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THE SITUATION ROOM
Endless Roar of Shelling in City Under Siege; "American Psyche Can Be Easily Manipulated"; Living Syria's Bloodbath First-Hand; Gingrich Banks On Next Contests For Boost; Interview With Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz;
Aired February 8, 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 to our viewers, You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, embattled Syrian government -- the e-mails allegedly hacked.
Just ahead, the secret spin revealed behind the bloody crackdown.
Plus, is it time for President Obama to shift course after that shocking Santorum shake-up?
I'll ask the chairwoman of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And the Secret Service wages a war against glitter bombers out on the campaign trail. The latest perpetrator speaks exclusively with CNN about the five hours he was questioned and detained.
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.
The endless roar of shelling in Syria, so loud it almost makes you jump just to hear it. The city of Homs under siege for a fourth straight day, where 60 more civilians have reportedly been killed and witnesses now say residents are simply too afraid to recover the bodies. We'll get to our Ivan Watson in just a second.
But first, one activist's chilling look at some of the youngest victims of the slaughter. And we want to warn you, what you're about to see may be very disturbing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY YOUTUBE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) at 7:00 a.m.. This is a little child who was walking. He's about two years old. He got hit in this (INAUDIBLE) bomb in his house.
Is this what the U.N. has waited for? Is this what the U.N. has waited for, until there isn't anymore children left, until they kill all the children, kill all the women?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Ivan Watson.
He's standing by in Istanbul with the very latest.
What is the latest information you're picking up today -- it looks like the situation, Ivan, is going from bad to so much worse.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. I mean residents telling us that they woke up at dawn this morning, Wolf, to another artillery barrage, as the Syrian military lobbed rockets, mortars, tank shells into a densely populated civilian residential neighborhood. This -- the thrust of the assault is against the western Homs neighborhood of Baba Amr, which has long been considered an opposition stronghold.
From the videos emerging from there, it looks like indiscriminate shelling of homes and houses and activists telling us at least 50 people killed throughout the day, just on Wednesday. Hundreds believed to have been killed over the course of this time.
A resident I spoke with, he said all the electricity is cut off. The water is cut off. There's a shortage of -- of food and, of course, medical supplies.
And the organization, Doctors Without Borders, came out with a report accusing the Syrian government of using medicine as a weapon of persecution, since so many of the wounded people in this conflict, that has been going on for more than 10 months, cannot go to hospitals for fear of being and possibly facing torture. There are mobile, undercover clinics that have been established, but they do not get access to medicine. They don't have access to blood banks, which are controlled by the Syrian government. And they are routinely hunted down, according to this Doctors Without Borders report, by Syrian security forces -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Iv--- Ivan, we're also hearing that doctors are being targeted -- targeted directly by these Syrian security forces?
WATSON: That's an allegation that the Doctors Without Borders report is also putting out, that not only the patients are being hunted down, but the doctors that are treating them.
Now, there is an armed element within the opposition movement here, the so-called Free Syrian Army, described by some as franchises, loose militias of defected soldiers. They are clearly outgunned by the Syrian military right now, Wolf, which we've seen using tanks, using artillery. The activists I've been talking to, they're ask -- actually calling for more weapons. They say there are trickles of weapons coming across the borders from neighboring countries, being smuggled in, but not nearly enough to be able to stop something like this ferocious assault that Baba Amr is seeing in this embattled city of Homs.
BLITZER: Ivan Watson, we'll stay in close touch with you.
Thanks very much.
We're also getting a shocking inside look at the alleged government spin behind all of the crackdown, from secret e-mails notorious hackers claim they have busted.. These are dramatic developments that are unfolding right now.
Brian Todd is working this part of the story for us -- Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one person we know who's connected to that hacker group, Anonymous, says these e-mails are authentic. And if so, it doesn't look like Bashar al-Assad's aides have a very high opinion of Americans.
TODD: (voice-over): It's days before a big interview with an American network and Bashar al-Assad is being coached. "To spin this crackdown," one aide writes, "don't talk reform. Americans won't care or understand that."
The aide advises the Syrian president to talk about, quote, "mistakes," blame his own police. "Americans' psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are quote, "mistakes done" and now we are, quote, "fixing it."
Here's what Assad then said about the crackdown in that early December interview with ABC's Barbara Walters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM DECEMBER 7, 2011, COURTESY ABC NEWS)
BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT, SYRIA: This is individuals. And that's what I call -- what I have described as individual mistakes.
BARBARA WALTERS, ABC ANCHOR: OK, done by the military or done by whom?
ASSAD: We don't know everything.
WALTERS: But who...
ASSAD: In some cases, done by the police. In some cases, done by civilians.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: That e-mail on what they say was apparently from Sheherazad Jaafari, press attache at Syria's mission to the U.N., to one of Assad's press aides in Damascus. The hacker group Anonymous posted the e-mail passwords of top Syrian officials.
(END VIDEO TAPE) BLITZER: All right, we've got some technical problems with that report. But the bottom line is what?
TODD: The bottom line is that apparently these e-mails show that, according to this one aide who's coaching Bashar al-Assad on what to say to Barbara Walters, to ABC, says -- here's a quote. It says he can say -- he -- they want him to say that they're not torturing people. They want him to kind of spin his message. And on what they say, they say that -- they say that -- they don't really have a very high opinion of Americans.
They say that you can say basically that we don't torture. You can spin that message to the American public. And I can find one here that says "Americans' psyche can be easily manipulated when they hear that there are, quote, 'mistakes done' and we are, quote 'fixing it,'" essentially telling him that as long as you can say, hey, we've made mistakes and we're fixing it, Americans will believe that. They'll believe anything.
We tried to get some response to this hacking and to -- to what was published here by the person who sent that e-mail. She is an aide to the ambassador -- Syria's ambassador to the U.N. She sent that e- mail on coaching Bashar al-Assad to a press aide in Damascus. And we didn't hear any response to her -- from her to that hacking and to this -- to this message and to, you know, what -- what is -- it's alleged that she said to Bashar al-Assad and his aides in this e-mail.
BLITZER: How they're dealing with this public relations disaster for them.
BLITZER: It's a nightmare for the people that are in Syria.
Brian, thanks very much.
BLITZER: And no one can possibly understand the bitter desperation in Syria better than the people who have seen it firsthand.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The level of anger and passion here is absolutely palpable. We're just a few miles from the center of Damascus. And this here is a crowd here of perhaps...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been (INAUDIBLE).
ROBERTSON: Thank you.
This is a crowd here of perhaps several thousand people. They've taken over this whole area. They've put rocks in the road to prevent the police coming in here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, reporting from inside Syria just a few weeks ago. He was accompanied by our CNN photojournalist, Khalil Abdallah, who's based here in Washington with us.
And Khalil is here.
You spent two weeks in Syria. You got a firsthand look at what's going on...
KHALIL ABDALLAH, CNN PHOTOJOURNALIST: Yes.
BLITZER: -- albeit the government was controlling where you could go.
Give our viewers a sense of this unfolding situation there.
ABDALLAH: Well, the way it proceeded for us is when we arrived at the airport, we were expecting the government to be waiting for us and they weren't. But, also, the government agents at the airport weren't expecting journalists to appear.
After that, when we got to the hotel, we were tightly controlled in that environment. You can't go anywhere unless the government allows you to go or gives you a permit.
After a while, we decided that we're going to go follow the Arab League monitors. And we just basically went to the hotel where they were at.
I found some Syrian journalists. I asked them, what do they do usually?
They said they follow them. When they leave in a motorcade, we followed. The Syrian TV stopped at a certain -- the Syrian government TV stopped at a certain point because they don't want to cover the other side. And we just continued following the Arab League monitors. And we were immediately with the anti-government crowd.
BLITZER: Now, in one of the first days you were there, I remember vividly, because we were speaking with Nic at that time and you were shooting for him if -- as it is, a French journalist had been killed under very mysterious circumstances. And you weren't very far away from that.
ABDALLAH: Correct. We -- the government, again, took us on a planned trip to Homs that they took many journalists on. And when we arrived to Homs, they took us to the military hospital. They showed us that and then they showed us many other areas that they wanted us to see. They never took us to areas like Baba America.
Actually, we knew there was an overt -- we knew these neighborhoods. And we knew what was going on. The government bus always took a detour, a 10 kilometer detour sometimes, just to avoid us seeing those neighborhoods. Eventually, we ended up in those government areas that they wanted us to see. But nothing other than that on those trips.
BLITZER: Khalil, you and I spent some time during the war in Iraq in Kuwait. There were SCUD missiles coming in.
How scared were you in Syria during these two weeks, because you're a trained -- you know, you're a photographer. You've been in dangerous situations.
What was it like there?
ABDALLAH: To be honest, going in, we were very afraid. We didn't know what to expect. But once on the ground and once we were able to move around and get to certain areas and cover, we felt more comfortable. But when you are getting shot at in any kind of situation you're in, it's never a comfortable feeling and especially not knowing who is shooting at who and you are just stuck at a checkpoint or at a certain government army front line that you weren't expected to arrive at.
They're not expecting you, so you just don't know what's going to happen. It's very dangerous.
BLITZER: And you have the added advantage, you speak Arabic. You understand what these folks were saying. Give us the bottom line.
What does it look like right now?
Because from the outside -- and I haven't been there. You were there for two weeks.
What's going on?
ABDALLAH: Absolutely. It feels like the demonstrators were a certain distance outside of Damascus and now they are definitely much closer. The people before did not want to speak out. And now you don't have to go looking for the opposition. They're actually out in public. They're within five kilometers of the capital. They're not really far away at all.
So when you're on the ground and you see traffic jams in Damascus, you think life is normal, but really, it's not.
BLITZER: I'm glad you're back here in Washington safe and sound.
ABDALLAH: Thank you.
BLITZER: Khalil Abdallah. Excellent work, you and your team making the whole...
ABDALLAH: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- the whole nine yards.
Thank you. ABDALLAH: Thank you.
BLITZER: If Rick Santorum has a prayer of winning the Republican nomination, he has a big task ahead of him.
Can he expand his appeal on the fly and pose a serious challenge to Mitt Romney?
And Donald Trump has had something of a love/hate relationship with Washington. But he's all business when it comes to his latest project in the nation's Capitol.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, nearly half of Americans live in a household that gets government assistance. This stunning finding comes from a new report from a George Mason University-based research center.
More than one in three Americans lived in a household getting Medicaid, food stamps or other other means-based government assistance in 2010.
When you add in those getting Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits, it represents almost half the country, more than 148 million people.
The federal government sent a record total of $2 trillion to individuals in 2010. The stunning part of that is it's up 75 percent from a decade ago. There's another new study from the conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation, that shows the public's dependence on the federal government shot up 23 percent in just two years under President Obama. This comes at a time when fewer Americans, less than half of us, pay income taxes.
Some say the rise independence under President Obama is due to the recession and high unemployment, and no doubt to a degree it is, but other, say that extending unemployment benefits indefinitely actually keeps unemployment rates higher, because it creates an incentive not to work. Meanwhile, the country's safety net has become a hot topic in this presidential election year.
Mitt Romney is under fire for saying he's not concerned about the very poor among us, because they have, quote, "an ample safety net." It's a comment I bet he wishes he could take back.
Here's the question, what does it mean when half of Americans live in a household that gets government assistance? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and 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. Republican presidential hopeful, Rick Santorum, is taking a stunning triple state sweep to Texas today, hoping the dramatic win will persuade voters not to count him out as the true conservative of the race. This is what he told a group of pastors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: One of the great gifts that I've had in my political career is that no one ever thinks that I could ever win anything.
SANTORUM: The gift of being underestimated is a wonderful gift.
SANTORUM: And, I think we might have seen a little bit of that last night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: At the end of the meeting, the former senator, who's never been afraid to wear his religion on sleeve (ph), was surrounded by the group for this very spiritual moment of prayer and laying of hands. Let's bring in our senior correspondent, Dana Bash. She was out there covering his wins yesterday out in Missouri. How does he expand his base, though, and really get his campaign going?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, his campaign aides say that they are expanding their organization, and specifically, their staff, which is what they need to do. They've already got a new grassroots coordinator, a volunteer coordinator, and I actually was speaking with the Santorum aide on the phone, and he said that he was going through resumes as we were talking.
To do that, they also need money. Santorum told CNN this morning that he raised a quarter of a million dollars just online last night. And today, Wolf, he went to Texas, not just to campaign. He mainly went there to raise money. In fact, he had a five-hour hole in his public schedule to go do some fundraisers to get as much campaign cash as possible.
BLITZER: Lot of money in Texas. That's where you go to raise money.
BLITZER: So, where does he compete next? Where is this next moment, if you will?
BASH: Well, the next big contests are two of them on February 28th. They are in Arizona and Michigan. I talked to one of his, if you look at the map there, I talked to one of his key political advisers today who said that really we should focus on the state of Michigan. Not so much Arizona, because Arizona is a winner-take-all.
So, if he doesn't win, he gets no benefit from it. Michigan, you might wonder why Michigan, when it's the home turf technically of Mitt Romney, because his father was governor there. Well, they say that because of the fact that there are blue collar voters, that there are ranking Democrats, social conservative, people, who in the words this source, didn't remember that his father was governor,
They feel that they can do well there and maybe get a couple of delegates. Then, you look ahead to March 6th, which of course is Super Tuesday. Ohio, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Tennessee, those are all states where he feels that he can do well enough to get, again, a couple of delegates, because those are going to be awarded on a proportional level, not winner-take-all. So, those are the states we can expect him to be in.
BLITZER:: Let's go back to that video today when he was with those pastors. He's really going after the Christian right, and I'm sure he's doing well with them. A lot of the support him. But I think, at some point, he needs to broaden that base, right?
BASH: I actually asked him that question last night. I had a chance to talk to him after two (ph) of his wins in Missouri and Minnesota, and I asked him about specific question about the fact that he had appealed seems to be primarily to evangelical voters.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Do you think you've been able to prove that you're more than just the candidate for the staunch conservatives?
SANTORUM: If you get 55 percent of the state of Missouri, you're obviously getting a lot more people than just evangelicals. And, as you know, I mean, faith is very important to me. I try to be a faithful catholic, but I think our appeal is a lot broader and stronger than that. And I feel very good that this message is going to carry over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And the truth is, Wolf, that remains to be seen, because we don't know exactly who voted for Rick Santorum last night. And why? Because there were no real exit polls out of the contest last night. But one thing that his aides do is they needed people who are outside of the campaign say that he has -- is like ability.
The fact of the matter is that as you were talking about with Gloria in the last hour, Mitt Romney has a connection problem. Newt Gingrich has some likability issues. And Rick Santorum, who ironically rubbed a lot of people to wrong way when he was in the Senate, when he's out there on the stump, he can really relate to people, and that is something that he has as a big positive for him. if he can expand that beyond evangelicals, that'll be good for him.
BLITZER: Let's see how he does in Maine this weekend. I don't know if Ron Paul will do well there. let's see how he does in Arizona and Michigan later in the month and Super Tuesday. Long way to go. Thanks, Dana.
BASH: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Be sure to keep it right here on CNN Saturday evening when Maine, the caucuses there, when they do their part to help decide the Republican presidential nominee. Our coverage will begin at 6:00 p.m. eastern with a special edition of the "SITUATION ROOM." That will be followed by complete live coverage of the caucus results coming in from Maine at 7:00 p.m. eastern.
Democrats have focused their fire on Mitt Romney. But after Rick Santorum's big night, is that still a smart strategy? We're taking a closer look at that. We'll speak with the party's top official. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, she's here in the "SITUATION ROOM."
And what made Mitt Romney so mad in this video? It's a persistent problem for candidates and the newest form of social protest.
BLITZER: The stunning Santorum trifecta not only a huge blow for GOP presidential frontrunner, Mitt Romney. His arch rival, Newt Gingrich, is also feeling the sting, but the former house Speaker is pressing ahead, banking on the next major contest to help re-claim his momentum. Here's our senior correspondent, Joe Johns.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Newt Gingrich woke up in Ohio, which is where he had chosen to ride out a rather lousy caucus night for his campaign, even though the Ohio primarily isn't until March 6th, Super Tuesday.
JOHNS (voice-over): Where to go from here is the question for the former speaker after finishing fourth in Minnesota, and third in Colorado. In Missouri, he wasn't even on the ballot. He toured a steel working plant in the Cleveland area sending a signal he is planning to stick around.
So far, Gingrich has staked his campaign on the premise that he's the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, though now, conservative former senator, Rick Santorum, has actually won in more states than the former speaker. In his speech here, Gingrich restated his reasons for running for president in clear terms.
NEWT GINGRICH, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Part of our purpose in running is economic to get us back on the right track. Part of our purpose in running is culture to protect the rights of Americans to worship freely without being dictated to by the government. Part of our purpose in running is national security. We live in a very dangerous world. You have contributed to our national security.
JOHNS: And he hit the national security angle hard.
GINGRICH: We basically live in an age when we have very dangerous enemies who would literally like to kill us. You think about an Iranian nuclear weapon. You think about the dangers to Cleveland or to Columbus or to Cincinnati or to New York. Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed.
Now, imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it's 300,000 dead, maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction.
JOHNS: What he didn't do in the speech in Cleveland was attack his rivals for the nomination. And if there was any good news for Gingrich going forward, it was that Romney had had a lousy caucus night also, though, and this may sound a little counter-intuitive, Gingrich actually became the first target of Mitt Romney's first attack on the day after the caucuses.
Romney once again criticizing Gingrich's proposal to put a space colony on the moon. The Romney campaign said Gingrich does not seem to get it, that the proposal is too expensive. Gingrich had, only on Tuesday, defended his vision for revitalizing the space program while in Dayton, Ohio, one of the country's cradles of aviation.
The back and forth demonstrated the potential for a true three- man race between Romney, Gingrich, and Rick Santorum, and also, that the Romney campaign was taking seriously the threat of a strong Gingrich performance on Super Tuesday and the delegate-rich buckeye state or, more importantly, in Georgia, the biggest Super Tuesday prize, a state which, by the way, Gingrich once represented in the Congress.
Romney was visiting there on Wednesday, Gingrich scheduled to go there next week.
JOHNS: Gingrich and others now head back to Washington, D.C. for one of the nation's largest gatherings of conservatives at a time when the race for the nomination is beginning to look more and more like a battle over how to get conservative voters to line up behind just one candidate -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're just getting this into the SITUATION ROOM right now. The first reaction from a top catholic leader in news that the White House is looking to compromise on the controversial contraception rule that was announced last month. The Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York spoke just a few minutes ago with CNN's Jason Carroll.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARCHBISHOP TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHDIOCESE OF NEW YORK: I would welcome the fact that officials of the government are saying we need to rethink this, and we need to have a graceful exit so that catholic charities and the place we're at right now, catholic schools, catholic health care institutions, can continue to do the wonderful work that they've done so for long. Hallelujah. If there's some opening to a way to roll back what we find to be choking restrictions -- freedom and principles of conscience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about this and a lot more with the chair of the Democratic National Committee, the congresswoman from south Florida, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), DNC CHAIRWOMAN : You're welcome.
BLITZER: Are you open to a compromise with the Catholic Church, between the White House and the Catholic Church, on this issue of contraception and public funding going to pay for these pills, if you will?
SCHULTZ: It's not public funding, first of all. What we're saying here and President Obama under the affordable care act made sure that catholic houses of worship -- that houses of worship are exempt. The employees of houses of worship themselves are not required to be covered for contraception on their insurance.
But, if a religious institution goes into a private business, like a hospital, like a health system, and provides health insurance, then the hundreds of thousands of employees that work for catholic health systems across this country should be able to get that coverage and not have to choose between leaving their job or having that coverage.
BLITZER: You mean a university or hospital that's affiliated with a Catholic Church like Georgetown University here in Washington has a hospital. If you're employed there, the government says you would have to get these contraception pills --
SCHULTZ: No, no, no.
BLITZER: -- if you will. You have to be eligible. Your health insurance would have to allow that, even though the Catholic Church says that's a violation of their faith.
SCHULTZ: What the affordable care act did and the president decided at the recommendation of the FDA that contraception would be available without a co-pay and without a deductible as part of the health insurance coverage that will be required -- that will be provided under the affordable care act. Now, there is a conscience clause that still remains.
Catholic doctors aren't going to be required to prescribe contraception, but you know, like the 28 states in which these catholic health systems are already required to provide contraception, under the insurance coverage, it's not public funding. This is private health insurance in which without a co-pay or a deductible, contraceptive has to be available on their insurance plan. BLITZER: But these bishops say they can't accept this.
SCHULTZ: But let's keep in mind President Obama went further than the FDA. He said for the next year, in a one-year transition, would be available to extensions of religious institutions in which they would be able to work through a transition period while they are determining how they would provide that coverage.
BLITZER: So you're open to some sort of compromise. Is that what you're saying?
SCHULTZ: During the one-year transition period.
BLITZER: No, no, no. At the end of the day, are you open to a compromise?
SCHULTZ: The one-year transition period is the period of time in which it should be worked out on how this would be implemented. But at the end of the day, there are thousands and thousands of women who deserve access to family -- affordable family planning. It's expensive, Wolf. If it's not covered by insurance, it can be up to $600.
And there are lots of illnesses -- endometriosis, for example, and others -- that are made better when a woman takes contraception. This is not only about family planning, it's about affordable access to family planning.
BLITZER: Now, in addition to being a congresswoman, you're also the chair of the DNC. You've got to raise money to help Democrats get elected and reelected, including yourself.
There's been a major change on the part of the Obama campaign, the Obama White House when it comes to these super PACs. Here as what the president said in 2010 about all these super PACs that can raise unlimited sums of money.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are pouring millions of dollars through a network of phony front groups flooding the airwaves with misleading attack ads. These special interests can spend unlimited amounts without even disclosing where the money is coming from. They won't stand behind what they do.
This isn't just a threat to Democrats. This is a threat to our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But all of a sudden, the Obama campaign, David Axelrod and others, say, you know what? They're going to have to go ahead and promote and actually go out there and campaign for these pro-Obama, pro-Democratic super PACs, even though the president said two years ago it's a threat to our democracy.
Where do you stand on this?
SCHULTZ: I agree with the president and believe that the Citizens United decision that resulted in the allowance of these super PACs and the unlimited opaque, un-transparent contributions from corporations should be changed, and it should be overturned. And that's why we supported the Disclose Act and legislation that would make sure that you could roll that decision back.
But the Republicans refuse to support that legislation, and so the rules are what they are, and we certainly can't -- with hundreds of millions of dollars being spent by Republican super PACs led by Karl Rove and the Koch brothers, that are already spending money and will drown the president in negative ads in the fall, we can't unilaterally disarm. We have to operate our campaign under the rules that exist right now.
BLITZER: Because Obama campaign officials, some officials at the White House -- I don't know about you, and DNC. Will you actually go out there and try to raise money for these pro-Democratic, pro-Obama super PACs?
SCHULTZ: Within the rules, I'm sure that I will be a part of events that will take place in support of the resources being raised for the super PAC. But there are -- for example, the first lady and the president, the vice president and Dr. Biden will not be involved in those efforts.
BLITZER: But you will?
SCHULTZ: It has yet to be determined.
BLITZER: Very quickly, what did you think of the Santorum sweep yesterday?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think it's another example of just how unenthusiastic the Republicans are, that their voters are for their entire field. It shows that this continues to be a roller-coaster, and that voters, especially on the Republican side, don't want to support a candidate like Mitt Romney, who will say anything to get elected and has no conviction on anything.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, thanks for coming in.
SCHULTZ: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: A protester was ready to pay the price.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER LUCAS SMITH, STUDENT: I will be probably expelled from school. I will probably have to pay a $1,000 fine. And I'm facing up to six months in jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're taking a closer look at the latest trend for protesters hitting the campaign trail with their anger and a fistful of glitter.
And a viral video shows the horrific beating of a gay man in Atlanta. Now he's speaking out as police hunt for his assailants.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, a university in Pennsylvania takes a somewhat unconventional approach to contraception. What's going on?
SYLVESTER: Yes, this is a university in Pennsylvania. And just like chips and snack cakes, students can get emergency contraception out of the health clinic's vending machine.
That university is Shippensburg University. It offers the Plan B One Step after a survey found that 85 percent of students were in favor of it. The $25 single dose pill must be taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex.
"Monsters." That's what the gay man seen in this now-viral video calls the men who severely beat him outside Atlanta deli. Brandon White says he didn't come forward right away, but the fear of being attacked again changed his mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRANDON WHITE, BEATEN IN ATLANTA: I was just going to be silent about it and let it ride over, because that's just who I am. I deal with situations my way. But by them going ahead and wanting to release it and put it on the Internet, I feel that they wanted the attention themselves. They wanted to make themselves look like they were brave, they were strong.
But in my opinion, I'm the brave one. I'm the brave one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Although Georgia does not have a state hate crime statute, the FBI is investigating to see if the case falls under the federal hate crime law.
Two weeks shy of her 111th birthday, the last known World War I veteran has died. Florence Green was a waitresses in Britain's Royal Air Force, and she once told a reporter that despite the realities of war, in many ways it was the time of her life.
That is unbelievable. She lived to 110 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow, 110 is pretty good.
All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.
Donald Trump hinted at running for the White House. Now he's settling for another Pennsylvania Avenue landmark. And the new kind of protest that's making security tough for presidential candidates.
BLITZER: Political protests has apparently never been so sparkly. Glitter bombs are the latest form of protests against Republican presidential contenders, causing a headache for security.
Lisa Sylvester is joining me now with this exclusive report.
Lisa, what's going on?
SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, it's an eye-catching way to get attention. And an increasing number of liberal activists are throwing glitter at Republican presidential candidates, or at least trying to. And it happened against last night.
A college student told CNN he put the glitter up his sleeve and snuck it into an event where Romney was speaking. What happened next? Well, take a look at the pictures.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): It happened in an instant, Mitt Romney at a rally at the University of Colorado getting glitter-bombed -- almost. Take a look again at slow motion, the blue glitter right there.
Romney, who is now under Secret Service protection, looks momentarily ruffled, but quickly regains his composure. The man who threw the glitter is quickly hustled away by police.
CNN tracked him down. He is 20-year-old Peter Lucas Smith, a University of Colorado student majoring in political science. I asked him in this exclusive phone interview why he did it.
SMITH: Mitt Romney stands for a lot of things the people of Colorado do not stand for, be it the LGBT community, be it environmental protection, be it health care reform that he wrote. These are all things he's coming out against, and people in my state I know are very, very concerned about the potential of a Romney presidency.
SYLVESTER: We reached out repeatedly to the Romney campaign for a comment, but we did not receive a response.
Glitter-bombing, as it's called, began a few months ago as a protest by the gay community over the candidates' positions on same-sex marriage. All four Republican candidates have been targets. It's even made it into mainstream pop culture featured on the hit show "Glee."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE, "GLEE": You just got glitter-bombed.
SYLVESTER: But it is a huge problem for the Secret Service that has to balance security with access to the candidate.
Bill Pickle is a former special agent in charge with the Secret Service. He says the agents did everything right here.
BILL PICKLE, FMR. SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, SECRET SERVICE: And this one you saw talking to Romney a moment ago.
SYLVESTER: But someone that close to a candidate could throw a substance more harmful than glitter. Another scenario is a glitter bomb could be used as a ruse for a larger second attack.
PICKLE: If this young man throws glitter on the governor, and the governor is led away in another direction, the real concern may be where the governor is going, someone who is waiting, knowing he's going to be coming that direction. And that would be the person the Secret Service has a real concern with.
SYLVESTER: Peter Smith is adamant that he never intended to hurt Romney. He says he was detained for five hours by Denver police and questioned by Secret Service and released. Asked if he had any regrets, Smith worried whether this will be a permanent market on his education and future, but he says he was raised to be politically engaged.
SMITH: Civil disobedience was something I grew up with on my bookshelves since the age of 7. I understand the importance of standing up. When you see an injustice happening, and you feel like you need to speak, I've always thought that's very strong and very important to me.
SYLVESTER: That is certainly his perspective.
Well, the Secret Service gave us a statement saying it "trains its personnel for a wide variety of potential threats that could occur during protection operations, and there is always a balance that has to be struck between security and access."
And as for Peter Smith, well, he was ticketed for disturbance and conducting an unlawful act on school grounds. He faces a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, and he also faces the real possibility of expulsion from school -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And if the Secret Service is protecting a presidential candidate, obviously the stakes are much more intense. So, if folks are thinking about glitter-bombing, they could go to jail when all is said and done. Isn't that right, Lisa?
SYLVESTER: That's right. You know, many people will see this as a prank, as something that's fun, but it really is a serious problem. I mean, the Secret Service are not going to reveal all of their methods, but they actually do have various perimeters. I mean, it is very intense what they're doing to make sure that these presidential candidates are protected -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.
Jack Cafferty is back with your e-mails in a moment. And Donald Trump owning one of Washington's oldest landmarks just four blocks from the White House? What's going on?
BLITZER: Donald Trump may never make it to the White House, but he's now taking over another Pennsylvania Avenue address.
CNN's Athena Jones has the story.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, before endorsing Mitt Romney's bid for the Republican presidential nomination, Donald Trump expressed a good deal of interest in having a prominent Pennsylvania Avenue address himself. Well, if all goes as planned, he might just get his way.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Hi. How are you, darling?
JONES (voice-over): It wasn't too long ago that Donald Trump was hinting that he could make a run for the White House.
TRUMP: If I run and win, our country will be respected again.
And I can run. I have that option of running if I want to run.
JONES: Now he's chosen to make his mark on another historic site along Washington's famed Pennsylvania Avenue by turning the Old Post Office into a luxury hotel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's great for D.C. I think it would be a good way to bring in some tax revenue and increase jobs.
JONES: These days, the 400,000 square foot space houses a cafeteria, government agencies, and souvenir kiosks. The attached annex is empty.
The Trump Hotel Collection project, chosen after a month's long review process, will make this old building look a lot more like Trump's other properties on the inside with more than 250 hotel rooms, a spa, a conference center, restaurants, and a museum as part of a 60-year lease. It's all part of a deal with the government to redevelop a site that's costing taxpayers $6 million a year to maintain. The hope is that Trump's nearly $200 million project will make this spot a moneymaker.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, I'm in favor of it. I think if he's going to preserve the historic features of it, and he can put it to a higher economic use, then power to him. And I wish him the best of luck.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We work right over there. So to find restaurants at night when you're working late would be really nice in this area. JONES: The site is just down the street from the White House, which can be seen from the top of the post office's clock tower, one reason that portion of the building will remain under National Park Service control.
One D.C. resident was glad to see Trump focusing on his day job.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever you think of Donald Trump, he may be a crazy politician, but he's actually a pretty good real estate developer. You know? So if he sticks to real estate, it should be a fabulous place.
JONES: Now, if all goes as planned, Trump's new hotel could be opened for business by 2016, just in time for the next presidential election -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Athena, thank you.
Let's go to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What does it mean when half of Americans live in a household that gets government assistance? A hundred and forty-eight million people.
Ray in Georgia, "It means all the big liberal programs that were supposed to fix all the ills in this country have failed. Sorry, but I'm a hard right-wing conservative who thinks I need to carry my own water before I ask somebody else to do it."
Bob in Long Island writes, "There are plenty of people who feel that those getting government assistance are just lazy freeloaders. And I have no doubt there are some who are taking advantage. But the majority of people and families getting government assistance are hurting and they need help. A better question would be, what would happen to those families getting government assistance if it was taken away?"
Rick in Detroit, "It means the only thing we lead the world in today is we have more millionaires and billionaires than any other country on the planet. We also have more debt than any country on the planet. The unequal distribution of wealth has destroyed our tax base, consumer spending, and our middle class, and left many Americans with entitlements as their only source of income."
Steve in Indiana, "Let's play fair, Jack. If you include Social Security and Medicare, I resent the implication. I draw Social Security. I paid for it for a very long time."
"To your actual question, it means there are no jobs and the welfare state has been growing due to government policy and world change. We need help, not socialism."
And Terry writes, "Pretty simple. Most of us haven't returned to work. And when you're out for more than six months, nobody wants to even take you on. We have to eat, pay what bills we can, and if it weren't for programs that provide assistance, who knows where we'd be? It's a horrible way to live your life, and most of us aren't very proud of it."
If you want to read more about this, you go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM'S Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack. Thank you.
The dance of victory. We have the Super Bowl moves that have inspired the nation, even Madonna.
BLITZER: Super Bowl ads have nothing on Victor Cruz.
CNN's Jeanne Moos has that.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Salsa of victory, the mockery of defeat. The Super Bowl may be over, but the Patriots and the Giants left behind two moves we can't quite move beyond.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz celebrated touchdowns with "The Salsa." Now "The Salsa" is spreading like an Internet virus.
MOOS: It infected a weatherman in Michigan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to do my Salsa dance right off the stage.
MOOS: Even Madonna wasn't immune.
MADONNA, SINGER: In fact, he's inspired me.
MOOS: She volunteered a demonstration.
MADONNA: This is Madonna with the Silk City Salsa. And I'm going to say she's rooting for the New York Giants, I have to say.
MOOS: But the most courageous salsa was performed by a Giants fan surrounded by Patriots fans in what turned out to be a near riot. Just a few seconds of salsa, and then as the dancer continued to taunt the crowd, he got sucker-punched. The guy had to be rescued and danced right out of there.
The Giants Super Bowl victory party is a safer place to salsa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are the Cruz dancers. Come on. Go.
MOOS: This Cruz T-shirt with how to salsa steps on the back sold out.
(on camera): Don't even think of using me as a dance floor.
(voice-over): But salsaing has given way to Bradying. Bradying is the new Tebowing. You know how everyone was mimicking the prayerful attitude of Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, even in snow. But there was nothing grateful about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady after he was decked while being intercepted at the Super Bowl.
Imitation is not always flattery. There is Bradying on top of a table, Bradying in the dog house. It's easy to be depressed and dejected anywhere.
Even a sports anchor can be reduced to Bradying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was really unhappy with my performance on the show at 6:00.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As well you should have been.
MOOS: It's enough to make you want to drown your sorrows in salsa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move your hands a little bit. Feel the Latino inside you!
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I love Jeanne Moos. I love that little dog as well.
That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The news continues next on CNN.