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CNN NEWSROOM

Firings Showdown; Iraq: 5th Year Begins; Al Gore to Testify on Capitol Hill About Global Warming

Aired March 21, 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.

For the next three hours, watch events come in to the NEWSROOM live on Wednesday, March 21st.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Capitol collision. Congress set to authorize subpoenas as early as today for top White House aides. President Bush refusing to let them testify under oath about fired prosecutors.

HARRIS: He's become something of a Hollywood celebrity. Al Gore taking his global warming campaign to the Capitol at this hour.

COLLINS: Chinese food, a wok on the wild side? A consumer group warning -- stir fry more than meets the eye. Salt surplus in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And at the top this hour, offer made, offer rejected, showdown set. Next hour, a House committee debates whether to authorize subpoenas for top Bush aides. Democrats rejecting the president's proposal they speak privately and not under oath about the firing of federal prosecutors. That sets the stage for a constitutional challenge, one that ultimately may be refereed by the Supreme Court.

Here is CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): White House counsel Fred Fielding would not comment as he left a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting trying to navigate the crushing scene. But Democrats did.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We are disappointed. And I think -- I think that may be an understatement.

BASH: "Clever, but incomplete, at best" is how one top Democrat described the White House offer to make Karl Rove and other Bush aides available for a private interview, but not public testimony. SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: It's sort of giving us the opportunity to talk to them, but not giving us the opportunity to get to the bottom of what really happened here.

BASH: Democrats say their biggest problems with the White House proposal are that Bush aides would not be under oath and there would be no transcript of their answers about why federal prosecutors were fired.

SCHUMER: And with no transcript, with no oath, with private conversations that can be contradicted, recollections can fail, you're not going to get very far.

BASH: The demand for Rove, former White House counsel Harriet Miers and their deputies to testify came from Democrats and Republicans. One senior GOP lawmaker came out of the meeting and said he thought the White House laid out a fair deal.

REP. CHRIS CANNON (R), UTAH: I'm a very zealous guardian of the prerogatives of Congress, but I expect the president to be a zealous guardian of the executive branch, as well. And I think it's a great offer.

BASH: And later, a Bush ally slammed Democrats for rejecting the president's offer so fast.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: And I just think that we shouldn't be under any illusion that this is about politics, it's not about a search for the truth. And, frankly, I think that this Congress and the Senate deserves better than that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash joins us now.

Dana, good morning to you.

BASH: Good morning.

HARRIS: So, Dana, what now? Where are we?

BASH: Well, here's where we are. In about an hour, Tony, the House Judiciary Committee is going to meet and pretty much defy the president point blank. They are going to vote to authorize the chairman of that committee to issue subpoenas if he thinks that's necessary, essentially giving them what we've been talking about for the past couple of days, an insurance policy of sorts if these negotiations completely collapse. That's going to happen in about an hour in the House. The Senate is going to do the same exact thing tomorrow -- Tony.

HARRIS: OK, Dana. Publicly, Democrats are saying no deal, public testimony on the record with a transcript, under lights on CNN live. But in the back room there somewhere, is there some wiggle room? BASH: You know, they did expect -- the Democrats, at least, expected that they would get some kind of compromise offer from the White House. So, they do expect to issue some kind of counter offer.

Essentially, Tony, what they say the biggest problem that they have with this is there's not going to be a transcript of these interviews. And essentially what that means is they say that they can't really conduct a thorough investigation because they won't know whether or not Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, others are being truthful, whether or not they're giving complete testimony, whether they're perhaps contradicting others, because they will be relying on each other's notes from these interviews.

That's their biggest problem. That's likely what they're going to be pushing back the hardest on. And also the issue of having them under oath. They say that even if they're perhaps not under oath, if they have a transcript, they will at least know if they're truthful, because there is law essentially that makes it so that even if somebody is not actually under oath with their right hand in the air, they still can't lie to Congress.

HARRIS: And theoretically, if you have a transcript, it would give the White House aides an opportunity to clarify statements that might be a little hazy or confused. I mean, that's a possibility as well, isn't it?

BASH: That's exactly the argument the Democrats are making, that that is why that they want -- that's probably their biggest problem with this, is that they need to have a transcript of this meeting, whether it's in public or private. That might be the next bid, if you will, from the Democrat's side. We'll listen.

HARRIS: There you go.

Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash for us this morning.

Dana, thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

COLLINS: Now let's get the view from the White House this morning. CNN's Ed Henry is standing by.

Ed, the president seems to be drawing a line in the sand, if you will. Why is that?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of it is executive privilege, that principle. Obviously, the president is not a Johnny-come-lately to that. He's asserted this early and often throughout his presidency, feeling that it should be a muscular executive branch.

But let's face it, there's also politics here. He's under a lot of pressure from his conservative flank.

They feel like this president, this White House, has not been standing up to this resurgent, more aggressive Democratic Congress. They want to see him pushing back more. And you saw the president do that yesterday.

You know, we've noticed here in recent months the president hasn't quite had that swagger he had early in his presidency. He didn't necessarily have the swagger back, but he was more defiant in his tone, basically telling the Democrats, as you heard from Dana, no deal on these subpoenas, no deal on coming forward on testimony under oath and in public, and basically saying this is a fight over principle.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: And if you haul somebody up in front of Congress and put them in oath and, you know, all the (INAUDIBLE) and all the questioning, it -- to me, it makes it very difficult for a president to give good advice. On the other hand, I understand there is a need for information sharing on this. And I've put forth what I thought was a rational proposal. And the proposal I put forward is the proposal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: Now, he was also defiant in once again giving confidence to his attorney general, saying he's behind Alberto Gonzales despite all these published reports saying he's going to push him out, there are already other candidates out there, a plan B for the White House. He once again stood squarely behind Alberto Gonzales -- Heidi.

COLLINS: That's right. And he also did say yesterday when we listened to him, Ed, "We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition."

Is he trying to protect someone, or is it really about executive privilege, as we've been talking about?

HENRY: I think it's a combination. As I said, he's asserted this privilege before, so it's -- he has a track record on this, if you will.

Number two, it is also about protecting loyal aides.

In the final years of this administration, it's interesting, the shrinking number of loyal Texans in his inner circle. A lot of them have left. Gonzales and Rove are two of the last ones from his days as governor. He's going to protect them at all costs.

But finally, beyond principle and loyalty, it's politics, bottom line. And this president realizes if that he doesn't stand up and stop the Democrats here, the floodgates will open.

They'll be subpoenaing Karl Rove on any number of issues -- the CIA leak case. They'll try to dredge up, go after on the Iraq war. It will be a whole litany of issues, investigations, and they feel like if they don't bar the door here, you know, it's, look out, there's going to be one subpoena after another. So that's why he's launching this fight -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Did you say it's about politics? Is that what I heard you say, Ed?

HENRY: I think it might be part of it. I'm not sure. But...

COLLINS: All right, Ed. We'll check in with you a little bit later on. Thanks so much.

HENRY: Thanks. Sure.

HARRIS: Across Iraq, no letup in the violence. More lives lost in bombings and mortar attacks. In all, at least 20 people, including suspected insurgents, have been killed.

In Baghdad, a police officer and two civilians were killed in two separate roadside bombs. And more gruesome discoveries. Police say nearly three dozen bodies have been found across the city.

The death toll for suspected insurgents also on the rise. The military says more than a dozen were killed today in raids in Anbar Province and north of Baghdad.

COLLINS: Another night on the edge. U.S. soldiers carrying cargo to forward operating bases in Iraq.

CNN's John King goes along for the ride.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every pothole, trash pile and lump of grass a potentially deadly enemy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go ahead, 33. This is (INAUDIBLE) 4.

KING: Specialist Terrence Dixon searches the roadside with a spotlight. His position is the most vulnerable -- exposed some even with the upgraded armor. But if he has to be out here, in the gunner's turret is where Dixon wants to be.

SPEC. TERRENCE DIXON, U.S. ARMY: It feels like you can defend yourself if you're the actual person bringing the hammer down.

KING: Mine clearing trucks check the roads regularly, as do unmanned surveillance drones. The driver is the last line of defense against an enemy that could be anywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The way it is now in Iraq, though, everything is really out of the ordinary because, I mean, there's trash all over the place and there's holes all over the place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to pull over and let him go around.

KING: Forward Operating Base Gabe is tonight's destination and the halfway point of another night on the edge.

(on camera): This base, just on the edge of Baquba, is populated mostly by Georgian troops, but also a small contingent of U.S. Marines. Because of its very limited facilities, it's taking nearly three hours to unload the water trucks, but we're almost ready now to head back.

(voice-over): Quick swerves on the way home are shaped by Heywood's (ph) memory of the trip out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Damn, what the hell is that?

It looks like a stack of grass or something. When the road is clear like this and then all of a sudden you see something that wasn't there when you came through. Not all the time is it an IED, but it keep you alert, though.

KING: A narrow bridge then lights on the horizon mean camp is close. Up to 100 major supply convoys a week in Iraq. Five or six have IED incidents on a slow week. Fifteen or more a week is more the norm. So everyone counts their blessings and everyone counts their days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they say go to Iraq then I ain't got no choice but to go and just do my time over here and then hopefully make it back. Six months to go. Six months to go.

KING: John King, CNN, Balad, Iraq.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: On the ground in Baghdad. What's the situation now that a new security plan is in place? We'll hear from an Iraqi journalist. He's here in the U.S. now, but his thoughts are never far from home. His story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Global warning. A former vice president-turned-climate- crusader takes his message to Capitol Hill. Al Gore testifies before a House panel at the bottom of the hour. He is pushing for government action to fight global warming.

Senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us to talk about Gore's environmental campaign.

Bill, good to see you.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Good morning.

HARRIS: I've heard this morning that the former vice president might get a green reception on -- ha, ha, ha. But what kind of reception are we expecting this morning?

SCHNEIDER: Well, you're going to get a lot of praise for the former vice president from Democrats and a lot of skeptical questions from Republicans who want to ask him some very tough questions. He rarely appears before a tough audience of critics on global warming. His lectures are usually delivered to friendly audiences, and of course last month he got his Academy Award -- or at least his producers did -- for the film starring Al Gore, "An Inconvenient Truth," which became an unexpected hit.

And the Hollywood audience was very friendly. A lot of people want to know, is there any chance whatever that he could run for president. But in Congress, there are Republicans, some of whom are very skeptical of what they call alarmism on the issue of global warming, and they are going to be holding Al Gore's feet to the fire when he faces their questions today.

HARRIS: Hey, Bill, let me get back to that point you were alluding to just a moment ago, this idea of Vice President Gore running for president. He says he's not going to run. Do we believe him?

SCHNEIDER: He says he has no plans to run. These statements are very carefully parsed.

He says he has no plans to run. He hasn't entirely shut the door. He hasn't made the Shermanesque statement that, you know, "If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve."

He hasn't said that quite. So, there's still, you know, a little burning ember of hope among his fans and supporters in the Democratic Party, including some Democrats who are worried that they have a real chance to capture the presidency, and they worry about the electability of some of their top candidates. And they say, you know, Al Gore got more votes than George Bush in 2000. He's the most experienced, he's the one who ought to run in 2000.

In that way, Democrats believe they might clinch the White House. And he has a real issue now. Global warming a real cause that he's been working on devotedly for the last eight years.

HARRIS: So, we will follow that reception and his comments on Capitol Hill this morning.

Bill Schneider for us this morning.

Bill, thank you.

SCHNEIDER: Sure.

COLLINS: A rookie rescuer is first to sniff out the location of a missing Boy scout. Michael Auberry and a canine hero, lost and found in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Chopper down, hostile land. The rescue is no mission for the meek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. The potential for disaster there is phenomenal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Combat search and rescue urban style -- in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: It looks like the real thing. Police say a third- grader packed a toy pistol for protection at the bus stop. That's ahead in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Step away from the buffet, put down the chopsticks. A new report on Chinese food could leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live with the fast food facts ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Food for thought this morning. Your favorite Chinese takeout may hide more fat and sodium than you ever thought possible.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is sounding the alarm in a report today. Included in the worst of the worst, Chicken in Black Bean Sauce. It's said to have 3,800 milligrams of sodium. That is equal to one and a half teaspoons of salt, much more than you should have in just one day.

Chicken Chow Fun, not so fun when you consider it, too, is very high in sodium and loaded with 1,200 calories. Lots of fat also in unsuspecting places like many veggie dishes.

So, do you have to give up on the chopsticks? Well, no, not exactly.

CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us live now.

We were going to have lunch today. IT wasn't going to be Chinese.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: But it looked pretty good, though, didn't it?

COLLINS: Yes. It did, but is it about the soy sauce? I mean, they do a lot of cooking with Chinese foods right in that wok with soy sauce.

GUPTA: With the soy sauce, which can have a lot of salt in it. You have the oils as well, which can have a lot of calories. There's a lot of hidden dangers potentially in Chinese food.

It doesn't have to be that way. Sort of focusing on the salt of it, it's pretty amazing. You only need about 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of salt on any given day. Most Americans get anywhere between 4,000 or 5,000 milligrams, four or five grams of salt a day, way too much. The typical dishes, as you pointed out, are over 3,000 milligrams of sodium.

COLLINS: Wow. GUPTA: The most amazing thing, as well, is that's not even where most of our salt comes from. Most of our salt actually comes from processed foods, foods that you buy in stores. Seventy-five percent of the sodium you take in a day is probably in sources that you don't even recognize -- beverages, foods. Look at some of the labels sometimes. It's amazing.

We are getting way too much salt.

COLLINS: Oh, it looks so good. I'm hungry. But...

GUPTA: Come on, Heidi. Stay focused.

COLLINS: So, what is the effect on a person's body when you have too much salt? I mean, if you're a person with low blood pressure, you probably can have more, but that's not usually the norm.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you know, the numbers are there for -- you know, 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams -- a pretty good reason. Even in young people who have no history of hypertension, they are starting to develop cumulative effects of what sodium does to the body.

First of all, it causes you to retain fluids. So you may just start to swell.

COLLINS: Yes.

GUPTA: And that doesn't look pretty. But more than that, when you have that much fluid in your body, your heart has to work harder to actually pump that fluid through. That can lead to hypertension.

Your kidneys have to work harder as well to get rid of that fluid. And these are in people who are very young. Add up that cumulative effect over years, and you start to develop problems.

Sodium does have some good effects. It helps transmit nerve impulses through the body, it helps maintains an ionic balance. It's an ion in the body. And it also maintains your fluid.

Too much of it, though -- we're just getting way too much of it.

COLLINS: Yes. I didn't realize that salt could build up in your body, this cumulative effect that you're talking about.

GUPTA: The cumulative effect of the heart pumping too hard and the kidneys having to filter all that fluid.

COLLINS: I see.

GUPTA: Yes.

COLLINS: OK. So it does run through our bodies, but it can leave the damage behind.

What about if it's just a special sort of treat that you have every now and then? Is that OK? Like chocolate cake? GUPTA: I'm not going to be the grim reaper on salt here. You know, you can have your chocolate cake and eat it, too.

COLLINS: Flour less.

GUPTA: Right. Yes, exactly.

But, yes -- but, you know, I mean -- but the point is, if someone has hypertension, if they have heart disease, if they already have kidney problems, or if there's someone who's actually had problems with too much salt in the past, you get the significant swelling, the bloating -- people talk about that a lot. If you've had that, you really want to watch out for those. You'll notice the effects pretty quickly afterwards.

COLLINS: Yes, definitely.

How about the people who put the salt on top of the Chinese food out of the shaker?

GUPTA: I know. They're pinching it on there. You've got 3,800 milligrams. Go easy.

COLLINS: That's my dad. Yes.

All right.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: All right. Thank you.

HARRIS: Still to come in the NEWSROOM, chopper down, hostile land. The rescue no mission for the meek.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. The potential for disaster there is phenomenal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Combat search and rescue urban style in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Breakfast? Are you hungry?

COLLINS: I'm starving.

HARRIS: I'll get you -- I'll get you -- order up, first window.

Holding steady amid the storm. The Federal Reserve expected to keep interest rates at their current level. This, despite some rough days in the financial markets.

Consumer spending is down, concerns about subprime lending way up. But with inflation worries, experts say a rate cut is unlikely. The federal funds rate has been at a.5.25 percent since June.

We will bring you the Fed's latest decision around, oh, 2:15 Eastern today.

COLLINS: A Boy Scout who spent three cold nights in the woods woke up safe and sound this morning, back with his family. A fellow scout says Michael Auberry told a tent mate he didn't want to go on any more camping trips.

Michael was apparently trying to find a road to hitchhike home. Instead, the 12-year-old found himself lost and alone in the North Carolina mountains. He was rescued yesterday thanks to dedicated volunteers. One was a rookie with good instincts and a good nose.

CNN's Randi Kaye reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michael!

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a sea of search- and-rescue teams, all it takes is one really good nose, and you're looking at it.

This 2-year-old Shiloh shepherd named Gandalf, after the wizard in "Lord of the Rings," worked his magic today. Gandalf was the first to find Michael Auberry, missing four days in North Carolina's Doughton Park.

(on camera): How did you and your dog spot Michael?

MISHA MARSHALL, SOUTH CAROLINA SEARCH AND RESCUE DOG ASSOCIATION: He was upwind of us. He started air-scenting him. And dogs do what's called a head-pop. And he popped his head three times in one direction. We came around the corner, and he spotted Michael.

KAYE (voice-over): Misha Marshall's rescue dog has been given a piece of clothing to catch the boy's scent before heading out. This was Gandalf's first rescue mission, Misha's fourth. And, just two hours into the search, they found what they had come looking for about a mile north of the Boy Scout campsite.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have found Michael. He is OK.

KAYE (on camera): When Misha and her dog spotted Michael, she says he was standing up and appeared to be looking for help. They problem is, Michael was across the creek. So, Misha and her team yelled at him to stay put; they would come to him.

(voice-over): And, when they did, Misha found the 12-year-old disoriented, his feet wet, his body fully clothed.

(on camera): What was the first thing he said to you?

MARSHALL: He asked for some water. He asked for a snack. He asked if a helicopter could take him out. So, yes. So, that -- we said, well, I don't think so. But he had obviously heard the helicopters, so...

KAYE: Typical 12-year-old boy, huh?

(voice-over): Paramedic Lee Whitehead was searching nearby and went to check on Michael.

LEE WHITEHEAD, PARAMEDIC: He was interested in getting some grandma's cookies. He was pretty hungry.

KAYE: Lee gave him a quick once-over and determined Michael was dehydrated and in the early stages of hypothermia. He tried to keep warm by staying on the move at night.

(on camera): What was he doing for -- for water or liquids?

WHITEHEAD: He said he would -- he said he would get water from the streams, which was probably a good thing.

KAYE: Did he say what he had eaten over the last four days?

WHITEHEAD: He hadn't eaten anything since his last time he was in camp. I asked him if he had eaten any time, anything he had had, and he said, no, he hadn't eaten any of the local vegetation of anything.

KAYE: No tree bark or anything like that?

WHITEHEAD: No. No.

KAYE (voice-over): Michael made a very private exit from the woods, then was taken straight to the hospital for a thorough exam.

The family celebrated in privacy, but, afterward, Michael's father shared more details about his son's harrowing ordeal.

KENT AUBERRY, FATHER OF MICHAEL AUBERRY: He slept in -- in tree branches. I'm not sure exactly what that -- that means yet. He said he curled up under rocks. And Michael is not completely aware of the passage of time and that -- that -- how many days he was out there. He's -- but he's -- he's doing great.

KAYE: Kent Auberry says Michael heard rescuers calling his name the last few days, even yelled back. Nobody heard him. Not until the Gandalf the shepherd sniffed him out could this scout be saved.

Randi Kaye, CNN, McGrady, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And here we have a live shot for you that we are watching today in that room. At some point -- we understand he's running late -- Al Gore will be walking. He's in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality. Boy, that's an earful -- a mouthful, isn't it?

HARRIS: Yes. COLLINS: He's going to be talking, obviously, about global warming, maybe a little bit about the movie. Who knows?

But you see the shot there. And we will be monitoring that for you throughout the morning.

HARRIS: Also following this story, fired federal prosecutors. They raised their hands and raised a ruckus on Capitol Hill. Who will be the next to testify before the lawmakers? A showdown looms, and you will see it right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Just a few moments ago, the opening bell on this Wednesday morning. First day of spring? At least my little boy thinks it is the first day of spring? Officially, wasn't it?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: First full day. Yes, yes.

COLLINS: First full day of spring, today, yeah.

HARRIS: Yes.

COLLINS: So, hopefully those numbers keep springing up, right? We're up 12 right now, resting at 12,300. Yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average ended up going up about 61 points, or so.

The big question today, interest rates. We are hearing, though, that they're unlikely to change, so that might be a good thing if you like the interest rate that you're at right now.

HARRIS: Uh-huh.

And among our top stories this hour: D.C. showdown, President Bush versus congressional Democrats. At issue, who should testify about the firings of eight federal prosecutors and how? Democrats say no to an offer to have key White House advisers interviewed, in private and oath free. But the president is standing firm today. Today the House Judiciary Committee could decide whether to authorize subpoenas for Karl Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers.

COLLINS: President Bush's warning for Democrats -- the inner circle will be broken. Here's Senior National Correspondent John Roberts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SR. NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Like his father before him, President Bush true a line in the sand on Tuesday, this one warning Democrats to abandon their threats to subpoena his top political aide, Karl Rove.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas, and demanding show trials, when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available.

ROBERTS: The president promised a constitutional showdown if Democrats persist.

BUSH: I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

ROBERTS: It was tough language after a week in which Democrats beat the stuffing out of the administration over the U.S. attorney firings. Conservative blogs have been aflame with complaints that Republicans have rolled over, demanding they grow a spine.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, TALK SHOW HOST: It's not just the president. Nobody within the administration reacts to this stuff in an instinctive or visceral way, the way all of us do.

ROBERTS: President Bush has agreed to give Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the congressional Judiciary Committees, but only for informal interviews, behind closed doors, no recordings, no transcripts, no oath to tell the truth. The president insists there was no political pressure in the removal and replacements of the eight U.S. attorneys.

BUSH: There is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. How Gonzales and his team will be testifying, made available people on my staff to be interviewed.

ROBERTS: But what the president is selling Democrats aren't buying.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY): Mr. President, what is the objection to having a transcript if there's nothing to hide, nothing wrong with the transcript? What is the objection to an oath? If there's nothing to hide and everyone's telling the truth. There should be no objection to oath. And what is the objection to having this discussion in public?

ROBERTS: And as to whether the attorney general will keep his job, for the moment, President Bush is still behind Alberto Gonzales. Republicans aren't yet calling for his resignation en masse. But they admit it doesn't look good.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): He ought to be allowed to make his case. A lot of the information we have heard is very disturbing. But he'll have his day in court.

ROBERTS: John Roberts, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: A former vice president's latest campaign. Live pictures now, Al Gore on Capitol Hill this morning. Is he in the room yet? We don't think so, to testify about -- running a little late? COLLINS: Mm-hmm.

HARRIS: OK, running a little late. He is pushing for more government action to combat climate change. Gore is expected to get a warm reception when he arrives from Democrats, who support his position. But he is likely to face tough questions from skeptics. A documentary on global warming, starring the former vice president won an Academy Award last month.

COLLINS: It looks like the real thing. Police say a third- grader packed a toy pistol for protection at the bus stop. That story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: And sure, she looked really great.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A cute hat, black designer sunnys, gold earrings -- little silver earrings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Here's the question -- can you mop any?

(LAUGHTER)

COLLINS: You can mop with it.

HARRIS: Naomi Campbell, sweeps week, ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Across Iraq, no let-up in the violence. More lives lost in bombings and mortar attacks. In all, at least 20 people, including suspected insurgents, have been killed.

In Baghdad, a police officer and two civilians were killed in two separate roadside bombings. And more gruesome discoveries: Police say nearly three dozen bodies have been found across the city. The death toll for suspected insurgents also on the rise. The military says more than a dozen were killed today in raids in Anbar Province and north of Baghdad.

HARRIS: When choppers go down, they fly in. We are talking about combat search and rescue teams on risky missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. CNN's Alex Quaid has an exclusive look now their role in urban warfare.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: U.S. troops in Iraq tonight are searching for a missing fighter pilot after his F-16 jet crashed near Fallujah.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. Army Kiawa (ph) helicopter hit by ground fire near Samara.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A U.S. helicopter is down in Baghdad.

ALEX QUAID, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Urban rescue, hostile territory, nightmare for trapped U.S. troops.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue, rescue.

QUIAID: Challenge for search and rescue men trying to save them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The scariest thing I've ever done in my life.

QUAID: A helicopter pilot T.C. shares for the first time his urban rescue special forces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a call to go in. These guys were pretty busted up bad. Had it not been for the pararescuemen these two special forces guys would have lost their lives.

QUAID: Pararescuemen, or PJs, like Kyle who worked the urban recovery of a British aircraft in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were basically the first ones in on the ground. The whole town is coming out to, you know, check you out. A lot of Taliban sympathizers and basically you just have to keep your calm.

QUAID: Calm was key on a different Afghan mission for rescue pilot call sign Skinny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a seal team executing their evasion plan and running gun battle with the enemy that was out there.

QUAID: Skinny's crew went in to get an injured Navy SEAL hiding in a village, out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had taken an RPG in the middle of their group. That's how he had actually gotten wounded. And then he had gotten separated from them.

QUAID: More on his story later. With ongoing operations in hostile urban terrain, real-world training is crucial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rescue, rescue.

QUAID: Window, a back-seater in an F-16 will soon deploy. Tonight he plays survivor, shot down onto a building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm right in the middle of an urban area where there's obviously enemies.

QUAID: Injured, stuck, his GPS broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have my radio, but I can't tell them exactly where I'm at, because I don't really know.

QUAID (on camera): How real is this for you? You are going to be deployed very shortly after this scenario. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's as real as it can get without being in enemy territory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just set your goggles up so all you have to do is slide them down off your helmet.

QUAID: Tips from survival, evasion, resistance and escape, or SERE Specialist Jesse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As far as enemy position we need to have a fairly decent idea of locations of these forces.

QUAID: So the rescue helicopter coming for him doesn't get shot down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bravo.

QUAID: Window reaches Sandy, the A10 fighter craft looking for him overhead with the helicopters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you threatened and are you hurt?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the ejection, my leg was potentially broken.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Copy that.

QUAID: Does it bring it any closer to home that, hey, you're going over there?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Makes me think long and hard about it.

QUAID (voice over): The voice on the radio is A10 pilot Sandy, who is also about to deploy.

QUAID (on camera): You're up there trying to watch out for these guys, but that could be you on the ground someday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. It could be me on the ground while we're out there trying to pick somebody else up, too.

QUAID: Joey arrives, that's the helicopter team and the PJs, like Mark.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it were easy, everybody would be doing it. The potential for disaster there is phenomenal. When you're looking at a 22,000-pound aircraft hovering within six inches of its position.

QUAID: They could be blown off the roof, or PJ Kyle says, get shot at.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very vulnerable. Everyone and their mom's going to come out and they're going to want to take potshots at you.

QUAID: In the middle of all this, they're medically assessing the survivor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to be fast, you've got to be quick. And, you have to be -- you know, know what you're doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best feeling is probably once they get back on board. And you use full power to get out of this thing.

QUAID: Which brings us back to the Navy SEAL hiding in a village in Afghanistan, waiting for Skinny's combat search and rescuemen, after a gun battle killed the rest of his SEAL team.

(On camera): When you were flying into this Afghan village, you never felt, at all, that this might be a trap?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was always in the back of our minds that it could be.

QUAID (voice over): Especially when his PJs jumped out and were met by men dressed in traditional clothing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The one Navy SEAL identified himself. And he had been wounded. They grabbed him and got out of town.

QUAID: Later they recovered the bodies of the SEAL's teammates in a challenging, high-altitude mission.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Came into a hover in basically this little, small hole in the trees. And hoisted, you know, their two bodies out. I'll never forget when we landed back at Bagram, the rest of the SEAL team was all out there. And when we opened up the doors, and the flags were on it, you know, all these special operator guys all kind of stood at attention and saluted.

QUAID: From villages in Afghanistan to cities in Iraq, from assisting special forces get POW Jessica Lynch out of town, to helping recover more than 100 wounded and dead in the 2003 U.N. compound attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not only do we have combatants, you also have civilians.

QUAID: This is urban combat search and rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I see something like this, a mission this big, that feels great because I know they're coming for me.

QUAID: Alex Quaid, CNN, Avon Park, Air Force Range, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Jumping or pushed? Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco looks at falling poll numbers and makes an announcement about her future coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Also, sold into sex slavery, abused and beaten. One girl's story ahead in the NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Welcome back, everyone, to the CNN NEWSROOM.

The team that's been battling tragedy is heading back to the baseball field. Bluffton University will play its first game of the season March 30th, four weeks after that deadly bus crash in Atlanta. The team will wear black uniforms to honor the five players killed, two seriously injured survivors, will be finding it easier to get around campus.

Mike Ranthum and Kyle King will be riding scooters. A disabled Army veteran got the ball rolling, with a fundraising plan. But Rascal Company went ahead and donated the chairs.

COLLINS: Listen to this next story. A third-grader said to be packing a pistol, or so she thought. Police say it turns out it was a toy. The gun certainly looks like the real thing, though.

Police say an eight-year-old girl from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, will not face criminal charges but she is suspended for two weeks, and could be expelled from her elementary school. Police say the girl had shown the fake weapon to other kids. One of them tipped off a teacher. Authorities believe the little girl took the toy to school because she thought she might need it for protection at the bus stop.

HARRIS: We are used to seeing her prowl the catwalks but the sidewalks? CNN's Jeanne Moos makes the most of Naomi Campbell's dumpster diva debut.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): If you think our celebrity culture is garbage, this should warm your heart.

(On camera): I mean, Naomi Campbell in this atmosphere is just --

JOHN CHALMERS, "INSIGHT NEWS & FEATURES": There's a contrast to it, isn't there? Look at these dump trucks.

MOOS (voice over): The supermodel was sentenced to five days of cleaning for throwing a cell phone at her maid. But look how she showed up for cleanup.

Not just any boots. They're supposedly $1,000-designer stilettos. She brought work boots to change into.

(On camera): So Naomi Campbell is in this building right here, the Sanitation Department building, mopping the floors. And we're told she's also scrubbing the walls using a scrub brush on a pole, kind of like this one.

(Voice over): She's been dubbed the dumpster diva. Every day her outfit is analyzed as if it were fashion week.

CHALMERS: A cute cap, black designer sunnys, gold earrings -- or silver earrings.

MOOS: Day two she wore fur. Naomi told "The New York Daily News" she would auction her combat boots and work clothes for charity. Not since Martha Stewart left prison in this poncho made by a fellow prisoner --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was like an Oscar walk.

MOOS: -- has there been such attention to the outfit of a celeb in legal trouble. Martha got flak for carrying a more than $6,000 Aramez (ph) bag into court.

It appears the sanitation cop was carrying Naomi's bag for her. And like Martha, Naomi wore a poncho when she was arrested, some say to hide her handcuffs. Her rages and cell phone attacks are favorites for ridicule.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stupid cow!

MOOS: The Smoking Gun has even created a puppet reenactment of her previous run ins with the help, based on court documents.

On top of the vehicle that picked her up after a clean up duty, this TMZ video show Naomi's very own fashion photographer documenting her every move. At least she didn't have to sweep outside in full view of the press. That's what happened to Boy George when he did community service here, and he got so annoyed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh!

MOOS: That he swept dirt at photographers. Because of that circus, Naomi got to clean indoors.

"The New York Post" cartoonists joked Naomi made it into a must- have accessory, the broom, the orange safety vest. What's next?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dust mask she's wearing.

MOOS: You'd think this was a runway, not a driveway for garbage trucks.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: But can you mop in it? I love it.

HARRIS: Can you mop it? That's the line of the morning.

COLLINS: I love it.

HARRIS: Does she understand this is serious business here, this community service?

COLLINS: Apparently not.

HARRIS: I'd like to question her.

COLLINS: Yeah, I bet you would. Oh.

COLLINS: Ah.

COLLINS: On to the news now. A House committee considering subpoenas for top Bush aides, the constitutional showdown centered on the fired prosecutors. Compelling testimony in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Congress shaking off a case of Al Gore-aphobia. The lawmakers ready to embrace his global warming campaign. The former vice president's return to Capitol Hill in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: A change of course for a Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. KATHLEEN BLANCO (D-LA): My time and my energy for the next nine months on the people's work, not on politics. After much thought and prayer, I have decided that I will not seek re-election as your governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: Well, the politicians and slow going of Katrina recovery dragging down Blanco's popularity. She says being a non-candidate may help her navigate through partisan politics in the state legislature. And that has the New Orleans mayor looking for momentum in his city's recovery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: What I heard the governor say is she's put politics aside and really focus on this recovery. If that happens, I think we can still make some very good progress.

You've got a Congress - a new congressional leadership that's driving this recovery discussion. The White House seems to be engaged at a little different level. And, you know, I'm sure she's going to stay engaged until she us out of office.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: In one recent poll Blanco trailed the Republican front- runner for governor by 24 percentage points.

COLLINS: You already know to catch us weekday mornings from 9 a.m. until noon Eastern. But did you know you can take it with us. Anywhere on your iPod. That's the third time I've done this now. Just want you to know.

HARRIS: What are you saying?

COLLINS: CNN NEWSROOM podcast available 24/7, right on your iPod.

Good morning, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

HARRIS: And I'm Tony Harris. You are in the NEWSROOM this morning.

Here's what is on the rundown: Constitutional showdown, Congress may green light subpoenas as early as today in the fired prosecutors investigation. President Bush defying Democrats, refusing to let top aides to testify under oath.

COLLINS: Fresh from the Oscar stage, Al Gore returns to the political stage this hour. That's not him, that's a live shot of the proceedings. His message to Capitol Hill, government needs to help stop global warming.

HARRIS: Underage girls forced to sell themselves. Southeast Asia's flourishing sex slave industry. A CNN investigation. It is

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com.

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