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CNN BREAKING NEWS
The Killing of Osama bin Laden is Announced
Aired May 1, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
We have a bit of breaking news to tell you about. It involves the president of the United States. We're being told by a White House official that the president will make a statement at 10:30.
President Barack Obama will make a statement at 10:30. But the official did not say what that statement would be about. Again, this is very unusual to happen at 10:30 on a Sunday night. We don't know what the information is, but we're being told, CNN is being told by a White House official that the president will speak at 10:30, make a live statement, and CNN will carry it live.
And as soon as we get more information about exactly what the president is speaking on, we're going to bring it to you live, so don't go anywhere. At the bottom of the hour, President Barack Obama making a live statement.
We have other breaking news to tell you about tonight as well. This time it's out of Missouri. An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court has failed to stop a proposal to blow up a major levee. That might save the town of Cairo, Illinois, but it would flood thousands and thousands of acres of Missouri farmland.
The decision to blast a two-mile hole in the levee now rests with the Army Corps of Engineers. And CNN Susan Candiotti joins us now.
Susan, what does this mean?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means that if, in fact, they move forward with the plan to blow up this levee, then there's going to be a lot of land flooded, as was expected, in an area of Missouri here. It's an area where the Ohio and the Mississippi river comes to a confluence.
So at this hour tonight, I can tell you that the governor of Missouri was not expecting that the Supreme Court would give him a favorable decision to hold of on plans to move forward blowing this levee up. Because he says at this point we know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer is moving forward with plans to pull off this plan even though they haven't said for sure that they're going to do it. But he said he wants to make sure that everyone has evacuated the farmland in question, in particular, to make sure that no one gets back in, and to make sure that they're ready, that this is going to happen, to make that plan go forward.
And so at this hour, we know that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is going ahead and beginning to place liquid explosives called slurry into pipes, set along this levee. And then they would be ready to have those explosives in place.
They've moved barges up up against that levee. And if they go forward with the plan, it would blow up about ten miles' worth of this. It would ease all this water that is pent up. And in essence, would save this town of Cairo, Illinois. That's on the north side of this levee.
So people are getting prepared as though this is going to move forward. As you said, the town of Cairo has cleared out its 3,000 or so residents. And, in fact, the levee is just a bit behind us about maybe a quarter of a mile back there. Too dark to see any of this taking place. And for now we don't know if we'll be able to get close enough to see it happen.
But, again, Don, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not said for sure that they're going to move forward with this plan. And if so, when it's going to be. But everyone is ready as though it is going to happen.
LEMON: All right, Susan Candiotti with our breaking news.
It is a tough decision for everyone involved. Susan, thank you very much.
You know, the images and the stories from this week's deadly tornadoes unfathomable. And all across the south, Sunday's services were devoted to remembering the victims. The death toll from the storms now stands at 339. Thousands more are injured, missing or homeless.
Alabama declared a day of prayer for the victims. The state suffered the greatest loss of life at 250 people dead.
And senior administration officials went to Mississippi and Alabama for a firsthand look at the destruction and to offer assurances of federal aid.
Tonight CNN's Martin Savidge is in Smithville, Mississippi. The town took a direct hit from an EF-5 tornado, the most powerful and destructive.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These are busy days at the Smithville Cemetery. The tornado killed 15 people in this town of 900. And Liza Morgan knows them all. The living and the dead. Like Elvin and Laverne Patterson.
LIZA MORGAN, TORNADO VICTIM: The Pattersons. Their grandson and I went to school together. And now I coach their daughter in softball. And they'll be greatly missed. They were a special, special couple.
SAVIDGE: Liza and her father own and care for the cemetery. It's the only business in town still in business.
MORGAN: They've been hard days for all of us. The school is gone. Our church is gone. There's nothing.
SAVIDGE: At the Smithville Baptist Church under a canvas ceiling in a parking lot, the congregation ignored the ruins around them and celebrated.
WES WHITE, PASTOR: Oh, thank you, Jesus.
SAVIDGE: Pastor Wes White took shelter in the basement. A minute later, he and others emerged to find their town forever changed.
WHITE: We stumble together, confused and wondering what's happening. And the horror of realizing so many we love were moments away and we're suffering and we're dying.
SAVIDGE: Elsewhere, survivors and volunteers picked through what little remained of the town struck by the ferocity of an F-5 tornado, the most powerful there is. Even members of President Obama's cabinet touring the storm-devastated south took note of Smithville's grief.
JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I understand that a number of people lost their lives and that indeed there are two having their services this afternoon. The procession may, in fact, go by while we're having this little press availability. And that, too, reminds us of the severity of this storm and the toll that Mother Nature has taken.
SAVIDGE: When that procession did go by, people lined the highway to pay their respects as two hearses wound their way to the Smithville Cemetery.
There the bodies of husband and wife were laid to rest amid the shattered remnants of a small town left devastated in so many ways.
LEMON: CNN's Martin Savidge joins us now live from Smithville.
Martin, what are plans for getting back to normal, trying to get some recovery there?
SAVIDGE: Well, they are in the process of trying to figure out exactly what their plans are. I mean, many have raised the question if there's so much devastation here, would you really be rebuilding? Should you rebuild?
I talked to Mel's Diner. It's just off camera here. It was a fixture in this town. It's totally gone. But they say they will rebuild.
This is the post office, what used to be the post office. There's actually somebody inside the building there. They survived. This post office right now is temporarily located down in Amery, which is just down the road.
But everybody we've talked to here says despite what you see, despite everything that's lost and every business is lost, they will rebuild. They won't say exactly how they're going to rebuild. And right now a lot of that is probably wishful thinking, but they say they will rebuild their homes, they will rebuild their businesses and this town will stay right where it is. But saying that and doing that are two very different things. And there is a long, long, difficult and expensive road that still lies ahead.
LEMON: Martin Savidge in Smithville, Mississippi.
Martin, thank you very much for your reporting.
And as you may remember, the president was there in Alabama on Friday visiting the storm-ravaged victims and saying, this is the most devastation. He's never seen devastation like this.
And I mention that because our breaking news at the top of the show is that President Barack Obama, we're hearing from an administration official, will come out as early as 10:30. It could happen as early as 10:30 to make a statement, a live televised statement.
They didn't say what it was about, so we're awaiting the president of the United States. And, again, on a Sunday night at 10:30, very unusual.
Make sure you stay with us for that.
Also, Donald Trump, successful businessman, potential presidential candidate. The leader of a crusade to try to prove President Obama wasn't born in the U.S. He was the brunt of numerous jokes Saturday night at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, and he was there in the audience.
And earlier tonight, I talked to him live here on CNN. My conversation with him in its entirety straight ahead.
But, first, last night at this time, we were following breaking news from Libya. A NATO air strike that killed one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons. Tonight the fallout as government forces retaliate.
And many of you have been asking for information on social media. You can reach out to us on Twitter, on Facebook. CNN.com/Don and on FourSquare.com.
LEMON: We have now live pictures of the White House. This is our breaking news here on CNN.
CNN received word moments ago that the president will make a live statement, a live televised statement, and it could happen as early as 10:30. That official who gave us that information did not say what the subject matter is that the president will be speaking about, but CNN will carry it for you live. Breaking news here on CNN. Moammar Gadhafi is firing back. Libyan forces opened fire today on the rebel-held city of Misrata, the heaviest shelling seen in weeks. In Tripoli, groups described as organized mobs ransacked empty embassies belonging to the U.S. and several other countries.
The attacks followed Saturday's news that NATO air strikes killed a son of Gadhafi and three of the Libyan leader's grand children.
The Libyan government says Seif al-Arab Gadhafi died in that air strike. A funeral is planned for Monday. Moammar Gadhafi was reportedly in the building, but the government spokesman says he did survive.
CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has been investigating Saturday's NATO air strike. She has more on the target and the strategy behind the attack now.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Don, NATO officials tell CNN their aircraft dropped four bombs on this building, punching through concrete and steel, exposing an underground bunker, now covered up by Libyan forces who let the news media tour the site after the attack. One of the bombs, a bunker buster failed to detonate, but NATO insists the targeting was precise.
Libya says now that this was simply just a small house on a compound in a residential neighborhood. NATO says it was a key strategic target, a command and control site, one of many that NATO is continuing to attack in an effort to separate Moammar Gadhafi from his military and security forces. All part of the attempt to keep him from being able to order attacks against civilians.
Now, there's many of these types of targets across Tripoli that NATO is continuing to strike. Essentially, these are dual-purpose sites, residential and military facilities located together. But NATO and the Obama administration insist nobody's trying to kill Moammar Gadhafi or his family. Individuals are not being targeted, they say, but these officials also say that the Gadhafis know full well if they are inside these types of buildings, they are at risk.
LEMON: Barbara, thank you for that.
That's the sounds of celebrations in Benghazi. This is how people in the opposition capital reacted when word came that a son of Moammar Gadhafi had been killed. Gun fire, car horns, fireworks, you name it. Hundreds gathered in the square in Benghazi to celebrate that news.
We want to show you our breaking news here on CNN. You're looking at live pictures of the White House. We're awaiting the president at any moment. It could happen as soon as 10:30. We're being told by a White House official that the president will come out and make a live televised statement. Don't know what the subject matter is, but we'll carry it for you live here on CNN.
You know, it's one of the few times a year when the stuff we're hearing out of Washington is actually supposed to be funny. But one guest at the White House Correspondents' Dinner wasn't chuckling at all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SETH MEYERS, COMEDIAN: Donald Trump said recently he had a great relationship with the blacks, unless the blacks are a family of white people, I bet he's mistaken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Up next, Donald Trump fires back in an interview with me.
LEMON: Breaking news here on CNN.
As we look at live pictures of the White House, CNN has been informed that the president will make a live televised statement as early as 10:30. We do have a bit more information now, that it is national security-related.
Again, the president will speak soon, making a live televised statement. It has something to do with national security. We'll bring it to you live here on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEYERS: Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican which is surprising since I just assumed he was running as a joke.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Well, Donald Trump didn't look too thrilled there, did he? Earlier he called in to talk with me about being the butt of several jokes last night at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner. And the conversation didn't stop there. I want you to take a listen.
DONALD TRUMP, POSSIBLE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (via telephone): Actually, I thought the President's performance was much better. I thought that Seth had a hard time getting the words out, marbles in his mouth. He had a hard time with his speech. But, you know, I hosted "Saturday Night Live" and I understand Seth and I never got him.
But his presentation was very poor and he got some pretty poor marks. I thought the President actually did much better. I mean, the presentation certainly was a lot better.
LEMON: So you didn't really like his jokes. I understand that you thought they were too personal and they weren't political. TRUMP: Well, they were pretty personal, but, you know, I expected that I was going to be zinged. People really weren't sure -- were they going to mention me at all or they're going to mention me a little bit. Nobody had any idea that it would take up a majority of their -- both speeches.
LEMON: Oh, come on, Donald, you knew they were going to mention you. You had to have known that.
TRUMP: Well, I didn't actually. Don, I actually didn't know that. It was very interesting.
LEMON: All right.
TRUMP: I came in and a lot of the reporters were screaming thinking, do you think they will mention you or do you think they'll mention you a lot? And I really had no idea.
I certainly as it turned out, I certainly wouldn't have thought they would have mentioned me as much as they did. But hey, look, it is my honor. I understand it. It was a lions' pit. I was walking into it. I have been there before. And, you know, I thought it was an entertaining evening.
LEMON: I have to say this because, you know, I watched last night, Donald, but -- and I also watched the Comedy Central Roast of you. I was wondering why you weren't laughing because last night those jokes were pretty tame compared to the recent Comedy Central roast.
Let's listen to a little bit of it then we'll talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Donald, as long as I have you here, it is pronounced huge not uge. And here's another one: it is pronounced "I am (EXPLETIVE DELETED) delusional" not "I am running for president."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: OK. So at the end there we saw you laughing, it is almost the same joke that we showed you from Seth Meyers. Some people may have been watching last night and wondering where your sense of humor went.
TRUMP: Well, you know, interestingly, the Comedy Central which was a tremendous success for them and for me because I raised a lot of money for charity, they paid me a lot, which I have given to charity, so therefore I could laugh a little bit more.
I just felt -- I actually felt some of what the President said was pretty good. I thought the picture of the White House was funny. That actually got the biggest laugh of the evening. And I thought that was quite funny, myself.
I just thought that Seth's presentation was very poor, but I'm sure he's going to work on that.
LEMON: OK. So, listen, I want to -- I've been wanting talk to you about this. And I know that you say the media keeps asking you this question, but I have to ask you this.
This is my whole thing. A lot of people say about this birther issue, the birth certificate, the question is why do you care so much? Can you retroactively go back and unmake Barack Obama the President?
TRUMP: Well, Don, it is not me that cared; it was a lot of people. And I was very proud of the fact that I was able to get him to get this birth certificate because if you look, Hillary and Bill Clinton couldn't get him to do it. The McCain campaign worked very hard on it. They couldn't get him to do it.
TRUMP: Don, I think what is important for people to know is that my strength is jobs, the economy, making sure that China and OPEC and all of these countries that are laughing at us and ripping us off, they won't be doing it, believe me, if they have to deal with me. And this country can be rich again, it can be great again, but it is not going to be with this administration.
LEMON: OK. Let me ask you this, I have to jump in here.
TRUMP: Now you bring up, Don -- even now you bring up the birther. Let's get off that.
LEMON: Hang on. Hang on. In that comment of what you just said, it sounds like you are running for president. Are you running for president?
TRUMP: Well, I'm giving very, very serious thought. As you know right now, I'm not allowed to say that because I have a major show on -- a very successful show, but I will be announcing some time prior to June. I think a lot of people are going to be very, very happy with my announcement.
LEMON: And I just -- from your discussion of what you have been saying, it sounds like when you say things like that that you are definitely running for president.
Yes, we bring up that issue of the birth certificate, Mr. Trump, because people want to know why you care so much. And you realize, you realize this, that this whole issue about what exactly natural born is has never been challenged in court, so we don't even know if it would apply to President Obama if he wasn't born here. It wasn't even litigated when John McCain wasn't born in the United States and was born in Panama. So that's why people are wondering why you care so much.
TRUMP: 75 percent of the Republican Party and lots of other people thought that there was a good chance that he wasn't born here.
I want to really get on to the most important subjects, which are jobs, which are, by the way, your gasoline is going to be costing you $5 a gallon, $6 and $7. And the problem I have had, Don, is that every time I go into a show, the first thing -- instead of talking about my strength, which is exactly that, and dealing with people so we become a rich country again, every time I go on they start talking about the birther issue.
And interestingly, I just watched David Axelrod on television, and he almost wasn't blaming me. He said, you know, it's not just Trump, the press kept asking the question. That's why it came to the forefront.
LEMON: I saw it that Mr. Trump. I saw that, Mr. Trump. And you know what, he brought up another issue that I would love to talk to you about.
Well, as it turned out, Trump said that he couldn't stay over the break, but I did get him to respond to those allegations of racism. And you'll hear the rest of that right after the break.
And also we want to tell you the breaking news here on CNN. We're awaiting the president. President Barack Obama expected to make a statement at any moment regarding national security. It could happen as early as 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We'll carry it for you live on CNN.
More of our breaking news after the break.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
LEMON: And the breaking news here on CNN tonight. We're awaiting President Obama to speak soon. We're told he's going to do it as early as the bottom of the hour, 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and that his address will be about national security.
I want to bring in my colleague now in Washington, CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
He's been working his sources.
Wolf, though, very unusual at 10:30 p.m. Eastern on a Saturday night for the president to come out.
WOLD BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is an extraordinary development, I must say, Don. I've covered Washington, as you know, for a long time. For the president, for the White House to make an announcement that the president will address the nation, indeed the world, in the coming minutes and make a very important announcement, it's extraordinary what's going on.
I'm told by sources, it is a national security issue. It is not, repeat, not an issue involving Libya. It's an issue involving another important part of the world, critically important for the United States given the fact that it would justify the president alerting all of us personally at this moment.
It's not going to be a White House press secretary. It's not going to be a senior administration official. It's going to be the president addressing the nation from the East Room at the White House.
We could only speculate on what that might be. I have my own gut instincts on what it might be, but I'll wait to hear from the president unless sources come forward and tell me in advance.
Originally it was going to be as early as 10:30, which would be in two minutes or so from now, but it could be pushed back a little bit maybe closer to 10:40 p.m., 10:45 p.m. Eastern, I'm now told. They're getting ready. They're getting all their ducks in a row right now to alert the world to a major national security development, one that justifies the president of the United States coming forward and speaking to the nation.
Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is standing by as well. I don't know if you have more information, Ed.
What are you learning?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just spoke to a senior administration official who basically said I cannot get specific about the topic, but when I asked, the person basically said just come in.
As you said, on a Sunday night for the president of the United States to make some sort of a statement that is unexpected, that is last minute, that is unplanned is extraordinary. It tells you that it is something of an extremely high magnitude. I don't want to speculate. This senior administration official would not speculate but did then add that it was national security related, as you just reported, Wolf.
So obviously, we don't want to speculate on the range of possibilities, but it's clearly something of an extremely important matter for the president to get involved this late on a Sunday night, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. I've been told now by two sources at the White House, it certainly justifies all of the major news organizations gearing up for what will be a dramatic announcement by the president of the United States.
Like you, I was home, you were home. We both came in to get to work, to work our sources, to find out what's going on. We'll know soon enough, probably within the next 15 minutes or so, what is going on. But it certainly justifies our coming in. It justifies people standing by and hearing what's going on right now.
Don Lemon is watching all of this. I don't know if you're getting more information, Don. But I could tell you as someone who is covering Washington for a very long time, I think all of us should stay tuned and get ready for a dramatic announcement from the president.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And, Wolf, I agree with you 100 percent. And you said that you had been checking with your sources, and you had your idea about what you think it is. We're not going to speculate about it, but you said it's not going to be a spokesperson for the president. It is indeed going to be the president. Some indication about what it might be about, we know it's national security, is who's going to be in the room with him.
Do we know that? Do we know if he's alone? Is he coming with some sort of general? The secretary of defense? The secretary of state? Do we know anything like that?
BLITZER: The only thing I know is that senior officials are at the White House right now. I assume the president will not be alone. And I don't know that for sure. I do know it is not, and there's been a lot of speculation since this announcement was made that the president will address the nation at 10:30 p.m., which is now 10:30 p.m. It's slipping a little bit, maybe closer as I said to 10:45 p.m.
The only thing I know for sure, it is not something involving Libya, as has been widely speculated over the past 45 minutes or so, on other news organizations. Maybe it involves Moammar Gadhafi. As you know, his son, his youngest son, was reported killed yesterday in an airstrike. Three grandchildren were killed. A lot of speculation.
What about Gadhafi? I'm told definitively it is not anything to deal with Libya, not anything to deal with Gadhafi. It's something else. Now, what that could be, whether it involves something elsewhere in the Middle East, whether it involves something in another part of the world remains unclear.
And as I say, I have my suspicions. I suspect I know what's going on, but I don't want to speculate at this point until I'm 100 percent sure because it certainly is not something we want to do.
So we'll know soon enough, probably within the next 10 or 15 minutes once the president makes this dramatic announcement.
Full cameras, network pool cameras in the East Room, they're getting ready for this statement, Don.
LEMON: Wolf, it would sort of indicate that you're probably correct about that because when this strike hit Moammar Gadhafi's son and three of his grandchildren, the White House said they were letting NATO take the lead on that. So, if it's indeed about Libya, one would think that he would let the -- the president would let NATO take the lead on this one as well. So it seemed to indicate that you might be correct.
BLITZER: It not anything to do with Libya. And you're absolutely right, Don. If it were in fact let say, confirmation of Gadhafi, something happen to Gadhafi, NATO would take the lead. This is a NATO-led operation. I don't think the president of the United States would alert the world at this hour on a Sunday night of what's going on. And it's only been a handful of times that I recall when a president has done something like this, alerted the White House press office, alerting all the television networks, all the major news organizations, get ready.
I've been e-mailing with senior White House officials trying to find out what's going on. They all basically say the same thing, stay tuned. This is big. You'll hear it directly from the president. We're not going to upstage the president of the United States. The president has an important announcement to make to the world. Not only to the United States but to the world. And we'll see what it is soon enough.
So I think at this point let's see what it is and let the president address the nation. It's going to happen very, very soon.
LEMON: And Wolf, I did see a picture in our preview monitor here of the East Room as reporters and producers and camera people were getting ready for the president's speech. We've got the live picture of the White House up. But, again, they are getting ready in the East Room, as Wolf Blitzer said.
It should happen, first we heard as early as 10:30. And Wolf is saying probably pushed back to about 10:45. Also our Ed Henry, who is our chief White House correspondent, is available as well.
And, Wolf, as you know, the worldwide resources of CNN, we've got everyone on top of this. And we're going to carry it live.
But, again, I'd have to say, Ed, you're sitting here listening to Wolf and I. And it is unusual. Wolf says he can only remember a number, just a few times, that this has happened in history since he's been covering politics.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Don. I mean, on a Sunday evening and, in fact, there is something called a lid where a traveling press corps with the president, the pool, he had been out playing golf early this morning, and then they called a lid meaning he was not going to do anymore movement, he's not making any speeches, there's no statements. Basically, the press corps could go home because he was going to stay in the White House and not do anything tonight.
All of a sudden, a couple hours ago, that travel pool was called back from home and said get into the White House as soon as you can. The president's making a statement as early as 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time here on a Sunday evening. To say that this is dramatic would be a big, big understatement.
And again, I spoke to a senior administration official as I was trying to sort this out and rushing over here to the White House, and this official just said just get in.
LEMON: Yes. Listen, I want to update our viewers. Our Wolf Blitzer is there. He's getting information. You could see him. He's on his computer, on his BlackBerry. He has been working his sources. And I want to welcome our viewers from around the world, our international viewers as well. The breaking news here on CNN tonight, on CNN tonight, is that President Barack Obama, the U.S. president, will make a statement very shortly. That statement will be about national security.
As we look at live pictures of the White House now, the president, according to our Wolf Blitzer, will do that in the East Room where they are setting up for that live statement now. Wolf Blitzer joins us, as well as Ed Henry.
Wolf, I'm not sure if you have any information. I see you working your sources there. What do you know so far?
BLITZER: Well, I'm just been told by a senior White House official that we at CNN have been very responsible in our reporting so far. They deeply appreciate the restraint that we have that we're showing right now, that we're not speculating. Other news organizations are wildly speculating right now.
We do know -- and I just want to repeat for our international viewers who are joining us right now, not only here in the United States, but around the world -- this is what we know.
About an hour or so ago, the president's White House press secretary informed the major news organizations, the television networks, the cable networks, that the president would make a statement to the nation, indeed to the world, at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
It's now 10:36 p.m. Eastern. I've been told a little while ago this statement will probably slip to around 10:45 p.m. Eastern. The president will go into the East Room of the White House, and he will then make his announcement. He will make his statement. We're told "a," it will be a statement involving national security, not domestic matters, not economic issues. It will be a statement involving national security.
I am also told privately by White House officials it will not, repeat, not be anything involving Libya. There had been wild speculation over the past hour or so that the president was calling this statement -- was making the statement, would make some sort of announcement about Moammar Gadhafi or Libya. That is not in the cards right now.
It is something involving another critically important part of the world to the United States, something that would justify not a senior administration official, not a White House press secretary, not a State Department official or a Pentagon official making some sort of statement, releasing a written document, but it is something that important that the president of the United States on a Sunday evening, late Sunday evening here on the East Coast of the United States, is going to go into the East Room of the White House and address the nation and indeed address the world.
So, I don't think we can overemphasize how significant this statement is about to be, Don. This is a statement that will be very important. And I assume we'll be digesting it for some time as we hear from the president of the United States.
As I say, I have my own suspicions on what the president is going to announce. Probably something we've been looking forward to, at least from the U.S. perspective for quite a while, but we'll soon find out. Let's not get carried away. We'll soon find out. Once we know for sure what the announcement is, our viewers will know at the same time we know.
If we get it earlier, we'll, of course, let them, what we suspect the president will say, if we have it definitively. As I say, we're not going to just speculate. We're not just going to guess. One source on a story like this, Don, is not enough. You need multiple sources in order to go with it. And we'll wait and we'll see. The world will know very, very soon.
LEMON: Yes. Wolf, thank you for that. And stand by, Wolf Blitzer.
Again, let's update our viewers here.
You're watching breaking news on CNN. I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
I want to welcome our international viewers, all you viewers from around the world.
We've gotten word from a White House official that the U.S. president, Barack Obama, is to make a statement very shortly about national security.
Our Wolf Blitzer is here as well as our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry.
Ed, do you usually travel with the president, and you said you got word for everyone to come back and get to work because there is going to be a major announcement.
HENRY: That's right, Don. Basically, the press corps had been told, the president not going to be doing anything else for the rest of the day. He had been up late last night at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Played some golf early this morning with some staffers, and was basically taking the rest of the day off.
Just over an hour ago, the press corps was called back to the White House. They said the president is making some sort of a statement as early as 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
As, Wolf, said, that's obviously slip now. All kinds of speculation is obviously flying around. We're trying to be as careful and cautious as possible. But one senior administration official told me, as Wolf has reported as well, that it is national security related.
This official said, "I can't go any further, but just come in." Basically, come into the office. You're going to want to be here for the president's statement.
They are trying to underline that that this is going to be an extremely dramatic statement, Don.
LEMON: And, Ed, I do have to say, it's been a very busy week for the president. He's been down south twice to visit the storm victims, and also Gabrielle Giffords and her husband who was supposed to lead the "Endeavour" mission into space, but it was delayed.
And as you said, and as Wolf Blitzer has pointed out so keenly here, one would think -- people have been speculating about this -- you might draw some conclusion to the air strikes yesterday in Libya that killed Moammar Gadhafi's son and his three grandchildren. But we can't speculate about that now. Can we, Ed?
HENRY: No, we can't. I mean, Wolf is reporting that he has, from at least one official, that it is not Libya-related, this particular statement. But you're right to underscore that there is a lot happening around the world right now.
And while we talk a lot about the economy and all these important domestic issues, there are a lot of critical national security issues that are intensifying all around the world, particularly in the Mid- East and North Africa, but beyond just Libya. And this president has to stay on top of it around the clock literally now almost at 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on a Sunday evening, Don.
LEMON: Yes. It's 10:41 Eastern Time here in the United States, Ed.
Our Wolf Blitzer is working his sources. He's also here with us in Washington as well. And we are looking at the monitors.
Don, let me interrupt for a moment.
LEMON: Go ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: I'm told now, it's slipping a little bit further, the statement is going to be made closer to 10:50 p.m. Eastern, in about nine minutes or so from now as opposed to 10:45. Probably closer to 10:50 p.m.
I'm also told it's in part designed because the White House and the president, they are informing others, key people here in Washington, and indeed around the world in advance about what's going on.
So, they're letting it slip a little bit, but I'm guessing within the next eight or nine minutes, the president will address the nation from the East Room of the White House and let us know precisely what has happened. And we'll hear it from the president directly.
LEMON: Yes. And you said, Wolf, that because of this, because of the importance of what the president is going to announce, that they want to have everything in order.
BLITZER: Yes. You know, this is something, and without sharing what I suspect, and I say I suspect because I don't know 100 percent, but what I suspect is going to announce, this is something that's been in the works for obviously a long, long time. And it's something that the American people and indeed the world will want to hear directly from the president of the United States.
So I don't want to speculate too much about what probably the president is getting ready to announce. But it's a very, very important development right now. And it's something that will generate a lot, a lot of reaction, understandably so.
LEMON: And Wolf, I know you're working your sources. I'm sure your BlackBerry is going crazy there. So we're going to let you work your sources for a little bit.
And I'm going to bring Ed Henry back in for a moment.
So, Ed, again, he is part of the White House Press Corps, travels with the president, and he is getting information as well.
If you listen to our Wolf Blitzer and then you sort of read between the lines and you see the e-mails of what they're saying, national security related, you know, at 10:30 on a Sunday night in Washington, the president going to the East Room, he's not going to the press briefing room. It's not going to be someone giving a statement for him. But Ed, before that, I want to bring in CNN's John King. He's the host of "J.K. USA."
John King, what do you know?
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Don, CNN is told by several sources now that the president of the United States will announce in just moments that the United States has the body of Osama bin Laden. That Osama bin Laden has been killed. That the United States is convinced that it has the body of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, the architect of al Qaeda.
We don't know the details. We don't know how this came about. But we are told now by several sources, administration sources and congressional sources, that the administration is now telling senior members of Congress and telling others that it believes it now has -- it is convinced it now has the body of Osama bin Laden. He has been killed. We don't know the details of how that happened. But that is the dramatic announcement the president will make.
And Don, just think of what this means.
LEMON: Almost 10 years since the 9/11 attacks. More than that since Osama bin Laden has been the head of al Qaeda. The president of the United States is to walk into the briefing room on a Sunday night and tell the nation after all this waiting, all this heartache, all this search, all this failure, that the United States government is now convinced that it has the body of Osama bin Laden, and Osama bin Laden is dead almost 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.
And Wolf Blitzer, we covered the White House for a long time together. You know just what this means. You know what a figure Osama bin Laden has become. A nefarious figure around the world, not just the United States. The president of the United States, Barack Obama, about to walk into the United States briefing room and say that the United States is now certain, certain, Osama bin Laden has been killed, and his body has been identified.
BLITZER: And I must say, John, the top officials at the White House are now briefing the top leadership of the House and the Senate, the intelligence committee members and others on precisely what has happened, how this unfolded. We'll get all the specifics from the president probably in the next five or ten minutes or so. Maybe within five minutes. We'll hear directly from the president. Bin Laden is dead. The United States has the body. All of that.
We've suspected that for the past hour or so, but we wanted to be very, very precise. This is something, as John King and as everybody else knows, something the U.S. has been trying to do for almost, almost 10 years. We're approaching the tenth anniversary of 9/11. It's been a huge, huge operation.
They were close in the first few months after 9/11 in Tora Bora, some other places, in Afghanistan, maybe in Pakistan. But now it has finally happened. All of that hard work finally has happened. Bin laden is dead.
We will find out who else is dead from the president of the United States when he addresses the nation.
John, all of our viewers here in the United States that were being simulcast on CNN International around the world, this is one of those moments that everyone will always remember where they were when they heard that bin Laden is dead.
HENRY: And Wolf, if you're in the United States, you remember where you were when 9/11 took place. You remember where you were when you first heard the name Osama bin Laden. For many Americans and many around the world, it was before 9/11, but he became the household name, the face of terrorism, the face of global terrorism, the face of al Qaeda on 9/11.
We are approaching the ten-year anniversary, and the United States so many times has said it is close to Osama bin Laden. Tora Bora. So many times it has said it has lost the precise location of Osama bin Laden. So many times has tried to say it's not about Osama bin Laden. It is about disintegrating, dismantling, splintering the al Qaeda network, but of course, it has always been about Osama bin Laden because of his personal role in the largest, most devastating terrorist attack against the United States of America in its history.
And tonight, Barack Obama, the president of the United States, will walk into the White House briefing room and deliver a statement that you know, of course, George W. Bush would have loved to have delivered during his presidency because he was the president on 9/11, that the United States has now confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden.
What does that mean? Does that mean al Qaeda disappears? Of course it does not. Al Qaeda has become a very different, a very splintered, a very fractured organization. You can find pieces of it in Yemen, pieces of it in Somalia, pieces of it still in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, pieces of it around the world.
But Osama bin Laden has been the singular face of global terrorism, an anti-American terrorism for 10 years now plus, Wolf. And for a president of the United States to walk into the White House briefing room, and you know the level of confirmation they would require for the president of the United States to walk in and tell the American people and to tell the world that Osama bin Laden is dead, and the United States has confirmed that, that is a huge development, a hugely significant development.
It does not erase al Qaeda from the face of the earth. But it does erase when the president makes that announcement from the face of the earth, the singular face, ask the people of New York City, ask the people who lost lives at the Pentagon, this has been the announcement they have been waiting for for nearly 10 long years, Wolf.
BLITZER: And let me be precise. That it's not just enough for the president of the United States to guess or for his top intelligence officials to tell them that bin Laden is dead. They actually needed the body. They needed to do a DNA sample, to make sure that the person that they suspected had been killed, bin Laden, was, in fact, bin Laden. They had DNA evidence of bin Laden.
They had been waiting for many, many years because this was a deliberate effort to go out and capture or kill bin Laden. And they wanted to make sure 100 percent that if they, in fact, suspected that bin Laden was killed one way or another directly through a precision- guided missile, through a predator drone or whatever method he was killed, they wanted to make sure that it was, in fact, bin Laden, it wasn't somebody else.
So they needed the body. They needed to do the DNA evidence. They had DNA from bin Laden, enough DNA, and obviously the physical -- the physical resemblance to bin Laden and the person who was killed to convince the president of the United States on this Sunday night, May 1st, 2011, the president of the United States would interrupt everyone's evening here on the East Coast throughout the United States, indeed throughout the world, go on national television, and alert all of us to this very, very historic and development.
It's almost 10:50. The latest information I was getting from my sources is it would probably, probably slip to around 10:50, but it's obviously slipping a little bit further.
John, because you and I understand the way Washington works, the president has to alert key members of Congress before he alerts everyone else. And some key members of Congress are alerting their staffs. Word is getting out. It has now gotten out rather thoroughly. Indeed, we're sharing it over the past several minutes with our viewers in the United States and around the world that bin Laden is dead.
And I don't think we could overemphasize how significant this is. I'll be listening, as you will and so many others, what about Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two al Qaeda leader? Was he with bin Laden? Is he still alive? What happens to him?
We might get more of those details, not just from the president, but in subsequent briefings from top national security officials at the White House.
It's one of those moments, and I remember a few years ago, it wasn't that long ago, John, you and I were covering when they announced that Saddam Hussein had been captured. He was later executed following a trial. But it's one of those moments that we will always, always remember.
KING: And Wolf, just go back and think of the sentence you just spoke. Bin laden is dead. Bin laden is dead. To the American people who have seen him as the face of global terrorism, the face of anti- American terrorism for the last decade or more, the sentence "Bin Laden is dead" speaks magnitudes.
George W. Bush said "dead or alive." Remember those days? George W. Bush said "dead or alive, we will get him."
There was the effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. There was the effort, the futile effort, the failed effort, in Tora Bora. And for the last ten years, we have asked our intelligence sources off and on, what's the latest? Have you heard any chatter? Do you know where he is? Is he in Waziristan? Is he in a cave somewhere? Is he in Afghanistan or Pakistan, somewhere in the neverland, the ungovernable neverland? Is he still in charge of al Qaeda?
And you ask such important questions, where is al-Zawahiri? How will al Qaeda survive after this? But he is the central leader. He has been the central unifying dramatic figure of al Qaeda for more than the last decade. And so this is a signature achievement. And the president of the United States would not walk into the White House briefing room late on a Sunday night to say bin Laden is dead unless the White House was absolutely certain that bin Laden is dead.
We don't know the next chapter of al Qaeda. We don't know. But we do know tonight that a signature chapter of the terrorism movement that has devastated the United States, whether we're talking about Kenya, whether we're talking about the "USS Cole," whether we're talking about the horrible 9/11.
I remember that day very sadly, fleeing the White House and watching what happened to Washington, and watching what happened to the United States of America on that day. We are closing a page, a chapter, of that moment tonight when the president walks into the briefing room moments from now and says "Bin Laden is dead." Just imagine the magnitude of that sentence. Osama bin laden is dead.
BLITZER: And here's something else, John, that we have to appreciate. What follows? Because Bin Laden, to most of the world, is a terrorist, a thug, a killer responsible for 9/11 and several other major terrorist attacks, not only against Americans but against others. Whether in Europe or in Africa, in the Middle East, other parts of the world and Asia as well. So most of the world will be thrilled. But there will be some, including al Qaeda supporters, al Qaeda affiliates who will not be happy about this and no doubt are already plotting revenge.
To them, bin Laden is a hero. And as a result, the U.S. national security team, indeed security teams around the world, they have to be prepared right now for retaliation.
If this were one of those moments where the threat level could be intensified, it probably would be intensified, at least in the short term right now. Gearing up for some immediate terrorist response from bin Laden's supporters.
It's something that the U.S. intelligence community, the national security community, the military community in Afghanistan, in Iraq, all over the world, everyone has to be sensitive to that right now.
And I assume the president will make that point when he addresses the nation only moments from now. And just to recap for viewers who are just tuning in to CNN and CNN International right now, this is what we can confirm.
The president of the United States moments from now will be in the East Room of the White House. He will address the nation and the world and announce officially that bin Laden is dead. He will say the United States has the body of bin Laden and has confirmed that it is, in fact, Osama bin Laden nearly 10 years after 9/11. He not only was killed, but it's been confirmed that the body that was killed is, in fact, bin Laden's body.
I don't know who else was killed in the process. We don't know the details of how this happened. But we do know that the president, on a late Sunday evening, going into the East Room of the White House to make this announcement would not do this unless the U.S. intelligence community and others were 100 percent convinced.
We know that Leon Panetta, the Central Intelligence Agency director, the CIA director who is about to become -- assuming he's confirmed by the Senate -- the defense secretary. We know Panetta has already been calling key members of Congress and giving them the word, the official word that bin Laden is dead.
Once again, the president momentarily will be making the statement. We will stay with this. We're not going anywhere. This is one of those moments in history all of us will always, always remember.
John, as we assess what's going on, give us a little bit more perspective on what we're about to hear.
KING: Wolf, "a," consider the moment, that again, I'm going to say it over and over again for people watching at home, imagine since 9/11, maybe since before that, if you remember the USS Cole, if you remember the attacks on the embassy in Kenya and Tanzania, Osama bin Laden is dead. That in and of itself is such a signature statement, such an amazing chapter in the history of the -- of our recent history, but then consider the moment. Consider the moment.
We are near 10 years to the anniversary of 9/11. Look what has been happening in the region. So many people have said that it is a devastating blow to al Qaeda to have a pro-democracy movement in Egypt. A pro-democracy movement in Tunisia. The government of Syria under severe stress, cracking down on its people in a bloody, brutal, horrible way.
In Libya tonight, one of Moammar Gadhafi's sons killed just yesterday in US airstrikes. The question of what will happen in that country. All across the Arab world, all across the Middle East and North Africa, there is dramatic change.
At issue in that change is not the United States of America. Is not, per se, the government of Saudi Arabia. All the rallying cries of Osama bin Laden are not the big issues. In the dramatic change that is happening across the Arab world.
So you have now on this night, Wolf, with all this change playing out in more than 20 Arab nations, they've had some form of political demonstrations, some form of unrest in the past two or three months.
And in the middle of that now, headline around the world tomorrow morning when everybody wakes up on Monday, it's already Monday morning in the Middle East, is "Osama bin Laden is dead." At a time of amazing foment and amazing change in the Middle East to have the signature face of anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Saudi hatred killed. We can't understand. What we do know what it will mean to the people of the United States.
We do know what it will mean to the people who lost -- the 3,000-plus who lost their lives on 9/11. We do perhaps have some understanding of what it will mean to them. What will it mean at a time when the most vulnerable region of the world is undergoing this amazing Arab spring, this amazing sense of change that is more about empowering people, it is about using the Internet, using any means people can have in Syria and Libya and elsewhere to speak their voice, to ask for change, what will it mean? We don't know.
But that it happens at this moment, I think, magnifies its significance exponentially.
BLITZER: It will send a rocket around the world to so many elements, John, as they watch what's going on because this has been a determined U.S. effort for nearly 10 years to capture or kill bin Laden. We don't know the details other than we now believe he was killed in Afghanistan.
There had been widespread speculation, he and Ayman al-Zawahiri were in Pakistan. We're told the body has been recovered and it is in Afghanistan right now. And they did the full analysis to make sure this, in fact, is bin Laden.
Gloria Borger is watching all of this.
Gloria, you know, as we hear what's going on and as people around the country, indeed around the world, hear that bin Laden is dead, they're beginning to process the enormous historic moment right now. And I want you to weigh in.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it is enormous. As John was saying, every day since 9/11 in one form or another, people have been asking, why don't we get Osama bin Laden? Where is Osama bin Laden?
I think this is a process that has gone on in the previous administration and continued into this administration. I'm very curious as to how this occurred. Was this a drone, for example? We know that predator drones are being used so much more frequently, particularly in this administration and in speaking with some people at the White House through my BlackBerry tonight, it was very clear to me that this -- that a very serious announcement was about to be made.
I got one e-mail from a senior adviser at the White House which had three words, which was, "go to work." So it's very clear that the enormity, that this is an enormous story and the White House, not only in trying to confirm everything about this process and try and tell the American people about it, but also needs to have exactly the right pitch and tone in their statement, because as John pointed out they're not just speaking to Americans where the reaction will be obvious, but they're speaking around the world, particularly to the Arab world.
So I think that it's got to be very carefully worded, and this is something that we should all know. It's a search that's been going on since 9/11.