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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Bill Clinton; Who Is Spilling U.S. intelligence Secrets?; Interview with David Axelrod; Romney Raises More Than Obama; U.S. Man In Cuban Prison "Doing Poorly"; Fetal DNA Blueprint Controversy; Fed Chairman Chides Congress; Vacuum Cleaner Blamed For Nuke Sub Fire; Virgin Mobile To Offer iPhones
Aired June 7, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bill Clinton apologizes. He's certainly a powerful campaigner for President Obama, but does he do occasionally more harm than good when he goes off-message?
My one-on-one interview with the former president of the United States.
And who is spilling U.S. intelligence secrets? In a stunning display of bipartisan outrage, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle demand an end to the leaks.
And a new breakthrough can reveal the entire genetic blueprint of a baby still in its mother's womb, detecting thousands of diseases, but at what cost?
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Chicago. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Bill Clinton certainly can work wonders out there on the campaign trail, but he can also work himself into trouble from time to time. First, he praised what he called the so-called "sterling" -- that's a quote -- "sterling" business record of Mitt Romney right here on CNN.
Then he contradicted President Obama, seemingly, by suggesting that the Bush tax cuts should be extended even for the wealthiest Americans.
I just sat down with the former president here in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative, and I asked him about that.
CLINTON: What I was saying yesterday, which is apparently not accurate, is that if this fiscal cliff comes to the president and the Congress and the country before the election, he can't afford to give up his position, and he shouldn't, that we are going to have to have some revenues to deal with this debt long-term and that we ought to begin by asking those of us in high-income groups to pay taxes.
I support that position. I always have, and -- but the Republicans may not feel they can afford to indirectly ratify it. So I was talking about whether they needed to put it off after the election, and then -- but they still have until the 1st of the year.
Now, if they have until the 1st of the year, in any case, to deal with this, there's no problem. They both have their positions, and they will have to decide how to resolve it by the 1st of the year. But the election won't intervene.
And, therefore, I regret that all this stirring up is happening, because that's what I was thinking about. I was under the impression that something might have to be done before the election.
BLITZER: As you know, the president has flatly said he would veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and families making more than $250,000.
BLITZER: He's extended it a few times now, but that was the last time. He says he won't do it again.
CLINTON: I support his position.
And I think, on the merits, upper-income people are going to have to contribute to the long-term debt reduction. You get the debt down with three things, economic growth, appropriate spending restraint, an adequate revenue stream.
And what he's trying to say is that we have got to have all three, and so I support his position. But we really were -- I'm very sorry about what happened yesterday. It was what -- I thought something had to be done on the fiscal cliff before the election.
BLITZER: All right, the full interview, by the way, coming up at the top of the hour in our 5:00 p.m. Eastern hour. We go through a lot of these issues, including some of the comments he's made about Mitt Romney at Bain Capital, but just a little flavor of what we're talking about.
I want to dig deeper what we just heard from the former president of the United States. Candy Crowley is joining us right now, our chief political correspondent, the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."
It's not every day, Candy, you hear a former president of the United States apologize, say he regrets what he had said earlier, and he's sorry about that. But he was up-front.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: He was. I would love to have heard the conversations that went back and forth between the Clinton folks and the Obama folks. But, nonetheless, he seems now to be on the same page with President Obama. The fact is that most people don't think any of this is going to happen before the election. They have thought that for some time.
And so it's interesting to me that the former president didn't know that, because I think it's been sort of something that's been mentioned over and over again, but, nonetheless, he saw the need to get back on the same page with the president, for whatever reason, clarified his remarks and apologized.
And, you know, it's Bill Clinton, and he moves on. And so will the Obama reelection campaign.
BLITZER: Yes. And then we had a whole other exchange about how some are suggesting -- some of his critics are suggesting this is vintage Bill Clinton, and he's actually in his own way trying to undermine, for whatever reason, the president and his reelection chances.
And you won't be surprised to hear he totally dismisses that notion. But you hear these points, especially given some of the bitterness from four years ago, when Hillary Clinton was running for the Democratic presidential nomination against Barack Obama.
CROWLEY: I actually don't know what the rationale is, but I certainly agree that Bill Clinton is a man who can be very careful with what he says, and who also is very sharp about what's going on.
So, when he makes a mistake, which he now admits, it's -- it seems very out of character with him. And the scrambling around seems out of character because he generally says what he thinks.
Here's my guess. My guess is, when he said that Mitt Romney had a sterling private career in business, he meant it. I think he probably also feels at some level it's the wrong time to cut taxes -- I mean, to raise taxes at any income level. I think that's what he said.
On the other hand, the only thing that this former president really needs to do is say, I support President Obama. He's the guy I'm going to vote for, and you should, too.
And he's doing that. And I think he remains just sort of -- with your introduction, I think Bill Clinton still remains a very powerful advocate for President Obama, even though if has to come out 24 hours after saying something and apologize for it.
The bottom line here is, is all he has to do is keep saying, I support President Obama, and that certainly brings on board a lot of the folks who might be rethinking their vote at this point.
BLITZER: He's not only going to say that. He is going to back up his words. He said to me he is going to go out and appear at events, do fund-raising events for the president, make sure he does some campaigning over these next five months as well. All right, once again, the full interview, Candy, will air in our 5:00 p.m. Eastern hour. You are going to hear what the president, former president of the United States has to say on a whole range of issues. We will talk about personal -- presidential politics. He gets personal, by the way, about his health.
We also talk about Chelsea Clinton. And certainly we discuss what's going on here in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative.
All right, full interview in the next hour.
Other news we're following, computer attacks on Iran, a presidential hit list of terror targets, and a foiled bomb plot -- the FBI now investigating a series of leaks about covert U.S. operations. The White House denies Republican claims that it's behind the leaks. But there's outrage on both sides of the aisle up on Capitol Hill.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
Some dramatic developments, Dana, on this story. What's the latest?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, came to Capitol this morning to brief members of Congress on what he knows about these intelligence leaks.
And afterwards, senior members of both parties came out together, and these are very partisan times in Congress, so that in and of itself was very telling.
BASH (voice-over): An extraordinary show of bipartisanship intended to signal the seriousness of intelligence leaks.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: To have all four of those come forward today and talk about the severity of these leaks, I hope sends a very clear message about how dangerous this has become.
BASH: One by one, the top Republicans and Democrats at the House Senate Intelligence Committees described the need for new legislation to stop what they call a cascade of leaks that threatens national security and people's lives, some examples, an AP report about a thwarted al Qaeda bomb plot, "New York Times" reports about a so- called kill list for drone attacks and a U.S.-Israel cyber-attack on Iran.
REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: It puts us at risk. It puts lives at risk. It hurts our ability with our allies to have them work with us and get information. It hurts us in recruiting assets to give us intelligence information that will allow us to protect our citizens.
BASH: The House Intelligence chairman revealed results of his own preliminary investigation. ROGERS: The committee has materials suggesting that the agencies were directed to expand the scope of classified information they gave to the press. We know in some cases someone from a segment of the media was present in a classified setting.
BASH: CNN was later told Rogers was referring to a film being made about the raid on Osama bin Laden.
John McCain calls the leaks politically motivated to make the president look good. Republicans here were more circumspect.
(on camera): Do you believe, knowing what you know about the leaks, that they are politically motivated to try to help President Obama?
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: I'm not going to pre-judge what the FBI's charged with the responsibility of doing. We have been through this before in the Bush administration. Wherever the responsibility falls out, that's where it's going to be, and if it's in the administration, fine. If it's not in the administration, fine.
BASH (voice-over): But five months before Election Day, everything is political, and Democrats raising questions about leaks from anywhere in the administration could hurt.
(on camera): Do you have any concern that by making such a big deal out of leaks in the Obama administration, maybe not the White House, but the Obama administration, that this is going to be finger-pointing politically at the White House?
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: This is not finger-pointing at anybody. What we're trying to do is say we have a problem and we want to stop that problem.
We're going to put changes in the bill, but, Dana, this has to stop. When people say they don't want to work with the United States because they can't trust us to keep a secret, that's serious.
BASH: And the White House insists these leaks are not politically motivated, and to suggest otherwise is -- quote -- "grossly irresponsible."
And, Wolf, as for these lawmakers, they may agree on the need to do something about it, but they don't agree on the kind of investigation that should occur. The House Intelligence chairman says that there should be an independent investigation, an independent counsel of sorts.
But the Senate Democratic chairwoman, she said she's not so sure because that could take years and we don't have years.
And one last note. As we speak, the FBI Director, Robert Mueller, is here on Capitol Hill talking to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the investigations that they're doing into at least a couple of these leaks that we talked about. BLITZER: Lots of stuff happening. We are going to dig a little bit deeper. Dana, thanks very much.
Could stepped-up lie detector tests be used for some, some government employees to deter leaks of classified information?
CNN national security producer Suzanne Kelly broke the story for us.
Suzanne, tell us what you're learning right now.
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL PRODUCER: Well, Wolf, what we know from a source is that when the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, was up on the Hill talking to the members of that committee that we just heard Dana talking about, he kind of laid out his own ideas for getting tougher on leaks and making it a little bit easier moving forward to find the source of leaks like this.
And what he was talking about doing is expanding something called the counterintelligence polygraph. Now, that is something that is given to government employees who hold a certain clearance level. And what this would do is sort of across government agencies besides just the 16 that he oversees and give people this counterintelligence polygraph that may even have questions added to it along the way, such as, for example, have you ever knowingly passed information that you are not authorized to pass to a journalist?
And if you look at all the headlines we have seen lately, that would certainly help maybe narrow the focus.
BLITZER: I guess even the threat of doing these polygraphs would deter some sensitive information from being leaked by individuals. But, specifically, who would be subject potentially to these lie- detector tests, Suzanne?
KELLY: Well, it would be government employees who hold certain clearance levels across the 16 intelligence agencies that DNI Clapper oversees.
But it would go beyond that, too. It would be a government-wide initiative. So, if you have people, for example, Wolf, who work in the State Department who deal with information like this, sensitive classified information, they would also be subject to taking this very specific polygraph, as well as possibly people in the Department of Defense.
Now, the interesting thing to look at though is where it stops. This would not reach so far as to the White House. And with the political accusations being batted around, this isn't something that would necessarily help in that sphere, but it would help in terms of sort of being able to target across several government agencies who might be telling the truth and who might not be.
BLITZER: Sensitivities galore here. All right, Suzanne, thanks very much.
So is President Obama allowing the leaks to score political points? I'll ask his chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. He's standing by to join me live right here in Chicago.
Also, the deadly downward spiral in Syria -- one top U.N. diplomat now warning of a full-scale civil war.
And chaos in a Denny's restaurant -- customers flee as a man opens fire, and all of it is caught on tape.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Wisconsin's recall election could be a sign of things to come for unions and the Democrats.
Republican Governor Scott Walker's victory is a big deal and here's why -- Walker recognized the financial path we're on, he did something about it and he prevailed. Despite howling from liberal critics, voters in Wisconsin stood by their governor and his effort to limit collective bargaining powers for public sector workers.
And if Wisconsin gets it, maybe there's hope for the rest of us. Consider this, two of California's biggest cities are also backing works against unions, San Diego and San Jose voted overwhelmingly this week to cut the pensions of city government workers in order to save money. And if it can happen in California, the bluest of the blue states, maybe it can happen anywhere, like what about Washington, D.C.? Pardon me.
Even Californians understand that the costs of government pensions are killing us. According to CNNMoney.com, the pension gap for police, firefighters, teachers, and other city, county and state employees could be as high as $3 trillion, and that doesn't include the cost of retiree medical care. Several city governments have already file for bankruptcy, most due to pension costs.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin's Governor Walker says the recall results mean that it's now competitive in his state come November. Wisconsin's a state President Obama won by 14 points in 2008 and it's not just Wisconsin. Other big union states may no longer be an automatic check off for President Obama. For example, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is suggesting that his state is, quote, "definitely in play," unquote.
So here's the question: What impact could the Wisconsin recall election have come November? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, post a comment on our blog , or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, jack. Thank you.
Meanwhile, ominous developments unfolding in Syria right now. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, what's the latest? LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, United Nations observers in Syria came under small arms fire as they tried to reach the scene of the latest civilian massacre. The troubling developments prompted a blunt and dire warning from the U.N. special envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY: Today, despite the acceptance of the six-point plan and the deployment of the courageous mission of United Nations observers to Syria, I must be frank and confirm that the plan is not being implemented. If things do not change, the future is likely to be one of brutal repression, massacres, sectarian violence and eventual-out civil war. All Syrians will lose.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: And take a look at the dramatic video showing what appears to be a government tank being destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade fired by opposition forces. As the tank explodes in a fireball, you can hear a voice exclaiming "God is great". CNN cannot independently confirm the authenticity of this video.
More than 80 lawsuits against the National Football League have been bundled into one federal case. It accuses the league of failing to acknowledge and address risk of brain injury associated with the sport and then deliberately failing to inform players about those risks. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of more than 2,000 NFL players. A league spokesman says there is no merit to the allegation.
And police in Oklahoma City are looking for the man in this surveillance video in this Denny's restaurant. He was fighting with a woman inside and when it got physical, a restaurant worker and a customer forced him out of the door. Well, he returned with a hand gun and started firing, sending diners fleeing. Fortunately, no one was hurt. Police are working to identify the gunmen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Wow, what a story that is. All right. Thanks. Lisa, thanks very much.
Troubling polls -- the fund-raising race and we'll talk about that and a lot more with President Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod. He's here in Chicago with me. He's standing by lye. The interview, coming up next.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the bipartisan fury right now over a series of intelligence leaks, the House Intelligence Committee Chairman today said that the media -- the media had been allowed into classified meetings.
Joining us now is David Axelrod, the chief strategist for the Obama re-election campaign.
David, thanks very much for coming in. DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: Welcome to Chicago.
BLITZER: Nice to be in your hometown.
BLITZER: Mike Rogers, the chairman of intelligence committee, the congressman, he's suggesting very pointedly, like other Republicans, that the Obama administration is leaking sensitive, classified information to help the president get reelected. I'll play a little clip for you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: The committee has material suggesting that the agencies were directed to expand the scope of classified information they gave to the press. We know in some cases, someone from a segment of the media was present in a classified setting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That's a pretty sharp statement. John McCain is making statements along those lines and Lindsey Graham and others.
You know, what do you say?
AXELROD: I say that's nonsense. This administration has no interest in leaking classified information. We don't want to see it leaked from Capitol Hill. We don't want to see it leaked from the administration. It's not helpful.
So -- now, the fact is there are leaks and sometimes we're confronted with those leaks and we're asked about those leaks. That's a different situation, but I wholly discount that.
BLITZER: You totally reject this notion that there have been these authorized leaks of classified information in order to help bolster the president's chances to make him look strong --
AXELROD: I reject that. But the intimation is that the story is helpful to the president.
BLITZER: Which story is that?
AXELROD: That the stories that have been written have been helpful to the president. I'll let other people judge that. Bu they're certainly not -- we're not the source of those stories.
BLITZER: And this notion that John McCain wants a special counsel, like Ken Starr, for example, to come in and start investigating.
AXELROD: I think nobody benefits from leaks of classified material. It shouldn't happen. We would welcome anybody to look at anything. BLITZER: Let's talk about the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. My full interview is going to air in the next hour with him, but he's now apologized. He's expressed regret and said he didn't fully understand the nature of the question when he said the Bush tax cuts even for the wealthiest Americans maybe temporarily should be extended, even though the president said they shouldn't be extended any longer. It's good enough for you?
AXELROD: Well, I'm not expecting an apology from Bill Clinton. I have deep admiration for Bill Clinton. And I watch this parade of Republicans saying, oh, you know, we ought to listen to Bill Clinton.
They should listen to Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton was the president in the early '90s who said we have to do something about the deficits and it's going to mean the wealthy will have to pay a little more and not one Republican in Congress supported him. He went ahead and got it done. And we have a decade of growth and expansion, left with a surplus. In the next decade, we had two unfunded wars and unfunded Medicaid prescription program, unfunded tax cuts, and they left for this president, huge deficits and an economic crisis.
So, they should listen to President Clinton. He was right back in the '90s. He's right what he says now. We should be investing in education, in research and development, and energy and the kinds of things that will grow our economy, not going back to the policies of the last decade.
BLITZER: But did he cause the re-election campaign some heartburn by suggesting that Mitt Romney's sterling reputation at Bain Capital coming on the heels of those ads, when you're going after Mitt Romney at Bain Capital.
AXELROD: Well, look, what he -- the question he's answered, Wolf, and I've said this before, was: is he qualified? He's -- no one is doubting that Mitt Romney's qualified --
BLITZER: You're saying Mitt Romney is qualified to be president.
AXELROD: -- qualified to be president. The question is, is he qualified to call himself a job creator? Is he qualified to call himself the economic oracle that he does, when he run a business that doesn't reflect that and that his record in Massachusetts was so poor in terms of job creation? That's what we're questioning, not whether he has the technical qualifications.
BLITZER: But you're not suggesting as Bill Clinton did that he did have a sterling reputation?
AXELROD: I think he had a great record for making money for himself and his partners. He did not have a great record on job creation.
When you take companies to bankruptcy and walk away with millions of dollars while the workers are left holding the bag and the creditors are left holding the bag, that may look good in terms of balance sheets. But it's not good economic policy and it's not right.
BLITZER: But in fairness, there were some companies that he helped establish, Sports Authority --
AXELROD: He made minor investments in these companies and walked away from them with a profit and then later they created jobs. But here are companies that he went in, his group took over, loaded them with debt.
And in several cases took them bankruptcy and yes, he profited from that, but certainly the workers didn't, the communities didn't and the economy didn't.
BLITZER: But there was a lot of dialogue between you and President Clinton and his aides to make sure that you guys got on the same page?
AXELROD: Here's what I know. Bill Clinton understands what it takes to grow this economy. He understands that we can't cut our way to prosperity. He understands that we have to bring these deficits down in a responsible way.
And invest in those things that we need to grow, education, innovation, infrastructure and that's what he's been preaching all over this country. There's no separation between him and this president. They have a good understanding of how you grow the economy.
BLITZER: And you want him to go out there and campaign --
AXELROD: I think he's a tremendous asset to us. I have compunction about that.
BLITZER: How worried are you, if you are that the Romney campaign raised more money last month than the Obama campaign.
AXELROD: Well, this is sort of to be expected, Wolf -- in 2004, John Kerry, once he sealed the nomination had two months where he outraised President Bush because you picked up money that you couldn't raise from Republicans supporting other candidates in the primary so we anticipated this.
Look, there's no doubt. I've said it before. We're going to be the first president to be outspent not because of what Romney's raising, but because of the "Super PACs." When you have people like the Koch brothers who just were so active in Wisconsin saying they'll spent $400 million to impact on this race. That's more than John McCain and the Republican Party spent in total the last time.
BLITZER: They're going to spent $400 million --
AXELROD: That they are -- $400 million is that they're going to leverage in this race of their own, through their secret organizations, the ones that don't disclose.
That's a source of concern. It should be a source of concern to everyone. It has broader implications than in the election, but in terms of what happened this month in the fundraising end.
No, I'm not surprised. I am pleased that 98 percent of our donors were under $250. I think 15 percent of Governor Romney's were. It kind of speaks to the nature of the two campaigns.
BLITZER: One final question. Michigan, this new poll that just came out, I don't know if you saw it, 46 percent Romney and 45 percent Obama in a state where the auto industry is so critical. The president salvaged the auto industry.
AXELROD: Wolf, there was another poll recently. There are several polls that had this race in double digits. So there will be plenty of polls. I'm not going to react to one of them and if I were Mitt Romney. I'd bet you $10,000 we'll win the state of Michigan, but I'm not, so I won't.
BLITZER: David Axelrod, thanks for coming.
AXELROD: OK, good to be with you in Chicago.
BLITZER: There are worries and developments in the case of an American right now. An American being held in a Cuban prison and it's a story we've been following closely here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The latest details coming up next.
Also, a new breakthrough can reveal the entire genetic blueprint of a baby still in its mother's womb, detecting thousands of diseases, but at what cost? Stay with us.
BLITZER: There are some troubling developments in the case of an American man imprisoned in Cuba right now. I had an exclusive phone interview with Alan Gross just last month, but now there is new information emerging.
CNN's Brian Todd spoke to Alan Gross's wife about it. Brian, what's going? What did you find out?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, not good news today from Alan Gross' wife. I caught up with her at a hearing she attended on Capitol Hill. She said her husband's health has slid dramatically since you spoke to him a month ago.
TODD (voice-over): In early May, Alan Gross told Wolf Blitzer he lost about 100 pounds inside a Cuban prison, but was hanging in there.
ALAN GROSS, IMPRISONED IN CUBA (via telephone): My hip is starting to give me a little bit of a problem, but otherwise, I'm not really in bad shape.
TODD: Here's a difference a month makes.
(on camera): Can you give us an update on his condition right now?
JUDY GROSS, ALAN GROSS' WIFE: He's doing very poorly actually. He's in very bad, chronic pain. He can't get out of bed in the morning and walk. It takes him 15 minutes to start walking. His arthritis is so bad. His hips are clicking. He's much weaker because he can't exercise anymore.
TODD (voice-over): Judy Gross says her husband has prostate issues and might have emphysema and has broken a tooth.
(on camera): Is he getting treatment for any of these things from the people there?
GROSS: I sent him medication for the arthritis. No, he's not receiving any treatment.
TODD (voice-over): We were unable to get a response to that from anyone at the Cuban Intersection in Washington or the Cuban Mission at the U.N. In May, a Cuban official said this to Wolf Blitzer about Gross' treatment.
JOSEFINA VIDAL, CUBAN FOREIGN MINISTRY OFFICIAL: We have guaranteed for him a good treatment as he, himself, told you he's in good shape. He receives specialized medical treatment balanced meals.
TODD: Gross, an American, has been imprisoned in Cuba since 2009, charged with smuggling illegal equipment and being a threat to national security. U.S. officials say Gross is not a spy and is being held unjustifiably.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Gross worked for a development group that was helping Cubans principally in their small, Jewish community in Cuba to have access to the internet.
TODD: Judy Gross told me there has been no movement in the efforts to get her husband released despite considerable fallout in Washington. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez is hammering the State Department.
SENATOR ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: You permit the daughter of Raul Castro to get a visa, to come to the United States, to speak out against the United States, to speak about somehow justifying the dictatorship inside of Cuba and yet you permit an American citizenship to languish in Castro jails.
TODD: Pressed on that by Menendez at a hearing, a State Department official responded.
ROBERTA JACOBSON, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: Those Cubans were allowed to come to the United States to speak openly because in our country they are able to do so despite my not agreeing at all with the statements of Mariela Castro, obviously.
TODD: There's also fallout over a judge allowing one of five Cubans imprisoned in the U.S. on espionage charges to visit an ailing relative in Cuba while Alan Gross has so far not been able to visit his 90-year-old mother in the U.S. who is very ill. That Cuban detainee has finished his sentence and is supposed to stay in the U.S. on probation until 2014 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, do you have any update on his mother's condition? She's, what, 90 years old in Texas.
TODD: That's right and it's not good news there either, Wolf. As you know, Gross' mother has terminal lung cancer. Judy Gross told me today the mother is very weak and is now feeling pain that she didn't feel before. She told me her husband is concerned that his mother is going to pass away before he gets to say goodbye.
BLITZER: Sad story, indeed. We'll stay on top of it for our viewers. Thanks very much, Brian Todd.
Meanwhile, a new breakthrough can reveal the entire genetic blueprint of a baby still in its mother's womb, detecting thousands of diseases, but at what cost? A new test coming up.
BLITZER: New, scientific developments are giving doctors and parents some amazing new insight into the genetic makeup of unborn children, but the testing is not only very expensive, it's also very controversial.
Once again, CNN's Lisa Sylvester is joining us. She's looking into the story for us. Explain, Lisa, what's going on here?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, first off, the research is out of the University of Washington and it was published in the "Scientific Journal."
Geneticists were able to map the genome sequence of a fetus with about 99 percent accuracy, but the question now is, if parents can predict if their child will likely develop a serious medical condition, will that lead to pre-selection and possibly abortion?
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Ultrasounds can tell expectant parents a lot how the big the baby is, how the pregnancy is progressing, whether it's a boy or a girl, but now a new test can be used to reveal the entire genetic blueprint of a fetus still in its mother womb.
It's done by taking a blood test from the mother and a saliva test from the father as early as the first trimester. Existing test like the amniocentesis can detest chromosome abnormalities like down syndrome.
But this new breakthrough testing can detect more than 3,000 diseases, highlighting genetic mutations in a baby's genome code, such as if a child is predisposed to cancer.
JAY SHENDURE, MEDICAL GENETICIST, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: You think of the genome as a book and a normal person has two copies of every chapter or healthy person.
Detecting down syndrome with this sort of approach is akin to trying to determine whether there's an extra copy of an entire chapter. Whereas, what we've tried to do is to enable the technology to even pick up typos and single words on a single page.
SYLVESTER: Jay Shendure, an associate professor of Genome Sciences at the University of Washington heads up that research team. Right now the process is costly. To apply in the real world, Shendure says testing would cost around $50,000.
And it raises a host of ethical questions, will it lead to positive selection, parents seeking certain traits in their unborn babies. The National Right to Life Committee is disturbed by this new direction in science.
JESSICA ROGERS, NATIONAL RIGHT TO LIFE COMMITTEE: Life does begin at conception and the only question is whether or not that life is worthy of protection. And the answer is those lives should not be killed and dismembered for any reason and certainly not because that they're disabled.
SYLVESTER: Some of the mutations are definitive. That is a child will be born with a disability, but other mutations are less certain. The genome map indicates only that a fetus has a greater likelihood of developing a disorder.
TOBY SCHONFELD, CENTER FOR ETHICS, EMORY UNIVERSITY: This kind of test that is described in this story where there are hundreds of thousands of genetic mutations. It's unclear whether or not any of them or some of them will have clinical or medical indications.
SYLVESTER: But researchers like Schendure say the implications are immense. If doctors know ahead of time a child will develop a certain medical condition, it can lead to early intervention.
SHENDURE: You can imagine scenarios in which this sort of thing is abused. I think it's certainly important to worry and think about those ethical challenges that might arise, but we may be putting the cart a little bit ahead of the horse here.
SYLVESTER: And you can read more on the "Journal Science Translational Medicine." The cost of genetic sequencing has come down tremendously in the last several years. So, you know, this kind of stuff that used to more in the realm of science fiction is becoming more and more reality -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's almost breathtaking I got tell you. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.
His daughter, Chelsea, the race for the White House, what should the U.S. do in Syria. I spoke about all of that and a lot more with the former president of the United States Bill Clinton.
My one-on-one interview with President Clinton here in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative. That's coming up at the top of the hour.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A mixed day on Wall Street. The Dow up 46 points with the Nasdaq and the S&P off slightly. The morning rally was tempered when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dashed hopes for more economic stimulus saying, the fed was ready to act, but is holding off for now. Here is his assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN BERNANKE, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: Economic growth appears poised to continue at a moderate pace over coming quarters supported in part by accommodative monetary policy.
In particular, increases in household spending have been relatively well sustained. Income growth has remained quite modest, but the recent decline in energy prices should provide some off-setting lift to real purchasing power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN's Erin Burnett is going out front on the story. Erin is joining us. Erin, Bernanke also gave Congress some grief over the gridlock up on Capitol Hill and the uncertainty about taxes and the policies that they cause. What was your sense?
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Wolf, I've heard him give a lot of these and he gives the prepared remarks and then, you know, takes questions. He had a very clear message that he wanted to make and there are two things to take away.
One, he doesn't want the Federal Reserve to have to do anymore. Obviously, he is willing to do it, but he doesn't think we're quite at that point, which is important given we've had some very weak labor numbers as well all know.
So he doesn't think that it's that dire of a situation where he needs to act. And he's making it very clear to say look, I've done my part. His part, Wolf, by the way, being $2.3 trillion of additional money he's thrown into the system to try to help the economy getting better.
He's saying, look, now, Congress, it's you that needs to do the job. He referred multiple times to that so-called fiscal cliff, which is about half a trillion dollars and it's going to happen just in the beginning of next year.
That's just for one year with all the unemployment benefits going away. The Bush tax cuts, payroll tax, so really firmly putting it in the hands of Congress, Wolf, and I think that's very important.
I also think it's important that the market may be disappointed today a little bit. It was rallying and then when he said, look, I'm not going do anything. It fell back, but I think that should be interpreted as a sign of strength.
He doesn't think that he needs to come out and indicate I'm going to do something yet. That means he doesn't think the situation is that dire, which is I think an important and more positive take away from his testimony today.
BLITZER: Good point, although I'm sure he's under no illusions. The chances of Congress doing anything really substantive between now and November are very, very slim. I think everybody agrees on that.
Erin, we'll have a lot more on this story and all of the day's news, 7 p.m. Eastern, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." Erin, thank you.
Jack Cafferty is back once again with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is what impact could the Wisconsin recall election have in November?
W.R. writes, "The Wisconsin recall election placed liberals on notice. President Obama will lose in November in a landslide that will make Jimmy Carter's loss look like a win. When the unions turn against you, when your own party undermines your platform, you know it's time to panic."
Jay has a different view, "As the Republicans strip unions of their retirement benefits, it will empower the Democrats to re-elect Obama. The fact is these public unions created Cadillac pension plans that governments would never be able to pay for so they'll have to be reduced."
Mack in Michigan writes, "You are grossly estimating the intelligence and the attention span of the voting public. Thirty days from now, voters would have moved on. They won't believe there was an election in Wisconsin. The big guns haven't turned loose the heavy money artillery on the voting public yet. That is when opinions will be bought and sold."
Jennifer writes, "I haven't a clue, but it's about time somebody went after the unions." Martha writes, "Likely not very much. What happens nationwide between now and the election especially with the economy is likely to have a far greater impact."
And Roger in Florida says, "I can't wait until we look cutting pensions for Congress."
I'll vote for that. If you want to read more on this go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's" Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
We're only minutes away from my one-on-one in-depth interview with the former president of the United States Bill Clinton. I'm here in Chicago at the Clinton Global Initiative.
We'll speak about the uproar he caused when he appeared to back extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone including the wealthiest Americans. What's he saying now? Stand by for that.
Also, straight ahead, the surprise culprit in the $400 million fire on a U.S. nuclear submarine. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: A new clue to a fire aboard a U.S. nuclear submarine. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, what's going on?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, the Navy says a vacuum cleaner may have sparked a fire on the "USS Miami" last month at a shipyard in Maine. No one was hurt, but damage to the nuclear sub is estimated at more than $400 million. The Navy says the Miami's nuclear components weren't affected and there were no torpedoes on the sub at the time.
More options for iPhone fans, Virgin Mobile is the latest wireless company to announce that it will now carry the iPhone. It is also the second to offer a prepaid plan. For four years, iPhones were exclusive to AT&T, but since last year, six companies have started offering service for the Apple devices.
And take a look at this video from China where a toddler wandered on to a balcony and wound up with his head stuck in the railing leaving him dangling four stories up.
A man risked his own life to save the boy walking along a narrow ledge one floor below to reach him. You can see the amazing pictures there. He managed to set the child free and bring him safely inside. Frightening stuff there, but wow, what a hero that guy is, Wolf.
BLITZER: He certainly is. Glad that little kid and the man, that everyone is just fine. Thank you, Lisa.