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THE SITUATION ROOM
Attorney Firings Situation; Valerie Plame Testifies; Donald Trump Interview
Aired March 16, 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, Kitty.
Happening now, Congress wants to know who ordered the firings of those federal attorneys. The Bush administration is not yet prepared to let top officials testify. Can the top official at the Justice Department keep his job?
She was outed in the CIA leak case, now a former operative breaking her silence for the first time saying that Bush administration leak took lives at risk.
And Donald Trump here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's all fired up on presidential politics, the war in Iraq. He wants U.S. troops out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know how they get out? They get out. That's how they get out. Declare victory and leave.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But we begin with the news coming in from CBS News. CBS News says the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, is on his way out right now. However, and this is a big however, the White House immediately firing back to that report from CBS News.
Let's go right to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. This is a bombshell if CBS News is right. What are they saying at the White House, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I just spoke with Dana Perino. She's the deputy press secretary here at the White House. She says that CBS News is dead wrong. She says that President Bush has no intention of getting rid of his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, says he has all the confidence in him, that that is just dead wrong and that anybody who is close to the president knows the president and is thinking, realizes and recognizes that that is not going to happen.
Now Wolf, I have to tell you, I've spoken to a lot of people who are friends of those here at the White House and GOP strategists. They want Gonzales gone. They're putting a lot of pressure on this president. One of them saying that look, Gonzales has a constituency of one and that is the president, that that is the only person who can save his job. But tonight, Wolf, White House officials who I've spoken to say that that is exactly the person who's saving his job, that the president does not intend to let him go.
BLITZER: Let me be precise, Suzanne, a report with Katie Couric said tonight in leading her broadcast, she said tonight he's on his way out. She went on to say it's looking tonight like the attorney general will be taking the fall for the firing of those federal prosecutors. She says the president will soon be forced to let his longtime friend and colleague go. Strong words from the lead anchor of CBS News. But what you're hearing tonight from Dana Perino on the record is that that report is flat wrong?
MALVEAUX: And she also says nothing has changed since the briefing. You can go to Tony Snow, the press secretary on the record earlier today essentially saying the same thing. Make no mistake, Wolf, there's a lot of pressure on this White House to fire Gonzales, but tonight White House officials say there is no such plan to do so.
BLITZER: What are they saying about letting top officials at the White House, including Karl Rove, actually go up to Capitol Hill and testify under oath about what happened?
MALVEAUX: Essentially they punted here. They kicked the can forward. They said they need more time. The White House counsel met with members of Congress and said that look, there are a lot of serious matters that are going on. We need more time to process this.
This is a White House that takes very seriously executive privilege. It has been the tradition, the practice of this administration and this president, the call for executive privilege; they don't want to bring them forward to testify under oath. They're working out some negotiations. That's a battle that will continue this weekend, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Suzanne. Thanks very much. We'll continue to watch this story closely.
So who came up with the plan to fire federal prosecutors? The White House backtracks to a certain degree. Was it a political payback of sorts? Congress has serious questions. Is the White House ready, though, to give the answers?
Let's go to our Brian Todd. He's investigating this part of the story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're told the questions about possible motivations to fire these attorneys could soon become a very important part of this investigation.
TODD (voice-over): Congressional sources tell CNN it could become the focus in the investigation of the firings of U.S. attorneys if there was any political pressure brought to bear on them because they were pursuing sensitive probes of Republican officials. One of the fired attorneys, Carol Lam from San Diego, had just overseen a corruption case that led to a guilty plea and prison sentence for Republican Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham. Senators asked Lam last week if her firing had anything to do with the probe.
CAROL LAM, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I did not receive any pressure from the Department of Justice or any intimation that I was being removed because of the Cunningham investigation.
TODD: But according to published reports, another investigation spun off from the Cunningham case targeting Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis of California. Lam wouldn't comment when we asked her about that. It's unclear whether any investigation is ongoing at this point. A spokesman for Lewis said only that he's followed the highest standards of conduct, and he never contacted the Justice Department or the White House about any of these cases. The attorney general has said this about the firings of Lam and her colleagues.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Those decisions were not based for political reasons.
TODD: But last fall the office of another fired U.S. attorney, Paul Charlton, started a preliminary inquiry in to another Republican, then Congressman Jim Kolbe of Arizona, related to the congressional page scandal and Charlton was asked last week at a House hearing if he'd been investigating Republican Congressman Rick Renzi (ph).
PAUL CHARLTON, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It's our policy to neither confirm nor deny whether there's an ongoing investigation of any individual.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a White House spokesman said the attorneys' dismissals had nothing to do with any particular cases they were pursuing.
TODD: And on these two attorneys in particular, Justice Department officials and the White House have said Carol Lam was let go because she did not pursue immigration or gun cases vigorously enough, and in Charlton's case, they say he was asked to pursue some key death penalty cases and he refused -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you.
Democratic lawmakers, by the way, are deeply disappointed the White House has put off a decision on congressional testimony, but could top officials find themselves actually forced to testify. The House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers says this. Let me read it.
The committee must take steps to ensure that we are not being stonewalled or slow walked on this matter. And he's adding, I will schedule a vote to issue subpoenas next week for the documents and officials we need to talk to.
Other news we're following, an outed CIA operative speaks out, Valerie Plame Wilson. Today she spoke to lawmakers at a House hearing over whether or not the Bush administration mishandled classified information by leaking her identity. Plame Wilson says she always feared she could be outed by foreign governments but she says she never imagined it would come out the way it did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VALERIE PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: I worked on behalf of the national security of our country on behalf of the people of the United States, until my name and true affiliation were exposed in the national media on July 14, 2003. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA, and having signed oaths to protect national security secrets, they should have been diligent in protecting me and every CIA officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And she also talked about her reaction to first learning that she'd been outed in an op-ed piece by the columnist...
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PLAME WILSON: I found out very early in the morning when my husband came in and dropped the newspaper on the bed and said he did it. And I quickly turned and read the article, and I felt like I had been hit in the gut. I -- it was over an instant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Coming up, Brian Todd will have much more on this story. We hear for the first time from Valerie Plame Wilson.
Jack Cafferty is off today, but coming up, this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would probably be inclined not to like him on the basis that he lost an election that should have been won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Donald Trump here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's taking off the gloves on the Democrats, the president, the war in Iraq, a lot more. This is an interview you're going to want to see and hear.
Plus, a lot of men in Washington may be off the hook. A judge orders the so-called D.C. madam not to sell her secrets.
And school bus warning -- the FBI warns local police about extremists seeking licenses. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You're fired. It appears that's what one billionaire businessman would say to the chief executive of the United States if he could. The Donald is blasting President Bush's job performance and he's not too kind in his reviews of some of the other presidential candidates. But might he become a political apprentice himself?
And joining us now, Donald Trump -- Donald Trump, thanks for coming in.
DONALD TRUMP, CHMN. AND PRES., THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Thank you.
BLITZER: Actually, we should thank you for allowing us to come into your office.
TRUMP: Well, I'm a fan, Wolf, and it's my honor. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
Let's talk politics. All right, a lot of people thinking about politics right now. I'm going to mention some names; give me your thoughts right away.
TRUMP: Very talented, very smart. She's a friend of mine, so I'm a little bit prejudiced. She's a very, very capable person and I think she'll probably be the nominee. We'll see, but I think she'll probably be the nominee.
BLITZER: Is she ready to be commander-in-chief?
TRUMP: I think she is. I think she's a very, very brilliant person, and as a senator in New York, she has done a great job. Everybody loves her. She just won an election with a tremendous majority and she really -- she's become very, very popular in New York. And it wasn't easy.
BLITZER: Barack Obama.
TRUMP: Well, he's a star. I mean, he's really done an amazing job in a very short period of time. The question is experience, and do people want to have somebody get in that doesn't have the great experience? But certainly he's made an impact.
BLITZER: What do you think? Is he qualified? Is he ready to be president?
TRUMP: I think he's young. I think he's probably -- it's a little bit soon. I think his time might come, but I think it's too soon.
BLITZER: John Edwards.
TRUMP: I don't know him. People like him. I know people that like him very much, but I really don't know.
BLITZER: Even though he was the vice presidential nominee last time around.
TRUMP: Well, I think that's a huge negative, because that was a shame that that race was lost, because look what we have right now. It's a disaster. So, you know, I would probably be inclined not to like him on the basis that he lost an election that should have been won. That election should have been won.
BLITZER: Well, do you blame him or John Kerry?
TRUMP: Well, I guess you have to say it's a combination of both. Now obviously the second man on the ticket doesn't have too much of an impact, in comparison to the first, but -- and I like John Kerry a lot, he's a wonderful guy, he's somebody I know and I have -- he's a friend of mine -- but I'm so upset that he blew it.
BLITZER: You're upset because you dislike the current president.
TRUMP: Well, I think Bush is probably the worst president in the history of the United States, and I just don't understand how they could have lost that election.
BLITZER: Let's get back to that in a moment.
Let's talk about Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York.
TRUMP: Very, very talented, smart, tough, very formidable in every way. And I think if it's him and Hillary, it's going to be a hell of a tough race.
BLITZER: Can he get the Republican nomination, given his views on some of the social issues, like abortion rights for women?
TRUMP: Well, based on the polls, he's doing fantastically. I mean, I saw a poll today, he's up 25 percent. So based on the polls, he's really doing fantastically well. He's a very good guy. He's a very tough person, which I think the country needs. He's got a lot of fantastic qualities.
BLITZER: John McCain.
TRUMP: I don't know him well. I respect him. I like him. He doesn't seem to have picked up like I would have assumed, because if you would have asked me this question a year ago, it looked like he was going to walk into the nomination, and now Rudy is doing so well in the polls that it's really amazing.
BLITZER: So what happened to McCain?
TRUMP: I don't know what happened. I think probably the fact that he said I want more troops going over to Iraq. Anybody that wants more troops going over to Iraq, I think, can't win an election.
BLITZER: But Rudy Giuliani supports that position...
TRUMP: Well, he's supporting it, but he's supporting it in a much weaker way. I mean, if you listen to both of them, Rudy is not supporting it with the same vigor that John is.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney.
TRUMP: I know him; I like him -- very attractive guy. I think he's probably, you know, up against two people that are way ahead. But he's certainly an attractive candidate. He's a very smart guy.
BLITZER: You have a lot of New Yorkers toying with this right now, including maybe even the current mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. What do you think of the possibility that he could throw his hat in the ring?
TRUMP: Well, I think he's a fantastic person. He's somebody that I know and respect. He's been a wonderful mayor of this city; he's done a great job. And I think he'd be formidable and he can spend the money that it takes to get elected. I think he'd be very formidable.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the New Yorkers for a second, because you know these people, up close and personal.
TRUMP: I know every one of them well.
BLITZER: All right. So if I had to press you, who is in your mind right now, the most qualified, the most ready, the person you want to lead this country?
TRUMP: Well, I don't want to say, because I know Hillary and I have great respect, and I know Rudy and I have great respect, and I know Michael Bloomberg -- now he -- I don't think we have to talk about him because he hasn't said he's going to do anything -- and I have great respect.
So, you know, it's really interesting that in a whole country, three of the very, very prominent people being mentioned -- and two of them are leading in the polls -- are from New York.
BLITZER: So it sounds like, if the contest turned out to be Rudy Giuliani versus Hillary Clinton, you, Donald Trump, would be torn.
TRUMP: I'd make a decision, because I believe in that. I don't believe in supporting two people. You know I have friends; they support 15 different candidates for the same office. I don't believe in that; that's almost like prostitution. And I just feel that there are two great candidates and I would make a decision. But I'm not going to make it now because there's no reason to.
BLITZER: But is your instinct more attuned with the Republicans or the Democrats?
TRUMP: I'm very much independent in that way; I go for the person, not necessarily for the party. I mean, I vote for Republicans and I vote for Democrats. Look, Hillary's a Democrat, Rudy's a Republican, I think they're both fantastic. I really am much more attuned to the people, as opposed to the party.
BLITZER: Last time we spoke in this room, you were thinking obo running for the presidency -- remember that?
TRUMP: No, I was never thinking of running. I was -- I think -- by the way, I think I'd do a very good job. You wouldn't be in the mess that you're in right now. But I was never thinking of running.
BLITZER: You were toying with the idea.
TRUMP: Years ago, they said I ran for president -- I never ran for president.
BLITZER: You never ran, but you were considering it. Roger Snow (ph) was one of your...
TRUMP: People wanted me...
BLITZER: ... political advisers, and he was floating that idea.
TRUMP: People wanted me very much to run. The Independent Party wanted me to run, and the Independent Party turned out to be a total catastrophe, in terms of they ended up with fistfights and fighting and everything else. But I was never seriously considering running.
But you know it's something that people, because I get good ratings on television, because your show now will get good ratings, because "The Apprentice" has always been so strong, et cetera, et cetera. People have always wanted me to run, and I just have always decided not to do it.
BLITZER: And are you ruling it out now?
TRUMP: Pretty much, yes. I mean, I would say this. It would certainly be fun, it would certainly be interesting. I think I could do a very good job. But the answer is I'm just not interested in running. I'm building buildings all over the world right now -- all over the world. I'm probably the largest real estate developer there is and I'm having a lot of fun doing it.
So I really -- and I'm loving it, I'm just loving it. So I think I have to rule myself out.
BLITZER: Strong words from Donald Trump, but wait until you hear what he says about the current Bush administration. Here's a little bit of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Condoleezza Rice, who's a lovely woman but she never makes a deal. She doesn't make deals. She waves. She gets off the plane. She waves. She sits down with some dictator, 45-degree angle. They do the camera shot. She waves again. She gets back on the plane. She waves. No deal ever happens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A candid take on the White House. The war, the secretary of state, more of my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump, that's coming up.
Also -- rescued at sea. Find out how a man survived eight hours after going overboard from a cruise ship. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring stories coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM from around the world. What's crossing the wire, Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well we start out with a disturbing story. There's word that some members of extremist groups have signed up as school bus drivers in the United States. Counter terror officials have sent an advisory to state and local law enforcement agencies, asking them to look out for the children's safety, but they say there is no known threat. An FBI spokesman says parents and children have nothing to fear.
A mixed decision in the case involving an unarmed man who was shot and killed by New York City police officers on the eve of his wedding day, a grand jury has indicted three of the five officers. That's the word from two attorneys, each representing one of the defendants.
The State Department says it no longer recommends that Americans adopt children from Guatemala. The department cites rampant problems of fraud and extortion. Guatemala has been the second largest source of orphans coming in to the United States. Some adoption officials are outraged about the State Department's recommendation. They say it's an overreaction that will leave hundreds of children stranded in Guatemalan foster homes.
And a man who apparently jumped from a cruise ship off the coast of Florida is recovering tonight. Officials from Carnival Cruise Lines say he jumped from the balcony in his room to the water shortly before 1:00 this morning. A witness says he was drunk. The Coast Guard rescued the man about eight hours later. Eight hours he was in the water. He was flown to a hospital. The Coast Guard says he has mild hypothermia but he's in pretty good shape.
Back to you, Wolf.
BLITZER: He may have been drunk, but he was I guess healthy enough to float for eight hours...
COSTELLO: He was good swimmer. BLITZER: Yes. Good for him. Well, next time, don't drink. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.
Just ahead, Donald Trump comes out swinging. Yes, the president, the war in Iraq and what he calls lies in Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction, it was a total lie. It was a way of attacking Iraq, which he felt was going to be easy and it turned out to be the exact opposite of easy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The political side of the real estate mogul -- my one- on-one interview continues with Donald Trump.
Also, plus this: Ugly politics, why John Edwards is getting attacked for being good looking. Carol Costello will be back with that. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now -- a coroner's inquest in Britain concludes that a friendly fire attack in Iraq by U.S. forces was unlawful and criminal. In 2003 a U.S. tank buster (ph) jet opened fire on what turned out to be a British convoy. A British soldier was killed. The assistant deputy coroner says the incident was avoidable.
Long live Oprah. That's what some children in South Africa chanted about Oprah Winfrey today. She opened a second school for underprivileged children. The environmentally friendly almost $2 million school uses merry-go-rounds to pump water and gardens that supply vegetables for school meals.
And it appears an alleged madam won't be naming names after all. A judge has blocked the alleged former escort operator from selling her client list. Deborah Jean Palfrey had said she planned to sell the names of 15,000 clients to a news organization for money to defend herself.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He says Iraq was better off with Saddam Hussein. That the United States should get out and that in Washington everything is a lie -- more now with my one-on-one interview with Donald Trump, firing off about the Bush administration and the war.
BLITZER: The war is hovering over politics right now, as it should. This is the dominant issue, at least right now of our time. Give us your assessment. Is there a way out?
TRUMP: The war is total disaster. It's a catastrophe, nothing less. It is such a shame that this took place. In fact, I gained a lot of respect for our current president's father by the fact that he had the sense not to go in to Iraq. He won the war and then said let's not go the rest of the way and he turned out to be right.
And Saddam Hussein, whether they like him or didn't like him, he hated terrorists. He'd shoot and kill terrorists. When terrorists came in to his country, which he did control and he did dominate, he would kill terrorists. Now it's a breeding ground for terrorists. So, look, the war is a total catastrophe...
BLITZER: Who do you blame?
TRUMP: ... and they have a civil war going on...
BLITZER: Who do you blame?
TRUMP: Well there's only one person you can blame and that's our current president. I mean obviously Rumsfeld was a disaster and other people that are giving him advice have been a disaster, and Condoleezza Rice, who's a lovely woman, but she never makes a deal. She doesn't make deals. She waves. She gets off the plane. She waves. She sits down with some dictator 45-degree angle. They do the camera shot. She waves again. She gets back on the plane. She waves. No deal ever happens, so I mean...
BLITZER: You got to close a deal at some point?
TRUMP: You got to make deals. The world is dying to make deals and we don't have the right people doing it.
BLITZER: The vice president, Dick Cheney.
TRUMP: Well he's obviously a very hawkish guy on the war. He said the war was going fantastically just a few months ago, and you know, it's just very sad. I don't know if they're bad people. I don't know what's going on. I just know that they got us in to a mess, the likes of which this country has probably never seen.
It's one of the great catastrophes of all time and perhaps even worse, the rest of the world hates us. You go throughout Europe, I travel, I do deals all over the world. The Europeans hate us. You go to Germany. You go to England, you go to places that, you know, we didn't have problems with. They all hate the Americans because of what's happened.
We had a chance after September 11th to be the most -- for the first time ever, to be the most popular nation on earth. And we blew it. Everybody, for the first time people felt sympathy. I'm not saying it's a great thing to have sympathy in terms of yourself, but for the first time they felt a sympathy and love for this country because of what happened. And we blew it.
BLITZER: How does the United States get out of this situation? Is there a way ... TRUMP: You know how they get out? They get out. That's how they get out. Declare victory and leave, because I'll tell you, this country is just going to get further bogged down. They're in a civil war over there, Wolf. There's nothing that we're going to be able to do with a civil war. They are in a major civil war.
And it's going to go to Iran, and it's going to go to other countries. They are in the midst of a major civil war. And there's nothing -- by the way, we're keeping the lid on a little bit but date we leave anyway it's all going to blow up. And Saddam Hussein will be a nice person compared to the man and it will be a man, it will not a woman, that we understand. People say, oh, gee, you didn't give a woman a chance. It will be a man.
Compared to the person that takes over for Saddam Hussein, he will be considered a nice person. This guy will be the meanest, the worst guy and he'll have one thing, one thing, he will hate America, and he'll use that to flame. So, I mean, this is a total catastrophe and you might as well get out now, because you just are wasting time.
BLITZER: What ...
TRUMP: And lives. You know, nobody talks about the soldiers that are coming back with no arms and no legs. And I saw at Mara Lago on Mondays, I make Mara Lago, my club that you know about.
BLITZER: In Palm Beach ...
TRUMP: I make that --- twice now, on a Monday I let returning Iraqi injured soldiers come to the premises. The most beautiful people I've ever seen. But they're missing arms and legs, they're with their wives, sometimes they're with their girlfriends.
And the tears are coming down the faces of these people. I mean, thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands, and the Iraqis that have been just maimed and killed.
This war is a horrible thing. Now, President Bush says he's religious. And yet 400,000 people, the way I count it, have died, and probably millions have been badly maimed and injured.
What's going on? What's going on? And the day we pull out it's going to explode. We're keeping the lid on a little bit. It's still a catastrophe, but the day we pull out, because they're in a civil war. Whether we want to admit it or not, they're in a civil war.
BLITZER: What do you think of some of these scandals that are unfolding in Washington right now? As we speak the attorney general is under fire. Alberto Gonzales. What do you make of this as an executive trying to watch an administration?
TRUMP: Look, everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction. It was a total lie. It was a way of attacking Iraq, which he thought was going to be easy and it turned out to be the exact opposite of easy. He reads 60 books a year. He read as book a week. That's -- did you think that's -- do you think the president reads a book week? I don't think so.
He doesn't watch television. Now, one thing I know is when I'm on television I watch. Or I try, because you do. Your own ego says, let's watch. Let's see. Whether it's good or bad, you want to watch. He doesn't watch television.
So he's on television being interviewed by you or something else, hesdoesn't watch. Does anybody really believe that? Now they are doing this whole scandal with the U.S. attorneys. Now they're finding e-mails. And it's proven to be a lie. Everything's a lie. It's all a big lie.
BLITZER: So what's going to happen?
TRUMP: Well, it depends. If the Democrats get their act together they're going to have is a big victory in a couple of years, and it's going to be interesting to see what happens with this whole thing with the attorney general. It's a very sad situation.
BLITZER: What's next for Donald Trump?
TRUMP: Well, I just want to keep doing what I'm doing. I'm having a great time, building all over the world, I'm having a really great time and it's been a lot of fun, and it's always fun to be interviewed by you.
BLITZER: Thanks for doing it.
TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you, Wolf.
TRUMP: And still ahead tonight a former CIA operative breaking her silence on the leak which blew her cover. Is she blaming the White House for putting lives at risk?
And is there a biological basis to homosexuality that could be reversed in the womb? A Christian conservative leader raising a new controversy. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: In the run-up to the war in Iraq, there were many key players. Now one of them is speaking out. The former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson is saying who she thinks is responsible for her outing. Let's turn to Brian Todd once again for details.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Mrs. Wilson minced no words about who she thinks leaked her identity in front of a packed hearing on Capitol Hill today, she pointed the finger straight down Pennsylvania Avenue.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) TODD (voice-over): Valerie Plame Wilson blames the White House for blowing her CIA cover.
PLAME WILSON: My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA.
TODD: But did anyone know she was covert or was blowing her cover just the accidental side-effect of a spin war?
REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Because there's no evidence here that anyone out there had any idea that it was an undercover agent.
TODD: A special prosecutor did not charge any administration officials for knowingly leaking classified information and the leakers themselves did not testify today.
But two White House security officials did.
REP. HARRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Because the president said he was investigating this matter and was going to get to the bottom of it.
You don't -- you're not familiar that any -- you're not aware that any investigation took place?
JAMES KNODELL, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SECURITY: Not within my office, sir.
TODD: That does not sit well with Valerie Plame Wilson.
PLAME WILSON: Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name and he still carries a security clearance to this day, despite the president's words to the contrary, that he would immediately dismiss anyone who had anything to do with this.
TODD: In an interview with CNN in 2004, Rove denied that he leaked her name. But columnist Robert Novak testified in the Scooter Libby trial that Rove was one of his sources for Plame Wilson's identity.
What's the point of her testimony now?
JIM VANDERHEI, POLITICO.COM: What Democrats want to put a human face on what's been a long and complicated scandal. They want people to know this wasn't just an abstract case about nothing. It's about somebody whose identity was blown and whose career was essentially ruined.
TODD (on camera): We contacted the White House about Plame Wilson's remarks that the administration did nothing to discipline Karl Rove for his alleged involvement in leaking her identity. A spokesman there would not comment. Wolf?
BLITZER: Brian, thank you.
One of America's arch foes wants to pay a visit. Does the United States, though, have to roll out the red carpet? Let's go to our State Department correspondent, Zain Verjee. Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, guess who wants to come to America again. U.S. enemy, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
(voice-over): He's making a grab for the megaphone. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to go back to the United Nations in New York and tell the world why Iran should have a nuclear program. Iran's president has asked for almost 40 visas. The U.S. has to hold its nose and help.
SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We are going to make every effort to expedite the processing of these visa applications.
VERJEE: The U.S. is in a tough spot. It's a free speech champion, and the host country of the UN so it has to accept America haters and stomach their insults. Nikita Khrushchev pounded the table in dramatic Cold War theater. Fidel Castro condemned what he called U.S. imperialism.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez mocked President Bush at the UN last year.
HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Yesterday the devil came here!
VERJEE: And now, President Ahmadinejad wants to come. He's within his rights to argue Iran's case at the UN since it faces new sanctions by the Security Council. The world wants Iran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for a nuclear bomb. Iran says its program is only to generate electricity, but Iran's flaunting its nuclear policy, printing an atomic symbol on its money. The U.S. says reverse course.
MCCORMACK: Wouldn't it be the right moment for President Ahmadinejad to seize the opportunity top say, we are going to reach out and take the hand that has been extended to us with the offer of negotiation? Is that offer is still open?
VERJEE (on camera): Ahmadinejad has called a sanctions plan, "torn pieces of paper," the State Department says rhetoric like that just doesn't help. Wolf?
BLITZER: Zain, thank you.
Iran's president, by the way, as Zain just pointed out, isn't the only world leader that's been a thorn in President Bush's side. At the United Nations last fall the Venezuelan president referred to Mr. Bush as the devil and tells ABC's Barbara Walters he isn't sorry about that. Listen to this little clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHAVEZ (through translator): Yes, I called him a devil in the united nations. That's true. In another occasion, another time I said that he was a donkey, because I think that he is very ignorant about things that have actually have happened in Latin America and the world. If that is an excess on my part, I accept and I might apologize, but who is causing more harm? Do I cause any harm by calling him a devil? He burns people, villages, and he invades nations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Chavez also insists the CIA is collaborating with dissident elements within Venezuela to assassinate him. He's been saying that for a while.
Coming up. Ugly politics. Find out why some people are mudslinging over John Edwards' good looks.
Also, stealing the spotlight. Jeanne Moos checks out what's going on behind some of Washington's biggest newsmakers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Politics especially presidential politics, can get pretty ugly. But usually it's not over a candidate's good looks. The race to '08 is going down that road and one Democrat in particular is taking the hit. Let's go back to Carol Costello. She's got this part of the story. Carol?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Wolf, it's sad how much looks play a part in this election. Some say Hillary Clinton needs to be softer, and Bill Richardson needs to be more charismatic. As for John Edwards, there is an orchestrated campaign.
COSTELLO (voice-over): The politics of pretty is getting ugly. John Edwards in 2004 they dogged him when he ran as vice president.
JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: First of all I want to thank all of you for coming.
COSTELLO: Now he's front and center looking fabulous in a laid- back Gap kind of way, it's paved the way for political enemies to brand him the equivalent of a dumb blond. Take a peak at Rush Limbaugh's Web site. Edwards appears in a wig and Limbaugh often refers to him feminine terms.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Also we've decided any further John Edwards we'll use this as this tune as the official update them for the Breck Girl.
(MUSIC) LIMBAUGH: Are you listening Ann Coulter?
COSTELLO: All of this climaxed with neocon Ann Coulter's now infamous Edwards' slur, some say meant to further feminize Edwards and to make him appear weak. Those who help candidates with their image say it's unfair.
DIANE HARRIS, POLITICAL IMAGE CONSULTAN: John Edwards is, his looks are consistent with his message. You know, he's a champion of the middle class, and the poor, and I think he has a very approachable all-American clean-cut good look.
COSTELLO: Some analysts say that may be Edwards' intent but ugly partisan politics aside, good looks can work against you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last really cute president, frankly, we've had, was Kennedy, that was 47 years ago. And so - you look at LBJ, you can talk about Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan. Bush I, Clinton, Bush II. I mean, we really haven't had a stud as president.
COSTELLO: And some analysts say other candidates worry about that too. Barack Obama said he was embarrassed when this picture hit "People" magazine. A potential voter saying at the time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He doesn't look so good that he's spending all his time working out. He's probably paying more attention to policy matters.
COSTELLO: Republican candidate Mitt Romney may have a bit of a pretty problem, too. Listen as Wolf Blitzer asks Donald Trump to rate him as a presidential candidate.
BLITZER: Mitt Romney.
TRUMP: I know him. I like him. Very attractive guy. I think he's probably, you know, up against two people that are way ahead. But he's certainly an attractive candidate, he's a very smart guy.
BLITZER: As for whether Romney's looks will translate to the same brand of ugliness Edwards' has, well, the campaign is still young.
COSTELLO (on camera): As for why neocons would pick on John Edwards, one pundit says some believe Edwards is the guy who will eventually move to the head of the pack. This is the strategy they're using to cut him down early.
Others told me it was just mean-spirited fun. One more thing, Wolf, about a story I did earlier in the week. After it aired two of the front-running Democratic presidential candidates have come out with fresh statements on the answer of gays in the military in reaction to that story that was covered this week.
It moved front and center when Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace said homosexual acts are immoral. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a statement saying, "I have heard from many of my friends in the gay community my response yesterday to a question about homosexuality being immoral sounded evasive. My intention was to focus the conversation on the failed don't ask don't tell policy. I should have echoed my colleague Senator John Warner's statement forcefully stating that homosexuality is not immoral because that is what I believe."
Likewise, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois had this to say. "As the 'New York Times' reported today I do not agree with General Pace that homosexuality is immoral. Attempts to divide people like this have consumed too much of our politics over the past six years."
So there you have it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks for the update, Carol. Have a great weekend.
In the culture wars, the following question has emerged as the great debate over homosexuality continues. Is it a lifestyle choice, or are people born gay? Now there's a fresh hypothetical and it's stirring up the argument once again. Let's go back to CNN's Mary Snow. She has got more on that in New York. Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is an argument that's gaining a lot of attention. It stemmed from an article written by a Southern Baptist leader. In it he raised the question about -- involving gays, genetics and God.
SNOW (voice-over): If you knew your unborn baby was gay and there was a prenatal treatment to change that, would you? Southern Baptist leader Reverend Albert Mohler suggests there could be a biological basis. And if there was, he says the Bible would sanction a change in biology, reasoning homosexuality is a sin.
REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: I think if you went to Christian parents and said, look, here is, here's a way you can help your child not just to deal with homosexuality in terms of resisting homosexual acts but actually to have -- to have that entire process reversed. I think l think most Christian parents would go for it in a heartbeat.
SNOW: Gay rights supporters are outraged.
HARRY KNOX, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Being gay is an immutable, unchangeable gift from God. And to act as if we can throw that gift back by using hormone treatments on fetuses in the womb is just reprehensible.
SNOW: Some evangelicals are unhappy, too, they say being gay is a choice and a sin overcome by prayer and counseling. Mohler provoked the debate commenting on research he read about but admits there's no proof its credible and experts agree.
ARTHUR CAPLAN, UNIV. OF PA. CENTER FOR BIOETHICS: As of today there is no simple marker, no simple test, nothing you could do to say that person is going to become gay.
SNOW: Bioethics expert Arthur Kaplan says he wouldn't be surprised if tests in a decade or so could determine the likelihood of someone's sexual orientation. He sees it as dangerous territory and one where firm rules need to be established.
CAPLAN: Are we going to allow doctors to encourage those who do genetic testing to do this kind of thing just because it fits somebody's preference? Somebody's bias? Somebody's bigotry?
SNOW (on camera): And the bioethics expert we spoke with says the job of medicine is treat disease and disorder. He advocates laws to prevent genetic testing from being used for anything else, such as sexual differences.
BLITZER: How did this whole debate fit in with the whole Christian right's insistence that nothing should be done, you have to protect the unborn?
SNOW: That's something sparking a lot of criticism from gay rights supporters, because this Baptist leader says that he opposes abortion, but something like prenatal hormonal treatment, he compares it to a medical treatment. Therefore he says that he would support it. Critics say that is hypocrisy. That the evangelicals talk often about the sanctity of the unborn but it's not counting when it is linked to homophobia.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you. Have a good weekend yourself up in New York.
Up ahead, protester antics. Jeanne Moos on those distracting people in the background, who do everything they can to steal the spotlight. Stick around.
BLITZER: Political drama is front and center here in Washington. Lately what's happening behind the scenes is getting lots of attention as well, including the attention of our own Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first, all eyes were on the blonde who tame to testify. But there was another scene- stealing blonde we couldn't take our eyes off of, whose heartfelt nodding kept us from nodding off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we went to visit WalterRreed, every member was awe palmed at what we learned. Our treatment of the troops didn't match our rhetoric.
MOOS: Whenever the witness moved, the blond in pink sidled over to stay in the shot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You promise to tell the truth and nothing but the truth?
MOOS: Valerie Plame Wilson raised her hand to take the oath. The other blond raised her hand to make a peace sign and later a shame on you gesture.
PLAME WILSON: In protecting me and every CIA officer.
MIDGE POTTS, ANTI-WAR PROTESTOR: My name is Midge Potts, M-I-D- G-E P-O-T-T-S and I'm from Springfield, Missouri.
MOOS: Midge describes herself as a transgender woman, she is also a navy veteran from the first Gulf War and is now a member of the anti-war group, Code Pink. No matter how hard the camera tries to frame them out, the Code Pink protesters have made an art form out of staying in the picture, to display, say, a got impeachment sign? Or a T-shirt that says, "Impeach Bush now."
PLAME: As a covert operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.
MOOS: Nothing covert about Midge. She once ran unsuccessfully for Congress as a Republican. She popped up, she sat down, she popped up again. Being a human billboard at a congressional hearing can be exhausting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mr. Davis.
MOOS: Earlier this month the Code Pink protester gave peace sign rabbit ears to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
GEN. PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: Of the 10 Iraqi divisions ...
MOOS (on camera): Those Code Pink folks really know how to position themselves to get on camera. A spokesman told us they even study videotapes to try to find the perfect spot.
(voice-over) Midge resorted to standing on her tiptoes.
POTTS: And I don't think that the importance of the message is diminished by the antics or the clownish things at all because it's grave. Our situation is grave.
MOOS: Sometimes they get ejected, sometimes they get arrested, but more often than not, it's a dance with police. Midge even did a few stretches.
PLAME WILSON: I do feel passionately.
MOOS: Midge got passionate when the hearing recessed.
POTTS: Impeach now.
MOOS: Witness the double take Midge got from the star witness. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Please join me this Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern for LATE EDITION. Among my guests this Sunday, the White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Democratic Congressman John Murtha. They'll be my guests on LATE EDITION for two hours. The last word in Sunday talk.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. Have a nice weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Up next - PAULA ZAHN NOW.
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