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Chief Justice Falls After Seizure; Corruption Investigation: Senator Ted Stevens' Home Searched; The Shoe-Bomber Speaks

Aired July 31, 2007 - 06:59   ET


JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR (voice over): Critical questions. The seizure that sent the chief justice of the United States to the hospital, what triggered it? Could it happen again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps he will go on to be diagnosed with epilepsy.

ROBERTS: A live update from his hospital this morning.

The survivor driver. A 35-ton cement truck flattens his car, he is trapped inside, but lives to tell how he made it out alive.



ROBERTS: That is one incredible story which you'll hear about firsthand this morning.


ROBERTS: Welcome back. Thanks for joining us.

It's Tuesday, the 31st of July.

I'm John Roberts on this AMERICAN MORNING.

CHO: And I'm Alina Cho. Kiran has the morning off.

We're glad you're with us.

ROBERTS: We're awaiting word within the hour, apparently, from the medical center where the chief justice of the United States spent the night. He suffered a seizure and then a fall at his island vacation home off the coast of Maine yesterday.

Doctors gave John Roberts a neurological scan. The Supreme Court said quite quickly that he has "fully recovered". But this is not the first time that the chief justice has suffered this kind of seizure.

CNN's Allan Chernoff is live outside the Penobskot Bay Medical Center, where we are expecting a statement from the hospital within the hour. But what's the latest on the situation there? And also, Allan, tell us about this other incident that the chief justice had some years back.


Well, we do know that the justice has spent the night here, and the hospital has said that is merely for precautionary measures. He did suffer the seizure yesterday about 2:00 in the afternoon. It happened actually on a dock near his vacation home, which is on an island off the coast.

As a result of that seizure, he fell about five or 10 feet, suffered some cuts, bruises as well. He was brought to the mainland by a boat, transferred here on an ambulance, and then tests were done here at the hospital.


CHRISTOPHER BURKE, PENOBSKOT BAY MEDICAL CENTER SPOKESMAN: He suffered what doctors described as a benign idiopathic seizure. He experienced some minor scrapes and cuts from his fall. But he is expected -- he has fully recovered from the incident.


CHERNOFF: Idiopathic, meaning doctors couldn't figure out the exact cause of the seizure, which apparently is pretty common for this sort of thing.

Now, we do know that this is at least the second time Justice Roberts has suffered a seizure. It happened in 1993 when he was only 38 years old -- John.

ROBERTS: Any idea what to expect from the hospital when they release a statement within the hour, as we understand it, Allan?

CHERNOFF: I spoke to the hospital spokesperson just a little while ago and thus far, they don't know exactly when he will be released, whether it will be a little bit later today, or whether there are going to be more tests. They're checking with his neurologist and as soon as they know, hopefully, we will know.

ROBERTS: All right. Send up a flare as soon as you get word on that.

Allan Chernoff outside the hospital there in Rockport, Maine, for us this morning.

Allan, thanks.

CHO: We want to get a little bit more perspective on all of this. Jeffrey Toobin is here with us. He's CNN's senior legal analyst.

So, Jeffrey, the court reconvenes in October. What happens if Justice Roberts doesn't come back?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the court sometimes sits with eight people, if he is completely incapacitated. Sometimes justices work from home.

They vote on cases by memo, they listen to the oral arguments by -- on audiotape. Certainly no sign that the chief is going to need that kind of special treatment at this point, but the court has dealt with illnesses on the part of its members before, and they do the best they can.

CHO: But is it more significant because he's the chief justice? You had mentioned earlier, 43 presidents, just 17 chief justices. This is such an important position.


CHO: Can he really work?

TOOBIN: Yes, it does -- it does make a difference that he is the chief, because he -- you know, the title -- it's frequently mistaken, but the title is not chief justice of the Supreme Court. It's chief justice of the United States. He is the spokesman. He is the leader of all the federal judges in the country, the judicial branch of government.

He has administrative responsibilities in all sorts of areas. He's on the board of the Smithsonian Institution by law. I mean, there are a lot of things that the chief justice does that the other justices don't have to do -- administrative responsibilities that he will have to keep up.

If it's a few weeks, even a few months, it probably doesn't make that much of a difference. But for someone who all of us expect and hope and will serve for many, many years, if this is a continuing problem, that could be an issue.

CHO: Quite a surprise for the youngest chief justice as well.

TOOBIN: Well, he is the youngest justice of all the nine justices. He is the chief, but he is only 52 years old. Justice Alito is 55, Justice Thomas is 59.

I mean, they are all older than he is. And Justice John Paul Stevens is 87. So it is a shock to everyone who follows the court that the one person with the health problem is John Roberts, who not only is 52, but he looks great, he seems healthy.

CHO: Right. You spent time with him.


CHO: I know you said he was vigorous and he looked healthy. So quite a surprise.

TOOBIN: It shows what I know. CHO: Jeffrey Toobin, you know a lot.

Our senior legal analyst.

Thanks for joining us. We'll be back with you later.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Jeff.

Another big story that we're following this morning. Senator Ted Stevens is speaking out about the FBI and IRS raid on his home in Alaska yesterday.

CNN's Dana Bash is live in Washington.

Dana, what's the raid on the senator's house all about?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first, John, you know, for people who may not know who Senator Ted Stevens is, for more than a quarter of a century he's been one of the most influential people here in Washington as to how the government spends your money, sometimes in controversial ways. You'll remember that bridge to nowhere.

Well, recently, an Alaska oil executive who is a big financial contributor to Senator Stevens pleaded guilty to bribing state officials. Now, here's how the search on Senator Stevens yesterday fits into all of this.

That same donor oversaw a huge renovation project of Stevens' house outside Anchorage, Alaska, the one that was raided yesterday. So, what federal officials are apparently trying to figure out is if that donor foot the bill for the renovation of that house that you're looking at right there.

Well, in a statement, Senator Stevens is simply asking constituents for patience. Here is what he said.

He said, "I continue to believe this investigation should proceed to its conclusion without any appearance that I have attempted to influence its outcome. I will continue my policy of not commenting on this investigation until it has concluded."


ROBERTS: Dana, it sounds similar to the case of Connecticut Governor John Rowland, who had some work done on his house a number of years ago. Eventually he was forced to resign, not to suggest that Stevens is guilty of this or not.

But when you look at this in context of, you know, the Duke Cunningham scandal, Congressman Jefferson, how are the politics of this playing in Washington?

BASH: Well, you know, it's playing big time because, you know -- well, first I should say, as you noted, it's important to note we're not sure where this Stevens investigation is headed, but certainly over the past few years we've seen several lawmakers under investigation, indicted, and even convicted. And that is why, John, you're seeing this week -- in fact, today, the House of Representatives probably going to pass legislation to require more disclosure of financial contributions and restrictions on lobbying.

Lobbying and ethics reform, it is a big, big topic. And if Democrats and Republicans in Congress have their way, they're going to send legislation to the president by the end of the week on it.

ROBERTS: All right. Interesting to see if they actually do something about it this time, too.

BASH: Yes, it will.

ROBERTS: Dana Bash for us in our Washington bureau.

Dana, thanks.

Other headlines new this morning.

High-level meetings about the security of Iraq are under way this morning in Egypt. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a news conference within the last 30 minutes with the Egyptian foreign minister. Secretary Rice is trying to build support for regional help in Iraq. Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will head to Saudi Arabia later on this morning.

While U.S. troops remain on the job in Iraq, Iraq's lawmakers are now beginning a month-long vacation. They won't return to Baghdad until the 4th of September. That's just 11 days before General Petraeus' progress report is due on whether Iraq is reaching the benchmarks set out by President Bush.

Another South Korean hostage is dead this morning, and Taliban kidnappers are threatening to kill more. Twenty-one hostages are still being held somewhere in Afghanistan. Taliban leaders have demanded the release of prisoners, but negotiators say they have ruled that out.

Rupert Murdoch's $5 billion to buy the company that owns "The Wall Street Journal" is still on the table. A deadline for a decision though has come and gone. Sources say some members of the Bancroft family which controls the shares are still holding out.

CHO: Other stories new this morning from our AMERICAN MORNING team of correspondents.

A tropical storm may be brewing. Rob Marciano is watching that extreme weather for us this morning.


CHO: The FDA votes to keep Avandia on the market despite some safety concerns.

Ali Velshi here with more on that. Hey, Ali. What's that all about?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Avandia, you may remember a few months ago, Alina, in May, a report came out that Avandia, the leading diabetes drug, was thought to cause heart risk, risk of heart failure. Well, after a lot of fighting over at the FDA, a panel has acknowledged that they do feel Avandia does increase the risk of heart failure, but has decided that it's too valuable to pull off the market. They just want it to be -- to contain warning labels.

Avandia is a drug that's made by GlaxoSmithKline. It sold $3 billion last year, although since this report in May, sales have dropped of that drug and sales of competing drugs have increased.

The interesting thing here is that there are a lot of studies out there, some of which show that all of this class of drug actually increase the risk of heart failure. GlaxoSmithKline, for its part, has disputed many of the findings.

The only thing I take away from this whole thing is that it is murky, it's unclear what it is. But after the Vioxx incidents, the FDA wants to be a little more vigilant about these sort of things. So, for now, a vote overwhelmingly in favor of Avandia staying on the market for those who take it to treat diabetes.

CHO: All right, Ali. I know you're watching Wall Street as well. And the markets have been volatile of late. The open just two and a half hours away.

VELSHI: And we'll keep a close eye on that. Yes.

CHO: We'll check back with you later. All right -- John.

ROBERTS: Coming up to 11 minutes after the hour.

Also this morning, we are seeing and hearing from shoe bomber Richard Reid for the first time since he was sentenced to 110 years in prison. This picture of him in the supermax prison was published in this morning's British tabloid "The Mirror," along with Reid's letters from prison.

Here in the United States, it was carried in "The Daily News". Here is the front cover of "The Daily News" here in New York City.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is live in Washington.

Jeanne, this a guy that the world probably would have rather forgotten, but now he's showing up on the front page of newspapers around the world.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And he looks a little different. We all remember him with his long hair in a ponytail. It looks like that's been cut and he has lost a little weight. In those exclusive letters that the mirror claims to have seen, Reid says that he has run out of money. And he asked his father to whom he is writing for even a little.

He acknowledges having been harsh with his dad in the past, but says, "I'm like that with pretty much everyone." He also writes, "I had a couple of good dreams about my situation changing for the better in the not so distant future, so this is a blessing from Allah. I place my trust in Allah that he will bring that into fruition and ask him to give me patience until the time when that occurs."

That may be wishful thinking. Reid is currently serving a 110- year sentence in a supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

ROBERTS: It's interesting, too, Jeanne, that the only thing he seems to not talk about in thee letters that he sent home, the crime that he is accused of committing.

MESERVE: Well, we don't see the actual letters. They didn't publish them. Just some quotes from those letters. But as far as we can see, no, he didn't address them.

But we are all still feeling the effects of what he tried to do. That is why all of us have to take off our shoes and have them x-rayed every time we fly.

ROBERTS: Right, absolutely. And those precautions are going to continue for sometime to come, including the restrictions on the amount of liquid that you can bring on board a plane.

Jeanne Meserve for us in Washington this morning.

Jeanne, thanks very much.

MESERVE: You bet.

CHO: Fighting questionable fund-raising in Congress. That tops our "Quick Hits" this morning.

House Democratic leaders vote today on ethics bill. Among other things, it would require lawmakers to disclose lobbyists who raised more than $15,000 for them in a six-month period. That bill is expected to be passed.

Later today, Fred Thompson is expected to announce that his committee testing the waters for a run for president raised $3 million in June. That's less than some backers hoped he would raise.

This morning, a new fight is heating up in Congress to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq. Pennsylvania Democrat John Murtha is leading the charge. He is going to join John next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


CHO: Welcome back to the most news in the morning.

You're looking live at Rockport, Maine. An empty podium there. That's the Penobskot Bay hospital where we are eagerly awaiting a news conferences so that we can get an update on Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, who suffered a seizure yesterday at his vacation home in Maine. We're going to get that to you live as soon as they walk up to the podium -- John.

ROBERTS: Sixteen minutes now after the hour.

There are new calls on Capitol Hill today to begin a troop withdrawal from Iraq in 60 days' time. A leading House war critic says more and more of his colleagues are getting on board.

Democratic Representative John Murtha is the voice behind this call. He joins me now from Washington.

Good to see you again, Congressman.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to see you, John.

ROBERTS: So, this amendment that you're going to introducing today to try to attach to the 2008 defense appropriations bill would call for U.S. troops to start coming home within 60 days, be home within the course of about a year. I find it very interesting that you're taking heat from the left on this amendment because you don't have clear deadlines.

Are you planning to change the language in this amendment?

MURTHA: Well, what we're trying to do is make sure the administration knows we're serious. Now, they've always disagreed with the deadline in the end. But the troops have to start coming home.

We've got a tale of two families here, John. We have the families who are going about their business, their kids are in college, and so forth. But the families I visit, the families I see are burned out by this war, the ones that are participating in the war, the families of the war.

You know, this is individuals. When you say casualties go up or down, the members are clamoring for a redeployment.

We can't win this militarily. The rhetoric doesn't win this.

The Iraqi parliament went on vacation. They're not serious. They're not taking up the things they need to take up.

So, you know, this is the time that we have to start to redeploy and regain the confidence of the American people. There's all kinds of corruption in Iraq with the money that's being spent. So we...

ROBERTS: Congressman, what do you say to critics on the left who claim you're going soft on this by not having a firm deadline? MURTHA: Well, we're trying to work it out. In the end, we may have to have a deadline. But let me say this. September is the real date.

There's no money for Iraq in this defense bill. This is the basic defense bill.

The next step is the supplemental. That's when all of the money for Iraq is -- that's when the $12 billion a month is in the bill. So this comes together, and we're going to put the supplemental in with the regular bill in September.

So, October 1st, when money runs out, is the real time. It's going to be a historic time. There's going to be a confrontation between Congress, the American public and the White House about redeployment from Iraq.

Rhetoric of the generals, rhetoric of the White House is over. People know it's not going well and they're ready to redeploy.

ROBERTS: Now, on that front, Congressman, two fierce critics of the Bush administration's prosecution of this war, Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, both from the Brookings Institution, just returned from Iraq. They wrote an op-ed in yesterday's "New York Times" in which they said there were some signs of improvement, Anbar province is getting safer, morale among the troops is getting better. Here is what they said.

"As two analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq, we were surprised by the gains we saw. There was enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008."

What do you think about that?

MURTHA: Well, John, they were there for seven days. These troops have been extended. In order to sustain this deployment through March or April, just to sustain this deployment, you would have to extend the troops from 15 months to 18 months.

ROBERTS: So you just dismiss that then?

MURTHA: I dismiss it at as rhetoric. I dismiss it as -- you know, in my estimation, the things that I measure are not -- oil production, electricity production, water. Only two hours of electricity.

I don't know where they were staying. I don't know what they saw. But I know this, that it's not getting better. It's rhetorical is what is getting better.

It's over-optimist. It's an illusion. And the American public is saying $12 billion a month in Afghanistan and Iraq is too much. The Europeans aren't helping, and now we're looking into trying to buy our allies by giving them a lot of money so they'll do more in this war.

ROBERTS: Congressman, there's also the big question of, what then? What happens after U.S. troops come out of Iraq?

Here is what Newt Gingrich said that about that over the weekend.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FMR. SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Millions of Iraqis have sided with the United States. They are known in their neighborhoods, they are known in their cities. If we abandon them, they are going to be massacred.


ROBERTS: So, Congressman, what do you do after you pull out U.S. troops to make sure that those Iraqis who did side with the United States, who supported the campaign there, don't fall prey to insurgents and terrorists?

John, the only people that can solve this are the Iraqis. We can't solve it for them. We are considered occupiers. Even the fellow who kicked the goal in the winning soccer game, he says the Americans should be out of there.

We have become occupiers in the minds of the Iraqis. We're the ones causing the problem. We're inciting the Sunnis and some of the Shias to say, get them out of there, they're the ones causing all of the problems. They'll have to solve this themselves, John.

ROBERTS: He also said though that he can't go back to Iraq because he would be killed.

Representative Murtha, Congressman Murtha, thanks for being with us. We'll be watching today to see if you have some success. Thanks for being with us.

MURTHA: Thanks, John.

CHO: A mammoth deal topping your "Quick Hits" this morning.

Two private donors dishing out more than $100,000 for some 12,000-year-old mammoth bones. That ancient skeleton was found in a Kenosha County cornfield back in 1994. It's now on display at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

And a glimpse of the world's biggest carpet. Take a look at this.

It was just rolled out in Iran and is headed to the United Arab Emirates. The carpet is 60,000 square feet, and it took a full two years to weave.

More mortgage problems. The rate of home foreclosures shot up in the first six months of the year. Could things get even worse?

We'll have that story next on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHO: Welcome back to AMERICAN MORNING.

You're looking live there at Rockport, Maine. A lot of noise there in the background.

We are awaiting a news conference at the Penobskot Bay hospital on the condition of Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts of the Supreme Court. He suffered a seizure yesterday. A lot of questions about his health going forward, including whether he has epilepsy now.


Hey, our Dr. Sanjay Gupta is globetrotting right now for the "Earth in Peril" series which is going to air later on this year. We caught up with him. He is in Cairns, Australia, up there near the Great Barrier Reef.

He wanted to ring in.

So, we know, Sanjay, that this is the second time that the chief justice of the United States has had a seizure. Where are you going with what you're thinking? Are you thinking epilepsy here or something else?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, any time somebody has a seizure, and an otherwise healthy person, there's a lot of things that come to mind. Certainly, you would want to look at whether he started any medications, for example, whether all of his electrolytes in his blood were normal.

If all that was normal, then he would certainly need to get a brain scan. And, you know, as you know, and as we discussed when he was nominated, he did have a seizure in '93. At that point, it sounds like he had a complete evaluation and nothing turned up.

So they refer to that as idiopathic, meaning there is no known cause. With the second seizure now, even 14 years later, you know, it would be important to look in the brain again to determine if there was something -- what we would say structural within the brain that might be causing this, and that would sort of be the first step. If he has no more seizures, you know, within a -- within a relatively short time period, I'm not known he would be given the diagnosis of epilepsy, per se, but he would probably need to stay on some anti- seizure medications for some time.

ROBERTS: Right. You know, the hospital also said that this was a benign process, which would indicate that the scans didn't turn up anything structurally, no tumor process or anything like that.

So what do you think is the future here for the chief justice here, Sanjay? GUPTA: Well, there's a lot of people who sort of fall into this category, John, where you never really find a cause for sure of why they had a seizure. And again, one thing we have to assume, as well, is I don't know if this was witnessed or not. I know that he fell from what I'm hearing five to 10 feet, but was this actually a seizure would be the first step in all of this. Did he, in fact, have a true seizure?

But if it was and there was no known cause, probably he would need to remain on the medications for sometime, and then probably just gradual wean off of them. And he would just continue with the diagnosis of idiopathic seizure, meaning that, you know, never found a cause and may not need to be on medications for the rest of his life, just for a period of time until he clearly has no more evidence of these.

ROBERTS: Sanjay, there was one local report that had a description of foam around the mouth at the time that he was on the dock. What does that say to you?

GUPTA: Well, you know, when someone has a seizure, several things happen in the brain. You know, it's sort of a stimulation of the brain.

People may have what are called tonic and clonic movements, meaning that their muscles get all stiff and then they actually start to have that sort of beading, that clonic activity back and forth. It affects all of the muscles, including the muscles of the diaphragm and the muscles around the chest wall. And typically, that can make it hard, at least for a period of time, for someone to breathe. And that might cause some foaming at the mouth and some biting of the tongue and those sorts of activities, as well, which are all sort of pretty commonly associated with seizure.

ROBERTS: All right.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta ringing in on that this morning.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, of course, a neurosurgeon, knows all about this. He's speaking to us this morning from Cairns, Australia.

Sanjay, I expect that we're going to be hearing back from you a little bit later on today, because I'm sure that this is one you don't want to miss.

Thanks for calling in. Appreciate it.

CHO: And just a quick update. We expect that news conference to happen in Rockport, Maine, in about 20 minutes. So of course we will take you there live.

And you're looking there live at the Penobskot Bay hospital, where we will get an update on the health of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Meanwhile, it's 28 minutes after the hour. Ali Velshi "Minding Your Business".

You're talking foreclosures.

VELSHI: Yes. How big a deal do you guys think this problem is, this foreclosure issue?

CHO: Well, it seems to be a pretty big deal, affecting the markets in quite a big way.

ROBERTS: It could be huge, you know, depending how long the housing market stays depressed.

VELSHI: And how bad this gets. We're looking at possibly two million American homes foreclosed by the end of this year.

The numbers for the first six months of 2007 are up 58 percent. Not from the first six months of 2006, but from the last six months of 2006, when this thing became a problem. So, in fact, it's actually more serious than it looks.

In the first six months of this year, 573,000 properties received some sort of foreclosure notice. That could be just a notice of default. It could be all the way to repossession. But almost 600,000 homes are in the process.

The states with the highest number of foreclosure notices are -- you can probably expect this -- California, Florida, Texas. And Ohio is on that list as well. At the same time, the rate of home ownership in the United States is at its lowest level since 2003, and it had been climbing all the way through the '90s because of low interest rates and the availability of credit.

2003, it peaked. Now we're down. The number is still pretty good -- 68.4 percent of people living in homes own those homes. So, on a worldwide level, America still has a remarkable level of home ownership, but it is going down.

So, depending on how long this goes on for and how many people it affects, it could start to spread out through the economy, because people who lose their homes or can't afford to pay those mortgages can't spend on other things, too.

We'll continue to keep an eye on this.

CHO: It has a ripple effect, as you like to say.

VELSHI: That's absolutely right. Yes.

CHO: All right. Ali Velshi, thanks.


ROBERTS: Thanks, Ali. We'll see you in about a half an hour's time.

Also coming up this morning on our next half hour, remember that guy that we showed you yesterday, the guy whose car was underneath that cement mixer?

CHO: Incredible, truly incredible. That big orange cement mixer dwarfing that little car. The guy survived! It's incredible.

ROBERTS: There is he right there. He is going to be joining us in our next half hour of AMERICAN MORNING -- I'll learn how to say those words -- when we come back.

Stay with us.


CHO: Welcome back. It's Tuesday, July 31st. I'm Alina Cho. Kiran has the morning off.

ROBERTS: Good morning to you. I'm John Roberts. Thanks for being with us.

This morning Alaska's powerful Republican Senator Ted Stevens is urging patience in the court of public opinion. The FBI and the IRS just searched his vacation home in Gurdwood (ph), Alaska. They're trying to get a better sense of his Steven's to Alaskan oil executive named Bill Allen. Allen has won millions of dollars in federal contracts and recently pleaded guilty to bribing state legislators.

Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now. So how much trouble could Stevens be in here?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Huge. I mean, this is a very straightforward bribery investigation. The question is, who paid for the renovation of Stevens' house, the house that was searched yesterday. Bill Allen, the executive at the center of this investigation, he's pleaded guilty. He's cooperating. He's got a big interest to try to persuade the judge that he's telling everything he knows. So the question is, is he saying anything about giving bribes to Stevens, and is that credible? Is there a case to be made there?

ROBERTS: Right. We talked earlier about the fact he's been in the Senate for 39 years. He was the chairman of the Appropriations Committee. He was the Senate president pro tem, third away from the Oval Office in the line of succession. Could a guy who's been in those positions be so stupid as to accept a simple bribe from a company?

TOOBIN: History is full of the answer to that question being yes, that people are so stupid that over a relatively piddling amount of money they could throw away such an important career.

This is a remarkable moment in Alaska history. Alaska has two senators and one Congressman. All three are under investigation at this point. Lisa Murkowski, the other senator, had a sweetheart deal apparently for real estate. She had to give back that deal. Don Young, the longtime Congressman, is also being investigated in connection with this company. So, you know, I think this is not a time for Alaska's citizens to be tremendously proud of their public officials. CHO: We want to make a right turn here. In about 15 minutes we'll be going to a news conference in Rockport, Maine to get an update on Chief Justice John Roberts. He suffered what we believe was a seizure yesterday. As you pointed out, in the last half hour or so, he's not the chief justice of the Supreme Court; he's the chief justice of the United States. This is a very big position. How serious is this for the court going forward?

TOOBIN: If it is, as the court said in a statement yesterday, that the chief justice is fully recovered, then that's the end of the story. What, obviously, is the concern is that he had a -- apparently similar seizure in 1993; he's had one now. The question is will there be any future ramifications for his health? Will he have to take medication that affects him in some way? will this affect his ability to stay on the court? Fully recovered, if that's the case, then this is just a blip that will probably be forgotten very quickly. If not, then we'll see.

ROBERTS: It's all a matter of what does fully recovered really mean. Anyone who has an he epileptic seizure recovers.

TOOBIN: That's right.

CHO: Fourteen years ago.

TOOBIN: That's right. And I'm no doctor. I don't play one on TV. But epilepsy is, obviously, a serious issue, and if that's what he has, he's going to have manage it for quite sometime.

CHO: As you pointed out, the court reconvenes in October. If he doesn't come back to work at the court, he can work from home, at least for a little while?

TOOBIN: There is a lot of history of the justices serving through illnesses, and that involves working from home at times. Supreme Court justices, they don't have to listen to witnesses in court. All they do is listen to lawyers, so they can do it on tape, they can work by memo. But, you know, that's a short-term scenario, and there is no evidence at this point that the chief will have to do any of that. If he's fully recovered, he'll be back at work in October.

CHO: Well, we certainly hope for a speedy recovery. Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, thanks as always.

TOOBIN: See what the doctor says.

CHO: We'll see you later. All right. Well done.

Also new this morning, an effort to build regional support for bringing security to Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with leaders from Egypt and Jordan earlier this morning in Sharm El- Sheikh. She'll move on to Saudi Arabia in just a couple of hours. Just about an hour ago, she talked to the press in Egypt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECY. OF STATE: We have a lot of interest in common in this region, in the fight against terrorism and extremism, in protecting the gains of peace processes of the past and in extending those gains to peace processes of the future.


CHO: Zain Verjee following this all from the State Department this morning.

Hey, Zain. So what are the goals of this trip?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alina, one of the major goals of this trip is essentially to unite Arab allies what Secretary Rice called a destabilizing influence.

Another major goal, as you mentioned, they need help in Iraq. A lot of U.S. officials are saying that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries need to play a role that's a lot more constructive in Iraq. Some officials have accused them of not supporting the government, the Shia-led government, of Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq, and funding and arming Sunni insurgents. So that's a real issue for the U.S. and they want help from these countries on that.

Also ahead of this trip, Secretary Rice announced a significant arms sales deal with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, essentially to boost security in the region, as well as, the U.S. says, to allay some of the concerns that these countries have about the region, particular about the growing influence of Iran.

CHO: But, Zain, this is a huge arms deal. We've been reporting on it extensively. Some of the critics would contend this is quid pro quo for support in Iraq. What are you hearing about that?

VERJEE: Secretary Rice was asked exactly that question by reporters on her plane over. And she said, no, you know, that's absolutely not the case. This is about boosting security in the region. There is no quid pro quo. This is a relationship with Saudi Arabia and other countries that has lasted decades, so this is nothing new.

But you can be sure, though, the message that Secretary Rice and Defense Secretary Gates are carrying, that, you know, we need help in Iraq, we don't want any interference and we don't want you to do anything that hurts us -- Alina.

CHO: Zain Verjee is our State Department correspondent.

Zain, thank you very much.


CHO: Coming up, a story you just won't want to miss. Remember this picture of a cement mixer that fell on a car? Well, we're going to talk to the driver who walked away from that accident. That next on AMERICAN MORNING. There you see him.


ROBERTS: An Incredible tale of survival to tell you about this morning. Take a look at these pictures. A 35-ton cement truck swerved to avoid an accident but, instead, flipped over and completely crushed this car. Unbelievably, though, the driver survived -- there he is -- with only cuts and bruises.

Kim Strandberg joins us now from Bithlo, Florida what remains of his car.

And, Ken, looking at it there, there's not much left!


ROBERTS: How are you doing this morning?

STRANDBERG: Definitely sore, but I'm happy to be alive.

ROBERTS: I imagine you are.

Do you remember what happened? Can you take us through those moments when you and the cement truck became so intimately involved with each other?

STRANDBERG: I can remember every millisecond of it. I was going to make a U-turn. I checked to make sure there was no traffic coming. And then out of the blue, in a direction I wasn't even expecting, my car exploded on the drive's side. And it kept moving. I was waiting for it to quit moving. And, finally, it did, and I found out that I wasn't going anywhere.

ROBERTS: Wow. After the collision, what was the situation? And had you realized at that point what had happened and the fix that you found yourself in?

STRANDBERG: I knew immediately that something or someone had hit me with another vehicle, and I was looking for a way to get out of the car. And as you can see, the driver's door wasn't accessible to me. I looked to the back, I looked to the front and looked to the side and realized that I was trapped.

ROBERTS: To say the least you were trapped.

It's just a miracle that you survived that, that one little space in between the drum that contains the concrete and the side of the week vehicle gave you enough space to create an area you could survive in. While you were trapped, Kim, an emergency worker handed you a cell phone. Who did you call?

STRANDBERG: Actually I called my folks, as they're the family that I have in town. Basically, I'm going to need a ride home.

ROBERTS: It's amazing that you could maintain a sense of humor through all of that!

STRANDBERG: I'm sorry? could you say it again?

ROBERTS: I said it's amazing that you could have maintained a sort of sense of humor through all of that.

STRANDBERG: That's what I'm known for, I guess.

ROBERTS: Has this experience changed you at all? A couple of years ago, you had open heart surgery, right?

STRANDBERG: Yes. In fact, I had been going through definitely a couple of years of despondency. And then factoring in the open-hear surgery people said that I was a miracle because I had an aneurysm the size of a softball, and that I shouldn't be alive. And just that period of despondency. I was really starting question God and is there a Jesus, and I honestly believe this is the man's way of saying, yes, I am here.

ROBERTS: Yes, there is somebody out there. You've got an angel on your shoulder, somebody looking out for you. I can't believe that you survived that, because I've seen the results of similar incidents, and the outcome was never good.

But, Kim, thanks for joining us this morning. I'm sure that you're going to be thankful that every day that you live from now on.

STRANDBERG: I definitely am. It's changed my perspective on life, and it's not about me.

ROBERTS: Kim Strandberg, one lucky guy, joining us this morning from Bithlo, Florida. Kim, thanks.

CHO: Hard to believe he's standing on his own after that.

CHO: Right now we are awaiting a news conference on Chief Justice John Roberts' condition. You're looking there at Rockport, Maine, the Penobskot Bay Hospital there. We're going to be speaking to the head of Columbia University's epilepsy center. He's going to join us next, when AMERICAN MORNING returns.


CHO: We're looking live there at Rockport, Maine, where we are awaiting a news conference on the condition of Chief Justice John Roberts. He suffered a seizure yesterday in a fall off his island home in Maine. The doctors are coming out, we understand, and we will go to that live as soon as we get it.

In the meantime, we're going to talk now to Dr. Frank Gilliam, who is the head of epilepsy for Columbia University Medical Center.

So Chief Justice Roberts suffered a benign idiopathic seizure. What does that mean?

DR. FRANK GILLIAM, COLUMBIA UNIV. EPILEPSY CENTER: Well, although in approximately one-third of cases, this seizure disorder, or epilepsy, can be a long-term disabling condition. Fortunately in the majority of cases, it's not. I think the fact that Chief Justice Roberts has not had a seizure in 14 years, that they did not find anything on his initial evaluation 14 years ago, and the fact he recovered quickly yesterday all speak to this being a benign condition. I also think that it's possible that his recent travels in Europe and that if he suffered jetlag and prominent sleep deprivation could have uncovered a tendency toward a seizure disorder.

ROBERTS: Well, let's talk a little bit about what he's looking at going forward. Because by definition, everything I've read in the research says, if you have two seizures, which he has, you have epilepsy. So what does that mean? People are so scared of the word epilepsy.

GILLIAM: Yes. It's really a meaningless term. It means two unprovoked seizures. It indicates a tendency toward seizures, or lower seizure threshold, that may not cause any long-term health problems. I think it's a discussion he needs to have with his physicians as to whether they think that this will be a recurring problem. If that's the case they would decide to treat with medication.

Fortunately, we've had multiple new medications released in recent years, most of which don't cause significant side effects.

ROBERTS: Doctor., we're going to interrupt you for just one moment, doctor. We're going to go -- because I know you want to hear this -- to Rockport, Maine, where we are awaiting a news conference, which is about it begin, on the condition of Chief Justice Roberts.

And while we await, maybe they're just testing out the mikes there. Let's talk a little bit more, if we could, doctor, about treatment options. Tell us, if it is, indeed, epilepsy, what are his treatment options and how could that affect his day-to-day activities -- I'm going to interrupt you for just a minute. We're going to go to the news conference.


CHRISTOPHER BURKE, PENOBSKOT BAY MED. CTR.: Any questions you have should be referred to the information officer for the Supreme Court. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Can you confirm for us that he's still here?

BURKE: Thank you very much.

ROBERTS: Well, he did not say much. He released a very brief statement, and that was out of Rockport, Maine.

Let's continue our discussion, doctor, and talk a little bit about treatment options. If it is, indeed, epilepsy, what are his treatment options and how does that affect him day-to-day?

My colleague, John Roberts was saying, as the chief justice, he doesn't drive himself anymore, so that would be a concern that he doesn't have to worry about, but what else?

GILLIAM: I think that similar to the seizure that he had 14 years ago, it should cause minimal disability or any problems for him. I would expect him to recover quickly and be able to perform all of his duties, unless there is something unusual happening.

In terms of the treatment, we're fortunate to have had more than eight new medications released in the past decade, most of them not having significant side effects. If his seizure disorder is as mild as it would appear to be, with 14 years after a seizure, he would probably need a low dose of a medication, unlikely to cause any problems.

CHO: Dr. Frank Gilliam, of Columbia University's Epilepsy Center, we thank you for joining us -- John.

GILLIAM: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Well, we had been waiting for that statement for an hour and it was very brief. Christopher Burke, the spokesman for the Penobskot Bay hospital up there in Rockport, Maine, just basically saying we're not going to be saying anything from the hospital's perspective from here on in. Anything that you get on Judge Roberts condition is going to come from the Office of the Clerk at the Supreme Court and from his office.

But we did notice just prior for that very, very brief statement that Christopher Burke did spend time with reporters that were on the scene there. It looked like there was a little bit more of an extensive conversation, so let's check in with our Allan Chernoff, who's up there this morning.

So what did he say to you, Allan? Anything more than just, we're not going to say anything more?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, essentially, he said, hey, you got the statement yesterday from the Supreme Court. That's all we have. So he said to us they're not going to say anything more out of the hospital here; they're letting the Supreme Court handle it.

To the best of our understanding, though, Justice Roberts is still in the hospital. And I did ask Chris Burke a little earlier this morning if he expects the justice will be released later today, and he did tell me that is my understanding. So at least we know that much.

As we've reported, Justice Roberts was held here overnight as a precaution. Doctors, yesterday, did examine him, they did brain scans, and wanted to make sure that there was no serious cause for this seizure. As they reported, it was a benign idiopathic seizure, meaning no known cause, which apparently is fairly common in the event of a seizure. So that's what we know right now, expecting the justice to be released later today.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: Allan Chernoff with us for the very latest outside of the Penobskot Bay Hospital up there in Maine.

Allan, thanks very much.

So just to wrap up, the latest is, it looks like the justice may be going home later on today. The hospital has got nothing further to say about his condition. We'll keep checking with folks at the Supreme Court, though, to see if they have anything more to say.

It's coming up to 57 minutes after the hour. For the first time since he was sentenced to 110 years in prison we are seeing and hearing from the Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, his letters from prison and how he is planning to soon be free from Super Max, when AMERICAN MORNING continues.