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THE SITUATION ROOM
Herman Cain Controversy Escalates; Greek Crisis Dominates World Summit; Reports Indicate Israel Considering Bombing Iranian Nuclear Facility; Congress Subpoenas White House for Documents Relating to Solyndra; Army's New G.I. Janes; Greece a Preview of What's Coming Here?; Asteroid Fly-By Next Tuesday; Study Links Chantix to Suicide; Cuba Legalizes Private Home Sales
Aired November 3, 2011 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, as Wall Street and world markets are whipsawed by the financial crisis in Greece, the on-again/off- again rescue plan is looking less than certain. President Obama and world leaders are in France right now for a critical summit.
One of Herman Cain's accusers may come forward on the sexual harassment allegations plaguing the Republican front-runner. And a former Cain adviser blamed by Cain for leaking the story is speaking out to our own Gloria Borger.
Plus, lawmakers vote to subpoena the White House for documents on the bankrupt solar energy company that got a half-a-billion-dollar loan from the Obama administration.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
While Herman Cain scrambles to try to get in front of the growing controversy over sexual harassment allegations, he's raking in lots of campaign contributions. Cain's campaign now tells CNN they have raised an astonishing $1.2 million since Sunday evening, when news of the sexual harassment accusations first broke.
Meantime, Cain may face some new embarrassment and more pressure if one of his accusers is allowed to come forward with a statement.
Our own Brian Todd has been reporting on this story from the beginning.
Brian, what are you learning today?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Going to get to that part of this in just a moment, Wolf, about what we may hear in the next day or two from that accuser, but there are indications right now that Herman Cain's alleged behavior may have cost the National Restaurant Association up to $80,000.
Politico reports one of the woman who accused Cain of sexual harassment received a payout of about $45,000 as part of her settlement. Earlier this week, "The New York Times" reported that a second woman got $35,000, a year's salary in severance pay after an alleged encounter with Cain. We have been in touch with the attorney for one of the accusers and that attorney is Joel Bennett. It's not clear whether his client is the one who Politico says got the $45,000 payout reported today. Contacted by CNN Bennett refused to comment on any of that.
We also contacted Cain's campaign. His spokesman said -- quote -- "This is all part of an ongoing smear campaign." He said corporate agreements are quite common. Now, a key question remains, will the National Restaurant Association which Cain once headed and where this behavior allegedly occurred in the '90s, will that group release one of the accusers from her confidentiality agreement?
We're likely to know tomorrow. The Restaurant Association says Joel Bennett who represents that woman contacted one of their attorneys today, gave them a proposed statement from the woman. The association says it's reviewing the document and is going to respond tomorrow. Bennett wants the association to release the woman from the deal. He says she's upset that Cain has said her case has had no merit. And she wants to set the record straight.
We talked to employment attorney Deborah Kelly, who said she'd be surprised if the Restaurant Association releases the woman from that agreement. I asked Kelly what are the risks for that group to do that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH KELLY, ATTORNEY: The risks are that everything they wanted not to be discussed -- again, settlement is not necessarily I did something wrong. It's I want peace, I don't want the reputational damage, I don't want to pay the lawyers. All that comes up. They don't get peace. They get this issue from the '90s bubbling up again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: The accuser who's seeking that release has not been named by any news organization. Joel Bennett tells us she is a career civil servant who has worked at several federal government agencies as a spokeswoman. If she is released from the confidentiality agreement she still may not go public beyond giving a statement. She told "The Washington Post" last night she has decided not to go public.
Asked why not, she responded -- quote -- "I'm too tired to say why."
BLITZER: It's already been 24 hours and the Herman Cain campaign already fending off yet another accusation that has surfaced.
TODD: They seem to coming, Wolf. That's right.
A former employee of the Restaurant Association told the Associated Press that she once considered, considered filing a workplace complaint over what she considered aggressive, unwanted behavior by Cain when she worked for him. She said that behavior included a private invitation to his corporate apartment, but very important to note here, she never filed a formal complaint as far as we know. That's a very important part of this whole thing. Cain's campaign responded by saying they expected these -- quote -- "baseless allegations" to come up as part of an ongoing smear campaign. They said he has never acted in the way alleged by the inside-the-Beltway media. They're again denying that part of it.
BLITZER: The next 24 hours though could be critical once this other woman decides whether or not she will release a public statement, if she gets authority to do that.
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.
A man who worked on Herman Cain's 2004 campaign is hotly denying he had anything to do with leaking the sexual harassment story that's led to so much controversy since Sunday night. Cain pointed the finger at his ex-aide Curt Anderson, saying he told Anderson about past sexual harassment allegations when he worked for his 2004 Senate campaign in Georgia.
Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.
Gloria, you had a chance to speak with this Republican operative and give our viewers a sense of what he is saying.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, very simply, he said the conversation never, ever happened.
BLITZER: The conversation that Herman Cain is suggesting when he shared with him the allegation back in 2004.
BORGER: Right. He said never happened. Didn't know about the allegations. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: But he's accusing you of leaking.
CURT ANDERSON, PERRY CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Well, you know, he can say what he wants, but I just want to set the record straight that I have tremendous regard for the guy, and I think he's a guy, you know, he's a great conservative leader. He's run a great campaign, and I really enjoy him. You know, you don't enjoy everybody you work with, but I really enjoy the guy. Now --
BORGER: Are you the leaker?
ANDERSON: No, no. Well, there's two problems with that. One is, I didn't know anything about this. So, it's hard to leak something that you don't know anything about, of course. The second problem with it is, this, if someone tells you something in confidence, a family member, a friend, a candidate, a client, and then, you go out and blab it to other people, that's just unethical.
And that's not the way I live my life. But, that's sort of immaterial in this instance because I didn't know anything about any of this.
BORGER: So, you're saying that that conversation never took place?
ANDERSON: That's correct. I don't have any knowledge of any of this and, you know, it's just not true.
BORGER: So, are you saying Herman Cain is lying?
ANDERSON: Well, I'm not here to add any more name calling to what's already --
BORGER: My characterization, though, is he not telling the truth?
ANDERSON: I'm not going to, you know, attack him in any sort of personal way or anything. I will say this, this has been, you know, he's in a tough spot, and it's very rough, and candidates, when they get into a firestorm like this, have, you know, sometimes come unraveled.
And, you know, it seems to me that they're kind of grasping at straws and fishing around trying to figure out what to do and how to get out of this. And it's a lot of stress. I mean, these guys are under tremendous stress in these situations.
And so, they're floundering, and you know, maybe it's a diversionary tactic or something, but I'm not here to discourage Herman. I think he's a tremendous guy, and this is all an unfortunate mess.
BORGER: Why do you think he fingered you then as the leaker?
ANDERSON: I'm not sure. I think they probably figured it to on diversionary strategy to try to, you know, take them out of the limelight and say, oh, somebody else did it, you know, and I try to, I guess. I mean, I think it's kind of a weak strategy.
The best thing to always do in any circumstance, people in politics get all confused, and they get into tough situations, and then, what they need to do is kind of think back to what my dad used to tell me. Well, when in doubt, tell the truth. Come to think about it, tell the truth all the time.
BORGER: So, getting back to the question about why he figured you as the leaker, you, obviously, work for Mr. Perry right now. Mr. Perry would have a lot to gain, obviously, if Mr. Cain drops in the polls. So, is this politically motivated to kind of throw it back at the Perry camp?
ANDERSON: Well, I'm sure it's politically motivated. I mean, you know, that's the kind of the sorry thing about the state of politics we're in. People don't do a lot in terms of just talking about what they really believe. Everything has got a political motive behind it. And, maybe this is convenient for them. But you know, let me say this, a lot of candidates and Herman included talk about their faith in these issues, and I endorse that. I think that's great. Well, one of the important things there is, you know, the old saying, thou shall not bear false witness. And you have a situation here where Mr. Cain is saying that people are falsely accusing him, and, so, the last thing that he ought to do is falsely accuse somebody else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words there, Gloria, from Curt Anderson.
How's the Cain campaign reacting to your interview, what he told you?
BORGER: Well, we're now in a he said/he said situation and the campaign is saying -- I just spoke with them. They're saying we stand by our comments, which means that they're not retracting the charge.
BLITZER: They still believe that he leaked the information to Politico?
BLITZER: And they still insist that back in 2004 when he worked for Herman Cain's Georgia Senate campaign, Herman Cain shared with him this information about the sexual harassment allegations?
BORGER: Absolutely. Did not back off at all, and then said, but we would like to return to talking about the economy. So it's clear the Cain campaign now wants to sort of pivot and get back to its campaign and stop talking about this issue.
BLITZER: Have you spoken with campaign, though, about this notion -- Herman campaign -- or Herman Cain, when the allegation first came up, said he couldn't remember anything about it. But back in 2004, he now says he did brief this aide about it in case there was some information that were to surface.
BORGER: Right. The thing is Herman Cain still sticks with his story as it has evolved. There's nothing more the campaign can say other than what Mr. Cain has been saying.
And we have watched his story evolve and his memories seemingly get better and better. But you raise a good question. If he remembers telling a campaign aide about this, why wouldn't he have remembered it when Politico first asked him about it?
BLITZER: It's a good question. And I suspect we're going to know, as I said to Brian, a lot more over the next 24 to 48 hours.
BORGER: Oh, absolutely.
BLITZER: Gloria, good work. Thank you.
Day in and day out, investors have been keeping a very nervous eye on Europe, never certain whether the risky rescue package for Greece finally will go through. Today, stocks were up big. The Dow rose more than 200 points and the S&P 500 was up more than 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq up more than 2 percent. That despite the political wrangling in Greece which still threatens to unravel the European bailout plan and unravel Europe's economy as well with enormous potential fallout on the U.S. economy.
It's the focus of President Obama and his counterparts at the G-20 economic summit in France that is ongoing right now.
Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett in New York for more on what's going on.
When I say the stakes are enormous in Cannes right now on what's going on at this economic summit, I think it's fair to say the whole world is watching for very good reason, Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: They are and not watching the movie stars and the glitz you usually get in Cannes, right? This is different, but much more important when it comes to our economy.
And the market today up in the U.S. because of hope that while Greece now they might not have a general referendum or election as to whether they would go ahead with these austerity measures required to get the latest bailout, essentially from France and Germany.
Wolf, it's pretty interesting though because what is at stake here at this point is a decision and really, nobody knows whether -- what the answer to this is. But can Greece come out of the 17-member euro and go back to the drachma, which was its currency, can Greece do that and not inflict any further damage to Europe? That's really the question.
A lot of people now are starting to say even if this bailout goes through, Greece isn't going to be able to survive it and Europe doesn't have enough money to bail out the other countries that are sure to follow Greece, whether it's a year from now or a few years from now. Italy has problems. Portugal has problems. Ireland has problems. Spain has problems.
They investment community they call them with a little bit of a snarky chuckle call the PIGS. But those countries all have problems and Europe has a very real question as to whether it can continue to exist and whether it really matters to the rest of the world if we go back to all these individual currencies and individual economies, rather than just the euro. It's a big question right now that matters for everybody.
BLITZER: Are they going to come to Uncle Sam, the Europeans, at some point and say, Uncle Sam, we need your help? There's no great desire here given the U.S. economy to bail out the Europeans, but what's going to happen if that should develop?
BURNETT: Right now, we're already helping Europe significantly, Wolf, just in the form of some of the swaps and things our Federal Reserve can do. Not the same as direct lending. And I want to make sure that that distinction is made, but we are doing all kinds of things that are helping facilitate the flow of money and transactions and trade in Europe.
Direct aid, I think you're right. There is no political will for that. Certainly, you're not going to get that. But American banks do have a lot at stake. Our banking system cares and everyone in America cares because Europe is our biggest trading partner.
It's very important. But one thing that surprised me today when I was looking at this was that when the European Central Bank said, did this whole European Union, they don't have -- they never set up a way for a country to leave the euro legally. So they set up this whole alliance of 17 countries and then they never put in the legal infrastructure for one country to leave.
And that's part of the reason they're so afraid to try it out with Greece. But more and more people are saying that might just be the right thing to do. Let's take a pill, see how poisonous it is. But it will be better surely than what would happen if Italy or Spain were to follow.
BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure there's no political desire for a TARP for Europe, at least right now. That's not going to happen.
BLITZER: Erin, thanks very much.
BURNETT: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Important programming note for our viewers. Erin Burnett's show, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," 7:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight, she's going to have a lot more on this and all the other important news of the day, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT."
BURNETT: See you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Campaign blame game. Who's behind the sexual harassment allegations behind Herman Cain? Who stands to gain? Take a closer look in our "Strategy Session."
And more on the Greek bailout and the G-20 economic summit. Jack Cafferty, Jessica Yellin, she is on the scene in Cannes for us. They're coming up.
And the White House faces a subpoena, a congressional subpoena over its loan to a now bankrupt solar energy firm.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The United States is on its way to being Greece one day and nobody wants to acknowledge it. Our national debt increased more than $200 billion in the month of October alone. That comes out to $650 for every man, woman and child in the country. It's also more than three times the amount the national debt increased last October.
The United States debt now stands at more than $14.9 trillion. It will top 15 trillion by the end of this month. The so-called super committee is trying to cut $1.2 trillion over ten years. That's not even a drop in the bucket, and they're still whining about how hard it is. It's hard.
The whole idea that the federal government is in any way serious about the national debt is a joke. Even after America's credit rating was downgraded, our leaders continue to spend money at an unsustainable rate and if they don't get serious, and very soon, you only need to look across the pond at Greece, for a glimpse of our future one day. The Greek government's on the verge of collapse in the wake of its own debt crisis.
The euro and European banks have been thrown into crisis by Greece's debt and by Prime Minister Papandreou's actions. First he said there would be a referendum. Then he said there won't be a referendum. Now he's hanging by his fingernails. His own government might vote him out of power as early as tomorrow morning.
Greece has been holding the world hostage because Papandreou's government doesn't have to stones to make the tough decisions. Sounds kind of like the politicians here, doesn't it? They don't have to stones either to tell the American people that the party is over and it's time now to pay the tab.
Here's the question. Is Greece a preview of what's to come one day for the United States? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile, post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
The Greek financial crisis which has sent shock waves across Europe and beyond is certainly the key focus right now as President Obama joins world leaders for the g-20 economic summit in Cannes, France.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is there.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (on-camera): Wolf, from the moment, the president arrived in France, all eyes were on Greece where turmoil in the Greek government seemed to put the Eurozone deal in jeopardy. Now, it's quieted. This is a crisis that could impact the U.S., but it's clear the U.S. is not driving its resolution
YELLIN (voice-over): He's still popular in Europe, but here at the G- 20, President Obama is not the center of attention. Sharing the stage more than usual with French president Sarkozy. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe.
YELLIN: And with German Chancellor Merkel.
OBAMA: We are now having seen some progress looking forward to working together to figure out how we can implement this in effective way. To make sure that not only is the Eurozone stable, but the world financial system is stable as well.
YELLIN: In times past, the world has looked to the U.S. to lead such rescues. Not this time. On the eve of the summit, the Greek Prime Minister threatened to throw the bailout into limbo. French and German leaders called him to a meeting here before President Obama even arrived. And when Europeans needed up to $100 billion for a bailout fund, they asked cash rich China, not The U.S.
KENNETH ROGOFF, FMR. CHIEF ECONOMIST, IMF: The Chinese are the ones whose role has been elevated. Everyone wants their money. They're really the ones who have gotten stronger in the G-20. Not the United States.
YELLIN: So, what role is the U.S. playing?
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: What the U.S. has is a significant amount of experience in dealing with a financial crisis where we took very aggressive and robust action to rescue our financial sector and to help rescue the global economy back in 2008 and 2009 and we've been sharing that experience over the course of many weeks and months.
YELLIN: The Eurozone crisis wasn't the only item on the agenda. The president also attended a working lunch with Bill Gates about investing in the developing world and the annual class photo with leaders. But attention centered on the topsy-turvy Eurozone crisis the U.S. can't do much to fix.
OBAMA: We're going to have to resolve the situation here in Europe.
YELLIN: Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a press conference, meet with the president of Argentina and join President Sarkozy of France in an event marking the end of NATO involvement in Libya -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin on the scene with us traveling with the president in Cannes. Jessica thanks. We'll check back with you tomorrow.
Which of Herman Cain's rivals could gain the most from the sexual harassment controversy? Where would his votes go if, it's a huge if, if the scandal were to take him down? Our "Strategy Session" is coming up next.
And female soldiers in the U.S. army are doing something they've never had the chance to do before. We'll explain.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour.
Is Israel on the verge of a military strike against Iran? I'll ask the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. My interview with her coming up.
Plus, big corporations making Big profits. So why are so many paying zero in taxes? And closing arguments in the Michael Jackson death trial. Could a verdict come tomorrow? We'll go live to Los Angeles. Stand by.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's assess what's going on in the Herman Cain sexual harassment allegation story in our "Strategy Session." Joining us right now, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Hillary Rosen and CNN contributor, Will Cain, a columnist for TheBlaze.com.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
Will, let me start with you. When Herman Cain and his campaign accuse another Republican campaign of being behind this entire uproar, this story takes on a whole new level of vitriol. What's going on here?
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I don't know, Wolf, because I don't know if the accusation that Rick Perry's camp planted this story is true. And in that way, it's a baseless un-detailed accusation. And it joins a pile of baseless, un-detailed, vague accusations in this whole sordid affair. Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich, two guys that know a thing or two about politics, and the political dark arts, say it wouldn't be beyond a Republican rival, a Mitt Romney or a Rick Perry, to have planted this story, but that doesn't answer the basic question. Is this story true or not? Are these allegations about Herman Cain true or not?
BLITZER: Well-- that we'll know more in the coming days. As I've been saying. I think the next 24 to 48 hours will be very important, but Hillary, who gains politically among the Republicans? Who loses if Herman Cain's stature goes down?
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Mitt Romney is the clear winner because when Herman Cain and Rick Perry are fighting with each other, Mitt Romney comes out more unscathed. And in fact, Mitt Romney was kind of on his way to one of the worst weeks of this campaign before this Cain story came out.
He just was caught the other day decline--flip-flopping on State workers. Angering conservative Republicans in Ohio. He changed his mind again about health insurance and kids being on their family plans. So Mitt Romney was really headed down a very dangerous path this week and Herman Cain's story kind of saved him. Because all of the attention has moved over. BLITZER: Will, what do you think?
WILL CAIN: I think there's one other winner here Wolf. And that's Newt Gingrich. While Herman Cain, blames Rick Perry, and Rick Perry blames Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich somewhat stands above it all. And chastises each other for the circular firing squad. For -kind of invokes Reagan's 11th Amendment. Thou shall not criticize fellow Republicans. And in that way, he starts to curry Herman Cain's current supporters. And he builds on this kind of percentage point, by percentage point momentum he's started to have over the last month or so.
BLITZER: he does emerge as sort of the elder statesman among those Republicans . Hilary you remember Bob Dole in '96. Obviously John McCain four years ago. Newt Gingrich is someone who seems to be a bubble out of this. At least in those debates and elsewhere.
ROSEN: He has shown himself to be and we'll see whether he can sustain this. Because Newt Gingrich has a little bit of the Cain, Perry problem, which is shooting off his mouth before his brain can get there. And we'll see whether he takes advantage of this smartly or not. But there's one other point that I think all of the Republican candidates ought to respond to, and that is Herman Cain running around bragging that since everybody's found out about him being a sexual harasser that he's raised $1.5 million.
BLITZER: Accused, alleged sexual harasser. We don't know if he harassed anybody.
ROSEN: Nonetheless, he's bragging on this situation to raise money, and that offends all women everywhere. The fact that you know, junior staffers had the leave the organization whether it was for whatever reason is just offensive. And I think that other candidates ought to take Cain on this issue, too. This is not going to serve any Republican well in the general election with women as majority voters.
WILL CAIN: That just totally ignores the fact this is a complete accusation right now. We don't know whether or not it's true.
ROSEN: Well, we know that women have left the organization. What we don't know are all the details around why.
WILL CAIN: Hillary, we should have learned a lesson around a month ago when we publicly tried Dominique Strauss-Kahn for rape, and it turned out to be completely false. And he will never be president of France now. He will never have that opportunity.
That being said, so now we look at Herman Cain and decide exactly what is true or not because we say he is a sexual harasser.
ROSEN: Well, what we do know is that Herman Cain has changed his story five times since he first started talking about it, so that in and of itself gives us pause to think is this somebody we trust, and why is he taking advantage of these troubles to raise money? That's just unseemly. WILL CAIN: There is no doubt he is guilty of making contradictory statements and not coming out clearly and concisely in front of this thing, but that is very different than being a sexual harasser.
BLITZER: Listen to what he said in March on a conference call with reporters when he was getting ready to run for the Republican presidential nomination.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HERMAN CAIN: Them finding that I have -- I play just well enough, but other than that, I can assure you, I have an original copy of my birth certificate. I don't have any mistresses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was asked if he had any skeletons in his closet and he made that statement. These inconsistencies, though, Will, how much of a problem, because he's raising a lot of money, more than $1 million since Sunday night. He's very popular out there. This new poll out in South Carolina shows he's way ahead of all of the other Republican candidates, a poll taken after these allegations surfaced. Explain what's going on here.
WILL CAIN: Well, I think his inconsistencies are going to be a problem. He's enjoined a narrative now where he's had to make statements. He's made statements, walked them back and modified them. He's done this on the electrified border fence issue. He's done this on your question to him about trading prisoners from Guantanamo for Al Qaeda captured American troops.
It just joins the narrative that he shoots from the hip, makes statements, and, as Charles Krauthammer said, is winging it. That is a habit that will build up and be a problem over time. Right now, the reason he's raising money, and that upsets Hillary so much, is that there's a sentiment of people want to protect Herman Cain. He's a likable, charming guy, and unless it's proven he's done something ugly, they're going to protect him.
BLITZER: Hillary, hold your though, but I just want you to give me a quick answer. If he came to you and he said, Hillary, you're a political strategist. Give me one little piece of advice, what I need to do to end this uproar and end the campaign, what would that advice be?
ROSEN: It would be to tell the whole truth, let the story come out and try and move on. There's no other way to do this. The stories will come out. The truth will come out, and he might as well be if one to share it.
WILL CAIN: I agree 100 percent.
BLITZER: You got bad news, you should be the one to release it and not wait for your adversaries to release it. All right, guys, thanks very, very much. Here's a question. Is Israel right now on the verge of a strike against Iran? Reports say the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is rallying support. Stand by. We'll update you on that.
Plus, what did the White House do and say in the months leading up to Solyndra's bankruptcy? House Republicans want to know, and today, they have dramatically upped the ante.
BLITZER: A rocket engine test and headlines in Israeli newspapers have raised the possibility that push cold come to shove regarding Iran's nuclear program. Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has been looking into the story for us. But Jill, is military action likely by the Israelis now? What's going on?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question right now. And Wolf, you know this really well with your background in the Middle East. This isn't the first time the idea of striking Iran by Israel has come up. But now it's stronger than ever.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Speculation is reaching critical mass that Israel is inching closer to launching a military airstrike against Iran's nuclear program. While Israeli media reports say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak already have gone to the cabinet with the idea, in an interview with CNN, Barak guarded his words.
EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI DEFENSE MINISTER: I don't think that we are in a stage of discussing any kind of a military action. I don't think that if and when we have to discuss it, it should be discussed the way that we are talking now.
DOUGHERTY: Speculation is being fueled by Israel's successful test this week of a new rocket propulsion system. The Israelis called it preplanned, but that's not putting out the fire. From France, President Barack Obama weighed in.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The IAEA is scheduled to release a report next week, and President Sarkozy and I agree on the need to maintain the national pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.
DOUGHERTY: That new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to reveal details of Iran's alleged program to develop nuclear weapons. At the State Department, the spokeswoman insisted the U.S. does not seek a military confrontation with Iran.
VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: That said, we are going to use every means at our disposal to continue to try to increase the international pressure on Iran to meet its IAEA obligations and to come clean on its nuclear program.
DOUGHERTY: So, will Israel or even the U.S. take out Iran's nuclear program? One Iran expert says not likely.
KARIM SADJAPOUR, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think very few people think it's going to happen, but we all feel like we have to take it seriously.
DOUGHERTY: Bombing Iran, whether it's the U.S. or Israel, could have real repercussions, especially in Afghanistan and in Iraq, not to mention potentially destabilizing the world's economic situation. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty at the State Department. We'll watch this story. Thank you.
A house panel voted to subpoena the White House today for documents related to the failed solar energy company Solyndra. The company got more than half a billion dollars in federal loan guarantees last year but went bankrupt in August. Lisa Sylvester has been investigating this part of the story for us. What else is coming up?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the White House did a document dump, some 20,000 documents released yesterday and we have some of these records here. But it was not enough to satisfy Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee investigating Solyndra. They voted to subpoena the White House and vice president's office.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Upton votes aye.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE, (D) COLORADO: No.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ms. DeGette votes no.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): The vote, 14 to nine, split right down party lines. The resolution authorizes the Republican controlled committee to subpoena all White House internal records related to Solyndra. Committee Republicans accused the Obama administration of stonewalling.
REP. FRED UPTON, (R) MICHIGAN: We've made our case about the documents. The White House has refused to produce them. We have no choice but to authorize the issuance of a subpoena to compel them. And I'll say it again. I wish it had not come to this.
SYLVESTER: Solyndra, a California solar panel company, received a $535 million loan from the Department of Energy. When the company went bankrupt, the government was out a half a billion dollars. The House energy and commerce committee is investigating whether political connections played a role in the company receiving the loan. Democrats accused Republicans of going on a fishing expedition. Ranking Democrat Diana DeGette says the committee's request is too broad.
DEGETTE: It would encompass everything literally from how many chairs they had at the Solyndra factory to the travel plans all the way up to e-mails on the president's blackberry.
SYLVESTER: The White House insists the loan was decided on merit and that the administration has been working with the committee, quote, "This administration has cooperated extensively with the committee's investigation by producing over 85,000 pages of documents, including 20,000 pages produced just yesterday afternoon.
Administration officials have participated in multiple briefings and hearings, and the White House has already provided over 900 pages of documents in response to requests we have received. But Republicans say the White House twice in October turned down requests for additional documents.
REP. CLIFF STEARNS, (R) FLORIDA: What is there ability about the word "slow walk" the Democrats don't understand? That's continually been the mantra of the White House and DOE and OMB until we issued that subpoena.
SYLVESTER: These newly released e-mails include some interesting details. The Obama administration apparently considered the last ditch effort to save Solyndra in August. The company at that point was hemorrhaging cash. And in that deal, the government would have taken on an equity stake in the company, but someone in the administration nixed that idea. Solyndra at that point had become pretty toxic.
Also, you can see from these e-mails top administration officials were very worried about negative press reports on Solyndra even before the company filed for bankruptcy. And once the company folded, the White House continued to keep very close tabs on the media coverage on Solyndra, Wolf.
BLITZER: Story obviously not going away either. Lisa, thank you. Thanks very much.
Women can't be sent to the front lines of combat, but these female soldiers, check it out, they're going into the danger zone and getting special forces training to do something only they can do. We'll explain.
BLITZER: Female soldiers in the U.S. Army are doing something they've never done before. They're serving in special commando units for the very first time.
CNN's Barbara Starr is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with more on the story. Barbara, a whole new world out there.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is a new world out there, Wolf. You know, we have seen women in combat for the last decade but now, the next step. It's not G.I. Jane, but it's about as close as it gets.
STARR (voice-over): Elite special forces training to assault compounds. Many are headed to Afghanistan. These troops have a new weapon. For the first time, women are joining elite commando units, going on raids into compounds and even living in villages.
Their job, to do what the men cannot. Deal directly with the Afghan women and children. For the first time ever on television, CNN was given access to their rigorous training.
CAPTAIN ANNIE KLEIMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE: We have got a bunch of strong, capable, awesome women who can, you know, take any challenge that's thrown at us.
STARR: Captain Annie Kleiman who just began training, laughingly rejects comparisons to G.I. Jane.
KLEIMAN: We're not going to be shaving our heads anytime soon.
STARR: Only half the women who apply are accepted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These women are a cut above the rest of the army.
STARR: But even as they train here at Fort Braggs, the women know they are skeptics.
KLEIMAN: We're definitely going to be prepared to pull our weight, to be part of the team.
STARR: It's training both brain and brawn. They move hundreds of pounds of weights, run an obstacle course, and work as a team to solve problems. It's politically delicate.
Women are not allowed to serve in frontline combat units, so these women, heavily armed, will only go into compounds after they are secured by assault teams.
MAJOR PATRICK MCCARTHY, U.S. ARMY: The women that are on raids, they're not deliberately part of the direct action raid. They are there to help mitigate following the raid.
STARR: It's an effort to ease resentment Afghans feel when troops raid their villages. For women, it means offering help for villagers, but still also searching Afghan women for weapons.
STAFF SGT. DANIELLE BAYAR, U.S. ARMY: It's being sort of acknowledged that women can operate at this level.
STARR: New recruits know the danger. There is no true hotline. Just last month, team member First Lieutenant Ashley White and two male soldiers were killed during what the army described as combat operations in Afghanistan. The first death of a team member has made the program so sensitive, no senior army special operations commander would talk to us on camera. The women did. Sergeant Christine Baldwin is just back from Afghanistan.
SGT. CHRISTINE BALDWIN, U.S. ARMY: This is a program that is going to keep going on. It's a need that needs to be met there right now.
STARR: And in September, Wolf, another team of women working in this program found themselves in the middle of a fire fight in Afghanistan. So this notion that these women will only go where it's already secure is a notion that pretty much is already being tossed out.
BLITZER: Notion that combat zones, noncombat zones, whether in Iraq or Afghanistan, it's all dangerous over there and you don't have to necessarily just go to the frontline. You can be killed right in Kabul where supposedly it's safe.
BLITZER: Barbara, good report. Thank you.
We have a lot more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM including Greece. We'll have a preview of what's to come for the United States. Stand by. Jack's getting ready to read some of your e-mail.
Also, big corporations making record profits. So why are so many of them paying next to nothing in taxes? We have a shocking new report.
BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Question this hour: Is Greece a preview of what's to come for the United States?
Mick writes from Buffalo, New York, "I really think over the long haul, North Africa is a more accurate preview. Absent a major moral shift in our beloved country, I think the diverging wealth curves point to a disastrous result that we cannot imagine for America. Desperate people can be an explosive environment no matter what political theatre they find themselves in."
Tom writes, "No, very different cultures, very different circumstances. If we merely stop extending the Bush tax cuts, we go back to the surplus that Clinton had in the '90s. If we eliminate some of the waste in the military industrial complex then we're rolling in dough. Greece's best chance of a decent future is increasing its tourism, something that the riots don't encourage."
Richard in Washington, "During the '70s, Greek actress Melina Mecouri was a communist politician in Greece. Wasn't that the same time that pensions and benefits began to exceed tax revenue? The U.S. is not anywhere near the insoluble debt of Greece. We are the last domino in line to fall. Best to fix it now."
Eric writes, "If we continue providing a free ride to those who don't want to work, keep expanding welfare, food stamps and other social services to cover those who can work, but refuse to, then, yes. We can't continue to afford to support deadbeat people who just milk the system without providing anything in return.
If they can't find a job, we should require them to provide something this return. Work at some social program. Pick up trash along the highway. Dig out ditches, et cetera. Giving this to them for free has got to stop."
Ken writes, "Yes, if the U.S. does not change its ways, it will go the same ways as not only Greece, but the roman empire. The next election will make or break the difficult circumstances generated by the GOP."
And Steve on Facebook writes, "It's not a preview, Jack. The movie is already premiered and we're all watching it. Pass me some popcorn, will you?"
If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
Check of the day's other top stories coming up next. Then at the top of the hour, big corporations are making record profits and why are so many of them paying next to nothing in taxes? We have a shocking new report. That's just come up.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what can you tell us about this asteroid that's headed towards earth?
SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, in just five days, an asteroid that is the size of an aircraft carrier, it will be flying by planet earth that's going to get awfully close. Just how close?
NASA says this asteroid will come within 201,000 miles of earth on Tuesday, which is actually closer than the orbit of the moon around us. Here's the asteroid's projected path.
In that NASA graphic, the line that darts through the screen right there that is the path the asteroid is going to take. NASA says the asteroid poses no threat to earth, but if it did hit our planet, it could cause an impact the size of a 7.0 earthquake. You see the path there.
And alarming new health warnings about a popular anti-smoking drug. A new study finds that Chantix increases suicidal behavior and depression in some patients. This is the latest in a long list of concerns about the medication, which was approved in 2006. The findings have been submitted to the FDA. The study's group says there needs to be stronger warnings about Chantix.
And another major move toward a free market in Cuba. The communist government today announced that citizens and permanent residents will be able to buy and sell residential property on the island beginning November 10th.
The new law instituted by President Raul Castro follows legislation in October legalizing the purchase and sell of cars so some changes there in Cuba, Wolf.
BLITZER: Slow but steady and maybe, let's see. Lisa, thank you.