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President Obama's New Campaign Gaffe?; No Triple Crown; Bogus 911 Calls Lure SWAT Teams; Intelligence Leaks

Aired June 8, 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: With an apparently awkward comment about jobs and the economy, President Obama gives Mitt Romney a campaign present and Republicans rushing to take full advantage.

A chasing 911 call leads a police assault team to surround a house, but the call, like so many others, is bogus, designed to harass a conservative blogger. We are going to taking a closer look at the shocking crime -- crime known as swatting.

Plus, right as these high school graduates toss their caps in the air, a frightening storm moved in. You are going to see why they scrambled for cover.

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

President Obama took a few questions in the White House Briefing Room today and urged Congress to take steps to boost the economy, but in rushing to get out front of the jobs issue, the president stumbled and Republicans are already reaping the benefits.

Let's go straight to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's standing by with all the details -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Obama hammered Congress, telling them to pass his long-stalled jobs bill as a way to cushion the U.S. from the effects of Europe's worsening economy.

But that's not the part of his remarks that's making news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN (voice-over): The president trying to regain control of his message.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now, if Congress decides despite all that that they aren't going to do anything about this simply because it's an election year, then they should explain to the American people why.

YELLIN: After disappointing jobs numbers drove unemployment up to 8.2 percent, he called on Congress to pass the jobs bill he introduced back in September. But in defending his record, he hit an off-key note.

OBAMA: The private sector is doing fine.

YELLIN: Republicans were quick to pounce.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Mr. President, take it from me. The private sector is not doing well.

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: My question would be to the president, are you kidding? Did he see the job numbers?

YELLIN: Here's the president in context.

OBAMA: We've created 4.3 million jobs over the last two -- 27 months; over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government.

YELLIN: But last month, private sector jobs grew at a slower pace than previous months, adding 82,000 jobs compared to 87,000 in April, 147,000 in March. Later in the day, the president tried to clean up his remarks.

OBAMA: It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine. That's the reason I had the press conference. That's why I spent yesterday, the day before yesterday, this past week, this past month, and this past year talking about how we can make the economy stronger.

YELLIN: Also at the news conference, the president couldn't escape questions about a spate of news reports that included classified national security information.

QUESTION: Secondly, what's your reaction to lawmakers who accuse your team of leaking these details in order to promote your reelection bid?

OBAMA: The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified national security information is offensive. It's wrong. You know, people I think need to have a better sense of how I approach this office.

YELLIN: Asked if the administration is investigating the leaks?

OBAMA: What I'm saying is, is that we consistently, whenever there is classified information that is put out into the public we try to find out where that came from. OK. Thank you very much, everybody.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: Now, Wolf, the president also said he has a zero tolerance policy for leaks and if there are criminal leaks, there are consequences.

He would not say if there is currently an investigation ongoing. Wolf, this has been a tough week for the president overall, not just those bad jobs numbers, but also the loss in the Wisconsin recall, Mitt Romney's campaign outraising the president's campaign in fund- raising, and also Bill Clinton going off-message with the president's campaign. If the president was trying to regain the upper hand and get back on message with this Q&A today, it doesn't seem like they managed to do it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And when you add those bad jobs numbers that were released last Friday, it's been a really, really bad week for the president this past week.

Jessica, thanks very much.

Republicans certainly wasted no time jumping all over the president's comment that the private sector is doing just fine.

Let's turn to our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's also following the reaction -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as Jessica mentioned, the president did clean up his comments in the last hour, saying the economy is not doing fine. But that won't stop Republicans who see the strong fundamentals of a new line of attack.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OBAMA: The truth of the matter is that...

ACOSTA (voice-over): Within moments after the comment crossed the president's lips, Republican leaders were blowing it up on Twitter.

OBAMA: We've created 4.3 million jobs over the last two -- 27 months; over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine.

ACOSTA: Those five words, "The private sector is doing fine," instantly became Mitt Romney's message of the day.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He said the private sector is doing fine. Is he really that out of touch?

OBAMA: The private sector is doing fine.

ACOSTA: Republicans quickly cranked out a new video pointing to the latest unemployment report, just 69,000 jobs created last month, and an overall rate that rose to 8.2 percent. Romney sensed a defining moment.

ROMNEY: For the president of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history as an extraordinary miscalculation.

ACOSTA: Even a potential running mate was piling on.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Stand there and stare at the TV. I couldn't believe he said it.

ACOSTA: Four years ago, Democrats said it was GOP nominee John McCain who was out of touch in his comments just as the nation was plunging into the financial crisis. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: The fundamentals of our economy are strong.

NARRATOR: Romney reduced unemployment to just 4.7 percent.

ACOSTA: In a new ad, Romney points to his record lowering the unemployment rate in Massachusetts, a record the Obama campaign repeatedly notes was 47th in the nation in job creation.

NARRATOR: One of the worst economic records in the country.

ACOSTA: Romney advisers complain the former governor inherited an economy just coming out of recession.

ED GILLESPIE, FORMER REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: They are averaging out over the four years. So, they are bringing down the gains of his fourth year in office which shows the real impact of his policies.

ACOSTA: Romney's successor says that's just spin.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Even so, every governor faces challenges when he or she comes to office. Every governor does. The question is what do you do with that moment?

ACOSTA: But for Romney, the coordinated Republican response was perhaps the first clear sign that he has the GOP firmly behind him.

NARRATOR: Freedom, an opportunity in America.

ACOSTA: Save one, Rick Santorum, who announced a new conservative group in a Web video that doesn't mention Romney, but vows to hold Republican politicians accountable.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: And monitor every day to make sure they stick to our conservative principles.

ACOSTA: But at a conservative conference in Chicago, Santorum insisted he's on the Romney team.

SANTORUM: I think we could have been even more of an improvement, but that's -- you know, that issue has passed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: A Romney adviser described the president's comments today as the gift that keeps on giving, saying the remarks are coming to an ad near you.

And, Wolf, there was already one ad earlier today. I think it's safe to say there are more to come -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I certainly agree.

Let's even dig deeper.

Jim Acosta, thanks much.

Our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's the host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION."

These words, "The private sector is doing fine," even though the president has since tried to clean it up, I'm sure, as Jim Acosta and Jessica Yellin report, they will come back to haunt the president.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me give you sort of two opinions on this.

My initial reaction is when -- remember when Mitt Romney said, I'm not worried about the poor because they have a safety net or something to that effect? I'm not worried about the poor became something that Democrats made commercials out of.

It stuck to Mitt Romney in a way that I don't know that it sticks to President Obama simply because when you ask who best understands your problems, President Obama always wins that particular competition in the polls. So it doesn't -- you know, for Mitt Romney to say, listen, I'm not worried about the poor kind of fits into the storyline that Democrats are trying to wrap around him. And that is, he doesn't care about you, he doesn't understand you.

That is not President Obama's problem. And so I think, you know look, they took the day away in the sense that this is a story that's going to eat up 48 hours' worth of headlines. After that, I'm just not sure where you go with it.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: So, you don't think it's going to be like when Romney said, I like to fire people? I'm paraphrasing. That stuck with him for a while. Or corporations are people, too? That -- this is going to be different, you're saying?

CROWLEY: Because it fit into his character line, whereas -- what is President Obama's?

But let me tell you, the other half of that is, I spoke to a couple of folks today and posited this to them. If Mitt Romney runs on, the president doesn't understand how the economy works, this is a pretty good line to fit into that. You see, he thinks everything is fine.

And actually -- I even found a Democrat who said actually I think it's more along that line. So, my initial reaction is, it just doesn't stick to him because that's not what people see as the problem for President Obama. But I guess it depends on how well they're able to spin it off the Romney campaign.

BLITZER: Well, what the Republicans, they are spinning it and there are some suggesting sort of like the moment for the first President Bush, George H.W. Bush when he discovered -- when he was going through the supermarket and saw the scanner and that they were scanning at the checkout counter...

(CROSSTALK)

CROWLEY: But, see, that fed into the preconceived notion that he was a great Cold War president.

BLITZER: But he is out of touch.

CROWLEY: ... but he was out of touch.

BLITZER: Yes.

CROWLEY: And that -- most people don't think that President Obama is out of touch, most people.

BLITZER: The other big issue that came out of the news conference, the president was very forceful, animated in rejecting this notion that his administration is deliberately leaking classified information to score political points for his reelection campaign.

CROWLEY: He was pretty tough on that pushback, I think.

What's interesting is, number one, the relationship between President Obama and his 2008 opponent, John McCain. It's a pretty tense long- distance exchange.

BLITZER: And McCain has taken the lead on this.

CROWLEY: And McCain has already come back and said, hey, he still needs to get someone to investigate how this all happened. This was a serious leak.

But the president did exactly what he had to do, was say, you don't understand me if you think this. You don't understand how my White House works. He had to condemn it, but it's not over. He said, there will be several chapters to this, I think.

BLITZER: You will continue this conversation Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern, 12:00 noon Eastern, "STATE OF THE UNION."

CROWLEY: I will. You know that well.

BLITZER: I do.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

BLITZER: I will be -- I'm a regular viewer.

I will speak, by the way, about the national security leaks with Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. That is coming up right at the top of our next hour.

It's called swatting, bogus 911 calls that bring police out in force.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: My wife was actually washing some plates in the sink when she looked up and said, what have the kids done? There's a police officer in the driveway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now conservative bloggers are increasingly targeted by these so-called swatters. We're digging deeper.

Also, a horse racing heartbreak -- a potential Triple Crown champion scratched at the last minute from tomorrow's Belmont Stakes.

Plus, severe weather sparks panic at a graduation ceremony. We are going to show you some of this incredible video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: High hope for tomorrow's Belmont Stakes have turned to bitter disappointment. The horse that was poised to possibly be the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years has been pulled from the race due to an injury his trainer is calling "freakish".

CNN's Richard Roth is joining us now from the track.

Richard, we're talking about the horse named "I'll Have Another". So, what exactly happened?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: "I'll Have Another" is not going to be in the gate for what's called the test of champions, the mile and a half Belmont Stakes. What happened? Leg injury, a bad step, saying one consulting veterinarian, but enough to not risk him in the big race. The horse was walked for the media and he'll be out for the lucrative career. The trainer Dour O'Neill it happened within the last 24 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOUG O'NEILL, TRAINER: Obviously, he's done so much that it was unanimous between the Reddams and my brother and I at the barns to retire him. It is a bummer. But again, far from tragic, but it is very disappointing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROTH: Doug O'Neill and his family and Paul Reddam, the owner and their entire network connected to this horse later seen hugging each other, very emotional, disappointment of course, on a lot of levels for the people connected with "I'll Have Another". He would have been bidding to be the 12th horse to win the elusive Triple Crown -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He was by far, the favorite, wasn't he?

ROTH: That's right. I tried to get reaction from his jockey Mario Gutierrez who was on a horse here at Belmont and he walked quickly by me and he didn't want to talk. A couple of weeks, we were on top of the Empire State Building and he was looking forward and he said this horse was doubted by many and they'll be on the post parade on the track shortly before the Belmont, wolf, tomorrow. I'm sure he'll get a rousing ovation from the crowd -- a crowd that will be diminished by several thousand because "I'll Have Another" will not be starting in the Belmont Stakes field.

BLITZER: Yes, that story -- but at least the horse is going to be fine in the long run. Thanks very much for that, Richard.

We'll hear from the owner of "I'll Have Another," Paul Reddam. He's joining CNN's Erin Burnett later tonight as she goes "OUTFRONT" on this story, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT," at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

An American general apologizes for civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Mary Snow is monitoring that, also some of other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Mary, what do you have?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, General John Allen saw the scene himself, visiting the village south of Kabul where Afghan officials say people died in a coalition air strike Wednesday, including women and children. Allen offered condolences, along with an apology and explained how the tragedy happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEN. JOHN ALLEN, COMMANDER, ISAF: We didn't see the civilians. As the force approached the building, they were taken under fire, a number of our forces -- and this was joint Afghan and U.S. force. They were taken under fire, a hand grenade was thrown. Three of our people were wounded and we called for the people who were shooting to come out and then the situation became more grave and the innocent people were killed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Here in the U.S., well-known megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar is accused by his own daughter of beating her and trying to choke her. The 15-year-old says it happened during an argument over a party. Police in suburban Atlanta say they responded to a domestic disturbance call overnight and arrested Dollar on assault charges. He was released this morning on $5,000 bail.

And a solo around the world voyage cut short for a British woman. The Japanese Coast Guard picked up Sarah Outen after her boat was damaged in a tropical storm.

Outen left London in 2011 to cycle, row and kayak around the world. She's also trekked 11,000 miles. It's not clear, though, Wolf, if she plans to continue her journey. She's half way to her goal.

BLITZER: An amazing journey. Thanks very much, Mary, for that.

So, imagine finding yourself surrounded by a SWAT team and having no idea why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERICK ERICKSON, REDSTATE.COM: As the police officer was in my driveway, there were actually police officers surrounding my house. There was a police radio report to take my house which meant they had police officers in the woods.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: It's happening to conservative bloggers out there. They're the victims of bogus 911 calls. We have details of a disturbing new level of political trickery.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It begins with chilling call into the police emergency line and ends with the urgent deployment of a SWAT team. A shocking and dangerous new crime wave as hackers target political opponents.

Our senior correspondent Joe Johns has been looking into the story for us. It is pretty chilling. What's going on here?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's just messy business no matter how you look at it. A hoax that sends guys with guns to someone's house expecting trouble. This has been going for years, but now authorities say they're starting to see possible political motivations behind it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS (voice-over): The start of a bad situation, a call comes into the local 911 communications center.

CALLER: Just shot my wife, so --

911 DISPATCHER: You just shot your wife?

CALLER: I don't think I can come down there.

911 DISPATCHER: Where's your wife now?

CALLER: She's dead now.

911 DISPATCHER: You just shot your wife and she's dead? And you don't know where she's located at?

CALLER: Well, I know where she's located --

911 DISPATCHER: Where is she located at, sir?

CALLER: I'm looking at her.

I'm going to shoot someone else soon.

JOHNS: So, police -- maybe even the SWAT team show up, locked and loaded, ready for trouble and problem is it was a bogus 911 call from the start.

Known as "SWATting," it's a crime committed hundreds of times over the last decade. But "SWATting" is getting new attention lately because of a political angle. Swatters have targeted at least three conservative bloggers. In fact, the call you just heard sent the police to the home of CNN contributor Erick Erickson.

ERICKSON: My wife was washing dishes at the sink when see looked up and said, what have the kids done? There's police officer on the driveway.

JOHNS: He and his family were enjoying a quite holiday weekend when the police showed up.

ERICKSON: As the police officer was in the driveway there were police officers surrounding my house. There was a police radio report to take my house, which meant they had police officers in the woods behind my house and blocking all of the roads around the house.

JOHNS: Authorities are investigating who did it? The targeting of conservative bloggers led one of Erickson's home state senators, Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia to write this letter to the attorney general, asking him to review the cases.

Chambliss wrote, "The perpetrators appear to be targeting individuals who are vigorously exercising their First Amendment rights to political speech".

Needless to say, SWATting is anything, but a harmless prank.

Kevin Kolbye is with the FBI's Dallas field office.

KEVIN KOLBYE, FBI ACTING SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, DALLAS: We've had several instances where there has been instances where someone has been hurt. We had one where an individual was taken down with a lot of force and he received a lot of scrapes and bruises. We had two instances where victims have had heart attacks because of the stress.

JOHNS: With caller ID and GPS, you would think SWATters would get locked up right after dialing the number.

But they're using advance technology to make the call appear as though it's coming from the target residence.

KOLBYE: Spoofing the telephone number in itself is not a crime, although legislation is currently acting on trying to make it illegal to spoof, but spoofing your phone number or masking it with the intent of committing a crime or making a false police report isn't a crime and it is a federal crime.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHNS: The FBI will not talk about the status of individual SWATting cases, but they do say they've made numerous arrests in the past and intend to keep the pressure on.

BLITZER: So, on the Erick Erickson case, he's our CNN contributor. No arrests yet have been made?

JOHNS: No arrests yet, but they're certainly looking into it. We'll just have to follow it and see --

BLITZER: This is a felony, right?

JOHNS: Absolutely. It's a serious situation. It's also a false police report.

BLITZER: They catch the individuals responsible they're likely to go to jail.

JOHNS: Right, and these other charge is basically about wire fraud and then they a question about whether it's across state lines and there's an interstate component and then if it's three or four people doing it, it's conspiracy. So you got a lot of problems if you do this with the federal government, potentially.

BLITZER: All right. Joe, thanks very much. Joe Johns reporting.

Republicans rushing to take advantage of the president's stumble today. They launched an instant ad about his comments about the economy.

And Bill Clinton, as you know, he apologized yesterday for going off message on the economy. That was in my interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Coming up, we'll discuss this question. Did he learn a lesson?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our "Strategy Session." Joining us, our CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist, Maria Cardona, and the former Bush White House speechwriter, David Frum.

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who some consider on a short list for a possible vice presidential running mate slot with Mitt Romney, he really went after the president today on his decision not to campaign in Wisconsin for the Democrats. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (D), LA.: There are many reasons maybe he didn't want to come to Wisconsin. He did not go to Wisconsin because he thought maybe he wouldn't be an asset? Maybe he saw his own poll numbers and thought he would be a drag on Mayor Barrett's campaign?

Did he not go to Wisconsin because he knew a majority of those voters actually supported the governor's reforms? Did he did not go to Wisconsin because he was afraid of hurting himself by backing a loser?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think? You know, he's -- maybe he's auditioning for the vice presidential --

(CROSSTALK)

MARIA CARDONA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think it was just a huge tryout for the vice presidential slot and, frankly, at CPAC, too, so he had to make sure to give red meat to the audience.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: A conservative political action (inaudible).

CARDONA: Exactly. I think that's all it was, a big tryout, red meat for conservatives and, frankly, what he was saying is that Wisconsin, yes, was difficult, but it wasn't a national election. Romney wasn't there, either. So if he's going to say that about Obama, he has got to say it about Mitt Romney, too.

DAVID FRUM, former Bush White House speechwriter: Well, it's one of those who's been one of the floaters of the Bobby Jindal name on CNN.com about six weeks ago. I think that does look like an audition. It is a reminder of -- that this very cerebral politician of Jindal was a real policy wonk, very knowledgeable person, that he can also do the role that running mates traditionally do.

Something else that needs to be said about why he would be such an attractive running mate for Mitt Romney. Republicans need to break out of this narrow label that they belong to a certain ethnic group and a certain age group.

And South Asians are one of the most Republican available of the new population groups in America. There are a number of outstanding politicians -- Nikki Haley in South Carolina, and Bobby Jindal. And this would be a way for the Republicans to extended their appeal without having to change their message a great deal.

BLITZER: He's of Indian ancestry, meaning from India, not Native American Indian, but he is -- he certainly is intelligent, he's certainly qualified, a governor, reelected, very (inaudible) member of Congress, Ivy League education. He'd be formidable.

CARDONA: Absolutely. And I actually totally agree with David in that the Republican Party desperately needs to branch out.

Right now they're seen as the party of white men, frankly, and that's not something that's helpful to them, especially in a demographic that we have in the United States today, where we are becoming much more majority minority and several states especially the battleground states.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about the president's stumble today, when he said the private sector was doing fine. The Republicans pouncing, the RNC, the Republican National Committee, wasted no time posting this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The private sector is doing fine.

The private sector is doing fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: How serious of a stumble is this?

FRUM: Look, these stumbles individually don't matter ever very much for anybody, but what is interesting about the stumble and what the danger reveals is the president -- it tells you something about the president's mindset.

This president is a very public sector-oriented person. He really believes in it more strongly than even recent Democrats have done. You can't describe the private sector is doing fine, but he then went on to talk about how he is very concerned about losses of the public sector.

Well, the public sector is still a relatively small part of American life, and the president in the past has, unfortunately, suggested an increase in the public sector at the state level may be a way to raise middle class wages.

BLITZER: He took -- he moved quickly to try to clean that stumble up a little bit when he said, well, the economy was not in good shape.

CARDONA: Sure, and I don't think those five words are going stick regardless of -- Republicans will try very hard for them to stick. They won't stick because the president has said time and again, he's the first one who always says that we're not doing enough for the economy, that the economy has to grow at a much more expansive rate.

And, frankly, the reason he had his press conference was to push Congress to basically pass his jobs act which, frankly, a lot of independent analysts have said could create more than a million jobs.

FRUM: Here's the book --

CARDONA: It's not going to stick.

FRUM: Last year, the president went to Kansas to deliver a major speech, his vision for the biggest question in the economy, how do we sustain middle-class wages in a globalized world. And his vision there was one of a greatly expanded public sector, either direct public employment or government grants to create government contingent private sector jobs.

That was how he saw wages being raised --

CARDONA: But I --

FRUM: And that really tells you something about -- I mean, it's a hard question, how to keep wages up in a globalized economy (inaudible) --

(CROSSTALK)

CARDONA: And the point is you have to do both, because you can't take away from this president the fact that he's given small businesses more than 16 tax cuts and there are several more sitting in the jobs act in order -- BLITZER: All of us will agree, the next five months, major legislation, bipartisan legislation on these issues, not going to pass. What the president can do, he's started doing is through executive order try to do stuff that doesn't necessarily need congressional legislation.

CARDONA: Absolutely, and continue to point out that everything that he's proposing are things that Republicans have supported in the past.

BLITZER: I sat down yesterday with the former president, Bill Clinton, at the Clinton Global Initiative in Chicago. I want to ask both of you if he's learned lessons from his little stumble, couple of stumbles that deviated sort of from the Obama campaign. Here's what he told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, 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. Apparently nothing has to be done until the first of the year, so I think he should just stick with his position.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CLINTON: Do you buy that? Because everybody who knows Bill Clinton knows he's a policy wonk if there ever were one. Do you think he really thought that something had to be done before the election or before the end of the calendar year?

FRUM: Well, I think, as with Bill Clinton, things are always literally true. If you want something to happen before the end of the year, getting it done before the election would be a good idea. I think he fell into a slightly different trap, which is there's a part of him that is a ferocious partisan and there's a part of him that wants to be an elder statesman above the fray.

And he gave -- the interview that got him into trouble, he was trying to be an above-the-fray person and give his analysis, but then he wants the benefits of intimacy with the White House and access that come from being a campaigner, from being in the fight. And he's doing it both ways and he got into trouble.

BLITZER: You worked for President Clinton, right?

CARDONA: Yes.

BLITZER: So what do you think?

CARDONA: I'm going to take him at his word. Look, he -- right now he's focused on so many things. You were with him at the Clinton Global Initiative. Those are big, hard issues that he's dealing with on a day-to-day basis. So I'm going to take him at his word that he wasn't necessarily looking at the timing of this.

But regardless, there is no question that he's a huge asset for President Obama, because of the fact that he will absolutely fire up the Democratic base and he is so credible because the proposals he's supporting for President Obama are the same ones he had when he was president, created 22 million jobs.

BLITZER: There is no doubt he is a huge asset for the Obama re- election campaign.

CARDONA: No question.

BLITZER: I think everybody will agree on that when all is said and done.

CARDONA: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Despite a stumble here and there.

Thanks, guys, very much.

CARDONA: Thanks.

BLITZER: Millions of dollars in military equipment damaged from war. We'll take you inside the place where they're fixing up thousands of pieces of machinery used in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Plus, imagine looking up and seeing this? Look at this. The severe weather scare that sent people running at a high school graduation.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: For more than a decade U.S. Marines have been steadily rotating in and out of war zones. Ever wonder what happens to all their banged-up, bullet-riddled military hardware when it comes back from the front lines?

CNN's John Zarrella has an inside look at a massive maintenance facility that keeps Marines ready to fight. John, show our viewers what you're seeing.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, most of us probably don't even think about what happens to all these thousands upon thousands of pieces of equipment coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan now with the drawdown. A lot of it ends up on an island.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Think of it like an auto repair shop.

WILBUR SCOTT, HONEYWELL SENIOR MECHANIC: One thing we found is it has a fuel leak.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): But not any you've been to.

SCOTT: It's not like you take your car to the dealership and say it's skipping. They say what this will do if they can go fix it.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): What are they fixing? Thousands of pieces of beat-up Marine Corps equipment and armor used to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. This cavernous maintenance facility sits on Blount (ph) Island near Jacksonville, Florida, when Marine hardware returns from anywhere in the world, it comes here. It's cleaned and repaired, upgrades are made, the kind that save lives.

This truck had aluminum doors, little protection against shrapnel from IEDs.

BOB CAMPBELL, HONEYWELL SITE LEADER: You would see a hole in that door and you would see it embedded in the actual seat and you know someone was injured.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): Now the entire cab of the Marines' 7-ton trucks are armor plated.

ZARRELLA: Wow!

ZARRELLA (voice-over): When the maintenance contracted to Honeywell is complete, every piece must be combat ready. Why? Because it's headed right back out.

This is the 900-foot long climate-controlled Fred Stockham. Six decks are filled with armored personnel carriers, amphibious assault vehicles, Humvees, road building equipment, everything the Marines would need to fight or handle a humanitarian mission.

ZARRELLA: It will take seven days working 24 hours a day to completely load this ship and lash everything down for the trip. When they're done, there will be more than 51,000 tons onboard.

The Stockham is headed to a rendezvous with four other ships in Diego Garcia in the Indian ocean. It's one of three Marines staging areas around the world. The Marines say that in less than a week, they and their equipment can be anywhere in the world.

LT. COL. RICK STEELE, USMC: Nobody else in the world can get there the way we can. People have tried it. We've proven it.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The Stockham will stay on station in Diego Garcia for up to three years. It might just sit there, never needed.

STEELE: If everything worked out perfectly, we would bring the gear back, never having touched it. That's the desire.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): But Steele says it hasn't worked out quite that way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZARRELLA: Now one of the things they do, Wolf, is they fumigate all of that equipment before it comes home and then they fumigate it again before it leaves. On the boat, they fumigate it -- well, it doesn't always work. They were telling me that back in 2009, on one of the ships, they ended up with an infestation of spiders.

They got rid of them all eventually, but it wasn't a good place to be, they say, if perhaps, you had arachnophobia, Wolf.

BLITZER: And I think I have that, so I wouldn't have been happy to be there (inaudible) as well.

John Zarrella, as usual. Excellent work. Thank you.

ZARRELLA: Sure.

BLITZER: Dismembered bodies, one in Hollywood, the other in Canada. Is there a connection between these unsolved killings? We have details.

And right as these high school graduates tossed their caps in the air, a truly frightening storm moves in. You'll see why they had to scramble for cover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We've got some dramatic video of a very dangerous severe weather incident that could have turned a celebration into a real tragedy. CNN meteorologist Chad Myers has the pictures and the details. Chad?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, you almost can't believe the pictures you're seeing right here. This is Galloway (ph) in New Jersey, not that far from Atlantic City. High school graduation in that area and this is what the graduates saw. Well, that's what they would see if they were turning around -- and there they are on the lawn on the football field here.

The people in view watching this, what looked like a wall cloud, possibly even a tornado, certainly a funnel coming out of that wall cloud for a while.

As the storm came down from the northwest and blew up right over Galloway (ph) -- look at the purples right there at that last couple of frames, that's where the storm was spinning. It was a super cell thunderstorm. That's where that little funnel possibly came out of the storm itself.

Let's go through this video here, look at it frame by frame, people are watching it, there's the funnel cloud itself, the graduates not really all that fazed, kind of cheering along until the lightning was striking very close to the football field. And all of a sudden people were panicking .

And literally you can hear. You can hear them screaming there in the background. They're screaming because the lightning was all around. And I know this looks very dangerous, but people were focused on that. They were focused on the funnel; they weren't focused on the danger of the lightning that was everywhere.

Let me show you one of the strikes that I put in a stop frame here. Here are the people here. Here are the graduates right there. That thunder and lightning, that lightning bolt right there, less than a half a mile from all these students, all these people exposed to this lightning danger. And lightning will probably kill more people in the United States than tornadoes this year.

You have to understand, if you are outside when a storm comes this close, this big with lightning, if you can hear the thunder you need to run, get in a car or get inside a building. These people were in quite a bit of danger last night. Luckily no one was injured, Wolf.

BLITZER: Chad, thanks very much, luckily indeed.

Meanwhile, two murders with the victims' bodies dismembered. One in Hollywood, one in Montreal. Are the cases related? Mary Snow is monitoring that, also some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on here, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Los Angeles investigators are looking for a possible link in the cases. They're tracing the whereabouts of the suspect in the Montreal case, porn actor Luca Magnotta. He's accused of dismembering a Chinese exchange student and mailing his body parts to political and school offices in Canada.

Now there are reports that Magnotta may have been in Los Angeles in January, when the dismembered body of a 66-year-old man was found near the famous Hollywood sign.

A not guilty plea and a $1 million bail set for the teen accused of February's high school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. Seventeen-year-old T.J. Lane is charged in the attack that killed three students and injured three others. A judge has ruled that Lane can be tried as an adult. His attorneys say they may still change his plea to not guilty by reason of insanity, Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

It's an allegation that has President Obama indignant.

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OBAMA: The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Are Republican lawmakers taking him at his word? I'll ask the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican Mike Rogers.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Congresswoman on a mission that hits very close to home. Here's CNN's Lisa Sylvester.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Representative Kathy McMorris Rodgers was first elected to the Washington State legislature when she was only 25. Her job is important to her, but in her life, politics ranks second.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm thinking about messaging, moving forward.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): There are 435 members of the House of Representatives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have some work to do.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Seventy-six of them are women.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): But only one woman in the House Republican leadership --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Messaging themes --

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- Congressman Kathy McMorris Rodgers --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tendencies increasing for that.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- who represents eastern Washington State.

SYLVESTER: So what's been the highlight so far?

SYLVESTER (voice-over): To say she has a busy job --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this is weak.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- is an understatement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably go through all of it?

SYLVESTER (voice-over): She has one foot on each coast --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Inaudible) the committee --

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- shuttling back and forth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Almost what he usually covers.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): But she's more than an elected official. She's also a mom.

REP. KATHY MCMORRIS RODGERS (R), WASH.: These are his little feet at six weeks. That was when Cole was born. This was the first time I brought him to the capital, so --

SYLVESTER: He was just a little guy.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): She holds the distinction of being the only member of Congress in history to give birth twice while in office.

K. RODGERS: I was first elected to Congress in 2004, and I was still single. Met Brian a year later. We got married and then soon after that, I was pregnant. Cole was born in 2007 and Grace was born then in 2010. SYLVESTER (voice-over): One-year-old Grace and 5-year-old Cole.

Cole who loves rocking out to Bruce Springsteen, who is a budding athlete --

K. RODGERS: That's his favorite.

SYLVESTER: -- and who was born with Down syndrome.

K. RODGERS: That's tough news to receive. It's not what you dream. It's not what you expect.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Life has been a series of adjustments --

K. RODGERS: Look at that.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- a pressing of the reset button --

K. RODGERS: Do you want the egg?

SYLVESTER (voice-over): -- for Kathy McMorris Rodgers and her husband, Brian, who retired from the military.

BRIAN RODGERS: I spent 26 years in the Navy and so this is a lot like the Navy, you know. It's dynamic, it's very interesting. There's a lot of purpose to it. It's good. It's real good.

SYLVESTER: Your commanders are a little younger, though, right?

B. RODGERS: That's right. That's true.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The family moved to Washington, D.C., but it's still a challenge trying to make all of the pieces fit.

K. RODGERS: I love what I do, and I love being a mom. And it's a constant juggling act. Some days I feel like I'm handling it better than other days.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Becoming a parent has given her a new outlook. Having a child with a disability has given her a new objective.

K. RODGERS: Want a bite? There you go.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): She's the co-founder of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus.

K. RODGERS: You want to be the best parent possible.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): McMorris Rodgers wants a new law that would let the parents of children with disabilities set up tax-free accounts, similar to a 401(k) retirement plan or a 529 college savings plan.

K. RODGERS: And just help them whether it is maybe through furthering their education or housing or transportation needs that they might have. It just would give them some more resources to hopefully be as independent as possible and the ABLE Act would help them achieve that.

Yes, you did.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): It's an issue that unites even political opposites.

K. RODGERS: Good job.

I met the lobbyist for the Sierra Club. On most issues, I'm not on board with the Sierra Club, and yet he has his two sons with Down syndrome, and he said, you know what, I want to work you on these issues.

These are really tough numbers.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): To the world she's a rising star in the GOP.

K. RODGERS: What are you doing here, bud?

SYLVESTER (voice-over): But at home she's Mommy.

K. RODGERS: What does this say up here?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER: The ABLE Act stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience. It would change the IRS code to set up special savings accounts for families with disabilities, and it has support on both sides of the political aisle.

Among the supporters, Democrat Representative Chris van Holland and Republican Representative Pete Sessions, who also has a son with Down Syndrome -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good story.

Thanks, Lisa.