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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S.: Ex-Soldier Helped Al Qaeda Group; Obama: "Shame on Us if We've Forgotten"; Interview with Senator Johnny Isakson; Guns in America; Mandela in the Hospital; Same-Sex Marriage Cover Controversy
Aired March 28, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, we're following breaking news. Get this -- a former United States soldier has now been arrested and charged with fighting for al Qaeda allies in Syria. Stand by for details.
Angry and emotional, President Obama tries to shame the public and Congress into taking action on gun control.
And of all of the FBI's most notorious cases, the one that, by far, grabs the most attention from the American public has to do with flying saucers.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news right now. A former U.S. soldier now arrested and charged with helping al Qaeda's allies in the Syrian civil war.
Let's go straight to our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty -- Jill, first of all, what's he accused of?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's accused of using a weapon of mass destruction. And in this case, it's an RPG, the rocket-propelled grenades, using them outside of the United States, specifically in Syria.
His name is Eric Harroun. He is 30 years old, apparently from Phoenix. And he is being charged, again, with working with -- fighting with al-Nusrah in Syria. And it's a little bit different, Wolf, because he is working, allegedly, and fighting alongside against the government forces of Bashar al-Assad, in other words on the side of the opposition.
They say he served with the Army -- the U.S. Army -- from 2000 to 2003 and then, most recently, he went into Syria and was part of a team that was using RPGs and other weapons.
So he was arrested Tuesday night by the FBI in a hotel near Dulles Airport. And we'll have to see. It's a very interesting and kind of different case of an American fighting for al-Nusrah --
BLITZER: Al-Nusrah --
DOUGHERTY: -- which, of course, is a terrorist organization --
BLITZER: According to the State --
DOUGHERTY: -- according to the United States.
BLITZER: Yes, the State Department listed al-Nusrah as a terrorist organization affiliated, aligned, in effect, with al Qaeda, as well.
It's important to note, though, Jill, legally speaking, he isn't charged with fighting against Americans specifically, right?
DOUGHERTY: Correct. And I think that's important to point out. Although al-Nusrah was very active in Iraq, and presumably still is, that's -- he is not being charged with attacks on Americans. It's really using those weapons in Syria.
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty will have more on this story, the breaking news coming out. An American ex-soldier now charged, arrested, with helping an al Qaeda group in Syria.
Jill, thanks very much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Shame on us if we've forgotten. I haven't forgotten those kids. Shame on us if we've forgotten.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama made a very, very emotional push for action on gun control today, focusing on the 20 first graders and six educators killed in the December Newtown, Connecticut school massacre. The president said Americans must remember the resolve they felt immediately after the shootings. Recent polls, however, show that just three months after the massacre, public support for major new gun laws has, indeed, dropped.
Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin.
She's working the story for us.
The president was determined, he was passionate today -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
He was. And today, Senator Marco Rubio is the latest Republican to vow a filibuster of some antigun violence legislation. It's the latest obstacle adding pressure to the president's efforts to push for new measures just now three months after the Sandy Hook massacre.
YELLIN (voice-over): Surrounded by mothers of shooting victims, President Obama tried to shame Congress into passing legislation that would curb gun violence.
OBAMA: The notion that two months or three months after something as horrific as what happened in Newtown happens and we've moved on to other things?
That's not who we are.
YELLIN: Next month, the Senate will vote on a measure to expand background checks on gun purchases to make it illegal to buy guns and resell them to criminals and increase funding for school safety.
OBAMA: None of these ideas should be controversial.
Why wouldn't we want to make it more difficult for a dangerous person to get his or her hand on a gun?
YELLIN: On a conference call Wednesday, Vice President Biden assured gun control supporters something will pass.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're on the verge of getting a serious, thorough, universal background check system in place. And it will -- emphasize, it will save lives.
YELLIN: The president pointed out 90 percent of Americans support background checks.
What he didn't mention -- support for stricter gun laws has fallen 10 percent since the Sandy Hook shootings, now at 47 percent, down from 57 percent in December.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My sister loved teaching.
YELLIN: But supporters of gun safety are keeping up the pressure. Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the $12 million ad campaign funded by New York's Mayor Bloomberg, launched this new spot today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got a 911 call that there was a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: Something else the president didn't mention, Wolf. The legislation the Senate will take up next month will not include an assault weapons ban. It also will not include a limit on those high capacity magazine clips the White House once considered so important. Both disappointing developments for gun control advocates.
The president will continue his push for gun control measures. Next week, he has an event on this issue in Denver -- Wolf.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying, Jessica, is that what is most realistic are some tighter background checks, as opposed to some of the other provisions.
YELLIN: That's right. Background checks, at this point, seems to be the bottom line, the most that gun control advocates are going to get right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks.
Jessica Yellin at the White House.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Interesting that support for major gun control has dropped.
So how does that change the politics?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, I think we've seen the numbers heading in that direction since Newtown, when it reached a high. And now it's gone in the other direction.
What we're seeing from the president, really, Wolf, is making an emotional appeal here to Americans not to forget, because that's what happens in our politics, as you know as well as I do. Something happens, polls change and then the polls go back.
So this is really an emotional appeal. And, of course, let's not forget if an assault weapons ban were easy to get, it would have been renewed nine years ago. And it hasn't been. And the president and the vice president understand that this has always been an uphill battle for them.
BLITZER: And the opposition is not just coming from Republicans, but from some Democrats, as well.
BORGER: No, it's coming -- look, there are a handful of red state Democrats, Wolf, who are up for re-election, whose constituents believe that any kind of gun control legislation would be an infringement on their Second Amendment rights. And you see that, those members of the Senate there.
And, also, not only on the Democratic side, but there are also Republicans who are now threatening to filibuster gun control legislation. Those Republicans would be Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. And there, shall we say -- and Mike Lee over there. They are aspiring Republican politicians who are playing to the Republican base, which opposes this.
So you see now, it not only -- it's not a national issue as much as it is a local issue. And that's why this legislation is having a very, very difficult time getting through the Congress.
BLITZER: And if they filibuster, it would require 60 votes -- BORGER: Yes.
BLITZER: -- as opposed to 51.
BORGER: Yes. And remember, don't forget, Rand Paul has been on the floor filibustering before. So when he threatens to filibuster, you'd better believe him.
BLITZER: He knows how to do that.
BORGER: Yes, he does.
BLITZER: All right, Gloria, thanks very much.
Much more coming up on this story later.
Also, the president now planning another dinner with Republican lawmakers. We're going to hear from the Republican senator who was called by the president and asked to make it happen.
And an emotional plea for tougher gun laws from the teacher of a massacre victim who worries about her own children. That and a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President Obama's so-called charm offensive is not over by any means. And you can say he's planning another dinner date with Republican senators. While he's going out with the Republicans again in April, they aren't necessarily the ones he took out for a meal just a few weeks ago.
Listen to this.
And joining us now, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
Senator, thanks very much for coming in.
Let's get right to this big dinner that you're going to have with the president April 10th.
Did he reach out to you and invite you to put together a group of Republicans that would meet with him for dinner?
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON (R), GEORGIA: Yes, Wolf. It's good to be with you, too, by the way.
And Happy Easter to you and all the viewers today.
The president called me early last week. He said that his first meeting with 12 Republicans, he felt, had been productive in sharing common ideas and finding differences. And he wanted to reach out and meet with 12 more and asked if I would put together 12 Republicans to have dinner with him on April 10th. And I'm in the process of doing that now.
BLITZER: So you're coming up with a list, presumably, of people who didn't have dinner with him at the Jefferson Hotel here in Washington, other Republicans.
Who -- can you tell us who's on your list, who's already accepted?
ISAKSON: Well, until I get everybody on, I'd rather release it all at one time, when we know everybody that's accepted is coming. So I'm going to wait until the first of next week to do that.
BLITZER: So what's the -- what's on the agenda?
Did the president say it's an open agenda or is there specific items he'd like to talk to you guys about?
ISAKSON: Wolf, there's no set agenda and it's open, including letting me pick whoever I wanted to invite to come to the dinner. I think the president's experience coming to our conference about two weeks ago and the first dinner led him to believe there may be some areas where we're not as far apart as we might have thought, like on reforms in terms of entitlements, things of that nature.
So I think the discussion primarily will revolve around spending, around revenues and around entitlements, which, after all, spending and our debt and deficit are our two biggest problems.
BLITZER: Those are obviously critically important issues. Other issues coming before you, including comprehensive immigration reform.
How far apart do you think you are with the president on that?
ISAKSON: Well, until the group of eight in the Senate finally release all the points in their plan, rather than just the framework, I wouldn't hesitate to -- I wouldn't want to -- I would hesitate to make a prediction on how close we might be. But immigration reform is going to be a top of the agenda item in this session.
BLITZER: And presumably, it might be a top of the agenda item at the dinner, as well.
ISAKSON: It could be. Like I say, there are no parameters to the dinner. I mean everybody comes with their own thoughts, their own opinions and their own topics.
BLITZER: I know you have a very different view on guns, for example, gun control. He's got a -- a different view than you do.
Are you guys pretty far apart on that?
Do you expect that to be discussed?
ISAKSON: Wolf, my state of Georgia is very much a pro-Second Amendment state and believe in the right to bear arms and gun control, in terms of confiscating weapons or not allowing weapons to be bought, would not be a vote the people of Georgia would expect to have.
Background checks is another thing. I -- I did the instant background check with Georgia back when the Brady Bill passed in 1995. So identifying people who shouldn't be buying the weapons because of mental health or because of their record or criminal record or a felon or whatever, would be something that could be considered. I don't think you'll see any ban on cartridges and no ban on the purchase of weapons.
BLITZER: Can a dinner like this, Senator, really make a difference?
ISAKSON: Wolf, I sold houses for 33 years in my life. I never sold one to somebody I couldn't sit across the table and talk to. When you have to put two people together to come to a common agreement, you cannot do it unless you sit down at the same table, talk and find common ground. So I'm hopeful this will be a fruitful meeting. I'm hopeful at least if nothing else happens both sides will understand where each side is and where the middle might be.
BLITZER: I think there are what, 45 Republican senators. He reached out to you. Why you? Did he tell you why he called you and asked you to put this dinner together?
ISAKSON: No, he did not.
BLITZER: Do you have any inkling?
ISAKSON: I hope he felt like I had enough friends to get 12 people to come.
BLITZER: That's not going to be a problem though, right?
ISAKSON: No, it's not going to be a problem.
BLITZER: It's you and 11 other Republicans, right?
ISAKSON: Yes, sir. That's correct.
BLITZER: so, it'll be 12 Republicans. The president presumably will bring an aide or two. What's the most pressing question you have on your mind going into this dinner?
ISAKSON: Well, the thing I want to hopefully get across to the president is my feeling that we have a ripe opportunity to bring both sides together and fix the solvency of Social Security and Medicare for years to come.
Granted it's going to take us doing some tough decision buss we owe it to our children, grandchildren, and as far as Medicare is concerned we owe it to seniors of today, so my starting point would be, let's make a commitment that we're going to save Social Security and save Medicare and reform them and find the savings that will help us bring down our debt and deficit over time.
BLITZER: Yesterday, our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash did an excellent report here in the situation room on the film "Argo" and your new initiative, a legislative initiative to try to finally get some compensation for those American diplomats and security personnel who were held hostage by the Iranians for 444 days. What are the prospects? What do you think the chances are that finally your piece of legislation will get through and they'll each get a few million dollars?
ISAKSON: Well, we were very close last year. We almost made it at the end of the session and failed. I think the popularity of "Argo" and the fact it won an academy award. And if you watch the movie the riveting depiction of the, what those hostages went through has raised the visibility of this. We have the Iranian sanctioned money flowing in now which we can assess or tap to see to it these people are paid for their suffering and for the terror they went through. I'm committed to doing it. I think the American people would back it up. And I think we've gained the support in Congress to do it.
BLITZER: Senator, good luck. Thanks so much for coming in.
ISAKSON: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Coming up here in the SITUATION ROOM, she introduced the president of the United States today before he told America and I'm quoting, now, "shame on us." She's getting ready to join us live.
And having guns, get this, having goats trim the grass. That and other ways you suggest the government could cut spending. New information coming in. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The White House announced today it will release its budget for the 2014 fiscal year on April 10th. That's more than two months after the deadline delayed in part because of deliberations over spending cuts. There is no shortage of ideas out there after the White House asked the American public for suggestions.
CNN's Tom Foreman is in the virtual studio right now.
Tom, take us through some of these ideas.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, when this administration came in, everyone in Washington knew that we had financial problems. So, they set up this thing called the save awards asking government employees coast to coast to come up with ideas that they would submit electronically to save money and 86,000 came in.
A lot of them focus on things any of us might be able to see as really reasonable. For example, one of the ideas is getting rid of paperwork. We've all had big mailings from the government, all sorts of things. Government agencies trade things back and forth. Some of the workers pointed out, look. This is something you could easily handle through e-mails or you can handle them through smart phones or all sorts of ways to get this information other than just printing out all sorts of documents. So, they want to reduce it. So, a study a few years ago suggested about $440 million a year is wasted on government printing that doesn't really have to be done.
What are some of the others? One really common theme was going after congress. A lot of people said that somehow the performance of Congress should be tied to whether or not Congress members get paid or whether or not they can get a raise. That is actually a popular idea, difficult to pull off because the constitution keeps any Congress from changing its own pay. It can only change the pay for future congresses. So, popular idea, hard idea to pull off.
And then, there are some ideas that we have heard many, many times. Let me reach my change pocket here and bring this one out here. The idea of getting rid of the penny came up from several people. This had been talked about, as you know wolf, a couple decades now, very difficult to pull off. Yes, it costs more to produce a penny than a penny is worth but politically a hard idea to get rid of. But nonetheless, Wolf, this is a range of the type of ideas that came pouring in in those tens of thousands -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Eighty six thousand recommendations. How many of these ideas have actually been put into place, Tom?
FOREMAN: Not a whole lot, you know, really, it is a small number of them, Wolf. And some of them sort of track what the administration was doing anyway. But people seem to like the idea of doing this and here is something worth bearing in mind.
Some of the ideas that may seem really silly and odd can actually work, for example, the goats. One of the suggestions was that the White House should get goats. The federal government should buy goats and these should become groundskeepers. You could turn them loose to take care of all sorts of properties all over the country that the government needs taken care of.
This may seem silly. I know standing here and meet my little electronic goats, seems very silly but this has actually worked before. Back in World War I, Woodrow Wilson knew the country was having a hard time with finances. He got a flock of sheep and turned it loose to take care of the White House lawn because it was cheaper than having gardeners do it. They sheared the wool, they used the wool, and it genuinely worked.
So Wolf, all of the ideas pouring in there may seem silly in some cases. But if you read through the list on this Web site, you see a lot of well intentioned ideas from thousands and thousands of government workers across the country, who truly think that they as taxpayers would also like to see a more efficient government -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'd all like to see that if we possibly can and I know we can if they try really hard.
All right, Tom. Thank you.
Up next one of her students died in a mass shooting and she worries deeply about her own children. A mother's emotional plea for tougher gun laws. And South Africa's legendary leader Nelson Mandela, he is in the hospital right now. President Obama has just offered up a special message. We will have details.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. Here is what's coming up.
A mother of two makes an emotional plea to the American public moments before introducing President Obama. She is standing by to join us live in just a moment.
"Time" magazine releases two very provocative covers for this week's issue. We will go behind the scenes with the managing editor to see how they chose these photos.
And a close-up look at the most popular document in the FBI's online vault. Al Capone is no match for flying saucers.
Let's get back to our top story right now. President Obama stepping up his efforts to move forward on gun control. Flanked by those who have been touched by gun violence, the president today tried to shame the American public and the Congress into action. He was introduced by Katerina Rodgaard who taught one of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre and is a mother herself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATERINA RODGAARD, TAUGHT VIRGINIA TECH VICTIM: After losing Reema and seeing the horror at Sandy Hook, my reaction was that I no longer felt it was safe to raise a family in this country. I felt I either needed to leave the country or do something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And Katerina is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You talked about Reema Samaha, we spoke -- we've spoken to her dad over these years at Virginia Tech. She was killed on that brutal day. What was it like to introduce the president of the United States at the White House today?
RODGAARD: Oh, it was absolutely amazing. I'm just a regular, ordinary citizen and I just found out 24 hours -- less than 24 hours before I had to do it that I was going to do it.
BLITZER: How did they pick you? Did somebody call you from the White House? How did they know about you?
RODGAARD: They asked our organization, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, to be present at this event. And they asked us each to submit a short bio of our story and I guess they chose my bio and they were affected by it enough to ask me to introduce the president.
BLITZER: How were you affected personally? Just in a little summary of what happened at Virginia Tech.
RODGAARD: Personally at Virginia Tech I was shocked. I learned about Reema's death on the news when they started scrolling the pictures and names of the victims. I was shocked. It was the first time I've been touched by gun violence. And not the last I guess.
BLITZER: All of us have been -- you know, have heard about it but you knew someone who was actually brutally killed.
BLITZER: Senselessly at Virginia Tech University. So how frustrated are you right now when you see this tougher gun control legislation seemingly stalled?
RODGAARD: I'm very frustrated. These are people, most of whom have never been touched by gun violence. This is an epidemic. This is a public health crisis. And I am very frustrated. I was extremely frustrated right when I first started this. That we didn't even have -- I was frustrated to even come across any opposition. This is common sense. This is common sense.
BLITZER: Did you speak to the president personally about this today? Did you have a chance to exchange a few words with him and the vice president for that matter?
RODGAARD: Yes. I was lucky enough to do so before I spoke.
BLITZER: So how did those conversations go? What can you share with us?
RODGAARD: They were very appreciative of our help, all of us moms. Some of the moms that were there have lost children as recently as 35 days ago. They were touched by our presence and they asked us to continue to help support because it is going to be an uphill battle.
BLITZER: You have this personal connection. What do you want to share with lawmakers right now who are trying to decide how they should vote?
RODGAARD: Well, the vote in the Senate is due to come up around the same time as the anniversary of Virginia Tech. I hope they keep that in mind as well as all the other mass shootings that we have had. This is unacceptable. Whether they pass something or not, and I believe they should, we will not back down. We will come back. We will come back for the midterm elections and so forth. We will come back until we get all of the measures we are seeking met.
BLITZER: You have a picture over there.
RODGAARD: I do.
BLITZER: What is that picture?
RODGAARD: This is a picture of Reema dancing. BLITZER: A beautiful -- a beautiful young lady there that we see her. And as I said I've interviewed her dad on a few occasions and our heart goes out to that family, to all the families of the victims of these senseless killings.
Katerina, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.
RODGAARD: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The former South African president Nelson Mandela is in the hospital right now. He's battling a recurring lung infection. Doctors say he is responding positively to the treatment.
The 94-year-old antiapartheid icon was taken to the hospital just before midnight last night. Nelson Mandela has been treated for this ailment before but he has become increasingly frail over the years. The president says -- the White House says President Obama is being updated on his condition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously we're all deeply concerned with Nelson Mandela's health. He is a hero I think to all of us. I'm sure that I speak for the other leaders here and, you know, we will be keeping him in our thoughts and prayers and his entire family. He is as strong physically as he has been in character and in leadership over so many decades.
And hopefully he will come out of this latest challenge. But we all recognize that he has given everything to his people, the people of South Africa, to the people of the continent and he's ended up being an inspiration to all of us. When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela, and so we wish him all the very best.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We certainly do. We wish him speedy, speedy recovery as well. I remember interviewing President Mandela in Cape Town at the presidential residence there back in 1998, one of the most memorable and moving interviews I had. He single handedly almost prevented a mass slaughter with the fall of apartheid. He was an amazing, amazing leader and we wish him a speedy, speedy recovery.
Just ahead, we're going to show you the magazine cover that's sparking some serious controversy right now. In fact, "TIME" magazine has two covers on same sex marriage. Stand by for that.
Plus, of all of the FBI's most notorious cases, the one that by far grabs the most attention from the American public has to do with flying saucers. We have new information.
BLITZER: As a divided U.S. Supreme Court weighs two landmark cases on same-sex marriage, "TIME" magazine is out right now with not one but two controversial covers declaring that the battle already has been won.
Joining us now the "TIME" managing editor Rick Stengel.
Cover story gay marriage already won. The Supreme Court hasn't made up its mind but America has. How did you decide, Rick, on these two covers, two men kissing, two women kissing?
RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME: Well, equal opportunity, Wolf. I thought -- the idea was basically the American public, certainly more than half of people, 3/4 of people under the age of 30, accept this idea of gay marriage. They welcome this idea of gay marriage. They believe in the idea of love between same-sex couples. So I thought it was only fair to have a male same-sex couple and a female same-sex couple.
BLITZER: So what's been the reaction to these covers out there? They're going to be on newsstands I assume in some areas, some parts of the country, some evangelical parts of the country. They might not be thrilled with these covers.
STENGEL: Well, I mean, the -- and that may well be the case. There may be some people uncomfortable with it. But one of the calculations that I made was that -- is that America is basically embracing this idea of gay marriage and I wanted people to see the love that is at the heart of some same-sex marriages and I think these pictures do demonstrate that. I think they are lovely and beautiful and in some ways they are kind of Rorschach tests, how people react.
BLITZER: Have you gotten any information from any companies out there right now that they won't put these "TIME" magazine covers out there on newsstands?
STENGEL: No. I haven't heard from one to that effect, Wolf. It's still early. And -- but as you know, I mean, there are so many corporations now in America that have endorsed the idea of same-sex marriage. Big companies that are -- a lot of whom are advertisers in "TIME" and I welcome that.
BLITZER: I know that "TIME" magazine, I assume you still have an international edition, right? Would you use the same covers out there, send it out all over the world?
STENGEL: No. This -- this was not the cover in our international editions. It was a different cover.
BLITZER: Because I assume in the Muslim world, for example, you wouldn't be allowed in many countries to sell a magazine with covers like this. Is that your -- would that be part of the reason you wouldn't put these on --
STENGEL: Well --
BLITZER: These pictures on covers of international editions of "TIME" magazine? STENGEL: Well, actually that wasn't part of the calculation. It was a very American story. Christine Lagarde is on the cover of our international editions. And there's a story on her in the --- in the domestic edition. So it's just that there are different audiences and this just didn't seem like it was of the moment for an international audience.
BLITZER: Speaking of Christine Lagarde, the IMF chief, you have an interesting interview in the new issue with her and you also deal with the issue of Cyprus and how that could spill over and affect not only Cyprus but Europe, even maybe the United States. There's been reaction from some of the talk, right-wing radio talk show hosts out there. Let me play a couple of clips.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Socialist is rising and if you're wondering if your money is safe here in America I don't blame you because what is happening on the tiny island nation of Cyprus is a textbook definition of spreading the wealth.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Can't happen here but -- it simply cannot happen. The public is too aware. The public wouldn't put up with something like this. Oh, really? The public wouldn't put up with, say, Warren Buffett having 40 percent of what he has taken away from him?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So what did she say about the fear that some might have here, even here in the United States, that there could be a really negative spill over effect from what's happening in Cyprus right now on the United States?
STENGEL: Right. Well, the point that Miss Lagarde makes in the piece, Wolf, is that the problems of Europe are in some ways particularly Europe and are not relevant to the U.S. One of the problems she said is there really is no central bank in Europe. That each of these countries, including countries like Cyprus that are responsible for its own losses, its own debts, and there is no kind of single back stop like the Federal Reserve here in the United States. So I think that is one very large and very significant difference.
BLITZER: Rick Stengel is the managing editor of "TIME" magazine.
Rick, thanks very much for coming in.
STENGEL: Great. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up Mitt Romney is speaking out again. Does he still have a role in Republican politics? I'll ask a Romney insider.
And forget about gangsters and bank robbers. The most popular document in old FBI case files has to do with UFOs.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Just a few minutes ago you heard a Republican Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia tell me his dinner, upcoming dinner with the president and 11 other Republicans likely will focus largely on spending, not necessarily on immigration reform or other issues. But that's not necessarily a sign of where the issue stands right now on Capitol Hill.
Joining me now for today's strategy session, CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Kevin Madden, he's the executive vice president of public affairs for communications firm JDA Frontline, a former top Romney campaign adviser.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
KEVIN MADDEN, EXEC. VICE PRESIDENT OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, JDA FRONTLINE: Good to be with you.
BLITZER: The president gave an interview to Univision and spoke about immigration reform. Listen to his upbeat assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They're paying attention to border security. They are creating a pathway for people to earn their citizenship. And my expectation is that we'll actually see a bill on the floor of the Senate next month.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Kevin, you tweeted out, together with Jeb Bush earlier, a Republican Party report which said, among Republican voters in Iowa and South Carolina Republican voters supported providing a pathway to citizenship that would allow immigrants to get citizenship if it's an earned process where they get in the back of the line and pay fines.
So you think Republicans by and large are onboard right now on this earned pathway to citizenship?
MADDEN: Yes, I think there is optimism on both sides. That report by Resurging Republic, I think it had a lot of good news for Republicans, particularly those that are interested in trying to find the solution on this issue.
There's been a big sea change here. I mean, if you think -- if you look at Capitol Hill and you look at the folks that are actually working on this issue, they're the same folks that in 2007 that were ardent -- you know, they were ardently against a comprehensive approach. And now they're sitting in a room together with Democrat colleagues trying to hammer out the details of a bill.
So I believe that there is a path forward. Both sides are pretty optimistic. But there are also a lot of challenges. I mean, every time -- there's hope in Washington, D.C., there's some legislative procedure or there's some vocal minority that's trying to stop it. And I think the question for us going forward is, can we get past a lot of that? BLITZER: On the issue of these guest workers who are going to be allowed to work here, there seems to be a real serious sticking point between big business and the labor movement. You're close to the labor movement. Is this going to be a problem?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I hope not. But look, I think the labor community has been very, very adamant that the guest worker provision includes some type of fair wages so that we don't create a permanent underclass in society. The last thing that workers would like to see is a group of workers who come in here, pay below the poverty level and they get jobs, but Americans who are trying to have a decent living wage, unable to find those jobs.
So this is a sticking point. But I do believe Chuck Schumer and others are working with labor and the business community to resolve it.
MADDEN: This goes back to that point in 2007. This was a similar issue. The question now was whether or not we can get past it.
BLITZER: Yes. Let me talk about Mitt Romney for a moment. He gave an interview to Dennis Miller on his radio show. Among other things, he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I care, I'm very concerned about the country, to be honest, Dennis. I wouldn't have gotten into this if I --
DENNIS MILLER, RADIO HOST: Yes. Me, too.
ROMNEY: If I thought everything was going swimmingly. And I'm still concerned about the country. And I keep looking for the most effective way for me to try and get the country on a course of remaining strong and powerful in terms of our values, our military, our soft power, our economy.
The American people need a strong America. And so I -- I'm going to keep finding ways to keep America as strong and vibrant as possible. But that's -- but that's the frustration with losing, which is I don't have the influence obviously I could have had had I -- had I won that election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So does he have a role right now to play in the Republican Party, for example?
MADDEN: Sure. I'm sure that's one of many frustrations that he has. Look, you cannot run for president just on a lark. Donna knows this very well. I've worked on two campaigns. They are a brutal process. So in order to run, you have to really care about the country and really have ideas that you want to bring forward.
That's exactly why Governor Romney won. And those --
BLITZER: Why the Republicans --
MADDEN: I'm sorry, that's why he ran.
MADDEN: Right. And that is why, you know, those don't go away when you lose an election. So it's still a really important part of his fiber and who he is. So he wants to help the country, he wants to help the party. I think the difference now is that he's not going to have a leading role. He's going to be a contributor in that process, helping other new candidates in the Republican Party rebuild the party. And then compete for -- in the arena of ideas with Democrats.
BLITZER: You worked for Al Gore when he lost and he continued to play a role.
BRAZILE: Of course. And he's still playing a role. His latest book "The Future" is a best seller. And I hope that he continue to play a role. But you know, to Mitt Romney's credit, there's one area of American life that we could use some leadership, and that is if corporate responsibility. And I think if he can reach out, as the president did earlier when he reached out to Mitt Romney, bring corporate America into the fold, to work with government. He has a role to play.
BLITZER: Donna and Kevin.
MADDEN: Great to be with you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
When we come back, flying saucers and visitors from outer space. So what do UFOs have to do with the FBI?
And a tiger attacks at a Canadian zoo. We'll have the latest on the victim and exactly what happened, next, coming up in our next hour.
BLITZER: All right. Forget about gangsters and bank robbers, the most popular document in old FBI case files has to do with UFOs.
Brian Todd has got the story for us.
Brian, tell our viewers what you know.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a strange thing to see in an official FBI file a memo written by a top agent referencing large flying saucers and three-foot-tall aliens. But it's in the same online FBI files as documents on people like bin Laden, the Kennedys, some of the biggest cases the bureau has ever tackled.
TODD (voice-over): It's called the vault, the FBI's digital reading room, where any of us can go online and view the bureau's most notorious cases. Guess which is the most popular file? John Dillinger's? Jimmy Hoffas? Nope.
JOHN FOX, FBI HISTORIAN: Since we opened the vault, it's been this memo about flying disks or flying saucers, and it relates to an allegation that we heard from a third hand, you know, saying that the Air Force had found a couple of saucers out in the New Mexico desert.
TODD: No, no, can't be. I mean, most people want to read about Machine Gun Kelly and Al Capone, right?
FOX: You would think so but this memo itself has gotten over a million page views in two years since we put it up. Al Capone, doesn't make our top 50.
TODD: The memo's all of two paragraphs. Agent Guy Huddle, then head of the FBI's Washington field office, writes that an Air Force investigator stated that three so-called flying saucers had been recovered in New Mexico. They were described as being circular in shape, with raised centers, approximately 50 feet in diameter.
Not only that, each one was occupied by three bodies of human shape, but only three feet tall, dressed in metallic cloth of a very fine texture. Each body was bandaged in a manner similar to the blackout suits used by speed flyers and test pilots.
John Fox is the FBI's historian.
(On camera): This was never followed up on, right?
FOX: No. In fact it says right here. No further evaluation was attempted concerning the above.
TODD: Why not?
FOX: From what's written here, from what we can read, it certainly looks like they thought that this was third hand information. That this was not necessarily a hoax, which it could well have been, but that, you know, someone was simply reporting hearsay.
TODD (voice-over): And it was more for the Air Force to look into, along with countless other reports of UFOs in Roswell, New Mexico, and elsewhere. Reports that were never substantiated. One reason the memo from Agent Huddle went viral is because when the FBI vault was set up online two years ago, tabloids seized on that memo saying it appeared to back up theories that aliens exist.
(On camera): And it's not just the guy Huddle memo that's a favorite. There are hundreds of other pages of memos and files in the FBI vault. In the "Unexplained Phenomenon" section all about alien and UFO sightings that are more popular online than the FBI's files on Bonny and Clyde, serial killer Ted Bundy and other famous cases.
(Voice-over): Cases involving Osama bin Laden, investigations into the murders of civil rights leaders, all part of FBI lore. Fox says out of all the strange cases he's come across --
FOX: The descriptions here of, you know, 50-foot-diameter saucers and human shapes three-foot-tall, metallic clothe, aliens, that's unique.
TODD: And we can say a little frustrating for FBI officials who say it diverts attention from all the work they've done, all the dangers they've faced through the years to capture fugitives and solve the nation's most difficult crimes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's not, Brian, like the FBI spent a lot of time investigating UFOs, right?
TODD: No, they didn't. You know, often these reports would come into their hands, never substantiated, often third or fourth hand. They'd have to quickly determine whether anything was of a criminal nature. Not their specialty, of course. They never really did with these cases. But in the early days of these UFO reports, in the late '40s, early '50s, they'd still have to file memos of the reports they had gotten. And strangely, this one just caught fire on the Internet.
BLITZER: Strange indeed. Brian Todd, thank you.