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THE SITUATION ROOM
Herman Cain Campaign Attempts to Answer Charges of Sexual Harassment Leveled at Candidate; Woman Who Accused Cain of Sexual Harassment Requesting Release from Confidentiality Agreement; Herman Cain's Evolving Denial; Failing Brokerage Missing Money; Rick Perry: Off the Cuff
Aired November 1, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, stock prices nose dive on Wall Street because of renewed fears about Europe's enormous debt. This hour, the surprise twist that has investors around the world deeply worried right now.
Plus, Herman Cain's presidential campaign is actually profiting while the Republican keeps tweaking his denial of sexual harassment. Stand by to hear more of his newest, most detailed interview.
Also, new interviews with President Obama are being released by the White House this hour, the White House giving rare access to local journalists and hoping to get something in return.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On Wall Street today a hint of panic set in right at the opening bell. The Dow Jones Industrials plummeted after news that a carefully crafted European rescue plan may, repeat, may be falling apart. At the end of the day the Dow Jones was down almost 300 points the NASDAQ and S&P 500 also sharply lower. The losses all because of a curve ball thrown by the nation of Greece. CNN's Erin Burnett joins us now from New York right now. She's watching the story now for us. Erin, explain what Greece is doing now to cause a near panic on the international markets today.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, it's in a sense what they are not doing. We came in this morning. You know a few days ago markets were jumping around the world because Greece had a deal. It was a bailout deal that involved real pain in Greece, cuts in pensions, cuts in salaries, increase in working hours, working more years.
But Greece was doing it to get a bailout from Europe which mattered for American banks, European banks, and very much for the European and U.S. economy. So we all thought it would be OK.
But I remember coming on the show we were talking about this was not a done deal and there were issues. And then today, a complete curveball from the prime minister of Greece, Papandreou, saying all of a sudden, guess what, it's not done. We'll let the Greek people vote. Now, Wolf, you can imagine how the Greek people feel about all these austerity measures. It's tough on the average person in Greece who had to endure cutbacks. And 60 percent of Greeks in recent polls don't approve of the recent package. And if this package doesn't go through the entire existence of the European Union, the euro really could be in question. That's crucial for the U.S., for China, for the world.
BLITZER: Explain the second part. Why is it crucial for the U.S. if the people of Greece have to have a referendum on this and they vote down this deal that was supposedly in the works? Why should anyone in the United States care?
BURNETT: Well, the main reason, Wolf, is that even though Greece, as you point out, is two percent, two and a half percent of the European economy and a now probably less. It's not important in economic value but allowing Greece to fall out of the 17-member EU could break up the European Union. That's crucial for the world. The European Union as a group is the largest trading partner for the United States. It matters in terms of what disarray and deeper recessions there could mean for American companies and jobs.
It also matters for American banks. Last month Morgan Stanley, for example, was in deep -- there was distress around the company, a big American bank, because of their exposure to European debt. Once Greece goes, Wolf, it's the EU that could fall apart, but it's not then probably just going to be Greece. It's Portugal, Spain, Italy. Spain and Italy are big and important economies.
BLITZER: I have heard it suggested, Erin -- and you know more about this than I do -- but the too big to fail nightmare we experienced in 2008 when the economy was collapsing at that time would be small potatoes compared to a collapse of the EU, the euro zone which could be triggered with a collapse of what's going on in Greece. Is that a fair analysis?
BURNETT: I think it is a fair analysis. And really, what happened is America led. America went through its financial crisis first. We are the world's biggest economy, still its most important by far, and our banks are still perceived to be safe havens around the world despite the financial crisis. So we went through it first. Everyone thought Europe may have just avoided it, but obviously that's not the case. And so now you are seeing Europe go through this.
Some have said it could lead to a financial crisis even bigger than 2008, and in a sense Greece is to Europe as Bear Stearns was to the United States. Bear Stearns was the first domino to fall and the bank that got bailed out. Some people think it shows you have to bail Greece out.
There are others are in the minority but they do feel strongly. They think we -- meaning U.S. and Europe -- should let Greece fail and we should deal with the repercussions because Greece will become Italy will become Spain like Bear Stearns became Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and we saw how that situation ended and spiraled out of control. So most people think bailing out Greece is the right and necessary thing to do, but there are influential and credible people who think they should be allowed to fail.
BLITZER: It's a potential nightmare. I know you will have more coming up on your show later tonight. I want to alert our North American viewers. In addition to this, Erin has a special guest, the miracle on the Hudson captain, Captain Sullenburger. We have the video coming up this hour. You will speak with Sully at 7:00 p.m. eastern. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" for our North American viewers. Stand by for that. Erin, thank you.
In the presidential race here in the United States Republican Herman Cain's denial of sexual harassment is a bit more detailed today, more confusing at least to some at the same time. Stand by to hear another large portion of his interview with our CNN sister network HLN's Robin Meade. Stand by for that.
Right now, though, there is some new evidence that Herman Cain is actually profiting politically in some ways from this enormous fire storm. Let's bring in CNN's Joe Johns reporting on this story. What are you finding out, Joe?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it will be a while, of course, before we can draw any conclusions about the long-term effect of the story on Herman Cain's campaign. But anecdotally Republicans we are hearing from suggest Cain is getting the benefit of the doubt for now. And they are questioning whether he's under attack simply because he's a black conservative.
JOHNS: He's been all over the place on the facts and the timeline, but the message Cain and his campaign are sending to supporters is clear and simple. He says he was falsely accused of inappropriate behavior and says people are out to get him.
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I absolutely believe this is an intended smear campaign.
JOHNS: A smear campaign, a witch hunt because he's been doing well in the polls, he says, though it's still not clear whether, say, a Republican contender for the nomination or a Democrat leaked the story. In spite of that, one Republican strategist says the Cain message is actually playing very well so far because -- well, listen to Ron Bonjean.
RON BONJEAN, FOUNDER, THE BONJEAN COMPANY: Many Republican primary voters view this as a maneuver to oust Herman Cain from frontrunner status and that it could be even construed as a racist move.
JOHNS: To put a finer point on it, here's Rush Limbaugh on his radio show.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Classic drive-by media hit job on a black conservative.
JOHNS: That's right. In the view of some, because of race Cain is getting the same treatment as, say, Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Thomas was slammed by law professor Anita Hill for, you'll remember, alleged inappropriate behavior. Thomas called it a high tech lynching.
Conservatives never forgot the way the Thomas case was handled. If you think they aren't giving Cain the benefit of the doubt at least for now, consider this. Yesterday the Cain campaign said it raised as much as $300,000 online. The candidate said it was one of their biggest fund-raising days so far.
BONJEAN: Cain survives this if there isn't any more news out there regarding it.
JOHNS: Still, even with as little as we know right now, political lessons are being learned. Even before the story broke, a CNN-ORC poll showed Cain was underperforming with women voters. Only 20 percent supported him in the national poll. So this can't be good news. Then there is the old fashioned question of candidate vetting. Is there anything else in Cain's past that no one took the time to thoroughly check out?
BONJEAN: Anyone running for president should be looking into their background and thinking to themselves, what can come out that's going to make me look bad and make the campaign look bad and potentially hurt my run to be president? And, how do we answer those questions when they come out? Clearly, his rise in the polls to the frontrunner status showed that they had not been prepared to do that.
JOHNS: Definitely an issue of vetting there. The apparent lack of full and complete vetting points back to something a lot of political consultants have been talking about these days. It's sort of the whiplash of campaign success when a candidate bolts from the middle of the back to front runner and the campaign isn't ready for it. It can be more than painful. The level of scrutiny goes way up, and that's certainly happened in the case of her man Cain, Wolf.
BLITZER: Joe, stand by. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. A new report from the Washington Post quoting the attorney for one of the two women who apparently made the accusations of sexual harassment by Herman Cain as saying this woman would like to be released from the confidentiality agreement she signed with the National Restaurant Association, the trade association, the lobbying group which Herman Cain headed in Washington from 1996 to 1999.
The lawyer for this woman, whose name has not been released, Joel P. Bennett, has called on the National Restaurant Association to release this woman. "It's just frustrating," Joel Bennett says, "that Herman Cain is going around bad mouthing the two complainants and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement. The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond."
The statement from Joel Bennett goes on to say that this woman, his client attended an Ivy League school and now works for the federal government, has moved in with relatives because the news media is staking out her home in suburban Maryland right outside of Washington, D.C.
Let's discuss a little bit of this with Joe Johns. Joe, you have been reporting on this from Sunday night when politico broke the story. What do you make of the development? A lawyer for the woman said if she is allowed to speak freely, he says for all practical purposes, he says if -- let me be precise. I want to quote from Bennett, the attorney. "If this woman is released from the confidentiality agreement," Bennett says, quote, "then it is a whole new ball game what she will say." It sounds dramatic. But give me your thoughts. And not only are you speaking as a reporter but an attorney as well.
JOHNS: I have a law degree, and I can tell you this -- a nondisclosure agreement can be defeated by the consent of all the parties. So if Herman Cain is putting information out there that his mind is fuzzy about, he can't quite remember or whatever, there is a very easy way for everybody to figure out exactly what happened back when they were at the National Restaurant Association, and that is for everybody to say I agree for the information to be released publically because Herman Cain is now running for president, sort of changed circumstances. That's a good way to get all the cards on the table and clear the air on this story for Herman Cain and the other parties involved, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let me bring in Jeffrey Toobin -- Joe stand by for a moment -- our senior legal analyst is joining us on the phone. All right, a lawyer is now involved representing one of the two women. Jeffrey, you read the story in the Washington Post that's just moved on its website. What do you think?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It makes a lot of sense for what this lawyer is saying because a nondisclosure agreement is just a contract. It's not a government document. It's an agreement between private parties, and it says none of the participants can talk about what went on. But because it's a contract between private parties it can be changed, and they can say this is no longer operative. We've agreed that everyone can now speak about it. But all the parties have to agree.
What makes this somewhat complicated is that it's not Herman Cain who was apparently the party to the contract. It's the National Restaurant Association. And even if Cain says I want you to release all confidentiality, the National Restaurant Association may for its own reasons say we don't want to do it.
So there will be a complicated scenario here of what the National Restaurant Association does because they are sort of an independent actor, but also presumably acting at the behest of Cain in the past. So they will have a very tough decision to make.
BLITZER: Joe, you reported yesterday the National Restaurant Association, this trade association here in Washington which Herman Cain headed back in the 1990s, they issued a statement saying they never discussed personnel matters, period. That was their statement, right? JOHNS: Sure. And it's certainly a very blanket statement and apparently not wanting to get on the record a whole lot more on this. It is sort of a sticky situation because there are a lot people saying maybe Herman Cain was in trouble, but maybe the National Restaurant Association just wanted to get rid of this and not go any further with it. So they are going to pay out a sum of money.
But whatever it is, we don't know. And for the presidential campaign and all the people who have to make decisions as voters, it seems to me it's perfectly logical to get that kind of information out there in the public arena so people can no longer speculate about who did this or why or what the sum details are, Wolf.
BLITZER: When a story like this begins you never know where it's going to wind up. I want everybody to stand by. We'll have much more on the developing story, new details emerging in the Washington Post quoting an attorney representing one of the two women alleging sexual harassment by Herman Cain in the 1990s as saying she wants to go public and tell her side of the story. Stand by for more on this breaking news when we come back.
Also, a former U.S. governor asked to account for millions of dollars missing from the books of a failed brokerage firm.
And there was a lot chaos after this emergency landing. Wait until you see the drama when the jet touched down.
BLITZER: More on the breaking news. An attorney representing one of these two women accusing Herman Cain of sexual harassment back in the '90s now asking for permission to go public with her accusations, an attorney for the woman telling the "Washington Post" she wants to be released from the confidentiality agreement she signed back in the 90s when she left the National Restaurant Association. We'll get more on this story coming up.
But let's go to Jack Cafferty right now for the "Cafferty File." I was saying, Jack, a story like this, when it starts you never know where it's going to wind up.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I wonder if she's willing to give back the money. She was paid in order to buy her confidentiality. Now she wants to be released. It seems only fair she'd refund the money.
BLITZER: That's what we'll find out.
CAFFERTY: One year from today, Wolfman, the U.S. will elect its next president and a bunch of representatives and senators and governors and stuff. A lot can happen between now and then. Politically, we are just getting warmed up. Expect more open warfare among Republican candidates for the White House once the primaries and caucuses start in January. And you never know. Herman Cain may not be the only candidate with a skeleton in the closet. Don't forget about those infamous October surprises.
But there is a whole lot more than politics at stake, starting with the economy. As the European economy sputters on fears of a Greek bailout not happening, remember, in a global economy we are all in this together. And if Europe goes off a cliff the United States could follow suit quickly.
Expect more dramatic swings in the stock market here. And with the ups and downs go the hopes and dreams of retirement and a college for kids for millions of Americans.
Also on the economy front, unemployment above nine percent. The Congressional Budget Office says it will stay through the end of next year. That is very bad news for President Obama.
What about our skyrocketing national debt and deficits? Washington waiting with baited breath to hear the results from the super committee in the coming weeks. It doesn't matter what they do. My guess is they won't do anything. But it doesn't matter. We'll be deeper in debt a year from now than we are now regardless of what they do.
Suddenly we are running short of wars. How did that happen? President Obama said all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year. The U.S. is planning to build up military forces in other Persian Gulf countries, places like Kuwait. Who knows what that can bring?
Then there is Occupy Wall Street. Will the movement fade away with the first winter chill or will it grow and spread? And to what end? If it has any staying power, voter discontent with inequality and corporate greed might become a real factor when America votes in 2012.
Here's the question -- the 2012 elections are a year from today. Where will we be in a year? Go to CNN.com/Caffertyfile to post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM Facebook page. It's 12 months and we'll be doing another election return, Wolf.
BLITZER: Can't wait. Every single day is exciting as far as I'm concerned, Jack.
CAFFERTY: It's getting that way, isn't it?
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Jack, thank you.
Bank of America is dropping plans to charge that controversial $5 fee for debit card purposes. Our Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now. What's the latest, Lisa.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, there, Wolf. Bank of America announced in September it would begin charging the fee next year. But following widespread customer outrage and news that several rivals are cancelling similar plans, the bank is backpedalling. Last week Chase and Wells Fargo banks called off the pilot programs and SunTrust announced that it will drop fees beginning tomorrow.
Two people are dead and 13 injured following a string of four shootings in New Orleans overnight, including one at a Halloween celebration. Police say they don't yet know the motive and are searching for a suspect or suspects. In one of the incidents one person is facing first-degree murder charges and three counts of attempted first-degree murder charges.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is now eyeing Iowa. Activists in Des Moines are endorsing a plan to shut down campaign offices statewide the week before the January 3 caucuses. The protesters would target offices of Republican candidates and President Obama. Organizers say they are not against the electoral process, just the people who they say own it right now. Wolf?
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. We'll get more on the potential political fallout for Herman Cain coming up, including a closer look at whose support, if any, he could be in danger of losing. Stand by.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news right now. An attorney representing one of the women who has accused Herman Cain, the Republican presidential candidate, of sexual harassment back in the 1990s when he headed the National Restaurant Association here in Washington wants to be able to tell her story. An attorney representing this woman has told the "Washington Post" she wants to be released from the confidentiality agreement that she signed back in the 1990s that bars her from speaking publically. She wants to go public.
We're getting more on this part of the story. It's a dramatic new development in this entire case. Herman Cain, the Republican presidential frontrunner right now. Earlier in the day Mr. Cain sat down with our sister network anchor Robin Meade of HLN. Here is a portion of the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)t
ROBIN MEADE, HLN HOST: I think that for some what's puzzling is that "Politico" reported that it gave your campaign like 10 days to come back with some reaction.
HERMAN CAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.
MEADE: And I believe we have the tape. I want to play the tape where the reporter asked if you had been accused of sexual harassment but you didn't answer. Hold on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever been accused, sir, of sexual harassment? CAIN: Last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, have you? Yes or no. Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment? Have you?
CAIN: I'm trying to --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was the last question. Thanks.
CAIN: Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MEADE: I remember the first time I saw that, Herman. I was like, oh, my gosh, he asked it back to the reporter. Why did you react that way? Did it come out of nowhere for you after "Politico" though said that your campaign had it for 10 days?
CAIN: We had it for 10 days, Robin. We made a conscious decision with my sign-off, I'm not going to go out and start chasing two anonymous accusations. So that was a conscious decision. We didn't know what the article was going to include. We didn't know what the accusation was going to be. So for me to even answer his question on was totally inappropriate. You don't do businesslike that. It's similar to negotiating against yourself.
MEADE: Well, do you have -- are there other accusations against you that you wouldn't know what two allegations he was talking about when he said sexual harassment?
CAIN: All we know is they contacted my office and said they had two anonymous sources accusing me of sexual harassment. And we said, what details can you give us? They couldn't give us any other than it occurred when I was at the National Restaurant Association. I immediately recalled one, and that was the one we talked about earlier. I couldn't recall the other one.
The reason I wasn't going to answer his question standing on the street after I had done another interview, that could have been taken totally out of context. I wanted to put it into context like I'm doing now to explain what I knew and what I didn't know, what I can now remember and what I couldn't remember at the beginning of yesterday.
MEADE: If either of the women, one of whom you remember, one of whom you don't remember the case, you're saying, if they were watching now what would you say to them regarding their complaints? You say they were false and they were found to be false.
CAIN: That's all I would say, why are you bringing it up now?
Secondly, are you being used to try and help paint a cloud and help sabotage my candidacy? That's all I would say. I would just simply ask a question as to why they would do that now. And you and I both know why they're doing it, because someone does not like the fact that we're doing so well in this campaign, and that I'm at or near the top of the polls consistently.
MEADE: So you feel like this is a smear campaign? From whom, do you think?
CAIN: I absolutely believe that this is an intended smear campaign using these two cases -- like I said, I'm not even aware of the second one. It is a smear campaign. When they cannot --
MEADE: By whom? Do you know by whom?
CAIN: We don't know. We have no idea.
When they cannot kill my ideas like 9-9-9, they come after me personally. And someone asked me yesterday in one of the many interviews that I did, clearing the air on this, is there anything else? Not that I know of.
I knew about that one case at the restaurant association. I've been in business -- I was in business before I ran for president over 40 years, and that was the only instance of accused sexual abuse -- sexual harassment, the only one.
And so what I'm saying is -- and then in the rest of the Politico article, which was near the end, the last two paragraphs, three people who were at the restaurant association, members of the board of directors, attested to my character and my integrity. But not a lot of people are paying attention to that.
BLITZER: All right. You just heard Herman Cain speaking with our own Robin Meade. We'll have a little bit more of that interview is coming up. But the breaking news we're following, an attorney representing one of the women who has accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment back in the 1990s, that attorney now telling "The Washington Post" that his client wants to go public, wants to go be released from that confidentiality agreement.
We have got a lot of analysis and more reporting coming up. We are following this story. Gloria Borger is here, Ron Brownstein is here, Jeff Toobin.
Stand by. More on the breaking news in THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.
BLITZER: All right. We're following the breaking news. Let's get some more on the political fallout, this latest revelation.
A lawyer representing one of these two women who has accused Herman Cain of sexual harassment now says she wants to go public with her accusations.
Let's discuss what's going on. Ron Brownstein is here, our senior political analyst. He's a columnist for "The National Journal." Also, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, is on the phone.
But Gloria, first to you, this represents potentially a whole new chapter in this saga.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a new ballgame, Wolf, because if she does come out, you put a human face on the question of sexual harassment. And if she is a very sympathetic character, and she tells her story, and people believe her, then I think Herman Cain has a problem.
Also, a couple of things her lawyer said that were very interesting.
One, was that he made very clear the money was not for severance, as Herman Cain has said, that it was money for a settlement for sexual harassment. He also said that Cain has effectively waived his confidentiality right by talking about this. So this puts the restaurant association now right on the hot seat, because she is going to go to them and say, waive my confidentiality, I want to answer what Herman Cain is saying because he has belittled my charges.
BLITZER: Because I think in part -- and I'm just speculating here, but Ron, I want you to weigh in. You heard in the interview with Robin Meade Herman Cain earlier in the day saying, why are these two women raising these? We don't know if these two women raised this, but clearly this one woman described by "The Washington Post" as someone who attended an Ivy League school, now works for the government, she obviously has been irritated by the suggestion that there was no sexual harassment.
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think, Wolf, any time there is one of these scandals, I think one of the things we have to remind ourselves as reporters is these are real people with real lives.
You watch Herman Cain in these last two days, whatever else you think about the politics, you can see how much he wants to restore his reputation, his integrity, convince people that he's a good person. I think the woman now is in exactly the same position. She's had lots of questions obviously swirling around from this, and then him raising those issues today I think puts her in exactly a similar kind of role and, as Gloria said, puts the restaurant association right on the hot spot in terms of allowing everybody to talk about this.
BORGER: And I don't think she would want to come out and speak unless there were things that Herman Cain was saying that she felt were inaccurate and that she wanted to clear the air. So I think if she does speak, you can be sure we are going to be involved in a kind of he said/she situation.
BLITZER: Yes, once you put a human face on this. Jeffrey Toobin, you've covered a lot of these stories like I have over the years. "The Washington Post" quoting the lawyer saying she's very upset, this woman. She had to move out of her house in suburban Maryland. She's now staying with relatives because news media organizations were staking out her home outside of Washington, D.C.
Give us your legal analysis of how this could unfold. Could Herman Cain, for example ask the National Restaurant Association to release her of the confidentiality agreement? Would that require the National Restaurant Association to do so?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, there's unfortunately a lot we don't know at this point.
This is a contract. A confidentiality agreement is a contract. Presumably -- and again, we don't know this for sure -- the only two parties to the contract are the woman in question, or "women," plural, and the National Restaurant Association. Like any contract, it could be modified with the permission of both parties.
Herman Cain is not apparently a party to the contract. He could encourage the National Restaurant Association to release the confidentiality order.
Again, that -- we don't know -- first of all, I think someone in short order will ask Herman Cain or should ask Herman Cain whether he would agree to that. But then the National Restaurant Association is going to have to make up their mind.
Presumably, this woman wants to come out and speak, so she'd certainly agree to modify it. But this is a contract. We don't know precisely what it says.
Confidentiality agreements follow certain forms. They basically say, if you talk about it, you lose your rights, you lose the money you have been awarded. One thing, again, down the line that we could think about is whether her lawyer could argue that Cain, by talking about it, has essentially waived it, entitling her to speak out.
This story is not going away. These legal stories tend to get more complicated, not more simple, over time, and particularly if this woman wants to tell her story. It usually winds up that people who want to tell their story do tell their story.
BLITZER: And Ron Brownstein and Gloria, let me just read from Joel P. Bennett (ph). He's the attorney representing this woman who made these accusations of sexual harassment against Herman Cain.
He tells "The Washington Post" -- and we'll put it up on the screen -- "It is just frustrating that Herman Cain is going around badmouthing the two complainants, and my client is blocked by a confidentiality agreement. The National Restaurant Association ought to release them and allow them to respond."
Once you irritate two women like this, and one of them is willing to go public, it takes on a whole new dimension. BROWNSTEIN: Look, Herman Cain could be the Republican presidential nominee. He could be the president of the United States.
Now that the person involved in the confidentiality agreement has asked to be allowed to step forward, is it really plausible for the employer, who, for whatever reasons of their own, want to keep this private? Is it really plausible for them to say, no, we are not going to discuss the details?
BORGER: Well, and the lawyer, in speaking with "The Washington Post," said, for all practical purposes, Cain has waived his confidentiality, although the question is -- and Jeff could speak to this better than -- whether legally that constitutes a waiver or not. I mean, they might argue that he's already done it because he's talked about one or two of the alleged incidents.
BLITZER: Yes. He's putting his side of the story out --
BLITZER: -- but they are not allowed to put their side of the story out. But I suspect that's about to change.
BROWNSTEIN: Hard to believe that can be sustained.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect that's going to change pretty soon, and then we'll see how this story unfolds.
Guys, don't go too far away.
We are following some other breaking news right now. This just in from Georgia.
Four men were arrested today, charged with a plot to manufacture a biological agent to use in attacks against U.S. citizens. The defendants are allegedly part of a fringe militia group in north Georgia. Law enforcement authorities say they bought explosives and a silencer as part of their alleged plan to produce the deadly toxin ricin.
Stand by for that.
Much more coming up, including this dramatic new twist in the case of a Wall Street giant filing for bankruptcy. Ahead, we have details of the millions of dollars apparently missing from the books.
Lots of news happening today, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We are learning today there is more to the story of a Wall Street brokerage firm that's filing for bankruptcy -- a lot more, apparently. A lot of money apparently is missing from the books of MF Global, a firm run by the former New Jersey governor Jon Corzine.
Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester. What are we learning, Lisa, about this missing money?
SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, first off, this is customer money that we are talking about.
The CME Group, which is a giant commodities exchange where MF Global Holdings did business, confirmed that the company did not keep separate customer funds from corporate money. And that is a huge no- no.
Now, hundreds of millions of dollars is missing. Federal regulators are investigating, and it has been a mighty quick downfall for a once powerful company.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Things spun wildly out of control for MF Global Holdings. The firm had star power, run by Jon Corzine, former New Jersey governor, former Senator, and former CEO of Goldman Sachs. But the brokerage firm invested heavily in the European sovereign markets including Italy, Spain, and Ireland, with more than $6 billion.
With Europe's finances teetering, MF Global began to crumble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the end of the day, they took a very risky position. It was very large. And because of its size, it became risky and put pressure on the capital firm, ultimately resulting in a lack of confidence by investors and other parties, and essentially creating a run on the bank.
SYLVESTER: The major ratings agencies downgraded MF Global's bonds to junk status. Corzine was close to finding a buyer for the beleaguered company over the weekend, but the deal fell apart when it was revealed that more than $600 million of customers' money couldn't be accounted for.
The question is, was it an accounting error, or did MF Global break the cardinal rule and use funds from private brokerage accounts to cover its losses? Keeping company money separate from customer funds is a bedrock of the investment and securities industry.
William Cohan, author of "Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World," describes Corzine as ambitious, determined, and out to make a comeback on Wall Street after his career in politics.
WILLIAM COHAN, AUTHOR, "MONEY AND POWER": This was not about his fortune. His fortune was set, whatever it is, $400 million or $500 million. He was set.
This was about being able to strut his stuff on Wall Street again. So he's swinging for the fences with other people's money. He should have known how fragile his business was.
All of these Wall Street firms are houses of cards, as was shown in September and October of 2008. And for Jon Corzine not to realize that, it's beyond outrageous. This guy was the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He should have known better, and as I said, I'm absolutely shocked that he let this happen.
SYLVESTER: Now, ,we tried to get comment today from MF Global, but our calls were not returned. And to be clear, Jon Corzine is not accused of any specific wrongdoing.
On MF's global quarterly conference call last week, Corzine described the past months as the most volatile he had ever seen in more than 30 years. He was saying that he was confident that the company would pull through, and that things were starting to normalize.
Well, that was on October 25th. A week later now, the company is bankrupt. And there are reports out there -- "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the FBI is investigating all of this as well.
BLITZER: What a story. What a change. I guess he was looking for a customer to buy the company. That exactly didn't happen.
SYLVESTER: Yes, it all fell through at the last minute because of this report of missing money. And no one wants to touch it now.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Lisa. Good work.
The 2012 election here in the United States, one year away. Jack Cafferty is asking, where will we be in a year?
And Rick Perry unplugged. Comics, Web sites, they're having a field day with his odd, rambling speech.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: The 2012 elections is a year from today. Where are we going to be in a year?
Larry in Denver writes, "A year from today, nothing will change. Just elections, same people doing the same thing they've done for the last four years -- nothing."
"The economy will still be in suffer mode, people still angry. And whoever is in the Senate and House will be just as incompetent as they are today -- do nothing, take money from lobbyists, and start their re-election campaigns. After all, it's only four years until 2016. Get ready, Sarah."
Dennis in Florida writes, "Unfortunately, we probably will not be better off than we are today. Most likely, things are going to be a little worse."
"However, there may be a glimmer of some hope on the horizon. Perhaps the Mayan prediction of the end of the world on 12/21/2012 will be correct -- Merry Christmas?"
Rich in Florida writes, "We'll be all full of hope that there will be change. I really want to be wrong about this, but it won't work out any better than it did three years ago. It doesn't matter who gets elected. They just slip right into the existing system of power and influence that their predecessor left vacant."
"The only way that's changing is if we blow the whole business sky high. Stop electing Democrats. Stop electing Republicans, too."
Everett writes, "If the nation becomes much more polarized, we could find ourselves in a state of civil war."
And Dave in Seattle says, "We'll be well into an economic recovery, but the 'ain't it awful' campaign rhetoric will make us all feel like things are worse than they actually are. Sort of like your blog."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile. It's a very uplifting experience. Or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page.
We try to cast a little sunshine on the situation, Wolf, but we're not very successful.
BLITZER: Yes, definitely.
Jack, stand by for a moment, because I want you to watch this, and I want our viewers to watch as well.
A very dramatic landing for a Boeing 767 in Poland forced to land on its belly because of problems with the landing gear. An airport spokesman says all 231 people on board the flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Warsaw are safe and aren't injured. But a very, very dramatic landing indeed.
Republican presidential contender Rick Perry goes off the cuff. Stand by for Jeanne Moos.
BLITZER: The Republican presidential contender Rick Perry goes off the cuff, leaving some voters scratching their heads.
Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When presidential candidate Rick Perry gave a saluting, arms in the upright position, kiss-blowing speech, you could have thought he was just over- caffeinated. But when he opened his mouth --
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Today has been awesome, girl!
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: You'll never look at this guy the same way again.
PERRY: If they print any more money over there in Washington, the goal's going to be good.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was a loosey goosey.
PERRY: This is such a cool state. I mean, come on, "Live Free or Die."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will have what he's having.
PERRY: You know, we're kind of into those slogans, man. It's like, live free or die, victory or death. Bring it!
MOOS: What Rick Perry brought on was endless speculation about whether he was in an altered state. And the answer ranged from, "How drunk is Rick Perry in this video?" to "Rick Perry wasn't drunk."
Perry's spokesman said simply that the governor is passionate when he speaks and that he got a standing ovation.
PERRY: You know what I mean. Like nine percent in expansion.
MOOS: True, we're showing his oddest moments, but there were a lot of them in the 25-minute speech.
On Fox News, they went loose with this defense --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he was just loose.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That because he was so loose --
MOOS: Many suggested that given Rick Perry's recent back surgery, maybe pain pills were to blame. Jon Stewart said there is one other explanation --
JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Rick Perry just got back from the dentist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this real life?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't see anything.
MOOS: Many thought Governor Perry's speech was just fine. "Goofy, yes. Drunk, no."
Sure looked blissfully at the syrup they gave him as a gift. Not only did he swish it, he clasped it to his heart.
Some compared this to the dean scream that more or less dashed Howard Dean's presidential hopes.
HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White house! Yeah! MOOS: Others compared it to the bad lip-reading parody video that went viral back in September.
PERRY (singing): And save a pretzel for the gas jets.
MOOS (on camera): Rick Perry wasn't just animated. At times he was downright flamboyant.
PERRY: Or that, 20 percent flat tax! Put it on there.
MOOS (voice-over): One person posted, "He's channeling Paul Lynde in the center square.
PAUL LYNDE, "HOLLYWOOD SQUARES": It's just enough to turn her on.
MOOS: And something seemed to turn on Rick Perry.
PERRY: I love Herman. Is he the best?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jeanne.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.