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THE SITUATION ROOM
Huge Implications to Christie's Decision; "I Need the Senate to Do its Job"; Ambassador Defends Benghazi Report; Interview With Rep. Elijah Cummings; Interview With Rep. Dana Rohrbacher; Weapons Used in Syria; Health and Human Services Secretary Faces Congress
Aired June 4, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Democrats and Republicans alike anxiously awaiting word from this man on an election with huge implications. Now, the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, makes his decision.
For the first time, we hear the voice of the surviving Boston bombing suspect. His mother shares a recording of their emotional phone call.
Plus, how a 10-year-old stopped a home invasion robbery and sent the suspects fleeing.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're starting with a political bombshell from New Jersey governor, Christ Christie. He announced at a quick news conference today to -- about replacing the late Democratic U.S. senator, Frank Lautenberg, who died yesterday. Instead, he surprised the political world and both parties by not appointing a replacement at all.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has the latest information for us -- Jim, how did Governor Christie explain his decision?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Governor Christie said his decision to set a special election to fill the state's open Senate seat was all about the people. But Democrats and even some Republicans argue, it's really all about him.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Good afternoon.
ACOSTA (voice-over): New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, made it clear that it was his authority and his alone to decide when the voters would be able to replace their late senator, Frank Lautenberg.
CHRISTIE: The right thing is to let the people decide and let them decide as quickly as possible.
ACOSTA: In a big roll of the political dice, Christie set a special election date for October, little more than four months away. Citing the crucial legislative agenda in Washington, the governor argued it just wouldn't be fair to appoint a Republican successor to serve out the remainder of the Democrat, Lautenberg's term, as many in the GOP wanted.
CHRISTIE: I understand the political advantage that would come to me if I just -- if was just the person -- the soul person who decided who would be in the Senate representing New Jersey for 18 months. But I just did not feel comfortable doing that.
ACOSTA: But Democrats say Christie's decision for an October 16th special reeks of politics because it comes three weeks before the governor is up for re-election.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WWOR)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He made the tough decisions to get New Jersey back on track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Democrats insist Christie is just trying to keep Newark mayor, Cory Booker, the heavy favorite for his party's nomination, off the November ballot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR COREY BOOKER (D), NEWARK: Hi. I'm Cory Booker and I love Newark.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Because a big Democratic turnout for Booker, they say, would help Christie's opponent, Barbara Buono, who admits in her own ad, she's not that well-known.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY BUONOFORGOVERNOR.COM)
BARBARA BUONO: I know that names can sometimes be tough to pronounce. So let me be clear, this guy is Bono. I'm Barbara Buono.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Christie shrugged off the charge.
CHRISTIE: No, there's no political purpose to this. The political purpose is to give the people a voice.
ACOSTA: Democrats also point to the special election's cost, estimated at nearly $24 million. The Democratic Governors Association said in a statement, "Governor Christie might not know or care how many millions of taxpayer dollars his special election gambit will waste, but the people of New Jersey certainly do."
Still, Christie's move could actually help Booker, who's already raising millions and sounding like a candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CORYBOOKER.COM)
BOOKER: We've got to reform a broken immigration system, deliver marriage equality to all Americans and bring sanity to our national gun safety laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: That may explain the differing reactions from the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: And I won't question the path that he's chosen.
SEN. HARRY REID (D), NEVADA: I'm happy with what he's done.
ACOSTA: And the governor all but admitted to reporters he's managed to spice up his own race.
CHRISTIE: So for all of you who were bored with the governor's race, I've now solved your problem.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: Yes, he has. As for who Christie will name as Lautenberg's temporary replacement until the October election, the governor's office said no decision has been made. Meanwhile, a senior adviser to Cory Booker said the mayor will make his decision at the appropriate time, but acknowledged he is very likely a candidate.
But some Republicans are furious about this, Wolf. One top GOP strategist told me it would have been, quote, "very helpful had Christie waited until 2014." But that's not going to happen.
BLITZER: It's certainly not going to happen right now.
All right, Jim Acosta, thank you.
Let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our chief national correspondent, John King, and our CNN contributor, Ryan Lizza -- John, how much is this going to hurt the governor with Republicans out there?
Because as Jim reported, he could have named a Republican right now to serve out the rest of Lautenberg's term.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He could have. He says state law strongly encourages him, if not requires him, to move further. Look, the Republicans who already didn't like him because they think he's too middle of the road, too friendly to President Obama and the like, don't like him more right now.
And guess what?
Chris Christie has made it crystal clear he doesn't care. And that's part of the great calculation as you watch Chris Christie going forward.
I think it is safe to say he thinks this is the right thing to do, to get an elected senator as soon as possible. And he thinks it's the right thing for him politically, because it does separate the two.
If Cory Booker wins the Democratic primary and is the Democratic nominee and the election is the same day as Chris Christie, Chris Christie probably still wins reelection. But you have a higher African-American turnout. He doesn't win by as big a margin.
What he wants most of all for himself is a big, big, big win on Election Day to propel him into the possibility of 2016.
BLITZER: And if he would have had that special election in November, it could have hurt other Republican candidates, because, presumably, Cory Booker would have brought out more African-Americans...
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
BLITZER: -- and other Democrats to vote in November.
LIZZA: It looks like he had three options here, right. He chooses someone who serves until next November, right. That helps Republicans in the Senate. It helps the Republican Party at large.
He could have picked someone who served until Election Day in November this year. That may have helped Cory Booker. That may have helped the Democrats. That may have made, as John pointed out, the margin by which Christie is likely to win this race a little bit less.
And his third option was to pick this early election, which seemed to benefit Chris Christie the most.
So, look, you know, I don't think, if you look at Christie's career, if you look at the moves he's made, what he wants to do to be president is have the absolute biggest reelection in a -- in a blue state possible so he can go to the Republican primary voters in 2016 and say, I won big in New Jersey and I think you probably have to look at it -- look at this -- you know, not to be too cynical -- you have to look at this move in that context alone.
BLITZER: It's been a while since there was a Republican senator from New Jersey. And I guess it's going to be a while longer before there's a Republican senator from New Jersey, as well.
KING: That's correct.
Hold on for a moment, because I want to have another discussion with both of you in a moment
President Obama didn't just double down, he tripled down today, in his ongoing battle with Senate Republicans over judges. He nominated three people to one of the country's most influential benches, leading Republicans to accuse him of court stacking.
Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is covering all of this for us -- Jessica, what's the latest in this battle over judges?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
President Obama is pressing a new front in his battle with Republicans, this one on terrain of the president's choosing -- the courts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States.
YELLIN (voice-over): In the Rose Garden, it sounded like a campaign season attack against do-nothing Republicans in Congress.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What's happening now is unprecedented. For the good of the American people, it has to stop.
YELLIN: A feisty President Obama named three Democrats to the DC Circuit Court and demanded quick action from the U.S. Senate.
OBAMA: What I'm doing today is my job. I need the Senate to do its job.
YELLIN: The DC Circuit Court is sometimes called the second highest court in the land. Past members who have ascended to the Supreme Court include Justices Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Ginsburg. It also decides whether regulations can stand. This year, it could rule on clean air, gun control and terrorism cases.
OBAMA: This is not about principled opposition, this is about political obstruction.
YELLIN: He's right, it's about politics, on both sides, of Pennsylvania Avenue. The president complains Senate Republicans have been keeping his nominees off the bench.
OBAMA: Congressional Republicans cynically used Senate rules and procedures to delay and even block qualified nominees from coming to a full vote.
YELLIN: Republicans say the president is trying to cram the court with Democrats.
MCCONNELL: They want to use the nuclear option to pack the DC Circuit so we can rubber stamp the president's big government agenda.
YELLIN: The truth?
There are 81 vacancies on the federal courts. There are only 27 nominees pending. The president hasn't nominated anyone to fill more than half the seats. So he's responsible for some of those vacancies.
As for Republican objections to the rest?
RUSSELL WHEELER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: That's just one more example of our government's basic inability to get anything done.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: And, Wolf, the judicial fight is just another way for the president to try to refocus the conversation away from the recent controversies and focus on Congressional inaction, a topic that really does bother the American people. Another way the president did that today, he flexed his own executive muscles and issued five executive orders here from the White House -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jessica Yellin over at the White House.
Thanks very much.
Let's continue our conversation with John King and Ryan Lizza.
Why do you think the president decided to take this bold move today?
LIZZA: Well, two reasons. One, he's been criticized from the left for not paying attention to the courts. He hasn't been as aggressive at pushing his nominees as he could.
On the other side of this, if you look at the numbers, Republicans as a -- it's very, very rare for a minority party that does not control the Senate to have obstructed as many judicial appointments as Republicans have.
Now, this is complicated how you judge these things, but from what I was reading today and looking at some authoritative sources, it really -- they really have gone beyond what previous parties have done, especially when they're out of power.
So, look, there is a group of young senators that -- mostly on the Democratic side -- who are sick of the filibuster, who are pushing Harry Reid to get rid of the filibuster, and especially for these judicial appointments.
And I think Reid -- you know, Republicans are playing a very dangerous game here. They're pushing some of these younger Democrats into going to this nuclear option.
BLITZER: Can the president beat the Republicans on these nominations?
KING: That's a tough one to call right now. Mitch McConnell is digging his heels in and says now. And right now, he's got the numbers, even though he's in the minority, he has the numbers.
The question is, do some in his own party start to say wait a minute. You've see John McCain say that on the budget...
KING: -- saying, you know, we're supposed to govern. Even though I disagree with president, he won the election, we're supposed to just have votes and see how they go.
What the president did today, as Jess noted, politics on his side, too. Two women and an African-American putting the pressure on the Republicans heading into an election year, saying you're not only holding up my nominees, you're going to hurt your party's brand yet again.
We'll watch this fight. It's an interesting one.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thanks very much for joining us.
LIZZA: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, so what happened in a closed door Congressional hearing on Benghazi today?
Congressman Elijah Cummings is standing by.
Live. He was inside that room. He's here to talk about what lawmakers learned plus more.
And the bombing suspect from Boston -- the emotional phone call to his mother in Russia. She recorded reported it. You'll hear it right here.
BLITZER: He's a former U.S. ambassador who led the probe into the death of another U.S. Ambassador, Chris Stevens, one of four Americans killed in the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, Libya last September 11th.
Today, Thomas Pickering testified about his investigation before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland is the ranking Democrat on that committee.
He's joining us now live from Capitol Hill.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. You were just in that closed door hearing with the former ambassador, Thomas Pickering. Was any new ground covered?
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND: No. There was no new ground covered, Wolf, but I can tell you one thing. He needs to come before the full committee as he has requested. He did an outstanding job. In my 31 years of practice of law, I can tell you I heard from no more credible witness than Ambassador Pickering. He did a great job.
And so, Issa -- Chairman Issa said that he wanted him to do this closed door deposition first. Of course, the admiral wanted to come -- ambassador wanted to come before the full committee because, you know, some things have been said about him in the report, saying that it was incomplete, that he was covering up for the administration and things of that nature, and he simply wanted to come before the full committee.
As a matter of fact, he wrote two letters, asking the chairman, allow him to come to the full committee so that the entire public could hear his testimony. The chairman has agreed that he would come within -- now be able to come within two weeks, but he first, Wolf, had to pay a price of sitting down to a five or six-hour deposition which he did today, and he did in a very courteous thoughtful way.
And he showed us that this was a complete non-political investigation. And as he said -- at 81 years old, I think this was his effort to try to make sure that generations yey unborn who will go into our various embassies and become diplomats will be protected.
BLITZER: Quick question on that, because the most criticism of Ambassador Pickering and his review with with, he never questioned the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the allegation that some Republicans making was trying to cover up for her. Did he explain why he never asked her any questions about that night?
CUMMINGS: Now, keep in mind, Wolf, even at -- during our hearing -- during the hearing now, it was being clear that he did have a two-hour discussion with her. I cannot go into the details of a deposition, but again, I think he made it very, very clear that he had enough information to conclude that Hillary Clinton was not responsible in this instance.
And that was very clear. And again, I think that when he comes before the American public in a hearing, that will be made even clearer.
BLITZER: The chairman of your committee, Darrell Issa, he had some very harsh words the other day right here on CNN for the White House press secretary. Let me play the clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DARRELL ISSA, (R) OVERSIGHT & GOVERNMENT REFORM CHMN.: Their paid liar, their spokesperson, picture behind. He's still making up things about what happens and calling this local rogue. There's no indication. The reason that Lois Learner tried to take the fifth is not because there's a rogue in Cincinnati, it's because this is a problem that was coordinated in all likelihood right out of Washington headquarters and we're getting to proving it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Talking about the IRS investigation. He said Jay Carney is a paid liar and that those officials in Cincinnati were instructed to go out and single out those Tea Party groups by Washington. You want to respond to that?
CUMMINGS: Yes. First of all, you know, I think his allegation is very, very unfortunate. And, I have not seen one scintilla of evidence to say that the White House had anything to do with these employees targeting certain groups. And I think -- and again, I said it to our chairman, I said it to our committee, it's important that we have credibility. It's important that our committee has credibility, so that when we produce a product, the public can feel confident.
And we must be in search of the truth. We cannot just put out allegations, Wolf, and then go chasing trying to find some facts that don't even exist. And so, hopefully, he'll attempt (ph) that down a little bit, that kind of rhetoric because it does none of us any good. We must get to the bottom of the IRS situation. I wanted to get that done more than anybody else, but as I said during the hearing, there are two things that I want.
I want truth and so that we can establish trust. The American people must have trust in this organization. Those kind of comments have no place in our dialogue here on Capitol Hill.
BLITZER: Listen to some of the emotional testimony today from Tea Party supporters and what they went through as part of this IRS investigation. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECKY GERRITSON, WETUMPKA TEA PARTY: I'm not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in, the America that people cross oceans and risk their lives to become a part of. And I'm terrified it is slipping away.
JOHN EASTMAN, CHMN., NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Is this limited to the IRS? The stories about people having OSHA and ATF and FBI start investigations in them. Just got American citizens scared to death of what their government is capable of doing once they cross the threshold that they've crossed here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: So, these conservative groups, these Tea Party oriented groups, they say they were singled out for special treatment as opposed to progressive or liberal groups on the other side. They say this is not what America is supposed to be all about.
CUMMINGS: First, let me make it clear, Wolf, that I think every single American should be treated fairly and definitely should be treated fairly by the IRS. There's a lot that has to be done within the IRS, and I'd say that this is a transformative moment, if we allow it to be, Wolf. There got to be some changes. I talked to Danny Werfel, the new -- the acting commissioner the other day.
I think he has laid out a plan to straighten this stuff out, to make clear regulations, so that folks know exactly what the guidelines are, and to get rid of those people who treat people in an unfair way. But let me tell you something, Wolf, we've got to -- when we look at a tax exemptions, we've also got to be clear as to what the law is. I think that if it's a group, they should not be doing any kind of political efforts.
They should be just concentrating on social welfare issues, and it should be exclusive. We've got to clear that up. So, there is no ambiguity with regard to the citizens or with regard to the IRS when these kind of issues arise. BLITZER: You agree, congressman, the same standards should be held for the left and the right?
CUMMINGS: That's exactly right. Wolf, let me tell you, I believe in the constitution of the United States. I believe that everybody has to be treated fairly. And whether they're on the right or left. I'll fight just as hard for true to vote as I would for the NAACP, because I know that constitution is what binds us and allows us to move forward in this society.
BLITZER: Congressman Cummings, as usual, thanks very much for coming in.
CUMMINGS: It's my honor.
BLITZER: Elijah Cummings, the Democrat from Maryland, the ranking member of this critically important committee.
When we come back, we're hearing the voice of the Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now for the first time since his arrest. Just ahead, what he told his mother on the phone.
Plus, the congressman who led a delegation to Russia for talks about the terror attack. I'll ask him whether he thinks there's anything that could have been done to prevent the Boston marathon massacre.
BLITZER: Happening now, the Boston bombing suspect's voice revealed for the first time since his arrest. Just ahead, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's message to his mother in the phone call she taped.
Also, Health and Human Services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, questioned about a 10-year-old girl getting the lung transplant she so desperately needs. What she told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that has the child's parents now responding?
And police credit a 10-year-old boy with foiling an alleged robbery and scaring off the intruders. The dramatic surveillance videos, coming up.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
For the first time since his arrest, we're now hearing the voice of the Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in a phone call he had from his military hospital in Massachusetts with his parents in Dagestan in Russia. CNNs Phil Black is in Moscow. He's joining us now with the very latest. What do we know, Phil?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we know about this phone call comes from a partial recording made by the mother which she has released and then her account of the rest of the conversation. Now, Dzhokhar's parents tell us that they were not allowed to talk about specifics in the Boston case.
So, much of this conversation really became an attempt by his parents to comfort him, to find out how he's doing, his health and well-being, but they admit that much of the conversation, it was really Dzhokhar who is comforting them.
BLACK (voice-over): Anzhor and Zubeidat Tsarnaev only had two sons. Both are accused of a terrible crime. One is dead and they do not know when they will see the other. All they have now are photos and the recording of one brief conversation with their youngest. When he spoke to them from jail in Massachusetts, his mother asked if he's in pain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, of course not. I'm already eating and have been for a long time. They are giving me rice and chicken now. Everything's fine.
BLACK: The mother told her youngest son, "You're my life. You need to be strong."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything is good. Please don't say anything.
BLACK: Even one week later, listening to this call again is an emotional experience for Zubeidat Tsarnaev. She says she was surprised by how calm Dzhokhar was during their conversation.
ZUBEIDAT TSARNAEV, MOTHER OF DZHOKHAR TSARNAEV: I felt like he would scream, that, you know, what's going on, you know, what's going on. He would ask the world, what's going on? But mama -- instead, he was just calming me down, you know what I mean? He was trying to calm me down. "Mama, you don't worry about anything."
BLACK: Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after a shootout with police and run over by his brother while trying to escape. Dzhokhar was found hiding in a boat. U.S. officials say he wrote a message there, admitting he and his brother were responsible for the Boston marathon attack. But the men's parents insist their sons are innocent. And their mother still speaks proudly with Tamerlan's strong religious beliefs and his attempts to pass them on to his youngest brother.
TSARNAEV: I will pray, because it is an obligation. That's our religion. How would not we pray (ph), then what Muslim we are? So, that's what Tamerlan used to tell to Dzhokhar. You know, we are not Muslim. We cannot call ourselves Muslim if we don't thank our Allah five times a day as it's written in Koran.
BLACK (on-camera): Dzhokhar also tried to reassure his parents by telling them that he's getting very good medical treatment. He says he has a good doctor, that he's healing well, that he's getting stronger every day. He told them that most of the injuries to his face and neck have healed and his one ongoing medical concern is a serious problem with one of his hands -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Phil Black in Moscow, thanks very much. Joining us now is Republican congressman, Dana Rohrbacher of California. He's just back from leading a congressional delegation to Moscow, trying to gain some more insight about that Boston terror attack. And I know, congressman, you met with Russian intelligence officials. First of all, give us your reaction to what we just heard in Phil Black's report about this phone conversation between Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his mother in Dagestan.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER (R), CALIFORNIA: Well, it certainly confirms for us that we're dealing with a radical Islamic terrorist situation. These people are obviously fanatics, Muslim fanatics. And the fact that, uh, that she wants her son to be strong and has to bring up the Koran in a situation where three Americans are dead and hundreds of innocent people whose lives have been shattered by her -- by what her son is accused of doing, the fact that she would talk about the Koran shows you just how fanatical a family these two terrorist young men came from.
BLITZER: But did you get any evidence from Russian intelligence or other sources that they were part of some sort of organized terror operation?
Or were they acting individually, maybe inspired by some sort of a fundamentalist thought, if you will?
ROHRABACHER: Uh, I think it's more the latter. But let us just note that we have -- there is much a threat of radical Islamic terrorism coming from young people like this as there is coming from al Qaeda or some Saudi-financed terrorist network some place.
The fact is, this is a threat to all of our lives, our families and our children. In Russia, what we were there to do was to point out and to learn from them how they are coping with this and trying to find out how we can expand the arena of cooperation between Russia and the United States in dealing with the radical Islamic terrorist threat which is taking the lives of both of our people.
BLITZER: Based on your conversations with Russian intelligence officials, you and your Congressional delegation, was there anything that could have been done, that should have been done, that could have prevented this terror attack in Boston?
ROHRABACHER: Not within the context of our sta -- of our relationship today. But it's clear that we need to change the relationship to expand the -- the areas of cooperation between Russian and American officials.
For example, when these people -- when this family immigrated into the United States and other families that are immigrating to the United States now from that region, we don't have an input to -- from the Russian government to suggest whether or not these are radical -- people associated the radical Islam or not.
That would be something very useful to us, considering that know now that su -- that radical Muslims don't have to be part of a terrorist network. They may take it upon themselves to start killing people in the West, as we saw in the Boston Marathon.
BLITZER: But, you know, Congressman, the Russians did alert the FBI to Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
BLITZER: They said he did have some extremist connections.
ROHRABACHER: That's right.
BLITZER: The FBI checked it out and they gave him a clean bill of health.
ROHRABACHER: Well, that's -- that should suggest to us that -- I don't think the FBI dropped the ball. I think that what that reflected was the fact that the FBI and Russian intelligence don't have the level of cooperation they need and do not have the interaction that they need to deal with a threat that takes the lives of Russians by the hundreds, as well as Americans, as we saw from 9/11 in the past.
BLITZER: A quick question on your delegation. You had other members of Congress with you, but you also had the actor, Steven Seagal...
ROHRABACHER: Yes, we did.
BLITZER: -- on your trip.
What was his role?
ROHRABACHER: Well, Steven Seagal, because he's a black belt and a very well respected actor -- and I might let you know that I've known Steven Seagal for a long time. He's a personal friend. And he knew we were going to Russia. And because of his black belt in karate and things, he has gotten to know many of the leaders of Russia, including Putin, and was able to use that influence to make sure that we got to talk to the very top people so that we could try to find ways of expanding our areas of cooperation.
You know, sometimes actors can actually go out and rather than just act, they can actually do good things. I worked for one. His name was Ronald Reagan.
BLITZER: Are you suggesting Steven -- Steven Seagal might have a little political ambition, like Ronald Reagan had?
ROHRABACHER: I don't think that he has political ambition, but he has an ambition to try to do something good for his country. And he has taken it upon himself, this, the I -- you know, this challenge of radical Islamic terrorism that is taking the lives of innocent people. he, for example, helped us get down to Beslan, the school where hundreds of young children were murdered by Chechen radical Islamic terrorists. And we saw that and we met with the local people there. And Steven did a good job in introducing us to people and showing us the things that will help us understand the challenge of radical Islamic insurgencies that the Russians are having to deal with. BLITZER: I know he's very popular in Russia, Steven Seagal, including, as you point out, with the Russian leadership.
So what I hear you saying is Steven Seagal could open up doors that United States Congressmen, like you and some of your colleagues, couldn't necessarily open up during your visit to Russia?
ROHRABACHER: Well, let me put it this way. We usually have to rely on the State Department, and, quite frankly, we should be having our own contacts as well as with the State Department wants us to meet, because we shouldn't just have to rely on the bureaucracy to inform us on everything.
And Seagal opened some doors and we got to meet top people and we had dialogue with these people, not just diatribe, which as we've had in the past, great dialogue.
BLITZER: Dana Rohrabacher is the congressman from California.
Thanks very much for joining us.
ROHRABACHER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, a major explosion on a college campus, and we now know what caused it.
And Taco Bell speaking out about this disgusting photo that went viral.
Plus, pizza delivery like we've never seen before: by drones.
BLITZER: A gas explosion at the campus of Nyack College in New York. Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the blast blew out windows and caused some structural damage. A fire official says seven people were taken to the hospital, but no one suffered life threatening injuries. The official also says the small fire was extinguished by the building's sprinkler system.
Scientists have uncovered and are digging up the remains of what is believed to be a family of triceratops dinosaurs in Wyoming. Nearly 70 million years since they ruled the earth. Experts say the trio was likely a male, female and young dinosaur, at least one of whom was brutally killed. One of the three skeletons may be the complete yet to be found.
Here's a question for you? Would you pay for a year's worth of checked bags or extra leg room on your flight? United Airlines is making that option available with two new subscription programs. One where travelers prepay as little as $349 for a year's worth of checked baggage fees or $499 to reserve seats in economy plus section offering more leg room. United says it's the only airline to offer the programs. Prices vary based on destination and number of passengers.
Now, imagine one day having your pizza delivered to your home by drones instead of the usual pizza delivery guy. Dominos is having some fun with the idea. Its franchise in the U.K. posted video of an unmanned drone actually delivering two pizzas in heat wave bags. Don't expect to see the concept anytime soon, though, particularly in the U.S. where federal rules ban any type of unmanned aircraft for commercial use.
And Taco Bell has released an updated statement about this photo that's been circulating on line, showing an employee licking a stack of taco shells. The company says the shells were used for training back in March before the launch of a new product and were in the process of being thrown out. Taco Bell says two employees used the shells to take what ended up being an unacceptable image, and the incident was immediately investigated. Now that employee is in the process of being terminated. Taco Bell says it deplores the impression the picture has caused any of its customers. And Wolf, I've suddenly lost my appetite.
BLITZER: Yes. Sort of gross to put -
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.
Just ahead, a devastating weapon being used by the Syrian regime. A bomb that literally sucks the oxygen out of people's lungs.
Plus, how a 10-year-old foiled a home invasion robbery and sent the suspects fleeing.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: France's foreign minister says test samples obtained by his country show multiple chemical attacks in Syria including sarin. He doesn't say when it was used or by which side in the country's two- year-old civil war.
CNN's Tom Foreman is joining us now with a closer look at some of the other weapons being used, weapons that have claimed close to 100,000 lives so far.
Tom, what's going on?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, there's been debate about this ever since it started. What is the Assad regime using on its own people? And the evidence seems to be mounting that there are some very fearsome weapons.
You mentioned the discovery by the France there. The evidence say of sarin being used. There's also from U.N. a report of cluster bombs. And thermobaric weapons. Many people may not be familiar with this term, I want to explain what this is. And the first thing we're going to do that is by showing you a video. This is a Russian test of a thermobaric weapons from some time back. From the Internet so it's a little herky-jerky. But look at the blast created by this weapon. This is often compared to a small-level nuclear weapon. There's nothing nuclear about it, but the force is so great, that's what people say.
Let me explain how this happened because what they're really doing here is harnessing the very same principle that makes a coal mine explode when there's too much coal dust in there.
I'm going to bring up a bomb up here which is really bigger than it ought to be under this circumstance. But just so you can see it. When this thing drops into a space, what it does is it sprays out a very fine particulate of metal. Very, very fine metal dust that can cover quite a large area. This can be bigger than a football fields, bigger if you want.
And as that spreads out and all the air spreads in between it, the whole thing becomes explosive, so when a second blast goes off, it all ignites and puts out a tremendous shockwave. Essentially, any living thing caught in this area is being crushed from all sides as the air itself explodes, Wolf. That is why this is considered such a fearsome weapon.
BLITZER: Why would this kind of weapons even be used? What's the point?
FOREMAN: There are specific uses for this type of weapon, Wolf. Any time you're trying to hit, for example, a narrow area. Like you have a street -- a series of streets that are very narrow and you want to attack people who are hiding up those areas, any kind of underground hiding area, which we've heard the rebel forces there have had tunnels. If one of these lands outside of a tunnel, it can send a shockwave through that tunnel, that'll go down, it'll go around corners, and it could kill people way back inside tunnels that you could not reach certainly with shrapnel thrown by a bomb.
And of course any time you're really just looking for a massive impact. It comes back to what I said a moment ago, Wolf. When you're looking for something that is very big, and very powerful and very lethal, thermobaric weapons come to mind. And again that's one of the reasons why the world community is so concerned that they appear to have been used by the Syrian regime in this conflict.
BLITZER: Just when you think it gets bad, it gets even worse. Obviously we'll continue to follow this story.
Tom, thanks very much.
Coming up, the Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaking out about controversial rules preventing a young girl from getting the transplant she needs to stay alive.
Plus, home invasion robbers caught on tape. But they weren't counting on a 10-year-old boy whose quick thinking foiled their plan.
BLITZER: The secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius told lawmakers on Capitol Hill today she's asked for a review of the process that could potentially keep a 10-year-old girl in Philadelphia from getting a new pair of lungs she so desperately needs but the child's parents want much more than that, and now they're responding.
Our national correspondent Jason Carroll has been working the story for us. He's joining us now with details.
What's the latest, Jason?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Sebelius was really in the hot seat today, Wolf. She was supposed to be attending a hearing focus on the budget but Sebelius faced some very tough questions about whether department guidelines are standing in the way of this little girl getting the medical care that she needs.
Sarah Murnaghan's parents say their daughter, if she does not get a lung transplant, she will -- she will die. She is suffering from cystic fibrosis. They say it could be a matter of weeks or months for her. Right now she is on a wait list for children but not on the wait list for adults.
Her parents are asking that guidelines be changed so that Sarah -- and for that matter, all children, Wolf, who are in a critical situation, can then be moved to an adult list. Sebelius pressed on the issue earlier this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: First as a mother and a grandmother, I can't imagine anything more agonizing than what the Murnaghans are going through. I talked to Janet Murnaghan, mother of Sarah, about this case. What I've also done is looked very carefully at the history of the rules around lung transplant and organ transplant --
REP. TOM PRICE (R), GEORGIA: With all due respect, Madame Secretary. It's simple --
SEBELIUS: Dr. Price --
PRICE: I'm going to reclaim my time. It simply takes your signature. It simply takes your signature. A study I know you have ordered, and I appreciate that, but a study will take over a year. This young lady will be dead.
SEBELIUS: Unfortunately there are about 40 very seriously ill Pennsylvanians over the age of 12 also waiting for a lung transplant and three other children in the Philadelphia hospital at the same acuity rate as Sarah waiting for a lung transplant.
The worst of all worlds in my mind is to have some individual pick and choose who lives and who dies. I think you want a process where it's guided by medical science and medical experts. (END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: Well, Sebelius has ordered a transplant policy review but a change in policy could take years. The Murnaghans heard what Sebelius said today during the hearing and issued the following statement. It reads in part, "Secretary Sebelius has said that if she makes an exception for Sarah she will have to make an exception for all children. We are confused, to say the least, by this. We haven't asked that an exception be made just for Sarah. What we are asking is that all children in similar situations be treated the same as adults in the system for allocation of lungs."
Her parents basically saying, Wolf, that they want a fair system, not just for Sarah but for all children moving forward. But again, for Sarah, time is running out.
BLITZER: Yes. And time is quickly running out. Let's hope for the best. All right. Thanks very much for that report, Jason.
When we come back, police credit a 10-year-old boy with foiling an alleged robbery and scaring off the intruders. The dramatic surveillance video, that's coming up.
And at the top of the hour, millions spent on a conference that included free baseball tickets, free drinks, and a presidential suite, all paid for with your tax dollars by the IRS. We have new details on what else they spent your money on.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's iReport "Hot Shots."
In Iceland mariners participate in an annual seafarer's festival. In New Jersey passersby paint a card public art fair. In California runners participate in a road race dedicated to the Boston marathon. And in Oklahoma, storm clouds swirl ahead of the storm.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from our CNN iReporters around the world.
New York Police are looking for two home invasion robbery suspects whose plan was turned upside down by a quick-thinking 10-year-old boy. Take a look at this surveillance videotape. You see the first suspect dressed as a FeDex delivery man entering the home. He leaves the door open and the second suspect enters.
At the top of the stairs you see them kicking in a door. But what you don't see is that the boy slamming the door on one suspect's arm. He dropped his gun, the boy picked it up and fired at the suspects. One of them fired back but both shots missed and the suspects fled.
New York Police are asking anyone with information about the crime to contact them.