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CNN NEWSROOM

Scooter Libby Sentenced to 30 Months in Prison; Terror Suspect Turns Self In; Transplant Team Killed in Michigan Plane Crash; Indicted Congressman Steps Back from Duties; Bush Greeted by Protesters in Germany

Aired June 5, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN center in Atlanta.
T.J. HOLMES, CO-HOST: And I'm T.J. Holmes. Don Lemon on assignment in India.

Busy day here in the NEWSROOM, beginning in a courtroom in Washington. A tough judge won't let Scooter Libby slide for lying to the feds.

PHILLIPS: A lawmaker some called Dollar Bill scales back his workload a day after being indicted.

HOLMES: Also, a manhunt over for suspect No. 4 in the Kennedy Airport terror plot.

You are in CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Happening right now, from a position of power to prison, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who not too long ago was Vice President Cheney's right-hand man, is looking at two years behind bars, at least.

CNN's Brian Todd was inside the courtroom for the sentencing -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, the most dramatic moment came just before the sentencing, when Lewis "Scooter" Libby got before Judge Reggie Walton and essentially appealed for mercy. He said, "I realize fully that the court must decide my punishment. It is respectfully my hope that the court will consider, along with the jury verdict, my whole life."

A few minutes later, Judge Reggie Walton, who is known for tough sentencing, did just that. He gave Lewis "Scooter" Libby 30 months in prison, 2 1/2 years, and a $250,000 fine.

The big issue now is will Lewis "Scooter" Libby be free pending appeal? That should be decided by next week. Both sides appealed for more time to make legal arguments on each of their behalves. The prosecution obviously wanting him to be remanded, the defense wanting him to be free pending appeal.

The judge is going to hear some of those arguments, hear the briefings, look at the briefings. He'll decide next week.

If he decides to remand Mr. Libby, it would be 30 -- excuse me, 45 to 60 days after that point where Scooter Libby would have to start serving prison time, if the judge decides to remand him to prison at the earliest possible date.

So that is the big issue left to be decided here, that should be decided by next week here. And we should know whether Lewis "Scooter" Libby is free pending appeal or whether he'll go to prison in probably a month and a half to two months.

If he is free pending appeal, it could extend the appeals process to the eve of President Bush's departure from office, raising the possibility of a pardon before Scooter Libby ever goes to jail -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We'll follow it. Brian Todd, thanks so much.

HOLMES: We want to turn to some weather now. We've got a tornado warning that our Rob Marciano is keeping an eye on for us in the weather center. Where is this happening, Rob?

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: All right, Rob. We certainly appreciate it. We'll talk to you again here soon.

PHILLIPS: And live pictures now, the president of the United States, Air Force One, just now landing in Rostock, Germany.

As you know, he's getting ready for the G-8 summit. He was meeting with the Czech president and prime minister in Prague, talking about the missile defense plan. Now arriving in Germany.

Of course, protests have already begun, criticizing the approach or what will be discussed at the G-8 summit. Predominantly, a lot of protesters against the Iraq war, globalization, capitalism. But you can see well wishers greeting the president as he gets there for the G-8 summit. We'll be following that, of course, throughout the day and the rest of the week.

Now to the search for a man accused of plotting to attack JFK Airport. The fourth suspect in the case is turning himself in in Trinidad. This means that all four alleged plotters are now in custody.

Our Susan Candiotti is on the phone from the Port-of-Spain in Trinidad with the latest -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra.

They have been looking for this man, Abdel Nur, and warrants were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) issued over the weekend. Law enforcement has told us that he has turned himself in to authorities here in Port-of-Spain.

We don't have many details about this right now, but this is huge news for (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

PHILLIPS: I apologize about the connection there. Obviously, our Susan Candiotti in the Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, talking about the fourth suspect in that JFK plot turning himself in, Abdel Nur. We just saw a picture of him there.

We'll try and connect with her and bring you more on what we know with regard to that plot and also that suspect turning himself in.

HOLMES: Meanwhile, a really sad story out of Michigan to tell you about. These folks dedicated their lives to saving patients on the verge of losing their lives.

Well, today, the University of Michigan mourning six members of its organ transplant team. All are believed to have died when their small plane crashed into Lake Michigan yesterday.

Michael George from our affiliate WTMJ joins me now live from Milwaukee with the very latest.

Just a horrible story to hear here.

MICHAEL GEORGE, WTMJ CORRESPONDENT: It is, T.J. They just finished up a press conference here. This is no longer a rescue mission; this is a recovery mission. All six on board believed to have died.

This is a team, as you said, from the University of Michigan. They were bringing a double lung transplant to a patient. We're told that patient is in critical condition. But right now, the focus is on the investigation of just how this happened.

There are more than 50 divers in the waters here, trying to figure out how this happened. This took place at 4 p.m. yesterday.

The plane took off at Mitchell airport, and right after takeoff, the pilot reported an emergency. We're hearing that the problem was what's called a trim runaway. And the best way to describe that, it's like a car veering off to the right, even when you want to turn left.

And so we're hearing that it's not a pilot error at this point. It is probably a mechanical problem. But, of course, we're at the very early stages, so we don't know that conclusively. But that's what the NTSB believed at this time.

Now, we've also heard that the plane disappeared from radar right after takeoff. Rescuers were on the scene almost immediately. But at this point, they have not been able to find any survivors. They have found human remains and wreckage, and they're continuing that work today.

HOLMES: Michael, before we let you go here, we want to ask. You said that it was carrying the team, and the team went down. It was this transplant team. Can we assume that the organs that the patient needed were on board with these folks, as well? GEORGE: That's a question on a lot of minds. Of course, it's very difficult to recover the wreckage because it -- it's in water. That water is about 20 to 50 feet deep. At this point, they have not heard whether or not they'll be able to recover those organs. Timing is, of course, a factor here, but it doesn't look good at this point.

HOLMES: All right. Michael George from our affiliate, WTMJ. Thank you so much for that update. Really sad story there in a lot of ways.

Meanwhile, I've got an update. Another test from that globe- trotting TB patient, Andrew Speaker, has come back negative. This is a third -- third test, sputum test, it's called, to see how contagious he might have been. A third test has now come back negative.

Now, according to the hospital, that means that he is not infectious in most settings. Still, nothing is 100 percent certain.

But still want to update you that at least a third test that has been taken on him has come back negative, showing that he is relatively noncontagious, which is the way that they phrased it still.

As we know, many of the passengers that he flew with on that transatlantic flight overseas and, of course, back to North America, a lot of patients had concerns, because he had this very, very potent, very deadly and drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. He traveled, and a lot of people say he should have known better, not to do so.

But again, Andrew Speaker, that Atlanta attorney, again, a third test that's come back negative for him as far as being contagious.

Do want to let you know that tomorrow night, Larry King is going to be talking to Andrew Speaker, his wife, and family. All going to be on "LARRY KING LIVE". That's going to be at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. That's going to be right here on CNN.

PHILLIPS: Back to the hunt for a suspect accused of plotting to attack JFK airport. The fourth suspect in this case has turned himself in in Trinidad. That means that all four suspects are now in custody.

We have a better connection now with our Susan Candiotti. She is on the phone from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, with the latest -- Susan.

CANDIOTTI: Hi, Kyra.

We confirmed this information with law enforcement that Abdel Nur, 57, of Guyana has indeed turned himself in this Port-of-Spain.

The next step for him, he's expected to be making a court appearance before a magistrate sometime this afternoon, just like the two other suspects, one from Trinidad, one from Guyana, did yesterday. They'll be allowed to make an application for bail next week before the judge.

But authorities tell us it's highly unlikely they'll be able to make bail before the United States continues with its extradition process, which will happen within the next 60 days to try to bring all three men now who are being held in Trinidad back to New York to face trial on this criminal complaint.

The complaint we talked about to -- involving an alleged plot to blow up fuel lines at JFK.

We're still waiting for more details about the circumstances under which Abdel Nur turned himself in. As you know, there has been a massive manhunt for him ever since the weekend when the charges were put in place. We don't know whether a confidential informant turned him in or what the circumstances were. But we expect to get those kind of details as the day goes on -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll continue to check in with you, Susan, of course, to get those details. Appreciate it.

So how long has it taken to bring a case against a Louisiana congressman, William Jefferson? We're going to update you after the break on the man nicknamed Dollar Bill.

HOLMES: Actually, we're going to keep it here and tell you about William Jefferson right now. He's trying to leave a committee that he's on, a House committee. Going to leave that seat temporarily, and he could actually lose his freedom permanently.

Of course, Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson, he's facing that sweeping indictment that spans two continents and years of alleged corruption. We want to head now to Capitol Hill and CNN's Andrea Koppel.

Hello, Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, T.J.

That's right: 16 indictments leveled against Congressman Jefferson yesterday. And today perhaps the congressman could see the writing on the wall. He wrote a letter, in fact, this letter to Speaker Pelosi today, asking her to allow him to step aside, at least temporarily, from the remaining committee seat that he's on right now, the Small Business Administration.

He is going to step down from that. He said he's not admitting any guilt or culpability, but rather, because he supports ethics and lobbying reform, he felt that this was the right thing to do.

But Speaker Pelosi had been in the process of lining up a number of Democrats to meet on this, perhaps as soon as today, to make such a recommendation. So it was inevitable that this would have happened sooner or later sometime this week.

We have as yet to hear from Congressman Jefferson. He's lying low, understandably. We believe that he is still in Louisiana at this point.

Speaker Pelosi herself is yet to be heard, at least not on camera. She sent out a statement yesterday, saying that, under the circumstances, he should be presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law, but that if the charges are true, she said they constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of power.

As you know, T.J., the Democrats ran on this -- against what they called the Republican culture of corruption last year. The idea now that you have a House Democrat who has been indicted -- not yet found guilty in a court of law, but indicted -- is something that Republicans are jumping on -- T.J.

HOLMES: I can't imagine Republicans jumping all over this one.

All right. Andrea Koppel for us on Capitol Hill. Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: So how long has it taken to bring a case against the Louisiana congressman nicknamed Dollar Bill Jefferson? We're going to check back -- or check the back story.

HOLMES: Also, it's the GOP's turn to sit in New Hampshire's hot seat. Bill Schneider previews tonight's debate.

You watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Hello. And it's 1:15. And here are some of the stories we are working on here in the CNN NEWSROOM this hour.

Vice President Cheney's one-time chief of staff now facing prison time. A federal judge has sentenced Louis "Scooter" Libby to 2 1/2 years in prison for lying in the CIA leak investigation. The judge will decide next week whether to let Libby stay free while his lawyers file an appeal.

A third test on an Atlanta man infected with the dangerous form of tuberculosis has come back negative. Extra precautions are taken with people with the severe strains of TB.

Andrew Speaker has been in isolation after traveling on two international flights last month.

Also, all six people on a small plane that crashed into Lake Michigan are now believed dead. The group included two crew and four members of a University of Michigan organ transplant team. Recovery teams have found some human remains and parts of that plane.

We want to head back over to our Rob Marciano, who's keeping an eye on a tornado warning in an area we don't usually think about tornadoes -- Rob.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: Thank you, Bob. We want to turn to Rostock, Germany, where the president has just arrived ahead of the G-8 summit. Frederik Pleitgen is there on the ground for us. And he's been met by protesters, and not exactly rolling out the red carpet for the president.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN: You're absolutely right, T.J. The president's helicopter has, of course, just landed here moments ago in Rostock. And the protesters here really started chanting when the president's 747 landed here, calling president Bush a terrorist, telling President Bush to go home.

And it's only about 400 or 500 people that have actually come here. And that's -- on the one hand is due to the fact that it's raining pretty heavily here, but it's also due to the fact that this place is pretty far out. There's not really a major city near this place.

But the police here nevertheless is not taking any chances. There's a massive police presence out here. I would say about 50 police vehicles out here. You see police with dogs and police in riot gear.

Now the protesters up to this point are very peaceful. They're chanting, as I said, saying President Bush should go home. Telling us beforehand, they say President Bush is not welcome.

So what you're seeing behind me is really a wide array of protesters from many places. We heard people chanting in Italian, in French, and, of course, also in German. So those people are really coming from all over the place to protest this G-8 summit and especially to protest President Bush coming here.

HOLMES: All right. Our Frederik Pleitgen keeping an eye on things for us there in Germany. Thank you so much.

PHILLIPS: Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson facing a Friday court date and an extensive federal indictment and the possibility of life in prison.

It started with a freezer full of cash and resulted in a litany of charges, spanning two continents and years of alleged corruption. Now we're learning Jefferson is temporarily giving up his seat on the House Small Business Committee.

CNN's Joe Johns brings us up to date.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Like the game of Clue, in the House, in the freezer, $90,000 hidden, only the bills were marked by the FBI in a sting. So who was the suspect? Congressman Bill Jefferson.

From his indictment, it sounds like being in Congress was the job used to cover for how he really made money.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, U.S. ATTORNEY: Mr. Jefferson corruptly traded on his good office and on the Congress, where he served as a member of the United States House of Representatives, to enrich himself and his family through a pervasive pattern of fraud, bribery and corruption. JOHNS: The 16-count indictment paints the classic picture of a congressman on the take. Jefferson denies wrongdoing.

By the way, for years his nickname has been Dollar Bill.

Prosecutors say he solicited millions. If you add up the stock, fees, retainers and other things of value, the indictment says he and his family's companies actually got between $400,000 and $500,000.

But Jefferson's lawyer says what the government did not allege is important.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no suggestion that he promised anyone any appropriations. There were no earmarks; there were no government contracts.

JOHNS (on camera): Yes, but that's not all congressmen do. The government alleges that Jefferson performed a pattern of official acts: traveling to foreign countries, getting visas, writing letters to and meeting with foreign and U.S. officials, trying to get financing for business ventures and not disclosing his family's business interests.

(voice-over) And where was all of this stuff allegedly going on? Mostly West Africa. The indictment says there were efforts to secure telecommunications deals in Nigeria and Ghana, oil concessions in Equatorial Guinea, satellite transmission contracts in Botswana, and Republic of Congo.

You get the picture. Big plans, big money. So big that this could be a case for the record books. Jefferson is the first congressman charged under a law that says Americans can't bribe foreign officials.

So how did it work? One example starts in Louisville, where the feds say Jefferson accepted bribes from a telecommunications company looking to do business in Africa.

So in July of 2003, Jefferson travels to Nigeria and ends up allegedly bargaining with the Nigerians for an estimated $1 million cut of a contract.

That deals falls through, but back in Washington, the telecom company and Jefferson agree to try again. According to the indictment, Jefferson promises to pay a Nigerian official $100,000 from an investor who happens to be a cooperating witness for the FBI.

Prosecutors say Jefferson drove around with the money in his car for days before putting in his freezer, where it was found, minus ten grand.

ROSENBERG: Mr. Jefferson secreted in his freezer at his Washington, D.C., residence $90,000 of the $100,000 in cash that the cooperating witness had given to him. The $90,000 was separated into $10,000 increments, wrapped in aluminum foil and concealed inside various frozen food containers. JOHNS: The greater irony is that while this guy was getting re- elected, his party swept into control of Congress, running against a so-called culture of corruption among Republicans.

TOM FITTON, JUDICIAL WATCH: Dollar Bill Jefferson had that nickname for a long time from his work in Louisiana politics. And my question for his colleagues on the Hill is did they have any inkling that this sort of activity was going on?

JOHNS: Well, there was that incident right after Katrina when the National Guard was working 24/7 to save lives, when suddenly Jefferson got the Guard to escort him to his flooded home so he could rescue some personal items. A lot of people at the time wondered what could have been so valuable?

In the meantime, Jefferson's lawyer says he's innocent and has no plan to seek a plea deal.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Law, politics, and money. William Jefferson's career reputation spanned decades. He went to Harvard Law School and led the largest African-American owned law practice in the south.

He's also the first African-American elected to a Louisiana congressional seat since Reconstruction. But through it all, he couldn't escape the nickname Dollar Bill.

Bill Wash -- Bill Walsh is the Washington correspondent for the "New Orleans Times-Picayune". He's been covering Jefferson's case from the very start.

Bill, great to see you.

BILL WALSH, "NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE": Happy to be here.

PHILLIPS: Clearly, he's no dummy when you look at his background. Clearly, since the '70s, there were signs that he had issues with his finances. I mean, just reading about the fact that he a loan default, a lawsuit for poor maintenance of his real estate holdings.

He also overdrew his congressional office's bank account. He was criticized. His law firm took lucrative contracts from his alma mater, Southern University.

How -- I mean, I realize Louisiana politics is cursed with the spirit of Huey Long, but how did he slip through the cracks for so long, Bill?

WALSH: Well, because he was an effective congressman. You know, people in his district realized that, despite a cloud that's hovered over his political career over all these years, he's delivered for them back home. And he -- they have put him back in office nine times now, with overwhelming majorities. It hasn't even been close. This past December, despite news of this pending indictment over his head, he won with 57 percent of the vote, which is close to a landslide.

PHILLIPS: And Bill, explain to our viewers that haven't lived in Louisiana -- I mean, I lived and worked in New Orleans. I can understand the -- I guess, the mentality and the culture and the history of politics. You can too, obviously, as a reporter for the "Times-Picayune".

What is it about the years of politics in Louisiana where, you know, this has sort of been accepted behavior?

WALSH: Well, I think people in Louisiana are more inured to this kind of behavior in their politicians than most other -- other states. That's not to say they were giving Jefferson a free pass. I mean, after all, he's never been indicted for anything.

The history of his bad land deals and bad business failures, et cetera, were embarrassing, but they never were -- they never raised to the level of criminal behavior. This is really the peak of that type of thing.

And so I think people in his district were willing to look the other way, based on rumors and innuendoes, and nicknames like Dollar Bill, because he was an effective congressman for them.

PHILLIPS: Let's listen to his lawyer, Robert Trout, see what he had to say about his client.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT TROUT, JEFFERSON'S ATTORNEY: I think that when certain facts came to the attention of the FBI, they decided that it was an opportunity on their part to bring down a congressman. They get excited about that.

In this particular case, they picked the wrong congressman, and they picked the wrong facts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Interesting. They picked the wrong facts. All right. Well, we've pretty much scene the seen the facts laid out there through this intensive sting.

You also talked to Jefferson right after the raid. What did he tell you?

WALSH: Well, he said -- he was very relaxed, and he was very upbeat. He says there's an honorable explanation for all of this. When I asked what that was, he decided not to share it and hasn't, but he maintains his innocence and has, throughout this entire episode.

And as his attorney said yesterday, you know, they're going to continue to fight this thing.

I think when you hear Robert Trout, his attorney, talk, you see some hints of a legal strategy unfolding here. Jefferson, we believe, is going to maintain that this may all look really bad, but these were legitimate business deals that he was pursuing.

And that other members of Congress -- unlike other members of Congress who have pleaded guilty recently, you know, he didn't pass any bills. He didn't put anything in the congressional record. They're going to maintain he didn't use his office to further any criminal enterprise.

Of course, the government has gone out of its way to point out that Jefferson used, you know, official letterhead. He traveled. And but -- but for his position as a member of Congress, he wouldn't have been able to get any of this done.

PHILLIPS: All right. Let me just play devil's advocate for a moment. Looking at what Jefferson said to you after the raid and his lawyer is saying, "Hey, you're picking the wrong facts." He's saying this to investigators.

Do you think there is any way through these investments, through these deals that he struck, was he in any way helping the poor people of Africa? Or does it look like this was all self-serving?

WALSH: Very few of these deals ever were actually consummated. I mean, you step back and look at it, a lot of this was talk and posturing and negotiations, but very few of them even came to pass.

The central allegation in this entire indictment focuses on a telecommunications firm in Nigeria, and that deal ultimately unraveled. So you know, I don't think anyone benefited from -- from any of these deals.

PHILLIPS: Look forward to reading more stories. We admire your work, Bill. Thanks.

WALSH: Thank you.

HOLMES: Well, we've got severe storms we're keeping an eye on moving throughout the Northeast, actually. That's where Rob Marciano is keeping track of tornado warnings this hour. We're going to check back in with him in just a moment.

PHILLIPS: Then faith, values and the 2008 presidential race. Like it or not, candidates are being called to publicly comment on their personal spiritual beliefs. Former senator and Episcopal priest John Danforth joins our Bill Schneider to talk about it, straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: I'm Kyra Phillips live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm T.J. Holmes in today for Don Lemon. The separation of church and politics. You won't find it on the campaign trail these days.

PHILLIPS: Why are so many candidates answering public questions about their personal faith and is that a good thing? We're going to talk about, Bill Schneider and former Missouri Senator John Danforth. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: We're going to start off though in the severe weather center. Rob Marciano keeping an eye on tornado warnings in the northeast.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right T.J.. That one tornado warning we had for New Haven County has been allowed to expire but a number of severe thunderstorm warnings, these orange little boxes scattered across parts of eastern New York and New England indicate this area, probably seeing some heavy rain, some gusty winds and some damaging hail and this larger watch box, encompassing much of New England, is a severe thunderstorm watch that's up until 7:00 p.m. tonight and you can see already these cells popping up, as we go through the afternoon, warm air out ahead of our next system. This is right on the heels of what was left of tropical storm Barry. So Active weather, no doubt about that.

Just posted from the storm prediction center in Norman, Oklahoma, this severe weather watch box, southern parts of Georgia, extreme southern South Carolina and northern parts of the panhandle of Florida. This is for a severe thunderstorm watch out until 8:00 local time. You can see the radar starting to pop in this area as well and we do have a severe thunderstorm warning out for areas just to the west of Jacksonville. You can see the flow just scattering right across parts of the panhandle of Florida. So two areas of concern today and then big concerns tomorrow. We'll talk more about that as the afternoon progresses. T.J. back to you.

HOLMES: All right, we appreciate it Rob. We'll see you again here soon.

If you are among the 200 million travelers planning to fly this summer, make sure you charge that cell phone and bring more than one magazine for your wait at the gate. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange for us to give us the latest numbers about on-time arrivals. Good afternoon, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon to you T.J.. Kind of a misnomer, on-time arrivals and part of it, a good part of it has to do with what Rob was just talking about, rough weather. There were more late arrivals during the first four months of '07 than any other year since the government began keeping track in 1995. The Department of Transportation says only 72 percent of domestic flights pulled into the gate within 15 minutes of the time they were scheduled to in the January through April period. About 40 percent of the delays related to bad weather. For instance, you might recall February's ice storm in New York, forcing JetBlue to cancel more than 1,000 flights, leaving some passengers stranded on planes for hours, the rain, snow, sleet and hail, not the only culprit. The DOT says maintenance and crew problems and airport flight coordination also share the blame. The news comes as this summer shapes up to be one of the busiest ever for the airline industry, 209 million people that plan to fly this summer. T.J..

HOLMES: And we are talking about on-time arrivals there, but "Consumer Reports" come out with some numbers of their own, not just talking about that, talking about overall performance, what do you have?

LISOVICZ: We have some interesting findings because Jetblue of course is the airline that really took it on the chin T.J., all of us remember for that Valentine's Day ice storm in the northeast. Well, JetBlue is still tops. "Consumer Reports" did a survey before that fiasco, JetBlue in the top spot for customer service. In a smaller, follow-up survey, it still ranked among the best airlines. Different story however for U.S. Airways which experienced a round of weather, logistical problems in March. It was already at the bottom of the "Consumer Reports" ratings and it's score fell even farther in the followup.

Checking at the markets, well, stocks are certainly facing some head winds here. Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke said inflation risks remain a bit elevated. We also got a better than expected read on the economy services sector. Taken together, investors believe that means interest rates not coming down any time soon. Investors don't like that. Look at the Dow, really retreating from yesterday's record high close. It's actually off its lows for the session, down 102 points or 3/4 of a percent. The Nasdaq Composite down 2/3 of a percent. The broader S&P 500, which also closed at an all-time high yesterday, down about 3/4 of a percent. In the next hour of NEWSROOM, the FCC is cursing up a storm in a major court decision over profanity. I'll give you the PG version. I will keep it clean, I promise. Kyra and T.J., back to you.

HOLMES: We appreciate that. Susan Lisovicz, the PG version, thank you. We'll see you.

PHILLIPS: Don't forget, you watch the Republicans debate right here on CNN exclusively. Now it's the Republicans turn and in case are you wondering just how close we are to the debate, right here, five hours, 22 minutes, 48 seconds. Wolf Blitzer moderating. You won't want to miss it. Faith, values and the 2008 presidential race. Like it or not, candidates are being called to publicly comment on their personal spiritual beliefs. Former senator and Episcopal priest John Danforth joins our Bill Schneider to talk about it. That's straight ahead, right here at the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: In a recent Gallup poll, 86 percent of Americans said they believe in God. And 57 percent describe religion as very important in their lives. With religion now playing an important role in politics, presidential candidates seem to be as eager to discuss their faith as their positions on taxes and the environment. Here is what the top three Democratic contenders said on the subject at a forum last night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think your faith guides you every day, certainly mine does. But at those moments in time when you're tested, it -- it is absolutely essential that you be grounded in your faith.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Faith can say that regardless of what's happened in the past, there is a brighter future ahead. And that's the kind of faith that I think has to form, not just our international policies, but also domestic policies as well.

JOHN EDWARDS (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think there's a difference between my belief system and what the responsibilities of the president of the United States are. It's the reason we have separation of church and state.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

Joining me now to talk about faith and politics is a man who can speak with authority on both. John Danforth has written a book on the subject. He also happens to be a former U.S. senator and Episcopal priest, also joining us, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. And Bill, I'm not sure what to call the former senator, Father, Senator, Ambassador, St. Jack What do you think?

BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was a saint to me. I went to graduate school on a Danforth fellowship. So I am very grateful to Senator Danforth and his family.

PHILLIPS: So St. Jack, I'm sure you're expecting a lot from Bill Schneider.

JOHN DANFORTH, FMR. U.S. SENATOR: I sure am. But that was a little before my time.

PHILLIPS: All right, Jack, let's start with you. Let's talk about this constant injection of religion into national politics. Do you think it's dangerous, healthy for the nation, disingenuous?

DANFORTH: Religious people have been involved in politics since Joseph advised pharaoh and religious people believe that it's their commitment to be engaged in all of life and to do it from the standpoint of being faithful people. Where it becomes dangerous is when people believe that their political views are God's political views. And if they think that they can translate God's truth into their political platform and therefore everybody else is beyond the pale or an enemy of God, So religion can be very, very divisive in politics and in American life and that's why our founding fathers wanted to keep religion and government separated.

PHILLIPS: So Bill Schneider, as you have watched all the candidates debate this issue, talk about this issue, do you think there has been a fine line between being a Christian person and then having a Christian agenda or do you think that line has been blurred? SCHNEIDER: There are a lot of people on the religious right among Christian conservatives who claim that to be a good Christian, you have to endorse certain traditional values and take certain positions on abortion, gay rights, stem cell, embryonic stem cell research, evolution, lots of issues, school prayer, and that's what's really been an important part of the debate now since 1980. It's injected as the senator said, a high level of divisiveness in American politics. A lot of Americans resent being told they are not properly religious, because they don't endorse those positions and Democrats are now beginning say we have values too on issues like AIDS and the environment and most of all poverty. These are issues that reverberate throughout the bible and religious Americans hold those values just as dear.

PHILLIPS: So Jack, do you think that voters listen to various candidates spew religious rhetoric, whether it's genuine or not, but automatically think OK, they are an ethical, righteous leader because they are talking the talk and I'm going to vote for them?

DANFORTH: Some people clearly do, but what I think that most people in American do not want a political party to be a religious party. Most people in America do not want us to be divided along religious lines. They think that we're all in this together as a country and they are concerned about using religion or a series of religious issues as wedges to split us apart. So in my view, the more people think about this, the more they talk about it, the more light they shine on the whole question of the relationship between faith and politics, the better we are. Clearly there is a relationship. Religious people are going to be involved and should be involved in politics and they should bring all of their being into that, including their faith lives, but when it becomes intolerant, when it becomes I'm on God's side and you are not, then it is very divisive.

PHILLIPS: Bill, does that de-value religion, do you think, and I don't know, twist the meaning and -- maybe even affect the outcome of an important political issue?

SCHNEIDER: When any one side claims that theirs is the religious side, they're correct, everyone else is irreligious or even, then the debate becomes dangerous. One of the things we've seen in American politics, in fact, I would call it the single biggest trend in our politics since 1980, is that observant Americans of all faiths and backgrounds including fundamentalist Protestants and observing Catholics and even orthodox Jews have become more and more Republican and American who's are less observant have become more Democratic. That is a new divide. We've seen religious issues in American politics going all the way back to the abolition of slavery. But we never seen the idea that one party claims to speak for persons of faith and the other party is left being called the secular party. Democrats don't want that to happen and they are trying to reclaim the idea that they are persons of faith as well.

PHILLIPS: Jack it seems a lot of politicians sort of cloak themselves in religion just to get the vote. So at the end of the day, should religion take a less prominent place in the political arena? DANFORTH: No and let me say about cloaking themselves, I don't know. I can't put myself in somebody else's mind, so I don't want to demean anybody by saying that they have got wrong motives. All I'm saying is that religion can be divisive and it's important to -- to keep religious people in the political sphere. It's important for them to be involved. They believe that it's their duty to be involved in politics and in government, but what is really necessary is the degree of humility and understanding that all of us see through a glass darkly. We do not have perfect perception of God's truth and God's truth is bigger than any of us and it's big enough, maybe, to encompass the views of people with whom we strongly disagree. And I think that sort of understanding of religion brings a degree of civility to our political discourse. We're now so divided in our country, so polarized and religion can either polarize us further and I'm afraid it's done that or it can be something that gives us greater tolerance for one another.

PHILLIPS: We've watched Democrats so it will be interesting to see what comes up tonight on this issue with the Republicans. John Danforth, Bill Schneider, thank you so much for your time.

As we mentioned, the Republican presidential hopefuls will debate tonight right here on CNN. Join the best political team on television, 6:00 Eastern for a pre-game lineup of the players, their weaknesses and who needs to shine. At 7:00 Eastern, Wolf Blitzer moderates the debate and who scored, who stumbled. Join Wolf, Larry King, Anderson Cooper and John Roberts live for raw politics, a post-debate breakdown on the winners and the losers. More from the NEWSROOM in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Promising results in a new study on breast cancer. A less-demanding schedule of radiation treatment may benefit women in the early stages of the disease. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It could be some very promising information for the women with early-stage breast cancer, talking specifically about treatment options for these women. You talk a lot about surgery, hormone therapy, chemotherapy, even radiation therapy. It will be very difficult for a lot of women to get all those radiation therapy treatments in. So some research is out of a conference in Chicago, actually looking at fine tuning exactly how much radiation might be necessary. Again this is potentially some promising news.

What they specifically were looking at were what is sort of standard of care. Five weeks of treatment, they do this 25 days, five days a week for five weeks, versus doing it for three weeks. Slightly less radiation as well and what they found was in fact they had significant - they had about the same outcomes in terms of overall recurrence rate. But they had fewer side effects which is obviously very important. One of the things that came out though, is it can just be very difficult for women, especially women who live far away from the hospitals to actually make all of their radiation treatments. They've already taken significant time off from work to get all of their therapy and now they have to do the radiation therapy as well. This new study might suggest that women don't need to go to the hospital for that many visits after their initial therapy. It is not a blanket recommendation yet for all women. More studies are going to need to be done. But again some potentially promising news in the world of breast cancer. Back to you.

PHILLIPS: A Kansas teen disappears while on a simple errand. A man described as a person of interest might provide some clues. But first they have to find him. Details, straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: A cloudy forecast as the president arrives in Germany. But we're not talking about the weather. Next in the NEWSROOM details on tricky diplomacy at the G-8 summit.

PHILLIPS: And first as we take a break, we'll take a look at the big board. Right now Dow industrials down 94 points. We'll have more in a moment. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

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