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New York City Bomb Plot Thwarted?; South Carolina Mayor Bans Police Chases; Ousted Honduran President Returns; Cubans Flock to Havana for Peace Concert

Aired September 21, 2009 - 15:00   ET







PEAKE: Oh, yes, you are.

CATO: You said no chases. No chases means no chases.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): When police can or cannot chase suspects becoming a nasty argument. You mean they can't go after a bad guy even when they see him do something bad?

CATO: Are you telling your officers that if they witness a crime and they're 10 yards away, that they cannot go stop that person?

PEAKE: Is that in there?

SANCHEZ: After FOX News lied about CNN's coverage of the tea party protest, a FOX News producer for Glenn Beck is caught telling the crowd when to cheer. I will tell you what's going on here in "Fotos."

An insane killer is taken on a field trip to the fair -- a field trip. And he gets away. You can't make this stuff up. But somebody better have answers.

Why is the White House telling New York's governor not to run for office? Republican Chairman Michael Steele says it's because Obama's a racist. What? It's part of your national conversation for Monday, September 21, 2009.


SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with the next generation of news. This is, as usual, a conversation. It's not a speech, and it's your turn to get involved.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to be starting a fight among some of you on Twitter and MySpace and Facebook users, regular viewers of this show, with my first story. It's one of those, did they do the right thing issues that involves our national security. And it gets a lot of people fired up all the time.

So, let me take just you through this, all right? The guy right there, the guy you're looking at in that video, the guy you should be looking at in that video right there, his name is Najibullah Zazi. In just a few minutes, he and two other men are going to stand before a federal judge. And here's the part that may fire you up.

What they're charged with is lying, lying to the FBI. That's it, lying. But as I look at some of the latest wires that we have been able to pull on this story, which I have been marking for you for some time, look at these stories that we have been looking at here. We're reading that he received al Qaeda training. He had bomb-making instructions, that they found notes on bomb-making instructions that appear to match Zazi's handwriting, fingerprints on some of the materials, some batteries and a scale.

So, obviously it leads you to some questions. Here's the question. All we got him for is lying, given some of the other information that we have been seeing so far? It's troubling, it seems.

Tom Fuentes is a CNN contributor and a former FBI assistant director as well.

Are these bad guys or are they not bad guys? What's going on here, Tom?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Rick. These are serious bad guys. It's the most significant and sensitive investigation in counterterrorism the FBI and the joint terrorism task forces in a number of cities have had since 9/11.

And it's also the first time that we have Afghan nationals in the United States involved in one of these investigations.

SANCHEZ: Well, again, again, let's go through this. I may have gone a little fast. Those of you at home, Tom and I want to take you through this.

I'm looking at a CNN wire story that's in my hand right here. And as I read it, allegedly received al Qaeda training, allegedly had bomb-making instructions, allegedly was found bomb-making instructions that appear to match Zazi's handwriting. They discovered his fingerprints on the materials. They found batteries. They found a scale. It may have involved a potential plot involving hydrogen peroxide-based explosives.

I'm reading stuff here that sounds like pretty good evidence that they could use against these guys, and then I'm seeing that the only charges they have on him is, what, lying? I'm wondering whether that charge fits everything else here. Maybe that's the part I don't understand. Can you help me understand it?


We will start back with the investigation's been ongoing for a while. The monitoring, electronic and physical surveillance has been ongoing. Over the course of the last week, you have the main subject, Zazi, voluntarily enter the FBI office three days in a row and agree to be interviewed. Now, these are voluntary statements.

And, by law, you don't have to talk to the FBI. But if you do, it has to be the truth, or you're violating Title 18 Section 1001. Now, when they're arrested and they're taken off the street, at this point, the investigation is still ongoing with other subjects that are out there.

And they don't know all the facts of what the attack plans were going to be for sure, how they were going to carry out those plans. So, they don't want to, in the complaints, when they arrest somebody, to immediately give out every possible detail that's going to be used to prosecute them and alert the other subjects as to what the government knows, what the government can prove.


SANCHEZ: Why arrest them, then, Tom?


SANCHEZ: You know as much as anybody about this stuff. So, why, then, arrest them? Why not wait?

FUENTES: I think the point in this case was that Zazi had come in. And as long as he agreed to continue to supply voluntary information which could then be analyzed and examined and have additional investigations conducted around the country and overseas, as long as he voluntarily did that, then let him keep doing it. And he's not under custodial arrest, although obviously a tremendous security cocoon surrounding him, so that he couldn't escape or flee the country.

But when he decided to break it off Saturday, I think that the decision was made based on the fact that if he's not going to voluntarily provide any more information, we don't want to take any further chances with him on the streets And so, the authorities decided to take him and the other two guys into custody.

They still didn't want to reveal all the facts that they have and have that specified in charges which would have to be made public at this time.

SANCHEZ: I'm reading here -- and this is the part that worries me, especially if I lived in a place like New York City, for example. Law enforcement, the government and law enforcement around the country are warning about a danger of an attack on mass transit and that these guys may have had wanted to use hydrogen peroxide-based explosives in some cities. That's serious. That's the kind of stuff that makes people not want to get up and go to work in the morning.

What can you tell us about this? What do you know about this?

FUENTES: Well, the fact is that they're not positive. Yes, backpacks were seized. That's a logical action to take when you have backpacks go into a place where there are a lot of people and you don't have to go through a screening program like you would at an airport or even a screening program to get into Yankee Stadium, where they would be checking your bags for bottles and alcohol and other things.

So, you can waltz into Grand Central Station or Penn Station, be around thousands of people and not go through any security screening to do that.

SANCHEZ: What's a hydrogen peroxide-based explosive? What does that mean?

FUENTES: Well, it basically means homemade bomb. It means making a bomb out of components that are readily available at hardware stores...


SANCHEZ: How much damage could something like that do on a subway train?

FUENTES: Well, how much damage did the bombing in Oklahoma City do? And that was a fertilizer, homemade, Home Depot-type bomb.

So, you can -- depending on the quantity, you can do tremendous damage, especially in a confined railroad car or confined tunnel, where the concussion of the bomb would be amplified.

SANCHEZ: Tom, let me...


FUENTES: Excuse me, Rick. But that's not the whole concern in this story.


FUENTES: The issue of attempting to rent a 25-foot truck is what really has the authorities absolutely not terrified, but almost to the point of terrified. Why would they need that big of a truck? The last time we have had a terror attack in the United States was the Oklahoma City bombing that used a truck like that.

And when you have that kind of possibility of loading up a truck and sending it out there, consider all the possible targets, especially, say, Manhattan, that become available to a truck bomb, separate from going into a railroad hub or on a subway or other railroad train.

If you're able to put that bomb on four wheels and take it anywhere you want, what are the possibilities, not just New York, neighboring cities, Washington, D.C.? And the investigation is ongoing feverishly to try to determine if that was the plan, to use that truck, to load it with an explosive device.

And the next question is, why would you rent that truck at this time or attempt to rent it if you didn't already have the material sitting in storage right now ready to go?

SANCHEZ: I have got to tell you, I don't think we could have had a better guest on this segment. You have made me understand it and you have made me also consider some of the possibilities of just how dangerous these guys really are, because, when we started this interview, I was kind of shaking my head and wondering whether this was another Lackawanna or another Miami.

You're here to tell us this is not another Lackawanna, this is not another Miami or Liberty City case, right?

FUENTES: That's correct. This is very serious. And, again, it's being given that level of serious -- unlike anything we have had yet.

SANCHEZ: All right.

FUENTES: And more will be revealed in the weeks -- days and weeks ahead. But more charges will be filed obviously against the three already in custody, and additional subjects are being looked at.

And for now, that's really all we can positively say. As far as the timing of how the rest of the case is going to go down, you will see it in the days and weeks ahead.


SANCHEZ: I'm glad I pressed you and I'm glad we have you, Tom Fuentes, Assistant FBI Director.

FUENTES: Thank, Rick.

SANCHEZ: Thanks for being with us.

FUENTES: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: This is crazy. These are the scenes in Cuba over the weekend. Is it cajoling a dictator or moving politics out of the way to help people? That's a classic argument. We're there, by the way.

And from one African-American to another, is Michael Steele really suggesting that the president of the United States is a racist? He wouldn't really suggest that, now, would he? You're going to hear it for yourself, the comment, that is, and what's going on today with the president.

Also, remember Friday, when I responded to the FOX News allegations that CNN didn't cover the march in Washington by calling them out as making a false claim, essentially a lie? Well, I also explained the difference between reporting a story and promoting a story. Remember? Well, guess what? There's now behind-the-scenes video that proves exactly what I was talking about Friday. And I'm going to show it to you.

Stay right there.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back to what we like to call our 3:00 national conversation every day.

Now for act one in the political theater that is Michael Steele's constant attempt to take on and possibly take down President Barack Obama, politically speaking, of course, politically speaking, the latest suggesting the president of the United States is a racist.

Steele is basically suggesting that if a black president doesn't support a black governor, the cause for it must be racism. He made the point on the Sunday TV talk circuit this weekend when he was asked about New York Governor David Paterson.

And I should give you some background on this. A story broke over the weekend that the White House operatives are pressuring Governor Paterson to not run for reelection. Why would the White House not want the governor to run for reelection in New York?

Well, Paterson's polling numbers are dismal. And Democrats, i.e., Rahm Emanuel, seem to be worried that he will lose to Rudy Giuliani and in the process perhaps bring down the congressional Democrats who are also going to be running around that time.

He will mess with the Democrats' majority seems to be the concern. Well, Michael Steele, he says, no, this is about race. Listen to what he told CBS's Bob Schieffer yesterday.


MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for reelection.

And it just raised a curious point for me. I think Paterson's -- Governor Paterson's numbers are about the same as Governor Corzine's numbers. Yet, the president was with Governor Corzine. And I don't know if there has been a request made of Governor Corzine to step down in New Jersey.


SANCHEZ: Right. What insiders are saying about the comment is, he wasn't asked the question that he answered. Nothing in the question alluded to race, yet that's what he ran with. Why?

Well, it's a good question. And we want to be fair to both sides of this issue. So, I'm going to devote a segment to this interesting phenomenon. That's coming up in just a few minutes.


CATO: As of this date, there are to be no more foot chases?

PEAKE: More foot chasing, and that's what I said, that's what I meant, and that's what I -- I said what I meant and I meant what I said.


SANCHEZ: Yes, she did. Is this politician really saying that she wants police to ignore violent criminals because it's too expensive to go after them, too expensive to go after violent criminals? Well, you're going to hear it for yourself next.

Also, what is a FOX News producer caught on video doing that you need to know about? Well, you're going to find out. We have got it in "Fotos."


SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

This one has to be up there with one of the most bizarre reactions from elected officials that we have ever seen. Listen to a little piece of this.


PEAKE: Yes, you are.

CATO: You said no chases. No chases means no chases.

PEAKE: You got your story. Thank God. You are so sweet. You got your story on a woman in Wellford. Hallelujah.


SANCHEZ: Yes, that's a little bizarre, yes, but the topic is actually quite serious. Here's what I'm talking about. High-speed police chases,, countless Americans are killed in them each year and thousands of dollars are spent on repairs, damages, hospital bills and funerals, as people try and run away from police officers.

And, yet, with all this, there is still no nationwide standard policy of when to chase the bad guys or when not to chase the bad guys. Some places like Oklahoma City hold officers and their supervisors more accountable for dangerous pursuits.

And their officers have to complete driver training programs every two years on just this. Others say, police should simply stop chases if other officers or the public are in danger, so that doesn't happen.

And this -- this is a tricky and dangerous judgment call for police officers. This is called a pit maneuver, where a police car hits the back end of a fleeing vehicle and spins it to get the bad guy out. All right, those are all parts of going after the bad guys, chasing the bad guys, whether on foot, using techniques or car-to-car, which brings us back to Wellford, South Carolina, and the woman you just saw moments ago. She's the mayor there, who says that she's had enough with chases already and she wants no chases anymore, period.

But some, including a TV reporter, are saying, wait a minute, do you recall mean no chases of any kind? Listen.

Here is more of this heated exchange between the reporter and the mayor.


CATO: As of this date, there are to be no more foot chases.

PEAKE: More foot chasing, and that's what I said, that's what I meant, and that's what I -- I said what I meant and I meant what I said.

They are costing us more money on insurance than most citizens here in the city of Wellford...


CATO: Are you telling your officers that if they witness a crime, they witness someone commit a crime on someone else and they're 10 yards away, that they cannot go stop that person?

PEAKE: Is that in there?

CATO: It says no chases whatsoever.

PEAKE: Well, that's what I said, no chases, didn't I? Now, I didn't say nothing about no crime. If you see a crime...


CATO: Well, that's what a chase is.

PEAKE: Well, I told them no chase on foot. And this guy knows exactly what I mean.

So, you're trying to twist what...


CATO: No, I'm not.


PEAKE: Oh, yes, you are.

CATO: You said no chases. No chases means no chases.

(CROSSTALK) PEAKE: You got your story. Thank God. You are so sweet. You got your story on a woman in Wellford. Hallelujah. I am so proud of you, Mr. Cato.


CATO: I'm trying to decide what you're telling your officers. I don't think it's out of the question for me to ask you about it. You don't feel like this is possibly putting your citizens at further risk?

PEAKE: No. It's helping my citizens.

CATO: How so? If someone escapes from the police and they go hurt someone else...

Be professional.

PEAKE: May -- I am. May God bless you. May God bless you.

CATO: Let's be reasonable.

PEAKE: May God bless you. May God bless you.

CATO: Let's be reasonable.


SANCHEZ: I didn't know whether to -- well, I don't know. What do you think about this? Look, folks on Twitter are already responding. They have been watching this in just the last couple of minutes.

Beachlife says: "Banning foot chases? LOL. So, go ahead, commit crime? Just do it on the run and you will be able to get away with it."

And then Pittpenguin just underneath that is saying: "I think there's a valid point in a way, depending on the crime, of course. No need to risk injury or worse for a petty crime."

Good points made across the board. And then there's this. This is about passion. It's about rage over which side of a border one building sits on. And I'm going to explain exactly what we're talking about here. This is really one whale of a story.

Also our top story, details on the terror investigation that is taking some new twists and turns. You heard at the top of our show about a 25-foot truck. Why would he be using a 25-foot truck? Also about fingerprint, about plans for bomb-making. Well, how worried should we be about this Zazi character and why? We are drilling down and not letting this one go.

Also, if you have seen "Jerry Springer," then you have probably seen production assistants whose job it is to get the crowd all hyped up and get them ready to go so they applaud when Jerry, Jerry walks out. Well, you would expect that from Jerry Springer. But would you expect that from a news organization? Should a news organization do that? Now, which news organization do you think did that? Don't answer that yet. I will.



PEAKE: Yes, you are.

CATO: You said no chases. No chases means no chases.

PEAKE: You got your story. Thank God. You are so sweet. You got your story on a woman in Wellford. Hallelujah.


SANCHEZ: Welcome back. I'm Rick Sanchez in the world headquarters of CNN.

I wanted to show you that again, because we're getting so much reaction to it. So many of you have been immediately e-mailing, MySpacing, Facebooking us.

Let's start with MySpace over here. Go all the way to the other side, if you can, Robert. Sorry. I should have told you ahead of time.

"She's a little loco. If she hadn't acted like a two-year-old answering a question, it would have made more sense. I say chase until it gets dangerous and then back off."

Curious says: "It's like saying go commit crimes in Wellford, South Carolina, because the cops won't chase on foot or by car. Stupid."

And then finally Momvs.Wild says: "Look, I can understand stopping a chase involving a cop car, but on foot? The mayor is a couple of cans short of a six-pack."

You guys aren't letting up. My thanks for the comments. We will keep sharing.

Meanwhile, on the border of Thailand and Cambodia, there is a temple I want to tell you about. Cambodia claims this temple. Thailand claims this temple. It is sacred to both. Wars have been fought over this temple. Saturday, Thai protesters broke through police lines -- that's how important this thing is to them -- in an effort to march to the temple. They want Thailand, their country, to take possession of it.

It's amazing sometimes to see some of the stories that come in from around the world. And we thank our friends that do such a diligent job over here at CNN International, all this, by the way, over which side of the border an 11th century temple sits, proving once again that, no matter how small things seem to some, to others, it is the most important thing in the world.

Coming up next, it could have been just a concert, but it was in Cuba and just 90 miles away from the United States. Put those two countries in the same sentence, and it's never, never just a concert.


SANCHEZ: This is a breaking news story that we're following for you. You know, we've been following this for quite some time. It's this crazy situation that's been going on in Honduras where the old president, or the former president, I should say -- there he is, Jose Manuel Zelaya -- was kicked out of the country, ousted in a coup, for reasons too complicated to try to explain here. But most people around the world said, in many ways what he was doing was wrong. Many have said that he deserved it.

Now, we have a new president in the country, and this man that you're looking at here has avoided going back into Honduras over threat that he would be arrested.

Well, we're now learning -- we're now learning -- from our own sources, CNN International, that he's back in the country. That Jose Manuel Zelaya, that is -- that is obviously file video you're looking at there -- is back in Honduras hiding out, I suppose, we can say, at the Brazilian embassy, which to a certain degree would give him some cover because that would be a place where the Honduran government would have to respect before they're able to go in because it's the soil of Honduras -- at least the way the diplomacy works in most countries.

So, that's the story. Jose Manuel Zelaya has returned to his home country, is apparently at Brazilian embassy. We'll continue to work on that story. And if we get more information, we will be sharing it with you.

Meantime, the music concert, big stars in another major city in Latin America. It's a big, fat deal, right?

So, why are we talking about this concert on CNN? As concerts go, so what? This is why -- the concert was in Cuba, in Havana, in the Plaza de la Revolution.

And get this -- you want to talk about big? By some estimates -- a full 10 percent of the entire Cuban population made it out there, one way or another. That's more than a million people. These are some of the pictures of some of the scenes.

It's called the Peace Concert or Concerto por la Paz. Massive crowds not seen since the Pope was there in 1988. Juanes was one of the singers. Coco Llamante (ph), Jose Bose (ph).

Now, these are people that many of you probably don't know. But, trust me, they're international superstars with together, probably 30, 40, 50 Grammies.

Juanes surprised the crowd with the shouts of "Cuba libre!" at one point. President Obama said the concert didn't hurt Cuban/American relations. So, he was kind of lukewarm on it.

Artists though insisted the show was about music and peace and not politics. Some Cuban-Americans are saying the artists showed support of Castro just by showing up, that you shouldn't do this, that you're helping the other side.

Soledad O'Brien was there. She files this report.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The concert was called Peace Without Borders and it came to a place that never sees concert of this magnitude, Havana, Cuba -- with a lineup of 15 international rock stars, superstars of Latin music like Olga Tanon and Miguel Bose, and, of course, Juanes.


O'BRIEN: The concert is the brainchild of Juanes, a 37-year- old Colombian rock star whose spans stretch across the world. He's won 17 Latin Grammys and today, won the affection of the Cuban people.

His aim, as Juanes has said over 2 1/2 months of planning this concert, is peace -- that, in spite of numerous logistical obstacles and even death threats.

JUANES, LATIN ROCK STAR: I can't believe it. It's just amazing. More than a million?

O'BRIEN: They said 1.2 million. That's what I've heard.

JUANES: And it's just, you know, amazing.

O'BRIEN: Is that success for you?

JUANES: Oh, it's more than that -- more than that. And when I saw all these beautiful faces of all people smiling and singing and -- that's it, you know? That's the only thing that matters.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Another goal? To help thaw U.S.-Cuba relations.

(on camera): What does that say to you then about opportunities down the road?

JUANES: You know -- I mean, at least culture and music-wise is changing. I mean, something is happening and this is a message for them, you know? Like, "Hey, guys, we are here." I mean, we want to be together. Please do something.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): Juanes sang with Cuban performers barred from the U.S., like Sylvia Rodriguez. But missing from this concert, well-known Cuban American performers, like Gloria Estefan and Willy Chirino, fierce critics of the Cuban government.

WILLY CHIRINO, CUBAN MUSICIAN: Pollution is going to win. You know, it's a system that's dying already, you know? And they're going to give oxygen...

JUANES: I hope, you know, in years to come, Willy or Gloria -- I mean, all of them can come to Cuba, their country, they are Cubans. And they have to come here sooner or later.

O'BRIEN (on camera): The concert was supposed to last four hours and it went much longer than that. Temperatures hit more than 90 degrees, but as you can see from the crowd around me, didn't faze most of the people. Occasionally, an ambulance would come through and take out someone who fainted from overheating. Juanes says just the sheer number of people like this concert a huge success, his next concert will be on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Reporting from Havana, Cuba, I'm Soledad O'Brien for CNN.


SANCHEZ: And we're getting a lot of comments, though, pro and con.

But watch this -- this is the situation we're dealing with today in Atlanta. Twenty inches of rain, three days. That's incredible. And it's led to scenes like this in different parts of Georgia and a lot of the cities surrounding the greater Atlanta area.

But next, who in the world would take a convicted killer on a field trip to the fair? The guy is criminally insane. I'm serious. And they take him to the fair. It gets better, because he got away. That story is coming up.


SANCHEZ: Listen to this story. It's coming out of Washington state. Like I said before, you can't make this stuff up.

He's behind bars now. But how this convicted killer got away from the people who were supposed to be guarding him is just, well -- it's insane. By the way, speaking of insane, the killer was criminally insane. I'm serious.

Police say that Phillip Paul who, by the way, confessed to killing and burning the body of a woman he thought was a witch back in 1987, escaped from his supervisors last Thursday during a visit to a county fair in Spokane, Washington.

Now, I have to ask -- who takes a schizophrenic confessed murderer to the county fair? But I digress. Not only did he get away with a backpack filled with clothes, he also had food and a $50 Social Security check. He'd also been telling a friend for months that he was scheduled to be released. So, was he planning this the whole time?

Police found him yesterday, more than 180 miles away. He also had a long sickle-like knife in his backpack -- a sickle-like knife -- when they finally found him. Shortly after the escape, state officials ordered a stop to all field trips. They ordered a stop to all field trips for forensic patients, duh!

Tell me what you think of this one on my blog at, by the way. And I can see that a lot of folks are already starting to pipe in on this one.

Also coming up, FOX News was in the news Friday. Now, they're in the news today as well. And when we come back, I promise, after the next commercial, I am going to tell you why.


SANCHEZ: When I said Friday that we covered the tea party rally in Washington, it was only because FOX News had taken out a full-page ad in "The Washington Post" telling millions of people that we didn't cover the rally -- and that was a lie. And lies should be exposed.

And here's something else that should be exposed. Real news organizations -- real news organizations -- are not supposed to stage events, nor should they promote news events, nor should they hype news events. Otherwise, they lose their ability to be impartial. They're no longer even remotely objective if they do that. Nor are they being fair and balanced. Case in point again, FOX News -- and that's where we begin "Fotos."


SANCHEZ: This is the pudgy-faced anchor, like me, who, by the way, is not a journalist, not like me, who has used his radio show to tell people to go to these rallies. This is the news reporter who says the protestors are, among other, doctors. But, wait, here's the best part. This is the producer who tells the crowd when to cheer at a rally. Watch as she raises her arms to get the crowd to hoop and howl on command at a news event -- keyword: news.

Now, for your viewing pleasure, here it is all together.


GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: FOX's Griff Jenkins is there now in Washington, D.C.

GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS REPORTER: They're old, they're young, they're black, they're white, they're male, they're female, they're farmers, they're miners, they're doctors.


SANCHEZ: And more. FOX News says the producer in question will be disciplined. As for my request that they apologize for lying about CNN not covering the story, still no apology, though a FOX executive did say I was a sucker. Not quite sure exactly what that means. But I'm still waiting for that apology.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you look on the right side of the plane, you're going to see a brush fire bearing down on the airport, what? Not your normal message from the pilot. But then again, this is not your normal airport scene either.

This is what was going on in Bolivia as planes were coming and going. Firefighters worked to make sure the airport didn't shut down even amid fires. Can you say, landing fees?

All right. This is what 20 inches of rain in three days looks like in parts of greater Atlanta today. Cars underwater, schools closed, freeways at least in part shut down -- not the entire city, obviously. But in low-lying areas, people actually had to be rescued by boat.

The good news about Atlanta is the hills make it beautiful. The bad news about Atlanta, the rains make those hills prone to flash flooding, proving once again you can't have everything.


SANCHEZ: All right. When we come back, we're going to be talking more about that situation going on in Atlanta. And we're also going to have the very latest on what's going on outside. And then there's the comment that was made about the president of the United States when he made a comment about the governor of New York, which is being made by the leader of the Republican Party. Put all three of those together.

We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Sometimes we forget because we live here, but, you know, Atlanta, Georgia, is one of the biggest cities in the United States, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. When suddenly you wake up in a city like this or surrounding area -- greater Atlanta, we should say -- look at this. I mean, look what happened in Atlanta today. And, you know, it's not like a hurricane. It's not like a -- it's not like a crisis or an event that just comes at you really fast.

Chad Myers is joining us now. What's going on here, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Look at that. It's like a land-o-cane (ph). It's not a hurricane because it stayed over land. Seven days it's been here, Rick. I've got mushrooms in my yard and I'm thinking, "Oh, wow, look at the rain, look at how wet it is." And all of a sudden, last night, we got eight to 10 inches of rainfall in 12 hours -- and boom!

SANCHEZ: Is this a flash flood or that the ground was so saturated it couldn't handle anymore?

MYERS: Both.


MYERS: Yes. Yes is the answer. The ground was so wet that there's no place for it to go. Plus, you're in Atlanta, we're talking a lot of concrete.


MYERS: Look at all of that. Just runs off and goes some place else, goes into the sewers, the sewers come up, water comes up, and it has been a mess, especially west and northeast of Atlanta proper. But there's a wiper blade going there on that.

I just got an e-mail from my producer out on the deck where we park our cars. There's six inches of rain on the deck right now where our cars are sitting.

SANCHEZ: And most of us who, like, I come from Miami. We don't get this kind of thing in Miami. We get a hurricane. It can rain for days, but I guess because it's flat. This idea because it's a hilly area, water can collect in places, right?

MYERS: You ever try to plant anything in Miami?


MYERS: You never dug in your soil? You know what that soil is made of?

SANCHEZ: It's sandy.

MYERS: It's sand.


MYERS: The water goes right through.


MYERS: Right down to the aquifer. All we've got here in Georgia is clay. Clay doesn't allow any water to go through. It all runs off.

SANCHEZ: So, there's no seepage.

MYERS: There's no seepage. There's not the seepage (INAUDIBLE).

SANCHEZ: How bad was it today, man?

MYERS: It was bad because people weren't able to get out. Pope High School, well, just listen to this...


MYERS: Up on 11Alive, one of our affiliates, Pope High School surrounded by water right now.

SANCHEZ: They can't let the kids out of school?

MYERS: No. They can't get the buses in or out. They can't let the parents in or out. They don't know what they are going to do yet.

SANCHEZ: Well, I don't know why they even let the kids go to school though. You know, I heard on my way in today that all -- many of the schools in certain areas like Douglasville, for example, out west are closed. They didn't want the kids going to close.

MYERS: I think they have had 20 inches of rain. I mean, those -- there are bridges that are missing in Douglasville. So, of course, they are not going to have school there. Most of the areas that I know that were in trouble today with the rainfall that came through in the past three hours wasn't that bad this morning, and the superintendent was like, yes, OK, we're OK. We know it's best west of here, but it's not that bad here. And all of a sudden, another big storm went through today.

SANCHEZ: And we're sorry to report that two people have lost their lives as a result of this thing, and we'll keep watching this.

MYERS: And more than that missing.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, Chad. Good stuff.

MYERS: Sure.

SANCHEZ: When we come back, we're going to be talking about the very latest with what's going on in Washington. Also, Wolf Blitzer is standing by with "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Is Wolf going to join us today? Is he there? After the break. Thank you, Chris.

And a Democratic president, a Democratic governor, why would Barack Obama not want David Paterson to run for re-election in New York? That's the question. I'll pose it next.


SANCHEZ: Let me fire up the Twitter board, because I know a lot of folks are going to wanting to get in on this. Patricia Murphy is here. Yay! And guess who's in New York today? The president of the United States.

Guess what else is going on in New York today? A controversy about the president of the United States whose aides reportedly are leaning on the state's unpopular governor, David Paterson, to just go away. Not run for re-election. That's the White House putting pressure on the governor of New York. Doesn't seem right, right? But it appears that they are scared that he's going to lose, and by doing so he could drag down other Democrats.

Now, you've got to look hard, but we've got some pictures here I want to show you. Let's take a look at this. You can see the president of the United States there. He's being greeted today at the airport by city leaders, none other than David Paterson, who is right there behind the president in the shot, and they have a little conversation -- one we all just love to be privy to because there seems to be, well, there has to be a little bit of bad blood going on there. This is intriguing on multiple levels.

Patricia, not the least of which is that both men are African- American, but also because Republican chairman, Michael Steele, also an African-American is going so far as to suggest that the president of the United States -- stay with me here, everybody -- that the president of the United States is racist for wanting Paterson out of the picture. Michael Steele is saying this. Let's -- let's listen to that, again.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: I found that to be stunning, that the White House would send word to one of only two black governors in the country not to run for re-election and just raised a curious point for me. I think Paterson -- Governor Paterson's numbers are about the same as Governor Corzine's number. Yet the president was with Governor Corzine, and I don't know if there's been a request made of Governor Corzine to step down in New Jersey.


SANCHEZ: Patricia, how are you?


SANCHEZ: I always call you Murph.

MURPHY: My parents love it.



MURPHY: Everybody else doesn't know why you do that.

SANCHEZ: Why is he calling her that? Because you and I are friends and we happen to be colleagues.

MURPHY: We are friends.

SANCHEZ: So much to talk about here.

MURPHY: So much, my gosh.

SANCHEZ: I want to start with Michael Steele. I listen to Michael Steele for hours on end on my drive into work in the morning on the radio. He hosts Bill Bennett's show. Bennett's got this great show in the morning called "Morning in America." It's a good show. I like listening to it because I love politics and I like Bennett.

But when he fills in for Bennett, he comes across on the radio as a guy who just can't stand this president. Even in fact sounding -- I don't know, I'm just going to throw this out, as you always say, "I'm just saying" -- he almost sounds resentful sometimes, like a little jealous. And here he is pounding the guy again. What do you make of this Steele/Obama thing?

MURPHY: I think Michael Steele on this issue is exactly wrong. I think that the reason the White House wants David Paterson out of that seat is not because he's black or white but because he is losing, and he is going to lose, and this is about power. It's not about race, and in Washington, power trumps everything else.

SANCHEZ: Well, you don't think when Michael -- I'm going to press you on this, all right?


SANCHEZ: I'm going to force you to answer this.

MURPHY: OK. I'm not evading, let's go.

SANCHEZ: No. But forget that we're going to talk about that.


SANCHEZ: Because there's all kinds of issues there, and it's probably more of a Rahm Emanuel thing than it is an Obama thing, by the way.


SANCHEZ: But when I hear Michael Steele agreeing with viewers in the morning -- listeners I should say -- that the president is, for example, dangerous, that this is the president that is ruining the United States of America, when he pokes fun of him, when he does gags about him, he's the head of the Republican Party. I know it's a talk show and I may be the guy who is listening to it over here at CNN and maybe other people aren't, but it's -- that's not right, is it?

MURPHY: His job as the head of the Republican Party is to take shots at the president, it is to push back against the Democratic message machine that the Democrats have with the White House bully pulpit. That's his job.

Sometimes he's really ham-handed about it. He tries to be very folksy. Sometimes, it works very well for him. Sometimes, it just falls totally flat.

On this one, I don't think it's folksy or not folksy. I just think it's just completely wrong. It's just not -- it's just not right. It's just totally wrong.

SANCHEZ: Well, one other thing on that. You know, I just got a tweet from somebody, it probably takes me too long to find it. I could try, Robert, but I bet I won't be able to.

Anyway, I'll just tell it to you...


SANCHEZ: ... because I was reading it during the break and what they are suggesting is, that if the shoe were turned and if it was the Democrats crying racism, that they'd be getting a lot of hell for this and that why should a Republican be crying racism in a case like this over what is a situation between three African-American men?

MURPHY: Yes. Well, listen, Michael Steele does not really care about the feelings of David Paterson or how David Paterson is being treated. I mean, we should just be honest about that. He wants that seat -- he wants that seat for Republicans. He's going to do anything he can to bring discredit to the person in the seat -- who is Paterson -- and to the president who is trying to get him out of there.

But I want to point out here -- the Republicans are both saying that Barack Obama hates white people and that he hates black people. I don't know...


SANCHEZ: That makes perfect sense because he's half black and half white.

MURPHY: Sure. But I don't -- it doesn't make sense to me.

SANCHEZ: No. I'm being facetious.

MURPHY: The thing (ph) worked sometimes. And this just doesn't work because it's totally wrong. The White House cannot afford to lose that governorship. They are going to redistrict those seats right after the governorship and they can't afford it.

SANCHEZ: Well, let me press you on this...


SANCHEZ: ... because this is important, because we're down to like 30 seconds.


SANCHEZ: Are they right -- is this guy such a bad candidate that he would hurt congressional Democrats if he were on the same ballot, yea or nay?

MURPHY: I will tell you -- I'm saying yes, and I'll tell you, it's because his poll numbers right now are worse than Eliot Spitzer's.


MURPHY: Worse than Eliot Spitzer's and it's not just congressional Democrats. It's that state Senate that will be in charge of redistricting. That has a narrow Democratic lead. They could lose that to Republicans. Republicans draw the lines next time around.

SANCHEZ: Murph, stay with me, OK?


SANCHEZ: I'm going to "THE SITUATION ROOM." Here is the Wolfster -- Mr. Blitzer. Take it away.