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THE SITUATION ROOM

Interview With Rep. Peter King; Afghan Assault; Pippa in Trouble; Bounty on the President; Inside the Prostitution Scandal

Aired April 16, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, inside the U.S. secret service prostitution scandal. Widening allegations of misconduct at a Columbian hotel before a summit attended by President Obama. This hour, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Congressman Peter King, he's here. He'll tell us what he's learning.

Plus, new details about the Israeli military might plan to attack Iran's nuclear sites if, if, negotiations fail. Israeli television says the moment of truth may be near.

And is there a bounty on President Barack Obama's head right now? We caught up with a British lawmaker accused of offering a reward for the president's capture.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We have just learned that 11 members of the secret service have had their security clearances revoked in what's being called the biggest scandal of the history from the secret service. U.S. officials say they're looking into allegations that U.S. personnel had prostitutes in their rooms at a hotel in Colombia during a night of heavy drinking and partying.

President Obama is calling for a rigorous investigation. Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, for the very latest. Pretty shocking developments, especially to those of us like you and me who spent a lot of time with the secret service over the years.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Surprising, indeed, that they brought them home to the hotel and that this has become public knowledge. Wolf, the latest developments also include now news that it's grown to ten individuals, the Department of Defense, ten military individuals who are also apparently involved in this investigation.

It would seem that over the weekend, the secret service at least, did not live up to its motto, it's worthy of trust and confidence.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) YELLIN (voice-over): The president was in Colombia to talk trade, the economy, and Cuba, but his policy agenda was overshadowed by flashy headlines about prostitutes and the secret service.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What happened here in Colombia is being investigated by the director of the secret service. I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous. If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then, of course, I'll be angry.

YELLIN: According to several government officials, days before the president arrived in Cartagena, secret service and military officers brought prostitutes back to their hotel. Prostitution is legal in this part of Colombia, but that's a violation of the agent's code of conduct. When one woman didn't leave the next morning, the hotel manager went up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He wasn't allowed into the room. He got the police, they went in. And the woman and the agent were arguing, she said he owed her money, he said he didn't, but he paid it. And there was no real issue. There was no arrest made, but the police did file a report with the American embassy.

YELLIN: After that report made its way to secret service headquarters, at least five military personnel and 11 secret service agents and officers were sent home and are now under investigation. According to a government official, that list includes two supervisors and one elite sniper. In a statement over the weekend, the secret service said none of these agents was assigned to the presidential protection division.

These actions have had no impact on the secret service's ability to execute a comprehensive security plan for the president's visit to Cartagena. And all 11 employees have been placed on administrative leave. Republicans who don't typically rush to defend this president in politics say, in security, his defense is what matters most.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that there was no risk to the president just doesn't hold water. More importantly, five or ten years from now, some of these secret service agents could well be at the president's side.

YELLIN: Former agents tell CNN they're trained to avoid prostitutes because of the possibility of blackmail, and one former agents tells CNN the scandal has sent a shockwave through the secret service. As for the president --

OBAMA: We're here on behalf of our people. And that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity, and obviously, what's been reported doesn't match up with those standards. But, again, I think I'll wait until the full investigation is completed before I pass final judgment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (on-camera): Again, that investigation is ongoing. This is not the first time the secret service has made headlines. In recent years, there was -- in July 26th, when a secret service agent faced public intoxication and other charges after an incident at a bar in Waco, Texas.

It was this time earlier this year when it took several days after someone fired at the White House to discover that, at least, two bullets had hit the White House, at least, several days before it became public, then there was the case of the party crashers, the Salahis (ph).

And investigation found the secret service did not follow protocol at a security checkpoint, and the secret service's director told lawmaker about the incident, quote, "This is our fault and our fault alone."

BLITZER: Yes. All of us remember when the Salahis (ph) managed to get in for that state dinner at the White House. Very, very embarrassing.

YELLIN: Staff was at fault at the White House in that incident, but also secret service, as well.

BLITZER: It shouldn't have been allowed in. They got (ph) an invitation, obviously. All right. Thanks very much, Jessica/

The Pentagon now says more than five members of the U.S. military also, also, may have been involved in misconduct in Columbia. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says military leaders let the president of the United States down.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: We are embarrassed. I mean, -- you said how embarrassed is the military? I can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs who were embarrassed by what occurred in Columbia.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying today. Let's go behind the scenes right now, this exploding scandal. American journalists traveling request with President Obama were forced to shift gears and cover a story at the same hotel where many of them were actually staying, it's not the hotel where the president was staying, though.

Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, has more from Cartagena, Colombia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The scandal may have been dominating the headlines in the United States, but here in Cartagena, they buried the story. El Tiempo, which is a national newspaper that we could compare to the "New York Times" ran a small story on the second to the last page, a sub headline reading "days of liquor and disorder." It read right above two ads for university. We traveled with the president all around the world, sometimes, to densely populated cities, other times to beautiful coastal resort towns like here in Cartagena, Colombia. Our stories usually involve complicated issues, but rarely is the story about the hotel where we do most of our work at and stay at. This is the Hotel Caribe. It will forever be linked to the secret service scandal.

Ironically, this took place in the middle of one of the most secure bubbles we've ever seen. This road that leads to our hotel and the president's hotel is blocked off to the general public. In addition to all the secret service agents, there are more than 5,000 local police and military personnel from here in Columbia. And right across from the hotel is a police substation.

The president traveled all this way to attend the sixth Summit of the Americas, to focus on jobs, the economy, trade, to highlight the importance of the Latin-American region. In fact, as this story was making big news, the president was just up the road meeting with top CEOs, but his message was being drowned out by the scandal.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think it's been much more of a distraction for the press. He's here engaging in the business that he came here to do with the assembled leaders of the Americas. This fast-growing region of the world is vital to our economic future, to the American economic future.

LOTHIAN: From the military to the secret service, officials are expressing deep disappointment. The investigation now continues back in Wasghinton, and there will be a lot of questions, including how to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

Dan Lothian, CNN, Cartagena, Colombia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Peter King, is joining us right now. He's been fully briefed on this scandal. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in. First of all, is there anything new you can share with our viewers right now?

REP. PETER KING, (R) NEW YORK: Wolf, basically, the facts what they have been over the weekend, I'm not aware of any dramatic changes. My investigative staff on the counterterrorism unit investigating this. They report back to me on a regular basis. They're in contact with the secret service and also with their own sources.

We want to make sure that every fact is known, including what happened minute by minute and hour by hour. And also, when people in authority at the secret service found out about it and what action they took.

BLITZER: The fact that 11 members of the secret service have now had their security clearances revoked, what does that say to you? Does it mean they're going to be fired or there's still an investigation?

KING: Well, investigation is ongoing. And I don't want to pre-judge having said that. No matter what the ultimate penalty is, this is a serious, serious violation of everything the secret service stands for. I have tremendous respect for the secret service. I work with them closely as chairman of the homeland security committee.

Back in New York, I work with them because of the (INAUDIBLE) work they do, when the president visits, the vice president. So, I have great regard for them. Having said that, what these 11 agents did potentially puts any president at risk, themselves at risk, leaves themselves open to blackmails and to threats.

And again, throughout history, we know how enemy forces use prostitutes who use women agents to penetrate this own (ph) of security that the opposition has to try to find whatever secrets they can and the information they have and we've had. I know foreign diplomats overseas who have been with prostitutes and have been drugged, had their lap tops taken.

In this case alone, just being around the secret service inside the zone of security, picking up information about the president's travel schedule, what his agenda is, just names of the secret service agents, when they're going to be leaving, when they're going to be going, all of that, if this were being staged by a narco-terrorist group in Colombia, groups like (INAUDIBLE) could be absolutely devastating.

From all I know and everything I found out, this did not happen. There was no threat to the president. Every person who was engaged was taken out of the country. They were back filled in. There were others brought in to take their place. And I don't know if any sensitive information that got out. That's certainly what could happen and it was just the wrong thing to do.

BLITZER: Do you know if these women, these prostitutes, are being questioned either by Colombian or U.S. authorities?

KING: Wolf, I'm not certain on that. I don't want to get into that right now, but they certainly should be for any number of reasons to find out whether or not. Again, they just were, you know, "ordinary prostitutes," quote and unquote or whether or not they could have any links at all.

And we know here in our own country, how often prostitutes are linked to organized crime, how often they're linked to drug dealers, and we certainly know international diplomacy and espionage go how often they're linked to international spy operations.

BLITZER: Is this an isolated incident or do you think there's a disturbing pattern here?

KING: I don't see any pattern. Again, you were going to look -- obviously, that's part of what we look for to see whether or not this was an anomaly or that was created by a culture, and also, what's been done to prevent in the future. But as of this moment, I don't see it being as part of a pattern. As I said, the overwhelming majority of secret service agents I've dealt, with the men and women of the secret service, are outstanding professionals.

BLITZER: I totally agree with you as far as that is concerned. I spent almost eight years covering the White House. I spent a lot of time with these secret service personnel. Do you have confidence in Mark Sullivan, the director of the secret service?

KING: From what I've seen thus far, yes. I work closely with Mark Sullivan. In this particular case, he moved very quickly. As soon as he learned the facts of this situation, he ordered those people taken from the country and the earliest possible flight. He arranged to have each of those 11 positions filled.

He got secret service agents from Miami from San Juan (ph) have been flown immediately into Colombia. From my dealings with him since this started, totally honest and above board. So, I've seen nothing at all to make him a scapegoat. I think we have to be careful not to indict the entire secret service and not to look for quick care fixes by blaming one individual.

BLITZER: You heard Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff say that military personnel on duty in connection with the president's visit to Colombia were also involved, and he's deeply embarrassed by that. What can you tell us about what the U.S. military personnel were doing as far as partying and hanging out with prostitutes are concerned?

KING: Wolf, I have no inside knowledge at all about what the military was doing. That's not under my jurisdiction. From talking to people at the secret service, I'm not certain that there was joint efforts, if you will, if this was done simultaneously with the military and the secret service or whatever they did wrong, they did separately.

You know, when I spoke to secret service when this first broke about the military, they were still trying to find out exactly what the military was accused of doing or what they had done. All I know is that secret service, 11 agents, brought 11 women back to the hotel, and I really (INAUDIBLE) any expert opinion at all.

I want have -- hearing, and it's been confirmed by other people. I don't know the relationship between the military and the secret service as far as the scandal.

BLITZER: Well, let me just be precise, because it's the first time I heard this. You're saying 11 prostitutes were brought back to the hotel with those 11 members of the secret service, 11 women were brought in to those hotel rooms?

KING: I'm saying my understanding is, yes, 11 women were brought back with 11 men.

BLITZER: You know, if I'm involved in this investigation, and I'm sure you want to make sure you've questioned those 11 women to make sure that they're not involved with narco-terrorists or others who potentially could get some information. But you're saying right now you don't know if U.S. authorities have access to those 11 women?

KING: My understanding is they are getting access, but I don't want to go further than that at this stage. But, obviously, finding out who those 11 women are and exactly what their backgrounds are, what their connections and associations are is extremely vital to this investigation.

BLITZER: And if those 11 members of the secret service, some officers, some agents were, in fact, involved that night with these Colombian prostitutes, as far as your concerned, their careers in the U.S. secret service are over, is that right?

KING: Well, my understanding is, certainly, their careers are severely damaged. What the actual finding is going to be, I don't want to prejudge, but I'm saying that they certainly violated the oath that they took to uphold, the dignity and the reputation of the secret service, and also, to do all they could to protect the president because they're bringing people inside the security zone.

They could have been jeopardized in the security of the president. I don't want to prejudge the final verdict as what is going to be, but this clearly was a brazen violation of everything the secret service stands for.

BLITZER: Peter King is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Israel's military is bracing for possible losses, if, if it goes ahead with a strike against Iran's nuclear program. We have new information coming in on supposed plans of an Israeli attack.

Also, are Afghan security forces ready to take over for U.S. troops after a dramatic series of attacks in the capital? We're going to go there. We're going inside the fighting in the Taliban heartland.

And a royal in-law may, repeat, may face arrest. New details of the shocking photo of Pippa Middleton and a man with a gun.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As the Senate prepares to vote on the Buffett Rule some time in the next hour or so, guess what? Most millionaires are already paying higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else. Named after the billionaire, Warren Buffett, the proposal would mean that millionaires pay at least 30 percent of their income in federal taxes.

But CNNMoney reports that while many millionaires pay an effective rate of less than 30 percent, they still pay a higher percentage than almost everyone else. For example, the Tax Policy Center estimates that counting federal income and payroll taxes, the average effective federal tax rate for people making between $40,000 and $50,000 a year was 12 percent last year. For those making more than a million dollars a year, 20 percent. The difference is even bigger if you look only at income tax liability.

Middle income groups have an effective tax rate of 3.2 percent while millionaires pay 18.9 percent. Sort of throws cold water on President Obama's argument that the Buffett Rule would be some sort of exercise in fairness.

Under the current rules, a highly paid executive would be taxed to 35 percent, while a millionaire who earns the majority of his income from investments would be taxes at 15 percent on long-term capital gains and dividends.

The White House argues the Buffett Rule is aimed at millionaires who can structure their income to minimize their taxes. You know, people like Mitt Romney. Also, it's worth noting that while the Obama administration runs annual deficits of more than a trillion dollars, trillion, the Buffet Rule will add less than $5 billion a year to the national treasury. This is called chump change.

Here's the question, what's the point of the Buffett Rule if most millionaires already pay higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile where you can pose comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

The suspect behind a deadly bomb and gun rampage at Norway is claiming self-defense. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, he is pleading not guilty to the terror and murder charges against him, arguing the act was meant to save Norway from a multicultural take over. Authorities consider him a right-wing extremist. And his attorneys plan to argue he was sane during last summer's rampage which left 77 people dead.

Norway doesn't have a death penalty, so if convicted, he could be jailed or confined to a mental facility.

And all flights in and out of London's Gatwick Airport were temporarily suspended today after a Virgin Atlantic flight bound for Orlando was forced to make an emergency landing due to reports of smoke in the cabin. The planes emergency chutes were deployed for passengers to evacuate. Four people sustained minor injuries. Virgin Atlantic won't confirm that smoke was the cause for that landing.

And apparently, even the secretary of state needs to let loose every now and then. Take a look at these photos of Secretary Hillary Clinton dancing and enjoying a beverage in Colombia. She was spotted at a place described in the travel guide, "Lonely Planet," as the perfect location to, quote, "shake your rub (ph)."

Now, she is in Colombia, attending the Summit of the Americas. And I know that those pictures will have gone viral. But you know what, she's letting loose, having a little fun.

BLITZER: Let her enjoy. She works really, really hard for all of us. She enjoyed. So, she should have a little free time, as well. SYLVESTER: I agree with that.

BLITZER: Yes. Let her enjoy.

After a dramatic series of attacks on the capital of Afghanistan, are Afghan security forces ready to take over for U.S. troops? We're going inside the fighting. Stand by.

And Mitt Romney throws down the gauntlet and tells President Obama to, quote, "start packing."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: New Israeli video potentially laying out a military attack against Iran. It's one of the most dramatic signs yet that concerns about the country's nuclear capabilities that potentially reach a boiling point, and Israel says the United States and the international community aren't doing enough to stop them. Here's our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, these weren't negotiations, they were talks. The bar was set pretty low. That said there are some signs Iran is beginning to feel the heat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Just one day after international talks with Iran over its nuclear program, an Israeli TV channel broadcasts a supposed blueprint for how Israel's military would attack Iran's nuclear sites if negotiations fail and if Iran moves its nuclear program to its underground facility at (INAUDIBLE).

Dozens of jet fighters, electronic warfare planes, rescue helicopters. The TV report cleared by Israeli government sensors. Perhaps, intended to up the pressure on Iran, even as those weekend talks in Istanbul yielded a glimmer of hope. They were after all, a test. Is Iran willing to negotiate seriously about its nuclear program. The answer from the United States and its partners, a cautious yes.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT DEPUTY SPOKESMAN: We're very much at a beginning stage here, but, we feel it was a foundation for next talks.

DOUGHERTY: U.S. officials say the Iranians brought ideas to the table. But Israel's prime minister and the American president are split on whether that's progress.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Well, my initial impression was that Iran has been given a freebie. It's got five weeks to continue enrichment without any limitation, any inhibition.

OBAMA: A freebie would indicate that Iran has gotten something. In fact, they've got some of the toughest sanctions that they're going to be facing coming up in just a few months if don't take advantage of these talks. I hope they do.

DOUGHERTY: Economic pressure on Iran already is severe. And it will hit with a vengeance in July with European sanctions on Iranian oil that could cut its sales by a million barrels a day. A second round of talks is scheduled for May 23rd. And Iran is facing an urgent timetable.

ROBIN WRIGHT, WOODROW WILSON CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS: Anyone who knows Iran is rather pessimistic about this actually producing something tangibly and in during long-term. Iran is sticking to its possession of uranium enrichment, and the United States has been sticking to its positions that it has to give it all up, so far. The question is, can you engage in a process that will build confidence?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (on-camera) : But time is breathing down the neck of President Obama, too. Iran will be a top issue in this presidential campaign, his burden to prove it's not just talks for talk's sake -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thank you.

Let's go to Afghanistan right now, the most dramatic and widespread assault on the capital of Kabul in months. Four civilians, eight Afghan forces were killed in a series of attacks that lasted almost 18 hours. CNNs Nick Paton Walsh has more from inside Afghanistan.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf (INAUDIBLE) some troubling details emerging; the key one really is how similar this attack was to the other one six months ago. Both targeting NATO headquarters and key embassies, both in the sense supposedly safe center (ph) of Kabul, both launched from abandoned construction sites and buildings and both taking around about 20 hours for Afghan security forces to suppress, so many questioning the intelligence failure here including President Karzai himself who also questioned NATO's possible role in that.

And one of NATO's (ph) to stress is its success for Afghan security forces; many Kabulis (ph) will take little comfort in that after hearing over a day's worth of explosions in the very center of Kabul. We have recently joined though American and Afghan troops to see how Afghan security forces work in action as they launched an air assault into a Taliban hot land west of where I'm standing in Gazni (ph).

(voice-over): The last stand in the Taliban heartland. Americans and afghans launched an air assault before dawn into a remote, hostile district of Gazni (ph) they've not set foot in for six months.

(on camera): (INAUDIBLE) an incredibly flat, exposed space about a mile away from a village where there are to high-value targets that the Americans want to arrest.

(voice-over): America's withdrawal is meant to awakening Afghan forces to take over these manhunts. But as they push into the village in search of the Americans' most wanted local militant, the Afghans seem pretty casual.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: Some doors stay locked. Their prey likely vanishing when they heard helicopters.

SGT. RICHARD SNEDER, U.S. ARMY: When they hear the birds coming in they usually flee immediately.

WALSH: But as Americans search a former weapons cache, they become the targets.

(SHOTS FIRED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is it at? Where is it at? Where is it at?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

WALSH (on camera): Clearly insurgents are keen to defend this building or at least attack the Americans as they get near it.

(SHOTS FIRED)

WALSH (voice-over): The shots coming close fired from a distant tree line. The Afghans spring into life, firing a rocket and then move to flank the insurgents who keep taking pot shots.

(SHOTS FIRED)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, they don't like me running.

(SOUNDS)

WALSH: Warning flares from a tank aircraft massing (ph) a box stocked with gunfire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)

WALSH: Distant figures probably women and children appear, meaning a counter attack is too risky and the fight over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the one in the white is a child to be honest with you.

WALSH: But keen warriors make for poor police, riding motorcycles is illegal and they have to decide on a punishment. Should they shoot the fuel tank -- perhaps not?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: They let the tires down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: And then deliver what is here a rare encounter with Afghanistan's government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

WALSH: That night they leave and the Taliban will surely return knowing that without American support the Afghan state's relevance here slips further into the distance.

(on camera): And the key question here really is readiness of Afghan security forces. You've seen just there that unit, not much good at policing or governance (ph) in some ways, but very eager to get into a fight with the insurgency. The real worry I think though is if NATO and American troops draw down, can they step into those large shoes, the multifaceted role that NATO plays here, governance (ph), policing, law and order, a sense of security fighting the insurgency. NATO struggled themselves to fill that role in the past decade and many are asking whether Afghan security forces can step into their place that readily -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The situation there seems to be -- seems to be crumbling dramatically. We'll stay on top of it. Thank you, Nick.

Mitt Romney has a powerful new message for President Obama and I'm quoting the governor right now, he says "start packing".

And a royal shocker, Pippa Middleton, the sister of the future queen of England potentially could be arrested. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney has a bold new message for President Obama and I'm quoting him now, "start packing". Let's bring in our senior correspondent Joe Johns. He's got details. What's going on here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Mitt Romney certainly stepping up the rhetoric in the race for the White House, but also kind of keeping it light. In an interview with "ABC News" asserting that the president needs to pack his bag. This was an interview with the frontrunner and his wife Ann Romney, in which he got a number of questions drilling down on among other things his ability to relate with regular Americans. Romney taking the position, once again, that the issue is the economy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So in this moment, as it begins, toward November, what would each of you say to President and Mrs. Obama?

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, start packing.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: That's what I would like to say; obviously we have a very different view. The president, I'm sure wants another four years, but the first years didn't go so well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JOHNS: Now, Wolf, you yourself actually interviewed the both of them back in January around the time of the Iowa caucuses. And I hear this is one of the very first joint interviews Mitt Romney and Ann Romney has done since then.

BLITZER: They do very well together. She's not shy about interrupting him.

JOHNS: Right.

BLITZER: He's very differential to her; she's a huge, huge asset --

JOHNS: Yes.

BLITZER: -- for him going forward and I can understand why they want to do these joint interviews, because they're probably good for the campaign.

JOHNS: That's right. That's why they call her the secret weapon for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: Yes.

JOHNS: Really completes him in a lot of different ways, especially on those gender issues.

BLITZER: She's a very impressive woman who's gone through a lot, and I'm sure we'll see a lot more of her in the coming months and Joe thanks very, very much. Although he's blunt, you know start packing, they --

JOHNS: Yes.

BLITZER: -- still a long time. He doesn't need to start packing --

JOHNS: Fighting words.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

A Muslim lawmaker in Britain suspended, accused of offering a reward for the capture of the president of the United States, so what did he really say? CNN has tracked down this individual for a story that's sparking outrage.

And Pippa Middleton is used to getting attention, but not necessarily like this. Just ahead, the gun, the photo and the possibility that the royal sister-in-law, possibility, could even be arrested.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Ever since the British Royal wedding, Duchess Katherine's (ph) sister, Pippa has been in the spotlight in a big way, but now a photo of her and a man with a gun could put her at risk of actually being arrested. Here's our senior international correspondent Matthew Chance.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, this is what the British tabloid newspaper, "The Sun" (ph), calls its shock picture exclusive, images of Pippa Middleton, sister of Kate, the future queen of England, sitting in a car, driven by someone pointing what appears to be a semiautomatic pistol, pointed at a paparazzi photographer, undoubtedly bothering them in the center of the French capital.

You can see the headline, "Smirking Gun", a reference to the fact that Pippa and her friends are smiling as the driver brandishes the weapon. They all seem to think it's jolly good fun to threaten a photographer in broad daylight in this way in a major European city. But of course this is taken very seriously indeed in France, which just last month was rocked by a series of fatal shootings. Now whether or not the gun is real, and it's not clear from these photos, the gunman could face an extended stretch behind bars and if Pippa is viewed as an accomplice, she could be prosecuted too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What? All right, that's the story that we'll continue to watch. "30 Rock" actor Alec Baldwin caused a little stir here in Washington. Lisa Sylvester is taking a closer look at that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well he is in town advocating an increase in federal funding for the arts and Alec Baldwin spoke at the National Press Club, where he fielded several questions and he also poked fun of himself. He has talked about running for mayor of New York in the past and he was asked today if he intends to seek public office.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I have a very important announcement I would like to make to all of you today, I'm glad you're all here. It is today, it is with great humility and a sense of pride and a great love of my country that I announce that I am running for the East Hampton Library Historical Society Treasurer's position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: OK, so clearly not giving any indications on his future political plans, but Baldwin also joked about being kicked off an American Airlines flight back in December after he didn't put his phone away. So very interesting, I was there at the luncheon. It was a good time, Wolf.

BLITZER: A good time was had by all. Thanks very much, Lisa. So is there a bounty on President Barack Obama's head right now? We caught up with a British lawmaker accused of offering a reward for the president's capture.

And a new home for a dog whose loyalty goes far beyond anything you might be able to imagine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's a stunning story that's actually been getting a lot of attention out there on the Internet. But here's the question is it true? Did a member of the British Parliament really offer a reward for the capture of President Obama? Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us and you've got some answers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do Wolf, at least some answers. This member of Parliament is being investigated by his own party for these alleged remarks. He vehemently denies calling for any bounty for President Obama's capture and he's firing back hard at the reporting of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He's the first Muslim to become a so-called life peer, appointed to the Britain's Upper Chamber of Parliament, the House of Lords. He's now been suspended by his political party for comments he may or may not have made about President Obama. Lord Nazir Ahmed commenting on America's $10 million reward for information about the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks is quoted in Pakistan's "Express Tribune" (ph) newspaper as saying "if the U.S. can announce a reward of $10 million for the captor of Hafiz Saeed, I can announced a bounty of 10 million pounds on President Obama and his predecessor George Bush."

In announcing their suspension of the Pakistan-born Lord Ahmed pending an investigation Britain's Labour Party says "if these comments are accurate, we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable." We wanted to know if the comments were accurate. We started by asking Lord Ahmed.

(on camera): What is your response to that quote? Did you say that?

NAZIR AHMED, MEMBER OF BRITISH PARLIAMENT: Well I'm appalled that the "Tribune Express" (ph) has told such a big lie. I did not mention President Obama, and I did not mention any bounty. What I did say was that those responsible for war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan should be brought to justice and in my opinion, former President George Bush and Tony Blair are responsible for taking us into illegal war and there have been war crimes committed, and they should be brought to international court.

TODD (voice-over): We tracked down a recording of Lord Ahmed's taped remarks at a conference in Pakistan.

AHMED (through translator): I am ready to offer 10 million pounds to bring up charges of war crimes against George W. Bush and Tony Blair and to bring them before the International Court of Justice. Even if I have to sell my house, I am ready to do it.

TODD: In the part of the speech we saw there's no mention of President Obama or the actual word bounty. Contacted by CNN, the newspaper reporter who quoted Lord Ahmed said he didn't make a remark about President Obama during the speech but afterwards in a conversation with reporters. The reporter says he stands by the accuracy of his quote. When I called Lord Ahmed later he said he never mentioned President Obama or the word bounty any time ever. We asked one London analyst about Lord Ahmed's reputation in British politics.

SAJJAN GOHEL, ASIA-PACIFIC FOUNDATION: The party establishment has tried to disassociate themselves from him for a long period of time, especially since the 9/11 attacks when Lord Nazir Ahmed was critical about U.S. Operation Enduring Freedom.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Now Lord Ahmed maintains his stance that he has been unfairly characterized in this story. He accused that analyst, Sajjan Gohel, of being pro-Indian and biased against Pakistanis. Gohel adamantly denies that. We could not get response from representatives for former President Bush or Prime Minister Blair to Lord Ahmed's comments about them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So how far could this investigation go?

TODD: Well analysts say he could be easily expelled from his party, the Labour Party. He could even be removed from the House of Lords. That's happened before. At this point, though it may be tough to prove that he actually said it. It's his word against that reporter's. There -- the reporter says there were others around who heard it. Getting audiotape recordings may be the key here. It may be hard to prove it at this point.

BLITZER: OK. Thanks very much, Brian Todd, doing good reporting for us.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is what's the point of the "Buffett Rule" if most millionaires already pay higher effective tax rates than almost everyone else? And they do. Ed in California writes, "The fact that the 'Buffett Rule' would only raise one half of one percent of the budget deficit, would seem to indicate it's not all that important. Unless you consider that our president wants Congress to vote it down so he can then use it as a campaign plank. They are already crying for fair share in taxes while not mentioning that half the households in this country pay no personal income tax."

Eric in Texas, "Pure politics, the 'Buffett Rule' is an even less sensible alternative minimum tax. I don't believe anyone with any tax-writing experience in either party actually wants it, but it's easy to put forward, complicated to argue against, very class divisive and nothing that could actually pass making it perfect for the politicians."

Eric writes "If you look at tax on their salaries, then, yes, perhaps they do pay more, but I think it's reasonable to say that most millionaires make a substantial amount off their investments and that's why the 'Buffett Rule' is important."

Cliff in New York, "The 'Buffett Rule' is a distraction. The only discussion should be to return the top tax rates to the level they were in the year 2000, 39.6 percent when a budget surplus was handed over from President Clinton to President Bush."

W.R. in Florida writes "President Obama is the most divisive president this country has ever seen. He uses race, class, sex and age to divide the American people in an effort to get re-elected. The sad part is the majority of the American people seem gullible enough to believe the president is sincere and not acting like all of the others who have lied to gain elected office."

And Jim writes from Oregon "If passed, the only benefit of the 'Buffett Rule' that will provide to any of the rest of us is it will give all the other 99 percent of us a sense of well being." If you want to read more about this you go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack thank you. Ahead new information on the investigation into the Secret Service scandal, John King will have the latest at the top of the hour. CNN broke some news this hour with my interview with the Homeland Security Chairman Peter King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: All I know is that the Secret Service, 11 agents brought 11 women back to the hotel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's the least that can be done for a dog that risked her life to sit in the middle of traffic with a fallen fellow canine. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This black Lab is a little skittish. You'd be skittish, too, after what she went through. Last week, she parked herself in the middle of traffic. This loyal Labrador wouldn't leave a yellow Lab that had been struck and killed on this busy highway in LaPointe (ph), California. A guy who shot the video first put up traffic cones to keep cars away from the two dogs. The surviving Lab was taken to the Baldwin Park Animal Care Center (ph) where staff named her Grace when they couldn't identify her.

(on camera): Grace isn't the only one to show loyalty. The motorist who put out the cones and took the video has been to the shelter every day to visit Grace.

(voice-over): The shelter was about to let him adopt her, but wait, Grace may be Maggie. KTLA reports that a couple has come forward saying she's their dog that she went missing last week and Los Angeles County Animal Control says the dog seems to respond to the name Maggie. Maggie aka Grace, will stay at the shelter until they confirm ownership.

(on camera): This isn't the first time that we've seen a dog risk its life in traffic for another dog.

(voice-over): The most famous example was when a dog was struck and killed on a freeway in Santiago (ph), Chile four years ago. A second dog ran up and dragged the first one to the median strip. The would-be rescuer was apparently a stray that then ran away. Grace would have approved.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take a load off.

MOOS: And then there was Chili in the Bronx. A dog named Chili was hit and injured. Chili's son wouldn't leave his mother alone and tried to protect her from the police. They finally managed to carry away the mother. She suffered a broken leg. Her son ran off the expressway with police in not so hot pursuit.

He even managed to pause for a pit stop before heading home where mother and son were reunited. The latest dog to make a splash was a mother trying to rescue her floundering pup in a pool when she couldn't shove the pup out, she used the stairs and grabbed the wet behind the ears and everywhere else puppy. Who needs a lifeguard when you've got a guard dog?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right thanks very much. That's it for me. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.