate. This was not a record that shows that the Department of Justice surveyed all 94 U.S. attorneys and said, gee, where are the weak spots, let's review the records of each one and those that seem incompetent we'll remove. The origination of the idea of removal came from Harriet Miers, the White House counsel and there was communication between the White House and Alberto Gonzales' chief of staff there, Kyle Sampson, who resigned earlier.
This clearly was an effort by those with political power in the White House or in Congress to try to get a re-evaluation of U.S. attorneys who they thought were doing insufficient prosecution or focus on the areas that they wanted focused on, voter fraud amongst other things. The reason why that's dangerous is that we expect the rule of law to be administered evenhandedly. That's what ties our country together and gives legitimacy to decisions by the court and to the government itself. When it's obvious that the prosecution function is being manipulated for political purposes, that undermines the entire rule of law.
HARRIS: OK. How good a job in your opinion is the administration doing? There were statements yesterday as you know in pushing back against the perception that this was an evaluation that was instigated at the behest of the White House.
FEIN: Well, I don't think they've been very successful at all. Their credibility has been quite destroyed because they've changed stories several times as to the origination of the impetus to re- evaluate the U.S. attorneys. Remember that Harriet Miers back in 2005 insinuated that all 93 or 94 U.S. attorneys might be removed. That kind of blanket removal is not indicative of a case-by-case basis evaluation of a prosecutor to see whether they're sufficiently competent or devoted to the policies of the administration to warrant their attention. It's just a blanket removal.
And some of the e-mails indicate that the removals were intended to simply substantiate a practice new under the Patriot Act extension, that enabled the administration rather than a Federal judge to appoint interim United States attorneys. This was a chance, I think Kyle Samson said, if we're going to have the power here, we might as well utilize it. Otherwise what's it for? That is indicative not of a case-by-case evaluation but trying to exercise on a blanket basis an authority to entrench it more firmly in the constitutional constellation.
HARRIS: Talk to us about what happened during the Reagan years. Carter is out, Reagan is in. What happened there? Was there kind of a wholesale shuffle of U.S. attorneys?
FEIN: Well, there's a difference when you have a new administration coming in that is looking at U.S. attorneys that were appointed by a president of a different political party. Surely it's customary that when you have a Republican replacing a Democrat or a Democrat replacing a Republican in the White House, that you have a general turnover in the U.S. attorneys offices because they legitimately can be told they need to support a president's policies. For example, one president may support strong efforts to get the death penalty in serious cases; another may not and you need U.S. attorneys who will enforce that general policy, evenhandedly applied. In this case in 2005, 2006, was not a case where they were examining holdovers from a Democratic administration. These were Republican loyalists who had been appointed, confirmed by the Senate with the support of their Republican senators or members of Congress who were Republicans and that's what makes these removals somewhat suspicious.
HARRIS: Bruce, one more quick question here. In your view, should the attorney general resign?
FEIN: Yes, I do think the attorney general should resign. I think the Justice Department needs to be like Caesar's wife, above suspicion, because the rule of law is essential to the legitimacy of government and the confidence people have that they should obey the law, it's being evenhandedly applied. And I do not think the attorney general now is in a position now to say he's above suspicion.
HARRIS: Bruce Fein, thanks for your time this morning.
FEIN: Thank you.
COLLINS: Car running, shots fired. Shoot-out caught on a dashcam coming up next in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A traffic stop, an everyday occurrence, but after pulling over, this driver pulled away and opened up. Reporter Charles Dunson (ph) of our affiliate WTNJ picks up the story from Milwaukee.
CHARLES DUNSON, WTNJ (voice-over): From the moment Robert Brown jumped out of his car, he started shooting. Officer Brian Miller fired back and called for help.
UNIDENTIFIED OFFICER: Shots fired. Shots fired. 33. 1078.
DUNSON: After a tense 10 seconds of silence, more shots are fired. The suspect now hiding off to the left continues shooting as bullets ricocheted off nearby homes. Officer Miller hit the suspect once in both arms, but that didn't stop the shooting. Police believe the suspect knew what he was doing.
LT. RON BARTHOLOMEW, KENOSHA POLICE: The only thing that makes any sense is that he was trying to get the officer down a dead-end road.
DUNSON: Dash cam shows the officer pulling Brown over for a broken taillight. After a brief stop, Brown pulls away and leads the officer down the dead-end road where the shoot-out started.
COLLINS: Officers eventually caught up with the suspect. They say he dropped his gun but refused to surrender. He was tasered, taken into custody, and now faces an attempted homicide charge. Officer Miller's actions have been cleared by the police board.
HARRIS: Risky mortgages sapping your investment portfolio? Take a look at the big board. We were up about 30 points not that long ago. The markets have been rattled by the specter of sub-prime defaults. We'll check the markets all morning in the NEWSROOM.
COLLINS: A little girl scared and in pain. Firefighters rush to the rescue with -- soap?
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UNIDENTIFIED FIREFIGHTER: We put some soap on her hand and worked it until it came free.
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COLLINS: Curious fingers snagged by an ATM's money dispenser, stuck for cash in the NEWSROOM.
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