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CNN NEWSROOM

No Prosecution For Michael Phelps; Roland Burris Under Fire

Aired February 16, 2009 - 15:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. I think we've got some breaking news that we're going to get to before we do anything else. In fact, let's dip into this.

We had a whole different newscast planned, but now we understand there's a news conference in progress. This is the Sheriff, by the way, of Richland County, South Carolina. His name is Leon Lott. And he's talking about whether charges are going to be filed or not against Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer who was caught on camera apparently with a bong.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LEON LOTT, RICHLAND COUNTY, SOUTH CAROLINA, SHERIFF: ... obligated to enforce the law, again, equally, fairly and without personal bias.

I would have been remiss in my duty as sheriff if I would have ignored the November incident and subsequent drug violations we discovered during our investigation.

By ignoring the November incident, I would have been sending a message of tolerance and condoning the use of illegal drugs. I could not do that, nor have I ever done that. I would be a hypocrite in view of our extensive drug abuse resistance education program I have been active in for so many years.

How can we teach our kids through DARE not to do drugs, and then look away if it's an important person? Our message has to be loud, clear and consistent: Don't do drugs.

I have always advocated that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem. We must do it through enforcement and education, such as the DARE program utilizes.

Having thoroughly investigated this matter, we do not believe we have enough evidence to prosecute anyone that was present at the November party. Michael Phelps and I agree that something positive needs to come from this incident. And that is a message of not using drugs.

He can speak on this issue from his perspective. My perspective is that the law pertains to everyone and our drug laws are to be enforced. My hope again is that we take this incident and make something positive from it. Parents...

SANCHEZ: OK. Here we go. I think the money line was the fact that he's actually not going to press charges against Michael Phelps.

Sean Callebs is joining me now. Let's come out to a two-shot if we possibly can, Dan. This is interesting as we watch this.

This guy inserted himself in a case where had it not been Michael Phelps, he probably would not have, right?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you have to know Leon Lott.

SANCHEZ: It's a picture.

CALLEBS: It is a picture, but Leon Lott is a sheriff who has made his entire career fighting drugs. He was a patrol officer, worked his way up through the ranks. That is how he made his name.

We are talking about Columbia, South Carolina. We're talking about a very conservative area. They don't tolerate illegal drugs. He has pursued them his entire career. However, that said, there's no question he went after this in a very aggressive fashion.

He felt a lot of pressure from the community. People said to him -- and this is what sources are telling me -- they said look, if this was somebody of color with that bong on all across the country, you would really go after that guy.

So, he had to launch an investigation.

SANCHEZ: Has he prosecuted eight other people in this case already?

CALLEBS: I think he just said he doesn't have enough information to prosecute anybody in this case.

SANCHEZ: OK.

CALLEBS: There are seven other people that have been charged -- there are eight other people who have been charged, and they all have attorneys. They all have high-powered, high-priced attorneys.

SANCHEZ: Charged for being at a party where someone had a bong, to most people, it would seem as if he's overreaching. That's not to defend the action, by any stretch of the imagination.

(CROSSTALK)

CALLEBS: And also the way those officers apparently went in there, too. If you listen to the defense attorneys, they went in there guns drawn, what's going on, we're going to get to the bottom of this, searching everybody.

And they found a little bit of pot. SANCHEZ: Right.

CALLEBS: And then everything escalated after that.

But when Michael Phelps' picture hit that magazine and went all over the world, I mean, we said it last hour. It was the bong hit heard round the world.

SANCHEZ: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

CALLEBS: So, they had to pursue charges -- they had to pursue a very aggressive investigation.

But legal experts said from the very beginning...

SANCHEZ: He can't make the case.

CALLEBS: ... what are you going to get the guy on? Right. Exactly.

SANCHEZ: Right. Right. Right.

And it's not a matter of defending the action, which obviously is deplorable. It's a matter of being able to set priorities in this country for what other problems may be bigger than this one.

And I think that's the point. When I go to Twitter, when I go to MySpace, when I go to Facebook, that's what people are saying to me for the last two weeks.

CALLEBS: And, also, if you hear what Leon Lott just said at the very end of that news conference, he said, "Michael Phelps and I, Michael Phelps and I."

He's going to get some publicity out of this. Phelps can come back to the state.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

CALLEBS: He's going to have Leon Lott in tow. They're going to go around shoulder to shoulder and say, drugs are bad, kids. You got to stay away from these. So, he's going to get a lot of mileage out of this.

SANCHEZ: An opportunity for the sheriff of Richland County.

Sean, thanks for backing us up on this, just as we got the information this was going to happen.

Now, Dan, hit this, the rest of our newscast.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ (voice-over): Here is what is making news right now. Why is the president's replacement in the Senate telling us this now?

SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D), ILLINOIS: Rob Blagojevich reached out to me in three separate phone calls.

SANCHEZ: Knowing what Blago had done, why did he stand next to him? Why didn't he call him out? Questions we are asking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm looking in the viewfinder and I see just something flying into the sky. And it kind of looks it could be dust, it could be something. And I look up, and, no, it was something burning in the sky.

SNOW: Unidentified flying object, and it's creating a huge buzz. You will hear from those in the know.

Singer Chris Brown, who allegedly beat up Rihanna, says he's saddened about what transpired. Apology or P.R. media release? Saddened about what transpired.

Historians rate our nation's best and worst presidents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sometimes you misunderestimated me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: How low can he go? We will tell you.

The show that connects to America on the air and on the Internet, your daily national conversation, begins right now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And as we get going, hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez here in the world headquarters of CNN.

We started with this story just as it was breaking, again, the sheriff of Richland County in South Carolina announcing that he's not going to prosecute Michael Phelps or any of the eight people he apparently had already filed charges against in this case.

And there's the sheriff, who continues to speak. We have gotten comments from you as we have been following this story. So let's go right to it.

Let's go right to Facebook, if we can.

Jeannie is watching our newscast right now. Here's what she says. "Finally, they're deciding to not bring charges against Phelps? Go after some real criminals, please."

Again, this what is we had talked about moments ago. And Joshua says, "Seems unfair that the seven other people are going to get arrested, but they're going to leave Phelps alone."

Well, once again, from what we understand, the charges were filed, but they are not going to go ahead and prosecute them, at least at this point. We don't know. If the situation changes, we will certainly bring you the latest.

Now to this, another man who is in the center of a controversy. This is Roland Burris. He is the man from Chicago who has replaced Barack Obama with his Senate seat. He had said all along that Governor Blagojevich had not talked to him, had not made any deals, had not come to him with any offers or asking anything.

And now apparently that has changed. And when this information came out, it blew out yesterday at a news conference in Chicago.

I want you to take a listen. It's heated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BURRIS: I had no contact with anybody in reference to the appointment, OK?

Then the second -- then we had the testimony on the transcript. The second affidavit then dealt with contacts that I had about the Senate seat.

Look at the difference. One dealt with the appointment. That's all we were dealing with. The other one dealt with the Senate seat. And I talked to a whole lot of people about the Senate seat. So, there is no inconsistency.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Roland Burris once again arguing with reporters yesterday.

But there was an inconsistency, or so it seems, because now he's saying he was approached by the governor's brother, offering up some kind of deal. But he had never said that before, never said it to the confirmation committee, never said it to the impeachment committee in Illinois.

In fact, let me take you through the sequence of events here, if I can. We have got graphics to explain how these events came forward. First, I am going to take you back to -- this is January 8, 2009.

He says: "I was asked, among other things" -- again, this is by the impeachment committee -- "whether I had talked to anyone closely related to the government (sic)" -- key, "closely related to the government (sic)."

Next, he says, "I mentioned a conversation with Lon Mark (sic) and did not mention anyone else."

Lon Mark (sic), by the way, worked for the governor.

Now let's put up the third one, if we possibly can. Here is the information he didn't give that everyone is now saying he probably should have given. Think about this.

"I recall that Governor Blagojevich's brother, Robert Blagojevich, called me three times to seek my assistance in fund- raising for Governor Blagojevich."

So, the question that everyone's asking now is how could he possibly have left that out? How could he have not said that to anybody? How could he have not thought that that was germane to the story or to the investigation?

Joining us now, Rick Pearson with "The Chicago Tribune."

It's the -- it's the elephant in the room here. How could he have forgotten to mention to anyone prior to now that he had spoken to the governor's brother, not once, but on three occasions, where he had apparently made some kind of offer to him?

RICK PEARSON, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Well, that is the big question.

Let's face it. When Roland Burris testified to that Illinois House impeachment panel, the overriding issue, the overriding concern was, was there any talk about pay-to-play politics involving Governor Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell that seat...

SANCHEZ: Right.

PEARSON: ... and the Roland Burris appointment?

He is asked specifically about five people, including Rob Blagojevich, the governor's brother. His response was that he talked to Lon Monk way back in perhaps July.

SANCHEZ: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

PEARSON: Completely omitting the issue that these conversations that he had with Rob Blagojevich about fund-raising occurred, two of the three, after the November election, just weeks before he appeared in that impeachment committee.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Well, let me ask the question this way. And I think there's a lot of people that want to take this into account.

What would have happened, Rick, if he had said that to the impeachment committee? "Oh, by the way, guys, I have also been approached by the governor's brother on coming up with money for his fund-raising campaign, and I didn't talk to him once; I talked to him three times"? Would he have been -- would he be senator right now? Fair question.

(CROSSTALK)

PEARSON: If you remember what happened the day before he testified, that was the day he went to Washington, D.C., and met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Reid's deputy, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, where they had a discussion.

Both of those men said that one part of seating Roland Burris in the Senate was his full and complete and truthful testimony at that Illinois House impeachment hearing. With that kind of revelation coming up, I think that's a real interesting question.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Well, exactly.

Let me go at the word truthful that you just used, because it looks like he wasn't being truthful, at least not truthful through omission, if nothing else. So, now we're asking -- so now let's take it to the next level. Is this a potential -- does this rise to the level of perjury? I know you're not a lawyer, but I'm sure you have been asking a lot of questions covering this story for "The Chicago Tribune."

What's the take of people in the legal community there?

PEARSON: Well, that's certainly what Illinois Republicans are pursuing, including the man who asked him directly those questions about those people at the impeachment committee, Jim Durkin, a state representative.

He's asking that that House impeachment panel reconvene and have them vote to send this, refer this for investigation by the local state's attorney in Springfield, Illinois, who happens to be a Republican.

I'm hearing all kinds of -- on both sides of the issue, of whether this rises to the level of perjury. But certainly there's a couple other factors in play. This latest revelation comes in an affidavit that was filed fairly recently, certainly after Burris was safely seated in the United States Senate.

And Republicans on that House committee are saying that, how can we believe anything that Roland Burris says right now?

SANCHEZ: Yes. And you know what? Who can blame them, given these -- this new revelation in this story.

Rick Pearson, "The Chicago Tribune," one of the finest papers in the country, my thanks to you, sir, for taking time to talk to us.

PEARSON: Thank you, Rick. SANCHEZ: The rankings are out. Who was the best president? Who was the worst? And I know what many of you want to know. Where does this fellow fall in this list by historians?

Also, the Republicans are calling their anti-stimulus position a win. But what happens if the stimulus plan works? I am going to ask a congresswoman, Marsha Blackburn, that.

And then there's new information coming into us now about the object in the sky. We are going to tell you what the government is now saying about this, different from what you have heard. And, by the way, we're going to introduce you to an expert who says the government is lying to us.

Oh, and can you ever imagine getting this mad? Here's part one of the story.

Otis, nat sound up full, baby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: With the exception of three senators, the Republicans are for the most part against the president's stimulus package. And many Republicans are saying they are doing the right thing, that it is a win.

I want to let you hear something now. This is John McCain this weekend talking about President Obama. Let's listen to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It was a bad beginning because it wasn't what we promised the American people, what President Obama promised the American people, that we would sit down together.

Look, I appreciate the fact that the president came over, talked to Republicans. That's not how you negotiate a result. You sit down together in a room with competing proposals. Almost all of our proposals went down on a party-line vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: All right, that's John McCain over the weekend.

I want to introduce you now to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn. She's a Republican from Tennessee.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for being with us.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Good to be with you. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Do you agree with John McCain? He's essentially saying he's off to a bad start, this president.

BLACKBURN: Well, it would have been nice had Republicans been included in the negotiations.

But the Democrat-led House and Senate, neither chamber, really involved Republicans in the negotiations. And, so, from that standpoint, yes, being involved in the process, producing a bill that was truly a stimulus bill, and not a spending bill, would have been a positive step.

SANCHEZ: You call it a spending bill, and not a stimulus, but yet the American people seem to be differing with you.

I am going to take you through a couple of polls here.

BLACKBURN: Sure.

SANCHEZ: And I'm going to ask if you think your party is swimming upstream on this.

Let's start with CNN. CNN has it at 54 percent in favor that the American people think the stimulus plan will work. Let's go to Gallup. They're at 59 percent. Pew has it at 51 percent. And CBS has it at 51 percent.

Question, are you swimming upstream?

BLACKBURN: I don't think we're swimming upstream at all on this, because what has concerned the American people is the fact that there is so much long-term spending in this.

They are very concerned about what they see as the deficit for this year growing and what is happening with our accrued debt, our national debt. And, you know, Rick, the interesting thing on this is the American people will tell you, look, we want something done right now. We want some action.

So, therefore, they wanted to see a bill passed. The more they learn about the long-term spending in this bill, they're asking questions, and they're very concerned about that, as are we.

SANCHEZ: And I understand that. And I think most Americans understand that.

But I have to ask you a question about this, just to be fair. Let me take you through some of the things that happened during the Bush administration. Mr. Bush was handed a surplus of $127 billion. He left the United States, of which you and I are citizens, with a deficit of $455 billion. Mr. Clinton left him with a $5 trillion debt. Mr. Bush took it to $10 trillion. Where was Marsha Blackburn when that was going on?

BLACKBURN: Well, I'm one of those that felt like the Bush administration spent too much money.

And -- but let's back up and look at these numbers. You mentioned the $5 trillion debt.

SANCHEZ: Right. BLACKBURN: And then it went to $10.7 trillion as of January 3.

SANCHEZ: Doubled it.

BLACKBURN: No, but listen to this, Rick.

When you go back and look at January 2007, when the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, the accrued debt, the national debt, was at $8.3 trillion. Now, in the two years that the Democrats had control, they moved that to $10.7 trillion.

When you look at the debt that we have so far, the deficit we have so far this year, the pre-TARP and TARP has given us a $1.1 trillion deficit. Add to that the $1.2 trillion that we are going to see come from the plan B, which is the Obama plan.

Now, we are already over $2 trillion for the year. We have not done the omnibus, which is going to be another half-trillion dollars. And you're talking about the deficit that Bush had of being $400 billion. We're already going to be pushing $3 trillion in deficit, which will be added to our debt.

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: The statement from the president is: You guys put me here. Republicans under a president who was Republican and a House and a Senate that were Republicans gave me this. I inherited it. I'm only having to increase this because of that.

And there's a couple other examples, because I have been reading today that -- I went to your Web site. And you itemized a couple things you thought were improper spending, to which you are probably correct.

BLACKBURN: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Let me give you a couple others here.

I'm reading from 2005, nearly $9 billion, $9 billion in Iraqi funds unaccounted for, part of reconstruction. Nobody knows where the money went. Apparently, it was given to ghost employees.

Here's another one. This is from last October, $1.2 billion to train Iraqi police officers, taxpayer money, unaccounted for. Nobody can find where that went.

BLACKBURN: Yes.

SANCHEZ: You know, the thing Americans want from both parties, Republican, Democrat, it doesn't matter, is, I think, consistency. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

BLACKBURN: Well, you're right.

SANCHEZ: If they were spending too much before, why are we only calling them out now? BLACKBURN: I have been calling them out repeatedly, and have been aggressive on calling for oversight and investigation, whether it was through these funds or through different agencies, such as the FDA, and the Federal Trade Commission, different agencies that we have.

But, Rick, the thing is, people do know that the federal government is spending a lot of money and is wasting a lot of money. And I agree with that. And that is why I have been fighting waste, fraud and abuse since day one in Congress.

SANCHEZ: Both parties. Both parties. Both parties.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKBURN: Yes, and both parties do. Both parties spend too much.

And the problem is that, right now, there is so much money that is being spent. If you thought a $400 billion deficit was too much with President Bush -- and I agree that was too much -- my goodness gracious, a $3 trillion deficit with President Obama and the Democrat- led House and Senate, that is far, far, far too much. And that's what we have so far this year, this year.

SANCHEZ: Get it.

Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, it was an absolute pleasure having this discussion with you. I felt like it was an interesting exchange. Can we do it again?

BLACKBURN: Absolutely. Be happy to talk with you again.

SANCHEZ: Love to have you on.

BLACKBURN: Thank you for your interest in the issues.

SANCHEZ: I appreciate it.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: And the American people's interest in this case and all these folks out here watching us now.

BLACKBURN: Absolutely.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much.

BLACKBURN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Can you land a plane on autopilot? Yes. Should you try it with snow and ice building on your wings in the middle of winter? Unfortunately, this pilot did -- new details about the crash of Continental Flight 3407. We will ask the question.

By the way, as we go to break, more of that video now from the Hong Kong Airport. We know she was mad about the plane leaving on time. Here's more.

Hit it, Otis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right, let's do a quick check of what you guys are saying about that interview I just did with the congresswoman.

Let's go to MySpace.

"All I heard from Representative Marcia Clark (sic) was blah, blah, blah, blah. Nothing is my fault, blah, blah."

OK. That's one opinion.

Flip it, if you would. Let's go over to Twitter. "The GOP wrote Bush a blank check and the cost, plus war in Iraq, making profiteers rich. Now spending is too much. Huh?"

And what else? "Awesome glasses, Rick."

Thank you very much.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Here's something else to take note of. The 50 people who lost their lives near Buffalo last week when their Continental flight went down, guess what? They died on a plane that was landing on autopilot at the time, that according to the NTSB.

The trouble began when the landing gear was lowered and wing flaps slowed the plane for landing. The plane's nose pitched up violently and then down. It rolled to the left and then the right, past then 90 degree vertical point. That's not good.

Now, inside the plane, passengers were feeling twice the normal pull of gravity. It was an 800-foot fall that took, as we understand, five seconds. By the way, it's not uncommon even under -- quote -- "moderate icy conditions" for captains to use autopilot, you should know, a policy they may possibly reconsider.

We will keep you honest on this and we will keep checking on it. Stand by.

We have the un-apology of an apologist who is accused of beating up this singer.

Oh, did you see this UFO video? You are going to hear from an expert who said the government is not telling us the truth about this.

And as we go to break, here's the third installment of airport rage. She missed her plane and she is not at all happy about it.

Otis, let them hear it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: "The Fix" is hilarious today. The man who edited it, Johnny B. Goode, the guy right there.

Give them a thumbs up. This thing is funny, right? Funny?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Funny.

SANCHEZ: Funny. Funny.

Here we go with funny. Take it, Dan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE VIEW")

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, "THE VIEW": Before we start doing anything, we want to show you this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please welcome to the program governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's a question. Will they let you keep this hair in jail?

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the Cougar Den with Jacqueline (ph) (INAUDIBLE) and Tony (INAUDIBLE) introducing Barbara Lincoln (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Facebook, great.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Becoming fans of Zac Efron.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty-five random things about me.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm poking someone. Kind of...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of, I'm poking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kind of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Kind of.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I would poke you back, but I'm scared something might fall off.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D.L. HUGHLEY, HOST "D.L. HUGHLEY BREAKS THE NEWS": What the hell were they thinking?

Like here in Florida, at a Florida town hall meeting, Obama was taking questions from a young kid named Julio, a college kid.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course, now it better be a good one.

JULIO OSEGUEDA: Oh, it is such a pleasure to see you, Mr. President. Thank you for taking time out of your day.

Oh, thank you. God, thank you so much.

What exactly kind of things are going to -- are going to come with this economic stimulus package. Because see, like myself, I've been at McDonald's for nearly four-and-a-half years.

HUGHLEY: Julio, you'll always be at McDonald's, because you're not Wendy's material. That's right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Leave Julio alone. Oh, my God.

George W. Bush left office with historically low approval ratings, so we hear.

Where did that land him on the list of the best and the worst presidents?

Historians have put out their brand new list. It may actually surprise you.

And he allegedly beat up his girlfriend -- do you care that Chris Brown now says he's sorry?

By the way, who's more sorry, him, his manager or his publicist?

Think about that one. That's ahead.

Oh, let's take you back to Hong Kong, shall we?

Otis, hit it.

(VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

I'm Rick Sanchez here in the World Headquarters of CNN.

And I'm joined by Elizabeth Cohen, who is going to be talking to us about something really special in a bit.

But during the commercial, of course, we were talking about the same thing many of you were talking about -- that lady in Hong Kong who's screaming. She's angry because she missed her flight. We've all been there. Here's the comments that are coming in.

First, from MySpace: "That lady must have had a really bad day."

Yes, that's an understatement.

And then we've got a flight attendant who is watching today and she's letting us know this -- I think it's more to all of you. She's sending a message.

Ready?

"Note to all passengers that think it's OK to be late -- planes will take off without you and with a standby in your seat. So there you go -- the new information that you needed to know.

I want to tell you about the situation with a brand new study that has been done. It is a study that is done by historians -- 162 of them. And they were asked the following question -- who has been the best and the worst presidents of the United States throughout our history?

And now we tell you where -- by the way, it's the first one done since the president left office, President Bush. So we wanted to see where exactly he ranked.

Here we go. C-SPAN, 65 presidential historians ranking overall on the economy and foreign policy. Overall, the president of the United States ended up 36th.

Here is who followed him -- Millard Fillmore; Warren Harding; William Henry Harrison; Franklin Pierce; Andrew Johnson -- who, by the way, came after the war; James Buchanan, who many say created the conditions for the Civil War. Those were all rated below this president.

Let's go to foreign affairs now. In foreign affairs, President Bush ranks as such -- only in front of William Harrison, who, by the way, died of pneumonia and was only president for several hours because he died after the inauguration, where he got pneumonia.

Now, when it comes to the economy, the president of the United States ranks as such -- only above presidents Hoover and Buchanan. Buchanan, again, the man who set up the conditions for the Civil War; Hoover, the man attributed with causing the Great Depression.

Joining us now is Amy Holmes, our CNN contributor.

Oh, boy, I've got to tell you, I guess the first part -- the one where, overall, he's only 36th, that's not so bad, right?

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's not so bad. It's not so great. We've had 44 -- Barack Obama is our 44th president.

You know, Rick, I think it is way too early to be trying to judge President Bush -- former President Bush -- in an historical context of all of our presidents. I mean the same poll -- the same group of historians, they got together in 2000 and they made President Clinton number 21. Well, he's jumped up to 15 in only eight-and-a-half, nine years since leaving office.

So I think history will be a judge of President Bush, but maybe 10, 20, 30 years from now, when we have a little bit more, I think, hindsight.

SANCHEZ: Well, though, I've got to tell you, Andrew Johnson hasn't gone up at all and neither has Buchanan. Neither has Harding. Those guys have been at the bottom and they've stayed -- they've stayed at the bottom.

What would have to happen, do you think, Amy, for this president, historically, to rise?

HOLMES: Well, I think that's one word and that's Iraq. And who, you know, 10 years from now, where will Iraq be?

Will Iraq be this beacon of democracy in the heart of the Middle East?

Will they be a partner in trying to fight the war on terror?

Or will they descend back again into civil war and ethnic cleansing?

I think that has yet to be determined.

But something interesting about this list, Rick, is that he rated number 24 when it came to equal rights and equal justice for all. And believe me, that would surprise a lot of his opponents that were banging the drum against Guantanamo and The Patriot Act and all sorts of things throughout the course of his eight years, where these historians said that he's basically right there in the middle.

SANCHEZ: Kudos to you for bringing that to our attention.

Amy, thanks -- hey, it's great to see you.

HOLMES: Great to see you, too.

SANCHEZ: We're book...

HOLMES: Happy Presidents Day.

SANCHEZ: We're booking you again tomorrow.

HOLMES: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: You're in.

Thanks, Amy.

Appreciate it.

Watch this.

(VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Asteroid?

Piece of a satellite?

Evidence of a war with extra terrestrial beings?

That was fun to say. The FAA has just put out a brand new report, but we have a guest who says it's bull. Bull. So stop at bull.

And I'm a big believer in interactivity.

I even Twittered my knee surgery, remember?

Well, now I'm hearing about surgeons who are Twittering during the surgery. In fact, we're not just hearing about it. We've got somebody sitting right next to me who's going to tell us about it. She was there and files this report -- Elizabeth Cohen, it's going to be good.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be good. I filed it for you because, you know, you're CNN's chief twit.

SANCHEZ: That is coming up.

Thanks for the compliment.

Twit?

Good lord.

(VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And there you go. The last -- the story that lasts so long, we had to split it up in segments so you could experience it all.

More details, more of it, as we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Lots of comments from the social media, like this.

Let's go to MySpace. This is about the woman who was at the airport and missed her plane and was really angry: "That type of behavior from an adult is just downright creepy. Is she possessed?"

That's what Katherine wants to know. She's watching.

DigitalBilly is on the Twitter board. And DigitalBilly says: "Freak out. I'll just bet she doesn't bring that cup of crazy to a U.S. Airport, LOLOLOLO.

And then right under that, let's go to paulsegreto before we do anything else. And paulsegreto is saying -- oh, this is on Chris Brown: "Chris Brown, what a thug. Hope he becomes a love toy in prison."

My goodness. I can't believe I just read that.

Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now.

And the reason we brought her on is because she's found out something about the Twitter family and that it's been joined by surgeons, who are actually Twittering when they're doing their surgery.

Now, I'm a huge believer in not talking to people, but with people and involving communities. But I never would have guessed that doctors are joining this.

Let's do this. Let's show them your report.

COHEN: OK.

SANCHEZ: And you and I will talk about it on the other side.

COHEN: OK.

SANCHEZ: Hit it, Dan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN (voice-over): It's just after 7:00 a.m. at Henry Ford Hospital and this surgical team is about to embark on a complicated cancer surgery.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's do this.

COHEN: They are ready to go. Doctors, check. Nurses, check. Twitter, check.

Twitter?

(voice-over): So we are Twittering?

Oh, good.

COHEN: That's right. Surgery meets social networking -- the surgeons are Twittering the entire procedure for all the world to read.

(on camera): So why are you Twittering a surgery?

DR. CRAIG ROGERS, HENRY FORD HOSPITAL: We're trying to use this as a way to get the word out.

COHEN (voice-over): Teaching via Twitter. Dr. Craig Rogers and his team want people to know about a relatively new technique to remove a cancerous tumor on the kidney without having to remove the entire kidney.

"Wow -- live tweeting of surgery from Michigan," tweets one follower.

While Dr. Rogers performs the robotic surgery, Chief Resident Dr. Rajesh Laungani documents what's going on in real time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the tumor.

See it?

Right there.

COHEN: They finally reach the tumor. But then, Don't Laungani has to tweet some bad news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My gosh, this is big.

COHEN: Dr. Laungani immediately lets the Twitterverse know -- the tumor has been isolated and it is penetrating very deep into the kidney.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Spencer, let's talk this through.

COHEN: They may have to remove the entire kidney. And that's exactly what they didn't want to do. Dr. Rogers knows the Twitter universe is watching.

ROGERS: Could I have picked a harder case for this?

COHEN: Adding to the tension -- they have only 30 minutes to get the tumor out before a lack of blood flow damages the kidney. Then there's another problem -- they're having trouble controlling the bleeding.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I'm going to need you to suck like there's no tomorrow.

COHEN: Just in the nick of time, crisis diverted. In the end, Dr. Rogers saves the whole kidney and shares the good news with the Twitterverse.

ROGERS: Nice Twittering.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice Twittering.

ROGERS: You're a master Twitter.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: What an amazing story.

COHEN: Thank you.

It was incredible to be in that operating room and to watch them, especially when things started to go wrong. But they shared it. They let everyone know.

SANCHEZ: And the key to this is, again, you know I talk all the time about, you know, what good does it do me to sit here as a CNN anchor and just deliver news as if it were a speech?

The idea is to involve people in it so they learn and I learn at the same time.

COHEN: Right.

SANCHEZ: Is that the thinking behind this, too?

COHEN: That's right. That's why he did it. Because a lot of times when patients have a tumor on their kidney, the surgeons want to take the whole kidney. And Dr. Rogers at Henry Ford said wait a minute, I want to tell the whole world you don't have to take the whole kidney. And the best way to do that, he said, was on Twitter -- to let doctors and patients know that there's an alternative.

SANCHEZ: That's fabulous. I think we've something coming in on MySpace.

Flip that around, if you could, Robert. Let's get that shot right there.

"Is it safe to be Twittering during a surgery? I'm not sure I want anyone to tweet while they are cutting me. Does the patient know that this is going on?"

Good question.

What did you learn?

COHEN: Yes. They get that question a lot. The surgeon who is actually doing the surgery, he wasn't Twittering. It was his chief resident, who was not directly involved in the surgery. They were -- they were close, like you and I are.

SANCHEZ: Yes.

COHEN: But one of them was Twittering and one of them was actually doing the surgery. And, yes, the patient knew what was going on.

SANCHEZ: We normally would be documenting this stuff anyway.

COHEN: Right. Exactly.

SANCHEZ: Not...

COHEN: So instead of taking notes, he was Twittering. Right.

SANCHEZ: That's awesome.

COHEN: Right.

SANCHEZ: An interesting, interesting story. Well, done.

COHEN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Well, done.

COHEN: Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for joining the club.

COHEN: Oh, absolutely.

We did it for you.

SANCHEZ: Thanks so much.

Believe it or not, these pictures were taken on the eve of the Grammys. Look at them. Several hours later, Chris Brown allegedly gave Rihanna a busted lip, among other things, according to authorities. Well, now Brown is breaking his silence for the very first time with a statement. I'm going to read it to you.

Oh, and the story that goes on for so long, I've got to give it to you in segments, because we can't put it all in one place -- yes, she still didn't stop. In fact, wait until you see what she does now. Hit it, Otis.

(VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

I want to show you something now.

First of all, some video on the eve of the Grammys, just before the awards ceremony. We saw this picture of this, at the time, we thought, very happy couple. There's Chris Brown. He's with Rihanna at the time. Both of them look like they're about to have a great time.

And then word comes in that there has been a domestic situation. Her lip is cut, she's got contusions all over the face, that she's been beaten -- apparently by, allegedly by Chris Brown.

And now we get this -- an apology from Chris Brown. It's the first time we've heard from him. It says the following: "Words" -- I think we've got it. Let's put it up on the screen. "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired."

Let me read that to you again: "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired."

A.J. Hammer joining us now from "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" tonight on HLN at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time.

He follows this thing, has been since the beginning.

A.J. HAMMER, HOST, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT": Oh, yes.

SANCHEZ: Over what has transpired...

HAMMER: You know, that doesn't sound like an apology to me.

HAMMER: No...

SANCHEZ: That sounds like it was written by a publicist.

HAMMER: Yes. Well, I have to tell you something about this, Rick. If you read further into the statement that came from Chris Brown, not only doesn't he say what transpired. He just says I am saddened over what transpired. But says he's seeking the counseling of his pastor and his mother and other loved ones and he's committed, with God's help, to emerging from all of this as a better person.

I was looking for my apology template from my P.R. Handbook.

(LAUGHTER)

HAMMER: Because a lot of this statement, I've got to say -- and a lot of people are saying this today -- it looks like cookie cutter right out of that.

But here's the thing, Rick, we've been talking about this, what, now, for a week?

SANCHEZ: Yes.

HAMMER: In the past week we have heard from Chris Brown's relatives, we've heard from Rihanna's relatives, every celebrity has sounded off on the situation.

Why are we hearing from Chris Brown now, a week later?

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. This is exactly what we'll be digging into tonight on "SHOW BIZ TONIGHT" -- is it too, little too late?

Because that is what I'm hearing a lot of today.

SANCHEZ: Well, I think you -- I think it has a lot to do with lawyers and publicists and managers...

HAMMER: Yes.

SANCHEZ: ...and all the other people who probably took a week to put something like this together.

A.J. thanks for being with us.

11:00 p.m. Tonight, I look forward to seeing you, as I often do.

HAMMER: All right, Rick.

Thanks.

SANCHEZ: Good stuff.

A new report from the government on this object in the sky.

See it right there?

It's all the buzz over Texas and on the Internet. Literally, my next guest will tell you what the government won't tell you. That's right.

Oh. And are you ready for the near conclusion of the angry woman at the airport?

She just keeps it going. Mr. Flight isn't happy. Otis, up full, baby.

(VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Man, we're getting a lot of responses from you guys at home today. I guess because there's a lot of folks at home.

Let's try Facebook. On Facebook, Wainwright. He's watching us. He says: "Rick, I love the format of your show -- informative with a little craziness in there. Love it."

Thank you.

Haja is watching, too. She says: "Oh, she's acting like my little brother when he doesn't get the candy that he wants at Giant" -- that's a supermarket, by the way.

And then she goes on to write as an aside: "Well, my brother is not that bad."

Interesting. We're talking about the woman at the airport who missed her flight.

Let's go over to Wolf Blitzer now.

This is the man who always keeps it steady, no matter what happens, good or bad, right -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Right. We try to do our best, Rick.

Thanks very much.

Coming up right at the top of the hour, it's on a lot of people's minds right now -- how did a plane fall from the sky, killing 50 people?

We've learned some chilling new details from the Buffalo plane crash. And in moments, aviation officials will step to the microphones with what they know right now. Stand by for live coverage.

Also, Hillary Clinton explains why she's taking her first trip as secretary of State to Asia. And Bill Clinton answers this question -- if he'd be comfortable being a househusband.

And with corporate execs criticized for flying expensive luxury aircraft, should President Obama opt to ride in helicopters that cost $400 million each -- each?

All that and a lot more, Rick, coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

SANCHEZ: That's a good question.

I look forward to hearing some of the answers.

Wolf Blitzer with us.

By the way, I want to show you something now. Look at this video. This is over South Texas.

You see this right here?

Is that something other than what officials are now saying it was?

Let me give you the information. It's a fireball over South Texas. It's mysterious looking. The FAA said, of course, they didn't know what it was. But now they're saying that it was a meteor the size of a pickup truck.

But here's what's also strange about this. There were reports at the time from people there of hearing an explosion. But the FAA is saying they have found nothing on the ground so far -- no debris from this.

Ed Grimsley is a UFO researchers who's good enough to join us now.

I get a feeling, Ed, that you're going to tell us that the government may not be telling us the truth in this case.

Is that right?

Am I guessing right?

ED GRIMSLEY, UFO RESEARCHER: Yes.

Yes, that's very right. The government has probably manipulated the human race for a great deal of time. And some of those lies are starting to come out and...

SANCHEZ: How should...

GRIMSLEY: ...we can't...

SANCHEZ: How have they manipulated?

What do you mean?

I guess what you're saying is that there have been, what, aliens that have come to this country that they haven't told -- or to this -- to the planet that they haven't told us about?

GRIMSLEY: Well, even Edgar Mitchell is now stepping up to the plate and saying that there has been alien visits. And he's talking about it. And they're starting to open up a little bit about it.

But I've known about it for a long time and I've got great video shots. And I use these special glasses so that I can see.

SANCHEZ: Why would the government do that?

Let's -- the government is telling us that that thing we're looking at on your right right there is a meteor and nothing but a meteor.

Why would they lie to us about that?

If it was something else, why wouldn't they come forward and say, hey, something strange has happened and sell the story?

A lot of people would want to tell it and listen to it, right?

GRIMSLEY: Yes. But I think that we are being manipulated and controlled. And we might not be able to handle the truth or maybe we can handle it better than they want us to. And there has been a great deal of activity with UFOs and battles in space and at the edge of space. And we have been lied to and denied about it. And that's a fact. I've got videos that I'll show to the world that shows us that.

SANCHEZ: We'll follow up with you, Mr. Grimsley.

Thanks so much for being with us.

I know a lot of people would look at you wide-eyes, are thinking maybe you're nuts to even be saying these things.

But we'll follow up. We'll see what you've got. And we'll see if we can do a follow-up on this story.

Mr. Grimsley, thanks so much, UFO researcher.

Do you believe in UFOs?

What you say, when we come back.

Also, the conclusion of the woman at the airport -- no, she still hasn't stopped.

Otis, go.

(VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: I'll see you tomorrow.

Here's Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Rick, thanks very much.