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CNN NEWSROOM

Larry Craig Resigns; Keeping Their SUVs; Marines Facing Murder Charges

Aired September 1, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stopped by a sex scandal. Three term Republican Senator Larry Craig announcing his resignation just a short time ago. You saw it here live on CNN. Sixty two-year-old Larry Craig saying his resignation will take effect September 30th. We're covering the story on several fronts. CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash is live in Boise, Idaho, where the senator announced his resignation. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is live in Washington. We'll get to both of them in a moment. But first, here is the entire statement from the senator just 30 minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR LARRY CRAIG, (R) IDAHO: First and foremost this morning, let me thank my family for being with me. We're missing -- we're missing a son who is working in McCall and simply couldn't make it down. But for my wife Suzanne and my daughter Shay and Mike to be with me is very humbling.

To have the governor standing behind me, as he always has, his tremendous strength for me, to have Bill Saleh, who has never wavered and has been there by phone call and by prayer, and his wife is tremendously humbling. For the leader of our party, Kirk Sullivan, to be standing here, who sought immediate counseling with me in this is in itself humbling, for Tom Luna, for any public official at this moment in time to be standing with Larry Craig is, in itself, a humbling experience.

For most of my adult life, I've had the privilege of serving the people of Idaho. I'm grateful for the opportunity they have given me. It has been a blessing. I am proud of my record and accomplishments and equally proud of the wonderful and talented people with whom I have had the honor and the privilege to work and to serve. I choose to serve because I love Idaho. What is best for Idaho has always been the focus of my efforts, and it is no different today. To Idahoans, I represent, to my staff, my senate colleagues, but most importantly to my wife and my family, I apologize for what I have caused. I'm deeply sorry.

I have little control over what people choose to believe, but clearly my name is important to me, and my family is so very important also. Having said that, to pursue my legal options as I continue to serve Idaho would be an unwanted and unfair distraction of my job and for my senate colleagues. These are serious times of war and of conflict, times that deserve the senate's and the full nation's attention. There are many challenges facing Idaho that I am currently involved in, and the people of Idaho deserve a senator who can devote 100 percent of his time and effort to the critical issues of our state and of our nation. Therefore, it is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the senate effective September 30th. In doing so -- [ applause ]

In doing so, in doing so -- in doing so, I hope to allow a smooth and orderly transition of my loyal staff and for the person appointed to take my place at William E. Bora's desk. I have full confidence that Governor Otter will appoint a successor who will serve Idaho with distinction. I apologize to the people of our great state for being unable to serve out a term to which I have been elected. Few people have had the privilege and the pleasure to represent Idaho for as many years as I have. Each day, each week, each year brought new challenges and opportunities to create a better life for Idahoans.

I've enjoyed every moment and cannot adequately put into words how much I appreciate what you have given me, the chance to work for this great state. I hope you do not regret the confidence you have placed in me over all of these years. I hope I have served you and our state to the best of my ability.

Lastly, Suzanne and I have been humbled beyond words by the tremendous outpouring of support we have received from our friends, our family, our staff and fellow Idahoans. We are profoundly and forever grateful. Thank you all very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That was 30 minutes ago. The best political team on television has been watching every step of the way of this developing story. Our Dana Bash is there in Boise, Idaho, where the press conference took place. And our Candy Crowley is in Washington.

Dana, let me begin with you. The Republican Party would love to put this whole thing behind it. However, already, the senator is talking about taking further legal recourse, that we, as a nation will be hearing from his legal counsel on what is next. What's the plan here?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's his plan legally. He just after this statement told our Kara Finnstrom that he absolutely, despite resigning today, absolutely still insists that he is innocent of what he pled guilty to and that is the bizarre nature of this story that's made it so difficult for him. But he also said we, meaning him and his legal counsel, will fight this like hell. That is, again, where his legal stance is. But politically, with a we saw here was quite a different Larry Craig than we saw just four days ago. Just four days ago, he was defiant, insisting that he really did nothing wrong and also saying then he could still be an effective leader for Idaho. Now he's saying point blank that he really cannot any longer be an effective leader for Idaho.

And that is because of the enormous, almost unprecedented pressure that he felt from within his own party on a national level, from his own leadership, colleagues in the U.S. Senate, who wanted him to go, who did not want him to return to the U.S. Senate because of this tabloid-like scandal. I'll read you a statement that we got from his Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He said, "Senator Larry Craig mad a difficult decision, but the right one. It is my hope he will be remembered not for this, but for his three decades of dedicated public service." So you heard him saying that he made the right decision.

But here, quite a different kind of feel here in Idaho and a different scene. You heard Senator Craig talk about the fact that the governor, the party chairman and some of his longtime Republican colleagues did stand behind him. And that was a symbolic move and a move really reflective of what we've been hearing for the past week or so, that they were going to leave it up to the senator to decide but they would stand by the man they have called their friend for years.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is very interesting.

WHITFIELD: Candy, let me bring you in on this one because as we listened to the statement from Mitch McConnell, I wonder if that really underscores that the Republican Party is as concerned about how people interpret the party's behavior in this moment of crisis just as they're concerned about how people are reacting to Senator Craig's behavior.

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, you know, look at the bottom line. Here is a senator who pled guilty to a misdemeanor in what can best be described as tawdry circumstances. So, you know, that is not something that the Republicans really want to be discussing right now. They had the Vitter affair out of Louisiana where a Republican senator said he had sinned by visiting a prostitute. We had Tom Foley, whose behavior with underage pages was questioned. Now came this.

There is this image of the Republican Party, this party that touts itself as defending family values. In politics, one of the worst things you can be is a hypocrite. In so far as this feeds into the feeling that Republicans are a bunch of hypocrites because they say one thing and do another that hurts the party image. Clearly, that was a part of what went on here.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. All right. Kara Finnstrom is also in Boise, Idaho. And Kara you had an opportunity to speak to the senator immediately following his statements where not only did he vow his innocence but also said, this ain't over.

KARA FINNSTROM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. It was very brief. He was pushing through the crowd to get to his car. But I pushed forward and I asked him, are you still denying these accusations? And he looked at me almost a little bit angry and he said, of course, absolutely. Then he paused and then he said that his legal department would have some more answers, would be making an announcement this afternoon. And he said, we will be fighting this.

WHITFIELD: But he didn't elaborate further on how they might fight this? I mean, he pleaded guilty. We listened to our own legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, who said once you enter that guilty plea, you can't quite reverse it. So what might be his options? FINNSTROM: It's a very good question. I actually did speak with one of his assistants immediately afterwards, trying to get further clarification. And he said that he couldn't share any other details with us at this point. But that he wasn't surprised that the senator had said that to me.

Actually, the senator's exact words were, "We'll fight this like hell." And his assistant said that didn't surprise him, that that's the track they're on, but that we'd have to wait for further information from the legal department.

During his press conference, he did say that part of the -- I was going to say during this press conference he did say part of the reason, this is the only other reference he made to these accusations, was that part of the reason he felt he couldn't represent the people of Idaho is because he needs time to look at his legal options. So what those legal options may be we don't know yet.

WHITFIELD: All right. Hopefully we will hear from his legal team later on today, if they indeed fulfill that kind of promise that they told you. Thanks so much, Kara.

Well our Ed Henry, our White House correspondent Ed Henry also has some reaction because apparently the president has had direct telephone conversations with Senator Craig. Ed what was said and when?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right Fred. Actually, CNN has learned just in the last half hour or so, the president did phone Senator Craig, a bit of a surprise that he called so quickly. The White House, as you know, the last couple of days, has not wanted to touch this story at all for obvious political reasons. They wanted to let this play out in Idaho and they wanted to let it play out in the U.S. Senate. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel tells CNN the president called Senator Craig and told him, quote, he knew it was a difficult decision for him and he wished him well.

Now, as for the general political fallout, the general White House reaction, Stanzel added, quote, Senator Craig made the right decision for himself, his family, his constituents and the U.S. Senate. Not an overall surprise that the president would reach out to Senator Craig at some point but a bit of a surprise that it was so quickly, so shortly after the press conference after days of the White House really trying to avoid this story, making very general public comments and trying to reflect it back to Senator Craig and the U.S. Senate.

So here you have the president trying to reach out to someone who has been a friend. And as Dana and Candy have been saying, this is someone who served his party, served his country almost 30 years in the Senate and the House, so the president wanted to reach out. Also, the president, the White House in general is hoping, certainly hoping that the page has turned here and undoubtedly relieved that Senator Craig has done this, so that when the U.S. Senate comes back in the business, the White House certainly hoping the Republican Party can turn back the legislative business instead of some of these scandals.

WHITFIELD: Ed, I'm going to put you on the spot an ask you why, in your belief or anyone's belief, would the White House reach out and have this kind of conversation when this is such a hot potato kind of issue. Everyone has wanted to be hands off, everyone meaning those who feel like they have something to lose, particularly in the Republican Party, by association with Senator Craig at this juncture. Why everyone would want to be hands off and the president himself would have this kind of conversation and say, I wish you well.

HENRY: It's just a guess, but I think that you can probably undoubtedly give the president some credit for reaching out to Senator Craig as a human being. As Dana and Candy have been reporting all morning and all week, you know, it's easy to look at this coldly as a political situation and it's not just reporters doing that. Certainly the White House and the Republican Party in general has been looking at this as a political calculation. And politically they wanted Senator Craig to go publicly and privately.

But the president knows Senator Craig. He knows a lot of these Republican lawmakers, works closely with some of them. And on a human level, Senator Craig has gone through an awful experience. He brought it on himself, that's clear. And he's not a victim here, as far as we can tell. He made some very, very bad decisions, obviously. But when you peel away the politics of the situation, the president was undoubtedly reaching out to him as a human being. He's worked with him; he knows him and wanted to let him know that he was thinking of him. And so on that level, I don't think it's a complete surprise. I think that, again, it's easy for all of us to think about the cold politics of it. But this is a human being who has been through a very, very difficult situation.

WHITFIELD: And one who has served the Senate for 18 years. White House correspondent Ed Henry thanks so much.

"American Morning" anchor and long time Washington correspondent, also long time White House correspondent John Roberts is also joining us on the line. So John you too, can perhaps help us understand the psychology there inside the beltway, because it's a great risk to reach out to someone whose reputation like Senator Craig's has been soiled and at the same time, it's a great risk not to reach out. So how do those inside Washington, inside the beltway really try to weigh the gamble? When is it worth taking a risk to reach out to him?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well I think that the pressure was building on Senator Craig not just from here in Washington but also from a lot of people back home. And I think President Bush reaching out to him was just an acknowledgement, I think, to -- for people inside the White House to say, look, you did the right thing. This was difficult for you. For the most part, you gave good service to the country in your role as a senator, but this was just one of those things that you couldn't survive. I think it was more gist an acknowledgement by the president that Larry Craig did the right thing.

But a lot of the pressure was coming from inside Idaho. I talked with Bryant Fisher, who was the head of the Idaho Values Alliance on "American Morning" on Thursday. And he said, look, we have stood behind Senator Craig. He has done some really good work for the state of Idaho. But, you know, it comes down to character and integrity and trust. And it's clear that not many people believe what he said in that press conference on Tuesday. So Mr. Fisher said he's done a lot of good work but this is just -- it's a fatal error on his part and he has to go.

So there was just, there was literally no support anymore for Larry Craig. And I would expect that anybody who did voice even moderate support for him was doing so just more to be polite than anything.

WHITFIELD: In your view, Senator Craig really did get that bluntly, didn't he? Because he reached out to a number of local allies but he didn't apparently reach out to leading Republican insiders in Washington. He kind of wanted to gauge support by those, I guess, closest to him or at a comfortable distance and learned that, yeah, support was crumbling, that he didn't have the kind of support that perhaps he needed in order to maintain his job and do it effectively.

ROBERTS: It is rare to see members of a party run for the exits like Republicans did with Larry Craig. But with David Vitter, you'll remember, very embarrassing information came to light about him and most Republicans either stood behind him or reserved comment on it. I remember asking Jon Kyl if he should stay in the senate and Kyle said, that's not my decision to make nor is it my decision to comment on.

But with Larry Craig, you saw people come out right away and make pretty harsh comments about it. Look at what Mitt Romney said. A lot of people thought that was more political maneuvering on his part. Him, John McCain, Norm Coleman, Peter Hoekstra, they all came out and said, this is it; this guy's got to go. When you get that amount of resistance to the notion of you continuing on in a political position usually, you don't have to call on anybody. You just have to see what people are saying and you know that you're dead and Larry Craig knew quite early on that he was dead.

When we found out yesterday that the Republican National Committee was poised to ask him to resign and then held back because they believed that he was going to make a decision himself. When the RNC calls you up or makes noise about the fact that you should resign, if you're a Republican, you know it's time to go.

WHITFIELD: Awkward moments for the party, for other members of the Senate and now also, we know, the White House as well. John Roberts thanks so much. And you can catch him and Kyra Chetry week days beginning at 6:00 am on CNN's "American Morning."

More on Senator Craig's resignation from the political team on television straight ahead. We'll talk to a reporter who actually first broke this story and we'll get hometown reaction as well from Boise, Idaho.

And then this programming note. Be sure to stay tuned to CNN tonight for a special edition of "Larry King Live." Larry and his guest will discuss the Larry Craig situation. We are back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: It was in June of this year when Senator Larry Craig was arrested for disorderly conduct in a Minneapolis Airport bathroom. And then in August, he pled guilty to the charge. And now today, just over two months later, he resigned effective September 30th was his announcement out of Boise, Idaho. One of the reporters who broke this story, John McArdle from "Roll Call" newspaper. He joins us now of the phone, the story that you broke John was his actual arrest taking place, thereby followed by his guilty plea. Take me back.

JOHN MCARDLE, "ROLL CALL" (via telephone): We did the story, it came out on Monday. We found out last week, the tip that we got about both the arrest and the guilty plea earlier this month. So we went through the process of getting the court documents and getting the arrest write-up and contacted, got all those documents Monday afternoon, contacted his office, got a comment from them. And that's why we ran the story on Monday.

WHITFIELD: So it was clear just listening to the audiotape of the police officer, the arresting officer and the Senator, that the arresting officer knew that this was a man of elected office, knew that this was a senator. But he said even in the tape that, you know, it is not my job to publicize this, to take it any further than this arrest and try to collect evidence for the case.

MCARDLE: Right, right.

WHITFIELD: But how was it that you learned that this was a high profile or a long-standing senator who was at the center of this arrest?

MCARDLE: Like I said, we got a tip on it last week. You're right, going back to the audiotape, the officer did say, I don't call the media. I went back and talked to the police this week just asking them how this thing could have gone unnoticed for almost 2 1/2 months. And they said they knew who they had at the time but they wanted to treat him just like any other arrest --

WHITFIELD: Was there any reluctance on your part to go forward with this story?

MCARDLE: No. I mean, we -- after we got the documents, after we confirmed all the information we had and talked to his office on Monday and confirmed that the incident at least took place with them, got a quote from them. There's not reluctance, it's a story that's relevant to our readers and it was our job to report it.

WHITFIELD: And it was the story that you learned post his pleading of guilty that perhaps it might have been handled differently had he not pled guilty?

MCARDLE: I'm sorry. Say again?

WHITFIELD: Perhaps had this story been handled differently on your part had he not already pled guilty by the time you learned of it?

MCARDLE: I can't say. Can't speculate. I mean, the story we got is the arrest happened, the guilty plea was almost three weeks ago. And this is -- I guess this is how the story has played out now. WHITFIELD: All right. John McArdle of "Roll Call" thanks so much for making yourself available to us to give us an idea of how this story circulated from the start of you breaking the actual story.

Senator Larry Craig's arrest was part of a sting operation in Minneapolis, one of many crackdowns nationwide targeting so-called public areas of opportunity. CNN's Dan Lothian takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's not the primary function of public parks, rest rooms and rest areas. But for men in search of anonymous same-sex partners, they are popular destinations.

PROF. RICHARD TEWKSBURY, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: There's also the idea that there is sort of a thrill to the hunt, to the excitement of sex in a public place, of doing something that potentially does have negative consequences for you.

LOTHIAN: Websites like this one offer a kind of adult travel guide, including rules of the game and secret signals to make a connection in a public rest room, like waiting in a stall at the farthest end of the bathroom. And when someone approaches next door, quote, move your foot so that you know the other person can see it and slowly start tapping it. Professor Richard Tewksbury at the University of Louisville has published several studies on this subculture. He has documented about 9,000 locations across the country where he says this public behavior often referred to as cruising takes place merely because of opportunity and convenience.

TEWKSBURY: There's all kinds of places. Many times that most of us walk by or walk into in our daily lives and never realize are cruising locations.

LOTHIAN: Anonymous gay sex in public areas certainly isn't new. Remember pop singer George Michael almost ten years ago? He was busted for engaging in a lewd act in a park rest room in Beverly Hills.

GEORGE MICHAEL, POP SINGER: I can only apologize. I can -- I can try to fathom why I did it.

LOTHIAN: But law enforcement agencies across the country have been cracking down in recent months, sometimes using undercover stings to catch men in the act like in rest rooms at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson's International Airport where more than 40 men were picked up recently for indecent exposure and public sex acts.

MAJ. DARRYL TOLLESON, ATLANTA POLICE: We have arrested college professors, bank presidents, other CEOs. So we -- it ranges.

LOTHIAN: And here's another surprise.

TEWKSBURY: The research tells us that for the most part, we're talking about men who are involved in some kind of long-term heterosexual relationship frequently married, frequently with children. LOTHIAN: Investigators say critics who argue police should be focusing on more serious crimes are missing the point, that this public behavior is illegal.

TOLLESON: We're there to enforce all crime -- enforce all laws.

LOTHIAN: And they're finding suspects in the bathroom.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: We're continuing to watch the Senator Craig situation. There's other news we want to talk about.

Including a new named storm, Felix. That's straight ahead.

Plus, one more update from our best political team on television.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: After a guilty plea to disorderly conduct in a men's bathroom in Minneapolis, Senator Larry Craig making it official today, about an hour ago, saying he is stepping down from his seat after 18 years in the Senate, effective September 30th. While his three decades in the Senate is over, he says his legal fight isn't. Dana Bash is in Boise, Idaho and Candy Crowley is in Washington watching all the developments out of Boise. Dana, let's begin with you. He says it's not quite over. What did he mean?

BASH: Well, it's not quite over, he means in terms of his legal battles. He says he is going to continue to fight to overturn the guilty plea that he signed knowing full well that he signed it on the dotted line in a court of law saying that he understood he wasn't innocent. That fight will continue. But more broadly, much more significantly, his political career, this storied political career for somebody here in Idaho as Senator Craig has represented for 27 years is now over. And he made it very clear in this statement today that he simply understands he can no longer represent the people of Idaho the way he wants to because of the tabloid-like scandal that has surrounded him for the past four days.

And being here and talking to the people here, 200 or 300 or so who came and watched this event, there's sort of a mixed reaction. Some people think he was shoved out by his Republican leadership unfairly in Washington. Others simply think it's sad and tragic but it is time for him to go. I should add Fredricka; there are a lot of unanswered questions. He's not going to go until September 30th. Why that date? Is it something to do with the fiscal calendar, perhaps his pension, which he is still going to get or some other reason? He said he wanted to give a smooth transition but those are questions still outstanding like will he go back to the Senate and actually vote? We expect to get some answers to those questions from his office relatively soon.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dana thanks so much. Candy, where do we go from here? We know the Republican Party would love to put all of this behind it. But how can it do that and win?

CROWLEY: Well, if he -- as Dana says, if he comes back to the Senate, this obviously, for the -- you know, for the next 30 days. Obviously, he'll leave on the 30th. If he comes back, what they're going to get, of course, is a bunch of reporters still following him around and that will be the story when they'd rather talk about what's going on in Iraq or the budget.

One of the reasons they wanted Senator Craig to make his decision and to resign before they came back was so that they could turn that page naturally, because if you're a senator and you step up to the microphone and someone says, well, what do you think about Senator Craig, all you have to say is, you know, that decision has already been made, he's leaving the Senate, I respect his decision. Let me talk to you about this. So that's what they're hoping to do and they're hoping to find some traction in kind of having a new game plan to move on from here.

WHITFIELD: All right, Candy Crowley thanks so much in Washington. Senator Larry Craig had said that he pleaded guilty because a local newspaper in his jurisdiction was launching an investigation. And for a long time had been dogging him over his sexual orientation. And so his explanation for the guilty plea is that perhaps it would end this witch hunt. Well, that newspaper was "The Idaho Statesman." Kevin Richert is the editorial page editor and is joining us now to give us a better explanation of what the senator meant. He said that you had been launching this investigation a long time investigation into his sexual orientation and he felt rather pressured and that's why he entered this guilty plea. What of that statement is true?

KEVIN RICHERT, "IDAHO STATESMAN:" Well, in October, a blogger published a report that tried to link Senator Craig to sexual activity. We didn't run with the story from the blogger. Other newspapers, other media outlets in Idaho did, we chose not to. But we did was put a very experienced and seasoned reporter to the story that went out and spoke to 300 people, conducted a wide scope of interviews. We wanted to get the best information we could before we published anything. We didn't publish anything until the "Roll Call" story came out linking Senator Craig to an arrest and subsequent guilty plea.

WHITFIELD: What was it about the initial, I guess, nuggets of information about this story that you-all felt you needed to pursue? We know that he already had a record being very outspoken against gay marriages and certain gay rights. And this kind of behavior that these sources are telling you about was the complete antithesis of the kind of senator that I guess people thought they had elected. Is that about right? RICHERT: I think there's some of that. I think there was some of that question that came up. For us as a newspaper, it was simply a matter that these rumors have followed Larry Craig through most of his public service. Now, whether those public rumors are accurate or not, that's the essence of journalism to try to get the best information we can get and present the best information we can get to readers. That's what we tried to do here.

WHITFIELD: Had you ever reached out to him directly? And if so, what did he say?

RICHERT: I wasn't there. This was the news side. I'm on the editorial page obviously.

WHITFIELD: Yeah.

RICHERT: Our reporter and editors had an hour-long interview with the senator in May in which he emphatically denied ever having engaged in homosexual activity. We presented some of the evidence that we had discovered in our reporting, some of the evidence that subsequently appeared in our story this week. We spoke to him. And he denied emphatically ever having been involved in homosexual activity.

WHITFIELD: So is it too soon for me to ask you what kind of reaction you all are getting already, perhaps even at your Website, as a result of his resignation now just over an hour ago?

RICHERT: Well, we get a sense of it a little bit. We were even getting a sense of it Thursday and into Friday because; let's face it, it felt like Senator Craig's resignation was becoming increasingly inevitable with the pressure he was facing within his own party. So we were hearing some people feeling that he was getting rushed out prematurely by Republicans or others who felt that he'd lost all credibility. There were some who felt, as we did as an editorial page, that he was just going to be too distracted to possibly be able to represent Idaho's interest on Capitol Hill. So it was a range of reaction that's been coming in.

WHITFIELD: Was it not particularly notable that the governor was behind him, standing alongside the family members of the senator?

RICHERT: Well, I think, as much as anything, that's probably a personal show of support. Governor Otter served in Congress with Larry Craig. They go back years in public service. So it doesn't surprise me at all that he's going to show support for the senator. Early in the week he had put out a statement saying that he stood behind the Craig family as friends. And I think that was just an expression of that today.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. And I've been using the word awkward because it seems like this has been a very awkward moment for so many people involved. And this afternoon's press conference seemed to underscore that even more so, even with his family members and the governor there and just a huge contingent of reporters and photographers who were there witnessing this event taking place just an hour ago. Kevin Richert, thank you so much, with "The Idaho Statesman" as the editorial page editor. We appreciate your time.

RICHERT: Thank you for having us.

WHITFIELD: And this certainly has dominated the afternoon's news, but there are other things that we continue to watch, namely another named storm. Felix will be delving into that when we come right back. Much more of THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WOLF: Good Saturday afternoon to you. I'm Reynolds Wolf here at CNN, the Hurricane Headquarters. We're watching a storm that may soon become a hurricane. It is tropical storm Felix, getting a little head of myself. The storm now making its way west of St. Vincent, north of Caracas at this time and the storm is beginning to strengthen. It's moving into warm we're in the Caribbean Sea and it will move into a very minimal sheer environment. The forecast takes it from its current status with winds of 65 miles per hour with some gusts up to 75 a bit farther to the west. By 8:00 tomorrow morning, winds of 75 miles an hour, making it a fairly weak category 1 storm. But look what happens as it continues its westerly track west-northwest by Monday and into Tuesday. It will be gaining in strength by 8:00 a.m. Tuesday to maximum sustained winds of 105 miles an hour at least that is what the forecast has it. Then as we get to 8:00 Wednesday morning, winds of 115 miles an hour, a category 3 storm. We're talking about a major hurricane if, again, this forecast holds true, it will make its way on shore in Belize. We'll keep a sharp eye on that.

But you have to look at that cone. There's a possibility it could veer more to the north or more to the south. It could gain strength faster or slow down a bit. But this is the way it stands right now. Of course we're going to give you the latest information throughout the afternoon, evening, as long as it takes. But this isn't the only show in town in terms of the tropics.

We'll move to the Pacific and show you the next system. This is tropical storm Henrietta. Puerta Vallarta, we got La Paz, Baja, California, just to the south you have the storm which is a tropical storm at this time, maximum sustained winds of 50, gusts stronger up to 65. For the forecast more of a northwesterly path. By 8:00 Monday should be category 1 storm, 80 miles an hour maximum sustained winds. That's pretty where it's going to limit at least in terms of the forecast. It does move a bit more to the northwest and veers north at a greater rate of speed. Look at that break, how fast it travels in that increment. By the time we get to about 8:00 Thursday morning, it will interact with the cold California current, which is going to weaken this a little bit. The farther north it goes, the less of a threat it poses but we'll watch it here. We always do here at CNN.

I know it's a holiday weekend; a lot of people have many plans, college football plans in many places in the southeast. You may have some showers so keep the rain gear handy. As you make your way to the Mid-Atlantic States and into the Great Lakes, this big power house high pressure will make your conditions just fantastic. Same story in the central Plains. When you get to Dallas southward along I-35 through Austin, San Antonio, look for a few scattered showers. You may have to flip on the windshield wipers. As you make your way out west, it's going to be the air conditioner you need, not necessarily in San Francisco but it's going to be the interior valleys, we are talking about places like Fresno southward to Bakersfield, temperatures exceeding the triple digits.

But when you pile on that high humidity and there will be some humidity in the central valleys it's going to feel like it is anywhere from 100 degrees up to 110, maybe even warmer. Not just for today either, going all the way through Sunday afternoon with the heat indices of 110 plus. It's going to be a warm time in the golden state. That is the latest we have for you right here on CNN. We'll have more coming up very soon.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Other news we're following here in the NEWSROOM. The search for six Utah miners has been called off. Crews suspended operations after four weeks of fruitless attempts to find the men missing since an August 6 cave-in. The final attempt to locate the missing miners was a robotic camera lowered into a borehole. Well, it got stuck in the mud and turned up no useful information. And this afternoon Richard E. Stickler, assistant secretary for the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued the following statement. He said, "Over the past 25 days, the Mine Safety and Health Administration have exhausted all known options in our attempt to reach the six miners trapped after the accident at the Crandall Canyon Mine, August 6. Unfortunately our hopeful efforts have resulted in no sign of life from these miners. Sadly, there's no remaining hope of finding these miners alive. The thoughts and prayers of the dedicated professionals at Misha are with the families of these fallen miners. That statement from Richard Stickler, a face that you had seen often during those press conferences there out of Huntington, Utah.

Muqtada al Sadr tells his militia to stand down. Today the U.S. military says that sounds good. The Americans say they can now focus on al Qaeda without worrying about al Sadr's fighters. Al Sadr, with widespread support among Shiites says he'll restructure his group over the next six months.

Still, some observers say ultra radical militia fighters may ignore al Sadr's order and keep on attacking.

At Camp Pendleton, California, a military hearing for Marine staff Sergeant Frank Wuterrich (ph), prosecutors trying to show he should be court-martialed for a rampage in Haditha Iraq on 20045 Now a video has surfaced and it may help the Marines' defense. Here's senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CN SENIOR PENAGON CORRESPONDENT: The bombings and scrapings seen on this aerial video obtained exclusively by CNN show Haditha was a hot bed of insurgent activity back on that day November 19th, 2005. Early in the morning, a U.S. Marine died in an IED attack and shortly afterward, 24 Iraqi civilians were killed by Marines hunting the attackers, leading to murder charges a year later.

A small unmanned spy plane called Scan Eagle arrived about 30 minutes after the initial attack on the U.S. Marine vehicle focusing on a house from which the military suspected insurgents triggered the bomb and showing the aftermath of the blast here some 1,000 yards away. Just up the road is a white sedan and the bodies of five Iraqi men who Marines say refused to lie down and were shot while running away. Villagers said the men were students in a taxi, but the Marines say their actions were consistent with insurgents about to detonate a car bomb. The video will soon be evidence in the case of squad leader staff Sergeant Frank Wuderwitch (ph) accused of doing some of the shooting.

GARY SOLIS, MILITARY LAW PROFESSOR: If I'm a juror --

MCINTYRE: Retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Solis, a former prosecutor and military judge who teaches law at Georgetown and West Point analyzed the video for CNN. You've seen the tape. How significant do you think it is as a piece of evidence?

SOLIS: It tends to prove that this is a violent place where you had enemy fighters where it was necessary to bring in air support.

MCINTYRE: Throughout that day, Marines engaged in fierce fire fights and called in air strikes to level entire buildings, often with no definitive idea of who was inside. That could buttress defense arguments that the Marines clearing buildings on the ground with guns and grenades were just following the rules of engagement.

SOLIS: The defense can say you had to do this later in the day. What's the difference between what happened later in the day and what our guys did earlier in the day?

MCINTYRE: And that may help explain why so far prosecutors have had trouble making murder charges stick. Charges have been dropped against two Marines, another is awaiting a decision. Is there a tendency to give Marine soldiers in combat the benefit of the doubt when it comes to split second decisions?

SOLIS: I think that's another problem in this case. You have a military jury, probably most of whom, if not all of whom will have been in Iraq.

MCINTYRE: The video shows how the military suspects anyone on the move during combat as being a potential enemy such as this motorcyclist who appears to be an insurgent messenger.

SOLIS: Every person you see on the street, every item, everything you see on the street may be the means of your death.

MCINTYRE: But while prosecutors may be having a hard time winning convictions, Gary Solis believes someone should be accountable for the 24 civilian deaths in Haditha.

SOLIS: It would be difficult to say justice has been served if no one is convicted for Haditha. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That was Jamie McIntyre reporting. Of the original defendants in the Haditha case, charges have been dismissed against three men and a fourth dismissal looks likely. That means this staff Sergeant Wooderich (ph) would be the only Marine to face murder charges for events at Haditha.

Well, everyone loves their cars and feels like they can't live without them. Especially SUVs. Jeanne Moos has the top ten reasons we just can't give up our SUVs.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: So would you give up driving an SUV just because some politician asked you to? CNN's Jeanne Moos took that question for a test drive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Here's a shocker. Not a single SUV driver we asked said yes to this. John Edwards wants people with SUVs to give them up.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): No, I don't think so.

MOOS: So in light of Senator Edwards' suggestion that Americans sacrifice, we've compiled the top ten excuses for not giving up your SUV. Excuse number ten, SUV lust.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Sacrifice, I can't. I love my SUV.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I can't give it up, I'm sorry. I love it.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I love sitting up high, you know what I mean. I love the space and the ride is smooth.

MOOS: Riding's a lot smoother than darting out in traffic. May I? Trying to squeeze in interviews. Could I ask a question? Before the light changes. Hi, I'm sorry to scare you. Excuse number nine --

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I put stuff from Home Depot in the car.

MOOS: Excuse number eight, blame the kids.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) And I'm going to keep it because it carries my nine kids.

MOOS: Number seven; blame the kids and the pets.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I got three kids; I got a dog, three cats.

MOOS: Excuse number six, blame John Edwards.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Maybe he should give his up.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) Has he given up his?

MOOS: Actually, he drives a hybrid SUV. The family keeps other less energy efficient vehicles to occasionally haul things. Energy issues can dog candidates. Mitt Romney launched his campaign in front of an American car. To make a point about conservation and buying American. But when "The Boston Herald" went to the parking lot at Romney's campaign headquarters, the paper said it could be mistaken for a foreign car dealership with all those Mitt Romney bumper stickers on BMWs and Lexuses. Excuse five.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): It isn't mine, belongs to the company.

MOOS: Oh, we're very familiar with that excuse. News crews love SUVs. Number four.

(UNIDENTIFED FEMALE) I guess it's my money.

MOOS: Excuse number three, who needs an excuse?

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Because I like it.

MOOS: All this reminds us of the two Connecticut women who got so annoyed to SUVs that they coined this song.

The number two excuse.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): I don't think it is his right to tell us what to do.

MOOS: And the number one excuse for not giving up your SUV.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): This is a rental.

MOOS: This guy doesn't own a car and says why stop sacrificing just SVS.

(UNIDENTIFIED MALE): Anybody that drives a gasoline vehicle should give up the gasoline vehicle.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG: It is with sadness and deep regret that I announce that it is my intent to resign from the senate effective September 30th.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: A men's room sex sting brings a three decades-old political career to a crashing conclusion.

Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield; you are in the CNN NEWSROOM on this Saturday, September 1st. After four days of scandal, a U.S. senator surrenders to the inevitable. We'll have complete coverage of Senator Larry Craig's resignation announcement, plus reports on the political and the legal fallout.

Senator Craig had been under growing pressure to resign ever since news of his arrest in an airport men's room became public knowledge.

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

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