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CAMPBELL BROWN: NO BIAS, NO BULL

U.S. Soldier Kills Fellow Troops; Cheney's Chatter

Aired May 11, 2009 - 20:00   ET

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


ROLAND MARTIN, CNN ANCHOR: Folks, a lot of stories we're talking about tonight.

And with me to break them all down, national political correspondent Jessica Yellin, Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit, as well as Lisa Bloom, "In Session" anchor and CNN legal analyst.

And, folks, we begin tonight with new details just coming in about the U.S. soldier in custody accused of gunning down his own comrades today in Iraq. In all, five U.S. soldiers were killed, the deadliest such attack since the war began.

It happened at Camp Liberty in Baghdad, one of the largest U.S. bases in Iraq. A counseling center was holding a stress clinic designed to help the troops cope with the pressures of combat.

CNN has just confirmed from a senior defense official that the suspect was a patient at that clinic. And some of the victims worked there as well. Others were there being treated for stress.

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the shootings a -- quote -- "horror."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We're still in the process of gathering information on exactly what happened, but if the preliminary reports are confirmed, such a tragic loss of life at the hands of our own forces is a cause for great and urgent concern. And I can assure you that it will get this department's highest-priority attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Our own Cal Perry is in Baghdad for us tonight.

Cal, exactly what do you know now based upon your reporting?

CAL PERRY, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Roland, what we understand is that about 13 hours ago, a U.S. soldier walked into that stress hospital with a loaded weapon. He immediately opened up fire, killing at least five other U.S. soldiers, wounding another three.

We do not know the condition of the person who did the shooting, but we do know that that person is under military custody as we speak. And, of course, the investigation is under way. MARTIN: Now, what about security, because one of the issues that jumps out is how was this individual allowed to walk in with a loaded weapon?

PERRY: Well, that's certainly one of the biggest questions here involved. When you come off of a U.S. combat operation on to one of these U.S. bases, your instructions are to clear your weapons of all ammunition.

Now, the U.S. soldiers will keep their ammunition with them. They will keep their weapons with them. This clearly was not supposed to happen. These are things that are put in place so that incidents like these won't happen.

The bigger issue, these stress combat soldiers, soldiers dealing with multiple tours, soldiers that are toured for 15 months at a time. You talk to veterans' organizations, they tell you that roughly 300,000 U.S. troops deal with PTSD. This is certainly an issue that is going to have long legs for the years to come inside the United States, not just here in Iraq, not just in Afghanistan -- Roland.

MARTIN: All right, Cal, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

Folks, at this hour, we simply don't know much about the soldier suspected in today's shooting spree today, but it is no secret that many soldiers risking their lives for our country are facing extraordinary challenges beyond the battlefield, including post- traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

With me right now is Paul Rieckhoff, who served in Iraq and launched an organization devoted to veterans of both Iraq and Afghanistan. He's the author of "Chasing Ghosts." And, in San Diego, military psychologist Heidi Kraft, she's the author of "Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital."

Now, Heidi, I want to begin with you.

You worked in a combat stress clinic in Iraq. And so, folks come to these clinics all the time. What kind of treatment is offered in these clinics?

HEIDI KRAFT, AUTHOR, "RULE NUMBER TWO": Well, I suppose it depends, depending on what the person brings to you. We treated everything from very acute combat stress injuries in the wake of very traumatic injuries that happened to units or individuals, all the way to predisposing psychiatric or psychological conditions that were exacerbated by combat. So it really guns the gamut.

MARTIN: Hey, Paul, we talk about these multiple deployments all the time. Here's what Admiral Mullen had to say about -- about that today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADMIRAL MICHAEL MULLEN, JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It does speak to me, though, about the need for us to redouble our efforts, the concern in terms of dealing with the stress, dealing with the whole issue of those kinds of things. And it also speaks to the issue of multiple deployments, you know, increasing dwell time, all those things that were focused on to try to improve to relieve that stress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Paul, ABC News is reporting this soldier was on his third deployment.

How much concern -- how are you concerned with soldiers constantly being sent back when they think they're coming home?

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Extremely concerned. More than 600,000 have been to the combat zone more than once. And about one in four of them are suffering from some kind of combat-stress-related injury, like post-traumatic stress disorder or others.

These are extremely rare indents, but this cumulative effort of over and over again repeated deployments is really piling up and there's tremendous stress on our soldiers that's already, you know, wrapped into the stress of being in a combat zone. Over and over again, it just aggravates those stressors and leads to an increased level of risk.

LISA BLOOM, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Heidi, there was a RAND report in April of this year that said that 20 percent of soldiers returning home either had major depression or PTSD. Now, we know about PTSD, post-traumatic stress, but what about the soldiers who are still on their deployment? Is enough being done for them when they're still on the battlefield?

KRAFT: Usually, when you think of post-traumatic stress, you talk about symptoms that show up three to six months after the trauma.

What Paul was speaking to, this idea of multiple deployments, brings into question a little bit about what we do to best protect people who may have suffered something traumatic during their first or second deployment and now are back for the third.

We are not really ever sure when those symptoms might show up. So, it's really going to depend, person to person, what might trigger them or what stressors add on and lead to those symptoms starting to show up.

This is the reason for combat stress units like the one in Baghdad that's in question, to have mental health providers forward with the troops to be able to offer help and treatment right there to try to de-stigmatize the act of coming for help.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Let me ask you, Paul. She is talking about having mental health experts there, but there are a lot of critics who say that there's an acute problem with the amount of mental health care that is provided to folks not just here in the U.S. but in combat.

In January, more American soldiers died of suicide than of combat-related injuries. So do you think the Army and the military is doing enough?

RIECKHOFF: No. They're not.

These combat stress teams are a great step forward. They were not there when I was on the ground in 2004. So the military is making progress, but there is no mandatory face to face mental health screenings with qualified mental health professionals. That needs to happen so folks don't fall through the cracks and we need a national call for qualified mental health representatives.

There's a severe shortage in the DOD, at Department of Defense, at the VA, and more generally in our health care system, but it's especially urgent for our men and women on the front lines.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, we don't know a whole lot about this, but we do North Korea -- what, he's on his third tour. He's getting treatment at this clinic for stress. How odd or out of policy would it be for him to have a loaded gun on that base, and did somebody drop the ball here?

KRAFT: Well, when I was in Iraq in 2004, all of our patients had weapons and carried ammunition with them. That was part of what we did as an attempt to make the hospital like everywhere else and to try to de-stigmatize sort of the idea of coming forward for mental health.

If we had asked them to check their weapons at the door to see a mental health provider, that would have pushed forward this idea of illness, rather than injury. We want to really have people understand these are normal people under extraordinary circumstances and that these are injuries that can be treated, not necessarily psychiatric illness.

Now, in this person's case, it was, in fact, a psychiatric emergency and I'm very, very sorry to hear that he did in fact have a loaded weapon, but many of them would, I think. I can't speak for this hospital, but that's certainly the way it was when I was on the ground.

MARTIN: All right, Paul Rieckhoff, author of "Chasing Ghosts," and Heidi Kraft, author of "Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital," we certainly appreciate it. Thanks for being here.

RIECKHOFF: Thank you.

KRAFT: Thank you.

MARTIN: Folks, it seems like we're hearing from Dick Cheney more now than when he was vice president. He was always in hiding, too. Is he giving a voice to angry Republicans or just causing the GOP another distraction as it tries to rebuild?

And remember the movie "Footloose"? Well, now there's a boy in big trouble after he went dancing. He is now banned from graduation. And don't look for any sympathy from Eric in Maryland.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

ERIC, MARYLAND: You agreed to abide by the rules. And a student breaks those rules that he agreed to, then I would say he is out of luck.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

MARTIN: Do schools have a right to monitor what students do outside of school?

Call us right now, 1-877-NO-BULL-0. That's 1-877-662-8550.

Lisa has got a dancing shoe. She can't wait.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: E-mail us or find me on Twitter and Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: All right, what do we got there?

YELLIN: I actually don't remember who sings that.

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: That's Mary J. Blige, right?

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Drew got it, Mary J. Blige.

BLOOM: Oh, Mary J., of course.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: And the song is "Family Affair," which certainly applies to our next story.

It seems like Dick Cheney has done more interviews in the past four months than he did in eight years in the White House and that's turning into a big problem for the family of Republicans.

Here's what some of them -- first of all, here's what he's been saying on his media tour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They have moved to take down a lot of those policies we have put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years.

The idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. And I for one am -- am -- am not prepared to do that.

I worry a lot that they're using the current set of economic difficulties to try to justify a massive expansion in the government.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: All right. Folks, some Republicans wish the former V.P. would just shut up.

I want to know what these folks think, Republican strategist Bay Buchanan and Kevin Madden. They're both in Washington. And our panel is, of course, back as well.

Now, Bay, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, recently called the Bush presidency a millstone around our necks. Does having Dick Cheney out on the talk show circuit help Republicans in any way?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I think it does for this reason. We are the loyal opposition, Roland. We have to speak out against the president's policy when we disagree with them.

And so on two points Cheney should be out there. Number one, he believes that what Obama is doing is damaging this country's security. So he has a moral obligation to speak out. And secondly he can get through the groupies in the media, the Obama groupies. He can be heard. He can have his voice heard. So, he represents many, many of us who believe that somebody's got to take on these policies of Obama and let Americans know that's not where Republicans would go.

YELLIN: OK. Bay, let's get real. Dick Cheney is one of the least popular figures in the Republican Party, aside from Rush Limbaugh. Now he is aligning himself with Limbaugh, attacking one of the most popular figures, Colin Powell.

So, the question is, why is it good for him to speak out as such an unpopular guy, especially when the former president himself has said it is time to keep our silence and let the new president do his job?

BUCHANAN: You know, Colin Powell is not really -- he's benefited when he -- when it was to his advantage to associate with Republicans, he did so. And when it was to his advantage to abandon us, he did so.

He does not agree with our economic policies. He does not agree with our social policies. He agrees with Obama. And now he says we should embrace this idea that -- go the Obama way. Well, then we eliminate the Republican way. Why do we even need us if we're going to agree with Democrats?

And so to suggest he is some popular figure in the Republican Party is a complete mistake, is an error.

MARTIN: Kevin, Kevin, first of all, when Cheney says, well, we don't need to moderate, you have to have moderates in a party. You have to have more than just folks who are on the far right. And so is it nuts for Bay to say, well, Colin Powell agrees with nothing?

He is a Republican.

KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. Well, two points.

First of all, I have worked up on Capitol Hill. And when I was in -- I worked when we were in the majority. And the reason we were in the majority, Roland, was because we governed through the moderates. You look at many of these suburban areas, in places like Columbus, Ohio, places like Philadelphia, seats that are now held by Democrats were once held by Republicans.

So the way to govern a majority is through the moderates. Secondly, I think, look, I don't think there was an attack on Colin Powell. I think that Vice President Cheney and Colin Powell have had their differences. Those differences are now public.

But I do believe that, if we're going to again regain the majority as a party, we have to look at the loss of Colin Powell as emblematic of our struggles with independents and moderate Democrats on national security issues and economic security issues.

So as a party we can't -- we don't necessarily have to moderate. I agree with Vice President Cheney on that. What we have to do is modernize our message on issues like health care, energy, education, so that we reach this larger swathe of the American electorate.

BLOOM: OK. OK. But, Bay, only 27 percent of voters at this point are identifying as Republicans. Doesn't the party have to expand its base, and do so immediately?

BUCHANAN: You know, the American people, if you look at that same poll, 33 percent, it has dropped for Democrats as well. And then there was a poll by Rasmussen last week that in a congressional ballot like they -- it was a generic ballot -- What was it? -- 39 percent went Republican and 40 percent went Democrats. That's one percent.

BLOOM: Yes, but the Democrats are not hurting right now. They are not in any trouble.

BUCHANAN: No, you're wrong. Being in power is a tough thing. They no longer have Bush to kick around. They no longer have this idea of change.

And so those things are gone for them. They have to run on their record. What they're giving us is Barack Obama and this extreme agenda of his to spend us into oblivion. And that is going to be something they have to defend.

In the meantime, we have got to get fresh new faces, so the American people can see the future is these guys. Meanwhile, we have got a couple of attack dogs doing some good work...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: So, Bay, Bay, why not tell just Cheney to shut up and let Obama collapse under his own weight, and the Republicans will just swoop into power?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: First of all, you can't tell a former vice president to be quiet, because he feels a need to get out there and make sure the American people know that what this guy is doing is harmful to this nation.

And, secondly, you need attack dogs. You don't want to use your new, fresh faces as attack dogs. You want the old guys who has been in this and know it is a contact sport to get out there. And what has happened?

(CROSSTALK)

BUCHANAN: Cheney now has your attention and Gibbs' attention.

BLOOM: I think a lot of Republicans probably wish Cheney was secured in an undisclosed location right about now.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Kevin, Kevin, final...

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Real quick, Kevin. Real quick.

BUCHANAN: I disagree. I think he's great.

MARTIN: Kevin, real quick.

MADDEN: Real quick, to Drew's point, I don't remember anybody in the media saying that Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter should have just shut up and go away when they were making those arguments. Look...

BUCHANAN: Exactly.

MADDEN: Look...

(CROSSTALK)

MADDEN: ... Dick Cheney, whether the media likes it or not, is a national security expert. And he's arguing these policies on principle.

MARTIN: All right. I certainly appreciate it.

Folks, we are out of time on this point. Bay Buchanan, Kevin Madden, we certainly appreciate it.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

MARTIN: Folks, investigators are searching for clues tonight into the sudden death of an American woman on the trip of a lifetime. She had recently gotten engaged and was celebrating with her fiance at a Thai resort in Thailand when she suddenly felt ill and died. Now her family and friends are demanding answers -- that story in just six minutes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Oh, Denise Bion (ph) on Twitter wanted to hear "It's All the Way Live" by Lakeside, going back a little there.

Jessica's like...

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: "It's All the Live," Jessica.

All right, folks, now to a high school senior from Ohio who's been suspended and banned from his graduation. What did he do? He took his girlfriend to her prom at a public school. That's against the rules at his fundamentalist Baptist school. Students there are absolutely forbidden from dancing, ever.

Yo, where's Kevin Bacon? Saw him Saturday at the Correspondents Dinner.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: This sounds a lot like "Footloose," folks.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: We get banned for doing what we do at the beginning of every block on this show.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Right.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: We couldn't go to the prom.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Being a Christian, I'm in trouble with Jesus.

(CROSSTALK)

YELLIN: He agreed to it. He agreed to these rules.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: Wait, wait, wait with the "he agreed to it." People, he is under the age of 18. He can't legally agree to a contract.

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: He's been going this school his whole life, right, following the rules his whole life. And then he becomes this -- he probably gets a date at another school.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: What kind of school has kids...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIFFIN: What kind of school? The school he went to.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: All right. Hold tight. Hold tight. We will come back to that later.

Now, here's what Katrina on Facebook thinks -- quote -- "This is totally wrong. How in the world are they going to suspend him for something that happened outside of school, and it wasn't even one of their school functions?"

Folks, do schools have the right to monitor what kids do outside of their school? What's your take? Rules are rules, but don't kick off your Sunday shoes, or let's hear it for the boys.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Call 1-877-662-8550. Also, e-mail. You can hit me on Twitter and Facebook.

BLOOM: You had too much fun with that one.

MARTIN: Just a little bit. Just a little bit.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Folks, we are following a mystery in Thailand. A just- engaged American woman traveling with her fiancee gets violently ill and dies. And hours later a Norwegian student traveling with friends dies the same way at the same resort. And now we're learning the two women's rooms may have been next to each other.

Drew's here to break it down for us -- Drew.

GRIFFIN: The resort was in an extremely low-budget guest house, $17 a night, according to the AP, on the island resort of Phi Phi. "The Bangkok Post" says the women staying in rooms four and five at this resort. And at first glance, it looks like food poisoning. But the fiance of the American raising issues about possible air contamination. He paid for an air-conditioned room. And the woman's family is also raising questions about -- their own about Thai authorities perhaps trying to downplay the mystery, fearing a tourist backlash there.

Here's what we know. The American 27-year-old bartender and artist from Seattle, her name was Jill St. Onge. Her brother says she was in good health. It was the end of a three-month Asian tour with a man that she had become with -- engaged with on the trip. That fiance says he found St. Onge in their hotel room last weekend violently ill. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RYAN KELLS, FIANCE: She couldn't breathe. She was vomiting. And I tried to run her to a hospital. And she ended up passing within maybe 12 hours of the first symptoms of being sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRIFFIN: Hours later, a 22-year-old Norwegian woman at that same hotel who was also vomiting died. And a friend of the woman fell ill with the same symptoms. She survived. Investigators looking at whether food poisoning could have played a role. St. Onge's remains cremated and returned to her family back in the U.S. They have been given tissue samples, so they can even do their own independent testing.

But, guys, they're still waiting for autopsies in Thailand.

MARTIN: All right. Drew, thanks a bunch.

So, folks, just how can Thai officials or the woman's family get to the bottom of this medical mystery?

I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who is also a certified medical examiner.

Now, Sanjay, we have heard all sorts of theories on this, from food poisoning to cyanide. How will they go about solving this medical mystery?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is going to be a mystery I think for a little bit of time here.

They are going to look at first the surroundings. That's sort of called the primary assessment to see if anything sort of jumps out at investigators to try and figure out what exactly happened here. If that comes up negative, it is going to be the body or bodies themselves that are going to be the best clues here. As Drew just mentioned, a lot of tissue samples were taken. And those are going to be examined.

That can take a while, Roland. I can tell you right now, doing some of these toxicology screens can be six to eight weeks. So, there may be any answers for some time.

Something that Drew said that I think is important here is that 12-hour sort of mark in terms of getting sick to actually dying. That rules out a lot of things and it rules in a lot of things. Cyanide, for example, that you mentioned, that typically works very quickly. If someone is cyanide-poisoned, that's something that usually death occurs within minutes.

On the other hand, things like pneumonia, sudden-onset pneumonia a result of exposure to this air-conditioning unit, that would typically take longer. So, what are those things that possibly could cause death sort of within that time frame? That's I think what investigators are going to sort of zero in on, Roland.

BLOOM: Sanjay, I'm bewildered at the fact that this young woman's remains were cremated. I know that tissue samples were taken, but is that going to be enough for investigators to really get to the bottom of what happened here?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it is a good question, Lisa, because sometimes the answer comes back even after all these samples are taken that we still don't know the answer. We still don't know exactly what happened.

And, in those cases, you wish that you could take more samples or you could, you know, conduct more of an investigation. So we don't know yet. Oftentimes, the samples that are taken are pretty thorough, blood, urine. They even take hair. They take specimens from the brain. They will take fluid from behind the eye. These are places where clues can lie, especially with particular toxins.

So your question's a good one. I just don't know if they are going to know the answer as far as whether they have enough as of yet.

YELLIN: Sanjay, the woman's fiancee posted that video on Skype explaining exactly what happened in the events leading up to her death. And he is convinced that it had something to do with the air conditioning. She was in the air-conditioned room for five or six hours and he left.

Is there something in air-conditioning that could cause an incident like this?

GUPTA: Well, I thought about that as well. And I read that. You know, there's a couple of things that you think about immediately.

For example, carbon monoxide, which is typically associated with heaters or some sort of generator, is one possibility. Someone who's been carbon-monoxide poisoned, they usually get more of a reddish tint to their skin. And again we're speculating here, but what he said is that she had more of a bluish tint, which could be more of a result of inadequate oxygen or somebody who aspirated.

You could also get very quick onset pneumonia, something like known as Legionnaires' disease. You may have heard of that, very contagious. But even that, that 12-hour time frame, that gets me on that, because I think that, even with Legionnaires', something that fast-acting, it would have taken longer for her -- for her to get sick and then to -- and then to die.

MARTIN: All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we certainly appreciate it. Thanks a lot.

GUPTA: Thank you.

MARTIN: Folks, we have got some major news tonight about the nationally known Catholic priest who became the talk of Miami after scandalous photos appeared. We will hear from Father Cutie -- Lisa says Father Cutie -- making his own confession.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLOOM: That's Rihanna.

MARTIN: All right, OK. Folks, do schools have the right to monitor what kids do outside of school? That's our question tonight, and we want to know what you think.

Hit us on the phones. 1-877-NO-BULL-0. 1-877-662-8550. But first, Jessica Yellin has "The Briefing."

YELLIN: Roland, a major shake-up in the war in Afghanistan today. The White House is replacing the top American commander there less than a year after he took over.

Chris Lawrence is at the Pentagon with more -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, bottom line, Jessica, the defense secretary fired one general to replace him with another.

General David McKiernan had only been on the job about 11 months and he consistently had asked for more troops which President Obama finally authorized 21,000 more. Ironically, now McKiernan is leaving Afghanistan just as those additional troops start to arrive.

Now the new man in charge is Lieutenant General Stan McChrystal. He's got a background in covert ops, leading operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new Afghanistan strategy relies on a lot of counterinsurgency tactics that McChrystal would know well as a special forces commander. But, you know, the bottom line here is this.

President Bush named McKiernan to that Afghanistan post. President Obama signed off on McChrystal. It is now Obama's strategy, Obama's team. It's now Obama's war -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Thanks, Chris. Obama's man on the job.

In other news, President Obama says he is relieved that an Iranian-American journalist has been released from prison in Tehran. Roxana Saberi was convicted of spying last month after a one-day trial. Iran's court of appeals suspended her sentence after pressure from Washington. An 89-year-old retired autoworker accused of being a Nazi death camp guard is being deported tonight. John Demjanjuk was put on a plane in Cleveland just a little while ago and is expected to be in Germany tomorrow to stand trial on 29,000 counts of accessory to murder.

Well, the crew of space shuttle "Atlantis" is now on its way to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA says a few pieces of debris came off the external fuel tank after today's launch but nothing appeared to hit the shuttle. And in a first, Astronaut Mike Massimino will be twittering from space during the mission.

BLOOM: Oh, boy.

YELLIN: There is truly no escape from Twitter. For better or worse, I know.

Another story here on Miss California we can't get enough. Will she be fired by Donald Trump? Well, hold your breath.

We will all find out tomorrow whether Carrie Prejean gets to keep her crown after those comments on same-sex marriage stirred up a storm of controversy. The Donald will announce his decision at a news conference tomorrow.

BLOOM: How will we sleep tonight?

YELLIN: I wonder if we'll be talking about that tomorrow night.

MARTIN: I'm staying awake all night.

YELLIN: Any opportunity to --

GRIFFIN: Well, Donald Trump is certainly on it.

BLOOM: He's pouring over those pictures very carefully.

YELLIN: We have to take time for this big one.

MARTIN: All right.

YELLIN: This big one. And I think this is maybe a dubious distinction, but Roland got a serious shout-out on "Saturday Night Live." See what you think.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me introduce the next guest's name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fine.

BOTH: Roland Martin, CNN political consultant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, PLAYING ROLAND MARTIN: Well. Thank you, Barry and Robin (ph). I want to say that this is my favorite political forum on television. That is, of course, next to the program I'm currently hosting, CNN's "NO BIAS, NO BULL."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you just plug your show?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my show.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robin, did he just plug his show on my -- what does this look like? Am I the show wow (ph) guy?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: And you know, when I heard about that, all I wanted to know was, was he going to be looking clean. I want to make sure he looked right.

YELLIN: They did pick the chubby one.

MARTIN: Well, they picked the black one.

BLOOM: You hit the big time when you're on "SNL."

MARTIN: Well, you know, that's all good.

BLOOM: Are you going to still remember the little people now?

MARTIN: Huh?

BLOOM: Are you going to still remember the little people?

MARTIN: Of course.

YELLIN: Justin Timberlake knows who you are. That's big time.

MARTIN: I'm just -- shocked.

MARTIN: All right, folks, had a great one today. All right. We'll tell you about that later, Ken (ph), but you're looking good in that suit.

All right. You heard about the Miami priest caught in a compromising position with a woman. Now, he's speaking out. We'll have the latest.

And what do you think about the private school student who was suspended for going to his girlfriend's prom?

Karen says, "If it is a private school and they signed a contract before admission, they must be held to it unless it violates a law. Crazy as this sounds, they chose to go the school and signed the agreement so they have to abide or get out regardless if it flies in the face of common sense."

Well, what do you think? Should schools have the right to monitor what kids do outside of school? Start dialing now. 1-877- 662-8550. Also hit us on e-mail, Twitter and Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: Like that one, huh, Jessica?

YELLIN: Nice. Nice.

MARTIN: Yes. That's Prince in "Adore."

All right, folks. We're talking about this Father Cutie out of Miami, and you know this whole drama with the woman he fell in love with. He said it is not a fleeting romance. Of course, he had a conversation today on national television audience and he says they have fallen in love.

BLOOM: Ah.

MARTIN: But he has a difficult choice, though. And that is, should he leave the church for her? Pretty interesting.

All right. We've got some sound, right? Kelly, what do we got? The sound there (ph). All right. Let's see what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ, CBS ANCHOR, "EARLY SHOW": Will you continue this relationship? Are you thinking marriage, children?

FR. ALBERTO CUTIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST: I'm now in the process of thinking about all of those things, of making decisions. And my bishop has given me the time to think about it. So this is a difficult time. It's a time of transition, a time of thinking about the future.

RODRIGUEZ: But you have not broken up with this woman?

CUTIE: Well, what you mean by breaking up is, you know, like saying this is it, it's over?

RODRIGUEZ: Cutting off the relationship.

CUTIE: I'm in the process of thinking about the future. I think that when you love someone, you just don't kind of say goodbye. You know, the pictures came out this is it. No, I think you have to assume your responsibilities in many ways.

RODRIGUEZ: Has she said what she would like for you to do?

CUTIE: You know, any woman does want to get married to the person they love.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARTIN: Whoa.

YELLIN: Hey now. He's got an ego.

MARTIN: He broke it down there. He's dropping it like it's hot. She wants to get married. Pretty interesting there.

BLOOM: You know, Roland, this is a man, though, who I think is really struggling. He's clearly at odds with himself. We have a sound bite. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FR. ALBERTO CUTIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST: I think celibacy is good. But I also believe that what many say is that maybe it should be optional and that I do believe, I do believe that people should be given the option to marry or not to marry in order to serve God.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: I agree with him. I agree.

GRIFFIN: Wait, you have the option to serve God or marry. I mean, go get married.

YELLIN: Not among Catholics.

MARTIN: Not every Catholic priest does.

GRIFFIN: Not as a Catholic priest. You could be a deacon. You could do whatever you want. Is this the first priest that ever fell in love with a woman and --

MARTIN: No.

BLOOM: But he took the vow of celibacy very seriously.

YELLIN: Correct.

BLOOM: And apart from the fact that he's devastatingly handsome and he's named Cutie, we have to have some sympathies for him because he is so darn honest about the struggle that he feels about the woman...

YELLIN: Wait a second.

BLOOM: ... versus the church and he loves both of them.

YELLIN: That's very convenient. This is a man who's counseled on relationships. That's what he's known for in the parish and he is a guy who's got to be serious.

(CROSSTALK)

MARTIN: Yes.

YELLIN: Maybe he's living a dishonest life. And if -- I'll tell you.

BLOOM: Yes.

YELLIN: Bottom line, if you were to leave the church and start his own church where he could get married, he'll probably make a killing.

GRIFFIN: But he doesn't have to leave the church. He just has to leave the priesthood.

BLOOM: That's correct.

GRIFFIN: OK? If he loves the woman so much to leave the priesthood, go. Be a father, a real father.

MARTIN: But you can't be a shepherd of a flock and that is be the pastor. And that's the difference there.

BLOOM: And what has he exactly admitted to here? You know, even this kind of vague apology, we have pictures of him kissing a woman on the beach. Is that all --

MARTIN: You figure this one out.

YELLIN: I think it's pretty clear.

GRIFFIN: He's coming on national television talking about his romance.

BLOOM: Well, romance. I mean, are we talking about --

GRIFFIN: Go pray about it. And tell us what you're going to do later.

MARTIN: He did. In addition, he did admit to having sex with her, as well.

BLOOM: OK. So we can assume this is a couple years long sexual relationship and he's truly in love.

MARTIN: Right.

YELLIN: Yes.

BLOOM: Well, I don't think there's going to be an option for him to remain a priest. It's not that it's up to him, he'll be defrocked.

GRIFFIN: I don't think so either.

MARTIN: I'll tell you what, though, the Catholic Church --

YELLIN: Leave first (ph).

MARTIN: I'll tell you what, though, the Catholic Church they're dancing very lightly here because he is hugely popular. And, look, if this guy chose to leave frankly another church, like remember Gene Stolin (ph) in D.C., he left the Catholic Church, created his own church, this guy overnight could have a mega church.

YELLIN: Don't you think he could stay in the church if he decided to and they accept him back?

GRIFFIN: Sure.

BLOOM: He violated his vow of celibacy.

YELLIN: You can be forgiven.

BLOOM: Isn't that a big deal to them?

YELLIN: You can be forgiven.

BLOOM: Can you if you're a priest?

MARTIN: But there's a whole lot of other priests who have done some things and they allowed them back into the priesthood.

BLOOM: They move them around church to church for a lot worse than what this guy is talking about.

MARTIN: Hey, I say, Father, roll with your love. Do what you need to do.

(LAUGHTER)

Gosh, darn it. You live one time.

BLOOM: We'll see if you're consistent on the next plot on that play, Roland Martin.

MARTIN: Hey, I'd say work your mojo.

All right, folks, for one night only, the commander in chief played comedian in chief. Check this out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now Sasha and Malia aren't here tonight because they're grounded. You can't just take Air Force One on a joyride to Manhattan. I don't care whose kids you are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Oh, boy. Folks, more punch lines from President Barack Obama just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: A whole lot of folks will blame though the alcohol on Saturday night. Here, Jessica with the "Political Daily Briefing."

YELLIN: All right. We're going to start with the more serious story first. President Obama today called it a watershed event. At the White House today, he announced an agreement with the health care industry to cut the growth in health care costs by 1.5 percent per year. The White House says that would save the U.S. $2 trillion in health care costs over the next decade. And in five years' time, the average family would see about $2,500 a year savings.

But don't count your money just yet. It's only a pledge and these groups have not explained exactly how they'll get to these savings.

Now what is surprising and interesting right now are the players involved. The list of participants includes the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. These are the very same folks who tried to kill Hillary Clinton's health care reform plans. Remember, see them right there? Harry and Louise.

The White House insists these groups did not cut any deals with the White House. They just want a seat at the table as health care reform unfolds.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited the troops in Iraq yesterday, so there is a chance she missed the apology she received from CBS sports golf analyst David Feherty.

This popular sports talker hit one out of bounds when he wrote a magazine article and slams the speaker of the House writing, "If you give any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Osama bin Laden, there's a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."

Really? Feherty issued a statement saying that passage was a metaphor.

BLOOM: Oh.

YELLIN: But "in retrospect, it was inappropriate, unacceptable and has clearly insulted Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid.

MARTIN: Duh.

YELLIN: You think?

BLOOM: Do you think?

MARTIN: Do you think?

YELLIN: I bet Feherty would like a mulligan.

Yes, all right.

MARTIN: Yes, indeed. If you love golf so much, I love it.

YELLIN: I love golf. I know all about it. Yes.

BLOOM: Not a metaphor, by the way.

YELLIN: Yes. Real hostility there.

All right. This is what we've all been waiting for. The jokes at the White House Correspondents' Dinner that was held over the weekend and there were a lot of funny moments. The president himself brought down the house. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael Steele is in the house tonight. Or as he would say, in the heezy (ph). What's up?

Our bipartisan outreach will be so successful that even John Boehner will consider becoming a Democrat. After all, we have a lot in common. He is a person of color, although not a color that appears in the natural world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

YELLIN: That one -- he couldn't get through that one. That really surprised people.

Of course, he's referring to House Minority Leader John Boehner who's known for his perma-tan. And believe it or not, among other things --

GRIFFIN: Look at that. Look at that.

YELLIN: Really, come on. Boehner's office has released a statement. His spokesperson says, "If Leader Boehner had a nickel for every time he's heard a joke like that, he could make a serious dent in Washington Democrats' record setting deficit.

MARTIN: Oh God.

YELLIN: Ba ba ba bam.

YELLIN: He always makes fun of women's hair so --

MARTIN: Absolutely, absolutely.

All right.

YELLIN: Just a little ribbing.

MARTIN: Way to go, congressman. We certainly appreciate it.

All right, folks. "LARRY KING LIVE" is coming up next.

Larry, you've got some great guests who can give us fashion tips and all kind of stuff like that, as well.

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Yes, we do. The congressman's joke was a real riot. Whoa. Fell off the chair.

Hey, Joan Rivers is here. She was crowned celebrity apprentice winner last night by Donald Trump and he is going to join us, too. And they'll comment on the bickering and the backstabbing that got pretty nasty.

And more on the Miss California controversy. State pageant officials slammed her today saying she's broken a lot of rules. Is her reign about to end?

And Jesse Ventura sounding off on politics and anything else that comes to mind. And, by the way, will he run again? It's exclusive. It's next on "LARRY KING LIVE."

Roland, keep those jokes coming.

MARTIN: Larry -- Larry, would you hire -- would you hire Joan?

KING: Would I what?

MARTIN: Would you hire Joan?

KING: I would hire Joan. Known her a long time. Yes, I would hire her, especially if I want to get somebody.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: All right, Larry. Thanks so much.

Folks, picture this, a private school student takes his girlfriend to her school's prom and because his school doesn't allow proms, he's suspended. Is that fair? Here's a voice mail from Judy in New Hampshire.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JUDY, FROM NEW HAMPSHIRE (via telephone): I do not believe the school has any right to tell this boy he cannot attend the high school prom of somebody else. He's outside school and he should be able to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: Well, way to go, Judy. All right, folks, what do you think? Should the school do this?

Give us a call. 1-877-662-8550. You can also hit me up Roland@CNN.com or check me out on Twitter and Facebook.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: A high school kid rebels against a ban on dancing. It sounds like when Kevin Bacon wanted to be "Footloose" in a movie. Remember this?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOOTLOOSE") UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won't get it here.

KEVIN BACON, ACTOR: What's that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dancing. There's no dancing, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

BACON: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's illegal.

BACON: Jump back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's true.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been for about five or six years.

BACON: Why?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead. Tell him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Started when a bunch of kids got killed in a car wreck. Whole town went bananas blaming it on the music and liquor and dancing. Now they're just convinced it's all a sin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: And, of course, remember the reverend played by John Lithgow who made it his mission to keep kids from kicking up their heels.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "FOOTLOOSE")

JOHN LITHGOW, REVEREND IN "FOOTLOOSE": The thing that distresses me even more is the spiritual corruption that can be involved. These dances and this kind of music can be destructive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: That movie in 1984. Here we are, 25 years later and this past Saturday, Tyler Frost, a real-life teenager from Ohio, took his girlfriend, Rebecca Smoody (ph), to her prom at a public high school. The problem was that's against the rules for students at a Heritage Christian School where he goes. No dancing, rock music or hand holding. What about hip hop?

All right. Anytime, anywhere in school or out, folks. Tyler was suspended from school and banned from his own graduation.

Joining us now on the phone is Rebecca Smoody, Tyler's girlfriend and prom date.

Now, Rebecca, last week you were just another teenager getting ready for prom. Now you're on CNN. Tell us what this has been like for you and your boyfriend. Rebecca?

REBECCA SMOODY, TYLER FROST'S PROM DATE (via telephone): Yes.

MARTIN: All right. Tell us what it's been like, all this controversy and all this attention you have received along with your boyfriend.

SMOODY: It's been pretty intense. There is -- it's been a lot more media than I kind of realized that it would turn into. It's this kind of blown up into this big whole ordeal than it should have been.

YELLIN: Rebecca, did you talk to him in advance about whether he could get in trouble and was it something you discussed before you made this decision to go together?

SMOODY: We did discuss it. It just kind of I just left it up to him on whether he wanted to go or not. But the final decision was left up to him and we kind of discussed it knowing what we were going to get into but I didn't know it was going to be this drastic.

GRIFFIN: Isn't that why there were cameras there in the first place at your prom? This was already a media deal before you guys walked in that dance, wasn't it? Did you know it?

SMOODY: Oh, yes. It started the Friday -- the day before prom.

GRIFFIN: Yes. So the -- you or your boyfriend knew what the repercussions would be, right?

SMOODY: Yes.

GRIFFIN: OK.

BLOOM: Was he clear that this was a violation of his school rules if he went to a prom outside of school with you?

SMOODY: Excuse me?

BLOOM: Was it clear to him that this was breaking his school's rules if he went to your prom at another school?

SMOODY: Oh, yes. We didn't understand that it was actually going to be -- the consequences were going to be because that wasn't outside of school activity. We didn't really understand that because the school rules basically, it seemed like it stated that it was only in school activities. That's why we didn't really understand that point.

BLOOM: So what were the consequences to him? I understand he got suspended.

SMOODY: Excuse me? Sorry.

BLOOM: What were the consequences for him?

SMOODY: He was getting -- he's getting suspended and he can graduate. He just cannot walk with his class.

BLOOM: So here's the problem, Roland. Taking him out of school activities, taking him away from his classes, he can't go to school if he's suspended because he went to her prom. He's holding her hand.

YELLIN: But you know we all agree to conduct unbecoming clauses in many of the activities we partake in. When you go to school, you can get expelled for conduct unbecoming even outside of school.

(CROSSTALK)

BLOOM: The school should be (INAUDIBLE) for success, not failure. This is a minor child and to make him be a priest or he gets suspended from school I think is a little extreme.

GRIFFIN: This is the same as a priest. There's rules. They didn't follow the rules.

BLOOM: But this is a minor child.

GRIFFIN: They knew in advance what consequences are going to be.

BLOOM: This is a minor child, not an adult signing up for it.

MARTIN: But I also think the result of this by this national attention, frankly, is to highlight this kind of rules which I frankly think is stupid, because when you look in the actual bible, David danced. Jesus was at a wedding, turned water into wine. And so to sit here and act as if in the bible you did not have these kinds of things makes no sense.

GRIFFIN: So, Roland, don't send your kid to this school.

MARTIN: No, I'm also saying as a Christian school you can't be so scared that somehow students are going to actually go to a dance. The reality is, as a Christian, you're going to be in the world where you're going to see people doing things. Your job is not to be tempted. That's the point.

BLOOM: Well, I'm going to leave the theology to you. I approach it from the point of view of children.

GRIFFIN: It's a Christian school.

BLOOM: Yes, from the point of view of children. How can parents and teachers force children to agree to rules that are so rigid, most children are going to fail under those rules?

YELLIN: But we do it all the time.

BLOOM: You can't hold hands?

YELLIN: Pressure kids into taking hours and hours of extracurricular activities so they get into big schools or --

(CROSSTALK) GRIFFIN: Guys, there's a lot of strict, orthodox Jewish schools out there. There's Muslim schools out there. They all have very strict rules for their children.

MARTIN: But here's the deal. I think you have a rule in a school applies to that.

I mean, go ahead. If you're the principal, say, OK, we're going to make a rule. You must make up your bed. That's out of the school bounds.

I mean, come on, when you start governing what somebody is doing outside of school, I think, frankly, you're going a little too far.

BLOOM: That's right. And I think a kid has a right to see a normal kid once in a while.

GRIFFIN: And you should take your kid out of the school.

MARTIN: All right. Rebecca Smoody, we certainly appreciate you joining us. Thank you very much.

Folks, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MARTIN: All right, folks. We're talking about the young man now banned from graduation at his own Christian school because he took a girl to the prom at her school. Here's a voice mail from Latoya.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LATOYA (via telephone): I'm an assistant principal at a high school, and I do believe that schools can monitor students outside of the school day if the behavior that is being exhibited is an event that occurred at the school starting with the school.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN: All right, folks, a couple twitters here. Kenneth on Facebook says, "This is a case of extremism. What would Jesus do? He went to the prom."

BLOOM: Thank you. I like that one.

YELLIN: But you're objecting to the rules themselves which is separate from objections --

GRIFFIN: That is right.

MARTIN: OK.

BLOOM: Imposed on children. I think adults can sign it for whatever they want.

MARTIN: Absolutely. All right. Folks, we want to thank all of you who called and e-mailed a comment. Trust me, your voices are important and we love hearing from you.

Of course, "LARRY KING LIVE" is up next. You know we normally end the show a certain way, but tonight we're going to let Anderson Cooper do it for us.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR, "AC 360": Coming up at the top of the hour, late developments on the fire lines now nearly five miles long and on the move. Holler.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: All right, Anderson. This is how we do it. Folks, we got to go.

ALL: Holler.