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THE SITUATION ROOM

Israel: Iran Developing Long-Range Missile; McCain: Taliban Are Saying, "See, I Told Ya"; Trump's Surprise Endorsement Of Romney; Susan G. Komen For The Cure Controversy; Super PAC War on President Obama

Aired February 2, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S THE SITUATION ROOM: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, guns, murder and growing pressure on the attorney general of the United States to resign. The Fast and Furious controversy is pitting Republicans against Democrats. And it's getting very mean and very personal.

Also, new backlash against the leading breast cancer group's decision to cut funds to Planned Parenthood. One politician is filling the void with a lot of cash -- from his own pocket.

And Facebook's financial secrets revealed. Wait until you hear about the huge profits at stake now that the public is going public, including 1,000 employees set to become millionaires overnight.

Welcome to 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.

Heated fireworks on Capitol Hill. On one side, a key member of President Obama's cabinet, the attorney general, Eric Holder. On the other, Republicans on a powerful House committee demanding answers in the wake of the government's controversial gun-running sting operation known as Fast and Furious.

Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's got the very the latest.

What a day on Capitol Hill -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Wolf. You know, this was Eric Holder's sixth appearance before Congress regarding Fast and Furious. He was grilled for more than four hours today. But his headaches in this case seem far from over.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD: (voice-over): Under growing Republican pressure to resign, the threat of a contempt of Congress charge hanging over his head, the attorney general endures what may be his most contentious hearing yet over operation Fast and Furious, the gun tracking program botched by the ATF -- thousands of AK-47s and other guns lost, many carried into Mexico and used in violent crimes.

It gets personal when Eric Holder is questioned about the 2010 murder of Border Patrol officer Brian Terry, guns from Fast and Furious discovered near his body.

REP. ANN MARIE BUERKLE (R-NY), OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: How many more Border Patrol agents would have had to die as a part of operation Fast and Furious for you to take responsibility?

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not claiming to be a perfect person or a perfect attorney general. I get up every day and try to do the best job that I can. I have great faith in the people who work in the department. And, you know, that kind of question, I think, is -- is, frankly, and again, respectfully, I think that's beneath a member of Congress.

TODD: Holder's deputies are accused by Republicans of knowing about Fast and Furious long before Terry's death, which they deny. Holder is grilled over his assertion that he didn't know about the program until more than a month after the murder.

REP. DENNIS ROSS (R-FL), OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM COMMITTEE: Come on. From December 15th until the end of January, you don't learn about a gun walking operation ongoing in your department?

And I'm supposed to go home and tell my constituency that that's the facts?

Mr. Attorney General, I have a hard time believing that.

HOLDER: In the absence of an indication that these inappropriate tactics were used, you have here a tragic death connected to an ongoing federal matter, an ongoing investigation. You know, unfortunately, that happens all the time.

TODD: One Congressman cites what he believes is a pattern of deception going back to Holder's days in the Clinton Justice Department.

Holder's response?

HOLDER: That was among the worst things I think I've ever seen in Congress. In some ways, what did you was fundamentally unfair, just not right.

TODD: Now, chief Republican investigator, Darrell Issa, is threatening to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress if he doesn't produce additional documents within a week. One expert says that could lead to a legal case against Holder, but likely won't go that far.

MORTON ROSENBERG, FORMER RESEARCHER, CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE: There's no cabinet official that I'm aware of that wants to go through the criminal process or even a civil contempt process.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

TODD: Morton Rosenberg says when there is a vote of contempt, or even the threat of one, usually cabinet officials comply and start handing over more documents. Now, Holder's team has said that Issa's deadline is impossible for them to meet, too many documents to hand over in too little time.

When I asked if they would carry through all the way with this threat of a contempt of Congress charge, one of Issa's aides would not commit to that. But the aide did say, quote, "We wouldn't have laid the groundwork if we were not prepared to move forward." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, that murdered agent's family is apparently ready to take legal action against the federal government, right?

TODD: That's right. They have filed a claim. It is not really a full blown lawsuit yet, but they have filed a claim for wrongful death. And they mention a sum of $25 million they're seeking in this claim. Again not a lawsuit, at least not at this point. But they seem to be laying the groundwork for that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on Capitol Hill.

This story the not going away.

Thank you.

Meanwhile, dangerous new signs Iran's threat against the United States may be escalating. Israeli officials now say Iran is developing long-range missile capable -- missiles capable of traveling more than 6,000 miles and striking the United States. But right now, the U.S. military may lack the high tech firepower supposedly needed to stop them.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's got has new information -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Wolf, the U.S. has plenty of conventional firepower to go after Iran right now, if it came to that. But they are looking at a suite of new, advanced weapons here at the Pentagon.

The question is, do they work?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice-over): The potential that Iran could develop a nuclear weapon or shut down the Strait of Hormuz is a red line for the United States. LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think when we made it clear that that was not acceptable, they kind of tempered their rhetoric.

ANDREW KREPINEVICH, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND BUDGETARY ASSESSMENTS: We've always made clear that -- that in terms of -- of any threats to the region, in terms of some of the behavior that they've conducted in the region, that we'll also be prepared to respond militarily, if we have to.

STARR: A military response that increasingly relies on a new generation of weapons, but those are weapons in trouble. A new fighter jet for Navy aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, a new war ship for detecting undersea mines and a massive Air Force bomb to pound Iran's underground nuclear facilities. All are facing technical problems.

The F35C is the Navy's newest Stealth fighter.

KREPINEVICH: It can go in early, you know, while Iranian air defenses are still functioning. It can help defeat those air defenses. So that's -- that's really the big benefit you get with the F35.

STARR: The problem?

The hook to stop the plane as it lands on the carrier deck was so badly designed, it didn't work. The Navy's new Littoral combat ship is designed to find undersea mines.

KREPINEVICH: They're still relatively cheap. So the possibility of Iran deploying hundreds, or maybe even thousands of mines at the Strait of Hormuz is -- is a problem that you'd have to solve.

STARR: The Navy is developing a laser that could be fired from the ship's helicopters, 30 feet down into the water to find the mines.

The problem?

The laser can't tell the difference between the mine and sea weed.

The Air Force's 30,000 pound Massive Ordinance Penetrator bomb is designed to attack underground targets, like Iran's nuclear facilities.

The problem here?

It urgently needs an upgrade. Iran has dug deeper than the bomb can reach.

KREPINEVICH: One of the things that strikes me is the Iranians know what we're building. And -- and so the question is, are we going to be able on stay far enough ahead of the threat that they pose?

(END VIDEO TAPE) STARR: Now, these are weapons that are not being cut in the budget. The are already underway. The military hopes to be able to put them into operation, but first, they have to spend millions of dollars fixing them, and, hopefully, get it all fixed before they need them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, what's the Pentagon doing about that missile that Iran may be developing, the one the Israelis are talking about, capable of going 6,000 miles, hitting the United States?

STARR: Right. Well, you know, Iran has talked about this for years. This is the same kind of missile technology that North Korea has been working on. It is very -- a very difficult proposition. Iran would have to have the advanced guidance technology and control technology to be able to send a missile that distance and be able to target it.

Certainly a matter of concern, but a sense that Iran would have a long way to go on that. The -- the nuclear question still presents a much quicker problem for the U.S. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara.

Thank you.

The Defense secretary, Leon Panetta's surprise announcement that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan could end next year is triggering outrage among some, at least, in Washington, from those charging U.S. security may be at risk.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Defense secretary surprised everyone by saying American forces could stop leading combat missions in Afghanistan next year. Pentagon officials are still trying to explain it, saying it's where the U.S. hopes to be and transitioning from combat to training will take time.

CIA director and former Afghanistan commander, David Petraeus, says Leon Panetta was only stating the obvious.

DAVID PETRAEUS, CIA DIRECTOR: Obviously, somewhere in 2013, you have had to initiate that in all of the different locations so that you can complete the remaining task.

LAWRENCE: But critics immediately wondered why Panetta would publicly say it will happen in 2013.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The Taliban are telling their friends and enemies today, see, I told you the Americans were leaving.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If you're this will Pakistan and you hear the Americans are going to leave, why would you not help keeping the Taliban? LAWRENCE: Ninety thousand American troops are fighting in Afghanistan now. The last of the surge troops, 22,000, will be out by September. The remaining troops will continue to command combat missions until summer 2013 or perhaps the fall, when Afghan forces would take the lead.

That still means soldiers and Marines coming to the aid of Afghan troops when they get in trouble, as they're doing in the few provinces where the Afghans already have the lead.

A Defense official says U.S. troops will still be engaged in some combat through 2013 and, quote, "right up to the end in 2014."

Only 35 percent of Americans polled support the war. But in an interview airing tonight on "JOHN KING USA," former Defense secretary, Bob Gates, urged caution.

ROBERT GATES, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: We've invested too much in terms of lives and sacrifice and dollars to get too impatient just because we're tired.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAWRENCE: But lost in all this talk of 2013 and 2014 has been what the Afghan government is looking for. They have actually requested political and military support through 2024 and financial assistance all the way through 2030, at which point, Wolf, we'd be nearly three decades past the attacks on September 11th.

BLITZER: Yes. All right.

Thanks, Chris.

Chris Lawrence reporting from the Pentagon.

And a reminder once again, for our North American viewers, you can see John King's interview with the former Defense secretary, Robert Gates, at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA".

Think the Florida primary is over?

Well, maybe not necessarily. Newt Gingrich challenging the rules of the Florida primary even though the votes have been counted.

And the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is part of the backlash against a leading breast cancer foundation for cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. And he's putting his money where his mouth is.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We've got some shocking new numbers on the housing crisis that show home prices down almost 33 percent since peaking in the summer of 2006. Translation -- the value of many Americans' biggest asset has dropped by a third in just the last five years.

The latest S&P Case-Shiller 20-City report shows that home prices posted a steep drop in November falling 1.3 percent. Some of the hardest hit cities include Chicago, Atlanta, and Detroit. Compared to a year ago, home prices are down almost fur percent. Experts say that home prices are still falling despite record low interest rates and better than average or expected GDP growth.

They think the prices will continue to drop this year and maybe into next year before finally beginning to stabilize. Some suggest prices are down in part because more sellers are willing to accept the weak market conditions and thus lower their asking prices. Also playing a role is the increase of sales and properties in foreclosure.

Look no farther than the state of Nevada, the site of Saturday's caucuses, which is the foreclosure capital of the country. Arizona and California also suffer from some of the highest foreclosure rates. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau says that the nation's home ownership rate has fallen to 66 percent. That's the lowest in seven years.

Economists tell "USA Today" that while the housing industry's downturn may be nearing the bottom, the impact is going to be felt for years. They say even for people who want to buy a home, they can have difficulty getting financing for a mortgage. So, in short, we have a very long way to go before the housing market truly rebounds.

Here's the question, we'd like to know how have collapsing home prices impacted you? 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, thanks very much.

The head of the nation's best known breast cancer group says, "tonight, the essence of our organization has been lost." A direct quote to Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has faced enormous backlash since yesterday when it announced it was pulling grant funding to Planned Parenthood. Now, some members of Congress are joining the chorus of voices against Komen.

Our congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan, is standing by here in the SITUATION ROOM. So, what are these members of Congress doing? What are they proposing, because there is fierce, fierce anger at this organization?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In part, they're answering to that anger, I'll tell you, Wolf. The fallout from the Susan G. Komen for the Cure announcement really continues. Just today, more than two dozen Democratic senators, as Wolf was mentioning, penned a letter to the foundation both criticizing the move to cut funding for Planned Parenthood and asking the foundation to reverse its decision.

In the letter, the senators write this in part, quote, "It would be tragic if any , let alone thousands of women, lost access to these potentially lifesaving screenings because of," in their words, "a politically motivated attack." Now, we spoke with one of the driving forces behind this letter from Democratic senators, Senator Patty Murray, I spoke with, a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PAT MURRAY, (D) WASHINGTON: I've heard from so many women, friends, neighbors, relatives who are saying do what you can to make Susan G. Komen do what they've always done, which is to fight for all of us. So, we're putting pressure on them. That is the only way that we can help them make the right decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And applying pressure may really be the only thing that members of Congress can do. According to Congressional sources, the Komen Foundation hasn't received any significant federal funding which, of course, would be kind of the teeth behind their anger, Wolf, that they had it. Haven't (ph) received any significant funding since the late 1990s.

BLITZER: You know, in that letter, the Democratic senators say this was a politically motivated attack. What are they referring to?

BOLDUAN: A couple things on that. It's kind two parts. Planned Parenthood, first off, we should say it is being investigated by House Republicans, a committee taking a look at. They want to know if the group is using federal money to fund abortions. Now, Democrats charge that investigation in and of itself is politically motivated.

Of course, the House Committee says it is not, it's oversight. And the Komen Foundation, this is the other element, in its new rules that they've set out prohibits grant money going to groups that are under investigation. So, when asked really answering to a lot of questions, if there's any connection between the two, the House investigation and this decision, the chairman of a House investigative subcommittee said essentially no.

In a statement saying, quote, "This investigation of Planned Parenthood's finances and use of taxpayer's dollars is ongoing, and we are continuing to work with Planned Parenthood in getting the requested record and documents." This is the important part. "I was not contacted by anyone at the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and this decision was solely up to them."

So, that is what we're hearing from the chairman of the subcommittee, Cliff Stearns. We should say that on this conference call that just happened with the Susan G. Komen Foundation with reporters, they adamantly denied that any changes were made, specifically, with Planned Parenthood in mind. A lot of questions still and a lot of emotion behind this, Wolf. So, it's going to continue.

BLITZER: It's causing a huge amount of emotion. I invited Nancy Brinker, Ambassador Nancy Brinker, the CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, the foundation, to come here on the SITUATION ROOM today. Unfortunately, she declined our invitation, but hopefully, she'll reconsider because there are a lot of questions, a lot of women, and a lot of men, I got to tell you --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: -- about what's going on as well. Was this politically motivated as a result of this republican investigation at Planned Parenthood?

BOLDUAN: And where do things go from here?

BLITZER: There's a lot of concern out there. Thanks very, very much.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is also piling on against the Komen group, and he's trying to fill the financial voice. For every $250,000 donated for Planned Parenthood, Bloomberg says he'll match it with a quarter million dollars out of his own pocket.

Bloomberg says Americans should be helping thousands of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for access to healthcare, not placing barriers in their way.

Republican Super PACs are spending big money trying to hammer the president over a failed loan controversy and hit him where it hurts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Solyndra investors raised campaign for Obama. The government gave Solyndra half billion in taxpayer money. Politics as usual.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Also, Donald Trump says he wants Mitt Romney to be hired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Governor Romney, go out and get them. You can do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to take a closer look at Trump's surprise endorsement today of Mitt Romney and what it means for his own flirtation with a presidential bid.

And a routine search in rescues mission is anything but routine when Britain's Prince William is involved. It's creating some international controversy at the same time. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In a presidential race, full of lots of surprises, Trump managed to get a lot of people off guard today, I must say, including me. He endorsed Mitt Romney whom he once criticized instead of Newt Gingrich who he once praised. It happened in Las Vegas just a little while ago, just two days before the Nevada caucuses.

Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us. He was there at the endorsement. So, what led up to all of this?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in a sign of incredible messaged discipline, this might have been one of the fastest political endorsement events in recent political history, Wolf. Donald Trump does not usually keep things brief, but he did today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP: Governor Romney, go out and get them. You can do it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, earlier in the day, The Donald ventured in to that room to take some reporters' questions, and I asked him, you know, what change things for you because, Donald, you've been critical of Governor Romney in the past. And he said that, basically, it was those debate performances that changed his view on Mitt Romney.

And he also broke the news that if Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for president, he will not run as an independent. And then, I asked him about all of that at another scrum that Donald found himself in the middle of after that endorsement event. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Is there any chance you would change your mind about running for president? We know you're kind of unpredictable sometimes.

TRUMP: Well, I think what's going to happen is Mitt Romney is going to get the nomination. And obviously, then, I wouldn't do anything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, digging into some of the politics of this, you know, it was reported in the last 24 hours by other news outlets that Newt Gingrich was going to be getting this endorsement from Mitt Romney. I asked Mitt Romney about that. He essentially said it was the Gingrich people who were responsible for putting that story out there. I also talked to Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman with the Mitt Romney campaign, and she said that they had seen those reports, heard those reports, knew that they were false because they knew that this endorsement was coming in their direction, but already, the Gingrich campaign is trying to spin this in their favor by tweeting out.

R.C. Hammond, a spokesman for Gingrich campaign, is tweeting out some of Trump's past statements on Mitt Romney. One of those statements that he put out on Twitter just a few moments ago was when Donald Trump said about Mitt Romney's jobs record as governor, "I wasn't in love with the job he did in Massachusetts."

Also the DNC having some fun with this, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz asked earlier today on Twitter, "Who is Snooki going to endorse next?" And Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama election campaign, tweeted out that "Donald Trump likes to say you're fired and Mitt Romney likes to says I like to be able to fire people." So, all eyes are having fun with this one, Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of fun. I spoke in the last hour with Donald Trump. He told me he tried to call Newt Gingrich to explain his decision, made a couple calls, couldn't connect, wasn't sure he necessarily had the right number, left the voicemail, if you will.

He says he likes Newt Gingrich, but he decided that Mitt Romney would be a better president, and clearly, he thinks he's more electable in beating the president of the United States. All right. Jim, thanks very much.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BLITZER: Donald Trump, as we say, called Mitt Romney tough, smart and sharp. But listen to what the star of "The Apprentice" said about Romney last spring in an interview with our own chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Mitt Romney is a basically small business guy, if you really think about it. He was a hedge fund, he was a fund guy. He walked away with some money from a very good company that he didn't create. He worked there. He didn't create.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He did create companies, though.

TRUMP: Look, he closed companies, he'd get rid of jobs, OK?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Candy is here in the SITUATION ROOM. Quite a change of heart from April when you interviewed him on "State of the Union" until now. What do you think happened? When I spoke to him an hour or so ago, he said, well, that was politics. CROWLEY: Well, I think he's right. I mean, how many people could we go back and say this will never happen. I mean, Dole/Bush, that was a huge rivalry. Look at the things that President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the kinds of things that they exchanged. And the next thing you know, because, you know, politics includes some diplomacy and also is about, you know, which side you're on.

If you're going to be on the side of the Republicans, then you pick a horse, and he did. I mean, I think also, look, Donald Trump is unpredictable and has been known to change his mind. But I think he's right that in the course of politics, this kind of stuff happens.

BLITZER: Yes, I was surprised. I mean, not only surprised because of some of the other statements he made to you, to me, and to others, but also, this whole issue of loyalty in the sense that Newt Gingrich accepted his invitation for that end of December debate that he was going to moderate with NewsMax. Mitt Romney declined.

And so, my initial -- when I heard yesterday he was going to make an endorsement, I said, well, it's clearly going to be Newt Gingrich, because Newt Gingrich was loyal to him. Mitt Romney, not so much.

CROWLEY: It's funny, because when I heard it, somebody said, "Who do you think it is?" And I said, "Romney."

So I just thought that their backgrounds were at least similar, even though obviously Donald Trump doesn't think that much of how much money Mitt Romney raised. I think also when people start to endorse at this stage of the game, they tend to try to pick the winner, because if you're -- if you help someone at a critical time -- and this is still a critical time for Mitt Romney -- and they go on to win, they remember that. That's how politics works.

BLITZER: Yes. I don't know how much help it's going to -- unless he decides -- you know, he's worth more than $3 billion, according to "Forbes" magazine. That's not the $20 billion that Sheldon Adelson is work, who is supporting Newt Gingrich. But if he decides to write some million-dollar checks to the pro-Romney super PAC, that could help dramatically.

CROWLEY: It definitely can. And he can also collect checks from other people. He certainly has inroads to the business community.

BLITZER: He can become a bundler. Is that what you're saying?

CROWLEY: He can become a bundler. He can do that kind of thing.

But let me tell you, I spoke with a source inside the Romney camp, a senior adviser, and I said, "Did you worry about this?" I mean, "What does Trump bring to the table?"

And they said, look, it's not just his financial ties within the business community, but it's also -- remember, who was most enamored of Donald Trump when he first came out? The source says, listen, this is about the Tea Party. OK? The Tea Party was very supportive of Donald Trump. And so they think that he would be willing to maybe do some grassroots events, because where is Romney the weakest? The Tea Party.

So they're actively seeking that kind of endorsement. This endorsement, by the way, came about yesterday, when Donald Trump called Mitt Romney and said, hey, you're my guy, I want to endorse you.

BLITZER: You're hired.

CROWLEY: You're hired. That's right.

BLITZER: Quickly, Newt Gingrich is contesting now the results of the Florida primary?

CROWLEY: He is. And, you know, it's one way to sort of undercut the 50 delegates that Romney came out of Florida with and giving him a sizable lead, although we're so far away from getting the number of delegates you need. But listen, here's what happened.

Florida went outside the prescribed calendar of the Republican Party. So, instead of having its 99 delegates, it was punished by the national party. It only had 50 delegates.

Then Florida wants to do winner take all. Some people said, no, no, some of these states that go out of line also have to apportion their results. And that's what Newt Gingrich is saying. It's a little battle and, honestly, I think by the time it actually comes up in any form, it will be moot.

BLITZER: Candy, thanks very much.

And while the Republican candidates fight amongst themselves, the Republican super PACs are declaring war against President Obama. A new big money attack ad tries to portray him as a dirty politician.

Let's go to our chief White House corespondent, Jessica Yellin -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.

These ads are by groups that don't have to declare their donors, and the spots are designed to try and persuade undecided voters that the President Obama of 2012 is not the same candidate who ran promising to change Washington in 2008.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): President Obama and Solyndra under fire in another attack ad.

NARRATOR: A big government fiasco, infused with politics at every level -- $500 million to Solyndra, now bankrupt.

YELLIN: It's at least the fourth hit on President Obama and the administration's investment in the failed green energy company by a Republican outside spending group since fall.

In November --

NARRATOR: Wealthy donors with ties to Solyndra give Obama hundreds of thousands of dollars.

YELLIN: In December --

NARRATOR: Obama gives his supporters at Solyndra a $530 million loan even though its business plan is risky.

YELLIN: In January --

NARRATOR: Solyndra investors raise campaign money for Obama. The government gives Solyndra half a billion in taxpayer money. Politics as usual.

YELLIN: Crossroads GPS spent $1 million on two of those ads. That's the powerhouse GOP group advised by Karl Rove. The Koch brothers- backed Americans for Prosperity spent $8.4 million on the other two.

The ads challenge what the president's critics call reckless big- government spending. But listen closely and you'll hear another more emotional appeal.

NARRATOR: Typical Washington. Typical Washington.

NARRATOR: It's not about people. It's politics.

YELLIN: It's an attempt to paint the president as part of a corrupt Washington swamp. It's a theme Governor Romney has picked up on.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He practices something I call crony capitalism. And it's kind of capitalism, but instead of it being driven by the market and consumers, it's driven by politicians.

YELLIN: The attacks prompted the Obama campaign to play defense in their first ad of the election.

NARRATOR: -- ads fact checkers say are not tethered to the facts. While Independent watchdogs called this president's record on ethics unprecedented, President Obama kept his promise to toughen ethics rules and strengthen America's energy economy.

YELLIN: Polling shows a majority of Americans view the president as ethical and honest, and despite these ads, Democratic strategists are adamant that won't change.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Wolf, it's what you call attacking the strength, and these Republican outside groups say they'll keep this up in an effort to try to erode the president's brand as an ethical politician -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica.

Jessica Yellin, at the White House.

We're also getting new information in right now about Israel's possible plans to attack Iran's nuclear facility.

Stand by. There's news coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All right. There's breaking news coming out of the Pentagon about the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran.

Let's go right to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

Barbara, what's going on?

STARR: Well, Wolf, we have now confirmed a senior administration official Defense Secretary Leon Panetta believes there is a strong likelihood that Israel may strike Iran's nuclear program sometime this spring. Why does the defense secretary believe this? The Israelis have been calling about a so-called zone of immunity.

What the Israelis believe is that by this spring, that is their best chance to strike Iran's program with their weapons. After that, they believe Iran will have made enough progress that Israeli weapons cannot get to Iran's nuclear effort. It would only be U.S. weapons.

This is the Panetta calculus. He has made this statements to the very respected journalist David Ignatius of "The Washington Post," traveling with the secretary in Brussels at that NATO meeting.

The secretary was asked about this. He has refused comment. But we have confirmed with an administration official, indeed, Secretary Panetta now has made these statements, he believes these are the potential Israeli intentions. And he believes that the intelligence that the U.S. has gathered about Israeli intentions backs this up at this point -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There was an amazing article in the cover story of "The New York Times" Sunday magazine about Israel's intentions by the Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman, who also concludes at the end of that article that he believes the Israelis will in fact launch an attack sometime in the coming months. So, if Panetta is saying this, he's saying something similar to what this Israeli journalist wrote in "The New York Times" over the weekend.

But here's the suspicion that some folks have, and let me run it by you, Barbara, and see what you think -- that this is all designed psychological warfare, if you will, to put pressure on the Iranians to come around, to comply with the United Nations, the IAEA inspectors, and back down in the face of what is perceived to be an imminent threat from Israel.

What are they saying about that?

STARR: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. You are correct.

There is a very strong school of thought that that is partially what the Israeli intentions are. We have seen Israel go through these cycles of making very aggressive statements about their intentions and then sort of backing off a bit when the United States or the West moves ahead with sanctions or other actions against other pressures against Iran.

So that is a very key point here. You are absolutely right.

Look, this is intelligence espionage, spying at the highest levels, potential military action of crisis proportions. So there's a lot of gamesmanship going on here.

It should be remembered, it was General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that just days ago said any U.S. military action against Israel would be premature. This is not something the U.S. wants to do.

But right now, their key concern is, exactly what are the Israeli intentions? Is Israel just once again making these statements, or is there something else going on here? That's what they're trying to determine. That is part, I believe of what Panetta is trying to reflect, the great uncertainty in the coming months.

BLITZER: But the breaking news is Panetta telling David Ignatius of "The Washington Post" that an Israeli strike could take place. And he's specific. The first time I've heard this kind of specific mention, April, May or June.

We're in February now, so there's not a whole lot of time. A little surprising that Panetta is saying this publicly right now, at least to David Ignatius, but what one's suspicion is, that maybe he's trying to put some pressure on the Iranians right now to rethink their strategy.

The Iranians have been threatening to shut off the Strait of Hormuz as well.

The other question is, how much cooperation, if the Israeli military were to take action, would there actually be with the U.S. military?

STARR: Well, that's a very interesting military dilemma that you pose.

The question for the Israeli Air Force will be, can its manned aircraft get past Iranian air defenses, get into Iranian air space, bomb and get out before Iranian air defenses, Iranian surface-to-air missiles, Iranian radars pick up word that they are in the air and that they are in Iranian airspace? The general thinking is that Israel, if it came to that, would in fact take the risk of using manned aircraft rather than drones. It's an awful long way to send a drone, but it becomes a very tricky proposition.

A lot of people say that Iran has an aging air defense system along that coastline, that you don't have to worry about it all that much. But if you are a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, in the U.S. Air Force, on a combat mission against Iran, you worry about -- just about everything that could be coming your way.

So that's going to be a key question. Would the U.S. know about it when the planes are already in the air? That may be too late for president Obama to try and convince the Israelis to change their mind.

So it gets back to this question, Israeli military and Israeli political intentions. Is this real or, as you point out, is this Israel once again trying to pressure the West?

It's this spring time frame now that is so interesting, because even Israeli officials have publicly said they believe the window is closing in the spring in terms of Iran's progress on its nuclear program. After that, they're not sure that their own weapons can destroy it, can even get to it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, hold on.

Fran Townsend, our national security contributor, the former homeland security adviser to President Bush, is joining us on the phone right now.

Fran, we're following the breaking news, Leon Panetta's views as reflected by "The Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius, who writes -- just now he writes, "Panetta believes there is strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June, before Iran enters what Israelis described as a zone of immunity to commence building a nuclear bomb."

What do you make of this development that Panetta is openly speculating about a potentially imminent Israeli strike?

FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, let's remember, Secretary Panetta has been openly sort of pontificating a lot this week. Right?

He said that he believed, though we don't have evidence, that the Pakistanis may have known where Bin Laden is. He talked about a source who is in Pakistani custody. I mean, it's all very odd.

And if he believes this, if he believes that Israel may strike Iran this spring, why would you put the Iranians on notice and put an ally at risk? It really is troubling.

I will say, Wolf, in terms of the timing, as Barbara was mentioning, about the spring, we know that there's been ongoing dialogue. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Marty Dempsey, was on a recent trip to Israel. We know that there are ongoing exchanges of intelligence information.

So one must presume that if Leon Panetta is saying this, he's got a real basis, a credible basis for saying it.

And the other thing we know that's going to happen is the IAEA is preparing to meet and issue another report. And what we're hearing is that Israel and the United States are expecting that to be another hard-hitting, very critical report of Tehran. So all of this sort of suggests that Panetta has got a real reason for saying this. It just doesn't seem to be a real smart thing to do, to be willing to signal that, unless he's hoping to put pressure on the Iranians to step back from their program. But we haven't seen any evidence that that works yet.

BLITZER: Did you -- I assume you saw the testimony of the intelligence chiefs up on Capitol Hill this week, including the director of National Intelligence, suggesting that the U.S. should be prepared for -- potentially for Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, that that's a possibility. You heard that this week, Fran.

TOWNSEND: Right. And look, what that's really a reference to, we have known Iran is the largest single state sponsor of terrorism in the world and has been for decades because of their financial and arming Hezbollah.

And so I think that the intelligence community and the law enforcement community now believe that's no longer sort of off the table, for Iran to consider launching an attack inside the United States. And so they want to be alert and they want to be prepared.

BLITZER: And let's not forget what General Clapper said, but also what retired General David Petraeus, now the director of the CIA, told that same congressional committee. He said this -- and I'm quoting Director Petraeus right now -- "Israel does see this possibility" -- namely an Iranian nuclear weapon -- "as an existential threat to their country, and I think that that is very important to keep that perspective in mind." Strong words from General Petraeus at the same time, the director of the CIA.

All right. Fran and Barbara, guys, we'll stay obviously very much on top of this story. Appreciate it very much.

We'll take a quick break. Much more news right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Look at that beautiful shot of Washington, D.C., the Washington Monument. What a great shot of the nation's capital.

One pet gives new meaning to the phrase "Good dog."

Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If the way to a dog's heart is through its stomach, then why is this dog wearing his food on his head? Try doing that with most dogs.

(on camera): Dot?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dot.

MOOS: Down, Dot. (voice-over): But Tiger is not most dogs. She's the subject of a blog called "Food on My Dog." From a sunny side up egg, to a taco, to a chocolate grazed doughnut with sprinkles, Tiger stares ahead impassively, whether it be Spam in a can or pepperoni on her snout. Tiger doesn't get crabby even when she's crowned with king crab legs.

Her owner demonstrates his technique with leaves of lettuce. OK, lettuce is probably less tempting than, say, a hot dog. Still, Tiger's restraint is impressive.

The most commonly asked question seems to be, "Does Tiger get to eat what's on her head after?" The answer is yes when it's something dog friendly. A replacement treat if it's not.

Tiger wears ham like a veil. But we discovered ham, even on a dog named Sushi, is relatively easy --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ham on your head.

MOOS: -- to slip on an unsuspecting head.

(on camera): That's called distraction. Good boy! Good dog! Yeah. What a good boy!

(voice-over): But Tiger even wears pizza as if it's a beret.

When we tried pizza on Sushi, she tried to lick it and tolerated wearing it only reluctantly.

(on camera): Good girl!

(voice-over): "The Food on My Dog" blog reminds us of another Internet phenomenon from last year, the dog that balanced treats on his head. We saw him balance as many as 36 treats, barely moving a muscle until he got the order to release. And no, he wasn't allowed to eat them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay. Head down.

MOOS: He even balanced while on his back. It sort of makes the latest craze called "Breading" cats seem like child's play. Multigrain and Wheat really seem to bring out their eyes.

Now that "Food on My Dog" has gone viral, fans want to know if Tiger takes requests. Request bacon? She took it.

Her favorite snack is Kraft Singles. They've gone to her head.

What makes this dog so irresistible is her ability to resist.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

That's it for me.

Thanks very much for watching. And please join us on this Saturday here on CNN for complete coverage of the Nevada caucuses. Our coverage will begin 6:00 p.m. Eastern with a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Until then, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.