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Eighteen Accused of Drug Smuggling at JFK Airport; HUD Secretary Under Fire

Aired October 16, 2007 - 15:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Idaho Senator Larry Craig said he would step down after that well-publicized incident at an airport bathroom, but Craig is still on the Hill and appealing a judge's refusal to let him take back his guilty plea to disorderly conduct.
So, why won't he go quietly? Well, he is now sitting down with the media to explain.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: It is my right to do what I'm doing.

I have already provided for Idaho certainty that I think Idaho needed. I'm not running for reelection. That's already started the next political cycle in Idaho. So, I'm no longer in the way. I'm no longer blocking the political process of Idaho, but I am pursuing my constitutional rights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Well, the court of appeals might not rule on Craig's case until next year. His Senate term expires at the end of 2008.

The next hour of CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: The JFK connection. Feds bust an alleged cocaine and heroin smuggling ring centered on New York's Kennedy Airport.

NGUYEN: Yes, a two-year investigation nets 100 pounds of cocaine, 55 pounds of heroin, and 18 suspects. We will get the latest in a live report.

Hello, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen, in today for Kyra Phillips, who is on assignment, here at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

LEMON: And I'm Don Lemon. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

It is 3:00 Eastern. We start with a developing story -- heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, all passing through one of the nation's busiest airports and federal agents say these are the people behind it.

New video in to CNN of some of the suspects in an alleged drug smuggling ring, among them workers at JFK Airport.

Let's go straight to CNN's Mary Snow in our New York bureau working the story for us.

What do you have, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, 18 people in all, including 10 JFK Airport employees, have been charged with helping drug traffickers smuggle heroin and cocaine into the United States, this aboard commercial flights coming in from the Dominican Republic.

Now, federal agents say the 10 defendants charged here in New York today took part in a drug ring that worked with suppliers from the Dominican Republic.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARC LORENTI, ICE SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: Today, 18 individuals were arrested in New York as a result of an ICE-led ongoing investigation involving a large-scale criminal organization that utilized airport employees who facilitated the importation of narcotics into the New York metropolitan area; 10 of the subjects were employed at JFK Airport and eight were part of a narcotics distribution organization that was operating out of Washington Heights.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Seven of the suspects charged work for Delta Airlines. One works for American Airlines. Officials say the ring relied on airport employees in the Dominican Republic to conceal the drugs in luggage. When it got to the United States, federal agents say, airport employees here at JFK would divert the luggage containing the drugs to a safe area, before the bags could be inspected.

Now, the charges come after a two-year investigation. And Delta Airlines, it just came out with the statement saying that it had been working in cooperation with the authorities for several months. It knew this was coming, saying that the employees who have been charged have been suspended without pay while this investigation is going -- is ongoing. And American Airlines, we have put a call into them and we're waiting for a response -- Don.

LEMON: All right. If you hear something, let us know. Mary Snow, thank you.

SNOW: Sure.

NGUYEN: Well, one of America's most wanted is nabbed in Nevada. It started when cops pulled over a car missing a license plate, and then ended when the driver said, "I'm the guy you are looking for."

Now Chester Stiles is behind bars, suspected in the videotaped rape of a 3-year-old girl.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has the latest now from police headquarters in Las Vegas.

It seems like he just got tired of running. TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Betty. And he was on the run for a while and the subject of an intense manhunt. We are actually at the jail where Stiles is right now at the detention center in Las Vegas.

He's expected to make his first court appearance on Friday, facing several charges. They have been looking for him for the last few weeks after he was I.D.ed in a disturbing videotape depicting a man raping, sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl. It is a case that has shocked many people, not only in the law enforcement community, but people around the world who have heard about this story.

The search came to an end last tonight in Henderson, which is very close to Las Vegas. Stiles, according to police, was driving in a car with no license plate. Police officers pulled him over. He tried to use a fake I.D. out of California, a driver's license.

They questioned him. The police officers say he was shaking at one point. They kept questioning him. And then officers say he finally just gave up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE DYE, HENDERSON, NEVADA, POLICE DEPARTMENT: We didn't believe his story or who he was. He finally told us, hey, I'm Chester Stiles. I'm the guy you are looking for. And at that time, he said, I'm sick of running.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROWLANDS: And at that point he was taken into custody and was placed under arrest. He is being held on no bail because of what police say was his participation in this horrific videotape depicting him having sexual relations, sex, raping basically a 3-year-old girl.

According to police, they were able to go through that tape and they have come up with 20 separate charges from that videotape alone. He's also being held on a 2003 incident where a warrant was issued in 2004. Stiles, as you can imagine, being held without bail. The police department says -- everybody in the law enforcement community says they are very, very relieved to get this guy off the streets -- Betty.

NGUYEN: No doubt. But when we talk about the little girl in the videotape, is that the only alleged victim here?

ROWLANDS: The only alleged victim in the videotape. But there is another alleged victim, a minor, and he's also facing charges in a case which took place in 2003.

We don't have the particulars, only that he's accused of lewd conduct involving a minor. He's being held on those charges as well, one outstanding charge from that incident. But the bulk of the charges came from that disturbing videotape that law enforcement people who have seen it say it is just horrific.

Those are the bulk of the charges, and that was the bulk of the reason why this intense manhunt was out for Chester Stiles.

NGUYEN: It's a good thing it is over. Ted Rowlands joining us live from Las Vegas.

They have found Chester Stiles.

Thank you for that report.

LEMON: Are there two justice systems in America, one for blacks, another for whites? A troubling question at today's House Judiciary Committee hearings sparked by the Jena Six, the black Louisiana high- schoolers charged with beating up a white classmate.

Earlier, some white students hung a noose from the tree at the high school, but were not charged. Well, charges on one end, no charges on the other, that's outraging lawmakers Sheila Jackson Lee, who zeroed in on Louisiana U.S. Attorney Donald Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), TEXAS: Mr. Washington, tell me why you did not intervene not by way of the legal system, but the consultation that the U.S. attorneys have with the local district attorneys. Why didn't you intervene? This broken lives could have been prevented if you had taken the symbolic responsibility that have you being the first African-American appointed to the Western District?

I don't know what else to say. I'm outraged. And that's why my voice is going up like this, literally outraged.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, U.S. Attorney Washington says the Justice Department is probing a spate of recent noose-hanging incidents, but decided not to prosecuted the Jena noose hangers because they are juveniles.

Reverend Al Sharpton testified at today's hearing and said the white youths should have been charged. Sharpton is urging Congress to toughen hate crime laws, especially in light of the recent noose- hanging incidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: What has happened in Jena and what has happened all over this country, we have not heard one federal response.

It is almost like the national government is not in the country while we are watching nooses on the news every night, while we are watching hated crimes. And if we can't appeal to the federal government, where can we go? It has been rationalized by those in Jena, some, that these nooses was a prank. A prank to who? Grandchildren of people who saw their grandparents hang on nooses? If there is a prank, if there is a joke, the joke is if we can represent to the world that we are the land of the free and the home of the brave, but we can't protect youngsters in Jena, Louisiana, and we can't stop people from hanging nooses.

There is a difference between peace and quiet, Mr. Chairman. Quiet means shut up and allow a two-tiered justice system to continue to exist. Justice means we must have an even playing field and the Justice Department, at the behest of this committee, needs to step into Jena and the Jenas of this country and establish that the federal government is still in charge and the states did not win the Civil War.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Well, just last week, a judge sentenced one of the Jena Six to 18 months in jail for violating the terms of his probation from a previous conviction.

Symbol of hatred or fashion accessory? Check this out. It's comedian Katt Williams, host of BET's Hip Hop Awards. He wore a noose on the red carpet, but not during the actual show. Williams told photographers there are a lot of nooses going on around these days, so he figured it was -- quote -- "popular."

Well, he also said he wanted to make a statement.

NGUYEN: Well, dusty, dry red clay visible for miles around Lake Lanier, usually filled with skiers and fishermen. Now ground zero for a record drought that is gripping pats of the Southeast.

Experts predict this reservoir, which provides water for about a third of Georgia's residents, could run dry in just 90 days. Many towns banned outdoor watering weeks ago. Restricting indoor water use, well, that could be next. And this is just one lake.

The drought covers most of Tennessee, Alabama, and the northern half of Georgia, as well as parts of North and South Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

Rain is exactly what farmers in central Iowa do not need. Intense storms yesterday turned fields into lakes and flooded roads. We're seeing much of the same across north Texas. Look at this, one traffic death, roads under water, and delays still at the airports. The storm couldn't stop, though, some golfers, who figured what's a little rain if you get the course all to yourself?

One problem is that the course in Garland was flooded when the creek overflowed. And it is still a mess, not only there, but in the middle part of the country, in fact.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: You don't want to miss the four-hour "Planet in Peril" documentary. It premieres October 23 and 24. And if you would like to see clips of CNN's "Planet in Peril" before it begins, here's what you have to do. Just download the A.C. 360 podcast. It is the only place you will be able to watch. Go to CNN.com/planetinperil to download it right now.

LEMON: One of the most surprising finds of the day. What would you do, Betty, if you woke up to find a nearly naked man sleeping on your couch?

Well, of course, and you didn't know...

(CROSSTALK)

NGUYEN: I would scream and then call 911.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Well, the tale of the not-so-sleeping beauty, that's straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: What a bad visual.

OK. And the housing secretary says there was no wrongdoing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALPHONSE JACKSON, SECRETARY OF HOUSING & URBAN DEVELOPMENT: Senator, I have not touched one contract, not one. Now, if you can prove that I have interfered with a contract, then you should do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Well, now it is up to a grand jury to decide. We are keeping them honest -- straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Sixteen past the hour, three of the stories we're working on for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

New video into CNN. You are seeing some of the suspects in a federal drug bust involving JFK Airport in New York. Eight people are accused in a plot to smuggle cocaine, heroin, and other drugs through JFK; 10 of them are airport workers.

Chester Stiles facing arraignment tomorrow in the videotaped rape of a toddler. The nationwide manhunt for the Las Vegas man ended last night when a cop pulled over his car in Nevada. Stiles eventually told him, "I'm the guy you are looking for."

Crude oil prices hitting record highs today, 88 bucks a barrel right now. The surge is partly based on new tensions between Turkey and Iraq.

NGUYEN: Well, millions of Americans owe the roofs over their heads to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also called HUD. But millions of others know HUD only from the scandals, probes and controversies that seem to pop up every few years. Now comes a new one with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson at the very center.

CNN's Ed Henry is "Keeping Them Honest."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bush administration was infamously slow responding to Hurricane Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No food or water or nothing.

HENRY: But it was lightning quick handing out a no-bid Katrina contract to a golfing buddy of the president's housing secretary, Alphonso Jackson, who's now under federal investigation.

ED POUND, "NATIONAL JOURNAL": Well, that certainly an implication here, is that Secretary Jackson did a favor for a friend.

HENRY: The friend, South Carolina stucco contractor William Hairston told "National Journal" magazine that Secretary Jackson helped him get the nearly $400,000 contract as a construction manager, helping the federal government rehab homes devastated by Katrina.

An aide to Jackson told the magazine the secretary passed along three names, including Hairston, for the job.

POUND: There's no question that Secretary Jackson, at least according to the account that Mr. Hairston provided to me, was involved in this particular contract.

HENRY: A major problem for Jackson. Back in May, facing controversy about a previous contract, he testified to a Senate committee he does not get involved in contracts at all.

JACKSON: I do not interfere with any contract that's given in HUD, period. Senator, I have not touched one contract, not one. Now, if you can prove that I have interfered with a contract, then you should do that.

HENRY: CNN has confirmed a federal grand jury is now trying to answer that question and determine whether Jackson misled Congress.

"Keeping Them Honest," we attended Secretary Jackson's first public event since the scandal broke, trying to ask him about the controversial contract. But after delivering brief remarks about housing reform, the secretary slipped out a side door so he didn't have to face any questions.

In a telephone interview with CNN, Hairston refused to say whether Jackson helped him get the contract, but he stressed, quote, we have done nothing wrong, adding he's expecting to soon tell the FBI his side of the story.

HUD has become synonymous with scandal. In the Clinton administration Secretary Henry Cisneros got into hot water for lying to the FBI about payments to a mistress.

In the Reagan administration, 16 people close to Secretary Samuel Pierce were convicted in a massive influence-peddling probe.

Why so much embarrassment at HUD?

THOMAS MANN, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The amounts of money involved, their location in urban areas, it has all the ingredients of the potential for corruption by federal officials.

HENRY (on camera): CNN has learned that before this story broke, Secretary Jackson told close friends he's planning to leave the cabinet early next year for lucrative opportunities in the private sector. The question now is whether this investigation forces an earlier exit.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Russia and Iran talking nukes and other hot topics in an historic meeting? No wonder Washington is so interested -- details straight ahead right here in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. So, an alleged prowler puts a whole new spin on the phrase crashing on the couch.

A Florida couple says a drunk man broke in through the window of their double-wide. They found him Sunday morning sleeping it off on the sofa. Police say 22-year-old Hugo Acosta allegedly raided the fridge, stripped to his underwear, then fell asleep.

Brandi Bell describes the scene.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDI BELL, VICTIM: There was a guy on my sofa. So, he left his shoes and his socks and his pants and everything else along the way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Can you imagine?

Acosta is now facing burglary charges. He told police that he just drank too much tequila at a nearby nightclub. As for stripping down, well, there is no excuse for that -- Don.

(BUSINESS REPORT)

NGUYEN: All right, so, checking in for work at the brick factory -- U.S. troops search for Iraqi militia members in a maze.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) NGUYEN: And this just in to CNN.

We are learning that the Iraqi prime minister says the Iraqi investigation into the killings of Iraqi citizens by the security firm Blackwater USA is complete. And they say it proves that the private contractors are guilty of unprovoked and random killings in that incident. They are also asking the U.S. State Department to pull Blackwater out of Iraq.

Now, the U.S. is still waiting for the findings of its own investigation. The U.S. State Department and the FBI are looking into that incident. And we're going to take you live to live to Baghdad with the latest on these developments with our own Alessio Vinci. When that is available, we'll bring it straight to you here at CNN.

LEMON: In the meantime, a Russian leader on a rare official visit to Tehran. President Vladimir Putin is there to talk about Iran's nuclear program and to emphasize Russia is a player in the Middle East.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By any measure, it was an historic trip. For first time since 1943, a Kremlin leader on the ground in Iraq -- this time it was Vladimir Putin, voicing strong support for the Islamic Republic -- something that will undoubtedly raise some eyes in the West.

Putin said Iran has the right to pursue peaceful civilian nuclear energy. He actually signed a declaration toward that end and also warned the world against attacking Iran over its nuclear program.

Now why is it so important?

Russia is a veto member of the U.N. Security Council, which is potentially looking to slap Iran with a third round of sanctions over its nuclear defiance. Russia has recently suggested there's "no objective evidence Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon." And today the Russian president, in essence, squashed any hopes of immediate sanctions.

For Iran, this is about international cover and legitimacy. But for Russia, it's as much about this program as it about, it seems, thumbing their nose at the U.S. and showing that they have independent influence in the Middle East.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Cairo.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NGUYEN: Turkey's Incirlik Air Base -- it's vital to the U.S. war effort in Iraq and it could wind up off limits to U.S. forces. The Pentagon is sending out a warning order, telling forces overseas to be ready to line up alternatives if Turkey cuts off access to Incirlik. The threat was prompt bid a non-binding Congressional resolution. Now, it would condemn as genocide the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in World War I.

Even more than 90 years later, Turkey is still outraged. And the measure cleared a House committee over fierce fear protests from the Turks and the Bush administration. The full House has not voted just yet.

LEMON: Well, sometimes a brick factory is just a brick factory. But in the fight for Iraq, U.S. troops take nothing at face value.

CNN's Alessio Vinci takes us the hot, gritty and dangerous hunt for insurgents.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): U.S. troops don't need a map to find this place -- thick black smoke spewing out from the Nahrawan brick factory on the outskirts of Baghdad can be seen from miles away. But up close, a map would help. The factory grounds are a maze of roads crisscrossing kilns, buildings and mud huts -- unfamiliar terrain which complicates the search for weapons and militia members.

(on camera): A factory like this one is an ideal location for insurgents to store weapons and ammunition. It is a sprawling complex filled with potential hideouts like this one. And the locals, mainly workers here, are too poor, uneducated and certainly too weak to stand up to a powerful militia.

(voice-over): American soldiers say they have evidence of insurgent activity in the area. They recently detained a key leader in Nahrawan and broke up a cell that planted roadside bombs on the road leading up to the factory.

CAPT. GERARD ALBRIGHT, U.S. ARMY: We've confirmed some information about some of the facilities in this complex that have been used for meeting locations for militia activity. So, well, we'll continue to build the intelligence against that and continue to come back in here and engage these people.

VINCI: The factory workers are Shia. They found refuge in this brick factory after Sunni insurgents forced them to flee their homes about 80 miles away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you live here?

VINCI: U.S. troops questioned them at length about Shia militia activity. But the workers claim to have seen none of it. The only weapons found here are those for their personal protection -- allowed under Iraqi law. Locals could provide essential information to the soldiers, but are facing a tough choice.

CAPT. DAVE SMITH, U.S. ARMY: The militias come in and basically threaten their lives, tell them they're going to kill them if they even talk to us. They threaten their lives. They extort money from them. They're basically criminals.

VINCI (on camera): Like a mafia?

SMITH: Exactly like a mafia. And the unfortunate part is they are stuck in the middle and they are forced to make that decision between getting killed and supporting their government.

VINCI (voice-over): U.S. troops hope locals will provide more help once they start trusting them, although their message can seem rough at times. The process of collecting valuable information is a slow one and trust here must be built one brick at a time.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Nahrawan, Iraq.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NGUYEN: Well, as the primary season approaches, the GOP presidential hopefuls are at odds over who's the real Republican. Charges and counter-charges -- that's ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: This just in to CNN. Baghdad is asking Blackwater to pull out of Iraq.

Let's get the latest now and take you there to Baghdad and CNN's Alessio Vinci.

What do you know about this -- Alessio.

VINCI: Well, Betty, we just spoke to an adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, who was telling us, basically, that the Iraqi side of the investigation into the incident more than a month ago in which 17 civilians were killed is now complete and that the Iraqis are satisfied that this investigation proves that Blackwater is guilty of unprovoked and random killings of Iraqi civilians.

The adviser to the prime minister also said, as you mentioned, that the -- Maliki is asking the U.S. government to pull Blackwater out of this country. He has repeated that on several occasions since the incident more than a month ago, but this is the first time that the Iraqi prime minister is calling on (INAUDIBLE) on Blackwater to get out this country at a time when still the Iraqi and U.S. officials are -- a joint this investigation ongoing here in Iraq. But the Iraq officials are insisting that despite the findings of this investigation, they are satisfied that Blackwater is guilty and, therefore, should get out of the country. They are insisting on this issue, possibly, also, during the joint meetings -- during this commission that is meeting on a regular basis here in Iraq, trying to find out exactly what happened a month ago in a Baghdad square -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Hey, Alessio, Iraqi officials say that they are finished with their investigation. But the American investigation is still underway. Do you know when that's going to wrap up?

VINCI: No. We know that it is still ongoing. We know that the FBI has the lead of this investigation here in Iraq. We know that a series of FBI investigators have questioned the survivors and eyewitnesses of the incident and they are still investigating. The U.S. Embassy here says that they have no real comment as to this latest -- latest stance from the Iraqi government. But we do know that they're saying that there is a joint investigation ongoing, there is a joint commission that has to issue recommendations as to exactly what the role of private security guards will be in the future in this country, and that until that work is complete, they're not really making any comments as to what the Iraqis are saying regarding Blackwater leaving this country.

NGUYEN: Yes. It's going to be interesting to see how those two investigations compare.

Thank you.

Alessio joining us live from Baghdad.

LEMON: Will the real Republican candidate please stand up?

Some of the GOP presidential contenders are accusing some of the others of being pretenders.

More now from CNN's chief national correspondent, John King -- part of the best political team on television.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fred Thompson.

(APPLAUSE)

JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Rudy Giuliani's home turf, the latest salvo in a Republican race turning testy.

FRED THOMPSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Some people think, seemingly, that we need to defeat the Democrats next year by becoming more like them.

KING: Former Senator Fred Thompson didn't name names. Yet there is no doubt the target was Giuliani -- the pro-abortion-rights, pro- gay-rights former New York City mayor.

THOMPSON: And I suggest that it's not time for philosophical flexibility in terms of our principles. That is a surefire way of making sure we don't win.

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I promise to keep America safe and secure.

KING: Giuliani prefers to emphasize terrorism and leadership over social issues. And with the luxury of being ahead in most in national polls, invokes Ronald Reagan when asked about the mounting attacks.

GIULIANI: He used to have an 11th commandment. It was thou shalt not attack another Republican. So I'm going to try to follow that commandment as much as I can.

KING: Staying above the fray won't be easy.

TUCKER ESKEW, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We're going into a real scrap. There's a pretty fluid electorate on the Republican side, as we try to determine who we're going to be. So get your game on.

KING: Mitt Romney started the latest dust-up late Friday in Nevada.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The conservatives in these states that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the -- if you will, the Republican Party.

KING: Romney's target was Giuliani. But it was Senator John McCain who took issue.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My record of 24 years as a conservative Republican with a voting record to back it up of consistency on a variety of issues speaks for itself.

KING: McCain went on to note Romney voted for Democrat Paul Tsongas in the 1992 Democratic presidential primary and that same year gave money to Democratic Congressman Dick Swett of New Hampshire.

MCCAIN: We also should examine people's records as to whether they're -- quote -- "real Republicans or not."

KING: The GOP race is wide open in part because none of the leading candidates gets perfect grades from conservatives.

Romney once favored abortion rights. Giuliani, as mayor, supported taxpayer-financed abortions and marched in gay-rights parades. McCain and Thompson oppose a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, saying states should make such decisions, and in the past have put balanced budgets ahead of bigger tax cuts.

ESKEW: Republicans are a party in transition. We're entering the post-Bush era.

So what are we doing?

We're helping reconfigure what is Republican, what it means to be a real Republican. We will actually have an answer to that question when we have a candidate.

KING: Picking that candidate begins in Iowa in just 80 days, which is why the race is getting more pointed and more personal.

John King, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE) LEMON: Well, Hillary Clinton has entered new territory in the polls. A new "USA Today/Gallup Poll shows Clinton with 50 percent support among Democrats for the first time. Barack Obama is a distant second, with 21 percent. John Edwards has 13 percent.

On the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani widened his lead. He's now favored by 32 percent of GOP voters. Fred Thompson, who trailed by only eight points last month, slipped to 18 percent, followed by John McCain and Mitt Romney.

And we've got a poll of our own with Opinion Research Corporation that shows a major shift in the race. We'll have that for you at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right there in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

NGUYEN: Here's something fresh off the political ticker. Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas says when her Senate term expires in 2012, she is done. In fact, she says she might leave in 2009 -- three years early. Hutchison says she would like to run for governor, but she is not a candidate just yet.

And you can see all the day's political news any time, day or night, at cnn.com/ticker. We're constantly updating it for you, with the latest from the candidates on the campaign trail.

LEMON: All righty, a gun toting granny opens fire on an intruder who broke into her house to do laundry.

What's with all these people doing this stuff?

NGUYEN: I don't know. And he was naked, by the way.

LEMON: Oh, he was?

NGUYEN: Another one of those.

LEMON: OK. And yes, so I guess it was a clean shot.

NGUYEN: Yes.

LEMON: Badump bump.

The story straight ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

She's OK. That's why we're joking about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: All right, here's a question -- is it possible outsourcing when it comes to airlines here in the U.S. and terror watch lists.

Our Kelli Arena has this story just in.

Is it outsourcing -- Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is, Don. Basically you have U.S. airlines that are sending over that terror watch list to overseas companies to have them check the names of passengers that are boarding U.S. airlines. The special investigators say that it's very troublesome.

No doubt, right?

The terror watch list, Don, as you know, has about 300,000 names it. And that includes 15,000 U.S. citizens. And these are people that are suspected of having some type of terrorist connection.

Now, what happens is that this provided to airlines so that they can match that passenger manifesto against that list to make sure that basically no high risk passengers board those flights.

Well, apparently, some U.S. airlines decided to place that responsibility with foreign companies.

Now, we tried to find out which airlines were doing that and the countries that those companies are based in -- obviously, very important questions. But the Transportation Security Administration did not immediately have those answers.

Now, you should know, Don, that Congress did order the TSA to basically take over that responsibility. I mean it looks -- everybody agrees this should be a government responsibility. But there have been repeated delays for various reasons. Ironically, one of them, privacy concerns.

So, there you go.

LEMON: All right. So -- OK. So we know about the TSA.

But I mean if you have a list that's possibly -- that's being outsourced when it comes to terror, can you trust this list?

ARENA: Well, the list -- the list is as you know, it's a compilation of all the intelligence that the U.S. and its partners have gathered on people. Now, the list is not perfect. And, as you know, we just got an exclusive look inside the Terrorist Screening Center, which is responsible for putting that list together. Even the director of Terrorist Screening Center says, look, there are some mistakes on the list -- some people on the list that shouldn't be on the list. There have been indications that there were people who should have been on that that didn't make it.

But it is the government's best work so far. I mean it is sensitive information, Don.

The bottom line is, is that this sensitive intelligence information.

LEMON: Yes. And you...

ARENA: Right.

LEMON: ...perhaps...

ARENA: That's going over to overseas companies.

LEMON: Yes, absolutely. But I think -- I don't know if I -- maybe I didn't say it correctly -- can you trust what will come from this list now that it's being outsourced?

Can you trust the people who's out -- who's checking on all these outsourced names?

ARENA: Right. Well, a lot of people are saying can you trust private industry at all with the nation's security.

LEMON: Right. Right.

ARENA: And this investigator, who actually testified before Congress today said, you know what, you can't, because it's very -- it's very uneven how rigorous these airlines are in looking and reviewing this list. And she said that theoretically a person who's on this list might not get on one U.S. airline, but could get on another.

LEMON: Yes.

ARENA: So very inconsistent, which is why, you know, the government -- the lawmakers have said hey, we need this in government hands. We need to take national security back and make sure that airline passengers are safe.

LEMON: Right. It's very important for travelers, Kelli. Very important to the United States security, as well. I'm sure we will be following this.

Thank you for bringing that to us.

ARENA: You're welcome, Don.

NGUYEN: All right, Don, the saying goes shoot first, ask questions later. And that it just what Ethel Sanders did when she saw a strange man in her laundry room early yesterday. The 81-year-old grandmother lives alone in Mobile, Alabama -- appropriately enough, in a shotgun house. But it was her .38 pistol that convinced the intruder to leave.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WALA)

ETHEL SANDERS, SHOT & WOUNDED INTRUDER: I went out there and opened the door. He was in the wash room, so I shot out there. And when I did, I fell. And when I fell, he got the gun. He picked the gun up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: Goodness. Well, her shot wounded the suspect, who then ran away. Police soon found a nearly naked James Penn nearby. Officers say he is homeless and broke into Sanders' home to wash some clothes. He'll be charged with first degree burglary. LEMON: OK. Take a look at that.

Do you know what that is?

NGUYEN: It means the Rockies rock.

LEMON: Yes. I was going to say there's a sign there that says Rockies rock. And so did Coors Field after Colorado swept its way into the World Series for the very first time. Except for the Arizona Diamondbacks, everyone is probably still celebrating.

I remember that a couple of years ago when the White Sox had a chance. Now it's hurry up and wait. The Rockies want -- who have won, I should say, an amazing 21 of their last 22 games.

NGUYEN: Man.

LEMON: They have a record eight days off before opening the World Series at either Cleveland or at Wrigley Field. No, I didn't say that. Sorry. All right, Cleveland or Boston.

NGUYEN: You just keep holding on, don't you?

LEMON: I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. Cleveland or Boston. Congratulations to them, whoever it is.

NGUYEN: Yes.

Hey, the closing bell and a wrap of the action on Wall Street -- that is straight ahead.

Plus, a wrap that you can eat if you want to boost your cholesterol. Susan Lisovicz explains.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Let's check in with Chad Myers now -- is the flooding and drought not enough for you, Chad?

You're even going to throw in maybe a possible tornado?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Oh, yes.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: Hey, the closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

LEMON: Yes. Susan Lisovicz is standing by with a final look at the trading day. It's the end of the day, Susan, and I'm hungry. I understand you have a snack for me.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're going to have to open real wide for this one.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: OK.

LISOVICZ: This is from the same company that brought us the 1,100 calorie salad. Hardee's unveiling the country breakfast burrito. Check it out. I'm going to read this to you. It is two egg omelets, bacon, sausage, diced ham, cheddar cheese, hash browns and sausage gravy all wrapped inside a flour tortilla.

LEMON: Low cal.

LISOVICZ: It comes with...

LEMON: Low cal...

LISOVICZ: Not.

LEMON: Only two calories, right?

LISOVICZ: Nine hundred twenty calories.

LEMON: Oh my gosh.

LISOVICZ: Sixty grams of fat. So, just in case you're counting, folks, that is nearly half a day's recommended calories. For the day -- it's a full day's worth of fat and salt. In fact, Hardee's has already been accused by some nutritionists at the Center for Science in the Public Interest of dishing out food porn. And that was for (INAUDIBLE), which...

NGUYEN: I feel like I just gained five pounds just looking at that thing. Oh, my.

LISOVICZ: Which had even more calories. That was like 1,240.

By the way, the Big Mac, only 540 calories.

NGUYEN: That's nothing.

LEMON: Oh. (INAUDIBLE) 900.

LISOVICZ: You can get this country breakfast burrito for $1.69 solo. Or if you want go full out, $4.09 for the combo that includes hash browns.

NGUYEN: Does it come with free heart bypass surgery?

LEMON: Oh, stop it.

LISOVICZ: I think it might. Hey, Hardee's says, according to the A.P., this is really designed to fill you up.

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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