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Report: Ousted Egyptian Pres. Suffers Stroke, Mubarak "Clinically Dead"?; Egypt Presidential Election

Aired June 19, 2012 - 17:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The former Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, reportedly suffers a stroke, has to be shocked back to life after his heart stops. This, as angry protests are sweeping the site of the historic revolution that ousted him from power.

Thousands and thousands of people have gathered right now at Tahrir Square opposing what they see as a military coup following the country's first presidential election.

Let's go straight to Cairo. CNNs Ivan Watson is watching all of this unfold. Ivan, the pictures are so dramatic. I want to get to those protests in a moment, but what's the very latest on Hosni Mubarak's condition?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are conflicting reports about whether or not he's been moved to a military hospital. His lawyer says he has. The prosecutor's office and the ruling military council here denies that.

Basically, the prosecutor's office first told us that he'd had some kind of a heart attack and he'd been resuscitated with CPR and electric shocks and was being examined and was now on an artificial respirator.

But I think you'll find a lot of Egyptians are going to be very skeptical about this and suspicious that the authorities are crying, Wolf, because there have been so many false alarms about Mubarak's health and about health emergencies since he was first brought up on charges of murder, basically, of killing protesters in this very square a year ago.

Many Egyptians probably suspicious that this may be yet another gambit to try to get him to escape his life prison sentence after he was convicted of being an accomplice to killing protesters in the uprising a year and a half ago that ousted him from power.

BLITZER: Ivan, what has brought all these thousands and thousands of people back to Tahrir Square right behind you right now?

WATSON: Well, a celebration. These are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, who has claimed victory with 52 percent of the vote. Unofficial results, I might add (INAUDIBLE). Part of this is also, though, a protest at recent moves by the military council which assumed control of the government after Mubarak stepped down a year and a half ago. And within the last week has grabbed a wide ranging both legislative and executive powers in what critics have claimed is basically a self-coup d'etat. They dissolve parliament last weej right before voters going to the polls and before the votes were even finished being counted Sunday night. The military issued a decree saying -- assuming more powers that the newly elected president will have to consult with them first before acts of war and also assuming controls of state budgets as well.

Jimmy Carter has come out today with criticism of his (ph) saying that basically the ruling military council was reneging on its pledge to transfer power to a civilian elected government. And all this has taken place without a constitution in place here.

And that has also been criticized by a number of different fields, including by these people here who are accusing the military council of defanging (ph), basically, neutering the posted president before the man is even declared victorious -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a situation unfolding, Ivan. We'll check back with you. Thanks very much.

I want to dig a little bit deeper into what's going on. CNNs Hala Gorani is joining us now from the state department. Hala, spent a lot of time in Cairo over the years watching the situation unfold. We're supposed to get the final results of this presidential election, Hala, on Thursday. It looks like the Muslim Brotherhood candidate is going to win.

I know officials where you are at the state department aren't thrilled about that, but what's the reaction? What are you picking up about the U.S. reaction to this drama unfolding? I know officials aren't very happy about the military in effect taking charge either.

HALA GORANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, there are, I think, many questions still up in the air, Wolf, and this is really the takeaway from today. It seems like every single day brings breaking news. You know, the likes of which we didn't see for decades in Egypt every single day.

So, now, we have this news that Mubarak -- Hosni Mubarak, the former strong man, has been move to a hospital in Maadi. This is something that we've just learned, that he's been transferred to the Maadi military hospital on order of SCAF. Now, that is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt, and this is according to Mubarak's own lawyer, Farid el-Deeb.

But as Ivan was mentioning there, there is still some confusion exactly as to which hospital he might have been moved to, whether or not he's going to be transferred to another hospital, whether he's going to be treated at the Maadi military hospital and then taken back to Tora prison. But the big question is, right now, what's going on in Egypt?

You have the dissolution of parliament. You have the military now issuing addendums to the constitution giving themselves extra power. And then, you have two presidential candidates who are both saying that they believe they've won this presidential race. All the while, people in Tahrir Square once again angry with what's going on and very confused.

And I think you're seeing that from the United States as well. Just wait and see what is going to happen. And on the streets in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt, will there be more violence? I think that's also a big question, Wolf.

BLITZER: And certainly up in the air right now, by all accounts, basically, what I'm hearing that $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military assistance to Egypt if, in fact, if the military were to launch some sort of form coup d'etat. That money could disappear pretty quickly, but what are you hearing over there?

GORANI: Well, we heard from the state department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, yesterday, that based on what SCAF, and I'm talking about the military here does, that will determine how the U.S. then interacts with the military leaders in Egypt but without providing more detail. So, this also leaves the door open to interpretation.

So, the uncertainty isn't only in Egypt. It's also with regards to how the United States is going to relate to the military rumors in Egypt. It is very much wait and see situation. But this uncertainty and this vacuum, in some cases, in that country is really worrying some people because this is a country of more than 80 million, the most populous Arab country that went through a revolution.

And now, there is no constitution, no parliament, the military grabbing powers, and two people claiming they're president. So, yes, it is a very uncertain situation. And I do believe the U.S. cannot afford to lose Egypt as an ally. But they're going to have to be very careful if, indeed, there's a power grab by the military, wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. As I like to say, the stakes are clearly enormous. Hala, don't go too far away. The protests are coming amid what are now dueling declarations, as Hala just pointed out, of victory after a rather contentious run-off election.

The final outcome of this bruising political battle could have enormous implications for the U.S. position in the Middle East, particularly, if the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate comes out on top. Brian Todd is taking a closer look at this part of the story, and what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, not long ago, this man was considered the spare tire candidate, the back up, as you will. But when the Muslim Brotherhood's leading man was barred from competing, Mohamed Morsi became the group's top choice for Egypt's president. He is now in position to possibly take that job. And that's got western leaders concerned.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): Analysts say the prospect that Mohamed Morsi could be Egypt's next president might be unsettling to the U.S. and its allies.

ERIC TRAGER, WASHINGTON INST. FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: In person, he's quite hostile towards westerners and consistently says that he wants Egypt to be an Islamic state and has very unpleasant things to say about key American interests including the treaty with Israel.

TODD: Eric Trager was in Egypt during the Arab spring and has interviewed Mohamed Morsi. He says Morsi wouldn't rip up Egypt's treaty with Israel but would take a harder line toward Israel than Mubarak did. Trager says Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood want to implement Sharia law.

TRAGER: The brotherhood has indicated that they won't force women to wear the veil or the hijab, but what we've seen in parliament is the brotherhood is trying to, first of all, roll back the laws against sexual harassment, which they have said is due to women's nakedness. And secondly, they've tried to repeal the ban on female genital mutilation.

TODD: Trager says Morsi and the brotherhood see that ban as an intervention in the family. A Muslim brotherhood ally of Morsi's responded.

ABDULMAWGOUD DARDERY, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD PARLIAMENTARIAN: Do you, yourself, believe that? Any democracy would allow this to happen? We're totally against this. We've had women's rights, and Islam has been there for 1,400 years. We're not talking about a new civilization.

TODD: Abdulmawgoud Dardery says Morsi who got a Ph.D. and engineering at the USC and has two children with American citizenship wants to build bridges with the U.S., but there are questions about some of his allies. In this video clip of one of Morsi's rallies, a cleric name Safwat el-Hagazi (ph) calls for a Muslim super state with Jerusalem as its capital and says Morsi will lead them there.

And analysts say Morsi like other Egyptian leaders before him has also pledged to work for the release Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called "Blind Sheikh" serving a life sentence in the U.S. for plotting the unsuccessful 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

DARDERY: You see, we would like to look at it as a legal case if this man has Legal rights, it is his rights. and we're going to support legal rights everywhere in the world.

TODD: I asked Trager a bottom line question for westerners about Mohamed Morsi.

Under his leadership, Egypt is the next Iran?

TRAGER: we might not have an Iran per se. We're more likely to have a Pakistan in which a strong military intervenes in a radical political sphere at-will.

(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on-camera): I put that to Morsi's ally as well. Abdulmawgoud Dardery says if Morsi wins, Egypt will not be like Pakistan or Iran. He says they won't move toward being a theocratic government. That Sharia law isn't scary as many westerners believe. And he says, we shouldn't be listening to people who he called Islam-o phobes, warning aout what Egypt would be like under Mohamed Morsi -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's not forget those, I've pointed out. The U.S. still, the Obama administration provides $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt. It's appropriated by Congress. It's got bipartisan support very often, but that money could be in danger.

TODD: It could be in danger, Wolf. But it also -- there could be even more money in the pipeline for Egypt. That came up again at the state department today. There's $1.3 billion just in military aid to Egypt that's in the pipeline right now. There's another $250 million in other aid to Egypt that is being held right now by U.S. officials while this political situation shakes out.

If that goes through, you could have more than $1.5 billion in aid just to Egypt this year for the United States.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very, very much. We're going to get more on what's going on in Egypt. The deputy prime minister of Israel is here in the SITUATION ROOM. I'll speak with him later this hour.

By the way, he tells me that if the Syrian president, Bashar al- Assad, is committing, quote, -- he tells me flatly the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is committing in his words, genocide, against his own people.

My interview with (INAUDIBLE), the deputy prime minister of Israel, that's coming up this hour.

Also, risky financial bets costing JPMorgan Chase billions of dollars. What would the company CEO possibly be saying to defend the move?

And talk about a great joke from Senator Harry Reid. He repeats a famous quote from baseball's youngest star, the Washington Nationals star, Bryce Harper, and he has everyone laughing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Here is all you need to know about just how worthless Congress is. Of the thousands of measures introduced during the current session, only 132 actually passed and about one in five of those was to approve official names for post offices.

This country's circling the drain when it comes to runaway government spending deficits. Twenty percent of the legislation that got through Congress was to name post offices. What's more, CNN analysis of Congressional records shows the current Congress has worked just as many days as previous congresses.

They just have a lot less to show for it, except naming post offices. The gridlock means the important things that need doing are in limbo. We haven't had a budget in forever. There's been no action on the fiscal cliff that's fast approaching at the end of this year, the debt ceiling's going to have to be raised. The national debt and deficit is out of control.

And these clowns spend their time naming post offices. Experts say it hasn't always been this way. They call the previous Congress exceedingly productive. That was when the Democrats passed Obamacare. Of course, that sparked the fire that led to the Tea Party.

Republicans swept into power in the House in 2010, promising to repeal healthcare reform and crackdown on government waste and abuse. What they've done is named post offices. What they mostly done is slow the pace of government and turn the Congress into the one of the least productive in modern history.

Now, Congress still has six months to redeem themselves, but they won't. There's vacation time, of course, and an election, and a lot of them are campaigning. So, they won't bother to deal with any of the critical issues that face this country until at the earliest after the November election.

Here's the question, one in five measures passed by the current Congress approved names for post offices, how equipped are lawmakers to deal with our country's problems? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.

I personally don't care what the hell they name my post office as long as I can go there and get some stamps and mail my letters.

BLITZER: You know, they're shutting down post offices all over the country, Jack. What's Congress going to do if there's a limited number of post offices left?

CAFFERTY: They may run out of names.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: Thank you.

Let's stay on Capitol Hill right now. There were fireworks today where JPMorgan Chase chief, Jamie Dimon, threw some counterpunches at critics insisting his company is not too big to fail despite a rather embarrassing multi-billion trading loss. CNN aviation and regulation correspondent, Lizzie O'Leary, has been watching all the fun and activity up on Capitol Hill. What are you seeing?

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a slightly different tone that we have last time when he was in front of the Senate, and he got a lot of sort of lovey-dovey questions. This, they wanted to know when did you find out about these problems? He said, we disclosed what we knew as soon as we knew it and had a little bit more of a combative tone in front of the House today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) FINANCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE: You said you have a fortress balance sheet. That assumes some special about the way you are that made us not to worry about, but we can't assume that's going to be the case for every financial institution.

JAMIE DIMON, JPMORGAN CEO: We also said it would be solidly profitable this quarter, so relative to earn --

FRANK: That's not the question. Please don't filibuster.

O'LEARY (voice-over): House hearings are known for being rowdier than the Senate and that was true to form with JPMorgan CEO, Jamie Dimon. The financial reform law that bears Barney Frank's name has been slow to be implemented, and many rules are still unwritten.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you support Dodd-Frank?

DIMON: That's a hard one to say.

O'LEARY: One key rule would forbid banks that take customer deposits from making risky trades for themselves. Banks have lobbied hard against it. But Dimon says the controversial trade that's lost billions would probably still be allowed.

DIMON: There was a hedge that would benefit the company in a terrible stress like Euro Zone.

O'LEARY: JPMorgan spent more than $7.6 million lobbying in Washington last year, its highest amount ever.

DIMON: Lobbying is a constitutional right, and we have the right to have our voice heard.

O'LEARY: Appearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Dimon had the chance to argue his view that a heavy regulatory hand in the U.S. might send customers to competition overseas. It also let him remind Congress that even though his bank is even bigger than it was before the crisis, it's been the bank Washington turns to for help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should we allow you to be so big?

DIMON: JPMorgan's size and capability and diversification in 2008, 2009, and 2010 allowed us continue to do the things you wanted us to do. We never stopped making loans. We bought bearish at the request of United States government. We helped the FDIC fund by buying WAMU.

O'LEARY: Not everyone buys the image of Dimon as savior. This woman, a protester, working with a union contractor says she claims JPMorgan's offices in Houston and says her pay, $8.25 an hour, isn't a living wage.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'LEARY (on-camera): Two things I want to note, number one, JPMorgan is sticking by that trade that lost them billions. They still haven't unwound it yet. They've still got it out there. Number two, Jamie Dimon says he will reveal the full extent of the loss. We still don't know that final number in a couple of weeks when they do their earnings report.

And every time he testifies, actually, the bank seems to do well. The stock was up more than two percent today.

BLITZER: He's obviously a good spokesman for the company.

O'LEARY: He's a good spokesman for the company.

BLITZER: And originally, they said $2 billion loss, then they report $3 billion, $4 billion, we don't know.

O'LEARY: We don't know. We'll know in a couple weeks. He still wouldn't say again today.

BLITZER: Lizzie, thanks very, very much.

I want to show our viewers live pictures of what's going on in Tahrir Square in Cairo right now. Thousands and thousands of people are demonstrating right now amid reports that Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, suffered a critical stroke and maybe, maybe, in a life-threatening condition right now.

Standby. We'll update you on what's going on in Cairo. The impact on the U.S. and the region, enormous.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: this is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: The state-run Middle East news agency in Cairo is now reporting that Hosni Mubarak, the former president of Egypt, in the words of MENA, the Middle East News Agency, is, quote, "clinically dead." We have not independently confirmed that report from MENA, the Middle East News Agency, but we want to bring you that information.

The Middle East News Agency saying that the Egyptian leader, the former Egyptian leader, I should say, is clinically dead. Let's go to CNN's Ivan Watson. He's in Cairo, watching all this dramatic developments unfold. And even as we're reporting this, Ivan, behind you, thousands and thousands of protesters have gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo unrelated to Mubarak directly.

They've got other issues on their agenda, but I wonder if word is spreading there where you are that MENA is reporting that Mubarak is, quote, "clinically dead".

WATSON: Well, we just had a volley of fireworks go off, but I'm not sure yet whether that information is seeping out. What we are seeing is on Egyptian state television bulletins going across saying that Mubarak has been moved from the prison hospital to Maadi hospital and that his health continues to deteriorate there.

And another statement coming across state television saying that efforts are being made to keep him alive right now. So, this is following reports that emerged from the Egyptian prosecutor's office within the last two to three hours saying that he had suffered a heart attack, that he had been revived using electric shocks and CPR and that he was being examined by military doctors.

So, it does seem from reports coming from these official sources as well as from state TV that there seems to have been some kind of serious medical emergency. I think Egyptians will take some of this with a grain of salt because there have been many false alarms to the point that some suggest that they've been crying Wolf, the authorities and his lawyers in the past when it comes to his health.

But, certainly, these kind of reports coming from the Egyptian authorities right now suggesting that there's been a serious health emergency with the former president, Hosni Mubarak. Eighty-four years old and overthrown by protests in this very square a year and a half ago, Wolf.

BLITZER: Standby for a moment, because Hala Gorani is watching all of this unfold. She's covered this story a long time. She's over at the state department. I'm told she's getting some information, and we will get to her shortly, but let me bring in Barbara Starr over at the Pentagon, our Pentagon correspondent.

Barbara, the U.S. military, as you know, has a lot in stake with what's going on in Egypt right now. What are you hearing over there?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are watching this now around the clock, even before this Mubarak health emergency. This is one of the most critical items on the Pentagon agenda. The U.S. provides $1.3 billion in U.S. taxpayer money to Egypt in military aid.

That aid has continued under a waiver agreement even with the Egyptian military in charge. Topping the list of concerns right now at the Pentagon is with all of this going on in Egypt, they want to see the Egyptian military give up power, meet its promise of turning the Egyptian government over to Democracy, over to the people, and the elections that have taken place.

And there has been growing concern for the last several days here at the Pentagon that the Egyptian military might, might not live up to that promise despite their public statements about it. This becomes a very strategic concern for the Obama administration. The Egyptian military is one of the U.S.' historically strongest allies in the Middle East, access to air bases, access to air space, coalition operations with Egyptian troops, everything that you can possibly think of.

That's why the U.S. maintains a military relationship with Egypt. But if the Egyptian military leaders do not give up power under this current latest crisis situation, this will become very problematic. The military aid will be rethought, officials tell us. And they will have to re-think that military relationship.

So, it becomes an issue of how U.S. taxpayer funds are being spent. And it becomes a very key strategic foreign policy issue in the Middle East -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I know that Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, in recent days, has had several conversations, one specific one with the top general in the Egyptian military, General Tantawi, and I assume he was urging General Tantawi -- I don't know if you've heard about this -- to act with restraint in terms of taking military action to curtail the Democratic process in Egypt.

STARR: In just the last couple days, Wolf, Panetta has spoken to Tantawi, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of joint chiefs of staff here, has spoken to his Egyptian counterpart, they are very much continuing to press the case with their Egyptian counterparts for restraint and moving ahead with the return to Democracy in Egypt.

They have been doing this with the Egyptian military leaders, you know, phone call after phone call after phone call and face-to-face meetings for months now. The prestige of the Pentagon is on the line here because this Pentagon cannot continue that military relationship with the Egyptian military if they are going to remain in charge of the government there and not turn it back to Democracy. The status quo cannot continue as it is. This will become a growing problem.

BLITZER: Barbara, stand by. I want Ivan Watson in Cairo to standby. Hala Gorani is getting ready to add to our coverage. We're following the breaking news out of Egypt, not only thousands and thousands of people gathering in Tahrir Square to protest what's going on right now, but there is a report from the state-run Middle East News Agency in Cairo, MENA (ph), a report that the former leader, Hosni Mubarak, 84 years old, is quote "clinically dead". We're seeking confirmation of that. Much more on the breaking news coverage coming out of Egypt right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's a report from the state-run Middle East News Agency in Egypt that the former Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, 84 years old, is in the words of MENA, the Middle East News Agency, clinically dead. This as thousands and thousands of protesters, demonstrators, have gathered at Tahrir Square in Cairo to protest what's going on between the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, apparently at least according to initial reports winning the presidency in elections. We won't know the official results until Thursday.

We've got Ivan Watson standing by in Cairo. But Hala Gorani is joining us from the State Department right now. Hala spent a lot of time in Egypt over the years. Hala you know I want to make sure that we're all skeptical to a certain degree. The Middle East News Agency, MENA, as you and I know, as Ivan knows, sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they don't necessarily get it right. They're now reporting that Mubarak is clinically dead. What's your reaction when you hear that because we have no confirmation from any other source yet?

GORANI: Right and we don't and that's important to underline, Wolf. And also one of the things we have to keep in mind is that we've had many health scares related to Hosni Mubarak over the last several weeks since he was sentenced to life in prison. And even during his trial he would -- of course our viewers will remember these images -- he would be stretchered in wearing dark glasses saying that his health was weak. So oftentimes his health condition was cited as a reason not to imprison him in Tora Prison (ph), but to allow him to remain in what some consider to be a very luxurious hospital suite.

And those who are against that kind of decision because they feel like this is someone who should pay for the crimes he was convicted of and spend the rest of his life in prison in the notorious Tora Prison (ph) where so many opponents of the regime spent so many years in Egypt feel like he should not be allowed to remain in a luxurious hospital suite. Before his trial and during his trial he was able indeed to have visits from his sons, to spend some time with his wife as well. So we do have to be very careful with this information. But according to many sources, there was a serious health situation with Hosni Mubarak today. The question is, is he clinically dead or not -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment. Ivan Watson is in Cairo. He's getting more information as well. What are you picking up, Ivan?

WATSON: That's right. Now our producer, Mohammed Fami (ph), has just spoken with General Modo Shaheen (ph). He's one of the members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been running this country since Mubarak stepped down. Now Shaheen (ph) denies to CNN that Mubarak is clinically dead. He says that Mubarak had a heart attack, that he was transferred by helicopter to the Modi Medical Center (ph) and he then got a brain clot after he had been placed on a respirator. But he went onto say quote "he is not clinically dead as reported, but his health is deteriorating and he is in critical condition." That's coming again from General Modo Shaheen (ph), one of the members of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's be cautious obviously on a sensitive subject like this. I want to bring in Fouad Ajami, the professor, the Middle East scholar. He's joining us on the phone from New York right now. So we're getting some conflicting information, Fouad, MENA, the Middle East News Agency, the state-run news agency in Egypt saying he's clinically dead, Hosni Mubarak, but you just heard one of the top generals say that's not necessarily true. He's obviously in bad, bad shape, but not necessarily clinically dead. What's your reaction to all of this?

FOUAD AJAMI, SENIOR FELLOW, HOOVER INSTITUTION (via phone): You know, Wolf, I think your CNN colleagues have it about right. We should be skeptical and at the risk of being somewhat irreverent in the face of this news item, there's a great (INAUDIBLE) expression I like. And it asks the following question, when you're told that someone is dead, you say is he dead and buried or just dead? I think we are in the middle of this kind of situation.

Mubarak has been ill for a very long time. Mubarak did not want to go to prison. Right out of the trial he thought he would be going back to the hospital. Instead he was sent to prison. And dictators like Mubarak they're good at sending people to prison. They're not good at tolerating the same prisons. I want to really give credence to this report. We have to be fully informed and fully in the know that this man has finally died.

BLITZER: Yes I totally agree. And as I said before, MENA, the Middle East News Agency, sometimes gets it right. Sometimes they don't get it right and here's a little bit of my skepticism, Fouad, and tell me if you think I'm right or wrong. There are elements, senior elements, very high level elements in the Egyptian military who want to protect Hosni Mubarak, who aren't happy with the way it's turned out for him, that he was arrested, convicted, there's sympathy for him. Remember he's a retired U.S. -- excuse me -- Egyptian Air Force general. He's part of the military for all practical purposes even though he led Egypt with an iron hand for all those decades.

AJAMI: You have it absolutely right. Wolf, there's even a movement in Egypt and goes by a name "Forgive Us, Mr. President". There are people who feel that Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled the country, a man in his 80's is due respect and due gratitude. And there are many, many people in Egypt who look at the chaos in Egypt, the chaos outside the revolution as proof positive that actually Mubarak had kept the peace of the country.

And there are many Egyptians and they have a case going for them that if you take a look at Mubarak's record, he kept Egypt out of foreign wars and adventures and they're grateful to him. And many are grateful for the kind of terribleties (ph) he had given the country. So of course it stands to reason that the generals would do all they can to honor their former boss and their former colleague.

BLITZER: Stand by Fouad. I want everybody to stand by. Ivan Watson in Cairo, Hala Gorani is over at the State Department, Barbara Starr is over at the Pentagon. Elizabeth Cohen is getting ready to join us as well. She's going to describe technically what it means when someone is quote "clinically dead", much more of the breaking news coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news out of Egypt. The Middle East News Agency, the official state-run news agency of Egypt, MENA, saying that Hosni Mubarak, the 84-year-old former president of Egypt is quote "clinically dead." No confirmation of that from other sources. In fact, we've got some denials from some high ranking generals in the Egyptian military. They say he did suffer a stroke earlier in the day.

He's in critical condition, has been rushed to hospital. But he's not necessarily clinically dead as MENA, the Middle East News Agency, is reporting. Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, who is watching all of this unfold as well. Clinically dead, when you hear that expression, it has a medical definition, obviously. What does it say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, clinically dead is not a phrase that is commonly used. But when it is used, what it usually means is that someone is brain dead. If you hooked an EEG up to their brain, you would see no real activity. They may still be breathing and blood may be coursing through their veins because they're on a ventilator. So the only way in which they're even vaguely alive is that a ventilator is keeping them breathing. But in the United States we would call this person dead because they have no brain activity.

BLITZER: So that's where we stand right now. All right, once again, Elizabeth, thanks very much. We're watching what's happening on the streets of Cairo right now. Huge numbers of people have come to Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital. Mostly supporters, we're told, of the Muslim Brotherhood. They're critical of the Egyptian military. They're just getting word that MENA, the Middle East News Agency, the official state-run news agency of Egypt reporting that Mubarak, the former leader, is clinically dead. We'll take a quick break. Christiane Amanpour is standing by. We'll get her update when we come back.

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BLITZER: Looking at live pictures of Tahrir Square in Cairo. We're following the breaking news. Not only thousands of people have gathered there. Mostly supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. But also word from the Middle East News Agency, that's the state-run official news agency of Egypt, saying that the former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, is quote "clinically dead", 84 years old. We don't have confirmation of that. In fact, we have some denials coming in from some military officers in Egypt. Let's go to CNN's Ivan Watson. He's on the scene in Cairo right above Tahrir Square. Update our viewers here in the United States and around the world, Ivan, on the very latest we're getting on Mubarak's status.

WATSON: Well, General Modo Shaheen (ph), a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which has ruled Egypt since Mubarak was ousted from power a year and a half ago, and he has denied those reports that Mubarak is clinically dead. He says that the former president, the 84-year-old former president suffered a heart attack. He was revived, placed on a respirator, flown by helicopter to -- at a hospital and suffered a blood clot, that his condition is deteriorating, he's in critical condition, but again that he is not clinically dead.

Now, this story is overshadowing the seismic political changes that Egypt has experienced just in the last week, where you had a presidential election conducted and a constitutional and legislative vacuum, where that same Supreme Council dissolved the recently elected parliament, assumed legislative authorities, and then assumed a number of executive powers that were previously preserved for the post of president, even as the votes were being counted Sunday night.

The Supreme Council, these generals announcing that they are the commander in chief, that they are the minister of defense as well. That whoever is elected president will have to first consult with the Supreme Council before he can do things like declare an act of war or use the armed forces to quell (INAUDIBLE) security threats. And this has been (INAUDIBLE) by critics and by the Muslim Brotherhood whose candidate claims to have won the post of president as a soft military coup. It's one criticism from the U.S. government, a major patron of the Egyptian armed forces and from election observers on the ground here in Egypt -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dramatic developments unfolding in Egypt. Christiane Amanpour is joining us on the phone right now. Christiane, you've been there on many occasions. You've interviewed Hosni Mubarak. What are you hearing? What's your sense about this very, very poignant moment in Egyptian history?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Well Wolf, as you can imagine, rumors of President Mubarak's declining health have been swirling ever since he stepped down. And clearly something critical has happened most recently although it is being denied that he is dead or clinically dead. What we do understand from authorities and from the press here in Egypt is that President Mubarak we were told by the press here had suffered what they described as a stroke earlier this evening.

They described that he had been treated by a defibrillator. They even mentioned that he would be on an artificial respirator and that he was being moved to a military hospital. You remember before the verdict came down on June 3rd of his trial, he had been at a military hospital, after which he was sent to a prison, Tora Prison (ph) in the immediate aftermath of the verdict being read. He was sent to Tora Prison (ph) and this was a situation where sources tell me they did not have the correct medical equipment to deal with Mubarak's declining health.

We understand he has been moved to a military hospital. That he is the top level of the military (ph) right now are denying that he has in fact died, and say that he was saved by medical intervention. So clearly we are waiting to see how this turns out at the same time as what everybody is reporting and what we can see is that there is a rather large political gathering as you can see in Tahrir Square with members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the freedom and justice (INAUDIBLE) and members of the supporters of Ahmed Shabeek (ph), both claiming victory in the latest presidential election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we won't get the results until Thursday, is that right Christiane?

AMANPOUR: That's what we understand that was the formal date, the 21st, for the release of the presidential election results. You know we don't know (INAUDIBLE) but the military has said that it would be (INAUDIBLE) week when we know what has happened. There are -- there are, as you can imagine, lots of television reports going on here in Egypt, and there's two split screens. There is the Mubarak screen and there's the Tahrir Square screen. (INAUDIBLE) moment of great drama for those Egyptians looking at their television, listening to the state-run media, and trying to figure out what's going on. President Mubarak, as you remember, stepped down back in February, February 11th, after 18 days of people here in Egypt and all over the country demanding that he step down. Unlike any of the other Arab leaders in the Arab Spring, he was the one who heeded the voice of his people albeit after 18 days and did step down, and he also unlike any of the Arab leaders has faced trial and faced justice at the hands of his own country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour is in Egypt reporting on what's going on. Christiane we'll get back to you. We'll take a quick break. Much more on the breaking news right after this.

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BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of the breaking news here on CNN. You're looking at live pictures of Tahrir Square in Cairo. Thousands of people have gathered. Many of them Muslim Brotherhood supporters, they're protesting the military's involvement in the democracy project that has been under way in Egypt since the revolution took place a year and a half or so ago. At the same time, there's word from the Middle East News Agency, the official state-run news agency in Egypt that Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian, former Egyptian president, 84 years old, is clinically dead, although there are strong denials coming from military officers, top military commanders, insisting yes, he did suffer a stroke, a blood clot, but he is not, repeat, not clinically dead.

All of this coming only two days before we're supposed to get word on the next president of Egypt, a tight race unfolding there with the Muslim Brotherhood leader winning or someone who was a former member of Mubarak's cabinet. We are watching all of this unfold. We're not going far away. We're staying atop of this story. Huge ramifications for the region, huge ramifications for the United States. Our coverage continues right now with CNN's John King -- John.

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