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Political Analysts Urge Obama To Address Blagojevich Scandal; Obama Plans To Face Press Today

Aired December 11, 2008 - 07:00   ET

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


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the Pentagon is working to get thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan. He says three additional brigades could be deployed by the summer. Gates is in Kandahar meeting with military leaders who have asked for a total of four new brigades or roughly 20,000 troops to continue to battle a resurgent Taliban.
New fallout this morning in the "pay to play" scandal surrounding Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The man accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's old Senate seat is still clinging to his power this morning despite a growing chorus of calls for him to resign including from President-elect Obama. And now there are some new questions about just high, how high this scandal has reached and who was willing to play ball with the governor.

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. is denying he did anything wrong after federal authorities identified him as the now infamous candidate number five mentioned on FBI tapes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I thought mistakenly that the governor was going to make a decision in the best interest of our state as well as our nation. I thought mistakenly that the governor was considering me based on my 13 years of hard work on behalf of the people of our state as well as our nation. I thought mistakenly I had a chance and I was being considered because I had earned it. Clearly, I was badly mistaken.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: And we're covering every angle of this developing story. We have Elaine Quijano with the latest from the Obama camp.

First, though, to Drew Griffin with more on candidate number five now revealed to be Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., and other possible players in this case.

Good morning, Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kiran. And what a blow for Congressman Jesse Jackson.

FBI sources and the congressman's attorney confirm he is not, not a target of this investigation. But he was dragged into this very publicly yesterday. The scandal surrounding the governor who remains in the house behind me, not saying anything, and made news yesterday by just going to work.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There he is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Call it business unusual for the Illinois governor now ducking media staked out at his home and racing past cameras as he was driven to his Chicago office. One day after his arrest and amid calls from every corner of the state for his resignation, the governor was silent.

Not so silent, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., who suddenly found himself defending his quest to fill the U.S. Senate seat Democrat Governor Blagojevich was allegedly trying to sell.

REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I reject and denounce "pay to play" politics and have no involvement whatsoever in any wrongdoing.

GRIFFIN: A law enforcement source with detailed knowledge of the investigation confirms to CNN that Jackson, a Democrat, is the Senate candidate number five talked about in the federal complaint against Governor Blagojevich. On page 72 of the federal complaint, Blagojevich allegedly describes a deal being cooked up by an associate of candidate number five.

"We were approached 'pay to play' that, you know, he'd raise me 500 grand. An emissary came. Then the other guy would raise a million if I made him a senator."

It's a claim Jackson categorically denies.

JACKSON: I never sent a message or an emissary to the governor.

GRIFFIN: So who are the other possible candidates one through six Governor Blagojevich was considering? Number one is believed to be close Obama confidante, Valerie Jarrett, who has since been named to Barack Obama's White House staff.

Number two, possibly Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Madigan yesterday called for Blagojevich's resignation.

Number three, Democrat Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says it might have been her and says she must not have been a serious candidate since the governor didn't ask her for anything.

Number four is described as a deputy governor. Blagojevich had three deputies until one of them, Bob Greenlee resigned today. Greenlee would not confirm to the "Associated Press" if he was the candidate. Number five is Jesse Jackson Jr. And number six, the FBI complaint calls a wealthy man from Illinois who wants the seat and would pay for it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: And the man at the center of this, Governor Blagojevich, not a peep from him since his arrest. Everybody is waiting to see what he's going to say. All the politicians want him to resign. So far he is not and others move a foot in Illinois to get rid of the governor whether he resigns or not -- Kiran.

CHETRY: All right. Drew Griffin continuing to follow this for us. Thank you.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: By the way, about 35 minutes time, we'll be talking with the attorney general of Illinois, Lisa Madigan about all of this. So make sure that you join us for that. It's about 40 minutes to the top of the hour.

CNN's Elaine Quijano covering the latest developments from the Obama headquarters in Chicago. Let's start with some of the people who are closest to the president-elect, David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. Neither one of them are speaking. Are they ever going to discuss who knew what and when they knew it?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a good question. Let's start with Rahm Emanuel. We have not heard from him. He, by the way, occupies Governor Blagojevich's old congressional seat in the fifth district.

The question is, did he have a conversation with Governor Blagojevich or someone from the governor's office about this Senate seat which as others have noted would not be wrong or even unusual, certainly to reach out to someone from the governor's team. The problems we just don't know. We don't have the answer to that question, and it's not clear whether or not we're going to hear from Rahm Emanuel.

Moving over to David Axelrod, now we have heard from him in a sense you recall on the day Governor Blagojevich was arrested, Axelrod released a written statement, basically walking back something that he told a Chicago TV reporter a couple of weeks ago, that Obama did, in fact, have a conversation with the governor about the Senate seat.

In his written statement, he corrected himself saying look, I was mistaken. The president-elect and the governor did not at any time discuss that subject. But the question there is, why did it take a couple of weeks for that correction to come out? So beyond that statement, we've really not heard anything from David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel since the governor's arrest.

ROBERTS: Pretty clear, though, Elaine, according to the affidavit though, that it looks like the Obama campaign was not prepared to play which evoked some pretty colorful language from the Illinois governor.

Now, what's the strategy for Obama's staff right now? Is it to just lay low and hope that this all blows away? He's got that press conference today. Obviously, he's going to be asked about it.

QUIJANO: Well, that's right. And the president-elect will likely try to put some of these questions to rest. You know, the stated topic, of course, is health care. We should mention he's also going to be formally announcing his pick for health and human services secretary, Tom Daschle. But he will be facing a barrage of questions about the Blagojevich situation.

Will he be able to or be willing to answer some of these questions more fully? There was a lot of discussion, as you know, that his response to the reporter's question on Tuesday about whether or not he had contact and he said we know, I have not had any contact. That raised some eyebrows as well.

We'll just have to wait and see. Still a lot of questions circulating out there surrounding this situation -- John.

ROBERTS: You probably pretty logically assume that somewhere along the line somebody from the Obama campaign or transition talked with the governor about this, but I guess we'll find out more of where the story goes a little bit later on this morning.

Elaine Quijano for us this morning. Elaine, thanks so much.

CHETRY: Well, one for the little guys, I guess you could say. The Chicago sit-in is over. Laid off factory workers struck a $1.75 million deal with their former company and the bank that cut off the financing. Each worker will get eight weeks severance pay, accrued vacation pay and two months paid health care. They were originally left with nothing.

California's two senators are now calling on the Marine Corps to review the entire fleet of FA-18D jets after one crashed tragically into a California home killing a man's infant daughter, baby daughter as well as his wife and her mother. The pilot ejected during a training exercise, but the jet crashed in a fireball killing the two young girls and the mother and grandmother. Initial reports suggest that the jet may have suffered engine failure.

ROBERTS: Well, even Las Vegas has to roll the dice in this economy. The city is flying the entire town of Cranfills Gap, Texas to Vegas on the house. Cranfills Gap was chosen as the most unique town in America. Part of a new ad campaign to draw attention to the strip, critics say the $2.5 million publicity stunt is a waste of money but the mayor says you got to spend money to make it.

And Lieutenant Dan gets a medal from the president. Actor Gary Sinise was one of 24 recipients of the Presidential Citizens Medal. The White House honored him as a humanitarian and a patriot for his work after 9/11 and for sending school supplies to children in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARY SINISE, ACTOR: I remember after September 11th when the president asked people to volunteer and to try to pitch in to help and do something and I heard that, I heard that call and I volunteered for the USO and started going out and trying to do whatever I could for the troops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTS: The medal is the second highest honor for a civilian, by the way, second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Gary Sinise is a real good guy.

CHETRY: Wonderful guy. Wonderful guy and great memorable character -- Forrest Gump, of course.

Well, Barack Obama's team reached a deal with President Clinton to open his global charities books. But before his wife becomes the next secretary of state, Senate Republicans may have a few questions as well. So will the former president actually have to testify?

ROBERTS: And Michelle Obama will have a huge list of responsibilities when she becomes first lady of the United States. So the question is, should she get a paycheck? We'll talk about that.

It's ten minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: OK. You're going to love this one. Listen up.

Sex and shopping go hand-in-hand, at least for men. A new study says that men who have the most sex with the most partners spend the most money. Hello? And the one who say they want to keep sleeping around will most likely continue to spend more even if they don't have the money.

All of this is in the latest issue of "Evolutionary Psychology, otherwise known as the Journal, duh (ph).

CHETRY: So how about this, Christine? The answer to the recession, throw morals out the windows and get these gigolos or -- well, no, I guess it will be the opposite of gigolos. Get this, sugar daddies, right, out there spending.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I don't know if it helped. I don't how many guys out there fit that category, if there are enough to really push this global economy.

CHETRY: Throw it, John.

ROBERTS: Heads up. Come on, guys. Let's go.

That's one hand, two, three.

CHETRY: Oh, please. Now, people who are watching us --

(LAUGHTER)

ROBERTS: I got my hands down. All right.

ROMANS: OK. Well, I'm here to bring us back to a dollar a gallon gas. How does that feel? That would make you spend, right?

CHETRY: Yes.

ROMANS: Get in your fancy car and go out and pick up a new date for the weekend, I guess, right?

A dollar a gallon gas. Terrible segue. I have no idea how to get to it.

But here, listen, a lot of people are talking about the global demand crunch for oil. We've seen -- when oil goes up so much, people talk about conspiracy theories. They spend all the time trying to tell people no, there's not some big, you know, conspiracy to put your oil up. Now, gas prices are going down and people are just saying, OK, I'm going to believe it for now and I'm going to continue to fill up my tank.

Oil prices down so much, down more than $2 a gallon over just the past few weeks. And oil prices now, the IA -- the International Energy Agency says for the first time in 25 years, we're going to see global demand for oil go down. For the first time in 25 years and that's since 1983.

CHETRY: Yes.

ROMANS: '83 was a tough time. That's why we look back and make those comparisons. "Thriller" was the number one album. "Say, Say, Say" was the number one song, and you had a jobless rate of 9.6 percent.

CHETRY: And what was the "B" side of things?

ROMANS: I don't know but I do know the mortgage rates were 13.4 percent back then.

ROBERTS: But here's the conspiracy theory.

ROMANS: What's that?

ROBERTS: Here's what the conspiracy theorists are saying. And there's nothing to prove that this is true. But here's what they're saying is that the price of oil is coming down now because the oil companies are banding together to try to kill the drive to more fuel efficient vehicles.

And if gasoline is cheap...

CHETRY: Ooh, conspiracy theory...

ROBERTS: ... if gasoline is cheap, there won't be such a pressure -- there won't be so much pressure for fuel efficient vehicles and so all the technology that was developed in the last six months to eighteen months...

CHETRY: Right.

ROBERTS: ... will die and then they'll have to start all over again if they ramp up oil prices.

ROMANS: There are conspiracy theories on both sides -- on both sides of it.

ROBERTS: There's a conspiracy theory.

ROMANS: Absolutely. But when you just look at those prices, oil prices $145 a barrel just back in June, July 3rd, 43. Oil prices down the same barrel of crude down 100 bucks a barrel. Incredible.

Gas prices a year ago, $3. Now, $1.66 on average.

ROBERTS: Looks like the same. House is down.

ROMANS: Well, everything is down. But you know why are oil prices -- oil prices -- oil demand, rather, rarely, rarely goes down. It's down because the global economy is really suffering here.

I mean, UCLA study just out last night or this morning says, you know, two million people are going to lose their jobs in this country next year. Use all these words like ugly and nasty and abnormality, which is not the kind of language you usually see, you know, in economic studies. But we know things are going to be tough and that's why oil demand is down. Not withstanding the conspiracy theories that John is talking about.

ROBERTS: You spend too much time online.

ROMANS: I think so. I think so.

ROBERTS: Thanks, Christine.

ROMANS: You're welcome.

ROBERTS: Using drugs to boost your brain power. Coming up on the "Most News in the Morning."

Medications used to treat hyperactivity may change the way that we actually think. But should we be taking them if we don't have these disorders? We'll find out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Nineteen minutes after the hour. Time to take a look at your Thursday political ticker.

Right now, Senate Republicans are considering asking Bill Clinton to testify at his wife's confirmation hearing. They're curious about any potential conflicts of interest with his worldwide charity and in particular donations made to foreign governments.

Well, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern, President-elect Obama is expected to announce former Senate majority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, as his secretary of health and human services. Obama is expected to use the news conference to talk about his health care policy. And viewed by many as the new face of the Republican Party, one of the GOP front runners for the White House in 2012, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal says he doesn't want the job. Jindal says he's just looking to win reelection as governor in 2011. But like any politician he didn't completely rule out a presidential run.

And if you're away from your TV but you need the latest political headlines any time, go to CNN.com/ticker -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, the job of first lady is always overshadowed by the president. But it's certainly no easy task. There's a house to run, lots of important visitors to prepare for. There's always a cause to get involved in as well. But it's a job that is left off of the White House payroll. In these modern times, though, should that change?

Alina Cho is on the story for us this morning. After all, Michelle Obama was a working woman?

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, she was.

ROBERTS: Attorney making six figures.

CHO: She's giving up a high paying job, and it's an interesting question, John, isn't it?

Good morning, everybody. You know, as first lady, Michelle Obama will certainly be busy. She'll be the mom in chief, of course, the first hostess, a goodwill ambassador and she will likely take up a cause, as you just heard from John. It's an honor for sure and it definitely comes with perks. But being first lady is hard work and it is not a paid post, which begs the question, in modern times for the modern first lady to be, should the first lady get a salary?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHO (voice-over): She'll make history as the nation's first black first lady. But even before her husband's historic win, Michelle Obama was a powerhouse in her own right, an Ivy league educated lawyer with a six figure salary. In a month, she'll be moving into a new home and a new full time job, working for free.

PROF. ROBERT THOMPSON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY NEWHOUSE SCHOOL: I think most Americans when they hear the phrase "first lady" still think China patterns, tours through the White House.

CHO: Jacqueline Kennedy won an Emmy for her TV tour of the White House. William Howard Taft's wife, Helen, attended cabinet meetings, but she said only to keep her husband awake. Nancy Reagan had her "Just Say No" campaign. Then came Hillary.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and made tea, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession.

CHO: Hillary Clinton redefined the role of first lady, taking on health care, traveling the world. Yet she was never paid a cent. LISA CAPUTO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: We used to joke that we were a moving public works project. Wherever we would go, there would be new roads paved literally. She defined that role for herself and I think in many ways, helped pave the ground for future first ladies.

CHO: Like Michelle Obama.

THOMPSON: More and more presidents are going to, I think, have spouses who actually come to the job with a life, with a career. And the kind of things that they do might, in fact, be useful things to employ.

CHO: But a salaried first lady? Some say the pay is in the perks. Big fancy house. First class travel. Elegant dinners. So what does the current office holder think?

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: No. I don't think it should be a paid post. The spouse of the president is not an office holder. We weren't elected.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHO: Now her social secretary tells us Hillary Clinton's, by the way tells us, for example, that she attended on average 500 events a year. She traveled to 82 countries all over the U.S., of course.

There are meetings, events, dinners, bill signings, photo ops with spelling bee winners and sports teams and, of course, at this time of year all those holiday parties. Now the Obama's first big event after they move into the White House will be the annual governors' visit, John. You know that. That comes in February.

Michelle Obama, of course, will be key in the planning of that event. Remember, this is a woman who at the University of Chicago Medical Center made more than $300,000 a year. As president, leader of the free world, Barack Obama will make $400,000 a year.

Should she get paid? It is an interesting question. Of course, we don't want to suggest at all that the Obama campaign is saying that she should get paid because they're not.

ROBERTS: No.

CHO: But it certainly makes -- it makes for good cocktail conversation.

ROBERTS: As an attorney she should be used to this and she'll be doing a lot more of it -- pro bono work.

CHO: That's right.

ROBERTS: All right. Alina, thanks so much for that. Great piece.

CHO: You bet.

ROBERTS: Kiran? Well, in the FBI's wiretaps of Governor Blagojevich, he seemed so sure that Barack Obama wouldn't get involved in his "pay to play" scheme. How did the governor know that? And what are Republicans and Democrats saying about Barack Obama? Were any of his people's connection to this?

It's 24 minutes after the hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": It was so blatant how he was selling the seat. Did you see the footage? It was so blatant. Take a look.

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: We have a Senate seat up for sale, formerly Barack Obama's. Obama, Obama, Obama.

Now raise your hands. (INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY: I laugh every time I see it. I've seen it a few times. You got to laugh or you're going to cry, right?

Well, Jay Leno on the political headline that people really can't stop talking about. President-elect and all 50 Democratic senators calling on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to step down, to resign.

But in quotes from the FBI wiretap, Blagojevich seemed quite sure that Barack Obama and his team wouldn't be part of a "pay to play" scheme. So how did he know that? And what's the likely fallout from the scandal?

I'm joined by Democratis stategist Lisa Caputo, as well as Ed Rollins, CNN contributor and Republican strategist.

Thanks to both of you.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you.

CHETRY: So, Lisa, you know, as we said before, the quote from some of this wiretapping transcript is, "They're not willing to give me anything except appreciation. (Expletive) them." And so, it does beg the question how did he know? How was he so sure?

LISA CAPUTO, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I mean, we don't know. And I think one of the things that the president-elect has to do today is to be transparent and to address questions when asked in his press conference today on health care. He's got to be transparent.

And I think that we've seen David Axelrod issue a statement saying he misspoke. I think that was wise to immediately correct the record. But I think that the most important thing to do today, at least on behalf of the president-elect, is to get the facts out. And it's very clear when you read the transcript, which is like a made for TV movie, that the Obama team wanted no part of whatever Blagojevich was up to.

CHETRY: Do you think that, Ed, that David Axelrod or Rahm Emanuel or somebody -- we reached out to both of them, they denied our request to comment about that, about the situation -- do you think they need to -- to talk a little bit more?

ROLLINS: Whatever the facts are they need to get them out. I think it's very legitimate for the president-elect's team to have some dialogue. They've had some dialogue. There's nothing wrong with that as to who the successor would be. And if they did that, then they should talk about that.

Certainly they can't participate in buying the Senate seat, and I think they made very clear early on when they wanted Jarrett to be their candidate, that they sort of moved away very quickly. They know the skit (ph). They know this guy. This guy is a bad guy.

And I think to a certain extent, they didn't want any part of it and I think -- but they had that dialogue and said this is who I think should have it or these are who I recommend. It's perfectly legitimate. If they did it, they got to say that.

CHETRY: You know that's the interesting thing as well, about the situation when it comes to Chicago politics. I mean, this dirty politics that we've been hearing about and how Barack Obama managed to sort of straddle that line in that he was a success there without actually doing anything wrong. Is that a difficult situation for him, Lisa, when you start to hear about Blagojevich, Jesse Jackson Jr., and others who really had their hands dirty?

CAPUTO: Well, wait a minute. Jesse Jackson --

CHETRY: What I mean by that is that Blagojevich, in these wiretaps, is trying to drag Jesse Jackson Jr. into it, and Barack in some way is getting dragged into this just because of the proximity. They ran in the same circles, I guess you could say. So does it make look like everyone has their hands dirty?

CAPUTO: Well, I think you have to take a step back and say hold on a second. Appearance can one thing, but facts are another. And I think that is why Jesse Jackson moved so quickly yesterday to have a press availability and to denounce that he had any -- anything to do with this, or authorized anybody to make any deal on his behalf.

And I think you'll see the president-elect today address the questions. I think Ed is 100 percent right. It's absolutely within the complete realm of normalcy for the transition team, or anybody, to have a conversation about who should fill this seat. Of course, that would happen. That's normal politics. But when anybody raises the prospect of money or a quid pro quo, you want to wash your hands of that and just walk away.

CHETRY: And this is another tough situation. I mean, we're still waiting to find out whether or not there was any knowledge of what was going on. Perhaps the feds were like, we don't want people talking about this publicly. We don't want to make a big thing because we're still in the process of gathering wiretaps and getting this type of stuff out there. So, it seems to be tough line to straddle.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It is.

CHETRY: You want to call out corruption at the same time you don't want to compromise the investigation.

ROLLINS: You surely do.

But the most important thing, it is really stepped on, this president has had a very exciting beginning here, and as he attempts to roll out the rest of his Cabinet to get dragged back by implication, or by no actual facts, but by innuendo, into sleaze ball politics of Illinois is just a real tragedy for this president.

CHETRY: Lisa, you believe, a least, this is going to blow over for Barack Obama

CAPUTO: I absolutely think it will. And I think Obama is a man of high integrity and great ethics. The people around him are of the same ilk. I think he will address the questions today and he'll be transparent just as he has vowed to be. I think that this will be put behind him. I think he had no involvement. I think he made that absolutely clear yesterday. I think he will have a clear path to his inaugural and this will become, what I would hope be Illinois news, and I hope that the attorney, the special attorney will wrap it up quickly.

ROLLINS: I think one thing that he needs do, though, he needs to make it very clear, that Fitzgerald is going to stay, who obviously, he could replace, but he's going to stay until this thing is finished.

CAPUTO: Yes, yes. Chuck Schumer made that point yesterday and I think that's a good one.

CHETRY: All right. Well, thanks to both of you. Lisa and Ed, great to see you, as always.

John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: All right. Thanks, Kiran.

It's 32 and a half minutes after the hour. Here are this morning's top stories. Barack Obama close to naming another Cabinet member. Sources close to the transition team tells CNN he'll choose Doctor Steven Chu as secretary of Energy. Chu won the 1997 Nobel prize in physics and runs the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory.

The Chicago sit in is over. Laid-off factory workers struck a $1.75 million deal with their former company and the bank that cut off its financing. Each worker will get eight weeks of severance pay, accrued vacation pay and two months of paid health care. They were originally left with nothing.

Well, have a look at this. The national average for gas has dropped down to $1.66 a gallon, falling for the 85th day in a row. AAA says prices have not been this low since early 2004. And it looks like they will continue to go down.

President-Elect Obama is promising a change in U.S. Cuban relations. A trade embargo of more than 45 years never managed to topple Fidel Castro's government. Now under his brother Raul Castro, Cubans have seen some modest reforms as their government cozies up to China, Russia and Venezuela. And our continuing look at issues facing the incoming Obama administration our Havana Bureau Chief Morgan Neill has today's "Memo to the President".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF (voice over): Mr. President, during the campaign you said your Cuba policy will be guide by one word, freedom for the island nation's people. But what will that mean in practice? While the U.S. trade embargo, which started in the early 1960s, hasn't toppled Cuba's government it has kept U.S. influence in Cuba at a minimum. In the mean time others haven't been idle.

(On camera): The old Soviet embassy has been busy lately, as Russia rebuilds ties with its Cold War ally. China is sending thousands of students to learn Spanish at schools like this one, part of its overall push to secure raw materials throughout the region. And Venezuela has maybe the closest relationship of all with Cuba. Built on a firm foundation of oil from Caracas traded for doctors from Havana.

(On camera): Why does it matter? Some analysts say what the U.S. does here will be felt throughout the region.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If the United States were to begin to open a new chapter toward Havana this would be applauded by Latin America, and globally, and give a boost to the Obama administration's claim that it represents turning over a new leaf in beginning to recover American standing globally. Cuba is very symbolic of that opportunity.

NEILL: And some believe that the time may be right. First President Raul Castro, then his brother, former President Fidel Castro, both said they would be open to a meeting with the U.S. president-elect. While there's still strong opposition in some corridors a new poll indicates a majority in Miami's Cuban-American community now favor an end to the embargo.

While few expect to see an ends to the embargo any time soon, President-Elect Obama has indicated he favors looser restrictions on family travel and money sent back to the island.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: Neill, Morgan Neill reporting from Havana today. In tomorrow's "Memo to the President," violent crime is on the rise in parts of the country. Our Justice Correspondent Kelli Arena looks at the balance that Barack Obama must strike between fighting terrorism and keeping America's streets safe. That's tomorrow on the most news in the morning.

We want to hear from you. Send us your own "Memo to the President". Go to CNN.com/am and click on the I-Report link. Give the president-elect your ideas or simply give him a piece of your mind.

CHETRY: Or, how about improving the way you think with a trip to the pharmacy? Some doctors say that common stimulants may actually turbo charge your brain. We're "Paging Doctor Gupta" with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: It's time now to "Fast Forward" to stories that will be making news later today. The nominations for this year's Golden Globes will be announced in less than an hour, in Hollywood. Leading film contenders, "The Dark Knight", "Wall-E", "Milk", and the forthcoming, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."

At 11:00 a.m. Eastern, the president-elect will hold a press conference about his plan for health care. He's also expected to announce former Senator Majority Leader Democrat Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services.

At 2:00 p.m. Eastern, in Oslo, Norway an all-star concert for this year's Nobel laureates will begin. Expected on stage, Diana Ross, and singer-songwriter, Jason Mraz.

Well, if you recognize this sound, we're about to hear - still not hearing it. But anyway, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Hollywood history is going under the hammer. Your chance to win Luke Skywalker light saber. I think we were supposed to hear the - you know, the - go ahead, give me the sound effects from "Star Wars", guys. Never mind.

Thank you. Thank you.

Another item up for bid, Indiana Jones iconic hat and frozen figure of Boy Wonder Robin from the 1997 "Batman & Robin". All collectibles that Rob Marciano would just love to get his hands on. We're getting you a light saber for Christmas. I know that is right at the top of your list, I'm not sure what else you want?

ROB MARICANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Who doesn't want a light saber? You know? Sorry they don't have those sound effects for you.

CHETRY: Can you do them?

MARCIANO: I, I am your father. That's all I got for you.

(LAUGHTER)

(WEATHER FORECAST)

ROBERTS: Drugs that treat Attention Deficit Disorder may have another use. Coming up on the most news in the morning, researchers say some medication should be available to everyone to help people to focus and boost their brain power. What do you think?

She was once considered a candidate and now she's a critic. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan joins us next to talk about the next legal steps in the Blagojevich scandal. What are her options? We'll find out. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROBERTS: Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan was considered a top candidate to fill Barack Obama's empty Senate seat. Now she's taking a very different role in the selection process, building a legal case against Governor Blagojevich. Lisa Madigan, the attorney general, joins us now live from Chicago.

So, you've said, Madam Attorney General, that you think he should resign. How strongly do you feel about this. Are you prepared to take action to make sure he does not continue as governor of Illinois?

LISA MADIGAN, ILL. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I am prepared to take action, but obviously, the easiest way for us to move on in the state of Illinois is for Governor Blagojevich to do the right thing for the people and resign.

Now, it doesn't appear that he has any inclination to do that. Maybe things will change today or tomorrow. But he fails to, then the two other options are obviously the legislator moving forward on impeachment, or I have the opportunity to actually go to our Illinois supreme court and ask them to declare, basically, that our governor is unable to serve, and to put in our lieutenant governor as the acting governor.

ROBERTS: How long will you wait until you take that action?

MADIGAN: Well, I don't think we'll wait terribly long. But we would like a signal from the legislature if they're going to move ahead on impeachment proceedings. So, I think there are obviously numerous members of the legislature calling for impeachment proceedings. Our legislature is going into a special session because of these issues on Monday. We'll see then what they plan on doing, and probably even earlier we'll end up hearing.

ROBERTS: You know, he still has the power to fill that vacant seat that's being vacated by the president-elect. If he moves to try to fill that seat in the next few days, before you take action, or the legislator does, or he were to resign what can you do to stop him?

MADIGAN: There are a whole series of things that can be done to stop him. Every from actual - well, like, yesterday, you probably heard the U.S. Senate actually said they wouldn't seat somebody. In addition our secretary of state here in Illinois could fail to certify that. There's always the speculation that he may choose to appoint himself. That was part of what came out in the criminal complaint. And so if he did that, again, we can go into court and file suit over that.

ROBERTS: I've talked to you about him before. You've never really seemed to be a very big fan of his. Were you surprised to see the level of the alleged behavior here?

MADIGAN: Very surprised. I mean, you know, I think that's what was shocking. Many of us recognized that this day of coming. But I don't think anybody realized it was going to be at this magnitude. So, a man who was under serious federal investigation, and has been for years, is still carrying on in this manner.

ROBERTS: So what's going on here? You know, we -- Chicago and Illinois politics is notorious for corrupt behavior. Four of the last seven governors were indicted. But what do you think happened with Governor Blagojevich?

MADIGAN: I don't know. I don't know if the power goes to your head, if he's always been this way, if he's a desperate man because of the federal investigations. I'm not qualified, you know, to make any psychological diagnosis. But, you know, clearly something is wrong. Clearly he needs to resign. Our state, obviously, people are cynical. They are tired of the corruption out of the governor's office. They want to move on.

ROBERTS: Lisa Madigan, we'll stay in touch with you. We'll see what happens going forward. Thanks for being with us this morning.

MADIGAN: My pleasure, John.

ROBERTS: All right. Good to see you. I'll see you again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY (voice over): Family trouble for the embattled Illinois governor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a family at war, for reasons that are hard to completely understand.

CHETRY: A business deal that soured, a fight with his father-in-law, and how involved is the governor's wife in the scandal that could bring him down? You're watching the most news in the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Well, some researchers say people should be allowed to boost their brain power with stimulant drugs, the same kind used to treat hyperactivity and memory problems in some. We're "Paging Doctor Gupta" in Atlanta this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Scott Kinney isn't a famous athlete like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, but he does take a performance-enhancing drug, for the brain.

SCOTT KINNEY, I take a generic version of Adderall, it focuses all of my attention, more or less, on one specific task.

GUPTA: He is a graphic designer and a former radio deejay. And he's one of tens of millions of Americans who take a pill to help them concentrate, or help their memory, or to just plain stay awake. Most, like Kinney, have a doctor's prescription. Adderall and Ritalin are approved to treat Attention Deficit Disorder, but scientists say they have the same affect on almost anyone. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does work for many, if not all, normal, healthy people with normal attentional systems. They also enhance attention.

GUPTA: Take a look at these brain scans. Red indicates low levels of a certain brain chemical. A chemical you need in order to concentrate. And now the same brain after a dose of Ritalin. But here is something that may really surprise you. A survey in the journal "Nature" finds one out of its five readers who have responded have used cognition- enhancing drugs to boost their brain power.

Other surveys find one in four college students have taken prescription stimulants with or without doctors' orders. That's risky. The drugs can cause cardiovascular problems and can lead to addiction. No one knows much about the long-term effects.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I sometimes call this phenomenon America's biggest uncontrolled experiment in the psychopharmacology.

GUPTA: This poker champ fessed up to using Ritalin to help his game. So we asked the World Series of Poker, the U.S. Chess Federation, and the people who administer the SAT, none that is any rule against any brain enhancing drugs.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA: Some argue that taking a brain enhancer is kind of like fixing a competition, if you will. But these researchers say people should be allowed to take them, healthy or not. It's worth pointing out, Kiran, that two of the seven researchers do have some sort of financial interest in this cognition enhancing industry, but everyone is sort of calling for more research to find out if there is any long-term effects, problems such as addiction, in the long-term, Kiran.

CHETRY: That's just fascinating. You talk about performance enhancing drugs in major league sports, and how it's not allowed, or hard to track. And now you're possibly talking about it as it relates to the brain.

GUPTA: For the brain, yes, absolutely.

CHETRY: All right. Sanjay, great to see you. Thanks.

GUPTA: All right. Thanks.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHETRY (voice over): Anderson Cooper is going under.

"Planted in Peril" with the Great White. You have never seen the worldwide shark dive controversy from here. No cage, fresh bait, and Anderson.

Plus, you thought you were having a good year. Whose had the best year ever? The top five finalists.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, (R-AK) FMR. VP CANDIDATE: Thanks, but no thanks.

CHETRY: You're watching the most news in the morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: President-Elect Obama now calling on Illinois Governor Blagojevich to resign over these allegations of a pay-to-play scheme for his vacant Senate seat. But Republican leaders are saying that Barack Obama hasn't done enough yet to distance himself from this corruption case.

Joining me from Arlington, Virginia is the national radio host of "Morning In America," Bill Bennett. He's also the author of a new book, "The American Patriots' Almanac" which just made "The New York Times" best-seller list, by the way.

Congratulations on that, Bill.

BILL BENNETT, HOST, MORNING IN AMERICA: Thank you, very much.

CHETRY: We heard a little bit from the president-elect saying he was sobered, he was saddened, that he hadn't personally spoken with Blagojevich about that Senate seat. How do you think he has handled the situation so far?

BENNETT: I think he has handled it pretty well, but I think more needs to happen. And I say this not as a partisan -- I am a Republican. But I have called for the resignation of Stevens, Ted Stevens before he was defeated. Larry Craig, I thought ought to step down. All of these things I think are very serious, should be taken seriously. I'm not calling for anything like that in the case of Barack Obama. But I do think it's important for him to answer certain questions, so that he can clear the air.

He's the president of all of us now, exculpation is what's critical. I think it's very hard to believe that there were no conversations between Barack Obama, or his people, and Blagojevich about this replacement. Were there such conversations? Who had them? And what was said? The other thing, is what other kinds of conversations has the president-elect had with Blagojevich?

Otherwise, this thing is going to dog him. I don't want it to dog him. I don't want it to nag at him. I don't want it to hurt the presidency and hurt the country. Clear the air.

CHETRY: You know, along those same lines, when you're trying to figure out exactly what it is, even the prosecutor said this is, you know, Barack Obama is not involved in this situation. It is a difficult -- a delicate balance I guess you could say, because clearly it would be natural to have conversations over who may fill a Senate seat that you're vacating. Clearly it would be natural for those around you to have that.

BENNETT: Sure, it would.

CHETRY: But isn't it delicate right now with this investigation going on, and with everything that's happening politically, as he prepares to take power? You know, in terms of how he should handle that situation. I mean, just answer all the questions today at this news conference that's taking place? Is that the best way to handle it?

BENNETT: I think it would be the best way to handle it. I have what I call the rooftop test. You know? I've been around Washington a long time. And if there is nothing wrong, if there is no problem, you shout it from the rooftops. You don't parse. You know, I didn't have this with that person, whatever, whatever. You stand there and you say, look, I had nothing to do with this. I talked to the governor about a couple of people, gave him a couple of names. No quid pro quo. Next question.

Remember John McCain when that "New York Times" story came out about the lobbyist?

CHETRY: Right.

BENNETT: He stood there, he answered every question until the last question was exhausted. That's the way to do it. Now, if Barack Obama doesn't think he wants to do it - sullies the presidency somehow, maybe David Axelrod or one of his spokesman can do it. But there are questions. "The Politico" has an interesting list of questions this morning.

CHETRY: Yes.

BENNETT: That they think should be answered, and I do too.

CHETRY: "The Politico" also said, "At first blush Barack Obama comes out of this Rod Blagojevich scandal smelling like a rose, but make no mistake, for Obama and his team, it's a stink bomb tossed at close range."

BENNETT: Yes.

CHETRY: I think the point they're making is there is so much going on right now with the financial crisis, and with the bailout, and with some of these large measures, the talk of an infrastructure program similar to the New Deal, and we're talking about this corrupt -- allegedly corrupt politician out of Illinois.

BENNETT: Right. And I think the best thing, Kiran, to put something behind you, is to put something behind you. It's not only a stink bomb. It's an exploding stink bomb. You know, it's going in a lot of directions.

I had my brother on this morning, on the radio show, Bob Bennett, who knows something about public corruption cases. And he said, you know, we have been very careful when we talk about targets and subjects. The governor, Blagojevich, is the target at this point. He said that doesn't mean there won't be other targets. That doesn't mean people aren't subjects. So he said this thing is going to be with us for a long time. For President-Elect Obama to focus on the things we want him to focus on, he's got to put it behind him. The best way to put it behind him, preempt all of the questions, answer them up front. CHETRY: Gotcha. Bill Bennett, CNN political contributor and author of the "American Patriots' Almanac". Thanks for joining us this morning, Bill. Good to see you.

BENNETT: Thank you. As always, thank you.

CHETRY: A programming note for you, by the way, today President-Elect Barack Obama is holding a news conference at 11:00 Eastern Time, this morning. You can see it live on CNN and CNN.com - John.

ROBERTS: It's coming up now to the top of the hour and breaking news overnight. Nuclear talks with North Korea falling apart. Pyongyang refusing to endorse a plan to verify its nuclear activities. North Korea will not allow inspectors to take samples from its main nuclear complex at Yongbyon; a critical step in checking whether it's been truthful in the accounting of its nuclear programs.

A $14-billion bailout for automakers passing a big hurdle in the House but now facing a much bigger obstacle in the Senate. The bill is designed to keep Detroit's Big Three afloat in the short-term. Republicans predict that it won't get through the Senate, though, calling the deal a taxpayer-funded travesty.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, (R) ALABAMA: This is only delaying their funeral. I want them to survive, but they have to make that decision.

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