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Congress Votes to Cut ACORN Funding; Message from Taliban Leader; White House May Be Encouraging Governor Paterson of New York to Not Run for Election; Drama "Mad Men" Up for Numerous Emmys

Aired September 20, 2009 - 14:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Under arrest - three men suspected of plotting terror against the US on American soil. The investigation spreads beyond our borders. President Obama's full court press - he hits five television networks in one day, defending his health care reform and explaining why his decision to scrap missiles in Europe is not a sign of weakness to Russia. And get ready to see if your favorite television show is among the best on the tube. The Emmys are tonight.

Hello. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Our top story, weapons and training from al Qaeda and bomb-making plans - the FBI says all are part of a terror plot to set off explosives here in the United States. This hour, three men are under arrest charged with making false statements to the FBI. Colorado resident Najibullah Zazi, seen here, and his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi were taken into custody last night. Also arrested, New York associate Ahmad Wais Afzali.

CNN's Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us now from Denver with details on the arrests. So, Jeanne, we understand at least one of the men is actually denying the charges against him.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me tell you that all of these men are facing charges that they made false statements to the FBI during an investigation. These are not terrorism charges. But by looking at the court documents, we've been able to pull out a little bit about this investigation.

In the charging document, it alleges that Najibullah Zazi, the 24-year-old who's been at the center of this investigation, told investigators that he did attend an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in 2008 where he got weapons and explosives training. In addition, the criminal complaint also alleges that authorities found nine pages of handwritten notes about bomb making on his computer.

According to the court document, Zazi told investigators during interviews here at the FBI that he did not write those, he had not seen those, that if they were on his computer they were put there accidentally. But it says that FBI analysts looked at the matter and they believe this handwriting is similar to Zazi's. In addition, it says that during searches in an apartment in Queens where Zazi had stayed, they found a scale and AA batteries. Zazi's fingerprints were on both of those. Now, lawyers with whom I've spoken theorize that what's happening here is that government - the government has brought them in on these charges to put pressure on them to cooperate with this investigation. Justice Department officials say at this time they still do not have specific information about the timing, location or target of any alleged plot. They're hoping to get that. Perhaps if they win the cooperation of one or more of these men, they will get more of that information.

Back to you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And is it believed, Jeanne, whether there would be other arrests or even other people that would be a focus of an investigation?

MESERVE: Well, we just don't know that. I mean, clearly what authorities are trying to do here is investigate every single avenue to bring in as many people as they can at least for questioning to try and get a sense of the real scope here. This is potentially a treasure trove for investigators. They want to dig in here and extract as much information as they possibly could.

And also, let me mention, Fredericka, that Mr. Zazi and his attorney yesterday both denied that he had made any admission to prosecutors - not the prosecutors but investigators rather, about having any ties to al Qaeda - an important point to mention and one that seems to contradict what's in this charging document.

WHITFIELD: And any way you could shed light on any kind of cooperation between Denver authorities, the FBI and perhaps even New York authorities and the FBI in this investigation?

MESERVE: Oh, I'm sure there's very tight cooperation going on here. This is a major investigation. Also, there are indications from statements of Justice Department officials that there may be investigations going on in other cities around the country. There are investigations going on in Pakistan and they say elsewhere.

So very broad-ranging here. You can bet that this is one of these instances where they are - they're trading a lot of info to try and get to the bottom of this.

WHITFIELD: Sure. Lots of levels to this investigation. Thanks so much, Jeanne Meserve, joining us from Denver.

Right. On now to Afghanistan and this recommendation: review the history of how Afghans have defeated previous foreign invaders. That's the new message to the US and NATO from the leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It's the first message from Mullah Mohammed Omar in nearly three years. He pledges to "continue to wage jihad until we gain independence."

Omar is believed to be hiding in Pakistan but has not been seen in years. CNN has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of his comments, but they appear to be on a website known to be used by the Taliban. Afghanistan is the topic that came up repeatedly during President Obama's interviews this weekend. Joining us with his take on that, CNN Senior White House Correspondent, Ed Henry.

So, Ed, did the president shed more light on whether or not there will be US troops sent to the region?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly did in the sense that the president made clear to CNN's John King, for example, in - in the "STATE OF THE UNION" interview that he's not going to be rushed into a decision here. There's a lot of pressure on him - competing pressures from leaders in both parties about what to do in Afghanistan next, and the president's major point was he wants to get the strategy right before he decides on resources.

The problem potentially for him, though, is that Republicans are really pushing him hard and saying, look, you can't wait on the resources. You need to send more US troops quickly because the current US troops who are there are dying and they need reinforcements, and so he has that weighing on him. He also has the Joint Chiefs Chairman, Admiral Mullen, told the senate a few days ago that he believes we probably will need more US troops in short order. But on the opposite side, the president has fellow Democratic leaders saying they don't want to see more US troops sent. The president already sent 21,000 more at the beginning of the year.

So I think the broader message from this president in these interviews - not just in CNN's but in some of the other networks - what that he's expressing skepticism about being rushed into sending more troops, and more than anything he seems to want to take a breath here and make sure that he gets the strategy right before he just starts rushing in more troops, Fred.

WHITFIELD: So, Ed, the president has a lot on his world view plate, if you will. Let's talk about the G-20 summit to take place this week in Pennsylvania. The president might he be go into - going into this kind of boasting of the economy making some progress - because that's something he's said over the past couple of weeks - or is this strictly kind of a five-month check-up, as the way he's been putting it, since the last time they all met in London?

HENRY: Well, a little bit of both. I think the president was telling John King today that he believes that there are some signs of hope in the US economy and, by extension, the world economy. But the president was also very clear in saying - and this is important news for our viewers. It affects everyone's pocketbook - is that he believes that the job situation is not going to turn around in the next couple of months and it might actually get worse by the end of the year and that the only time we may see some job growth, some - some positive signs in jobs would be next year, in 2010.

So that's a message he'll certainly be talking about at the G-20 summit, which is going to focus a lot on financial affairs at the latter part of this week in Pittsburgh, Thursday and Friday. But also, final point is also Wall Street reforms. You remember, at the most recent G-20 summit a few months back in London, that was all about bonuses on Wall Street, other financial firms around the world cracking down and putting new rules on the road to make sure we don't have another crisis like we had. But unfortunately, right now in Capitol Hill, there's been very little progress on any sort of real reform, so you'd bet he'll be talking about that, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Also, the president will be at the United Nations this week. What's his agenda or what are the expectations?

HENRY: Well, there's all kinds of issues that are sort of formally on the plate, like climate change. He certainly will be talking about the financial crisis, human rights around the world, et cetera, but there's sort of a new wrinkle in the last 24 hours, which is that the White House has revealed the president on Tuesday is going to have a trilateral meeting with leaders of the Mid East, and essentially he's going to be with the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian president - meet with them separately and then get all three leaders together. Important development.

It does not mean that there's a peace deal imminent, but it does mean that these Mid East peace talks that have been stalled for so long, maybe they're going to start getting back on track. So I'd look for that to be a big, big story in the early part of this week at the UN, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Interesting. What about the potential - or might the White House even be concerned in any way about being provoked - President Obama being provoked by Iran or perhaps the leader of Libya or perhaps even the leaders of North Korea - all likely to be there at the UN talks and meetings this week. Might the president be considering any kind of direct dialogue with the leaders of those countries?

HENRY: We're not getting signs of a direct dialogue, and you can bet that that's sort of the kind of photo-op that the US is going to try to avoid. You remember at a Latin American summit a few months back with President Chavez, the White House wasn't too keen on some of the photos of them shaking hands.

They're not talking about anything imminent like that in terms of direct diplomacy this week, but I can bet and we'll tell you that there'll be a lot of talk both at the UN and then the later part of the week in Pittsburgh, as you mentioned, at the G-20 summit about trying to pull some of the US' allies together to try to come up with some tough sanctions in the UN against Iran and make sure and stop its - its nuclear program. So that - Iran is going to be front and center, as well, Fred.

WHITFIELD: OK. Very good. Ed Henry, thanks so much. We're going to talk to you again later on in the hour about some other domestic issues from health care and on to the New York governor's race.

All right. Thanks, Ed.

HENRY: Thank you. WHITFIELD: All right. So many health care ideas, so much to explain. The president hits the Sunday television talk shows defending his plan - just for starters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Well, if you're in the Southeast, you know this. It has been record-setting rainfall for days now, and particularly zoom in on Georgia - this is metro Atlanta. Just take a look at when's taken place here, five inches of water or more just within the past 24 hours or so. Firefighters waded through the water to remove this woman from a flooded apartment complex. More than 25 others had to be helped to safety as well. The deluge has caused some outdoor events to be canceled, it has slowed traffic to a snail's place in some places and of course knocked down trees and power lines as well.

So is there any relief in sight? We all ask, particularly those who are in Georgia. Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras, that's the question you get riddled with the most these days - and I already know your answer! So bring it on us - again.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I know. Exactly. Same answers I had for you yesterday, unfortunately.

WHITFIELD: I know it's bad. Just soldier (ph) through it.

JERAS: well, you know - and it's becoming a serious situation...

WHITFIELD: Yes.

JERAS: ... actually, for a lot of people and I'm starting to get concerned now in the upcoming days that we're going to have additional problems, not just on some of the small creeks that we're starting to see some rises on, but it could get a little bit more severe than that. So it's something we're going to have to really watch the next couple of days because this rain is going to stay in the forecast.

And there you can see it coming down heavy, North Georgia, across Tennessee, into the Western Carolinas. There a lot of (INAUDIBLE) thunderstorms here along the Ohio River Valley and then a nice, big cluster over here in the Northern Illinois, which eventually is going to make its way into the Chicago metro area.

The heavy rain right now across Atlanta is on up to the north, so that's a little bit of good news. Rain gauge at my house, at East Cobb, by the way, about an inch and a half, and that was before noon today. We could see an additional two to four inches on top of what you already have here into the Southeast. And, you know, even when it's not raining, and I think this has been a big problem for a lot of folks, because even if it's not raining, coming from the - you know the sky, it's still wet. It's still damp and it's still overcast. And if you look at the satellite picture as a whole, there are no breaks in the clouds here, my friend. So it's dreary. There's not a lot of sunshine, unfortunately. Now, what kind of rainfall totals have we been talking about? This is the seven-day total from the National Weather Service in the last week. Here's the scale to the side, and I'll try and help you with it a little bit. Basically these pinks and purples - that's 10 to 15 inches of rain. So we're seeing that just outside of the Nashville area, we're seeing this around the Atlanta metro area, we're seeing this really around the Birmingham area, as well as into southern parts of Arkansas. So this is really widespread.

The reds that you are seeing here, a whole lot of reds, the red is anywhere between five and eight inches of rain. So we're seeing that in places like Little Rock, we're seeing that just outside of Dallas, Ft. Worth so this is a huge swath of rain in a whole lot of areas. We want the rain over here where you haven't had it, but I think enough is enough across parts of the Southeast, unfortunately.

Now, what can we expect for tomorrow? As we take a look at the big picture here, well, this is what's going do change our weather pattern a little bit across the nation's mid section. We have a big system, actually, in the upper levels of the atmosphere, and we need something in the big upper level pattern to help change things here in the Southeast, and this is going to come into play into the nation's mid section.

It could bring severe thunderstorms from Texas through parts of Oklahoma, on up into Missouri, including - into the Kansas City area, but this is eventually going to move on through and we think sweep things out a little bit into the Southeast and into the Ohio Valley, but you're going to have to be patient. It's not going to be until late week, maybe into next weekend, before we start to see major changes or at least get rain out of the forecast altogether.

WHITFIELD: Next weekend did you say?

JERAS: Next weekend.

WHITFIELD: Oh, come on! That is cruel.

JERAS: Well, if you want a whole, dry day, that's what you're going to have to wait for.

WHITFIELD: OK. So we may have some partial dry days - you're telling me - before we get to that point?

JERAS: I'm hopeful that by midweek or so we're going to start to get more breaks of sunshine.

WHITFIELD: This is extraordinary. I don't think I really remember this kind of, you know, pattern, this kind of pass over so many days...

JERAS: It's not too uncommon for this time of the year, you know, especially with tropical systems. We'll get those that come in and sit and stall and make weather like this. Unfortunately, this one - one wasn't exactly tropical.

WHITFIELD: It was a tropical system. Yes. All right. That's my little complaint. That's all I'm saying.

JERAS: Go right ahead. I'm on that train.

WHITFIELD: I'm tired of being wet. Let's dry out, for goodness sake.

JERAS: That would be good.

WHITFIELD: All right. Jacqui, thank you. See you again.

And of course, we've got more top stories coming up in "THE NEWSROOM" including the arrest of three on US soil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A look at our top stories right now, three men are due to appear in federal court tomorrow. They are charged with making false statements to federal agents during a terror investigation. Najibullah Zazi and his father were taken into custody late last night outside of Denver. The FBI arrested another man in Queens, New York. The Justice Department says more arrests are possible as they probe an alleged plot to set off bombs in the US.

And President Barack Obama says he has no deadline for withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan. He said the big question right now is, are we doing the right thing? Are we pursuing the right strategy? The president has increased the number of US troops in Afghanistan since taking office.

South Africa's top athletics official is facing calls to step down after he admitted to lying about gender tests on track star Caster Semenya. The Associated Press report up until now that official had said no tests were done on the runner in South Africa before she won the World Championship in the 800 meters in Berlin. He says he lied to protect her privacy.

An undercover videotape showing ACORN workers giving advice to a couple posing as a pimp and prostitute could cost the Liberal Activist group millions of federal dollars. Democratic lawmakers joined their Republican colleagues in a vote this week to cut ACORN's funding.

CNN's Special Investigations Correspondent, Abbie Boudreau, has more on that and a new tape that has just surfaced.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): It wasn't even close. By a 345 to 75 vote, the House of Representatives voted to kill all federal funding for the community organizing group ACORN.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: ACORN's trying to claim that they're cleaning up their act, but I think it's too little, too late.

BOUDREAU: It wasn't just Republicans. One hundred seventy-two Democrats also voted to defund ACORN, an indication of the deep wounds inflicted by hidden camera videos.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your business is a performing artist - but you are! OK? So you're not lying.

BOUDREAU: Videos that show ACORN workers offering help and advice to a couple of Conservative activists posing as a pimp and a prostitute. ACORN's damage control effort has included saying the tapes were doctored, threatened to sue the filmmakers and ordered an independent investigation.

BERTHA LEWIS, CEO, ACORN: I immediately took swift action and I said, you know what? We're going to look at this. We're going to make a review from top to bottom so that this thing never happens again. We work too hard to have some trumped up thing like this happen.

BOUDREAU: The newest tape purportedly shows an ACORN worker in National City near San Diego advising the undercover filmmakers on how to get underage sex workers for El Salvador over the border from Mexico.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is confidential, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BOUDREAU: But ACORN tells CNN the worker was just trying to deal with a "bizarre and challenging situation" and that he was playing along with O'Keefe and Giles to get information, which according to ACORN he passed on to his cousin who is a detective with the National City Police Department.

And now this video, released by an ACORN worker in Philadelphia. She says she reported the couple to the police.

KATHERINE CONWAY RUSSELL, ACORN WORKER: It appears Mr. O'Keefe lied to get his appointment. He was not dressed like he is on the internet, and when we got suspicious about the questions he was asking at the Philadelphia ACORN Housing Office, we called the police and filed this report.

BOUDREAU: And there are other cases where ACORN workers say the videos didn't show the full story. This ACORN worker seen on one video claiming to have killed her ex-husband in self defense.

TRESA KAELKE, ACORN WORKER: And then I just picked up the gun and [bleep] you, and I shot him and he died right there.

BOUDREAU: But Tresa Kaelke tells CNN she was just playing games. Her ex-husband's just fine.

KAELKE: He's alive and well.

BOUDREAU: And local police confirm that.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BOUDREAU: But coming on top of earlier tapes which clearly show ACORN workers bending over backwards to help O'Keefe and Giles, questions about whether the tapes were taken legally, doctored or even deliberately misleading seem to have been drowned out in the clamor.

Abbie Boudreau, CNN, Atlanta.

WHITFIELD: Libyan leader Muammar Kadafi among those who are heading to the US really to be at the United Nations summit this week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: All right. More now on the top story. The arrest of three men in a terror plot investigation that stretches from Denver to New York and Pakistan. Homeland Security Correspondent Jeanne Meserve joins us live now from Denver.

So, Jeanne, we're talking about the arrest of three men but not necessarily because of their alleged participation - right - in any kind of terror plot but because they weren't truthful with the Feds?

MESERVE: That's right. The charges against them right now are that they - excuse me - were made - made false statements. I wanted to get that phraseology just right - made false statements to the FBI during a terrorism investigation.

Let me tell you who the three men are. Najibullah Zazi - he is the 24-year-old who's been at the center of this investigation, his father, Mohammed, and then in New York, a man named Ahmad Afzali. He's an acquaintance of theirs. He's an Imam and runs a Muslim burial service. All three of them arrested last night on these charges.

Now, these aren't terrorism charges per se, as you mentioned, but the charging documents give us some insight into what's happening in this investigation. Most significantly, that Najibullah Zazi allegedly told investigators he did attend an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan in 2008 where he got explosives and weapons training, this despite the fact that Zazi and his lawyer said yesterday that there had been no admission to authorities of any tie to al Qaeda.

In addition, from the charging documents, we find out that there are allegations that on Najibullah Zazi's computer, which was searched while he was on that trip to New York, they found nine pages of handwritten documents detailing how to build a bomb. And Zazi, according to the documents, denied during questioning that he had written those notes or that he had intentionally put them on his computer. However, FBI forensic analysts have determined that this may indeed be Zazi's handwriting. There is similarity. And also in the court documents, it says that during the search of an apartment in Queens where Zazi had stayed, they found a scale and AA batteries with his fingerprints on them.

Now, why didn't they bring them in on other charges? Well, lawyers with whom I have talked today believe that the three men have been brought in on this charge of giving untruthful statements to the FBI so investigators can put some more pressure on them to cooperate in this investigation which is, as you know, Fred, very much an ongoing matter.

Back to you.

WHITFIELD: Jeanne Meserve in Denver, thank you.

And taking this a little bit further, we asked CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen his thoughts on the arrest and whether the men pose a real threat. Here's what he had to say.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, there are a few things that are somewhat unusual about this. You know, so many of the terrorist plots in the United States have been aspirational rather than operational.

If the allegations in this case are correct, at least one of the men involved did travel to an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, which is a pretty serious charge. He also had handwritten notes about explosives and bomb-making equipment on his computer.

So this is more than just some guys talking about possibly doing a terrorist attack.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: In offering more clarity on this investigation and arrest, earlier this morning CNN aired a picture of Nais Khan and inadvertently identified him as being one of the three men arrested in the anti-terrorism investigation.

So CNN wants to make it very clear that Khan has not been arrested and charged in the investigation.

President Barack Obama blitzed the television networks this morning, giving one-on-one interviews on five networks. The president answered wide-ranging questions form health care reform to the economy.

He told CNN's John King the economy may be showing some signs of recovery, but warned more jobs are not in the picture just yet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I want to be clear that probably the jobs' picture is not going to improve considerably, and it could even get a little bit worse over the next couple of months and we're probably not going to start seeing enough job creation to deal with, you know, a rising population until sometime next year.

I think we'll be adding jobs, but you need 150,000 additional jobs each month to keep pace with a growing population. So if we're only adding 50,000 jobs, that is a great reversal from losing 700,000 jobs early this year, but, you know, it means that we have a ways to go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: So what's the strategy here going to the air waves like this? Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry joins me now from Washington.

So it's interesting because he took to the airwaves, five major networks. What was the sole ambition of the White House? Is it to try to offer some clarity, be the first and last voice on the issue particularly of health care reform?

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think, Fred, it is mostly about momentum. They realize that the White House when you talk to top aides, that the president is behind here and has been for some time.

But they feel like they're starting to turn a corner in terms of making the public case after so many weeks and months. We saw it maybe the final stretch here begin with that speech with a joint session of Congress.

Now this coming week, the Senate Finance Committee's really going to be dealing down into the details of that bill that the Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus introduced last week.

So I found it interesting though that while the president is hoping to sort of bring this home here with these interviews and make sort of one of the final cases, he didn't really get much more specific than he has before.

And when John King asked directly would you sign the Baucus bill if it went to your desk, he said it is a hypothetical. The bill's going to change, which is true. But nonetheless when he talked about the Baucus, bill, it was very general, not very specific. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: But can I say that it does meet some broad goals that all the bills that have been introduced meet.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Is it better than the others?

OBAMA: It provides health insurance to people that don't have it at affordable prices.

I'd like to make sure that we've got that affordability really buttoned down, because I think that's one of the most important things is that if we're offering people health insurance, and we're saying that people have to get health insurance if it's affordable, we have to make sure it's affordable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HENRY: So when you talk about the strategy with top White House aides, they say every time we get the president out there pushing substance and talking directly to the American people, they think it works well for them.

When you talk to Republicans, they insist, look, he is not moving the ball forward in their estimation, and he didn't really break any major news in the interviews. A lot of these Sunday talk show, you do them in order to come up with some new wrinkle, some new plan, something specific. So far, it doesn't look like he did that -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: So the president receiving a lot of pressure as it pertains to health care reform, and also he's receiving a lot of pressure on the investigations of the CIA. The attorney general, Eric Holder, pushing forward on that. Now there's pressure on the White House to intervene. Might the president do that?

HENRY: He's clearly not going to, and that was one piece of news we picked up today.

Late last week, several former CIA directors said, look Mr. President, you need to stop the attorney general from moving forward with this potential, basically a criminal investigation as to whether Bush era officials broke any laws with those tough interrogation methods.

The president today told John King on "State of the Union," look, while he previously said he wants to look forward and not backward and that he was not too keen on the investigations, he won't get into the business of squelching the investigation, either.

And I think that makes sense for the president politically. If he were to come on John King's show and say, look, I'm going to shut down the attorney general's investigation, that would suggest the attorney general doesn't have any independence, would completely undermine him.

So this is basically the only public position the president can take and he'll let this investigation play out -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about state-level politics. There are conflicting reports about whether the president had either encouraged or discouraged the New York Governor Paterson from seeking reelection in 2010. What do you know about that?

HENRY: What I know is "The New York Times" reported very directly this morning that the president basically is trying to push Governor Paterson out in New York and have him not run for reelection because of his dismal standing and a great fear at the White this could pull down other candidates on the ballot in New York.

You have a Senate race, for example, and many other state and local races. I talked to top White House officials saying this is overblown.

WHITFIELD: "The Washington Post" is reporting the opposite, that the president actually had encouraged one of the former campaign volunteers to actually become the press secretary or, I guess, the media campaign manager for Paterson. So that would be the antithesis of what "The New York Times" is reporting.

HENRY: I would suggest that the White House is trying to shore him up, you're right, in "The Washington Post" story.

I'm hearing something a little bit in the middle, essentially, from top White House aides, which is that essentially the president has not spoken directly to Governor Paterson, and so they're suggesting that "The New York Times" report is wrong and there was some sort of direct push or shove here from the president.

However, these White House aides are telling me that through indirect channels, though White House aides and others, advisers, a signal has been sent to the governor that the White House is well aware of the political standing and think he needs to make a decision here for the party and for his state.

What I read into that when you look at the conflicting reports is that the White House is trying to say, look, we are not pushing the governor out. But if he decides to walk out on his own, we would be OK with that, too -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: Would that be unusual or maybe perhaps not -- am I being naive, would it be unusual for the White House to be directly involved in encouraging the candidacy or not at a governor level?

HENRY: Pretty unusual for a sitting governor to basically suggest we would like you to step aside. I think you're right.

On the other hand, we've seen the president get involved in other primary races. For example, in the Pennsylvania Senate, Democratic primary, he has gotten behind Senator Arlen Specter, the party switcher. A lot of Democrats are upset that the congressman Joe Sestak who is running in that primary...

WHITFIELD: Yes, because they were talking about Congress and the White House working together.

HENRY: Yes. And so all of a sudden he's picking sides there against Joe Sestak. The congressman and some Democrats are upset about that.

But, bottom line, other presidents have gotten involved. At the end of the day the White House will do what it thinks makes sense politically for them.

Right now, there's a fear in the White House, bottom line here amid all these reports, that Governor Paterson's not good standing and that could affect the Democrats in the U.S. Senate battle, Hillary Clinton's old seat, and many other races. They're going to do what they need to get done.

WHITFIELD: All fascinating stuff. Ed Henry, thanks for joining us.

HENRY: Thanks, Fred. WHITFIELD: A Colombian singer hopes that international star power can be a force for change in communist Cuba. Juanes is hosting a "peace without borders" concert today in Havana, and he's being joined by many other artists.

Our Soledad O'Brien is also in Havana. She's joining us on the phone. Soledad, tell us what's happening.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Hey, Fred.

The concert's underway. (Inaudible) is a Latin superstar and she was just performing for the crowd a moment ago.

It is hot here, Fred, in the 90s. And crowd, the estimate so far is around 600,000 people. But that's really an early estimate. We'll get an official count later on.

But the people are thrilled to be here. (INAUDIBLE) -- in Spanish that means "concert for peace." And, of course, the idea was the idea of singer Juanes, the signing sensation. It's his second peace concert. And it's meant to coincide with the U.N. peace day.

It's not been without controversy. Juanes, he a Latin superstar. He has won more 17 Latin Grammys, which makes him the person who has won more than any other artist in history.

But there was some resistance to his performing in Miami. Some thought that he was maybe playing -- giving some credence to the administration.

Juanes said from the very beginning this is about peace. He said it's about reaching out to people. The concert is free and the goal, he said, is about a message of reconciliation. He said he believes the U.S. and Cuba on the brink of a new era.

Of course, any time talking Cuba, that means you're talking politics on both sides. The embargo has been in place for 47 years.

But if you talk to folks here, all wearing white because it's hot and send a message of peace, they'll tell you it's not about politics. It's about the musicians.

People were dancing like crazy in spite of 90 degree temperatures. You might remember, Fred, back in 1998 this is exactly the spot in the Plaza de la Revolution where Pope John Paul II gave his mass, a similar feel with the brink of change as we sit here with the hundreds of thousands of people today, as well -- Fred?

WHITFIELD: And so Soledad, looking at the pictures, and this looks like the kind of crowd that far exceeds even the huge turnout for when Fidel Castro would have his rallies and people would feel pretty compelled to be in attendance.

So I'm wondering, the Castro regime being led by Raul, how supportive are they of this peace without borders concert? O'BRIEN: There's been great official support on both sides. The United States had cleared a way for people to leave, and also, of course Cuban administration had to clear the way for people to come in.

But because Juanes has really been a genuine peace activist -- this is the second concert. The other on the Venezuelan- Columbian borders, it was -- I think he's had a lot of experience in doing these things that could be very politically tricky.

But actually, when he's singing his message of peace, he manages to get it done. So for the most part it's been greeted upon the official front with open arms.

Now, keep in mind, there are no speeches on the stage. There are no messages. It is about the music. People are not allowed to give a pseudo-political speech. They get up. They perform. People cheer when they say, "Cuba, we love you." And that's the extent of the messages that the performers have been giving to the crowds.

WHITFIELD: Soledad O'Brien, thanks for joining us -- I think our signal is breaking up there -- joining us from Havana.

And we look forward to the reports come mid-October on Latinos in America. Surely you'll be talking to Cuban-Americans, as well, their sentiments in living in America and what is taking place in their home country of Cuba. That's coming up mid-October.

Police are searching for an escaped killer. There are serious questions of why the man described as criminally insane was let out of a state mental hospital and allowed on a field trip to a county fair.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A somber ceremony in Italy today as grieving relatives and dignitaries receive the bodies of six Italian soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Each of the coffins was draped in a red, green, and white Italian flag. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has more on what will happen next.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From here, the bodies are going to be taken to the military hospital. At the military hospital they'll be given a formal autopsy on Italian soil. After that, then they'll be laid in rest for people, first of all, the families, and then members of the public to come and pay their respects.

Italian military spokesman said they expect a lot of people to come and show and pay their last respects to these soldiers. The bodies will remain on display for the public throughout the day.

On Monday, it would be a day of national mourning. People will be going to work as normal, but in government institutions, people will be expected to hold a minute of silence, a minute of silence at schools, flags will be flying at half staff.

But just to give you an idea of how much the nation feels this, if you look -- I'm going to duck down because we're in the middle of the live shot -- but if look around here, you can see a lot of media have come, state media have broken into normal programming to cover this live.

Right now, the broadcasters from here are beginning to wrap up, but this is only the beginning of what's going to be a 24 hours of national mourning, of national reflection. The funerals will be held in about 24 hours' time.

For the families who were today, it was a very, very emotional moment. We saw children being carried in the arms of the wives of the soldiers. One young boy had his father's maroon beret on, the beret of the paratroopers, these six soldiers were all paratroopers.

We saw mothers weeping at the sights of the caskets, fathers shaking. But in all of that, we saw, as well, soldiers coming out to support those family members.

And that's what we have heard from the soldiers here today. They've told us that they support and stand by the families and that the nation supports and stands by the army and stands by the families, and that's very typical in Italy, that people will rally around these families, and support them in the coming days.

This is nationally felt. Again, it was broken into live state television to cover the repatriation of these soldiers. The next 24 hours, funeral, laying in rest for paying respects, and I think over the next 24 hour were going to see a large outpouring of emotion here in Italy.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Rome, Italy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: News across America now. Police in Florida are investigating the deaths of a mother and her five children. They're searching for the woman's 33-year-old husband. All of the children were aged 10 and under.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF KEVIN RAMBOSK, COLLIER COUNTY, FLORIDA: We are not going to get into the manner of death at this time due to the investigation ongoing. But I can tell you that in no uncertain terms this is the most horrific and violent event this community has ever experienced.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: And police in Washington State are searching for an escaped killer, Phillip Arnold Paul. They're now saying that he planned his getaway and packed belongings in a backpack. Many are questioning why he was allowed on a field trip for mental hospital patients to the Spokane county fair. He escaped from the fair on Thursday.

And the prime time Emmys are tonight -- the expected big winner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: There's a lot of buzz these days around "Mad Men," the TV drama set in the hard-drinking advertising world of the early - 60s, and it's up for 22 Emmys. Ratings have been low even though critics love the show, so here's a look at what goes into making this New York-set piece seem so authentic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, guys booze is such a big part of this show. Are these authentic bottles, and what actually are the actors drinking when they're doing their scenes?

AMY WELLS, "MAD MEN" SET DECORATOR: They're drinking mostly iced tea. If it's -- if it's a dark liquid, a caramel-colored liquid, it is usually Tahava, which a type of iced tea.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Freddy.

WELLS: These bottles are some of them are authentic and some of them are not. I mean, obviously, this one with this type of top with the cork and the seal like that is, you know, the right thing.

I try to find -- we all try to find real bottles because it -- they have changed considerably in the 50 or so years since the show takes place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fix you something?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 4:30 -- close enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is Lane Price.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lane Price's office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Brit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Brit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no fog in London. There is no London fog.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you sure about this?

WELLS: He has this beautiful Tantalus we call it, with all the different liquors in it. Cut crystal is quite a lovely thing. And he has a wonderful cocktail set.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like Peggy isn't quite the hard drinker that the guys are. Only three bottles...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, open the bar up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh.

WELLS: Peggy got -- Peggy got Rummy's bar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Rummy got laid off, Peggy inherited his bar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Isn't that Freddy's bar?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He left it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How the hell did you swing this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sleeping with Don. It's really working out.

WELLS: Imagine finding this original bar with all the glasses intact. And every once in a while someone takes a glass out of there and I have to go hunting it down. Isn't that amazing that they're all there and fit. And I just love it. I love this bar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ah. That's where you've been.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: OK, so Emmys tonight, they're up for 22. "Mad Men," a lot of folks are mad about it.

We're mad about our Jacqui Jeras. Come rain or shine, she is working hard. And she has great gardening tips -- how to make your garden grow no matter what the weather.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Oh, it's been so dreary here in the southeast for so many days now. So we need a little sunshine.

(WEATHER BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Yes. So can we talk about your garden for one hot second?

JACQUI JERAS, METEOROLOGIST: Yes.

WHITFIELD: I'm fascinated. I saw your tomatoes yesterday.

JERAS: Those are my strawberries.

WHITFIELD: There we go.

JERAS: They have taken over the garden basically.

WHITFIELD: You can't have too many strawberries, that's what I say.

JERAS: Really? They could take over the whole thing. They really spread, I guess.

WHITFIELD: You can cut them back. You want to keep them.

JERAS: I can mulch them.

WHITFIELD: OK.

JERAS: They should come back next year.

WHITFIELD: That's sounds like a big deal.

So you have been able to do this even though for a moment we had, you know, a pretty dry season, and then just a deluge like we're seeing right now. And you have learned to tough it with your garden, and teaching us all how to do it.

JERAS: There's always going to be problems. And with all the wet weather we've been having, I got the powdery mildew, like a fungus, on my zucchini, so I didn't get a single zucchini. Of course, the whole idea was to hopefully produce a whole lot of fruits and vegetables and make some money, or break even.

WHITFIELD: OK.

JERAS: A lot of people are --

WHITFIELD: We're going to talk about that some more in the 4:00 Eastern hour. Because now we're out of time. We do this all the time.

JERAS: Our (INAUDIBLE) -- she's yelling at me.

WHITFIELD: Jacqui, thanks so much.

All right. Thanks for being with us in the NEWSROOM. Back again 4:00 Eastern hour. (INAUDIBLE), right? We can hear more about your vegetable garden, and fruit garden. Recession garden, it's die hard.

Much more, in more than an hour.