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President Bush Meets With French President; Dow Dives; Interview With Iowa Senator Charles Grassley

Aired November 7, 2007 - 15:00   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Oh, read 'em and weep. It is a bad day for stocks, but yet another great day for oil, unless, of course, you want to buy it.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Sky-high crude, a rock-bottom dollar, and a staggering report from GM are taking their toll on the Dow. And there's still one more hour to go.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Gorgeous day, gorgeous setting, George Washington's mansion at Mount Vernon. Right now, the president of France touring that property with the president of the United States.

In all seriousness, though, after they have that visit, we're waiting for them to step up to the mikes and talk about Iran, its nuclear program, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and where French and U.S. relations stand at this point, a lot of talking going on between the two presidents. We will take it live when they step up to the mikes.

LEMON: Stocks on Wall Street are tumbling in the wake of shocking earnings report from General Motors.

Stephanie Elam is at New York Stock Exchange with the very latest for us.

Hi, Steph.


Well, yes, the combination of high oil prices and disappointing results from a company like General Motors, all of it is hurting stocks on Wall Street. In fact, shares of Dow component GM, they are off 5 percent. So, that's really dragging on the Dow.

Also, further weakness in the dollar is adding to today's pain. Financial stocks are among the hardest-hit as credit worries persist. You add all of that up and you have got the sharp sell-off with nearly all of the Dow 30 stocks in negative territory. Right now, the Dow off 240 points. All three of the major averages are off more than 1.5 percent -- Don. LEMON: All right. Thanks for that, for the Big Board. Stephanie Elam, we will check in with you in just a little bit.

Right now, oil is trading at -- what is it a barrel trading? Stephanie Elam, are you there?

ELAM: Yes, I'm still here.

Actually, last time we looked at it, it was just below $97. Right there you have got a shot up of it. That's where it's about closing there. So, we're -- I will look at it again. You know, my eyes aren't as good as they used to be. It looks like $96.27 here for the December contracts.

So, still coming back below, because when we looked at those oil inventory numbers that came out today, they were less than expected, but it was still -- it was a drop, but it was not as much as expected. T. is a better way to put it. So, that's why we see that number there.

LEMON: Well, thank you very much for that, because I had no idea how to read it, and you helped me out with that, Stephanie Elam. And that's what you do. Thank you.


ELAM: Sure.

LEMON: All right.

So, if you're unhappy now about the oil prices, a new forecast could put you in an even blacker mood about black gold. A key report on global supply suggests that once oil crosses the $100 bucks a barrel mark, there may be no going back. A chief economist for the International Energy Agency tells "TIME" magazine we are headed toward really bad days.

And it's not just about the price. Serious shortages are likely in the not-so-distant future. The IAEA predicts the world's demand for oil could go from 85 million barrels a day to about 160 million barrels a day by 2030.

PHILLIPS: Well, do you tear up when you fill up? Can't get where you're going on a bus? Haven't been on a bike since the Hoover administration?

Well, then maybe Gerri Willis can help with some tips on conserving every precious drop of gas. She joins us from a gas station in Queens to just lay it all out for us.

Hey, Gerri.


You know, three words to start off with, gas rebate card, you need one in these times. You can save 3 percent to 5 percent using a gas rebate card. But you really need to shop around, because, at the end of the day, these cards have different features. You want to make sure you are getting one with no cap or a pretty high cap, so you can put as much money on it as you want to.

But, having said that, don't roll over your debt month to month. The interest rates are pretty high typically, as much as 16 percent to 17 percent -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Gerri Willis in Queens, thanks so much. We will keep checking in with you.

LEMON: It has become a familiar sight in Pakistan, riot police swinging batons and firing tear gas at protesters. It happened against today in Islamabad, where hundreds of people loyal to opposition leader Benazir Bhutto clashed with police outside parliament.

Now, as you know, this is day five of emergency rule declared by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, a crackdown aimed largely at lawyers and the courts. This is how Geo TV is covering this story. It's the only privately run news network still operating in Pakistan.

Note the counter at the bottom of the screen keeping track of the hours since the emergency began.

Well, the West would be concerned about Pakistan even if the latter didn't have a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Since it does, let's just say those concerns are magnified about a millionfold.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with more on that.

Hi, Barbara.


The concerns about Pakistan really reverberating, continuing to reverberate across Washington. Right now, as we speak, the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill has just opened a hearing, beginning to hear from Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, many members of the committee expressing their concern as this hearing begins a few minutes ago about the situation in Pakistan.

Here at the Pentagon, just about an hour ago, the director of operations, lieutenant General Carter Ham had one of his regularly scheduled news briefings, but, of course, Pakistan was the subject front and center. And General Ham was asked flat out, is the U.S. military concerned about the security of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, given this crisis?

Listen to what he had to say.


LIEUTENANT GENERAL CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: Certainly. Any time there is a nation that has nuclear weapons that has experienced a situation such as Pakistan is at present, that is of primary concern. However, we will watch that quite closely. And I think that's probably I would say about that at this point.


STARR: So there you have it, the director of operations here in the Pentagon saying primary concern, referencing Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

That is something we have not really heard the administration say until this point. Officials have said that they feel they have the assurances from Musharraf's government about the security of Pakistan's weapons, but that doesn't mean they're not very concerned about it.

General Ham going on to say that the U.S. military also is watching the border security situation quite closely, that border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, because, of course, the U.S. has relied on the Pakistani military to ensure security along that border and to try and keep a handle on al Qaeda and the al Qaeda safe haven in that remote border area.

General Ham says, so far, they see no change in the Pakistani military's operations out there. They believe Musharraf is still committed to that operation, but they are concerned and they are continuing to watch this very closely -- Don.

LEMON: CNN's Barbara Starr -- Barbara, thank you.

PHILLIPS: It was a bit windy, but crystal clear over Kennedy Space Center as space shuttle Discovery glided home a short time ago.

Space correspondent Miles O'Brien was there for the spectacular ending to a dramatic mission.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT: After a journey of 6.25 million miles and the most challenging space shuttle mission to the International Space Station ever, the space shuttle Discovery is home safe and sound.

The commander, Pam Melroy, only the second woman to hold that job in space shuttle history, landed Discovery effortlessly here at the Kennedy Space Center in the teeth of a fairly blustery wind, but, fortunately, that wind was right down the center of the runway, posing no difficulty for her.

The crew of seven in all glad to be home, no doubt, especially one person on board, Clay Anderson, who just finished a five-month stay at the International Space Station. He said he was ready to be home.

The primary goal of this mission was to attach a connecting node onto the International Space Station called Harmony. Think of it as the circular piece in the tinker toy set that allows other pieces to be connected to it.

This mission will be most remembered for the mangled solar array and NASA's response to it. As they were unfurling this solar array, part of the planned mission, guide wires got caught and the array got badly damaged, so damaged that, if they couldn't fix it, they would have actually had to jettison it.

They sent out veteran astronaut and spacewalker Scott Parazynski at the end of a 75-foot extended boom. He just enough reach to get there to cut and get rid of the fouled guide wires and then suture that solar array together. It was ultimately deployed successfully and is back in business.

Now the focus goes to space once again. On the International Space Station between now and the next anticipated launch, this time of the space shuttle Atlantis, the crew on board the International Space Station has to do a series of complicated robotic maneuvers, as well as three space walks, to get in the space station in the proper configuration for the arrival of a European-built laboratory set to go up in December.

As it stands right now, they have too many tasks, too much work in order for that launch to occur on time on December 6. But NASA is looking very hard at coming up with ways to compress all that work and get the next shuttle in flight before the end of the year.

Miles O'Brien, CNN, at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida.


PHILLIPS: And we want to remind you that we are waiting for the French president and the president of the United States to wrap up their tour.

LEMON: Whew.

PHILLIPS: Whew, a little seasick there.



PHILLIPS: It's actually George Washington's mansion in Mount Vernon.

Seeing a little action here, possibly. There's the Secret Service waiting for the two presidents to step up to mikes and talk about their discussion today with regard to Afghanistan, Iraq and also Iran and the nuclear threat, building a new relationship. Good news. We will take it live when it happens.

LEMON: Mega-churches and their mega-incomes. Are they playing fair with you and the tax man? A U.S. senator wants to know. We're talking with him live.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Three thirteen Eastern Time right now. Here are some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

An accused killer is in custody, after a huge manhunt in Florida. Authorities say that a bank robbery suspect was being driven to court when he overpowered a 76-year-old sheriff's deputy and killed him with his own gun.

Discovery home safe after a 15-day mission. You saw it live right here on CNN. The space shuttle landed at Cape Canaveral just a little over two hours ago.

And we're standing by for President Bush and his French counterpart to take questions at Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington. French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke of friendship as he addressed the U.S. Congress this morning.

Sarkozy, who took office in May, is working to improve Franco- American relations, severely strained after France opposed the Iraq war.

We will take a quick break -- more from the CNN NEWSROOM straight ahead.


PHILLIPS: The president with France's president there at Mount Vernon responding to Pakistan.

Let's listen in.



There is a difference, however. Pakistan has been on the path to democracy. Burma hadn't been on the path to democracy. And it requires different tactics to achieve the common objective.

And as I told you, I just spoke to President Musharraf before I came here and my message was very plain, very easy to understand, and that is, the United States wants you to have the elections as scheduled and take your uniform off.

You want to call on somebody?

NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRENCH PRESIDENT (through translator): In France, I don't choose -- I don't pick the journalists.

BUSH: You don't get to choose? Who chooses?

I choose?

PHILLIPS: Just wanted to see what the president had to say there about Pakistan, obviously one of our top stories over the past couple of days, since the president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, called for a state of emergency in his country on Saturday. Now it's sort of a jovial back and forth between the two presidents there.

We're going to monitor this Q&A, and we will take it live once reporters start asking questions.

LEMON: Does passing the hat mean you can bypass the tax man, always, no matter what? Well, the Senate Finance Committee is looking into whether six mega-churches with mega-tax-free budgets deserve their privileged standing with the IRS.

Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa is leading the inquiry, and he joins us now live from Washington.

Thank you for taking this time out of your busy day to join us today.

OK, first of all, I have got to ask you, why are you doing this?

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: Well, don't forget, for five years, I have been involved with investigating nonprofits, Red Cross -- I will just name a few -- Nature Conservancy, Smithsonian Institute, American University, because our committee has jurisdiction over all tax law.

And there's a tax exemption for charitable giving. So, there's no difference between one nonprofit and these ministries as far as that's concerned. So, the tax law applies to both equally. We want to make sure that the tax exemption is not abused. And we want to make sure that people that trust a nonprofit with their contributions, that that money is being used according to the nonprofit purpose.

LEMON: OK. All right.

Senator, there are those who say that you are outside of your bailiwick, overextending your reach here. One of them was Charles Haynes, who is a senior scholar of the First Amendment Center. He says that you're going down a slippery slope.

Let's listen to him, and I want you to respond.



CHARLES HAYNES, FIRST AMENDMENT CENTER: I think it's a little dangerous for a Senate committee to be looking into how religious groups spend their money. I think the IRS should be doing that. And I don't know why Senator Grassley didn't go to the IRS and say, you investigate this, confidentially, and then, if there's something, then we will make it public.

I mean, these people's reputations are on the line. And I think, if you have a Senate committee investigating religious groups, it really raises the ante and raises questions about religious freedom and the First Amendment. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: All right, we're going to get back to the senator in just a moment. We apologize for that.

But we need to get back to the president, who is speaking live now.


BUSH: ... who live in the comfort of free societies.

And, Mr. President, the strong gesture of sending your foreign minister there wasn't a message to the United States, because we're good friends. It was a message to the Iraqi citizens that said, "We hear your cries for freedom. We want you to succeed. Because one of the lessons of history is free societies yield peace."

And so I appreciate your leadership on that issue, and I want to thank you foreign minister for -- for -- I don't see your foreign minister.

Look, the guy was here.


Oh, there he is, yes, next to -- like the president was blocking.


Next to Madam Rice.

Anyway, thank you, sir.

SARKOZY (through translator): Allow me to give you two answers in one.

On Pakistan, yes, we're worried about the situation. It's worrisome, and we need to have elections as swiftly as possible.

You cannot combat extremism using the same methods as extremists. And it is very important, it is of the essence, that Pakistan organize elections. And, like President Bush, I wish this to take place as speedily as possible.

Let me remind you that this is a country of 150 million inhabitants who happen to have nuclear weapons. This is very important for us, that one day we should wake up with a government, an administration in Pakistan which is in the hands of the extremists.

And we should, each and everyone of us, think about this. The principles, the values that we uphold and that we defend, and we must continue to uphold. And then there's the complexity, as it were, in the field. That's why it's important to convene elections -- call elections. Now, on Iraq, Bernard Kouchner's trip to Iraq was very successful. What does France want? A united Iraq. No one -- it is in no one's interest to see Iraq dismantled. We want a democratic Iraq. We want a diverse Iraq where each component -- component element of Iraqi society has learned to live with others, an Iraq which can administer and govern itself and that has the means of ensuring the peace and security of every one of its citizens.

And that is exactly Bernard Kouchner's message when he went to Iraq, and this is in the interest of one and all that it be thus. And that position is the position I will defend until the end.

QUESTION: Mr. President, with what...

BUSH: Which one?

QUESTION: Both of you.

BUSH: Get moving, will you?


QUESTION: Mr. President, with oil approaching $100 a barrel, are you concerned that your hard words for Iran on its nuclear program are helping drive up oil prices, which can end up hurting the U.S. economy?

BUSH: No. I believe oil prices are going up because the demand for oil outstrips the supply for oil. Oil is going up because developing countries still use a lot of oil. Oil is going up because we use too much oil. And the capacity to replace reserves is dwindling. That's why the price of oil is going up.

Now, I believe it is important for us to send clear signals to the Iranian government that the free world understands the risks of you trying to end up with a nuclear weapon. And therefore, we will work together to try to find if there's not rational people inside your government, who are tired of isolation and who believe there's a better way forward.

BUSH: Every time I give a talk about Iran, I make sure I speak to the Iranian people. And I want them to hear once again that we discussed your country today, that we believe, that I believe that you have got a bright future, that we respect your history and respect your tradition.

However, you are governed by people who are making decisions that are isolating you from the rest of the world, and you can do better than that.

The idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is dangerous, and, therefore, now is the time for us to work together to diplomatically solve this problem. We spent a lot of time on the subject. And I thank the French president for his resolve on solving this issue peacefully. SARKOZY (through translator): I just wanted to say that we exchange all the intelligence and information we had. It is unacceptable that Iran should have at any point a nuclear weapon. But Iran is entitled to the energy of the future, which is civilian nuclear energy.

I believe in the effectiveness of sanctions. I believe even in the need to toughen the sanctions. But in my mind, the two go together. In other words, the open, the outstretched hand of dialogue, of continuing discussions, because Iran deserves a better fate than that isolation.

And I cannot imagine that there are not people, leaders in Iran, who have stopped to think about the consequences of what is going on. This is a great people and a great civilization, and we must be firm for as long as there is no gesture on their part. And we have to keep the way of dialogue open, because we must do everything to avoid the worst-case scenario.

And this is indeed was the subject of a very lengthy conversation which showed exactly how convergent our views were.

QUESTION (through translator): To the president: With respect to your statements on Afghanistan and France's commitment and engagement, does this mean that France is going to be sending additional ground troops in to fight in the southern regions of Afghanistan, as the U.S. wishes them to do?

How do you feel about the fact that France has been engaging Syria on the upcoming Lebanese presidential election?

Do you think that's a good idea?

And what are the chances that Lebanon will have a presidential election by November 24?

BUSH: Thanks. Good question. Want me to go first?

SARKOZY (through translator): Well, on Afghanistan, I said what I thought, and what I think. we have talked about it with President Bush. We will not pull out of Afghanistan because what is at stake here is the solidity of our alliance.

And ultimately, what is at stake here is the fight against terror. We're thinking about the best way to help bring about a democratic Afghanistan.

Is it by stepping up our training efforts so that we lay the groundwork or the basis of a modern Afghan state, or is it by other means, maybe, perhaps, military means?

We're still thinking about it.

BUSH: First of all, you know, the Syrian influence in Lebanon was something the previous government and I worked on collaboratively. And because France and the United States worked together, we passed 1551, a resolution of the United Nations which got Syria out of Lebanon, by and large.

And so, we spent time collaborating on how best to make sure that Syria doesn't influence the presidential elections, that, in fact, the presidency is picked by the Lebanese people.

And I'm very aware that Mr. Hariri and Nabih Berri are in consultations to whether or not they can come up with a acceptable candidate to them -- not to Syria, whether or not the Lebanese people can be assured that their president is going to be representing the people of Lebanon, not the people -- not the government of Syria.

And I'm comfortable with President Sarkozy's government sending clear messages that meet common objectives. And our common objective here is for this Lebanese democracy to survive, thrive and serve as an example for others.

We will work with France and with others to see that this process be completed by November 24. We believe it's in the interests of the Middle East that this Lebanese democracy survive.

I want Lebanon to serve as an example for the Palestinians, to show them what's possible. I believe in a two-state solution. I believe there ought to be two states living side by side in peace. So does the president. We discussed that today.

There's nothing better for the Palestinians to see -- what is possible with a stable democracy in Lebanon.

The interesting challenge we face in the world in which we live is there are murderers who will try to stop the advance of democracy, particularly in the Middle East.

Isn't it interesting that the places where there's the most violence is where there's young democracies trying to take hold -- whether it be Iraq or Lebanon or in the Palestinian Territories?

And the call for nations such as ourselves is to support those who want to live in freedom. Freedom is the great alternative to the ideology of people who murder the innocent to achieve their political objective -- by the way, the very same ones that came and killed 3,000 of our citizens.

And so what I'm telling you is -- let me end this press conference by telling you this. I have a partner in peace -- somebody who has clear vision, basic values, who is willing to take tough positions to achieve peace.

And so when you ask am I comfortable with the Sarkozy government sending messages?

You bet I'm comfortable.

Mr. President, thanks for coming. Appreciate you being here. PHILLIPS: The president of the United States side by side with the president of France, discussing a number of issues -- Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan. But if you didn't catch it, just moments ago, the president announced during this joint news conference on the home turf here of George Bush there in Mount Vernon, he said he telephoned Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, just before he left to Mount Vernon right there with the president of France to hold this news conference. And he delivered a message to Musharraf, saying that he must hold elections as scheduled and quit his military post.

Of course, we'll follow up on this as the day continues.

We'll have more coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM" at 4:00 Eastern with Wolf Blitzer.

A quick break.

We'll be right back.


LEMON: All right, let's talk about churches -- megachurches being tax-free.

Joining us again, Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. He is leading the inquiry into these churches.

When last we left, we were talking about senior scholar, First Amendment, Center Charles Haynes, saying that you're going down a slippery slope and this is far beyond your reach.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R-IA), FINANCE COMMITTEE: Well, this is not a first amendment issue whatsoever. That's not even an issue. We're not interested in doctrine. We aren't interested in what church preaches. This is a tax issue and our committee has jurisdiction over tax law. We have tax-exemption to encourage charitable giving and we also have laws that say that nonprofits are trustees for the money and the money that's contributed is supposed to be used for the purpose it was contributed.

This isn't any different than my investigation of Smithsonian, Nature Conservancy, the Red Cross, American University and nonprofit hospitals and all the things that, over the last five years, my committee has been interested in. And, as a practical matter, you know, the tax laws have to be reviewed from time to time.

LEMON: OK. I just -- and just to tell you, we spoke with a number of -- have reached out to these groups, a number of these megachurches, for their response.

I want to tell you that Paula White's ministry said they take their "financial responsibility to our partners very seriously and to the best of our knowledge, we comply with all taxes." It's possible they're concerned about the ramifications of a precedent here.

Benny Hinn's ministry says the church's board of directors is discussing the best course of a response to this action.

Also, let's see, we have a response from Kenneth Copeland. He says, as far as he knows, they operate in accordance with all federal and state laws, as well as best practices for churches.

And Joyce Meyers says that she also takes transparency in financial matters very seriously and they are taking the necessary steps to apply for this.

I have to ask you this -- and, also, of course, just maybe about an hour or so ago on this show, Creflo Dollar responded. And he said that you already have most of the information from him that you're asking for.

Let's take a listen to what he said.



CREFLO DOLLAR, CREFLO DOLLAR MINISTRIES: The IRS has already been given the responsibility to do these things. And now the question is, you take the Senate Finance Committee and you have to question, do they have a right to invest themselves or to ingest themselves into a position to be tax examiners for exempt organizations when the IRS has already been given that responsibility?

And so we've always said at the very beginning that we no problems if it's a valid request and, you know, we're -- we comply with the IRS.


LEMON: Do you have the right, Senator?

GRASSLEY: Well of course we have the right. And now here's just an example. You know, they're inferring -- and maybe correctly so, and I hope correctly so -- that the IRS has looked and everything is all right. We have been looking at these things for about five months. And we're just now involving the ministries. We're sending out the letters. They have a chance to speak for themselves. And what you quoted -- it seems to be very positive that they want to cooperate with us. And so I would fully expect them -- like the Red Cross has fully complied -- to answer our letters and we'll get to it.

Now, the IRS doesn't do everything perfect. For instance, when Enron blew up six or seven years ago, the IRS was saying everything was OK. But we got all the corporate tax records and we told the IRS a lot of things that they didn't know.

LEMON: And, Senator, you know, you're exactly right. And I'm not the IRS and that -- whatever. I'll give you that, because you know more about that than most, I would assume. But, also, it seems -- they're not governed by the same rules when it comes to taxes as churches are and as nonprofits are. And I think it's -- Paula White's Ministry brings up a very good point about this setting a precedent. And they're concerned about the ramifications. When you look at the Catholic Church -- one of the largest property holders in the country -- are you about to look at their books, as well?

GRASSLEY: We have not had any complaints about that. And, you know, if you came to me as a whistleblower and you had information that law was being violated, I think I have a responsibility to look into it. We have whistleblower laws. It's that important to get information from whistleblowers. And, you know, we fully investigate.

But the bottom line of it is, this is a tax issue. And, yes, corporate tax law is different from nonprofit tax law, but there's no difference between the Red Cross, Smithsonian -- as one type of nonprofit...


GRASSLEY: ...and these ministries as another type of non- profit...

LEMON: All right...

GRASSLEY: ...the same law applies.

LEMON: I want to get into a couple of things before we run out of time, because, you know, the president cut a big chunk of our time. And we respectfully deferred to the president.


LEMON: But I want to ask you, do you plan on sending any other letters to any other ministries, yes or no?

GRASSLEY: The answer right now is no.


GRASSLEY: But you should ask me that on December 7th, when I get the deadlines reached for these six to respond.

LEMON: Are you going to hold hearings on these matters?

GRASSLEY: You'll have to ask me on December the 7th or later, after we go through this material. But I can tell you, most of the time -- in fact, all the time with specific organizations, we've never had to hold a hearing on a specific organization...


GRASSLEY: ...because they've all fully cooperated.

LEMON: Real quick, do you consider changing any laws -- any legislation on this?

And then what happens if they don't respond?

GRASSLEY: OK. If they don't respond, then that might be a condition for Senate hearings.


What about laws -- a possible change of legislation or laws?

GRASSLEY: Right now, no change of laws because what we find in a lot of instances, the IRS isn't doing its job. You don't have to change the law, you have to enforce existing law.

LEMON: All right, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa.

We appreciate you joining us in the CNN NEWSROOM


PHILLIPS: Inside the secret world of pro-wrestling -- with steroids and painkillers -- a special look at the WWE -- a special investigation.

Our Drew Griffin joins us live.


PHILLIPS: Tonight, a CNN special report goes inside pro- wrestling. In this preview, correspondent Drew Griffin examines the murder/suicide of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And now finally, Chris Benoit has become the heavyweight champion of this world!

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the fall of 2005, following the year he wore the championship belt, professional wrestler Chris Benoit was at the top of his game. In the ring with the body of an Adonis, he was slamming opponents, being slammed and putting on a show. Outside the ring, the former WWE World Wrestling Entertainment champion was quietly spinning into depression and, in a sense, documenting his own mental breakdown.

MIKE BENOIT, CHRIS BENOIT'S FATHER: This is an open letter to -- to Eddie on November 24th, 2005.

GRIFFIN: Mike Benoit is reading the diary his son wrote over an 11-day period in 2005. The diary consists of rambling letters to his best friend, a wrestler named Eddie Guerrero.

The first entry, the first note to Eddie, was written on November 23rd -- 10 days after his 38-year-old friend dropped dead of a heart attack.

BENOIT: "Oh, Eddie, I forgot to tell you about my dream last night. I dreamt that both my parents were taken, perished."

GRIFFIN: Mike Benoit believes it's the diary of his son going mad.

BENOIT: "And Nancy and I were trying to get to her parents in Daytona to save them, because we felt that they were being taken next. And these people after them were very powerful people -- high-ranking people. When we got to Daytona, it was too late. Her parents were gone, too. Perished."

We just didn't understand this was going on at that time in Chris's life.

GRIFFIN: Nineteen months later, during the weekend of June 2nd, Chris Benoit would suffocate his wife, Nancy, their 7-year-old son, Daniel -- then would walk into the basement of his suburban Atlanta home and hang himself. He was 40. The diary was found outside in the trash by a neighbor.


PHILLIPS: Drew joins me now with more on the special.

Wow! I think all of us -- even the producers -- were saying that was sad, especially when he was reading this diary.


PHILLIPS: It was like his son was going mad.

GRIFFIN: Yes. And we later find out that, you know, they do an autopsy on his brain. He's got severe brain damage. This guy's a 40- year-old athlete. The weekend that he committed this horrific murder, he was supposed to wrestle, Kyra. He was going to be on TV. So he's leading this dual life where on one side, he's obviously going crazy. On the other side, he's performing at this incredible entertainment level.

PHILLIPS: Why is...

GRIFFIN: It is bizarre.

PHILLIPS: Why is there so much pressure?

Why -- why do they put so much pressure on themselves?

Why do they do these things to their body?

Why do they do these things to their lives?

GRIFFIN: Look at this moment. This is when you're on top. This is really the only time you're making serious money. Everything else is either the road up or the road down. And to do that night after night, to hit that mat -- I know it's scripted, it's fake. But when your body comes flying off of a 20-foot ladder and lands on the bottom, all you've got is like a piece of cloth over a plywood. That hurts. And that was obviously hurting that man, Chris Benoit, as he's doing -- this is what he calls his flying head butt, which is just painful to watch now. PHILLIPS: Well, we look forward to your investigation. I know you reveal a lot about policies and the way they live their lives.

We look forward to it.

Thanks, Drew.


PHILLIPS: And you can see the entire special investigations unit report "Death Grip: Inside Pro-Wrestling," tonight 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

Three-and-a-half years after her son died in Iraq, the mother of a Blackwater worker is still looking for answers.

Why did she have to wait so long?


PHILLIPS: Stop Outsourcing Security -- that's the name of a bill unveiled today by several members of Congress. It would phase out the use of private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Backers include the mother of a Blackwater worker who was brutally killed in Fallujah. She has quite a story to tell.

Take a listen.


DONNA ZOVKO, JERRY ZOVKO'S MOTHER: I miss him more today than yesterday.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): It's been three-and-a-half years since Donna Zovko watched on TV as the bodies of her son and three fellow Americans were desecrated in the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Jerry Zovko, a former Army Ranger, died in Iraq -- not as a member of the U.S. military, but as a security contractor for Blackwater. They were escorting three empty flatbed trucks when they were ambushed by insurgents and set on fire by a mob. It was the death of Zovko and his three fellow Blackwater security guards that led to the first major U.S. offensive in Fallujah. It lasted three weeks. Thirty-six U.S. servicemen also died.

Donna has come to this cemetery near Cleveland to mark what would have been her son's 36th birthday.

ZOVKO: Faith is very, very important to me. Without faith, I think I would not be able to function or survive.

PHILLIPS: In the months after her son was killed, Donna, a Catholic, had an extraordinary meeting with pope John Paul II.

ZOVKO: He told me to believe and to stay strong in my faith and to know that God has accepted Jerry's soul. PHILLIPS: Now, it's this man she wants to hear from -- her son's boss, Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince. Prince did inform her in person of her son's death and attended the funeral, but she wants more.

ZOVKO: It was a big gift for me to see the Holy Father and to meet the Holy Father.

But for the truth of my Jerry's death, I'd give it back. I'd say no. I want

Blackwater to tell me everything.

PHILLIPS: Thanks to a Congressional investigation, she has gotten some answers. In a scathing report on Blackwater's actions that day in Fallujah, the House Oversight Committee in September says that Blackwater, at the time, was an unprepared and disorderly organization, operating in a hostile environment. According to the Congressional report, Blackwater: "ignored multiple warnings about the dangers of Fallujah, cut two essential personnel from the mission who could have provided backup firepower and a rear gunner to protect against attacks."

The report also says Blackwater failed to provide Jerry Zovko and his three colleagues with armored vehicles and sufficient threat intelligence or even maps of the area.

ZOVKO: This is them at one of the dances there.

I choose to believe that my faith and my God has not had in mind for my son to be killed in Iraq and to be dragged through the streets in Fallujah or be hung off the bridge. No, no, no. You know, men did that. People did that. And Erik served my son to those people to do that, because he didn't send them equipped well enough to be able to defend himself.

PHILLIPS: Blackwater declined comment when we were preparing this story, saying it wouldn't be prudent; that Mrs. Zovko is a grieving mother, understandably so, and our thoughts remain with her and her entire family.

The company has taken issue with the House probe. It has said Zovko and his colleagues had appropriate vehicles with appropriate manpower, given what was known at the time. And it says the Fallujah killings were, "a tragedy in which no one but the terrorists are to blame."

We asked Donna if she hoped her son's attackers were killed in the following Marine onslaught on Fallujah.

ZOVKO: No. No, no, no, no, no. I don't wish for them to be dead. I just wish for them to take the responsibility for what they have done.

PHILLIPS: As for the future, she hopes to go to Fallujah one day and erect a monument at the very spot her son was killed.

ZOVKO: They can knock it down and I'll just build it back up. I will not forgive or forget that. No.

PHILLIPS: And she will not forget one image just taken before the mobs in Fallujah got to her son -- an image which actually provides comfort.

ZOVKO: My Jerry's eyes were closed and his mouth is like as if he were speaking to God himself, as if he was calling to him to help take his soul.

PHILLIPS: After seeing our story, Chairman Erik Prince called us with this response: "I was communicating with her all the way up until the time the lawsuit was filed."

However, the Zovko family disputes that.

But Prince added: "Regarding Mrs. Zovko, I would be willing to meet with her without media present, out of fear of it becoming a media circus."


Now, just a short time ago, Donna Zovko responded to Erik Prince's comments. She says she would like to meet with Prince, but wants to know why she had to wait 44 months.

You can hear more from Donna Zovko and learn more about the Congressional investigation at

LEMON: How low will it go?

The Dow takes a big drop -- down more than 300 points. The closing bell is next.


LEMON: It's time now to check in with -- CNN in stereo -- Wolf Blitzer.

PHILLIPS: Standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour -- hey, Wolf.


Thanks very much.

A new cozier relationship between the U.S. and France. President Nicolas Sarkozy sharing the love as he meets with the president, addresses Congress and speaks to the news media.

Rudy Giuliani picking up an endorsement from Pat Robertson.

The question now -- will the support of the televangelist be good news for Giuliani or will it backfire?

And Yahoo! executives under fire. Congress and family members are demanding answers after the company turned over the names of dissidents to the Chinese government. You're going to find out who else may have done that.

All that and a lot more right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- back to you.

LEMON: Thanks, Wolf.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

LEMON: Stephanie Elam standing by with a final look at the trading day -- Stephanie, is there anything positive happening on Wall Street today, number-wise?