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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Donald Trump; Trump Not Backing Down on Birther Issue; Syrian Crisis Escalating; Romney Making History Tonight; Deadly Earthquake Hits Northern Italy; Deliberations Resume in Edwards Trial; USPS Offers Buyouts to 45,000 Mail Handlers; Obama's "Secret Kill List"; Russia Condemns Syrian Massacre; Airman's Homecoming a Huge Hit
Aired May 29, 2012 - 16:04 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: So, the president of the United States making the Medal of Freedom presentation to 13 outstanding individuals from here in the United States and around the world, 13 individuals who well deserve the nation's highest civilian award.
And happening now: Donald Trump's support for Mitt Romney is in the spotlight, along with Trump's embrace of conspiracy theories about President Obama's birth certificate.
This hour, I will ask Donald Trump about his appearance with Mitt Romney later tonight and whether he's doing his candidate more harm than good.
Plus, much of the world now is blaming the Syrian government for a weekend massacre that the White House calls a depravity, but the Obama administration is only going so far in doling out punishment. Are the president's hands tied right now by Russia?
And Raul Castro's daughter allowed into the United States and now making a very public appearance in New York City. We're looking at what she's doing here and why it's a punch in the gut for so many Cuban-Americans.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On the same day that Mitt Romney is set to make history, he is refusing to back away from Donald Trump and all the baggage he carries with him. In a moment, I will speak to Donald Trump live.
He's in Las Vegas right now, where he's getting ready to appear at a fund-raiser later tonight with Mitt Romney. Romney landed in Las Vegas just a little while ago.
By the way, check out the Trump jet right behind him. There he is as he's walking down the stairs. Tonight, Romney is expected to clinch the Republican nomination and become the first Mormon presidential nominee ever in the United States. That milestone though may be overshadowed at least on this day by Donald Trump and his ongoing support for the so-called birther movement.
Our senior political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us now from Las Vegas with the very latest -- Jim.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you mentioned, Mitt Romney is on the ground here in Las Vegas. His campaign plane is parked right next to the jet that is owned by Donald Trump. It is a fitting optic for this campaign day, as the Donald is looming large over the Romney campaign.
Mitt Romney started this day with a new message on jobs and energy independence, but that message got "Trumped."
ACOSTA (voice-over): Mitt Romney is once again letting it ride by Donald Trump. Just hours before Romney attends a fund-raiser hosted by Trump on the Las Vegas Strip, the real estate tycoon is still voicing his doubts about whether President Obama was actually born in the U.S.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: I have never really changed. Nothing's changed my mind. He doesn't have a birth certificate. Now, he may have one.
ACOSTA: Trump's fixation on the president's birth certificate has made its way into an Obama campaign Web video that notes how John McCain smacked down conspiracy theories four years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's an Arab.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, ma'am. No, ma'am. He's a decent family man.
ACOSTA: In response, Trump tweeted, "The president is practically begging Romney to disavow the place of the birth movement. He's afraid of it and for good reason. He keeps using McCain as an example. However, McCain lost the election."
Instead, the Obama campaign is enjoying what one aide calls craziness a full year after the president released his long-form birth certificate and mocked Trump at a press dinner in Washington.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As some of you heard, the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate.
ACOSTA: Asked about Trump's comments, Romney seemed to say the Donald's financial support was a calculated risk that was worth taking.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't agree with all the people who support me and my guess is they don't all agree with everything I believe in, but I need to get 50.1 percent or more. And I'm appreciative to have the help of a lot of good people.
ACOSTA: But his campaign later released a statement saying the GOP contender believes President Obama was born in the U.S. "The Democrats can talk about Trump. Mitt Romney is going to talk about jobs," a message Romney carried with him to Colorado, where he accused the president of crushing the coal industry with regulations.
ROMNEY: Government sees small business and big business as the enemy. We're not the enemy.
NARRATOR: Obama is giving taxpayer money to big donors and then watching them lose it.
ACOSTA: The Romney campaign also released a Web video slamming the president's controversial energy jobs program that gave loans to companies that went belly up.
NARRATOR: You have heard of Solyndra.
ACOSTA: The question is whether all of that was overshadowed by Trump who has a history of shooting from the lip as he did on the issue of China in Las Vegas just last year.
TRUMP: Listen, you mother (EXPLETIVE DELETED), we are going to tax you 25 percent.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: But Mitt Romney has plenty to celebrate tonight. The Texas Republican primary is expected to give Romney the delegates he needs to clinch the GOP nomination. As for that fund-raiser, which, by the way, also features Newt Gingrich, the Romney campaign says at this point the show will go on. They have given no indication, Wolf, that they're canceling that event tonight -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And I take it Romney is also meeting with Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire, the hotelier out in Las Vegas, is that right? He was of course funding a lot of the super PAC for Newt Gingrich.
ACOSTA: That's right. And that is a big part of what the Romney campaign is doing right now, Wolf. It's not just about events. It's about fund-raising. That is why the Romney campaign has taken this calculated risk to go ahead and have this fund-raiser with Donald Trump.
If the Obama campaign is going to raise somewhere between $500 million and a billion dollars for his reelection efforts, the Romney campaign has made the rational decision here that it needs every dollar it can get its hands on in order to compete in that kind of environment. That means having fund-raisers with Donald Trump and that means meeting with hotel magnates like Sheldon Adelson -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much and thanks for filling in for me yesterday. Did an excellent job. Jim Acosta on the scene for us in Las Vegas.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Joining us now from Las Vegas on the phone is the chairman and the president of Trump Organization, Donald Trump.
Donald, thanks very much for joining us.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: I thought your reporter was very inaccurate in his description. And I thought the introduction was totally inappropriate and was actually very dishonest.
BLITZER: Well, tell us why.
TRUMP: Well, because what he said was wrong and what he said was almost as though President Obama wrote it, but I'm sure he knows that.
And I thought it was a very inappropriate introduction.
But go ahead with your first question.
BLITZER: Well, I don't -- you -- is there a specific issue you want to dispute that he mentioned, because, if you do, I want to give you a chance...
TRUMP: Obama does not like the issue of where he was born. His own publisher, as you know, using his words, said he was born in Kenya and he lived in Indonesia. Of course, now he's denying that, amazingly.
So -- but I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk, as you said you would, jobs, China, what's going on with respect to China and how they're ripping this country, what's going on with respect to OPEC and how the nations of OPEC are laughing at the stupidity of our country. That's what I'm here to talk about.
BLITZER: All right.
TRUMP: You know that's what I'm here to talk about, and I thought your introduction was highly inappropriate. But that's OK, because I have gotten to know you over the years.
BLITZER: Well, I -- well, listen, Donald, first of all, I never said we weren't going talk about the birther issue. We had a conversation earlier today. We didn't discuss at all what we were going to talk about.
TRUMP: It's something that bothers Obama very much.
BLITZER: I don't know why you're...
TRUMP: And I will tell you, it's not an issue that he likes talking about. So what he does is uses reverse psychology on people like you, so that you report like, oh, gee, he's thrilled with it. He does not like that issue because it's hitting very close to home. You know it and he knows it.
BLITZER: I don't know it.
Donald, you and I have known each other for a long time. And I don't understand why you're doubling down on this birther issue after the state of Hawaii formally says this is the legitimate birth certificate. He was born in Hawaii.
Why are you going through all of this, Donald?
TRUMP: Well, a lot of people don't agree with that birth certificate. A lot of people do not think it's authentic.
BLITZER: But if the state of Hawaii authorizes it, if the state of Hawaii says, this is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date, here it is, why do you deny that?
TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.
BLITZER: How can you say that if the...
TRUMP: Now, you won't report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic.
His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out. And, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you would probably get better ratings than you're getting, which are pretty small.
BLITZER: Donald, have you seen the actual newspaper announcements within days of his birth in Honolulu, for example, "The Honolulu Star- Bulletin"? We will put it up there. You see the birth announcement back in 1961.
BLITZER: Listen to me, Donald.
BLITZER: Can I ask...
TRUMP: Am I allowed to talk, if you could stop defending Obama?
BLITZER: Donald, Donald, you're beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you.
TRUMP: No, I think you are, Wolf.
Let me tell you something. I think you sound ridiculous. And if you would ask me a question and let me answer it, instead of making...
BLITZER: Here's the question. Did the conspiracy start in 1961, when "The Honolulu-Star Bulletin" and ""The Honolulu Advertiser" contemporaneously published announcements that he was born in Hawaii?
TRUMP: That's right.
And many people put those announcements in because they wanted to get the benefit of being so-called so-called born in this country. Many people did it. It was something that was done by many people,even if they weren't born in the country. You know it, and so do I. And so do a lot of your viewers.
BLITZER: Donald, explain why -- so why did the state of Hawaii authorize that live birth certificate? Why did they do it? Are they part of this conspiracy as well?
TRUMP: Well, your Democratic governor who was the one that was really leading it, a lot of people say, where did it come from? And they're saying how come he didn't show it to John McCain, Hillary Clinton? It was only Donald Trump that got him to do it.
So, you know that, and I know that. And when you say that Obama doesn't mind this, Obama hates this subject. When his publisher comes out with a statement from him made in the 1990s that he was born in Kenya and that he was raised in Indonesia, and all of a sudden it comes out, I think it's something that he doesn't like at all.
Now, what he says is, oh, we love it, we love it, we love it, because that's...
BLITZER: Donald, let me tell you -- let me tell you who hates this subject. It is Mitt Romney, who totally disagrees with you on this, including today. He issued a statement.
TRUMP: I don't speak to Mitt Romney about it.
BLITZER: Is Mitt Romney a Democrat? Is he an Obama supporter?
TRUMP: Mitt -- what I speak to Mitt Romney about is jobs. What I speak to Mitt Romney about is China, because he's got a great view on China and how they're trying to destroy our country by taking our jobs and making our product and manipulating their currency, so that it makes it almost impossible for our companies to compete.
What I speak to him about is OPEC. I don't speak to him about this. You bring it up because you feel it's probably going to get a few more people watching your station, which, unfortunately, they're not doing. BLITZER: Here's what Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said today -- today, not yesterday, not last week, not six months ago -- "Governor Romney has said repeatedly that he believes President Obama was born in the United States."
Now, he's not a Democrat.
BLITZER: He's not an Obama supporter. He's Governor Romney, the Republican nominee. He says you're wrong.
TRUMP: You know what?
Everybody is entitled to their opinion, Wolf. You know my opinion. You know his opinion. And that's fine. We're entitled, as he said yesterday in the airplane, we're all entitled to our opinions. And he's entitled to his opinion and I think that's wonderful. I don't happen to share that opinion. And that's wonderful, also.
BLITZER: But the state of Hawaii says it's not an opinion, it's a fact.
TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I think if you look at the birth certificate, take a look and you tell me, really. You analyze the birth certificate. There are many people that don't agree with that birth certificate. They don't think it's authentic, Wolf.
BLITZER: I don't know when you say many people who don't agree...
TRUMP: Many people.
BLITZER: Like who?
TRUMP: There are many people...
BLITZER: Give me an -- give me a name of somebody...
TRUMP: There are many people...
BLITZER: -- in a position of authority...
TRUMP: -- that do not believe...
BLITZER: -- in Hawaii who says -- but give me a name.
TRUMP: There are many people -- I don't give names. There are many people that do not believe that birth certificate is authentic.
BLITZER: Well, you know what...
TRUMP: Many people.
BLITZER: -- let me ask you -- ask you this and -- because you said, when you were thinking about running for the Republican nomination, you had a -- an exchange with Meredith Vieira on "The Today Show." I'm going to play the little clip, because I want to follow-up on this, because it had -- it got me interested, at the time, and I want to see if there is a follow-up.
But listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE VIEW," COURTESY ABC)
TRUMP: I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.
MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST: You have people now down there searching?
VIEIRA: I mean in Hawaii?
TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, tell us what your people who were investigating in Hawaii, what they found.
TRUMP: We don't have to go into old news. That's old news. There's been plenty...
BLITZER: Well, what did they find?
TRUMP: There's been plenty found. You can call many people. You can read many, many articles on the authenticity of the certificate. You can read many articles from just recently as to what the publisher printed in a brochure as to what Obama told him, as to where his place of birth is.
And that's fine, Wolf.
Now, it's appropriate, I think, that we get to the subject of hand, which is -- at hand, which is jobs, which is the economy, which is how our country is not doing well at all under this leadership, which is how are we going to do something about energy, which is really that things that I wanted to talk to you about, but you like to keep going back to the place of birth.
I actually think that's an important subject, but I think we've covered that pretty well now, don't you?
BLITZER: One more point and then we'll move on, Donald.
You know the governor of Hawaii who authorized the release of this birth certificate is not a Democrat, but a Republican.
TRUMP: I know nothing about it. All I know is that there are many, many questions from many different sides as to the authenticity of his birth certificate. And all I know is last week, somebody came out with a very strong statement saying that he stated himself that he was born in Kenya and raised in Indonesia.
Now, I didn't make that statement. That was made by, I assume, either the publisher or the president himself. And that's the statement. That's a pretty hard statement to refute. That was a statement made prior to somebody knowing that he was going to be running for the presidency.
BLITZER: The -- a lot of conservatives, a lot of Republicans are worried that this whole issue of the birth certificate is going to alienate those undecided Independents out there. And they're worried, frankly, that you're out there, out on the campaign trail right now with Mitt Romney. They want Mitt Romney to be president, but this issue is causing them some -- some concern, including George Will.
And you heard what he said on Sunday.
Let me play the clip for our viewers who didn't.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS," COURTESY ABC)
GEORGE WILL, COLUMNIST: I do not understand the cost-benefit here. The -- the costs are clear. The benefits, what voter is going to vote for him because he's seen with -- with Donald Trump?
WILL: The cost of appearing with this bloviating ignoramus is...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ooh.
WILL: -- is obvious, it seems to me.
WILL: Donald Trump is redundant evidence that if your net worth is high enough, your IQ can be very low and you can still intrude into American politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you want to respond to George Will?
TRUMP: Well, I've responded to George Will. He's not somebody that I've respected. I don't consider him a very smart person. He was at Mar-a-Lago years ago and totally bombed in front of an important group of people.
And, frankly, I have nothing to say about George Will. I think George Will is somebody that said recently that the Republicans will not lose, as a Republican, that the Republicans will not win the election. I think it was a terrible statement. He's somewhat retracted that now. And I think the polls have retracted it. So I'm not a fan of George Will. I never have been. And I think that probably he wouldn't like me because of his very, very sorry performance, pathetic performance, at Mar-a-Lago.
BLITZER: Are you going to try to convince Governor Romney tonight that you're right on the birther issue and he's wrong?
TRUMP: Not at all. We talk about jobs. We talk about China. We talk about OPEC. We talk about what many other countries are doing to us. That's the only thing I really have interest in talking to him about, other than I think he's a wonderful man and I think he'll be a wonderful president.
BLITZER: How much money do you think he'll raise tonight?
TRUMP: A lot. They'll have a lot of money.
BLITZER: Give me a...
TRUMP: A lot...
BLITZER: -- have you got a ball park?
TRUMP: -- a lot of people are coming. A lot of money will be raised. A lot of people feel very good about Mitt Romney and I think he's going to do a great job.
BLITZER: All right, Donald.
Anything else you want to say before I let you go?
TRUMP: No, not at all.
BLITZER: Donald Trump joining us from Las Vegas.
I think we're going to disagree on this whole issue, but that, of course, is your right to do so. My right, as well.
All right. You heard Donald Trump's fiery response to my questions about the president's birth place. Did he make his critics even angrier? We're going to talk about Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, the birther backlash -- that's coming up later in our strategy session.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss what we just heard from Donald Trump in our strategy session. Joining us: our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, and our CNN contributor, David Frum, he's a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
David, let me start with you. Did he make any good points, Donald Trump? What do you think?
DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I hope he's going to raise Mitt Romney a lot, a lot of money today because the amount of bad publicity he just bought is going to be -- you need to offset that with a lot of cash.
BLITZER: Where do you disagree with Donald Trump?
FRUM: The president of the United States was born in the United States. That's just a fact. It's not a disputed point. It's just a fact.
It's like we have one moon, not two. It's a fact.
You know, I feel for candidate Romney because, of course, candidates all the time attract jack ass supporters. You're not responsible for every jack ass who supports you, and you can't help and one who has money.
I'm sure there are a lot of people who give money to President Obama, when the president gets a hungry look in his eyes when they approach him. That said, you know, the fact that Donald Trump would be so undisciplined as to do this all over again, and the fact that he's putting a candidate through this, it's a terrible thing for Mitt Romney and I think it was probably -- you know, as I say, let's hope it's a big jackpot of cash because what a terrible thing.
BLITZER: I'm sure there will be a few dollars presumably raised. But it's not a big enough reason for Mitt Romney, Hillary, to go ahead and be up there on the stage with Donald Trump. He's going to raise a lot of money. He wants to be president of the United States.
He publicly said he disagrees with Donald Trump. He says that the president was born in Hawaii. He accepts.
HILARY ROSEN, CN CONTRIBUTORT: Even I feel sorry for Mitt Romney today because that was just a ridiculous performance. And, by the way, though, Mitt Romney didn't say he disagrees with Donald Trump. He said I believe the president is born in the United States.
I think there's a little bit of a difference, because what people are asking Mitt Romney to do is to show some leadership in disavowing when somebody really is that close to you and says, you know, such harmful things that you should take them on directly and that Mitt Romney hasn't done that. I think that's a failure of leadership. I don't know that it's going to be worth seven days of cable television over it, but I find it offensive because of what the birther issue does to President Obama's credibility and why people started it in the first place.
It was a racist attack, in my view. It was intended to undermine the validity of his presidency, of his patriotism and that is, you know, unacceptable. And that's the piece why people focused on this as being a problem.
BLITZER: David, listen to the clip from the interview I just did with Donald Trump. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I don't know why --
TRUMP: I will tell you, it's not an issue that he likes talking about. So, what he does is use reverse psychology on people like you so that you report, like, oh, gee, he's thrilled with it. He does not like that issue because it's hitting very close to home. You know it, and he knows it.
BLITZER: I don't know it. Donald, you and I have known each other for a long time and I don't understand why you're doubling down on --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I don't understand why he was doubling down on this whole issue which I don't think is going to help, you correct me if I'm wrong, Mitt Romney with the still undecided moderates out there who think this is a distraction, if you will, if not a lot worse than that.
FRUM: The whole thing is obviously embarrassing. It's embarrassing to Mitt Romney. It's embarrassing to most Republicans.
At this point this small group of people have been squashed and marginalized within the Republican Party, too. That's an important thing.
Why does Donald Trump do it? He gets to be on TV. He hasn't been on TV for a long time. And now, he's on TV again. And if being clownish is the price of being on TV, he'll be clownish. There are a lot of programming that is based on the willingness of people to do that.
But here, in fairness, what is Mitt Romney to do? Because candidates can't discipline their supporters. There's no mechanism for doing that.
And after a while, yes, sometimes in extreme cases they return a check, but after a while the sky is black with flying checks and for both campaigns --
ROSEN: But they can make it not be about money and that's what Mitt Romney did today.
BLITZER: -- supports President Obama who received money from Bill Maher who said very ugly things about Republican women.
ROSEN: Right. So, I agree with David about candidates not being able to control everybody who says something in this campaign. But Mitt Romney very clearly on the campaign plain today when asked about this says, "You know, I've got to get to 50.1 percent." He wasn't talking about Donald Trump's vote. He was talking about the money that Donald Trump is going to raise him.
BLITZER: Should the Obama, pro-Obama super PAC return that $1 million that Bill Maher gave them?
ROSEN: This was a fund-raiser directly for the Romney campaign.
BLITZER: I know, this is a super PAC that's supposedly not affiliated at all, although we know there are individuals who support the super PAC are obviously former employees or people very close to President Obama.
ROSEN: You know, I don't want to find hairs about who said what and that it's worse because what Bill Maher said about many people has been offensive and I've been on record on that a long time.
I don't think this is about returning the money or not returning the money. I think this is about really substantively disavowing where this birther movement comes from and saying to Donald Trump, stop it. The country doesn't want to hear this. It's wrong for you to say it. And I'm offended by it. And until he says that, I think --
BLITZER: There's a big difference between Mitt Romney appearing together with Donald Trump at this event tonight in Las Vegas.
And the president as far as I know has not appeared with Bill Maher and I assume he won't be appearing directly with Bill Maher even though he gave the super PAC $1 million.
FRUM: My view on candidates on money is unless it's proven that the donor stole the money, the campaign keeps the money.
Because after all, often times, you're taking the money and converting it to a better purpose, which is, you know, serving democracies. I'm not a big fan of this kind of game.
ROSEN: I'm with you on that.
FRUM: Mitt Romney has been put in an awkward position. I would not be surprised if they had asked Donald Trump for undertakings that he would behave himself and that Donald Trump just spectacularly violated those undertakings.
And that Romney is now in an embarrassing position that he didn't intended to be in, but don't think this is Mitt Romney's fault. This is really Donald Trump's decision.
He didn't have to be on your show. He could have behaved himself, he could have had intelligent statements to make and all of those were his decisions.
BLITZER: I just want to be precise, and I did have a full conversation with Donald Trump earlier in the day when I personally invited him to join me today.
We didn't speak about any of the subjects. I just said you want to come on the show today, you're doing this event with Mitt Romney tonight and do you want to talk about it? We'll preview it.
I never said we're going to talk about jobs. I never said we talk about the birth certificate. I just said you want to talk and he said sure. I never accepted any conditions for this phone interview that we did just a few moments ago.
Before I let both of you go, history is about to be made tonight. For the first time in our history a Mormon will be a nominee, a presidential nominee of a major political party in the United States.
Remember when the first Catholic, John F. Kennedy was the nominee and then became president. When the first African-American Barack Obama was the nominee on the Democratic side, became president and now a Mormon.
It's a historic event. He'll get enough electoral college votes when he wins in Texas in their primary later tonight. I want to just reflect a little bit, Hilary, on this historic moment in our country.
ROSEN: You know, I think it's the wonderful thing about this country that we are a melting pot of racism, religions and orientations and that is good and we should be celebrating that.
I think there are people who will try to talk about this religion in a different way. That will be up to Mitt Romney as to talk about what his religion just like what his family.
And what his business experience and what everything means to him going. There is a lot of prejudice out there about all sorts of religions.
BLITZER: It speaks well of our country, David, that this kind of event could happen.
FRUM: I'm really glad you raised this, and I don't think it's appreciated enough that it is an important first and while there are a lot of religions in the country and many of them have suffered various hardships.
This is the one group that the United States government went to war with. It was a while ago, but not in the memory of the people who are on the receiving end of that.
If the polls are right, it remains true that three times as many people said they wouldn't vote for a Mormon as they say wouldn't vote for a catholic or a Jew.
So this is a group that has been a target of a lot of prejudice and it's a milestone, too. When we talk about the ugly side of the birther issue, let's remember that Mitt Romney comes from a family that was not only important voice for the civil rights.
And his father was an important voice of for inclusion of black people in equal term within the Mormon Church -- you know, it's a better place than it used to be.
BLITZER: And it's fair to say that there's been a Catholic president, an African-American president, there might be a Mormon president, I'm hoping someday, Hilary, you probably agree with me, there will be a woman president.
We'll see. There are women Republicans and women Democrats and hopefully one of these days there will be a woman president of the United States.
FRUM: We had one gay president maybe too.
ROSEN: I'm sure there will be a couple.
BLITZER: All right, guys. Thanks very much for coming in.
If you missed my interview with Donald Trump, by the way, you can hear the highlights next hour in our SITUATION ROOM as well. We'll have other news and top stories coming up in just a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The actual newspaper announcements within days of his birth in Honolulu, for example, the "Honolulu Star Bulletin," we'll put it up there. You see the birth announcement in 1961 -- listen, listen to me, Donald. Can I ask --
TRUMP: Can I talk while you are defending Obama?
BLITZER: Donald, you are beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you.
TRUMP: No, Wolf, I think you sound ridiculous and if you'd ask me a question and let me answer it.
BLITZER: Here's the question, did the conspiracy start in 1961 when "The Honolulu Star Bulletin" and "The Honolulu Advertiser" contemporaneously sponsored announcements that he was born in Hawaii.
TRUMP: That's right. And many people put those announcements in because they wanted to get the benefits of being so-called born in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Northern Italy is reeling right now from a deadly earthquake again. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. At least 15 people are dead and 200 injured from a 5.8 magnitude earthquake. It comes about a week after an even larger earthquake killed seven in the same region. Today's, quake was followed by dozens of aftershocks. Many northern Italians towns have been evacuated and authorities say as many as 14,000 people could be displaced.
After a short break from the Memorial Day weekend, jurors in the John Edwards trial are back deliberating. They're reviewing all exhibits in the case to determine if Edwards accepted illegal campaign contributions and falsified documents. Charges that carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. It's the seventh day of juror deliberations.
The Postal Service is offering buyouts to 45,000 employees, the latest move for an agency desperately trying to cut costs. The $15,000 buyouts are being offered to almost every mail handler. The Postal Service reported a $3.2 billion loss for the first three months of this year and is set to close 48 facilities in July and August.
It was a good day on Wall Street. Stocks finished high as worries about Europe and China eased. The gains came after a weaker than expected report on U.S. consumer confidence and continued declines in home prices.
The Dow Jones Industrial average gained 126 points. A lot of folks out there are happy to hear some good news in what's going on with the stock market.
BLITZER: Yes, indeed, they are. Thank you very much, Lisa.
We're learning information about President Obama's so-called secret kill list and how he decides who is targeted for assassination.
BLITZER: U.S. drone strikes have been a very effective and very controversial weapon against terrorists around the world, and we are now learning more about who's targeted and how they may wind up on what's being called the president's "Secret Kill List."
Let's debrief our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. Chris, first of all, tell us what's going on right now.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, President Obama promised to sort of lift the veil of secrecy that's gone on over the use of unmanned drones, but when you do so what you see is a president that is intermittently involved in the decision making progress.
What you see is from a "New York Times" article that's laid this out in the greatest detail yet, is that the president is involved almost in a tactical level and the change in technology has allowed this president to make decisions that no previous president has been able to do.
So what you have is a wide variety of counterterrorism officials and national security officials weighing in and looking at the biographies of suspected terrorists to decide who's going to be next on the kill list and then finally, the president himself can weigh in.
And make an exact decision, because of technology and because of these drone strikes, it's the president himself that can make these sorts of tactical decisions.
I spoke with an analyst, Peter Singer who said there are actually two kill lists, one being run by the military and one being run by the CIA and the thing is that you can manipulate the list.
In other words, if you have a target that doesn't meet the criteria from the military list, you can put that name on the CIA list and what that could do in some cases where you have this overlap is it opens up the process to perhaps manipulation because you've got some of the same people involved on these meetings, Wolf and some of the same people with different agendas using these lists.
BLITZER: And at least for now, correct me if I'm wrong, the legal opinions and the White House legal opinion, the Justice Department legal opinion, DOD legal opinion authorizing these targeted killings with the drones and other means necessary, those legal opinions remain classified, right?
LAWRENCE: Those remained classified and either the White House or the Pentagon has really given a full accounting of how they measure civilian casualties. They will say publicly that they won't go ahead with the strike, you know, if there was a danger of high civilian casualties.
But in countries where there are no boots on the ground, so to speak, they never account for how they verify how many civilian casualties there are in these strikes. They simply keep saying the casualties are low. The casualties are low without verifying how they got that number or how they're making that assessment.
BLITZER: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, the United States and its allies blaming Syria for slaughtering innocent civilians and children. Could Russia's response to the massacre change what's going on right now? Stand by, new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The pressure on the Syrian President Bashar Al Assad is mounting especially now that Russia is a staunch defender of the Damascus regime, condemning the government for the outrageous use of force against the civilian population.
Let's bring in CNN's Erin Burnett is who watching what's going on. Russia is important to the outcome of what's going on in Syria. What are you hearing right now, Erin.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": Wolf, you know, this is -- we've been obviously talking about how important Russia is and how it would halt its arms shipments and one of the latest things we've been hearing, of course, is there could be a shift with Russian cargo and Russian weapons headed towards the Syrian port of Tartus. Now this is something that has been said by western diplomats and various news sources, it is unclear if the ship actually arrived, but it could happen in the next 48 hours.
This is a symbol of action speaking louder than words, Wolf. Obviously it's significant that the Russian foreign minister coming out with harsh words against the Syrian regime and that is far different than stopping arming the Syrian government.
And the numbers are pretty stunning and they're being looking into these to give you a sense of how significant Russia is in Syria, much more significant than the United States. Syria is the seventh biggest buyer of Russian weapons about $5 billion in deals in just the past few years.
The 10 percent of all Russian arms exports over the past decade, Wolf, have gone to Syria. It is a significant buyer. You're looking at T-24 tanks. You're looking at the Russian megs. The entire Air Force of the Syrian regime is all Russian built.
This is why it really comes down to Russia. Russia is the power player in Syria. Assad has been a long-term ally, as you say. The questions, is will their actions back their words.
And at this point we're continuing to hear that, look, Russia doesn't want to be seen as caving to the United States and doing what the U.S. wants and this would be, of course, to sign on to an arms embargo and stop supplying Syria.
And they certainly haven't done that as of yet. So the big question is will they do that and that could be the tipping point here.
BLITZER: Erin is going to have a lot more at 7 p.m. Eastern on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." Thanks, Erin.
Standby, we'll have much here in THE SITUATION ROOM on the slaughter in Syria and the international response. I'll talk to a correspondent who has been to the site massacre and has heard the desperate cries for help.
But first an Air Force sergeant surprises his wife and kids in front of 40,000 people. We have the video. Stand by, you're about to see it. It will move you.
BLITZER: There's nothing quite like family and there's also nothing like a good surprise. One service member found a way to combine the two and did it in front of 40,000 people. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MASTER SERGEANT DAVID SIMMS, U.S. AIR FORCE: My name is Master Sergeant David Simms, U.S. Air Force. I've just come home from a six- month deployment in Afghanistan. And I'm here today with the Atlanta Braves to surprise my family. I'm very excited and very nervous. My family doesn't know what's going on, and I'm looking forward to seeing the expressions of surprise on their faces.
I want to send out my love to my wife and kids. I love you all so much and I miss you. I can't wait to be with you again. I'm so glad to see you. So good to be home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Seeing these American heroes and their families. David Simms, by the way, has a history of surprise homecomings. According to the Braves' web site, when Simms came back from his first deployment back in December 2009, he showed up in his house in a big box wrapped up like a Christmas present. It was a great Christmas present indeed.
Right at the top of the hour, major international news coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Syrian government pays a price for the deadly massacre as the U.S. and other countries expel Syrian diplomats. Stand by.