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President Obama Pushes For Debt Deal; Obama Urges Major Deal on Debt; Who's Winning GOP Race for Campaign Cash?; L.A. Braces for Carmageddon; Marijuana Plantation Hides in Plain Sight

Aired July 15, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Just ahead: disturbing new details on documents seized from bin Laden's compound.

And here in Washington, President Obama urges Democrats and Republicans to avert what he calls Armageddon, telling them to set politics aside as the clock ticks closer toward an impending default on the U.S. national debt.

And Californians are bracing for what they call Carmageddon. What is behind new warnings to stay off the highways in Los Angeles this weekend?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news and political headlines all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with alarming new signs Osama bin Laden may have been plotting an attack on the president of the United States. Those details coming from a stash of documents found inside bin Laden's compound after U.S. special forces killed the al Qaeda leader.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is working the details for us.

Tell us what we know, Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, make no mistake about it. At this hour, there are grim new details about what Osama bin Laden had in mind.


STARR (voice-over): While hiding out in his Pakistani compound, Osama bin Laden was hatching up a new nightmare scenario. Bin Laden didn't want to just strike the United States on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. He also wanted to kill the president.

A U.S. official confirmed documents seized at the compound show bin Laden was hoping to shoot down Air Force One while President Obama was traveling overseas. However, the official is adamant there was no specific assassination plot uncovered. Bin Laden was essentially brainstorming ideas.

But Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who commanded the bin Laden raid while heading the CIA, warns bin Laden was capable of more than just brainstorming in the years he hid out.

LEON PANETTA, U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: For a long time, the sense was that he was an inspirational leader, but he wasn't the guy who was managing operations. And what we found out when we went into that compound, is that, in fact, he was someone that was operating on an operational basis.

STARR: General David Petraeus, the outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan, was also mentioned in the bin Laden documents as a potential target to be shot down while he traveled in the war zone. A spokesman for Petraeus declined to comment.

The focus now for Panetta is to keep attacking al Qaeda in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

PANETTA: Now is the moment following what happened with bin Laden to put maximum pressure on them, because I do believe that if we continue this effort, that we can really cripple al Qaeda as a threat to this country.


STARR: The U.S. has long said it believes al Qaeda remains very interested in high-profile attacks and would like nothing better than to bring down a U.S. aircraft.

Apparently, Osama bin Laden was even talking about assembling a team of operatives. But of course, those Navy SEALs killed him in the compound before he could carry out his plans any further -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And he -- as you point out, he was targeting General Petraeus as well.

General Petraeus, I take it, is getting ready to leave Afghanistan. He's going to be heading over to the CIA?

STARR: Very soon. In fact, the change of command ceremony that will turn everything over in Afghanistan to Marine Corps General John Allen will take place Monday morning in Kabul. Petraeus will get on a plane, come back to the United States, retire from years of service in the active duty Army, and, in fact, in the coming weeks, Wolf, do exactly that, take over at the CIA, which Defense Secretary Panetta just left to come over to the Pentagon.

BLITZER: I hope he takes a little vacation first. He deserves it before he starts that new assignment at the CIA.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Let's get to the escalating political turmoil boiling over in the Middle East right now. In Syria, as many as 19 people were reportedly killed today amidst fierce new clashes between protesters and government security forces. In Jordan, a rare scene when a typical peaceful demonstration turns brutally violent.

CNN's Arwa Damon is in Amman. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the front, a small group of monarchy loyalists followed by rows of police separating them from the pro-reform demonstrators, numbering in the hundreds, chanting against the high cost of living, carrying banners demanding political, economic, and social reforms, an end to corruption and calling for a constitutional monarchy, frustrated by the slow pace of government reforms despite multiple pledges.

The two sides have clashed in the past, prompting the government to promise that the protesters will be protected. Then, with the protesters steps away from their destination, the riot police charge in, chasing away and viciously beating the demonstrators. The media has been issued bright orange vests to identify us, we were told.

This is not the image Jordan's government wants the world to see. The tiny financially strapped nation can hardly afford to scare tourists away. Most demonstrations here have been peaceful, but not this one.

(on camera): The demonstrators have regrouped in significantly smaller numbers, and appear to be trying to make their way, again, into that central area where they're trying to stage their demonstrations.

(voice-over): Violence erupts again. We see a man beaten with sticks, kicked to the ground, and beaten again. Others carry him off. We wait until he's well enough to speak, and ask what happened.

"The officers opened the way to the square," Ali Jawaber tells us, "so we called the group to come, but it seems that the police are not following orders. It's just revenge. They're getting back at anything called reforms."

We approach the storefront where the group was gathered, inside, a man on the ground, tissues covered in blood. He was hit on the head, someone says. Another shows us a gash in his arm -- in the back, around 20 women huddled seeking shelter.

(on camera): She says she was hit on the head, is feeling quite shaky right now. In fact, they were all saying that they're quite shaken up. They don't really want to talk to us at this stage.

(voice-over): After all that, the remaining demonstrators are allowed into the square. We ask that police press officer on site what happened.

(on camera): We want 10 more minutes, so that we can understand exactly what transpired.

(voice-over): This photographer says the police attacked him and argues with the police press officer, who denies the media was targeted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the moment I was hit, this. Do you see it? DAMON (on camera): Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This. This is the last picture I took. He hit me with a shield.

DAMON: And so now all of the press, I'm just being told, in solidarity are removing these orange vests.

(voice-over): Police press officer Mohammad Al Khatib finally gives us this explanation. "There were two demonstrations with opposing views, he says, "and they clashed, and the police tried to split them up, and sustained some injuries." And he denies that the police beat people unnecessarily.

(on camera): We saw them, and we have on tape them beating people who were not doing anything at all, who were not...

"That's what you saw," he says. "The police use appropriate force."

Salman Al-Masaed was in the front row of the pro-reform demonstration. "We did not see a single person attack us. We were right in front," he says. "The only people that attacked us were the security forces with their batons."

Though the demonstrators' numbers here were diminished, they remain steadfast behind their demands for real change and reform.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Amman.


BLITZER: Pretty dramatic developments in Amman, Jordan. We will stay on top of that.

Thank you, Arwa, for that report.

Meanwhile, a dramatic new shift in U.S. policy toward Libya, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, dealing the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi a major blow by recognizing a key rebel group as the legitimate leader as the country.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya, and we will deal with it on that basis. In contrast, the United States views the Gadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.


BLITZER: We will now see if the U.S. government, if the Obama administration unfreezes some of that $33 billion in Libyan assets and starts handing over some of those billions to this opposition group. We will stand by for that. Meanwhile, damage control. The embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch launching a major public relations campaign just as there's another bombshell in the widening British tabloid scandal.

And President Obama warns Congress, time is running out for a deal on the national debt. Why is it so hard for American politicians to compromise? We're digging deeper. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Yet another bombshell in the scandal threatening Rupert Murdoch's media empire. "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that Les Hinton is now resigning as CEO of the paper's publisher, Dow Jones. Murdoch's News Corporation owns Dow Jones and Hinton headed Murdoch's News International during much of the time its alleged phone hacking went on, this while Rupert Murdoch is in England doing some major damage control.

Let's bring in Brian Todd. He's got the latest on what's going on.

What is going on here, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, Rupert Murdoch presents the ultimate challenge for crisis management experts. He's now hired some of those, retained a big-time Washington lawyer, and has started to separate himself from the properties and the people who have damaged him.


TODD (voice-over): If the gods of Washington and London demand sacrifice in the time of crisis, count Rebekah Brooks as one of Rupert Murdoch's toughest sacrifices. The chief exec of News International has resigned. Murdoch has also sacrificed one of his prize papers, "News of the World," sacrificed his bid for the coveted BSkyB network.

Les Hinton, his chief exec at Dow Jones, is out. Murdoch has met with the family of murdered teenager Milly Dowler, whose phone was allegedly hacked by his newspaper.

RUPERT MURDOCH, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NEWS CORPORATION: I have gone. And I apologized. And I have nothing more to say.

TODD: Murdoch's running full-page newspaper ads apologizing for his company's conduct. After some hedging, he's finally agreed to appear before Britain's Parliament.

(on camera): Is everything so far enough to turn the tide of public opinion?

RICHARD LEVICK, LEVICK STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: It's not. So far, it's been too little, too late, and too defensive.

TODD (voice-over): Crisis management expert Richard Levick has handled clients like the Catholic Church and AIG. He says Murdoch's very latest moves are positive, but Levick and others say the fact that it took nearly two weeks after the scandal blew up to issue these apologies and for Brooks to leave the company was disastrous.

ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, FORMER DOWNING STREET COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: It's extraordinary to me that a company that has been so good down the years in trading in public opinion, which is what they do, effectively, as a newspaper group, is that they have just got it so wrong every step of the way.

TODD (on camera): It appears Murdoch himself may not even feel the bloodletting he's done so far is enough. His damage control may be just ratcheting up. He's hired Edelman, the world's largest P.R. firm, offices in more than 50 cities, including this building here in Washington. It's part of what looks to be a dream team he's building for a public and possibly legal counteroffensive.

(voice-over): In addition to Edelman, Murdoch has hired famed attorney Brendan Sullivan, who defended Oliver North, to handle legal matters in the U.S.

Former Justice Department official and New York schools chief Joel Klein, a board member at News Corp., will lead the internal investigation. Still a tough road back in public opinion for a man who Levick says has spent 40 years intimidating politicians.

(on camera): If you're advising Rupert Murdoch going forward, what do you tell him?

LEVICK: Tuesday's the most important thing, what he does when he testifies before Parliament. He has to show up and be open and available. He cannot be defensive, and he cannot be arguing facts.


TODD: Levick believes in the end, Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation will survive all this. But he says Murdoch's legacy has been permanently tarnished by this scandal. And he's not sure if his ownership of the less profitable print properties will survive. But Murdoch has of course vehemently denied that he's going to give those up -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about his son James, who is the chairman, the CEO, the chief executive of News Corporation? What happens to him?

TODD: Well, blood runs thick in these situations. But Levick says it's kind of too early right now to see if James Murdoch will be a casualty.

There's seemingly no need to get rid of him right now. But Levick points out James Murdoch is part of this too with reports that he signed off on some payments to victims. Is there going to be more behind the curtain? If some of this unravels further, James Murdoch could be a casualty.

BLITZER: Wow. All right, we will watch and see what happens on Tuesday, when he testifies before parliament. TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks, Brian. Thanks very much.

BLITZER: Let's turn now to the mounting gridlock here in Washington over the nation's debt. The president is stressing once again today he's ready to act if Republican leaders offer what he is calling a serious plan. Republicans say it's the president who needs to start getting serious.

Let's bring in our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. She's the anchor of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," which airs every Sunday morning.

The recriminations, the rhetoric is heating up, I should say.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think the public's getting more and more confused.

And, Wolf, I'm sure you probably hear it as much as I do, whether from strangers or friends, people who cannot fathom why Washington can't get it together to avert what Senator Mitch McConnell said made him sick to his stomach and the president calls Armageddon.


CROWLEY (voice-over): Can't figure out why they can't figure out why they can't figure out a debt deal? Let us count the ways.

First, in a presidential election cycle, particularly in the primary season, there is more push and pull.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The legislation would authorize him to get to the amount he says he needs

CROWLEY: Senator Mitch McConnell offers a small-deal way to break the impasse and gets blasted by his right for presenting a Pontius Pilate plan, accused of a dastardly scheme to trap the president by the left and damned with faint praise by those who agree.

REP. STEVE COHEN (D), TENNESSEE: So, I praise Senator McConnell for claiming victory and surrendering in a noble way.

CROWLEY: Two, politics is more like religion these days. Lawmakers believe what they believe. There may be tolerance, but there is no compromise outside the gospel.

Three, mathematics. There are 435 members of the House; 245 of them were elected by 60 percent or more of the vote in their district. Bottom line, more than half the House of Representatives has little political reason to compromise. The fault, dear voters, is in ourselves.

DAVID WASSERMAN, THE COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Americans have increasingly self-sorted themselves into like-minded neighborhoods and communities. And that makes it easier for the political map makers out there whether it was last decade or this decade to carve out districts that are heavily one way or the other and very little incentive for compromise.

CROWLEY: Every 10 years after the census, congressional districts are redrawn in the states and it has become easier over time to make red districts redder or blue districts bluer depending on the bent of those redrawing.

Four, the ideological cleansing of the political pool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.

CROWLEY: There once was a Republican president and a Democratic speaker who struck a deal on Social Security, not because they had fewer safe House seats, but because they had a different kind of politician, conservative Southern Democrats and liberal Republicans in the Northeast or Midwest, for whom survival often meant compromise.

They are all but extinct now, the result of so-called wave elections, which swept out Republicans in '06 and Democrats in 2010. The ideological pool has been cleansed of those most likely to make deals.

WASSERMAN: These wave elections have acted like a big sift. All of the low-hanging fruit for each party, the most vulnerable members because they were kind of fish out of water in their districts, those are the members who are gone now, and those were the members who were most likely to reach across the aisle and touch the other party's hands.

CROWLEY: A debt compromise likely lies in what these two men have in common. And it is more than golf. John Boehner wants the House to stay Republican. The president wants to be reelected.


CROWLEY: In the end, voters send their representatives to Washington to represent their views, but they want leadership to do something. The futures of John Boehner and Barack Obama may well depend on their ability to fix this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good piece.

Who's on "STATE OF THE UNION" Sunday?

CROWLEY: Jacob Lew, head of the Office of Management and Budget, is going to come on and talk to us about where the negotiations stand. Lindsey Graham, who, as you know, sort of hinted maybe Republicans ought to look at the revenue side. See if he still feels that way.

And Rudy Giuliani, he's up having a non-campaign in New Hampshire. So we caught up with him up there to see what he's up to.

BLITZER: Revenue side meaning more taxes one way or another?

CROWLEY: Right, exactly.


BLITZER: All right, we will be watching Sunday morning 9:00 a.m. Eastern, right, "STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY."

And coming up this hour, I will be speaking with a key Democrat who has been at the table in all of those White House meetings, Congressman Steny Hoyer. He's the number-two Democrat in the House.

Plus, the long-anticipated drawdown in Afghanistan begins. You're going to find out how many American troops in this initial withdrawal are coming out right away.

And President Obama joked he was calling for pizza, but he ended up delivering a personal message for America's final space shuttle crew.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: President Obama's already raked in a record amount of campaign cash. Now the Republican numbers are in. Just ahead, we will tell you which presidential candidate is on top.

Plus, inside those tense White House talks on the debt, I will speak with someone at the table in the negotiations.


BLITZER: Turning now to the dramatic showdown over the national debt here in the United States, President Obama renewing his push for a major deal lifting the debt ceiling, but warning what could happen if -- if Washington in his words operates as usual.

Our congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is up on Capitol Hill. She's got new details of what's going on.

Kate, what is the very latest?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The very latest, Wolf, is that we had some tough talk from the White House today, but, with the clock ticking and the debt talks stuck in a logjam, it has House Republicans seeming -- they're looking elsewhere.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): After a week straight of debt negotiations and little progress to show for it, President Obama used his bully pulpit Friday telling Congress time is running out.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If they show me a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough decisions on my part.

BOLDUAN: But even before the president spoke, House Republicans emerged from a closed door meeting with a different strategy.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We ask the president to lead. We asked him to put forward a plan, not a speech, a real plan. And he hasn't. We will.

BOLDUAN: House Republicans are now moving ahead with a vote next week on a separate initiative long supported by conservatives. It would cut and cap spending and make raising the debt ceiling contingent on Congress passing a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), MAJORITY LEADER: Otherwise known as the cut cap and balance Bill. To provide a balanced approach so that we can demonstrate that we are getting things under control.

BOLDUAN: That plan, however, is likely little more than a symbolic vote for House Republicans, as the measure is not expected to get through the Senate and the president has already made his position clear.

OBAMA: We don't need a constitutional amendment to do our jobs.

BOLDUAN: And the growing sentiment is, the way out of this debt ceiling impasse may be taking shape on the opposite side of the Capitol in the Senate, a deal that would allow the president to raise the federal borrowing limit and allow Republicans to cast a vote of disapproval. It could also set up a bipartisan commission to recommend spending cuts.

The top Senate Democrat and Republican are working on that plan. The only one so far that all sides appear open to.

BOEHNER: I am not prepared at this point to pick winners or losers. Listen, Senator McConnell pointed out that his plan was being put on the table as a last-ditch effort. We're far from the time for a last- ditch effort.

OBAMA: If Washington operates as usual and can't get anything done, let's at least avert Armageddon.


BOLDUAN: Now, right now, according to congressional aides, there are no meetings on the schedule for the weekend between the negotiators, but I'll tell you, an aide to Speaker Boehner says Boehner has cleared his schedule for the weekend. And also, Speaker Boehner, along with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met with Treasury Secretary Geithner and White House chief of staff Bill Daley this afternoon, Wolf. As always, we'll have to see how things develop.

BLITZER: We'll watch closely, thanks very much. We'll see how busy it gets this weekend, Kate. Thanks very much.


BLITZER (voice-over): And joining us now, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of the Representatives, the minority whip, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: Good to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been in the White House in all of those meetings that the president's had with the Democratic and Republican leadership. Is there really a split, based on what you've seen and heard, between the House Speaker John Boehner and the No. 2 Republican, Eric Cantor?

HOYER: Well, I think that's -- there's an apparent split. Whether there's a real split or not, I don't know. Whether the speaker is telling his story, and Cantor's telling his story, and they'll converge at some point in time. I hope that's the case.

I was pleased, of course, the speaker has indicated he wants, the president wants, and I share that view, and every Democratic leader sitting around that table shared the view that we ought to do a big plan, that we ought to not just do the temporary -- respond to the temporary crisis and do a little bit on the debt and deficit. But we ought to have a plan that will stand us in good stead for the next ten years.

I hope we can get there. I think the speaker wants to get there. And I'm going to keep working towards that end.

BLITZER: But do you have any reason to believe -- the president and you say there have to be additional tax increases or additional tax revenues as part of that so-called big plan. The speaker says he doesn't have the votes to do that in the House of Representatives. And as a result, it's dead.

HOYER: Well, I'm not sure what the speaker means by the -- he doesn't have the votes. If he means that he doesn't have any Republicans, well, then, of course, we don't have the votes in the majority. If he means that there are some Republicans opposed to that, yes, I agree with that. But there was a Gallup poll just out, Wolf, that showed that 74 percent of Republicans think you need a balanced plan of spending cuts and revenues.

And let me make a point. Revenues are not the same thing as tax increases. For instance, if you eliminate tax loopholes for millionaires or oil companies, you're not raising their rates. You do get additional revenues by eliminating loopholes.

BLITZER: But the Republicans say, Congressman, if you do that, they would go for those kinds of elimination of subsidies of loopholes, but you've got to balance it with a reduction in tax rates elsewhere so that there's no net increase in taxes.

HOYER: And where are you? You're not any closer to reducing the deficit and debt than you were before.

The Republicans, you know, passed a program in 2001. And in 2001, they said the deficit was going to be $4 trillion less of deficit spending than actually occurred. Hear that: $4 trillion less so that we were $4 trillion in debt. They said we were going to be in surplus during those times when we pursued the economic program they're talking about now.

So the fact of the matter is, if you simply get more revenues but then reduce taxes by an equivalent amount, you haven't done anything with the debt and the deficit that they say is so important to deal with.

Do we need to cut spending? Yes. Can we do it without a balanced program? No. Can we do it on the backs of those who are hard-working and struggling? No.

We need to do it in asking for help from those who have had the best success and most profits during this past decade. And cut spending both across the board with discretionary and defense, as well as look at entitlements to make sure they're sustainable and there for the beneficiaries.

BLITZER: But if you don't get there, are you ready to accept Mitch McConnell's sort of last-ditch compromise plan to at least get through to the disaster, potentially, of a default by the United States government?

HOYER: Look, everybody around that table Mitch -- you're not Mitch -- Wolf, believes that default is not an option. We believe that's a unanimous opinion around that table. We're going to make sure that the U.S. does not default on its obligations ...

BLITZER: So the answer is yes. You would accept McConnell's compromise if necessary, as a last-ditch option.

HOYER: If it were the last-ditch option, we're not going to allow default. I hope that's not the last-ditch option, because I don't believe it's a good option. I don't believe our party believes it's a good option. And frankly, Mr. Cantor said in our meetings, he didn't believe it was a good option and has been quoted to saying that in public. So it's not too appealing on our side.

What is appealing, though -- and I want to reiterate this -- is we ought to be able to come together and have a grand bargain, which takes care of the long-term $4 trillion in cuts and revenues, dealing with all elements of expenditures in the federal government, and get our finances in order. That's what the American people want us to do. And they want us to do it in a bipartisan fashion. Hopefully, we can do that.

BLITZER: One final question. The Republicans' leadership in the House, they say they're going to have an amendment. They're going to legislation next week calling for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. And it'll be an up and down vote. Will you go for that?

HOYER: No. But they were going to have a balanced budget amendment on the floor. That was on our schedule. That's what I announced to our members this morning. They pulled that off the floor. I'm not sure why they pulled it off the floor. But obviously, their condition for voting for a debt limit to increase -- which by the way Mr. Boehner and Cantor voted for numerous times before -- their condition was that that pass both the House and the Senate. They knew that wouldn't happen.

Now they've substituted this balance and cut amendment -- and cap amendment -- or legislation which calls for a balanced budget amendment. I don't know why they substitute a balanced budget amendment, which they say they want, for a bill which simply calls for what they had already scheduled. It seems like a bait and switch to me.

BLITZER: Well, they want to get on the record that they support this balanced budget amendment. They want Democrats to vote against it. They want to vote in favor of it, because politically, they think that's a winner.

HOYER: Well, Wolf, they could have done that either way. They could have voted for that -- that amendment that they had scheduled.

I've got a feeling that there are a lot of Republicans who looked at that and said, "This doesn't make sense. This will create further deadlock, further gridlock in the Congress, and further fiscal risk to the American people and to our country, and it really is not justified." And I think, frankly, that may be one of the reasons they pulled it.

BLITZER: Steny Hoyer, thanks very much for coming in.

HOYER: Thank you.


BLITZER: We're just learning that the president of the United States tomorrow will meet with the Dalai Lama over at the White House. These meetings are always very, very sensitive. The Chinese government, obviously, not very happy when the Dalai Lama is received over at the White House.

We'll see what kind of coverage White House officials allow, if they will allow cameras inside to get pictures of the president. The Dalai Lama always a sensitive issue, given China's position on all of this. We'll watch it closely.

Meanwhile, President Obama may be deadlocked with Republicans over raising the debt limit. But he's outstripping his GOP rivals for the White House in filling his campaign coffers. Is it too late already for them to catch up when it comes to cash?

And what could happen when the main highway in Los Angeles simply shuts down on one of its busiest weekends of the year? L.A. drivers have one word for it: Carmageddon.


BLITZER: President Obama's already shattering fundraising records in his bid for reelection. Now the Republican numbers are in. Today the deadline for the Republican presidential candidates to officially file for the second quarter was due.

Joining us with a closer look, our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

All right. We've got the numbers...


BLITZER: ... behind you. Romney, $18.5 million; Tim Pawlenty, $4.5 million; Ron Paul, same; Bachmann, $4.2 million; Huntsman, $4.1 million. Herman Cain raised $2.5 million, almost. Gingrich, $2 million; Rick Santorum, not so much, half a million dollars.

Give us a perspective on this.

BORGER: Well, let's talk about Mitt Romney, front-runner, obviously, with $18.5 million. That looks good, of course, compared to the rest of the candidates, but there were some unofficial estimates at the start of this campaign that by now he would have raised $50 million, Wolf. So that's not so great.

I think Tim Pawlenty here may be the great disappointment, because he got in this race early. He's been out there trying to raise money. He's had some problems gaining traction. And when you look at it, he's raised exactly the same amount as Ron Paul. So that could be a real disappointment.

BLITZER: And Bachmann and Huntsman, what do you think about that?

BORGER: Well, what's interesting is they look pretty good on the boards, right? Four point two, 4.1, but Jon Huntsman has given his own campaign $2 million. And Michele Bachmann, we just got her numbers this afternoon. She's transferred $2 million from her congressional committee. So the -- the totals look pretty good, but it's actually they've raised about half the amount.

BLITZER: Newt Gingrich, what did he have? $2.1 million. That's more than I thought he would.

BORGER: He would. But there should be a little asterisk next to that because he's actually $1 million in debt.

BLITZER: Already?

BORGER: Yes, so -- and don't forget, this comes after the implosion of his top staff. Lots of his fundraisers have left. So I think he's going to have a tough haul as far as...

BLITZER: Compare this -- compare these numbers to President Obama. Because...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: ... it's not even a fair comparison. BORGER: Well, guess what, Wolf? We happen to have a graphic for you here on that, and Obama, $47 million. That's not 4.7. That's $47 million. All of the Republican candidates combined, $41 million.

Today we got some figures of the people who are raising money, bundling money, if you will, for Barack Obama. You won't be surprised to know a lot of them are from Hollywood. Ari Emanuel, brother of former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, now mayor of Chicago, has raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for the president. Hollywood producer Jeffrey Katzenberg has raised more than $500,000.

But I want to do a little caveat here, because I think by the time you get to the fall campaign in 2012, when there's one Republican candidate running against President Obama, you have all the money from the outside groups, the national committees, as well as the expenditure groups, I believe that the Republicans and the Democrats will probably be pretty much at parity, Wolf, in terms of money.

BLITZER: Because it's hard to believe that, and I'll tell you why. Because the president of the United States faces no opposition...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... from the Democrats, from the -- in his bid to get the nomination of his own party.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: The Republicans have to fight in every state.

BORGER: Right. Exactly.

BLITZER: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, they're going to spend a lot of money there.

BORGER: Right. And so the president has a head start.


BORGER: But Republicans want to win. And they've become very adept at raising money through outside groups as have Democrats...

BLITZER: The Democrats are doing that, too.

BORGER: As have Democrats, but we'll have to see the enthusiasm here of the Republican voters, and I think they're going to be quite enthusiastic. Barack Obama is very unpopular, and that enthusiasm may transfer into an awful lot of money.

BLITZER: If he raises $1 billion, the president of the United States, it's going to be hard for the Republicans to compete with that.

BORGER: Is there a recession? Or did I miss that? Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much. Los Angeles, famous, infamous some may say for its highway gridlock. You're going to find out why this weekend could be like nothing that city has ever seen.

And Mexico's army makes a huge discovery. A marijuana field bigger than 100 football fields. How did it remain hidden in plain sight?


BLITZER: Los Angeles now bracing for what many are calling Carmageddon. One of the busiest highways in the nation is about to shut down so a bridge can be demolished. The 53-hour closure is sparking dread but also special $4 commuter flights.

CNN's Casey Wian and Paul Vercammen are joining me now. First, to you, Casey. What's going on over there?

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the culprit of all this Carmageddon, as some are calling it, is right behind my right shoulder. There you can see the Mulholland Bridge. And what authorities are going to be doing this weekend is demolishing half of that bridge as part of an 11-month-long process that's going to ultimately result in high-occupancy vehicle car pool lanes being built on this stretch of the 405 Freeway. It's going to ease congestion here, hopefully, down the road.

But over this weekend, as you mentioned, authorities here in Los Angeles are worried that congestion throughout Southern California is going to be really, really bad, potentially. Ten miles of the 405, a major thoroughfare, from the San Fernando Valley to the west side of L.A., is going to be completely shut down for 53 hours.

Now what authorities are asking people to do is to rely on public transportation. As you know, Wolf, it's a very dicey proposition here in Los Angeles, but they have added more buses and some more computer trains. They're also asking that people, if it they don't have to drive, to avoid driving completely. And if they do have to drive, they plotted out alternative roots to stay away from the west side of Los Angeles.

Now, people are calling this Carmageddon, but Southern California has been through this type of scenario before. You think back to the North Ridge earthquake in 1994, you had two major freeways that shut down, and the city survived then.

Now, let's go to my colleague, Paul Vercammen, who's actually driving on the 405 freeway as we speak.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm driving toward you, Casey, coming right up the Sepulveda Pass on the 405.

Now right now, as you look at this, you may say to yourself this looks like awful traffic. Well, believe it or not, for a Friday afternoon, when you consider people leaving work headed for a three-day weekend, leaving the beach, whatever the case may be, this is actually quite good, because at times the 405 can be a virtual parking lot in this area.

And something to consider, one of the reasons why they're doing all of this reconstruction is many of the on and off-ramps in this area are absolutely deplorable. Wilshire, Sunset, Santa Monica, among the awful on-ramps in this area.

And by the way, if this project is late, if CIWA (ph) does not get that job done before that deadline which is, of course, 5 a.m. on Monday morning, it could be fined up to $72,000 an hour.

So, Wolf, just be glad that you are not out here on the 405, enduring this fun-filled night of Carmageddon, as they call it.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm just glad I'm not on that. We've got problems here in Washington with the Washington Beltway, but it's going to be a disaster.

Casey, before I let you go, folks in Los Angeles, I assume, they're ready. A lot of them are simply just getting out of town, right?

WIAN: A lot of them are getting out of town. A lot of hotels in Orange County farther out elsewhere in Southern California, offering special deals to entice people to get out of Los Angeles. Many of those hotels absolutely booked right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay on top of this story. Good luck to everybody in the Los Angeles area and Southern California. Guys, good luck out there. Thank you.

Army troops discover Mexico's largest ever marijuana field. In fact, you have to see it from the air to appreciate just how big it is. We're going to tell you how incredibly far it reaches.

And for our North American viewers on "JOHN KING USA," we'll take you to the rebel front lines in Libya. For the first time, they're getting official recognition from Washington. We'll get the rebels' reaction. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Nepal, a karate instructor blesses a student by placing a mark in his forehead in a celebration that honors teachers.

In Japan, sunflowers planted near an elementary school grow in a field destroyed by the tsunami disaster. The sunflowers help decontaminate the radioactive soil.

In Serbia, a boy plays in a fountain to cool off from a heat wave.

And in India, a man holds up a rare eagle owl that was rescued.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world. Hidden in plain sight, Mexico's army has stumbled onto what may be -- may be -- the largest marijuana plantation in the country's history. It stretches -- get this -- for more than 300 acres. Our senior Latin American affairs editor, Rafael Romo, reports.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR (voice-over): The massive extension of the illegal crops can only seen from the air, stretching as far as the eye can see. Field after field of marijuana grown between tomato stalks in an apparent effort to hide the illegal crops from authorities.

The Mexican army says this is the biggest marijuana plantation ever found in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Once this finding is processed and recorded by authorities, the field will be destroyed by the method of incineration.

ROMO: The illegal field was found in Mexico's Baja Peninsula, 450 kilometers, or about 280 miles south of Diorna (ph). It stands 120 hectors, or about 300 acres. Mexican officials say it's 168 times larger than the soccer field in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It's very important to point out, with this finding, we have stopped the harvest of 120 metric tons of marijuana that would have produced 60 million doses. This considerably affects the financial structure of drug traffickers and organized crime.

ROMO: The Mexican army detained six people as part of the operation. Two hundred and 50 Mexican soldiers will be deployed to the plantation with the mission of destroying the illegal plants in the next few days.

(on camera) The drug would have had a street value of up to $160 million according to Mexico's Department of Defense. A report issued by the U.N. says that Mexico is the world's largest producer of marijuana, closely followed by the United States. Officials say the find is a decisive blow to organized crime.

Rafael Romo, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.