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THE SITUATION ROOM
Suspected Al Qaeda Terrorists Arrested; Special Envoy to Syria Resigns; Unprecedented Funding Fueling Presidential Race; Reaching out to Middle Class; Candidates' Wives; Ebola Virus Outbreak; Putin Visits Britain
Aired August 2, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, HOST: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a possible Al Qaeda plot to attack an American base in Spain busted wide open.
Also, a disturbing outbreak of a killer virus. We go to the epicenter of a spreading Ebola outbreak. It's a CNN exclusive.
And Mitt Romney rolls out his plan to help America's middle class, but is anyone listening?
We'll talk about that and more with a top campaign adviser.
Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Candy Crowley.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It's being called ozone of the biggest operations against Al Qaeda in Spain. Officials in that country have arrested three suspect -- three suspected terrorists armed with explosives who may have been plotting an attack on a U.S. naval base.
Our CNN senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is following developments from London -- Nic, what are you picking up?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, what we're hearing is that two of these men are Al Qaeda operatives who had had training in Afghanistan and Pakistani Al Qaeda training camps. One of them -- they were both believe -- believed to be Chechens, the other believed to be of Turkish origin.
And the police are saying when they raided this Turkish man's flat, they did find some explosives, that the canine sniffer dogs they took in there with them to detect explosives discovered a tiny hidden compartment, a hidden room. And the dogs apparently went quite crazy in there, indicating that there were a lot -- there had been a lot of explosives there, but they had been moved out.
And we also understand that at least two of these men, the two with Al Qaeda training, one was an expert in chemicals, in bomb make -- in -- in making bombs. They had both had bomb making training, but they had both been training, as well, using motorized paragliding aircraft. And the indications are they might have been able -- trying to mount an airborne type of attack -- Candy.
CROWLEY: So, Nic, I'm not sure I understand. They -- they think there are explosives missing because the dogs picked up a scent in a different room?
How do we know they're not the same -- they just didn't move the explosives within that apartment?
ROBERTSON: You know, that's possible. And the police obviously are not going to rule that out. But -- but one of the things here in this case that the police have told us is that they've been tracking these guys for about a month. Two of them had crossed from France into Spain. The Spanish saying they've had help from outside intelligence agencies. They've been monitoring them for a month now. And there appears to have been an eavesdropping device in this apartment.
The -- the Turkish man who lived in the apartment is supposed to have -- or believed to have told his Moroccan wife to clean the apartment. She was picked up on a phone call with one of these audio bugs saying that she had cleaned the apartment, which gives the police the belief that she hadn't cleaned it for dust, that she'd cleaned out explosives there.
And the dogs went particularly crazy in this room, we're told. So the real indication is the dogs have figured out there was a lot more. It was in that room and the police are waiting -- worried about it -- Candy.
CROWLEY: It's still missing.
Thanks so much, Nic Robertson, out of London tonight.
Now to Syria, where at least 100 people were killed today in civil war fighting, according to opposition groups.
And in a surprise move the diplomat who's worked for months to stem the bloodshed has resigned.
Joining me now, our Ivan Watson.
He has made his way out of Syria into Turkey -- the biggest development, I think, today, at least on the diplomatic side, Ivan, is that Kofi Annan, who was the special envoy from the U.N. And the Arab League has quit his job trying to find some sort of diplomatic solution to what's going on in Syria.
I know you spent a lot of time with the rebels in recent days. Just from your perspective on the ground, did you ever hear any kind of indication from rebels that a diplomatic solution was, indeed, possible?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do not think so. I think that the position of the armed opposition is that there is no negotiating with the Assad regime. They've seen too many of their brothers, their cousins, their relatives and friends and neighbors killed over the course of the past 17 months and think they cannot trust this regime and there is no other option but for Bashar al-Assad to go.
And, of course, Kofi Annan sent a completely different message in an op-ed piece he wrote in "The Financial Times." He did say that there was no credibility, no legitimacy left, for the Assad regime. But he also said that the -- the opposition had to come to some kind of compromise, that military force alone was unlikely to bring down the Syrian government.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the nature of the opposition, simply because we're also learning that the U.S. is, in fact, helping to provide some sort of covert aid, not weaponry, but that it's also, quote, "vetting rebel groups" to see who should be getting aid from Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Is this some sort of cohesive group?
Is there some way to vet these rebels?
I'm just interested in how one would decide who should get weaponry.
WATSON: There does seem to be some kind of a system for rationing out the ammunition and the weapons. I've met -- I could call him a quartermaster, I guess -- who receives weapons from across the border, from Turkey. And he complained that he was constantly under pressure from the scores of different rebel groups, all coming to him asking for more guns and more ammunition. And he said that he had to answer to a higher military council that he said was based in Turkey, that they were saying which rebel group got which weapons and he had to follow their lead.
We know that these weapons are coming from Turkey. And Syria and Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been named as two of the sponsors, basically, whether it's through money or weaponry, for this aid that's coming to the rebels. So there seems to be some system to try to control the flow of weapons and who it goes to. And it clearly irritates some of these fighters, that they're not getting as much as they think they need to get.
CROWLEY: And just lastly on the -- on the idea of U.S. covert aid. Again, we have no reason to believe that we're talking about weapons from the U.S., perhaps humanitarian aid, other things.
Do you see any signs on the ground of any kind of U.S. input or influence in Syria within the rebel confines?
WATSON: I know there have been contacts. And I think there have been promises of assistance and perhaps some, I don't know, communications devices have come through. But I have not seen any concrete things that I can point to to say that -- that the U.S. is helping the opposition inside Syria.
And that's generated a great deal of ill will. It doesn't take long for anybody who supports the opposition in Syria to denounce Bashar Al-Assad. They do that with pretty much every breath. But there's also an incredible alout -- amount of anger at the U.S. for talking and saying that the Assad regime should -- should come down, but -- but not offering any help whatsoever, to the point that some Syrians have developed an entire conspiracy theory. They think the U.S. actually secretly wants to keep Assad in power and that it is putting a country like Russia in a position to -- to -- to basically hide behind in the U.N. Security Council as a way to keep Bashar al-Assad in power.
And that's -- that says something about the psychology of these people, after 17 months of killing, after seeing, I don't know, more than 17,000 people killed and untold hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, displaced.
CROWLEY: Ivan Watson for us tonight safely in Turkey. Thanks, Ivan.
WATSON: Thanks, Candy.
CROWLEY: Let's dig deeper with Andrew Tabler.
He's a senior fellow at the Washington Institute and author of "In the Lion's Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington's Battle with Syria."
Let -- let me just pick up on that first -- that last point that Ivan made, which is this anger that the rebels have at the U.S. for not doing more.
We have sent, apparently, some humanitarian aid. It's not enough.
How does this bode for future relations should the rebels take charge?
ANDREW TABLER, SENIOR FELLOW, THE WASHINGTON INSTITUTE: It's -- it's going to be absolutely a disaster. The opposition has been calling for assistance from the United States -- and sometimes not even lethal assistance, just more non-lethal assistance. It just hasn't been arriving.
And when it does finally arrive, it's far too little, too late.
And it's a problem, because if our goal is really for President Assad to step aside, not only are we not achieving that quick enough, but, in the end, the entity that -- that -- that will come about in geographic Syria or entities will be hostile to U.S. interests.
CROWLEY: And is it farfetched to believe that -- that the U.S. secretly wants Assad to stay in power?
CROWLEY: It just seems impossible from this vantage point.
TABLER: I don't think the United States government wants Assad to stay in power. I think they want to do, though, like a lot of states, as little as possible to have that come about. They understand that it's an organic movement inside of Syria. But they -- the fact of the matter is, is that this is a grinder conflict. It's going to go on for a long time. It's a mass -- it -- it's just a mass slaughter. And the Obama administration wants to make a decision -- does it want to do something to end it or help end it or not?
CROWLEY: And another thing Ivan said was that he -- the rebels just see no way there's a diplomatic end to this, that they are done with diplomacy.
With Kofi Annan gone, maybe they'll put someone in his place. They're talking about it.
Do you think diplomacy is just dead at this point?
TABLER: It's not that it's dead, it's just that -- that -- I think it comes at the end game. And the -- the end game here is that you have, on the one side, a regime that can't reform and has ruled for 40 years in a tyrannical fashion over a population that's just incredibly young. These two things can't mix. You can't cut the baby in half on this one. That's what Kofi Annan tried to do and that's where he screwed up. And that's the reason why he's resigning.
Now, we'll have to see who else comes in and -- and -- and what happens.
Does -- does the Russian position change now that they can see that the fighting is intensifying against the Assad regime?
CROWLEY: And that's basically what Annan complained about, was that there's no commonality in the U.S. Security Council because of Russia and China.
TABLER: Right. But this is a nonsensical position, because the reason why this conflict is going on isn't because the United States and Russia don't agree, it's because of the way the Assad regime rules over the Syrian people. That's the -- that's the genesis of the problem. And then you deal with the symptoms of it.
To blame it on Russia and the United States is just not accurate.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you about the larger implications of, if we have a civil war that goes on -- and it looks as though it will -- for many, many months to come, in the region and for the U.S., what are the larger implications of that?
TABLER: The problem is, is that when you have a minority regime dominated by Alawites fighting a -- an opposition which is majority Sunni, this conflict very quickly eats down into the sectarian nature of Syrian society and that it's very much like Lebanon. And I think many of your viewers remember the Lebanon war. It went on for 15 years.
So that can set off this kind of chain reaction, because these different sects intersect all over the Middle East. So what starts in Syria can spread to Lebanon. It can spread to Iraq and it can spread elsewhere, not necessarily like wildfire, but slowly, over time, as no one wants to intervene and do anything to end this conflict.
CROWLEY: Let me ask you one last question and that's about this red line, which is the idea that perhaps Bashar al-Assad will, in fact, use the chemical weapons we know he has.
Do you believe the U.S. has somehow conveyed to him, privately, publicly, go across this line, use these chemicals and we're in there?
TABLER: Yes. I was in a -- a hearing yesterday with -- with John Kerry in the Senate. And he said that -- that something like that had been communicated. And it's something, of course, all of us have been calling for.
But here, again, the -- the question is, why not just call -- just say it publicly, like if you step over this line, we are -- we -- you know, we're going to end you.
And unfor -- for some reason, there's a real reticence to do that. And usually when politicians don't outline something clearly, it's because they want wiggle room.
The problem is, in this area (INAUDIBLE)...
CROWLEY: Maybe -- it looks like maybe they don't actually mean it.
TABLER: Exactly. And that's the problem. In the Syrian conflict, we're out of wiggle room now. And that's the problem. Because if we don't -- if we don't really deal with this now, it's going to morph into a much bigger conflict, it's going to affect many more of our interests, including those going ahead of the general election.
CROWLEY: Andrew Tabler, thank you so much for your expertise this evening.
TABLER: Thank you.
CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
Before we go to break, we want to show you some pictures out of Capitol Hill. This might look like an ordinary day, but it is not. It's the beginning of the August recess for both the House and the Senate, I believe. This is the House side you are looking at. So they are off on vacation. Most of them, particularly on the House side, they are off to go and campaign.
Now, they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence your vote -- what do Americans really know about the so- called super PACs?
They're a mystery to many.
Plus, the candidates' secret weapons, possibly the worst kept secrets of the presidential campaign.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CROWLEY: They have changed the face of the presidential race as we know it, fueling the campaigns with unprecedented amounts of cash. Yet according to a new "Washington Post"/ Pew Research Center survey, nearly four in ten Americans say they've never heard anything at all about so-called Super PAC spending. That's compared with 36 percent who say they've only heard a little.
Joining us now, "Time" deputy Washington bureau chief, Michael Crowley. No relationship. "Time's" new cover is "How To Buy The White House." "Time" a sister publication of CNN. So, we have -- you and I talk Super PACs everyday, God help us, and do they really have -- we know it's super-sized money, but is there super-sized power?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, TIME DEPUTY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think there is a lot of power. Obviously, there's so much money in this campaign that even a Super PAC that has hundreds of millions of dollars is only a small part of a presidential election that could cost $2.5 billion. It's pretty amazing. And the big money will come from the candidates, the Obama and the Romney campaign.
So, they are still the biggest players here. But, Candy, the Super PACs can make a difference on the margins. And that can be pretty significant, particularly what everyone knows is going to be a very close race.
So, it's possible that without the Super PAC machine that Karl Rove and some other Republican Party elders who I wrote about in this week's issue, it's possible that without their efforts and all the money they're raising, Mitt Romney would be outspent by the Obama campaign. And Democrats would have a funding edge. What Rove and these guys have done is really it's the Calvary that's riding to Romney's rescue.
And at the end of the day when this election comes, you may have more Republican spending than Democratic spending. And again, in an election where the fundamentals are pretty close, it's going to be a close election, I think really the final answer to your question, the influence can be pretty outsized because that small margin of money could tilt the balance.
CANDY CROWLEY: And so, it was the lesson of the McCain campaign. He was so outspent by President Obama who didn't use PAC money but was outside the system while McCain's stayed within the federal system on election spending. So, they used that lesson to kind of propel themselves into these huge groups that spend all of this money.
And I think you're right that over the summer, certainly, you could make a case that they have saved Mitt Romney, who's out of money.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Yes. I'm glad you mentioned that. Mitt Romney right now, he has a fair amount of money. When you look at, you know, just the number in his bank account, it's quite large. But what a lot of people may not understand is he can't spend a lot of that money until after he is officially the Republican Party nominee.
We think of the primaries as being over, but in legal terms, not until the convention in Tampa at the end of this month, does he officially become the nominee, and that allows him to start spending a lot of money that was given to him under the rules as general election money. But his primary money, he is mostly spent.
So, actually, he's kind of cash poor right now. Some Republicans in reporting my story, I learned that they called us the interregnum, that period where Romney is kind of spent out on his primary dollars, can't defend himself with the big bucks that he wants. So, the super PACs can step in and do that for him.
So, this is, actually, their moment of greatest influence, arguably, where they are defending Romney from an Obama campaign onslaught, because Romney has money he can't spend for several more weeks.
CANDY CROWLEY: Right. And we have no idea what would have happened had they not been up on the air for Romney at this point. Right now, we know he's pretty much even. Explain to folks as you do in this magazine, I think, if you want to understand it, you ought to get "Time," and I would say that even if you weren't a sister network.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Thank you, Candy. I believe that.
CANDY CROWLEY: The fact is explain to folks what the danger is here. Why is everyone sending up -- not everyone, it's mostly Democrats, at this point, sending up the red alert.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Well, that's right. But I think in large part because the problem that Democrats and watchdog groups are identifying and complaining about is large amounts of money from individual donors that is not very transparent, in many cases, doesn't have to be disclosed at all.
Now, you might have some people say, you know, this is not that bad, and money should come into the system, and it's not nefarious, but the danger that people would argue is that you're going to have very wealthy Americans who have a disproportionate influence on the way this campaign runs, number one.
So, the billionaires who are giving donations of $5 million or $10 million or more, Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas, for instance, those people have this tremendous influence over the campaign, and they can help to fund these enormous advertising campaigns that most ordinary Americans can only give us small amount of money.
CANDY CROWLEY: They can't coordinate with the campaign.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: They can't be coordinated with the campaigns, that's right. So, they're almost on a parallel track, but the other problem with this Candy is some people would argue is that some of that money doesn't have to be disclosed. Now, there are different rules for different groups.
There's not time to really break it down now if you can read my story or go online and look at other sources, but some donors could be given tens of millions of dollars and it would never have to be reported as long as it was spent in certain ways, the groups that used and followed certain rules. So, you may never know that some billionaire gave $50 million.
Now, Mitt Romney may not know that that person gave all that money to some group, because there's no coordination, but you better believe a lot of other important people in the Republican Party will know that. And the question is, will that donor get any favorable treatment down the road?
By the way, wealthy people are giving to Democratic groups, also, I should mentioned, but just not nearly as much. So, it's more relevant on the Republican side.
CANDY CROWLEY: Probably, that will even up, I would, guess in the next election.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: I think, particularly, based on the outcome of this one, we'll see what happens, but the side that loses is going to ramp it up for sure.
CANDY CROWLEY: Absolutely. Michael Crowley, "Time" magazine, thank you.
MICHAEL CROWLEY: Thank you, Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY: More than 80 million Facebook users may not be real. I suspected that. Just ahead, details on the social media giant's startling new revelation.
Plus, unbelievable video of a car smashing through a convenience store. We'll tell you how it happened here in the SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's human nature to invent, right? It's human nature to try to make your life better. It's human nature to try to make the world around you a better place. And what thought people (ph) is to actually do that and execute on all those ideas. It's really freaking hard.
Good ideas shouldn't find their ways onto shelves because they're the ideas of people with the right luck or circumstance. They should find their ways onto shelves because they're just great ideas. That's it. Plain and simple.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY: You are looking at the famous beam signed by president and Mrs. Obama, New York City Mayor Bloomberg, and others being raised to the 105th floor and put into place at one World Trade Center.
More headlines less than two minutes away, including some very excited fans of The Who. They're getting a big reward for saving tickets from a late 1970s concert.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Never even thought that this day would come. And finally, it paid off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CANDY CROWLEY: A violent typhoon that killed 23 people in the Philippines is battering parts of Taiwan and China. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what do you have?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Candy, the storm packing winds of nearly 100 miles per hour killed five people in Taiwan, triggering landslides, and heavy flooding before making its way to China. The military helped more than 1,000 people flee the area. Meteorologists are also watching another typhoon forecast to hit about 150 miles north of shanghai.
Facebook is revealing more than eight percent of its 955 million users, about 83 million people, may not be real. According to company filings, some accounts have either been dubbed duplicates, misclassified, or undesirable, meaning they don't meet Facebook's terms of service. Now, the report comes just as the social media giant's stock hit an all-time low on Wall Street today.
Take a look at this. Unbelievable video of a car plowing through a convenience store, knocking the clerk more than 15 feet back. This happened in Navasota, Texas. The driver of the car reportedly mistook the gas pedal for the brake and was arrested for intoxication assault. Now, the clerk was treated at an area hospital after last week's incident and is said to already be back at work.
And fans of "The Who" are finally getting their chance to see the concert they missed 33 years ago. According to CNN affiliate, WPRI, the mayor of Providence, Rhode Island, canceled the 1979 concert because of safety concerns. The band is now honoring those original tickets which sold for $14 each.
The new concert date is set for February of 2013. And you know, Candy, ten ticketholders still had those tickets from 33 years ago.
CANDY CROWLEY: We were talking about, somebody said that's just amazing they still have them. I said, no, it's amazing they can find them.
CANDY CROWLEY: Thanks very much, Mary Snow.
SNOW: Sure. CANDY CROWLEY: Appreciate it.
Good jobs, better pay, Mitt Romney is courting the middle class. We'll talk about that and the controversy over his tax returns and more with his senior advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom.
Plus, the not so secret weapons campaigns are increasingly rolling out. Who knew the candidates had wives?
CROWLEY: They're the voters he needs to win in November. And today Mitt Romney made a new overture to America's middle class, listing policies he says will make life better for them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (INAUDIBLE) they need a president that's going to go to work to help the American people have good jobs and better take-home pay and I will. And we're going to get it done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: Let's talk about that and more with Eric Fehrnstrom, senior adviser to the Romney campaign. So I know you're all out there pushing this middle class tax plan. You've heard the president say, listen, the tax plan's going to hit the middle class, not help them. But I want to get beyond dueling studies. I know you don't believe in that study. I want to ask you about some poll numbers here, something you well know about.
This was an NBC/Wall Street Journal" poll, who would be better at looking out for the middle class, Barack Obama 49 percent, Mitt Romney 33 percent. What is it that is new that you are pushing today and going forward that you think is going to attract folks to believe that you actually are for the middle class?
ERIC FEHRNSTROM, SENIOR ADVISER, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Sure. Well first, Candy, you've seen all the economic reporting lately. Job -- monthly job losses are weakening. GDP is shrinking. Retail sales are weaker than expected.
FEHRNSTROM: And just yesterday we learned that manufacturing has declined for the second month in a row. This economy is not just down shifting, we are moving into reverse and Mitt Romney --
CROWLEY: So what is your big plan for the middle class?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, Mitt Romney laid it out in detail today. There are five areas where he has specific proposals around strengthening trade, around reforming education, around increasing energy production, cutting the deficit, and of course encouraging small businesses. And I think the question that you should be asking is not where is Mitt Romney's plan, because he laid it out in detail today. Where's the president's plan? I think it's shameful that we have a sitting president, Candy, who doesn't have a policy agenda for his second term. All he has is a short list of rehashed proposals that have already been tried and failed.
CROWLEY: I will certainly ask the president when he comes on. But right now that I have you, let me talk about Mitt Romney's plan. When you say you've laid out specifics, there are still lots of holes here you know that might be important to voters when they go into that booth. If you're going to reform the tax code, what sort of things -- what sort of tax loopholes would Mitt Romney get rid of? That's not spelled out.
CROWLEY: You say you're going to cut non-security discretionary spending by five percent. What exactly, so there's these big holes. Don't you think that some of those ought to be filled in for voters?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think there's one feature of Governor Romney's plan that the middle class will find very attractive. And that's his proposal to eliminate taxes on investment income for those making less than 200,000 a year. So if you're middle class, this will encourage you to save. You won't have to pay taxes on your dividends, your capital gains or your interest income. Look, the middle class has been that group of Americans that has been most deeply affected by this bad Obama economy. And Governor Romney has specific proposals that are aimed at strengthening the middle class and creating jobs for them and for all Americans.
CROWLEY: You know Governor Romney is selling his business credentials that you all have outlined in lots of ads and on the stump (ph). The president is more vulnerable on the economy than any president in modern history. And yet you tend to be trailing him in most of these polls. Something has not caught on, Eric. What is it going to take from you all to rev this up for Mitt Romney?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I don't know what polls you're referring to. The polls that I've seen --
FEHRNSTROM: -- show an extremely tight race. And by the way, it's tight despite the fact that this president has outspent Mitt Romney three-to-one. And the ads that the Obama campaign are running are overwhelmingly negative. But it hasn't done the trick. They haven't been able to separate from Mitt Romney. And I think the reason is because they recognize in Mitt Romney the right person with the capacity to lead on jobs and the economy and by the way, a person who has a plan. The president doesn't have a plan. And I think that should be of great concern to all Americans.
CROWLEY: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as you know has been out talking a lot about Governor Romney's taxes. He would like to have him release more than the two -- the one he already has and the other that he says will be coming. Here's what Senator Reid said on the Senate floor this morning. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The word's out that he hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes because he hasn't.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So Senator Reid says that Mitt Romney hasn't paid taxes. Have you talked to your candidate? Did he pay taxes in all the previous years, 10, 15, 20 years out?
FEHRNSTROM: Sure. First let me address the majority leader's comments. I think they're shameful. They're pathetic. They're baseless and untrue. I don't think it's any coincidence that on the day that Mitt Romney is talking in detail about his plans to revive this economy the Obama campaign sends out the majority leader to engage in McCarthy-like accusations about Mitt Romney. You know, four years ago Barack Obama said he was going to come to Washington and change the politics of that city.
Instead the Obama campaign has turned into a bottomless pit. Everyday they seem to reach a new low. We've already stated for the record that Mitt Romney has never zeroed out his tax liability. He has always paid 100 percent of what was owed. He's put out hundreds of pages of tax return information. He's put out the complete 2010 return. He's putting out the 2011 return once it's complete and filed. That's two years worth of tax return information that he is not required to produce by law and yet he's doing it.
It's consistent with what the last Republican nominee put out. So the governor has provided plenty of disclosure. But I do think it's shameful for the majority leader of the Senate to engage in this type of -- these types of (INAUDIBLE) accusations.
CROWLEY: You know, Eric, though you could get him to stop. I've heard the McCarthy reference a couple of times. And I understand where you all are coming from and why you say that. But the difference here is that you could actually prove him wrong with the tax releases. You want to be out here talking about his plans for the middle class and we did do that. But also need to be asking these sorts of questions. You could stop these questions by releasing the tax forms.
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I hope you're not conceding to the despicable tactics that the majority leader is engaging in --
CROWLEY: No. I'm just asking if you --
FEHRNSTROM: I will --
CROWLEY: -- could stop them it seems to me pretty easily.
FEHRNSTROM: I -- I -- I will say this, is that Mitt Romney has been in the public eye for many years. He has provided financial disclosure going back to 2002 when he was a candidate for governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We have posted all the disclosures from his governorship years as well as the disclosures that he's filed as a federal candidate, all of which are required by law. But then he's gone above and beyond what is required by law and he's put out hundreds of pages of tax return information.
FEHRNSTROM: Those too have been published on the Web and they're available for anybody to go see including Harry Reid.
CROWLEY: OK. A one-word answer here, are we going to get the VP selection this week?
FEHRNSTROM: Well, I'll tell you, you'll get it before the convention --
CROWLEY: Gee, thanks a lot.
FEHRNSTROM: I don't come to you with any news or information about VP.
CROWLEY: Thanks so much, Eric Fehrnstrom, senior Romney adviser, I really appreciate your time this afternoon.
FEHRNSTROM: Thank you, Candy.
CROWLEY: A CNN exclusive inside the hospital at the epicenter of a new Ebola virus outbreak. We get an up-close look at the extraordinary precautions. And everyone knows the candidates are married, so why are their wives constantly referred to as secret weapons?
CROWLEY: They may be the best thing the presidential candidates have going for them with the battle for the White House getting so ugly. CNN's John Berman has a closer look at a not so secret weapon, the wives.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Candy, we're getting into crunch time in these elections, which means the candidates are rolling out all of their big guns, the conventions, VP announcements, bus tours, but unless you look really closely, you'll miss the secret battle going on with secret methods, so secret the candidates are married to them.
BERMAN (voice-over): Michelle Obama, front and center at the Olympic Games. Ann Romney, shining on her husband's world tour, photo-ops, interviews, a special week for special spouses.
BERMAN: But whatever you do, don't tell anyone because no one is supposed to know they exist. It's a secret. Headline, "Michelle Obama is revealed as Barack Obama's secret weapon". Headline, "Ann Romney, why Mitt Romney's wife is his secret weapon".
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Obama's secret weapon is Michelle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mitt Romney's secret weapon is Ann.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've already unveiled their secret weapon.
BERMAN: Not just weapons but secret weapons.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Women are talking about jobs --
BERMAN: Apparently the world didn't know these candidates were married or for that matter, any candidate ever. Headline, "Heinz Kerry seen as secret weapon". Headline, "Wife is Dole's secret weapon".
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Republicans are increasingly rolling out their secret weapon, popular first lady, Barbara Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you look at yourself as a secret weapon in this campaign?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
BERMAN: At least she knew she was married. In truth it's a pretty safe bet the only president never to marry, James Buchanan. Guess he didn't have any secrets. They're all married. Let's just say the secret is out. But just because it's not so secret, it doesn't mean it's not so effective. Political spouses in general have very high net favorability ratings. Michelle Obama, plus 40, Laura Bush, plus 57, Elizabeth Dole, plus 23.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BERMAN: They often outpace their mates. They often add key insight on important subjects. The women's vote could be key in this election. Team Obama is attacking Mitt Romney on so-called women's issues.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We believe in America.
BERMAN: Mrs. Romney provides some defense. She also helps soften up the rigid image of her husband. Remember this radio interview?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have to fight back some criticism like my husband isn't stiff, OK?
ANN ROMNEY: Well, you know, I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not.
BERMAN: So, yes, they might be good on the trail, but, no, they are not secret. And one more thing, they're not on the ballot.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BERMAN: Yes. It's a shame the world never heard of such secret figures as Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan. It should be said Michelle Obama is campaigning for her husband today in North Carolina, so I guess the secret is finally out -- Candy.
CROWLEY: That it is, our John Berman, thank you.
A spreading outbreak of a killer virus, we go to the hospital at the center of it all. It's a CNN exclusive and coming up in our new 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour, just how strong is al Qaeda right now? We'll ask our own panel of experts.
CROWLEY: It is one of the world's most lethal, most frightening viruses, marked by bleeding from body openings including the eyes and there is growing fear that an Ebola outbreak in Uganda is spreading with 30 suspected cases now reported. CNN's David McKenzie has an exclusive report from the epicenter of the outbreak where health workers are taking extraordinary precautions.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ministry of Health (INAUDIBLE) come into this hospital in Kagati (ph). They brought three men, two of them were wearing gloves, sitting up, and the other was prone, on a bed, obviously in great distress. What they do is they take them into this hospital like this and then they have to spray and actually I can see through the fence, spraying all over his face, his body, even the mattress, anything that was in that location where they found this suspected case has to be disinfected.
Then they move on to where the health workers all in full protective gear. They have to register the patient, taking him to a general ward, and then send a blood test (INAUDIBLE) Lake Victoria (ph). There they can get a sense whether the person has Ebola or not. But you can just see the level of protection people need to deal with these cases. That's why this outbreak is so crucial to stamp out in the next few days. And health officials say that you know the Ebola cases could increase. And so it takes brave health workers like that to bring cases in and try and stabilize patients.
David McKenzie, CNN, Kagati (ph), Uganda.
CROWLEY: Wow. In London, one Olympic visitor drew some of the attention off of games, Russian President Vladimir Putin. CNN's senior international correspondent Matthew Chance is there.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well this is the first visit to Britain by Vladimir Putin for five years. And this time it was only arranged at the last minute after it emerged according to (INAUDIBLE) officials that the Russian president would be attending the Olympic Judo Finals here in London, is of course a big judo fan. But clearly the two leaders have a great deal to discuss officially, the talks focused on trade. That's indeed what they discussed inside that half an hour or so meeting inside (INAUDIBLE) Downing Street (ph).
But the conflict in Syria was also high on the agenda. Now this is an area where Britain and Russia are at odds, Britain along with other western powers has been pushing for resolutions at the United Nations Security Council. That's to pressure the regime of Bashar Al-Assad. And Russia has essentially been blocking those resolutions, something that's been immensely frustrating for British officials. But here today they said there were areas where they could potentially cooperate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And we spoke also a lot about Syria. We made notice of the fact that the Russian things that we see eye to eye identically. And we agree to continue working to find a viable solution on that matter and we agreed to entrust our foreign affairs ministries to go on with that, search for a viable solution.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHANCE: Well as well as Syria, there's also the issue of human rights. There is concern that Russia may be quickening its slide towards authoritarianism and concerns highlighted this week with the (INAUDIBLE) of three members of a Russian female punk band "Pussy Riot" (ph) are critical of Vladimir Putin, and they're facing a lengthy prison sentence. That didn't make the final statement. The Olympics did though with Vladimir Putin congratulating Britain on what he called the wonderful and unforgettable spectacle of the opening ceremony. Both leaders then went onto the judo finals and despite the issues between them, the British prime minister joked that they would be spectators, not participants.
Matthew Chance, CNN, London.
CROWLEY: An alarming close call for three planes that got dangerously close to each other at Washington's Reagan National Airport. We'll go there live in our brand new 6:00 p.m. hour.
CROWLEY: A couple reportedly stoned to death for committing adultery. Mary Snow is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Candy it happened in the Islamist controlled northern part of Mali where members of the group say the man and woman were forced into two holes and repeatedly pelted with rocks. The radical Islamic group believes in Sharia (ph) law which condemns relationships outside of marriage. Mali has been in a state of chaos since military coup in March. Earnings at General Motors have fallen sharply due to the European debt crisis, though they still managed to top forecasts. The auto giant is reporting profits are down 41 percent from a year ago to $1.5 billion. Chrysler is the only one of the major U.S. automakers that hasn't been affected by European economic woes.
A state of emergency has been lifted in upstate New York after a major fire broke out at a recycling plant containing hazardous materials. According to affiliate YNN Albany, officials had advised anyone within a 15-mile radius to stay indoors while the air quality in the area was tested. No fatalities or injuries have been reported.
And sadly, a hippo believed to be the world's oldest in captivity has died. CNN affiliate WFIE reports that Donna who came to an Indiana zoo back in 1956 was humanely euthanized due to her failing health. The 62-year-old hippo was the mother of eight children and she managed to outlive all of them -- Candy.
CROWLEY: Mary Snow thank you so much. And thank you all for watching us. THE SITUATION ROOM continues now with Kate Bolduan.