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CNN NEWSROOM

Anna Nicole Smith Death Ruled Accidental Overdose; Standoff with Iran Over Captured British Marines Continues. U.S. Ambassador Talking to Reconcilable Insurgent Groups; Another Beating by Chicago Police Caught on Tape; Former White House Budget Director Charged with Fraud; Families Struggle with Mortgage Payments; Army to Punish Four Generals in Death of Pat Tillman

Aired March 26, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CO-HOST: Hello. I'm Don Lemon, live on the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
BETTY NGUYEN, CO-HOST: And I'm Betty Nguyen, in for Kyra Phillips today.

So what killed Anna Nicole Smith? Well, the autopsy report is out, and there is a long list of drugs in her system. Was there a smoking gun?

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Speculation, rumors, conspiracy theories, all can finally be put to rest in the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith. If you were with us this morning in the CNN NEWSROOM, you know investigators in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, revealed Smith's autopsy results.

And CNN's national correspondent, Susan Candiotti, was there.

Susan, at least some answers in this part of the investigation.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Don, despite all of the speculation that perhaps Anna Nicole Smith committed suicide or perhaps even worse, that someone might have murdered her, all of that is over now.

Now we know from the medical examiner that Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose of a liquid sleeping medication in combination with a large number of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs that she had been taking, so much so that apparently, it switched off a part of her brain that told her to keep on breathing and, in the end, that is what killed her.

The Seminole police chief who conducted a criminal investigation says no charges will be filed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHIEF CHARLIE TIGER, SEMINOLE POLICE: We have reviewed hundreds of hours of videotape captured by the hotel security cameras, and we found nothing unusual. We analyzed the contents of the laptop computer belonging to Mr. Stern, with the approval of his attorney, and we found nothing to indicate any foul play. We are convinced, based on the extensive review of the evidence, that this case is an accidental overdose with no other criminal elements present.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: Now, why did Anna Nicole Smith take this liquid sleeping medication called chlorohydrate? Evidently, you take it by the spoonful. Why did she take it that morning of February 8 as she was in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino?

In an exclusive interview with CNN right after his press conference, Dr. Perper tried to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, MEDICAL EXAMINER: She slept very badly during the night. And she basically preferred this medication, because I suppose it was an escape from the physical trouble and some of the emotional trouble associated with her litigation and stress from -- from both physical and mental problem.

CANDIOTTI: If she had gone to the hospital, like her friends had suggested, because she wasn't feeling well, might she have survived?

PERPER: For sure, because if she would have gone to the hospital, even if she would have gotten additional treatment besides the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which was effective, she wouldn't (ph) have the opportunity of taking chlorohydrate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CANDIOTTI: The autopsy revealed that Anna Nicole Smith was taking nine prescription drugs, all of them legal, also a human growth hormone and vitamin B-12, apparently to rejuvenate herself and also to suppress her eating.

However, the doctor says -- noted with some coincidence, that she also, like her great idol Marilyn Monroe, was taking chlorohydrate, the sleeping medication. But, Doctor Perper said, Marilyn Monroe was also taking barbiturates.

And he does not think that Anna Nicole Smith committed suicide, because of the amount of that liquid drug that remained in the bottle. He said if it had been suicide, he said she probably would have taken the entire bottle.

And others said that she was not talking about suicide as she had been right after the death of her son, Daniel.

Don, back to you.

LEMON: Susan, you've been talking to Dr. Perper in that exclusive interview, so the question is, does he have the final word? Is that the end? With all these statements today, all the investigation and inquiry, is that finished?

CANDIOTTI: Well, Dr. Perper said that he would not be surprised at all if people want to go over his autopsy results with a fine tooth comb, and some even raise questions about it.

There may even be some other people who want to look at others who may have been part of her past. We know, for example, that one of Anna Nicole Smith's doctors in California is under investigation by the California Board of Medicine there for drugs that he prescribed to her, including while she was pregnant.

So more may come of this. And of course, we still don't know who the natural father of baby Dannielynn is. So, still questions are out there, Don.

LEMON: All right. Susan Candiotti, thank you so much for your report.

And next hour we'll talk more about Smith's autopsy results with a forensic pathologist, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: We're going to take you now live to the City Club of Cleveland, Ohio, where questions are being asked of Elizabeth Edwards. She is speaking there today.

As you recall, on Thursday she and her husband, Democratic presidential contender John Edwards, announced that Elizabeth's cancer has spread to her bones. It is a condition -- condition that doctors describe as incurable but treatable.

John Edwards said that he and his wife have decided together to go forward with his campaign and that he was in the race for the duration. Again, Elizabeth Edwards speaking today at the City Club of Cleveland, Ohio. And we'll be following this and monitoring it for any news that should develop from there.

In other news, demands from London, defiance from Tehran. Britain and Iran locked in a standoff over Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines. Will they be freed, swapped for Iranian detainees or put on trial?

CNN's Aneesh Raman has the latest now from Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Fifteen British marines and sailors remain in Iranian custody, transported over the weekend, we understand, to the capitol, Tehran.

A top Iranian military commander has said all the British military personnel have confessed to illegally entering Iranian waters. No further information was given about those confessions, but Iranians say they also have evidence to back that charge.

The British government, for its part, continues to maintain its military personnel were in Iraqi, not Iranian waters when they were seized by members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard on Friday.

Iran rejected that explanation and has called this an act of, quote, "blatant aggression."

There is no sense as to when these British military personnel will be released. A similar incident that took place in June 2004 saw British military personnel seized by Iran but released within three days.

The sense on the ground is that the atmosphere has certainly changed. Iran has just been sanctioned again over its nuclear defiance, and five Iranians remain in coalition custody within Iraq. Because of that, hardliners within Iran are calling for a trial of the British military personnel who they want to be charged with espionage. They are putting pressure on the country's foreign ministry to do that.

The foreign ministry, of course, is also getting external pressure from neighboring countries to release the British military personnel, most recently from Iraq's foreign minister.

The days ahead will determine where Iran is going to take this case, whether we will see a quick release of the British military personnel or perhaps a trial.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: In about an hour from now, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to start debate on a war funding bill that sets a 12-month time table for pulling out of Iraq. The House last week passed a similar measure, except the House deadline is binding; the Senate's isn't.

President Bush was visibly angry over the House measure. He said he will veto any time table. Funding will be delayed. And that, he said, will be the Democrats' fault.

Zalmay Khalilzad is pulling out of Iraq, where he spent almost two years as United States ambassador. He'll represent Washington next, assuming Senate confirmation, at the United Nations. Today he briefed reporters in Baghdad. With the story, CNN's Frederick Pleitgen -- Frederick.

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, one of the things that Khalilzad made absolutely clear is he was saying that he had been talking to insurgent groups here in Iraq.

What he made abundantly clear and was really very keen to make clear is that he was not talking to insurgent groups that were related to al Qaeda or even al Qaeda groups. He was talking to so-called reconcilable insurgents.

Now these are people that were with the Ba'athist Party, so loyalists to Saddam Hussein, or even Sunni groups that so far have not been part of the political process and have been against the political process in this country but which he thinks that he could get back into the political process at some point.

Now really, there is a fight going on over these groups, a political fight over these groups where the question is will these groups continue to work together with al Qaeda against the Iraqi government? Or can these groups somehow be brought into the process of forming a government, of really getting a political process and a security process going on in this country, Don.

LEMON: All right. Thank you very much. Frederick Pleitgen, reporting to us from Baghdad.

NGUYEN: Do want to let you know coming up we are still following the City Club of Cleveland, where you see right there Elizabeth Edwards speaking today. This in light of the fact that we have learned her cancer has returned, that it is incurable but treatable. CNN's Mary Snow is there, and she'll join us live in the NEWSROOM in just a few minutes.

LEMON: One moment they're on a cruise ship balcony, the next they've taken a 50-foot plunge into pitch dark, shark-infested waters. Ahead in the NEWSROOM, a hapless couple lives to tell quite an incredible tale.

NGUYEN: And to protect and to serve, but in Chicago, police now are under fire in two beatings -- just look at this -- allegedly involving off-duty officers. Both attacks caught on tape. We have the story in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: It is quarter past the hour. Here are some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Anti-depressants, sleep medicine, growth hormone, and the list does not end there. A Florida coroner blames Anna Nicole Smith's death on an accidental overdose of prescription drugs. Nine were found in her system.

In other news, Elizabeth Edwards, speaking in Cleveland, showing that the return of her cancer will not keep her homebound. Earlier, she and her husband, John Edwards, defended their decision to press on with his presidential campaign.

And an extraordinary picture with huge consequences. Just take a look here. The heads of Northern Ireland's major Protestant and Catholic parties meeting face-to-face for the first time. They plan to form a power sharing government in six weeks.

LEMON: More Chicago police officers are accused of beating up civilians in their off hours.

Now, we told you about this beating last week. It was caught on surveillance tape just like a brawl from last December we're just now hearing about. Our Keith Oppenheim has all the details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Chicago police officials confirm they are investigating allegations that six off-duty cops beat four men at a bar in an upscale area of Chicago.

Attorneys for the victims say their clients were attacked last December, that one man suffered broken ribs and another man needed reconstructive surgery on his face. It was a beating, they say, that was captured by surveillance cameras.

You may remember last week we reported about another incident caught on tape.

KAROLINA OBRYCKA, BEATEN BY OFF-DUTY POLICE OFFICER: There is one hit.

OPPENHEIM: This woman, Karolina Obrycka, came forward, saying she, too, was beaten by an off-duty police officer last month when she refused to serve him any more alcohol. That officer, Anthony Abbate, is now facing charges of felony aggravated battery.

In the video, he punches her repeatedly. Karolina gets up, despite multiple hits to her head, back and ribs. And as bystanders keep a distance, Officer Abbate walks away.

(on camera) Karolina, what is your reaction that the person who beat you is a police officer?

OBRYCKA: I thought police are to serve and protect, not to beat up people.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): In both cases, the police department is now investigating the actions of their officers caught on tape.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: Well, Stage IV breast cancer, but as far as she is concerned, life goes on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a death sentence that it used to be. We can beat this. We can live with it. And there's a difference between...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Pushing past a grim diagnosis. That is ahead here in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: And fired for a cause or political victim? Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, we'll talk with former federal prosecutor David Iglesias.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Well, there's controversy around a company that went bankrupt two years ago, and President Reagan's former budget director is being criminally charged. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with all the details on that.

Hi, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Don.

This is a name that's familiar, I'm sure, to many of our viewers. More than 25 years ago David Stockman was at the center of Reaganomics, the Reagan revolution based on trickle down economics. He was budget director in the Reagan White House back then. Today he is being charged with securities fraud, bank fraud and wire fraud, among other things.

The case revolves around one of the nation's biggest auto parts supplier, Collins & Aikman, which Stockman led between 2003 and 2005. He was eventually ousted from that position just days before the company went bankrupt.

Prosecutors allege that Stockman was involved in a scheme to manipulate the company's earnings in order to raise capital and help solve the supplier's problems -- Don.

LEMON: Susan, any response from Stockman on this?

LISOVICZ: A few days ago, Don, he told the "Wall Street Journal" that he will vigorously fight any federal criminal charges. Stockman also points out that he didn't earn a salary as Collins & Aikman chief, and he claims he personally lost $13 million when the company went bankrupt.

(STOCK REPORT)

LISOVICZ: Coming up, the road between Motor City and the White House is a rocky one, but today the nation's auto execs sat down with President Bush to discuss one topic they all agree on. I'll have details next hour.

Meantime, Don, back to you.

LEMON: Can't wait for that. Susan, thank you so much.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: We do have some sad news to tell you about. The University of North Carolina in fact, their mascot has died. You see a picture of him right there, Jason Ray.

He died at 8:30 a.m. today, according to officials there at the university, three days after he was struck by a sport utility vehicle while walking along a New Jersey highway.

In fact, he was in New Jersey because of the NCAA men's tournament game between the Tarheels and Southern California. And he had left a hotel room to go to a nearby store on Friday when he was walking along Route 4 in New Jersey and he was struck from behind by an SUV.

The driver did stop, and police say that he called 911. And that driver did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Seems like just an unfortunate accident.

But again, Jason Ray has died of his injuries. He was the mascot for the University of North Carolina. He was the ram mascot known as Ramsey. We do want to wish his family the best.

LEMON: Absolutely, Betty. We'll continue to follow that story right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Borrow now, pay later. Credit is the life blood of the U.S. economy. But the downturn in the housing market means hundreds of thousands of families are hemorrhaging money from time bomb mortgages they either didn't know they had or thought they'd be able to dump before their payments skyrocketed.

CNN's Allan Chernoff has one family's heartache.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Ed Preteska's (ph) piece of the American dream, a workshop, a backyard and a modest two bedroom home. Now he's close to losing it all. His monthly mortgage payment is about to rise, an increase he and his wife Marie cannot afford.

ED PRETESKA, HAS PROBLEMS PAYING MORTGAGE: It's almost like dying. Somebody came to you and said to you, "Today's your last day on earth; tomorrow you're dying."

CHERNOFF (on camera): You feel losing the house would be equivalent?

E. PRETESKA: Yes, about the same. I feel that if I lost all this, might as well put me in the box.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Losing the house would be the culmination of a litany of hard luck.

Ed and Marie's son, Shane, nearly died two years ago in a motorcycle accident. Marie had to take months off to care for Shane. About the same time, Ed lost his job as a security officer.

With unpaid bills piling up, the Preteskas got a call from a mortgage broker across the country in California.

CHERNOFF (on camera): And what did the mortgage broker actually say to you?

MARIE PRETESKA, HAS PROBLEMS PAYING MORTGAGE: That "I can help you, Marie. I can definitely help you." CHERNOFF (voice-over): The broker consolidated their mortgage with other debts and wrote a new $234,000 adjustable rate mortgage. The terms were tough. After two years at 7 and 5/8 percent, their interest rate could go up by as much as three percentage points and potentially keep rising every six months. The only sure thing: it would never go below the original rate.

M. PRETESKA: I really truly believed that in two years we could refinance, and the rate would go down and it would be easier for us. It's not.

CHERNOFF: All too soon Ed and Marie expect they'll be charged an extra $160 a month. They say they can barely afford their $1,600 monthly payment now.

Ed is 70 years old. Between his Social Security, a part-time job and Marie's salary from a doctor's office, they bring home about $53,000 a year. Marie dealt with the mortgage and admits she never read the fine print.

M. PRETESKA: I didn't pick up on that.

CHERNOFF (on camera): They say right here your rate will never decline below the original interest rate.

M. PRETESKA: And I didn't -- they never said that to me. And of course, who's going to sit there and read all this? What person is going to sit there and even understand it?

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Bob Binette, a mortgage consultant in town, says the Preteskas' broker, Twin Capital Mortgage in San Francisco, never should have put them into that kind of loan.

ROBERT BINETTE, HAMILTON MORTGAGE: He's in California. He doesn't have to see these people ever. You know, what interest does he have in them? None.

CHERNOFF: Twin Capital declined to speak on camera, but in a written statement said, "Twin Capital Mortgage proudly stands behind the loan that we provided for the Preteska family. We strongly believe it was the best financing solution for them, given their circumstances and credit profile."

The Preteskas are among hundreds of thousands of borrowers with poor credit who are sold mortgages that are ticking financial time bombs, set to put them over their heads as soon as mortgage rates climb.

(on camera) Is there any way for Ed and Marie to get out of this?

BINETTE: In the immediate future, I don't see it.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): If the Preteskas tried to refinance, they'd have to pay a steep penalty under terms of their loan.

If they sell, Bob Binette says, the price they get wouldn't even pay off the mortgage. They'd still owe the lender.

It appears inevitable that the Preteskas are going to lose their home and, in the process, fall even deeper into debt.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, Novatock (ph), Connecticut.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: There is new controversy over an old question. What did Alberto Gonzales know and when did he know it? The latest on the fired prosecutors probe. That is ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hello, I'm Don Lemon, live at the headquarters in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: I'm Betty Nguyen in for Kyra Phillips.

From fired to fired up we're talking live to former Federal Prosecutor David Iglesias. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

But first, we want to give you some video out of Cleveland, Ohio. In fact, the City Club where you see right there, Elizabeth Edwards speaking today. This after announcing late last week that her cancer has returned. In fact, it has spread to her bones. It is incurable, but it is treatable. And she also said that she and her husband will continue to press forward with his presidential campaign.

And we've also been asking from you, our viewers, to tell us some of your experiences with dealing with breast cancer. In fact, we received a lot of really heartfelt ones. I want to read a couple to you.

First up, Gail from Wisconsin says, "I'm a two-year breast cancer survivor and was just heart sick that your cancer had returned," talking about Elizabeth Edwards. "I so admire the strength and optimistic attitude you both share. But I wonder if the stress of raising together and a campaign, fundraising efforts, traveling and just the daily stresses of life, would that be a good thing to do while in treatment and battling your cancer again? You need to take care of yourself and gather your strength."

LEMON: And this one, Betty, from Sharon Thompson, Montreal, Quebec. She said: "This is for Elizabeth Edwards. She is a very courageous woman who must be strong. I have survived breast cancer three times. First time I was 31, with two children, 14 months and three months." And then she goes on to talk about her experience and wishes Elizabeth Edwards the best as many who are sending us e-mails do.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. And Karen from New Jersey echoes the same sentiments, although she does express that she is a 48-year-old who has been living with Stage 4 breast cancer for four years. So you can live with it, even though many will call it incurable. She says my treatment consists of a combination approach of several different drugs.

I have treatment pretty much on a weekly basis, except for occasional breaks. Here's what's interesting. She says, "My life is very normal. I work part-time. I travel extensively with my family. I even ski. I'm a busy person. Cancer is a small part of my life."

LEMON: I've read that e-mail. She says most people are surprised to know that I even have cancer.

NGUYEN: That she even has it, exactly. Just going on with their lives.

LEMON: Good for them.

Let's move on now and talk about Pat Tillman. Some very high- ranking Army brass are expected to be named and blamed today for the wealth of misinformation surrounding the friendly fire death of Army Ranger Pat Tillman. More from CNN National Correspondent Bob Franken.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Pat Tillman was a national symbol of unselfish patriotism when he turned away from his highly lucrative NFL stardom and to join the Army Rangers. Today, the handling of his death has become to his family and friends a story of military ineptitude and deceit.

We're now aware that U.S. officials knew almost right away what took five weeks for Pat Tillman's family to find out. That their son was killed by friendly fire in a remote area of Afghanistan.

Before the truth came out, the president had paid tribute to Tillman.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The loss of Army Corporal Pat Tillman, last week in Afghanistan, brought home the sorrow that comes with every loss, and reminds us of the character of the men and women who serve on our behalf.

FRANKEN: At a memorial service, 11 days after the incident, the Army repeated the claim that Tillman had been gunned down in a conventional ambush. According to a senior Defense official they will place blame on several high-ranking officers, including four generals. But according to the Associated Press, they will rule out a conspiracy.

Congressman Mike Honda, a Democrat of San Jose, California, where Tillman was raised, was one of the members who pushed for these reports, but he's angry at the way they've been leaked.

REP. MIKE HONDA (D-CA): This has happened at every juncture when a report is ready to be released that it seems to be leaked out before the family gets to know and that's -- I think it's very irritating to them, too.

FRANKEN: Tillman's father, Pat, Sr. said he had no intention of commenting until he had been briefed later today. Bob Franken, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: A football star turned Army Ranger killed by his comrades in Afghanistan, today new answers in the Pat Tillman investigation. A Pentagon report released later this afternoon will likely blame nine officers, including as many as four generals for mistakes after Tillman's death almost three years ago.

For weeks the Army told his family he was killed in an enemy ambush, but dozens of soldiers knew right away Tillman fell victim to friendly fire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: What do you think should happen to those people, whether they are colonels or generals, or whatever?

SGT. BRAD JACOBSON, SERVED WITH PAT TILLMAN: Like I said, I mean, whatever involvement these people had you know, they in my opinion they should be punished or whatever degree of, you know, misinformation that they were giving at the time.

Maybe some were confused and had the wrong information given to them. But as far as like a cover up goes or giving the wrong story to the family and stuff, I mean, they should definitely get whatever reflects, you know, in that kind of punishment.

O'BRIEN: Seems like some people, though, have had their rank diminished, maybe forced out. What do you think the punishment should be?

JACOBSON: I don't know what the UCMJ says about this kind of stuff. Obviously, this is going to be done at a higher level than what I know.

As far as I'm concerned I mean, if you're covering up something this large and obviously misleading the family, you know, to believe something else that didn't happen, I would hope to see that they were punished fairly for what they did.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: The Pentagon is expected to release its report at 4:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: He is a former kangaroo skinner and a current terror suspect. Arraignment is underway in Guantanamo Cuba for Australian David Hicks. He is the first Guantanamo detainee charged under the Bush administration's new rules for military trails, adopted after the Supreme Court rejected the old system.

Hicks is accused of supporting terrorism by taking up arms against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. CNN is following his arraignment and we'll bring you an update next hour. LEMON: Alberto Gonzales may be losing support where he needs it most among his fellow Republicans. The attorney general's credibility is now being openly questioned by three GOP senators. Documents released late Friday suggest Gonzales may have known more about the controversial firings of eight U.S. attorneys than he let on. His aides still say he wasn't involved in specifics, but that's not good enough for a growing number of lawmakers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NB): The only currency that matters in government is trust. And when you debase that currency you lose trust, you can't govern. The chief law enforcement of America must be beyond any question. Unfortunately, the attorney general is dealing with a cloud hanging over his credibility, and the president is going to have to deal with that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Both the attorney general and his former top aide Kyle Sampson plan to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Samson on Thursday, Gonzales, April 17. Samson resigned amid a fall-out over the firings.

Already Congress has gotten an earful from the ex-prosecutors, among them New Mexico's David Iglesias who says he was a target of a political hit. He joins us from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What do you make of this claim that Alberto Gonzales knew more about the firings than he's letting on to?

DAVID IGLESIAS, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: That's a great question. Part of the job of the chief of staff Kyle Sampson is to get information to his boss. And it's hard for me to believe that the attorney general, Mr. Gonzales, did not know anything about the specifics of our firing.

It's his job as a chief federal law enforcement officer in the country to know what's going on in his department. Not for everybody, but at the highest levels. You have to remember, 110,000 employees at DOJ, only 93 United States attorneys, we're all confirmed by the Senate, we're all presidential appointees.

LEMON: And there are folks that were just on our "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer" this weekend, Joe DiGenova said that had he gotten a phone call, as you say you did, from folks in government, from senators specifically, he would have told them basically saying where to go. I want you to listen to this, and I want you to respond to it after we hear it. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, LATE EDITION: If somebody in the Justice Department or at the White House would have come to you, Joe DiGenova, and said hey Joe -- wait a second. And would have said Joe, this is really sensitive stuff, and maybe you should avoid it because you're dealing with a subject that they didn't want you to deal with, you would have been outraged.

JOE DIGENOVA, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I would have told them to go to hell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He would have.

DIGENOVA: I would have told them to go to hell. That happened, by the way, in one case.

BLITZER: Which case?

DIGENOVA: The Pollard case.

BLITZER: The Jonathan J. Pollard case?

DIGENOVA: Sure. Somebody at the Justice Department got squeamish. I said get out of my way. Don't dare get in my way. That's what you tell a senator who calls up. You don't sit there and whine oh, I got a call from a senator. You say senator get off the line right now. We're done talk. You don'ts go home and whine about. You might want to call the Justice Department and tell them, but you don't whine about it. You say senator, get off the phone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Do you agree with that or think he is admonishing you for the way you handled that? Should you have handled it differently or did you have the power, you feel, to handle it that way once you receive those phone calls?

IGLESIAS: Well, Joe's got a lot more courage and guts than I did. I mean, I knew my senator from going back eight or nine years, I thought he was a friend, and a mentor. And just to get a call out of the blue like that, I was just completely unprepared for the question he asked, and also with the congresswoman asked me.

So I mean, you know, could I have said that? I guess in the realm of possibilities. But I was too stunned to react. You have to understand it was a very, very short phone call.

LEMON: You were too stunned to react. You are saying -- you also said that you thought that politics were not supposed to be part of your job. As a matter of fact, you said, when you were sworn in, John Ashcroft says, anything you do should not be held politically. You said, that you followed those words to the letter. You believed them.

IGLESIAS: Well, that's right. Not only did John Ashcroft tell me, but he told all incoming U.S. attorneys to keep politics outside.

LEMON: Keep politics outside. The president and the attorney general had admitted mistakes, that's according to you. And you wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times", which much of this is coming from. You said they admitted mistakes, the president publicly acknowledged calling you -- or Mrs. Wilson, rather -- publicly acknowledged calling you and so did Mr. Domenici. And you appreciated the president's gratitude, you said, for your service. But that was the first time that you had ever heard him, in anyway, thank you for anything. But you said a written retraction from the Justice Department is the only way you will feel that you will have been vindicated in all of this. Why is that?

IGLESIAS: Because when they told the U.S. Senate that we were let go for performance-related reasons, that is a slanderous accusation. They were saying that we did a bad job and they knew better, or they should have known better based on our evaluations.

I knew better. My colleagues knew we had done a good job. So a retraction does this. It tells our future employers that these people were doing a good job, they were not bad U.S. attorneys. And they could have avoided this mess had they done that at the beginning. Also, nobody ever thanked me, or any of my colleagues for our service to the Justice Department. We were unceremoniously dumped on December 7 of 2006.

LEMON: What did this reporting that lawmakers are stepping away from Mr. Gonzales and so are people in the Republican Party, do you find that so?

IGLESIAS: I don't find that to be surprising. I don't know who was speaking earlier, but trust is everything. You want to make sure your chief federal law enforcement official in the country is trustworthy, is above reproach. In this case the evidence is coming in that perhaps he's not.

LEMON: Mr. Iglesias, much has been made of the e-mails that supposedly went back and forth with members of the department. What do you make of these emails about you and your colleagues?

IGLESIAS: Well, they are shocking, because they are unprofessional, they are sophomoric, they are snide, they're sarcastic. You want to believe that people running our federal system are professional and dealing are with facts. If you look at the tone and tenor of a lot of these e-mails especially regarding Carol Lam and Ms. Chiara, Margaret Chiara, it's just unprofessional and it's depressing to see a bunch of 30-year-olds with no real prosecution background casting judgment on us.

LEMON: Former U.S. attorney, David Iglesias, thanks for joining us today in the CNN NEWSROOM.

IGLESIAS: You're welcome.

NGUYEN: Elizabeth Edwards is doing, as she said, less than a week after announcing her recurrence of cancer, she is pushing ahead in the effort to get her husband elected president. A just short time ago in Cleveland, Ohio Mrs. Edwards talked about the response of people across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIZABETH EDWARDS, WIFE OF JOHN EDWARDS: The notoriety, I brought a lot of unwelcome attention, of course, but also it has brought some gifts as well. And one of the gifts is a gift that I talk about in my book "Saving Graces" that is the gift of support that you get from your friends, and from people you don't know. When people see you have a need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Standing by now live with more from Cleveland, Ohio is CNN's Mary Snow. You were there during this speech today. Talk to us about what was said.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, these were the first public comments that Elizabeth Edwards made since announcing last week that her cancer spread. And she got a number of standing ovations from the audience here, about 265 people, some cancer survivors. Many others cheering her on, giving her support.

Elizabeth Edwards even joked, at one point, about all of the attention she's getting in recent days saying that you know, she, frankly, is kind of sick of seeing herself on television. But as she spoke about some of the gifts that she just mentioned, in those comments that you heard, she talked about building a grassroots campaign, saying that is really at the heart of her husband's presidential campaign. And she said she wasn't making a political speech, but she did bring up her husband.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EDWARDS: This is not just about the man, or the message, both of which I support of course, but it's also about the medium, the way he's going about it. And that is he's trying to use the grassroots to mobilize us, as communities, to action.

And if we think we're going to elect a president, and that the president is going to come in and solve all of our problems. And the truth is that the president is not different than any one of us, in that respect. He, or she, can only accomplish so much alone. But imagine what we can do if we're all engaged together in it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Elizabeth Edwards did not focus all the entire speech on political issues, but she did talk about the message perhaps, that she hopes people will take from her being so outspoken about her cancer. She said she hopes that starts a conversation about people's own mortality, and how they choose to spend their lives -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, just looking at our e-mails people are talking about it. Mary Snow, thanks for joining us today, we appreciate it.

SNOW: Sure.

LEMON: One moment they are on a cruise ship balcony, the next they have taken a 50-foot plunge into pitch-dark, shark-infested waters. Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM a hapless couple lives to tell quite an incredible tale. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: It is a dramatic rescue in the Gulf of Mexico. Two cruise ship passengers, who is fell overboard early yesterday and spent four hours in the water are alive and well. And get this -- they are still cruising. A man and woman, in their early 20s, somehow fell off of a balcony on the Grand Princess, while the ship was sailing from Galveston, Texas to Cusano (ph), Mexico, at that time.

And despite the fall, itself, which was more than 50 feet, and all of the time that they were in the water, that cruise line says the two are OK. And that they chose to stay onboard. We're going to speak with one of the rescuers involved in that operation, in the next hour, right here in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Cleaning up and taking stock in eastern New Mexico, a string of tornados left all this mess. Look at it. The worst in Clovis and Logan, where more than 500 homes are damaged, dozens of people hurt. Federal and state disaster officials are taking a look-see today at all of this. Three counties have been declared state disaster areas.

Wow. And there are more storms to talk about today. CNN's Rob Marciano, extreme conditions over a good part of the country? Is that correct?

(WEATHER REPORT)

Well, they hoped to ride a comet to immortality, and in a way, you could say they did. Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, a mass suicide remembered.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Dozens found dead with their running shoes on. Remember these pictures? That was the headline 10 years ago today, when the bodies of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult were found inside a California mansion.

As you can see from this video taken by sheriff investigators, cult members were lying on their backs, all dressed identically, each with $5 and some quarters in their pockets, all were covered with purple cloth.

Heaven's Gate believed members' souls would board a space ship that was traveling the Hale-Bopp Comet. Remember that? Well, it remains the largest mass suicide on American soil to this date. And there are still a few believers. CNN's Dan Simons spoke with one of them. He is going to join us with more on this a little bit later in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Stage 4 breast cancer, but as far as she is concerned, life goes on.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not a death sentence that it used to be. We can beat this. We can live with it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Pushing past a grim diagnosis ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: And as we go to break, let's take a look at the big board on this Monday afternoon. The Dow is down. It is a Monday, folks, 64 points. Stay and watch there is more in the NEWSROOM, in just a moment.

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