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THE SITUATION ROOM

Jury Begins Deliberations in Casey Anthony Trial; Iran Linked to U.S. Troops Deaths; Housing Crunch Hits Military Families; Secret World of Anti-Government Movement in Syria; Targeting U.S. Hearts and Minds; 'Strategy Session'

Aired July 4, 2011 - 17:00   ET

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


JOE JOHNS, GUEST HOST: Happening now: We're standing by for any word of a verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. The sensational case of a mother charged with murdering her two-year old daughter, now is in the hands of a jury.

Plus, Republicans on parade. Most of the GOP presidential candidates are spending this holiday with voters in key battleground states. This hour, their stops, and their missteps.

And a fugitive on murder charges here in the U.S. alerts police that he's in Mexico and taunt themselves by saying, catch me if you can.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Jurors have been deliberating for about five hours now in one of the most sensational and most watched murder trials in recent years. 25-year-old Casey Anthony is waiting to find out whether she'll be convicted of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee. Prosecutors closed by arguing that Anthony killed Caylee in 2008, because the toddler was getting in if the way of her love life and partying.

Anthony has pleaded not guilty to all seven counts against her and denies hurting her daughter. The defense argues the child drowned in the family swimming pool. Our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins us now on the phone.

And, Jeff, simple question is, looking at the elements as you see them, do you think the prosecution here has proven a case of first degree murder?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Joe, based on my -- what I've seen of the evidence, I think first degree murder is a long shot verdict here. There are so many open questions. There is no time of death, there's no cause of death, and there is just circumstantial evidence, powerful circumstantial evidence that Casey Anthony killed her daughter. But I think first degree murder, which is premeditated, which is intentional murder, that's a long shot verdict.

JOHNS: And so there are obviously a variety of other charges here, including aggravated manslaughter of a child. Do you see that as perhaps more in the mix for a jury to look at?

TOOBIN: I think that is a far more likely verdict. Casey Anthony's behavior was so bizarre. And she told so many lies and behaved so oddly following the death of her daughter I would not be at all surprised to see a conviction in this case for any of those lesser charges, like aggravated manslaughter, but I certainly don't see the evidence for first degree murder.

JOHNS: Right after the closing arguments today many of our viewers actually watched and saw the judge instructing the jury on a variety of these counts. Let's listen to a little bit of what the judge had to say before giving the evidence to the jury-oh, I'm sorry, we do not have that.

The simple version here, though, is there are a variety of different charges. He instructed the jury in 100 different ways. They have been sequestered for a long time. Do you see this thing going on for three or four or five days? Or what is the general principle that you apply to a jury being out a long time, versus out a short time if there is one?

TOOBIN: There's a rough rule of thumb, among trail lawyers, that says one day of deliberation for each week of trial. So we argue for two weeks of deliberation here. That rule is very much honored in the breach a lot. People remember the O.J. Simpson case that was a three- month trial, and took one day of deliberation. Strange things happen in trial so I wouldn't be all surprised to see any length of deliberation in this case. Though one day would certainly be very, very unlikely. I expect the jury will deliberate at least into next week, given the complexity and length of the trial.

JOHNS: Certainly has been a long and complex trial. And it has certainly gathered the attention of people all over the country, if not the world.

Thanks so much, Jeffery Toobin for checking in with us. Stay close to your phone because we might have to talk again soon.

President Obama hosts a Fourth of July celebration at the White House in the next hour with U.S. military heroes and their family, as special guests. It is a brief break from the high-stakes political fight over raising the legal limit and national debt. Emphasize brief. The clock is ticking and the administration is exploring all of its options. Let's bring in our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian.

Dan, good evening.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.

Well, you know that August 2 deadline is quickly approaching and the White House continues to warn of the dire consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised. One option now being floated involves the 14th Amendment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LOTHIAN: At a Q&A session in May, hosted by "POLITICO" Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner whipped out a copy of the 14th Amendment to warn lawmakers against threatening a default in debt ceiling talks.

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY: The validity of the public debt in the United States authorized by law including debts incurred for the payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection rebellion-this is the important thing-shall not be questioned.

LOTHIAN: Now some Democrats seem to be taking a closer look at those four words, Geithner emphasized in Section IV.

GEITHNER: Shall not be questioned.

LOTHIAN: As a possible solution in breaking the debt ceiling impasse.

The thinking is that President Obama may be able to ignore the ceiling because it is unconstitutional. But Steve Vladic, a constitutional law professor at American University says it's not so black and white.

STEVE VLADIC, LAW PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIV.: I think we're not really talking about the clear legal argument so much as we are talking about what's possible. I think there's at least some textual support for that argument in Section IV. But this is a provision even though it's been around for 135 years, it's barely been interpreted. It's never really been the subject of Supreme Court decisions. So I think all we have is speculation and guesses.

LOTHIAN: Despite intense talks led by Vice President Biden and more than $1 trillion in budget cuts identified, Republicans and Democrats remain at sharp odds over deeper spending cuts and tax hikes for the wealthy. With the clock ticking, a long-term solution becomes more difficult. So back to Section IV of the 14th Amendment, while legal scholars debate it and some Democrats entertain it, Republican Senator John Cornyn dismissed it on "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS: That's crazy talk. It is not acceptable for Congress and the president not to do their job and say somehow the president has the authority to basically do this by himself. We ought to sit down and work together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LOTHIAN: Senator Cornyn suggested that Republicans might be willing to embrace a mini debt ceiling deal. This is something we heard from former President Bill Clinton over the weekend, extending for, perhaps, six months, even eight months. But also, Cornyn warning that this would only delay the, quote, "moment of truth," Joe.

JOHNS: So, Dan, just to be clear here. Has the administration sent any signals at all it might tangibly use this weapon? Or is it just a trial balloon in your view? LOTHIAN: This is just something that has been floated about, mainly by Democrats. The White House has not specifically said that this is a tool that they would employ, if it comes down to that. They really hope that Republicans and Democrats can hammer this out by that August 2 deadline. That's what they're pushing for right now, Joe.

JOHNS: Dan Lothian at the White House. Thanks so much for that, Dan.

Now a closer look at the soaring national debt and what could go wrong, if the limit, if all that red ink isn't raised a month from now. Here is CNN's Christine Romans.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Congress is giving up its July Fourth holiday recess to get back to work tomorrow on the nation's budget deficit. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by August 2, the U.S. Treasury won't be able to pay all of its bills. We've been here before, but never quite so close to default.

Take a look at this. Since we've been accumulating a big national debt, Congress has raised the debt ceiling just 78 times, since 1960 alone. Since the nation's debt reached the $1 trillion mark in the early 1980s, government borrowing, look at this. Look at how government borrowing has skyrocketed, climbing really at an exponential rate.

Right now, the debt ceiling is $14.2 trillion. That is a lot of money, but how is that in relationship to how big the economy is. It's about 95 percent of the size of the whole economy. We're fast approaching rates not seen since way back in World War II and the Great Depression, when the size of the debt limit and the national debt was actually bigger than our GDP. This is what economists called a debt crisis.

The bottom line, America runs by borrowing money. Right now, for every dollar the American government spends 38 cents of that is borrowed money. If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, the U.S. could default on some of those payments. That's the last thing we need, recovering from a recession. Christine Romans, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: It's a busy holiday for Republican presidential candidates. We'll look at how they are competing for one another for voters' attention today.

And former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn may face new sexual assault charges even as the sex case against him in New York could be falling apart.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: It is as American as fireworks on the Fourth of July. Presidential candidates know this holiday is a terrific star-spangled backdrop for campaigning. Most of the Republican contenders are out today, hoping to turn the nation more red than blue in 2012. Mary Snow is following their appearances in critical states-Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Joe. Well Republican candidates were out in force today in Iowa and New Hampshire. With some even crossing paths. The parades they choose are telling of the votes they are courting, some vying for more conservative voters, others focusing on moderates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: In politics-

MIT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You guys are all voters this year, huh? Yes, yes, good. Good. Get out there and vote.

SNOW: Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney pressing the flesh in Amherst, New Hampshire, the state with the first primary. At one point, he crossed paths with fellow GOP challenger John Huntsmen. The men shaking hands for taking their places on the parade route.

Romney who's been effectively running for president since his unsuccessful 2008 bid, took aim at President Obama, repeating his stance that the president has made the economy worse. It's a statement that's drawn criticism from the left and from independent fact checkers.

ROMNEY: President Obama didn't cause the downturn, but he made the recession deeper and longer than it needed to be. And he has made the recovery anemic.

SNOW: Huntsman stayed out of the fray, focusing on making a name for himself just two weeks after officially entering the race.

JOHN HUNTSMAN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is when people turn out and they want to begin meet the early candidates, they want to shake their hand. They want to begin to understand what you're all about. So this was a must-hit opportunity for us.

SNOW: In Clear Lake, Iowa, two other Republicans shared the same parade route. Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann, courting the same part of the state for conservatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bachmann for president.

SNOW: Bachmann has been spending time in Iowa after officially kicking off her campaign there and plans to spend a lot more time in the state that holds the first caucus.

REP. MICHELLE BACHMANN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We love you. We'll be back soon. God bless you.

SNOW: As Gingrich shook hands, he was asked about the partisan fighting in Washington. And the down-to-the-wire fight over raising the debt ceiling. . NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the House Republicans are going to pass a debt ceiling. Then the question will be whether the president will sign it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are we pushing it to crisis for the whole nation?

GINGRICH: I'm with you.

SNOW: Herman Cain, meantime, skipped the early states and instead attended a Tea Party rally in Philadelphia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: The GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum is also in Iowa marching in parades there today. There were two candidates, though, who weren't out on the parade route, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul -- Joe.

JOHNS: Mary Snow keeping an eye on the candidates. Thanks so much for that.

Now to a critical challenge for the current president and the nation, the military in Iraq. Almost a year after the last U.S. combat troops left the country, Americans are still dying in Iraq. And the Pentagon thinks Iranians may have some of that blood on their hand.

Here's our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sixteen American troops died in Iraq last month, more than any time in the past two years.

U.S. military officials indirectly blame Iran for their deaths.

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Most of our kids who have been killed recently have been killed by extremist Shia groups, not by al Qaeda in Iraq, but by extremist Shia groups. And they are clearly getting some fairly sophisticated and powerful weapons from Iran.

A U.S. official says Iraqi militias are new using armor-piercing grenades and IRAMS, metal canisters packed with explosives and shot by rockets. The officials says that is a signature weapon of groups backed by Iran.

STAFF SGT. ADAM STEFFENS, U.S. ARMY: You have to pay attention. We have a mildly aggressive nation right next door, a nation that has interest here.

LAWRENCE: When I embedded with U.S. troops right along the Iraq- Iran border last year, they were already dealing with weapons being smuggled in.

(on camera): How big of an influence does Iran have in what goes on here?

LT. COL. JOHN HOWERTON, U.S. ARMY: Well, I think it's huge. Iran didn't sign a security agreement like we did. You know? Iran doesn't have a responsible drawdown of forces like we do. Iran doesn't have a timetable to be out when we do.

LAWRENCE: So, to counter Iran's influence, a lot of American officials now want to adjust that timetable and keep U.S. military official forces in Iraq past the end of the year.

VICE ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMANDER NOMINEE: I think it would be mutually beneficial to us and Iraqis if, in fact, that was the case.

LAWRENCE: The number of 10,000 troops has been floated around, but keeping that many could face popular resistance back home.

MCRAVEN: But clearly, there is still a threat in Iraq and a small, soft presence there I think would be advisable.

LAWRENCE: U.S. troops told me Iran would pay Iraqi truck drivers to drive weapons over the border into Iraq. But they said one of the things that really makes it tough down in that area is along the border, you've got really long standing intense family ties. In other words, families that go back generations and generations, and that have been crossing that border for hundreds of years.

So it makes it very tough to try to totally separate the two nations now -- Joe.

JOHNS: And if they extend the schedule, though, that could just go on ad infinitum, couldn't it, because Iran could continue to do this for decades.

LAWRENCE: Well, what they're hoping, the hope among some military folks who want to keep a continued presence there is to give the Iraqi forces even more time to sort of build up their capability and to try to go after some of Iranian involvement there along the border, hoping that, you know, perhaps another few years with a minimum U.S. presence there would just augment the Iraqi forces to the point that they be a little more self-sustaining say, you know, three, four, five years from now than they would be by December.

JOHNS: Chris Lawrence of the Pentagon, thanks so much for that.

LAWRENCE: Yes.

JOHNS: Just days after a New York court released him from house arrest, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's legal troubles are not over yet. He faces more accusation and possibly charges in France.

Plus, a boat filled with American tourists sinks off of Mexico's coast. Several people are missing in the rough waters. We'll have the latest on the search.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Mary Snow is back now, monitoring some of the other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mary, what do you have?

SNOW: Joe, former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn is filing counter claims against a French journalist who accuses him of attempting to sexually assault here in 2003. She would file a formal compliant with French prosecutors tomorrow. Strauss-Kahn's attorneys say she's making, quote, "false declarations."

The ex-IMF chief was released from house arrest in New York last week after prosecutor raised concerns with their star witness.

On this Independence Day, outgoing U.S. commander, General David Petraeus saluted his troops at reenlistment ceremony in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He told him they exhibit the most meaningful display of patriotism possible by being willing to put their lives on the line again and serve their country.

President Obama plans the withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September of 2012.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has made a surprise return home. Mr. Chavez has been in Havana, Cuba, for several weeks after undergoing emergency surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Some speculate he wanted to be back in Venezuela for its bicentennial celebrations tomorrow.

And a statue of Ronald Reagan now graces London this July 4th. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended today's unveiling ceremony and remarked on the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain. The 10-foot brown statue of America's 40th president is outside the U.S. embassy. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher paid tribute in a written statement, calling Reagan a "true leader for our times."

Pretty big honor there, Joe.

JOHNS: That's for sure. They've got a statute and we've got an airport. Probably some other things named after him, too.

Thanks so much for that, Mary Snow in New York.

The housing crisis have been so painful for so many Americans, it can be even harder on military families. Troops ordered to relocate can face massive losses on the homes they've been forced to leave behind.

CNN's Sandra Endo reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COL. JOHN MONTGOMERY, U.S. AIR FORCE: I've had that since I was the first lieutenant. That one means everything.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Packing up and moving out. This is Colonel John Montgomery's 15th time relocating for the military.

MONTGOMERY: We're going to walk around and just make sure we got it all.

ENDO: But this time, it's different as he makes his move to Virginia, the financial burden of his north Las Vegas home will be coming with him. The house he purchased four years ago with much of his life savings has lost so much in value it's a struggle to figure out how best to cut his losses.

ENDO (on camera): How much were we talking about when you bought it?

MONTGOMERY: The house was $420,000. It got appraised for $180,000. So, that's 42 percent of the original price.

ENDO (voice-over): The housing crunch is hitting military service members especially hard. Relocation is a way of life, with no luxury to ride out the economy. And any bad mark in their finances could also jeopardize their careers.

Major John Royal and his family are being sent to Korea in November. His north Las Vegas house is now worth nearly 50 percent less than when he bought it in 2007. It's currently on the market as a short sale, but if there are no takers, he says he'll have no choice but to walk away.

MAJ. JOHN ROYAL, U.S. AIR FORCE: I currently have a top secret security clearance, and if you have a foreclosure on your record, it could impact it significantly.

ENDO: The Department of Defense has a housing assistance program providing some financial aid for service members facing relocation, and who can't unload their homes. But the program only applies to homes purchased before July 2006, a program which doesn't help people like Colonel Montgomery or Major Royal.

ROYAL: Is there something that they can go more? Sure. Absolutely.

ENDO: Congressman Joe Heck wants the military to forgive bad credit scores for service members hit by the housing market and is calling for more funding for the assistance program instead of spending in other areas.

REP. JOE HECK (R), NEVADA: We need to take care of the men and women, boots on the ground, before we continue to invest in very expensive weapons systems.

ENDO (on camera): Already, at least 32 airmen out of Nellis Air Force Base had to foreclose on their homes. And for so many others, the situation even makes them consider giving up their military careers because of the financial strain.

(voice-over): A decision Colonel Montgomery struggled with after 25 years in the Air Force.

MONTGOMERY: This is the water (ph) schedule I told you I'd put together.

ENDO: He's only option is to rent out his Vegas home and cover $1,000 a month difference, a price he's willing to pay to continue to serve his country.

MONTGOMERY: Making the decision to stay with the Air Force took precedence over the money issues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: That's Sandra Endo reporting.

It's the beginning of the end of the NASA's shuttle program as the Atlantis crew lands at Kennedy Space Center for the final launch. We're getting an exclusive look inside an actual shuttle.

And, we take you into the secret world of the anti-government movement in Syria where the fight for liberty can mean death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Facing for freedom in Syria and facing violent reprisals. Syrian activists insist they will not be stopped even if it means prison or death.

CNN's Hala Gorani has been in Damascus and takes us inside the secret world of the opposition.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Damascus suburb of Douma, amateur video from last April. Tear gas in the air, the sound of gunshots. A man injured, carried down the street.

A few weeks later, this scene. CNN was taken to the same street with government minders.

"They were armed gangs," people told us. "Vandals, not peaceful demonstrators."

Then away from the camera, a young man sweeps past me, slips a folded piece of paper in my hand. "It's my email," he says, "They're lying to you. They cleared the neighborhood for your benefit." He then disappears.

For the next few days we e-mail him. We will call him Zaid (ph), not his real name. He's too afraid to meet us for now. He wants to be sure we're not being followed.

Days later, we agree to speak in person in a public place. We're not showing his face for his own security.

ZAID, DUMA RESIDENT: Every Friday there is more than 5,000 security guys. Not just security guys, it's guns, regime guns and army. They are -- all of them are armed. They have guns, and every Friday they are ready to shoot us if the demonstration becomes big.

GORANI: Zaid (ph) says three of his friends have been shot in Duma.

This is the often underground opposition in Syria, those who say in secret they want the security forces to stop harassing them, want to be free. But if they want to show their faces on camera, for now this is how they're doing it, a gathering in a park in central Damascus. It took two months to get a permit, and they had to promise no posters, no slogans.

(SINGING)

GORANI: The singing of Syria's national anthem, a minute of silence for the dead.

(on camera): This is officially a vigil in honor of the hundreds of people who have died in the uprising in this country since mid- March. It's billed as apolitical. But when people know you're a journalist, they come up to you and whisper things that they say they still don't dare say on camera.

(voice-over): But outside the vigil, pro-regime elements appeared, praising the Syrian president and selling souvenirs. In a Damascus hotel that week, prominent dissidents and intellectuals met for the first time in public in Syria. The government didn't object.

Not the young people. These are the older generation, like Luway Hussein (ph), men who spent years in prison for advocating democracy.

The meeting was controversial. Some said it legitimized the regime while killings continue.

Aref Dalila spent seven years in prison for giving a university lecture that irked authorities in 2001. He didn't attend the opposition meeting because he says it wasn't the right forum to express dissent.

AREF DALILA, SYRIAN DISSIDENT (through translator): We cannot go back and cannot remain in the current situation. Even those in power must start speaking in a new language, even though we still don't believe what they are saying.

GORANI: The men of Dalila's age could be the grandfathers of the young protesters on the street who say they want change. Today, it is a new generation's turn. Zaid (ph), whom we met in secret, says he wants to make his own children proud one day, but still can't show his face.

(on camera): You are afraid to show your face on camera. Why? What do you think would happen to you if we filmed your face and put it on CNN?

ZAID: Put it on CNN? I will disappear, maybe for one day, a week, a month, a year. I don't know. But I will disappear, I am sure.

GORANI (voice-over): But whether they show their faces or prefer to remain nameless, for the opposition in Syria this could be their defining moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: And CNN's Hala Gorani joins me now.

Hala, you just returned from Syria. I think the first question I have to ask you is there was a place where you fuzzed out a lot of Zaid (ph), who you were talking to. Why did you do that?

GORANI: Yes. Because he had a very recognizable T-shirt. And we were in a public place, meeting in secret in a public place, away sort of from other customers at a cafe. And we thought it would be very easy to look through security cameras and figure out who he was. We even fuzzed out sort of the name of the cafe, but it was just a table and chairs.

JOHNS: Precautions.

GORANI: It was just for his own safety. Just to be extra safe about it.

JOHNS: Absolutely.

So, now, give me a sense -- as you travel around the country, and you're so familiar with it, have you been able to gauge sort of the levels of opposition and supporters of the opposition, versus the levels of support for the status quo?

GORANI: Well, it's almost impossible. And I should say it is impossible to get numbers such as polling numbers like you do in the United States. But you do have sizeable support for the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, and especially from people who benefit from the status quo, who don't want there to be chaos, who, perhaps, philosophically, on some level would want there to be more freedom. For instance, people in the tourism industry, in the gas exploitation industry.

These are industries that are either suffering now or are going to suffer tremendously if there is upheaval. Some of these people are also afraid of what might replace this regime. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don't know in the case of some of those who aren't supporting the demonstrators.

JOHNS: So you're here. You're going to be hosting "JOHN KING USA" right after THE SITUATION ROOM.

GORANI: Yes. I'm very excited.

JOHNS: What do you have coming up?

GORANI: Well, we have the latest on the Casey Anthony trial. We have also the latest on Dominique Strauss-Kahn, now that he's facing a second sex charge in France as well. And she's vowing to sue for defamation in France. So we're going to be speaking to a French journalist who's in New York.

And all the latest news as well out of the Middle East since I just came back from there. So we'll bring you that as well.

JOHNS: Hala Gorani, thanks so much. And great to see you.

GORANI: Great to see you.

JOHNS: We heard the judge in the Casey Anthony trial tell jurors the lawyers are not on trial. But did the defendant's attorney make a mistake by calling his client names?

We'll talk about the case in the hands of the jury right now.

And a fugitive in a murder case appears to be taunting police with e-mails, challenging them to come and find him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Happy birthday, USA. There is a shot of the United States Capitol as people in Washington, D.C., get ready for the big fireworks show tonight. There's another shot from the National Mall, the White House.

As you can see, all of this display in our capital. And it's going to be a big night here in Washington.

The Cold War is over. So why is the Kremlin hitting the radio airwaves to broadcast from deep inside the U.S. capital?

CNN Foreign Affairs Correspondent Jill Dougherty tells us it's all part of Moscow's mission to reshape its image.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jordan Hostetter doesn't know it, but he's a target. A young professional living in Washington, D.C., just the kind of person Voice of Russia Radio wants to reach to change Americans' hearts and minds about Moscow.

(on camera): Let's give it a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bringing Russia to New York and Washington, D.C., 24/7.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Three hours during morning drive, three hours in the afternoon, in English, AM radio broadcasts from this Kremlin-controlled service from a brand-new studio in the U.S. capital, news, features, talk shows. (on camera): And when you think of Russia, what's your impression?

JORDAN HOSTETTER, WASHINGTON RESIDENT: I would say generally negative.

DOUGHERTY: Harassment of Russia's political opposition and independent media doesn't help in spite of other attempts to improve Russia and its leader's image.

YURY MINAYEV, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, VOICE OF RUSSIA: Russia is, in many respects, is seen negatively in this country.

DOUGHERTY: The Voice of Russia's deputy chairman admits this could be a tough sell.

MINAYEV: I hope they will be interested to hear what happens in Russia and how we see it. Hopefully. But overall, it indeed will be very difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of these young people who are interested in Russia, are they still grappling with these negative stereotypes or do they have a new view of Russia?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they do have a new view of Russia, because obviously this is post-Cold War Russia.

DOUGHERTY: It may be the voice of Russia, but it sounds American.

Deanna Ray is a reporter and producer.

DIANA RAY, VOICE OF RUSSIA: We want to present the Russian perspective, definitely. But in a balanced, credible way.

DOUGHERTY: Just as Voice of Russia uses radio to reach Americans, its rival, the Voice of America, is reaching out to Russians with a Russian language Web site and --

(on camera): Twitter.

IRINA VAN DUSEN, VOA RUSSIAN SERVICE: Facebook, Twitter --

DOUGHERTY: YouTube.

VAN DUSEN: (INAUDIBLE) is one of the biggest social media sites in Russia.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): VOA says it tried to get on radio and TV in Russia.

ELEZ BIBERAJ, VOA EURASIA DIVISION: We, on the other hand, have been prevented from affiliating with Russian radio television stations because of threats and because of the pressure that the government brings on license holders.

DOUGHERTY: Voice of Russia's director says they want Americans to hear how Moscow sees things.

ANDREY BISTRITSKIV, CHAIRMAN, VOICE OF RUSSIA: We want to be heard in this country and speak to the Americans in their language.

DOUGHERTY: But do Americans really care about what Russia has to say?

HOSTETTER: I think if it's just specifically talking about Russia, they're going to have a very limited listener base.

DOUGHERTY (on camera): Voice of Russia says it will have plenty of American news, too. But Jordan Hostetter says it might take a well-known personality to get him to tune in. No sign Vladimir Putin or Dmitry Medvedev are looking for a new job anytime soon.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: Targeting terror plots. Is America any safer two years after the attempt to blow up a packed airliner on Christmas? We're going inside the government's counterterrorism center to find out.

And welcome aboard space shuttle Discovery. It's an exclusive look inside the shuttle like you've never seen before.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just remembered when we landed, I did not want to get out of the commander's seat. I mean, they asked us, trying to get me out. And it's like, this is my spaceship, you can't have it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: On this Fourth of July, quite a few Americans apparently could use a refresher course in U.S. history. A new national poll asked what year the country declared independence, and only 58 percent, a little more than half, knew the correct answer, 1776. Twenty-six percent weren't even sure, and 16 percent of those surveyed for the Marist Poll named the wrong year.

In the fight over the debt limit, top Republicans say tax hikes are off the table, but they may be opening the door to eliminating tax breaks.

Joining me in today's "Strategy Session" to talk about this, Democratic strategist Jamal Simmons. He's a principal at the Raven Group. Also joining us, Republican strategist and former press secretary for Newt Gingrich, Rich Galen. He's also the publisher of Mullins.com.

I know you don't want me to say Newt Gingrich because you've done so much more than that. RICH GALEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Yes. And I knew --

JOHNS: Sorry.

GALEN: I think it was interesting that the writers decided that when you said 58 percent, you would also have to say more than half.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNS: That's true.

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And he had to say the year.

JOHNS: That's right. That's right. I had to get it right.

So, I mean, why do you think that is, first of all? In all sincerity, why is it that people don't know any more when the United States was essentially born?

GALEN: I don't know that they ever did. I mean, we have to go back -- somebody's got to show me some data from 50 and 100 years ago to see if that's any better or worse. But, I mean, who paid attention in high school social studies? Not me.

JOHNS: All right. So let's talk politics and taxes.

Do you think the Republicans are now ready to go ahead and say tax cuts are on the table? Or are we just talking about tax breaks? And really, I mean, what's the difference?

GALEN: Well, the difference is, as we do so much here in Washington, in the terminology, Republicans will be able to say that they did not raise taxes. They did do some tax reform, which is a good thing, but there was no tax rate increase. The danger I think for the Democrats is, if they say, ah-ha, we made them raise taxes, Republicans say, well, if you want to call it a tax raise, a tax increase, feel free, we'll buy the ads to help you say that.

JOHNS: What do you think?

SIMMONS: Well, two things.

One, there's a policy problem, which is that every bipartisan plan that looks at the deficit has the same components. It's got defense cuts, it's got domestic spending cuts, it's got entitlement reform, and it's got some tax revenue raisers.

The problem is that John Cornyn's position is that he wants to close these tax loopholes, but he doesn't want a net increase in revenue. Well, you don't fix the problem that way. So, ultimately, at some point we're going to have to get there. It looks like the door is creaking open and we might actually get to the point where we can do something about this problem.

GALEN: And the best way to raise taxes is not to raise taxes, but to get the unemployment rate down so that you have something like than 13 million people drawing unemployment, and instead working and paying taxes.

JOHNS: How much of this though is really suspended disbelief? When you have a country that's just come out of a severe recession, and there are people who are actually on Capitol Hill having a conversation, saying, well, maybe we need to go back into those financial dark days by not increasing the deficit -- or the debt limit -- isn't that just hard to believe for most Americans?

GALEN: Well, I think everybody understands that this is like turning an aircraft carrier around. You can't stop it in a foot and a half. It takes a while to get it changed.

So I think everybody recognizes the debt limit will have to be raised, Jamal. But Republicans are going to hold out for making sure that they can get the maximum number of cuts moving forward so you don't have to do this every six months.

SIMMONS: Well, Joe, here's the other part of this problems, which is I talk to my friends who are in the financial industry, and they say, you know, you guys can play around with this all you want to down in D.C., but at some point the bond markets are going to have their say about what you're doing down there. And I'm already starting to hear from people that folks are looking at get out of U.S. treasuries the closer we get to the August deadline.

GALEN: Getting out of those Greek bonds probably. Right?

SIMMONS: Well, you know, or hold it in cash until this is all figured out. Either way, the problem is we all know this has got to get done. Let's just go ahead and do it and move on.

JOHNS: We had a piece at the top of the program here talking about the possibility of the president actually invoking the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and going ahead and just sort of raising the debt limit on his own.

Do you think that flies here in Washington, given the fact that the Congress has always sort of gone through this procedure?

GALEN: Well, you know, if it weren't for Timothy Geithner opening his big mouth back in January, when he first said we need to get this done by March 31st, we would have been past this already. But then he said no, we can tinker around and make it go to August 2nd. And the reality is that they can still tinker and get things done to.

To your specific question, no. I think that it's best for the president to say to the leaders, both the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, get them all together in the same room and say OK, we're not leaving or going to the bathroom until we get a deal.

SIMMONS: Well, you know, the president already did something like this once before. When it came time to do health care, he did the reconciliation package instead of going back for the vote on the health care reform vote. So there's a little bit of history of Obama being willing to kind of lay it down on the table when it has to get done to be able to do it.

GALEN: Yes, but that was before -- he was standing in a glorious 34 percent approval on his handling of the economy.

JOHNS: Usually when you get sort of closer to the end of a congressional session, you start hearing things like "do-nothing Congress." It becomes a label that they have to deal with, but it seems to have started just a little bit earlier than most times. "The Chicago Tribune" this weekend had an article calling the 112th Congress the "least productive in recent memory."

Do you agree with that? Do you think it's fair? And if so, who is to blame?

SIMMONS: Well, both sides haven't been doing very much legislating up there. But the reality is, we had a very active Congress last session.

They passed a huge stimulus bill. They passed a health care bill. They got a couple of Supreme Court nominees through the process.

And in reaction to that, you've got the Tea Party that came out, which basically said hold on, wait a minute. So I think the Congress is reacting to the voters and slowing it down, and the biggest thing on table right now is this debt and deficit.

(CROSSTALK)

GALEN: As a conservative, I'm in favor of the Congress doing the minimum amount to keep the doors open and no more. Because when the Congress acts quickly it acts badly.

JOHNS: Would you make the argument that the Republicans in the House of Representatives were actually hired to put on the brakes?

GALEN: Oh, I think that's probably true, certainly on spending and new programs. I don't think there's any question about that.

The issue is that the economy is still creaking along at 1 -- whatever it is percent growth. And everybody now has -- they've used up all their arrows and they don't know what to do. So the Congress is just waiting for direction. From where? The White House, and they're not getting it.

SIMMONS: It's hard to pass a spending bill until you know what you're doing with the deficit and the debt. So most of these bills, when something gets done it costs a little bit of money to do it. You don't want to pass something that you're then going to end up having to cut.

GALEN: You know what they ought to do, I think, Jamal? The first bill that they take up every new Congress, or every year, ought to be the debt limit, and then make everything fit under that. We're going to have a joint op-ed.

(CROSSTALK)

JOHNS: Rich Galen, Jamal Simmons, thanks so much for coming in.

SIMMONS: Happy Fourth of July.

JOHNS: Yes, you bet. Thanks. I hope I get to see the fireworks tonight.

GALEN: Yes. Happy 1492.

(LAUGHTER)

JOHNS: 1776, whatever.

We're keeping close watch on the Casey Anthony murder trial as jurors get ready to wrap up their first day of deliberations.

And a brazen e-mail by a fugitive in a murder case, essentially daring police to catch him if they can.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JOHNS: Here's a look at how Americans are celebrating this Fourth of July.

In Iraq, U.S. soldiers pledge allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in Baghdad.

In Afghanistan, troops cut into a special Fourth of July cake.

In Washington, patriotic banners hang in front of the National Archives. Also in Washington, people hold giant balloons on the National Mall to show their patriotism.

"Hot Shots," pictures from around the world.

The crew of Atlantis arriving at Kennedy Space Center today, just days before they launch the final shuttle mission.

As we count down to Friday's landmark event, we have an exclusive and in-depth look at what goes on inside a space shuttle.

CNN's John Zarrella got a tour of the newly retired shuttle Discovery. Take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOB CABANA, KENNEDY SPACE CENTER: Welcome aboard the space shuttle.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Commander.

CABANA: We're on the mid-deck right now. ZARRELLA (voice-over): These days, Bob Cabana runs the Kennedy Space Center. Before that, he just happened to be an astronaut, flew in space four times, twice as pilot, twice as commander. His first two trips, he was pilot of Discovery. He knows every inch.

(on camera): How many seated on the mid-deck?

CABANA: Well, if you're flying a crew of seven, you've got three folk downs there. So, one there and two more over here.

ZARRELLA: Right.

(voice-over): Sitting here, Cabana is reminded of a liftoff on Endeavour.

CABANA: The whole ascent, I mean, what a ride -- just a sense of speed and acceleration.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, there's main engine start. Pretty soon you'll see the SRBs. A lot of shaking and vibrating.

CABANA: You're pushed back in your seat and the last minute, you know, you hit that 3G acceleration again and you're at 3Gs and it's hard to breathe and (INAUDIBLE), then it's like boom you come forward in your seat like that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You really know you're going to space.

ZARRELLA: Discovery is the first vehicle being retired. When all the cleanup is done -- stuff like Freon, ammonia, cryogenics and pyrotechnics -- she'll be turned over to the Smithsonian. Not easy, says Stephanie Stilson. For 11 years, her job as flow director was to make sure Discovery was ready to fly. Her job now, make sure Discovery is museum ready.

STEPHANIE STILSON, DISCOVERY'S FLOW DIRECTOR: And we do think of Discovery as the only member. We've taken care of her for all these years, and it's going to be hard for many people to realize that we're no longer responsible for that, that someone else has to do that for us. So, it's going to be a big change for some folks.

ZARRELLA: Stilson always dreamed of being a launch director. No woman has ever held that job. But for now, NASA has nothing for her to launch. Back on board.

Let's take you back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure. We'll take a look in the air loft (ph).

ZARRELLA: Crawl about 12 feet.

I'm going to drag these cables in two.

On the other end is shuttle's cargo bay. Spacious enough to hold a school bus. Over the 39 flights of Discovery, dozens of astronauts in space suits have been at this exact vantage point, waiting to step out to repair a satellite or build the space station.

CABANA: I'll just remember when we landed, I did not want to get out of the commander seat. I mean they asked was kind of get me out, it's like this is my spaceship, you can't have it. I didn't want it to end. You know, I just wanted it to go on. It was great.

ZARRELLA: And now, it really has.

(END VIDEOTAPE)