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Openly Gay Romney Adviser Quits; Activist Leaves U.S. Embassy, Fears For Life; Secret Service Scandal; John Edwards Trial; From Trip to Fundraiser; Spy Mystery; Collision Course; Tanning Troubles

Aired May 2, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, an openly gay adviser to Mitt Romney calling it quits. He became a target for groups on the religious right, but he also targeted some prominent American women from Hillary Clinton to Calista Gingrich with a series of rather nasty tweets. Stand by.

Sex, drugs, rock and roll and astrology, a former aide says he warned John Edwards that his mistress was a little nutty. Dramatic testimony in the corruption trial of the one-time White House hopeful.

And the case of the spy who was found dead, naked, locked in a duffel bag inside his bathtub. The coroner's report raising new questions.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. i'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He's a well known foreign policy expert in the United States, recently hired to speak for the Mitt Romney campaign, but Richard Grenell is openly gay and immediately started taking heat from ultra conservative groups. He also took heat for a series of rather mean tweets that he aimed at some high-profile women. Now, he's gone from the Romney campaign as he suddenly as he appeared.

Mary Snow is working the story for us, getting some late-breaking information. What are you learning, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a source with direct knowledge of the situation tell CNN that Richard Grenell left in part, not his sole reason, but in part, because he was not able to speak out about foreign policy issues on conference calls which is one reason why he was hired. Now, this information just came to us.

We have reached out to the Romney campaign for comment. So far, we haven't heard back yet, but the resignation comes on an important week.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): With President Obama's trip to Afghanistan and secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, in China, it could have been a key week for Mitt Romney's new foreign policy spokesman, but instead, Richard Grenell, who's openly gay, resigned. The campaign's new hire he'd become a target from right-wing groups like the American Family Association.

BRYAN FISCHER, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: The homosexual agenda represents the single's greatest threat to religious liberty and freedom of association in American today. When Governor Romney picks somebody who's an active homosexual and puts him in a prominent position, he's sending a shout out, it seems to me, to the homosexual lobby.

SNOW: Grinell worked under the George W. Bush administration for former U.N. ambassador, John Bolton. In explaining his resignation, he writes, "My ability to speak clearly and forcefully on the issues has been greatly diminished by the hyperpartisan discussion of personal issues that, sometimes, comes from a presidential campaign."

Grenell's departure is raising questions about whether the Romney campaign caved to pressures from the right. There's also the question about whether offensive tweets written by Grenell played a part. They targeted women from Callista Gingrich to Hillary Clinton, liberal talk show host, Rachel Maddow, read some on her show like this one.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: If Newt does win, would we call Callista the first lady, the second mistress, or the third wife?

SNOW: Maddow was also targeted in tweets that have since been deleted.

MADDOW: Rachel Maddow needs to take a breath and put on a necklace.

SNOW: The Romney camp is saying it didn't pressure Grenell to resign. A source familiar with the situation says several people reached out to Grenell to ask him to reconsider his decision. In a statement, the campaign says, "We are disappointed that Rick decided to resign from the campaign for his own personal reasons. We wanted him to stay because he had superior qualifications for the position he was hired to fill."

As for Romney's stand on gays, the topic came up during a debate in January.

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't discriminate, and the appointments that I made when I was governor of Massachusetts, a member of my cabinet was gay. I appointed people to the bench regardless of their sexual orientation.

SNOW: But the high-profile resignation of Grenell is a loss on many levels says Clarke Cooper, the head of the Log Cabin Republicans, which represents gay Republicans. Cooper worked alongside Grenell during the Bush administration.

CLARKE COOPER, LOG CABIN REPUBLICANS: If anything so-called social conservatives celebrating Rick's resignation is actually an impediment on the party, and it certainly doesn't help the Romney campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (on-camera): Wolf, we did reach out to Richard Grenell, but he declined our request for an interview. We should point out, in the statement that he issued yesterday when he resigned, he said being that openly gay was a non-issue for Governor Romney and his team -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

And just a little while ago, I had a chance to discuss this and other issues with the senior adviser to the Romney campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Joining us now from New York, Dan Senor, he's a senior adviser to Mitt Romney and Mitt Romney's campaign. Dan, thanks very much for coming in. I want to get to Afghanistan in a moment, but quickly, on Richard Grenell. The campaign had hired him to become the chief national foreign policy spokesman, even though, he has a history of saying all these awful things about women in public life, about Hillary Clinton.

He says -- he tweeted, "Hillary is starting to look like Madeleine Albright. The first lady, Michelle Obama, "She's sweating on the east room carpet." Even Callista Gingrich, "Her hair snaps on." He's written awful things about the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Susan Rice.

What were you guys thinking when you asked him to be your chief national security spokesman?

DAN SENOR, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: All I know and all we know, Wolf, was that Richard Grenell was an extremely talented public servant who've worked for four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations. I worked with him (INAUDIBLE) in the early part of the 2000s, and he's extremely talented guy.

And we were lucky to have him, to be working for the campaign, speaking on national security issues and foreign policy issues.

BLITZER: So, you didn't have a problem with all those tweets because he deleted all of them, at least, most of them from his Twitter account, all of those blogs. He said some pretty nasty things about these women.

SENOR: You know, Wolf, I'm not going to speak for Rick, because he spoke for himself. He actually apologized for the things he said, and we, obviously, respected that. And we were looking forward to -- moving forward when he wrote the things that he wrote. He certainly wasn't speaking for the campaign.

He made it clear that he apologized for anything he had said that may have been hurtful, and he was ready to move on to speak on behalf of national security and foreign policy issues for Governor Romney. BLITZER: He was also being criticized in the campaign. He was criticized from the other side because he's openly gay, and they thought it would be inappropriate to have someone who's openly gay speaking on behalf of Mitt Romney. What was your reaction to that kind of criticism?

SENOR: You know, Wolf, we're in a pretty heated political environment, and there are a lot of people from across the political spectrum who have very strong views about everything from policy to personnel, and thinking at times, the personnel has a pro-seeker (ph) policy. All we know is this, Richard Grenell is a talented guy.

He'd served for almost a year at the U.S. mission of the United Nations. Governor Romney and the senior team around Governor Romney thought he was an exceptional pick to be a national security spokesman for the governor, and it was simply that. He was talented.

Governor Romney has a history of picking the right people and the qualified people and talented people for the positions for which they're good fit. That's what he did in this case. That's what he'll do going forward.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Afghanistan right now. What would Governor Romney do differently in Afghanistan than what the president laid out last night?

SENOR: Well, to be clear, Governor Romney was pleased the president went over to Afghanistan. He was always -- everyone was pleased to see the commander in chief with the troops in the theater (ph) of operations.

The president hasn't spent a lot of time talking about Afghanistan, explaining mistakes, the milestones, why it's important, because he's spending a great degree of political capital or public speaking events for that purpose. So, it was good to see him do that. And we celebrated that. And the governor spoke to that.

The governor was also pleased that the president talked about a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, which is really an important part of any strategy regardless of who's president next year. I think there are questions, particularly, about this public articulation of timelines which Governor Romney has been critical of before.

The governor continues to be concerned with how responsive the president is to the requests of the military commanders, the up ending of the surge, bring back our surge troops from Afghanistan.

In the middle of the fighting season at the end of the summer, early fall, Governor Romney had spoken out before, not just Governor Romney, by the way, General Petraeus had spoke out about it, senior military officials, Adm. Mullen and others --

(CROSSTALK)

SENOR: -- articulated why that was a problem and that continues to be Governor Romney's concern, but in terms of the long-term commitment, he gives a good idea. He's uneasy about this public articulation of timelines.

And also, one other point, Wolf, that's important here is the president talked about a long-term commitment. That's good, but he's also talked about handing over front line responsibility to the afghan troops. That's good.

There is a question about whether or not the president is going to continue the support for the Afghan troops that if we are really handing over front line responsibility to the Afghan troops, which we should be doing, we've got to also make sure they have the resources to carry on the fight.

BLITZER: I just wanted to be precise. When it comes to Afghanistan, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Both want to continue spending hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan, is that right?

SENOR: Look, I can't speak for President Obama --

BLITZER: You can speak for Mitt Romney.

SENOR: I can speak for Mitt Romney. I can tell you that Governor Romney believes that we should, you know, the major terrorist attack was launched from Afghanistan. We have a national security interest in preventing that from happening again.

We should be doing that by continuing to train up and support Afghan national security forces so they can be on the front lines to carry on that fight. In terms of how long we're there, we shouldn't articulate how long that's going to be, and lastly, he does not believe we should be trying to reach some sort of accommodation with the Taliban right now.

He does not believe that the Taliban are serious about an accommodation. They're certainly not going try to reach an accommodation from a position in strength, which many believe that the Taliban leadership believes that they're operating from right now.

So, look, on balance, Wolf, there are differences. But, the president was in the theater. It's something to applaud. He articulated a long-term commitment to Afghanistan, and on that, we agree.

BLITZER: Dan Senor, thanks very much for coming in.

SENOR: Good to be with you, Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: A rather controversial Chinese dissident, shall we say, the most controversial Chinese dissident fearing for his life, talking to CNN now only hours after leaving the United States embassy in Beijing. Up next, why he's blaming the United States? Stand by for the interview. And a secret service agent admits in a polygraph test to being, quote, "actively engaged with a prostitute in Colombia." Just ahead, new information we're learning about the scandal.

And a former aide testified he tried to warn John Edwards about his mistress before the presidential campaign even started, but Edwards, he says, "wouldn't even listen."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It was masterfully done, the results of political instincts seldom seen except in Chicago, but it was also blatantly transparent. If President Obama had simply gone to Afghanistan to sign the document with Hamid Karzai, give the troops a pep talk, and to address the nation on winding down the war there, the rest of it would likely have taken care of itself.

But the chest pounding over killing Osama Bin Laden that preceded his trip, the use of our navy SEALs as chips in sinister game of political poker, the questioning of whether Mitt Romney would have made the same call if he had had a chance to take down the al Qaeda leader, well, that stuff cheapened the whole thing.

There's a difference between classy and cheesy, and this came off as cheesy to the max. After telling the country you don't spike the football, you come off as a hypocrite when you then go out of your way to spike the football. And as far as winding down things in Afghanistan where we have been spending somewhere around $2 billion a week for years now, well, that's very much an open question.

The document Karzai and Obama signed was an agreement to work on an agreement. An agreement to keep American presence in that country, that sand pile, if you will, until 2024, for what? They didn't tell us that. The Karzai government's corrupt can barely stand the United States presence as is.

You look at the Afghan leader's body language with Obama. The rest of that country is a tribal sewer that put thousands of years has been a no-man's-land for invading armies, and we want to remain there for another decade? I don't get it. And 72 percent of Americans don't get it either. They want out of Afghanistan.

In the end, I'm not sure President Obama didn't do himself more harm than good with this little stunt.

Here's the question, President Obama in Afghanistan, foreign policy or campaign stop? 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: String words, Jack. Thanks very, very much.

I write about a similar subject on my blog, CNN.com/SITUATIONROOM, today as well, what we didn't hear from the president in Afghanistan last night.

Meanwhile, private sector companies are pulling back on hiring. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Mary, what do you have?

SNOW: Well, Wolf, that report issue today reveals a dramatic slowdown in private sector job growth with businesses adding just 119,000 jobs last month. That's down from more than 200,000 jobs respectively in March. Now, the report could set the tone for the government's monthly jobs report due out this Friday.

Former NFL linebacker, Junior Seau, has died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police say the 43-year-old football star was found in his California home with a handgun near his body. Seau was charged with domestic violence against his girlfriend back in 2010 and later drove his car off a cliff.

He's the eighth member of the 1994 Chargers to die at a young age. They lost the Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers that year.

A shining moment for college football free agent, Eric LeGrand, who's been signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers just a little more than a year after being paralyzed during a junior season game. LeGrand won't be palying, but the team says this is the least they can do to recognize his spirit and perseverance in what should have been in his draft class.

LeGrand's 2011 returned to the field was "Sports Illustrated" moment of the year.

And authorities are trying to determine what caused a large fire to break out at the Atlanta film studios belonging to actor, producer, and director, Tyler Perry. The studio says 99 percent of the damage was limited to the back lot facade where movie street scenes were filmed and that there were no injuries. Perry was at the multimillion dollar complex last night, but he did not speak to reporters -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Mary.

A controversial Chinese dissident fearing for his life talking to CNN only hours after leaving the United States embassy in Beijing. Up next, why he's now blaming the United States?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To China now where a controversial human rights activist who left the United States embassy in Beijing after seeking refuge there for days has just told CNN his life could now be in danger if he doesn't leave the country as soon as possible. Up to now, there have been conflicting reports about whether he left the U.S. embassy willingly.

CNN Stan Grant is joining us from Beijing right now with the latest. What are you learning and what are you hearing, Stan?

STAN GRANT, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, just a couple of hours, it was 3:00 a.m. here in Beijing when we got to speak to Chen Guangcheng. He was in his hospital bed with his wife sitting beside him when he told us about the ordeal, he says, he now faces. Now, just to wind back a little bit, Chen Guangcheng, of course, escaped from house arrest about a week ago.

He then fled to the U.S. embassy. He's been hold up there for the past six days. He left the embassy today. The embassy says that he left willingly and went to a hospital for treatment. Now, Chen Guangcheng is saying that he made that decision without having all of the knowledge that he should have had. He says he's disappointed in the united states. This is what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VOICE OF CHEN GUANGCHENG, CHINESE ACTIVIST (through translator): The embassy kept lobbying me to leave and promised to have people stay with me in the hospital, but this afternoon, as soon as I checked in the hospital room, I noticed they were all gone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRANT: Now, the embassy itself and U.S. officials here who are traveling with secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who's here for talks are saying that they followed strict protocol. They asked him three times in front of witnesses, do you want to leave? Are you willing to leave now on your own volition? Three times, they say, he said yes.

They also say that he told them that he wanted to make a life in China. He did not want to go abroad. That also has changed now. Chen Guangcheng says that he is very much in fear for his life. He says his family is being threatened, and he's now making a plea to President Obama to help him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUANGCHENG (through translator): I would like to say to President Obama, please do everything you can to get our family out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GRANT: Now, what Chen Guangcheng says, Wolf, is that what happened after he fled is security guards who've been keeping him under lock and key moved in on his family. He says that they grabbed his wife, they tied her up, they interrogated her, they beat her with sticks. They've also made threats that if he did not leave the embassy, they'd be waiting for his family back in their home with weapons. The story continues to take twists and turns -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very dramatic story, and I saw pictures of Gary Locke, the United States ambassador to China there. He's a former cabinet member in the Obama administration and former governor of Washington State. I know him quite well. What is he saying?

What is the U.S. embassy saying? These are awful charges that have now been leveled against the United States government for effectively betraying this human rights activist?

GRANT: Effectively what he's saying is that they've surrendered him back to the people who are beating him and kept him under lock and key both in prison for four years and then 18 months under house arrest. The U.S. has insisted all along that it has done nothing wrong. They say they took him in under humanitarian grounds because he was injured after his escape.

They wanted to give him medical treatment. They posed the question to him, are you willing to leave of your own volition? He said yes. They say that he knew what he was getting into, that he wanted to stay in China. He did not want to leave.

The U.S. has stayed very, very firm on that point. Chen Guangcheng, of course, says now he knows the full information. He said while he was in the embassy, Wolf, he wasn't able to make telephone calls. He didn't speak to friends. He didn't speak to family.

He was cut off from the news. He said they did not give him enough information to make an informed choice, and now, he fears for his life.

BLITZER: Just to get (ph) Gary Locke's version, the U.S. ambassador, maybe he'll call us in or we'll talk to him shortly. That would be good. Obviously, dramatic story. How awkward and difficult is it, especially with the secretary of state in Beijing right now. Hillary Clinton is there now. Thanks very much, Stan, for that report.

Meanwhile, new details on how a secret service member was, quote, "actively engaged" with a woman without knowing she was a prostitute. What set off the scandal? Stand by. New information coming in.

And an ex-aide says he warned John Edwards that his mistress was, quote, "a little nutty." We have dramatic testimony today in the trial of the one-time presidential hopeful.

And will the commander in chief visit to Afghanistan give him an edge in this election campaign? Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The powerful congressman here in Washington gets some answers from the U.S. secret service about the sex scandal that's rocked the agency, including the very delicate moment that started it all. Our senior correspondent -- congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, has been digging into this story. She's here in the SITUATION ROOM. What are you learning, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, two House committees have now received answers to questions that they posed to the secret service. And one is House Homeland Security chairman, Peter King.

He actually asked 50 questions, and the answers give us more information about what went on that infamous night last month ahead of the president's trip to Colombia.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (on-camera): Investigators have now interviewed ten of the 12 women involved in the secret service prostitution scandal. The conclusion so far, no security breach. The women were selling sex, but not stealing U.S. secrets.

REP. PETER KING (R), HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: It appears that no material was obtained by any of the prostitutes. Nothing is missing. All of the BlackBerrys were accounted for. There was no president's schedule available and it does not appear that any of the 12 women had any involvement other than prostitution.

BASH: Homeland Security Chairman Peter King received 24 pages of answers to questions about misconduct in Colombia. He can't release them because the Secret Service marked them law enforcement sensitive, but CNN learned some of the findings. Of the 12 Secret Service members investigated, three refused polygraphs.

A source familiar with the investigation tells CNN one who wouldn't submit to a polygraph was the supervisor CNN identified as the Secret Service member who got in a dispute with a prostitute over how much he owed her. A fight that led authorities to finding out he and his colleagues engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Nine Secret Service members took polygraph tests, all passed, but some of the information they admitted to meant the end of their careers. According to a source familiar with the investigation, one who did take the polygraph told investigators he was, quote, "actively engaged with a woman when she asked for payment". That's when he realized she was a prostitute. He responded by throwing her out of the room. He did not lose his job.

KING: The Secret Service has dodged a bullet because what happened here really goes against all the principles of the Secret Service because it was disclosed and there was no long-term security matter involved here it gives the Secret Service the opportunity to clear up what has happened and do all it can to make sure it never happens again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, a source familiar with the investigation tells CNN that they found money changed hands between nine Secret Service members and nine women or prostitutes. We are also told that so far one of the interviews law enforcement officials conducted with Colombian prostitutes has been translated into English and investigators are in the process of doing the same with the others and, of course, Wolf, all of this material is going to be critical for the multiple investigations still going in Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: These are just the Secret Service agents and officers who were questioned and investigated. There are still military personnel as well. BASH: There are and there has been a lot of frustration which has not subsided at all on Capitol Hill because they feel that they really can't get enough information from the Defense Department. They say that they're hoping to get it at least when Congress comes back from recess next week.

BLITZER: Dana thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

BLITZER: It's not as if John Edwards wasn't warned in the corruption trial of the one-time White House hopeful. A former aide has testified that he raised concerns about Edwards' mistress and that Edwards didn't take kindly to that. Let's go to our senior correspondent Joe Johns. He is on the scene for us once again. Another emotional day for Edwards' daughter especially, tell us what happened, Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: That's for sure, Wolf. In the courtroom today another very emotional day as a staffer, Christina Reynolds (ph) who worked for John Edwards back in the day was describing how Elizabeth Edwards, the late Elizabeth Edwards reacted upon hearing news from "The National Enquirer" about her husband's affair. She was at Raleigh/Durham Airport here, started crying, tearing off her clothes and at that point in the courtroom, John Edwards had his head in his hands, he turned and looked at his daughter Cate who was behind him and mouthed some words. She got up and headed for the exit. Some people said she was wiping away tears, just one more indication of the emotional toll this case is having on the Edwards' family.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): After the heavy and often combative testimony that marked the start of the trial, prosecution witness and former John Edwards' aide Josh Romberger (ph) brought the courtroom back to life. He was funny at times, recounting his travels with Edwards in 2006 before he declared what would be his final run for the White House with Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter tagging along shooting Web videos of Edwards including on this trip to Uganda.

Brumberger (ph) said he was also the bearer of bad news to Edwards issuing several warnings about Hunter. The first warning shortly after she walked up and introduced herself to Edwards at the Regency Hotel in New York, Brumberger (ph) said he told Edwards that Miss Hunter quote, "looked a little nutty". He researched things she posted on the Internet and said he found all sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and astrology.

Later Brumberger (ph) was surprised to see Hunter with her camera traveling with Edwards and said he wasn't impressed. That he said he told Edwards he thought her video was "shoddy and unprofessional". When Edwards told staff that Hunter should get health insurance even though she was just a consultant, Brumberger (ph) wrote in an e-mail "the whole thing is a little odd. Believe you me, I know it", but he wrote Edwards was fairly adamant about it. He also said he told Edwards directly that staff was noticing he treated Rielle Hunter differently than the others doing things like carrying her bag. He said even after he'd shared his observations with Edwards, Edwards did not change his behavior. Brumberger (ph) said he relayed his suspicions to others on the Edwards' staff, but it all came to a head at Chicago's O'Hare (ph) Airport in October of 2006 before Edwards left on a trip to China.

Edwards pulled Brumberger (ph) to the side. He was red faced and he was cursing. He said Edwards was blunt. "If I thought he was blanking her why didn't I come to him like a man and ask. He said he didn't trust me anymore. He was basically firing me." On cross- examination the Edwards defense team emphasized what Brumberger (ph) acknowledged about the timing, that none of this happened during the presidential campaign.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The point here is that the prosecution says Edwards was trying to keep his political hopes alive, but the defense says all he was doing was trying to keep information about the affair away from his wife -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns on the scene for us at this trial. Thanks very much.

First it was cloaked in secrecy and then it was shown around the world. President Obama's back from his surprise trip to Afghanistan and he's resuming his re-election campaign with a pair of high priced fund-raisers. The dramatic pictures from Afghanistan probably won't hurt that effort.

Joining us now is our chief political analyst Gloria Borger. It's hard for a challenger to beat an incumbent when the incumbent has a lot of advantages.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh yes, absolutely. The bully pulpit, the Rose Garden and outside the Rose Garden and you saw the benefits of incumbency yesterday. You can create your own stage. In this case it was a huge stage. This is a president who goes and meets the troops, signs an important document -- we're not quite sure what that document does yet -- but he signs it, he speaks to American citizens from a war zone. I mean you can't get much more publicity than that. Look at Mitt Romney, started the day criticizing the president on an ad saying that he was politicizing Osama bin Laden, the killing of Osama bin Laden. By the end of the day, the Romney people were silent because they could not criticize the president's trip to visit the troops.

BLITZER: Yes and you heard (INAUDIBLE) senior Romney adviser basically saying that not a whole lot of difference between the president and Romney when it comes to Afghanistan.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: How is the president going to be using his advantage as an incumbent?

BORGER: Presidents always do. This wouldn't be the first one. It's not going to be the last and nothing as dramatic as what we obviously saw yesterday, but take a look at the president's trips to battleground states since he's become president. Ohio 20 times, Pennsylvania, 15, Florida, 15, North Carolina, 12. Now I'm not saying, Wolf that all of these trips are campaign-related. What I am saying is that battleground states always get lots of love and attention. There's also something the president's been doing lately. It's called the "we-can't-wait" campaign. What does that mean? These are things that the president can sign unilaterally.

Let me give you an example. A recent summer jobs initiative, a plan to spur innovation in manufacturing, for example, or to make refinancing your mortgages easier. The president can say I'm going to do this. I can't wait because guess what? Congress won't do it, so Wolf it's also a way for an incumbent to use his power to run against Congress which by the way has a nine-percent approval rating.

BLITZER: And he's got that executive order, ability he can do these kinds of things without waiting for Congress to take action. I suspect he's going to be doing a lot more of that between now and --

BORGER: Yes and the down side, Wolf, you have got to run on your record, too, and that's what Mitt Romney is hoping that he can make it a referendum on the president --

BLITZER: It's going to be a tough, tough campaign.

BORGER: You bet.

BLITZER: Thanks, Gloria. The very strange case of a spy who was found dead, naked, locked in a duffel bag inside his bathtub, a coroner's report raising some new questions.

And you will hear what happens after an air traffic controller puts two airliners on a collision course hurdling toward each other at hundreds of miles an hour. Stand by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A spy found naked and dead locked inside a bag in a bathtub. Was someone else involved? Was it tied to espionage or was it sex? The long investigation is now complete -- sort of. CNN's Atika Shubert reports from London.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How did Gareth Williams (ph), British spy and code breaker go from this last video taken in August 2010 to this -- his naked body found a week after that video was shot curled up into a padlocked duffel bag and placed in his own bathtub, the key, inside the bag under the body.

(on camera): After more than a year of police work and three postmortems, a British coroner on Wednesday was finally able to deliver a verdict, but very few answers.

(voice-over): Cause of death, asphyxiation or poisoning likely overcome by carbon dioxide within minutes of being locked in, but did he lock himself into the bag or was there someone else with him? This video proved key, an expert on escaping from confined spaces attempted to lock himself into the same type of bag and it showed that Williams, small, slim and athletic could have folded himself into the bag, but not without leaving hand and footprints everywhere. None were found at the scene.

And the bag was uniquely locked, virtually impossible to do from the inside, most likely said the coroner, quote, "a third party placed the bag in the bath and locked it." But his body had no signs of injury or distress and his immaculate apartment, clothes neatly folded on the bed showed no sign of forced entry and no evidence that anyone other than Williams had been in the apartment. Nonetheless, the coroner ruled Gareth Williams' (ph) death was quote "unnatural and likely to have been criminally mediated".

The coroner could find no evidence of a connection between his death and his work for the British Secret Service, MI-6 (ph), but she criticized his employers for failing to report his disappearance for a week and holding on to important evidence for months including nine memory sticks of data. It has been especially difficult for Williams' family. Their lawyer read this statement after the verdict.

ROBYN WILLIAMS, FAMILY SOLICITOR: "Our grief is exacerbated by the failure of his employers at MI-6 (ph) to take in the most basic inquiries as to his whereabouts and welfare."

SHUBERT: The detective on the case says the investigation will continue.

JACKIE SEBIRE, DETECTIVE CHIEF INSPECTOR: I urge anyone who knows Gareth (ph), who had contact with him to search their conscience and come forward with any information about what happened that night.

SHUBERT: Both coroner and detective agree, someone out there knows what happened to Gareth Williams (ph).

Atika Shubert, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Gareth Williams' (ph) family is asking a complete review of MI-6's (ph) role in the investigation.

Two jumbo jets on a collision course traveling hundreds of miles an hour, ahead the terrifying moments all caught on tape and concerns the FAA may have tried to cover it all up.

And she's accused of taking her child into a tanning booth but it's her own shocking tan that's all the buzz.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: It could have been a disaster, two jumbo jets on a collision course because of an air traffic control error. Now there are serious questions about whether the FAA may have tried to cover it all up. Brian Todd is working the story. He's got details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've got documents on this from the FAA and a recording of this from the FAA. You're going to hear this recording in just a moment. A Japan airline 767 jet and a UPS MD-11 (ph) plane were both approaching Honolulu International Airport for landing. This was back on January 14th. Now according to documents from the investigation, an air traffic controller in the Honolulu tower mistakenly directed the two planes on a collision course.

The documents say the controller got distracted for about a minute dealing with two other flights and then when he returned to the Japan Air and UPS course the planes were much too close. According to the FAA they got within 1.6 miles laterally, only about 300 feet vertically. That's means their altitude difference was just about zero, so they were heading straight for each other and of course, they were going hundreds of miles an hour. You are about to watch a tape of that radar replay. You're going to hear the urgency in the controller's voice as he talks to the cockpits. The two planes are inside the blue and yellow circles. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) heading 180.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Japan, 72 (INAUDIBLE) maintain one -- 3,000. Japan, 72, heavy traffic at 12:00, half mile, heavy MD-11 (ph), climbing at 4,300.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Japan Air (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: Now that phrase you heard the Japan Air pilots say at the end, TCAS descent (ph). That's him responding to the traffic collision avoidance system. That's what TCAS (ph). You also heard a siren, if you were listening closely, inside his cockpit. They got off that course. They steered to safety and they landed without further incident. The controller later told investigators he was flustered by the event and asked another controller to take over for him afterward. Wolf, it was a very close call.

BLITZER: There are also a lot of questions about whether or not they reported all of this promptly to the FAA.

TODD: That's right. The FAA officials in that tower are supposed to report this immediately to FAA headquarters in this area. That was not done in this case. "Hawaii News Now" (ph), which first reported this story, says the FAA's long-time manager in the Honolulu tower told his employees not to report the incident to officials on the main land. He denies ordering a cover-up. He said two people under him covered it up, but that top manager is now retired. The FAA sent us a statement saying quote, "as soon as we learned of this incident we took quick and decisive action. We pulled the controller off operational duties and assigned him to skill enhancement retraining. An acting manager will oversee the facility's operations while the FAA selects a permanent replacement for the former manager who retired after the FAA initiated its investigation."

Wolf, so the FAA saying they are admitting they didn't get word of this incident until really much later. They should have gotten it immediately. They took immediate action here.

BLITZER: The controller who made the mistake though he was fairly new in that tower.

TODD: That's right. FAA documents that we've obtained say the he had been certified for that tower on the 24th of December last year. That's only about three weeks before this incident. Now one investigative document says quote, "the controller stated he was not ready for certification and had actually requested additional training". We are told that he is now back on the job after undergoing some additional training.

BLITZER: Scary moments --

TODD: It was a scary moment for a few seconds there.

BLITZER: Fortunately it worked out. Yes, all right Brian, thanks very much. Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Do we have anything like that here, skill enhancement retraining?

BLITZER: No.

CAFFERTY: We don't, do we?

BLITZER: No. We just do what we do.

CAFFERTY: And whatever skills we have that's as good as it gets.

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: All right the question this hour. President Barack Obama in Afghanistan, foreign policy or campaign stop?

Brian in San Antonio "it was a campaign stop, otherwise he could have waited until Karzai attended the NATO summit in Chicago in a couple of weeks and he wouldn't have done the trip on the anniversary of bin Laden's death."

Mary in Florida writes, "Jack, you sure can be hard-headed. Sometimes I think you just say these things as the devil's advocate. Sad commentary on a masterfully done week of out Karl Roving the Republicans don't you think? I do. I am still a Hillary girl but I have to admire the chutzpah this whole OBL complimentary tour has showed. Good for our president."

Dennis in Chicago "another $2 million campaign stop. The only hope and change the president hopes you don't ask about the economy, because nothing is changing. It is going to be a long summer, talking about dogs, bin Laden, comedy sketches and God knows what other distractions they'll come up with. Chicago politics transplanted to D.C."

Mark in St. Louis writes "you are missing the point, Jack. As the adage goes, keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer. A continued American presence in Afghanistan might just prevent another 9/11."

L.T. writes "campaign stop, no doubt about it. And he didn't even have to use any of his own campaign money. Apparently, he just wanted us to know that we would remain over there until we, quote, 'get the job done'. My question, what exactly is the job?"

And D. in Minnesota writes "did you just bash the president for visiting the troops? I seriously hope you are not paid for this." Actually I am, not enough, but I am paid.

If you want to read more on this you go to the blog, CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf --

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: Your paid for this too, right?

BLITZER: All of us are paid for it.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: But we don't have any -- what was the phrase you use -- enhancement training --

CAFFERTY: Something about ability enhancement retraining --

(CROSSTALK)

CAFFERTY: We don't have that.

BLITZER: We don't. Maybe we will get it.

CAFFERTY: (INAUDIBLE) reach the upward limit of our potential.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Look at this. This woman obviously loves tanning, wow. Look at her. Jeanne Moos is standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hotshots". In Mauritania (ph), a vendor sells bread in a refugee camp. In Barcelona, a policeman stands guard on a street two days before the European Central Bank Summit. In India, a nomad warms up by a fire. And in Cypress, a tourist leaps off a cliff into the Mediterranean -- "Hotshots", pictures coming in from around the world.

It is a shade of brown that has many people saying, a shade is exactly what this woman needs. She was already in trouble for taking her child to a tanning salon. Now, it is her tan that's all the buzz. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In court, she pleaded not guilty to endangering her child by taking her into a tanning booth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm innocent.

MOOS: But what she is not innocent of us is torturing her own skin with that flabbergasting tan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is 44 or 84?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is 44 and she is burnt up.

MOOS (on camera): Talk about tan lines. That's a tan that crosses the line. Sort of like this.

(voice-over): Though her shade changes from interview --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been tanning my whole life.

MOOS: -- to interview --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mommy tans.

MOOS: -- maybe because of the lighting --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is my little girl. I mean, that's not normal.

MOOS: All of those interviews make her mug shot look normal. Forty-four-year-old Patricia Krinsel (ph) of Nutley, New Jersey, was arrested after her daughter showed up at school with a sunburn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you get suntan?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes (INAUDIBLE). I did.

MOOS: Anna told the school nurse she got it going tanning with mommy and the school called Child Services. Mommy says Anna got some sun playing outside.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is six years old. Yes, she does go tanning with mommy but not in the booth.

MOOS: When she showed up for court with her paleface attorney, the whites of her eyes stood out as she rolled them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would never, ever allow her child to go inside a tanning bed.

MOOS: And though she stated her case convincingly that this is all a misunderstanding at her daughter's school, it is hard to look past her skin tone. Early-onset mummification said one poster. Another said she resembled an oompa-loompa from "Willie Wonka".

(MUSIC)

MOOS: Or (INAUDIBLE) in "There's Something About Mary".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi, doll. You're in my light.

MOOS: Patricia Krinsel (ph) seems like a perfect candidate for way too tan, a blog that collects those who have fried themselves to a crisp, but there's nothing funny about skin cancer and the word tanorexic kept coming up.

(on camera): Some researchers say people may get addicted to UV rays. That UV rays produce endorphins, those feel-good chemicals.

(voice-over): But this mom is not feeling so good now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a wonderful mother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much do you love your daughter?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would die right now for her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Patricia, are you excessively tanning yourself though?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. You admit that, OK.

MOOS: No shades of gray in that answer. She prefers shades of brown.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The whole thing is preposterous.

MOOS: New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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