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John King, USA

Congressman Weiner Admits Lying

Aired June 06, 2011 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Up first tonight a stunning admission from Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, hours after new embarrassing photographs of Weiner were posted by a conservative Web site the congressman called a news conference to admit he lied nine days ago when he said a hacker had sent a suggestive photo on his twitter account to a young woman in Washington State.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: It's clear the picture was of me and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma and our family and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff. In addition over the past few years, I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online. I've exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part these communications took place before my marriage though some have sadly took place after. To be clear, I never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.


KING: The congressman said he has no plans to resign his House seat, did not answer directly when asked if he was abandoning his hope of being New York City's next mayor.


WEINER: I don't believe that I did anything here that violates any law or violates my (INAUDIBLE).


WEINER: What I did -- what I did was something that demonstrated a very personal failing and that's why I'm here.



KING: But whether Weiner keeps his congressional seat is in question tonight. Several sources tell me Democratic leaders are furious at Weiner for lying and extending this drama and the House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi tonight is asking for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether the congressman used any government resources or whether he violated any House rules.

Congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan tracking the fog on Capitol Hill and Kate, we knew last week the Democratic leadership was mad at the congressman then. What about now?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think you are spot on in saying that some of the Democratic leadership were furious with what they were hearing from Anthony Weiner. Worth noting one more time, as you said, as you said, John, just a short time ago, the Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi had called -- has called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into all of this.

Democrats are really noting that they are taking this situation very, very seriously. And two things that she said in her statement to determine if any government resources were used and if any other House rules were violated. (INAUDIBLE) some more fallout on Capitol Hill.

Fellow Democrat from New York and the man that's in charge of getting Democrats elected to the House, Steve Israel, he released a statement agreeing with Nancy Pelosi that an investigation should occur also saying that ultimately Anthony Weiner's constituents will have to decide on what his future is.

But really behind the scenes, John, Democrats are underscoring that this is very serious that the Democratic leader, the Democratic leader is calling for this investigation herself. On the flip side this may not surprise you. Republicans though, one source calling this hollow and that it's noteworthy that Nancy Pelosi is calling for an investigation rather than coming out to call on Anthony Weiner himself to step down. We should note that Anthony Weiner just released a statement saying that he will cooperate with and welcomes any investigation from the House -- John.

KING: And Kate, any sense tonight this all just unfolding in recent hours -- any sense tonight of how long this would take, an ethics investigation, bring the committee together, get to work.

BOLDUAN: A great question, it's not a short process as you very well know, but you can also -- also we should note that during that press conference, John, you could can see that Anthony Weiner was kind of already lining up his defense for what you can anticipate would be an Ethics Committee investigation.

He said -- he was making the case that this was not a government BlackBerry. That he did this on a personal account on his own time from his own computer. He did not think that he used any government resources. Noteworthy also, Dana Bash received this from one Democratic source saying that two questions were left unanswered after we heard from Anthony Weiner today.

Whether he used government resources as we've been talking about, and also whether any of the women involved were underage. The process continues, John. KING: The process continues. Some questions will continue despite --

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

KING: -- the long appearance from the congressman today. Kate Bolduan on Capitol Hill tonight with the breaking news -- Kate, thanks.

The congressman's tone today was apologetic, a far cry from how he handled the first night or 10 days of this drama. Listen to a more combative Congressman Weiner with CNN's Wolf Blitzer just the other day.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Did you send that picture to that college student in Washington State?

WEINER: I did not. She said she never got it and doesn't know me. I certainly don't know her. This seems like it was a prank to make fun of my name. You know when you are named Weiner that happens a lot, got 45,000 some odd twitter followers, hundreds of people that I follow. This seems like a prank that has gotten an enormous amount of attention.

BLITZER: This is the picture -- I'm sure you have seen it by now. Is this you?

WEINER: I can tell you this. We have a firm that we've hired to -- I have seen it -- I've seen it -- a firm that we've hired to try to get to the bottom of it. I can tell you this that photos can be manipulated. Photos can be of one thing changed to look like something else. We're going to try to get to the bottom of what happened. Maybe Jon Stewart last night had it right unfortunately, but we're going to find out. Look, this has turned into this kind of international whodunit. What it really is was I think a prank. I am treating it like a prank and trying to get back to the work I am trying to do. I understand you want to pursue the story. We're going to try to help you best we can.

BLITZER: Well we just want to resolve it once and for all. You would know if -- this is your underpants --

WEINER: The question is -- I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me. Look, I've said the best I can that we're going to try to get to the bottom of what happened here. But you know I just want to caution you and you understand this -- you're a pro -- that photographs can be manipulated. Photographs can be taken out from one place and put in another place. Photos can be doctored. And I want to make sure that we know for sure what happened here. It certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the certain truth, but I do know some certain truths here. I didn't send any twitter picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: Tonight of course the congressman says he did send that photo and more.


WEINER: I have made terrible mistakes and I've hurt the people I care about the most and I am deeply sorry. I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters and the media.


KING: So now what? Can the congressman keep his seat and what about his higher political aspirations? CNN contributors James Carville and Paul Begala are with us, both Democratic strategists, also with us the veteran New York political reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS TV.

Mr. Carville, to you first, and you and Paul have the experience of helping a president through a crisis that was both a personal failing and a professional and political challenge -- grade Congressman Weiner today.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Can you get anything below an F? You know look he set himself up by denying (INAUDIBLE) the guy had the computer. It's -- you know I feel -- the only thing I can think of and I'm sure Paul has the same reaction, thank god he doesn't have any children. His wife is literally one of the best and most popular people I know of and a number of people have called me and just livid at him for putting her through that. He is not a very popular man among (INAUDIBLE) friends I can assure you of that, but he knew that the stuff was out there. It's kind of hard to believe that he went out and so aggressively lied about it. He probably would have been better just to not comment.

KING: And Paul he called -- I was going to say Speaker Pelosi -- Leader Pelosi before that news conference. Leader Pelosi knew going into that news conference Anthony Weiner was not going to resign. She quickly called for an ethics investigation. Do you believe he can survive this?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Can, yes. We don't know -- I hate to sound like Donald Rumsfeld -- we don't know what we don't know, so all the facts have not come out yet. He cannot survive any further lies. If he lies to the congressional Ethics Committee, he's through. I hope he understands that. He can't lie to his colleagues any longer.

He shouldn't like to the media any longer. But he's got to come completely clean with the congressional ethics process. If so, then he can -- there is really three to me -- three circles here. First is his wife and I'm with James, Huma is a friend of mine. My heart breaks for her.

But then second are his colleagues. His colleagues can expel him from the House. And the third is his constituents. He's got 17 months to work on his constituents. He's got to do all three of those, but God help him if he lies any more. He's through.

KING: Marcia Kramer, you know his constituents better than any of us involved in the conversation, veteran covering New York City politics, you have also tried to cover this story in recent days and not getting answers from the congressman over several days. Now you get the answers today -- first just your take on today.

MARCIA KRAMER, WCBS CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I think that there are a lot of things that are going on here and when he says he's got a lot of work to do with his constituents, he surely does because when I went out to his district last week, I found only one person out of about 25 or 30 that I interviewed that said that this should be put to rest. Everybody else said they didn't believe him and they thought he was lying to them.

Now he'd admitted he lied to them, so now he has a lot of work to do to repair that relationship. And remember, New York is a very difficult place to run for elected office. He now has vulnerabilities. A lot of people would like to represent the ninth congressional district and I think that if he runs again in November of 2012, he's going to have a number of people who are going to run against him, both on the Democratic side and on the Republican side.

But I also think you have something else at play here that affects the national political scene. You know in 2012, the House Republicans are going to be trying desperately to hold on to their control of the House. And if Anthony Weiner is running and he does not resign, the Democrats are going to have a bit problem. Because the Republicans are going to use him as the poster boy in all of the districts for everything that you don't want to have as a Democratic representative.

And I think that maybe the action by Nancy Pelosi today speaks to that fear and the concern that he may be damaging in the 2012 elections when they are so -- they -- the Democrats are trying desperately to recapture the House. So I think that's something that has to play out and maybe the threat of that. And you know this woman whether we believe her or not from Radar Online says that she had a compromising conversation with him on his House phone. Maybe, you know using House facilities in a way that was inappropriate it may come back to haunt him.

KING: Those are questions the Ethics Committee will certainly deal with and that would be a trip wire, James and Paul, I'm sure you agree if any government resources were involved. Does it matter -- James Carville to you first -- that this is a guy -- our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash pointed out to me in an e-mail just moments ago -- this is a guy who has challenged his leadership quite a bit, said I don't like your messaging. You are not tough enough. You're not handling this issue right. He does not have a reservoir of goodwill in his own caucus, let alone among the Republicans. Does that matter?

CARVILLE: You know it might, but I don't speak of Pelosi (INAUDIBLE) well. This is the kind (INAUDIBLE) that frankly would not sit very well with her. Even if it were someone who -- KING: So then why didn't she tell him to quit?


KING: Why didn't she just come right out and say quit?

CARVILLE: Well, you know I don't know, but you know why didn't David Vitter quit who obviously (INAUDIBLE)? I mean -- and I don't know. (INAUDIBLE) ought to ask Toobin who would know what are the possible criminal ramifications to something like that?

But she certainly called for the ethics investigations and I'm not sure that she didn't ask him to quit. Maybe she asked him personally and hasn't done it publicly. We're just in the first afternoon of this story, so we will have to see where it goes.

KING: We are just in the first afternoon of this startling turn in this story anyway. Marcia, James, Paul hang with me. Still to come here, fears the power vacuum in Yemen could benefit the terrorist group President Obama says keep him up most at night, but next, more on Congressman's Weiner's dramatic about-face. We will take you inside the room and hear his answer to this question.



WEINER: I apologize (INAUDIBLE).



KING: After 10 days of blaming a hacker or a prankster for sending a lewd photo over his twitter account and 10 days of staying silent as liberal supporters accused a conservative Web site of smearing him, Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York stepped up to a microphone today and changed everything.


WEINER: This is not anyone else's fault. This isn't -- anyone else didn't demonstrate their bad judgment or their mistakes. This was me. I did it and I take responsibility for that and I'm not looking to point blame or share responsibility with anyone.


WEINER: I'm going to go back to work and I'm going to try to convince them that this was a personal failing that is an aberration from which I've learned and all I can do is keep doing what I have done, which is work very hard every day. There was not anything about this I would say that changes my ability or my record of getting (INAUDIBLE) filling potholes or (INAUDIBLE) community service. This was a personal failing and I hope that they see it that way. And I don't begrudge them. If they see it as such a personal failing they wouldn't vote for me, I -- that's their decision. And I'm going to have to work very hard.


KING: CNN's Mary Snow was in the room as this drama played out. Mary, take us inside that remarkable event today. Wow.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, what a drama it was, John. Not only this stunning about-face from Congressman Weiner after being so defiant just a week ago, then getting up there, saying he lied, but also very emotional at several times. His voice started quivering and it sounded like he was going to cry whenever he talked about his wife and his family and letting them down.

But also there was king of a circus-led (ph) atmosphere leading up to this news conference. It had been a hastily called news conference this afternoon. Less than two hours before he was supposed to take that podium and as reporters rushed to the scene waiting for him to enter not knowing what he was going to say, the conservative blogger, Andrew Breitbart, had entered the room.

Reporters went over to him, starting asking him questions. He had such a big group around him because there had been pictures posted throughout the day of Congressman Weiner and at one point they said would you go up to the podium. And he did, so he pretty much took over this press conference. And when Congressman Weiner was supposed to be up there at around 4:00 this afternoon, people were hearing from Andrew Breitbart, who said that he wanted apologies, that he was accused of hacking the congressman's Twitter account and he said he wanted some vindication.

And Congressman Weiner showed up about 25 minutes after 4:00. He answered questions for about a half hour. And John it was only because somebody had gotten into the room who clearly wasn't a reporter and was trying to goad him that he ended the press conference.

KING: A media event anyway, some will say circus. Mary Snow was in the room for us. Mary thanks for that excellent reporting. And you heard the congressman -- just before I spoke to Mary there -- called this a personal failing. And it is for the most part. But there are some professional and political questions.

The House Ethics Committee being asked to determine whether the congressman broke any official rules of conduct. Another question is whether his constituents will forgive him for lying and for evading questions -- today's confession and apology a far cry from this back and forth with CNN senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our congressional producer Ted Barrett.


DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You say that you were hacked, which is essentially a crime, so why haven't you asked the Capitol police or any law enforcement to investigate?

WEINER: Look, this was a crime that I have now been talking about for a couple of days. I'm not going to allow it to decide what I talk about for the next week or the next two weeks. And so I'm not going to be giving you anything more about that today. I think I've been pretty responsive to you in the past.

BASH: But with respect you're here, which we appreciate, but you are not answering the questions. Can you just say why you haven't asked law enforcement to investigate what you are alleging --

WEINER: You know, Dana, if I was giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back of the room threw a pie or yelled out an insult, would I spend the next two hours responding to that? No. I would get back --


WEINER: I would get back.


WEINER: I would get back --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not situation --

WEINER: I would get back --


WEINER: Well why won't you do -- you want to do the briefing?


WEINER: Do you want to do the briefing, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From your Twitter account --

WEINER: Sir --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- a lewd photograph was sent to a college student.

WEINER: Sir -- sir --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer the question. Was it from you or not?

WEINER: Sir --


WEINER: Permit me -- do you guys want me to finish my answer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this answer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you send it or not? WEINER: If I were giving a speech to 45,000 people and someone in the back threw a pie or yelled out an insult, I would not spend the next two hours of my speech responding to that pie or that insult. I would return to the things that I want to talk about to the audience that I --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you have to do is say no --

WEINER: And that is what I intend to do --


KING: -- Democratic strategist James Carville. Paul Begala is still with us, as is WCBS correspondent Marcia Kramer. James, to you first, some of what the congressman was saying was reminiscent to the days -- and I was a reporter back in those days covering Bill Clinton and the White House. When Bill Clinton would often say when questioned about things like this that you're trying to make this about me. I want to make it about you, the American people whether they have jobs, whether they have health care. It's a classic deflection if you will out of the playbook. Again, I asked you to grade Congressman Weiner before here now I want to ask you to give him some advice. What does he need to do?

CARVILLE: Shut up. I mean that'd be the first thing. And you know now he's in the kind of (INAUDIBLE) all he can do is kind of what he did today is go into, you know, full apology and kind of hope for the best. I mean I don't know that there is any kind of a magical kind of political advice to give a guy who is in this circumstance. And Paul (INAUDIBLE) a very good thing whatever the House Ethics Committee asks you, for God's sake tell the truth.

If there's more there just resign. I mean just -- this guy in upstate New York did, he just -- he got out. And you're just inviting whatever it is, is now -- because they're going to subpoena the computer. They're going to subpoena everything under the sun. And, you know only he knows what else he's done here. So you know, we'll wait and see, but don't lie and you don't want to just (INAUDIBLE) those fingers. His colleagues are mad at him. You can tell -- Leader Pelosi and you know he's not a very popular guy right now in his caucus to say the least.

KING: And Paul, Candidate Clinton, then Governor Clinton, then President Clinton when these things came up not only had remarkable political skills, but during the Lewinsky scandal anyway, he also had what I am going to call the political good fortune of Republicans in the view of many overstepping. Now I'll get criticized by people out at home about this, but some of the things that were said by then Speaker Gingrich. Some of the things that were done by the special investigator, Prosecutor Ken Starr gave President Clinton a foil that he used to his political advantage at least to keep his base on his side. I don't have in the array of statements here tonight anything from any Republican talking about Anthony Weiner.

BEGALA: Very smart, very smart, you're absolutely right. There's polling data. Our viewers don't need to inundate you. It's an objective fact that according to polling data the American people thought the Republicans and especially Ken Starr were way out of line. They thought what Clinton did was terrible. He had an affair and he lied about it, but nobody excuses that.

But one of the reasons he survived is because his enemies and adversaries were so out of line, especially Ken Starr. No Republican has done this. I give John Boehner a lot of credit here. He is apparently -- at least I don't know this. I don't have sources inside his conference, but I believe he is exerting real leadership here in sitting on his people.

They're finally listening to the old Napoleonic axiom, which is if your enemy is destroying himself, don't interrupt. And this is to their credit. Anthony Weiner cannot plausible say this is a vast right wing conspiracy. And today at least to his credit, he said this was all my fault, which it is.

KING: Marcia Kramer you work in the countries probably most rock 'em, sock 'em media environment. You tried to talk to the congressman last week and the headline on Drudge was "Weiner Calls Cops on CBS".

KRAMER: That's absolutely true.

KING: Where are we going here? In the answer does he have any chance of being New York's next mayor?

KRAMER: I don't think so, but, you know, stranger things have happened. I think that the first question is whether he has any chance of getting reelected to Congress and then after that if he gets reelected to Congress, I think you can start talking about whether he has any mayoral hopes. But I think at this point there is a feeling that that race may have passed him by and his best chance is to just try to you know get elected to Congress again and stay in Congress, which is certainly not a certainty. You know he's vulnerable now and you know there are a lot of bright politicians in New York that are going to try to take him out. Can they take him out? It's really too soon to tell and it's too soon to see what he's going to try to do to make amends to his constituents, what he can say after he said I lied.

KING: Marcia Kramer, James Carville, Paul Begala, appreciate your insights, all three, thanks so much for coming in, in the middle of this dramatic breaking news. And still ahead Congressman Weiner stood alone at the podium today, but says he believes his marriage will survive.

And next the day's other big headlines including a shocking new assessment of Japan's post earthquake nuclear crisis.


KING: Welcome back. Here's the latest news you need to know right now.

Japan today finally acknowledged the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was worse than we have been told. The government more than doubled its estimate of how much radiation was released. Also the country's nuclear emergency response headquarters now says three of the plants four reactors experienced full melt downs.

President Obama and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel having dinner at a Georgetown restaurant tonight. Earlier today the president and his top advisers met to discuss Afghanistan and whether to speed up the withdrawal of U.S. forces. We're told no decisions were made, but the president will hold a video conference with the Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday.

Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum heads to Iowa tomorrow after officially joining the 2012 presidential race today in his home state of Pennsylvania.


RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm ready to do what has to be done for the next generation with the courage to fight for freedom, with the courage to fight for America. That's why I'm announcing today that I am running for president of the United States.


SANTORUM: Join the fight! Join the fight!



KING: Conservative Republican Rick Santorum into the Republican fray there. When we come back, among those watching Congressman Weiner today issue an apology and say he hopes not only his political career, but his marriage survives, our sister network HLN's "Dr. Drew" will join us after the break.


KING: Congressman Anthony Weiner was by himself this evening as he admitted that he, not a hacker or a prankster, sent a lewd photograph to a Washington State college student over Twitter 10 days ago and he acknowledged more.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: For the past few years, I engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online. I exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part, these relations -- these communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after.

I think it is more inappropriate things I have done since I married. My primary -- my primary sense of regret and my primary apology goes to my wife. I should not have done this. And I should note have done this particularly when I was married. That's why I'm apologizing.

REPORTER: Why would you do this after you are married? The question people (INAUDIBLE) and a lot of us, that is -- what were you thinking?

WEINER: You know, I don't know what I was thinking. This was a destructive thing to do. I am apologetic for doing it. It was deeply hurtful to the people I care about the most. It was something that I did that was just wrong. And I regret it.

REPORTER: Congressman, you're wife is not here. Are you going to split up with your wife because of this?

WEINER: I love my wife very much.

REPORTER: Are you going to split?

WEINER: I love my wife very much. And we have no intention of splitting up over this. We have been through -- we have been through a great deal together. And we will weather this. I love her very much and she loves me.


KING: Dr. Drew Pinsky of our sister network, HLN, was among those watching Congressman Weiner's apology and his explanations today.

Dr. Drew with us now live.

Let me ask you simply up front, especially in that part there, where he was talking about the personal toll of this, the personal test of this. What did you make of it?

DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST, HLN'S DR. DREW: Well, he's at least being honest finally. And you can just imagine the magnitude of the shame that comes rushing in when somebody has to speak up publicly and admit to something as humiliating as this and will have such a profound impact on his personal live and professional career.

My biggest fear, frankly, is that this sometimes -- the crushing nature of this public scrutiny and the shame that goes along with it can precipitate severe depression episodes and some people will even become suicidal. So, I would just caution everyone to remind ourselves that there is a man here behind this, even though we are outrage, even though we are angry that he lied, even though we are trying to understand this behavior, there is real potential for this to go to a very, very bad place.

And I just hope that the people who do care about this man are around him and watching him carefully.

KING: And they should make that point and it's important point. There is a human price here and a human story here. And that part deserves to be respected. I want you to listen that when he talked today, he did concede -- he was trying to protect himself, that he was embarrassed and he was trying to protect himself. He also said he was trying to protect his wife.

I want you to listen to a segment, a bit of his interview with Wolf Blitzer last week where he hints at that at the end. Listen to this.


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Are you protecting anyone?



WEINER: I'm protecting my wife who every day is waking up to insane stories that are getting so far from reality. You know, we have been married less than a year. To watch her watch these stories gets crazier and crazier about what is essentially a prank, a hoax. You know, we went to bed that night not batting an eye. This is a goofy thing that happened.

She married a congressman, OK? She knows something about living in public life. She knows with that goes a certain amount of, you know, aggravation. I don't think she imagined that it would be this -- these bizarre stories about people who are connected by eight or nine rings of connection on social media. I'm protecting her as best I can.


KING: "Protecting her the best I can." It comes across in a different context knowing what we know today.

PINSKY: Yes, it sure does. I'm sure he was protecting her, but mostly, himself from the deep shame that he was likely to be exposed to.

Another interesting thing about these interviews, I know everyone at home was trying to figure out and I know you heard some the reporters ask this, what were you thinking?

And when you talk to these guys after the fact, they usually can't tell you what they were thinking. They weren't thinking. In those certain moments where they are trying to evoke these kinds of experiences, they don't contemplate consequences and they aren't thinking. The fact is that very often guys that need this sort of stimulation, you will see that they go off-line and start to make, what we call, you know, face-to-face or flesh contact. And he was heading in that direction with the phone calls, which is rather disturbing.

My hope, again, is that this couple will stay together. These people came down as a couple, the Weiners can end up in a very good place with treatment.

KING: And how much of this is exploding, if you will? How more difficult is it in the age we live in, with Facebook and Twitter and social media? You heard the congressman admit it was one set of photographs that initially got him in trouble. But he conceded today there are half dozen or so women he has had some inappropriate communications with over the years.

ABC News interviewed one of them, Meagan Broussard, and I believe she's from Texas. Listen to this exchange.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which was the first one that he sent?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, first, it was this one.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then there's this one. This was second?

BROUSSARD: Scary. I mean, watching his face, it means he'll kill me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When does the date (ph) that they come?

BROUSSARD: I'm not sure when that one came, the exact date.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But why did this come?

BROUSSARD: I had no idea what that one came. I guess to show me, hey, it's really me.


KING: When you se the sequence, the woman explaining. And she was involved in a back and forth, and there are some pictures of her that we're not going to put on television that she was sending him. What does that tell us?

PINSKY: You know, it's hard to conclude much. It's just -- it's so inappropriate. I imagine that was the exchange that happened before he was married. And, frankly, old guys like me certainly and maybe, John, you are in this camp with me -- it's hard to make sense of what people are attempting to get out of these sorts of exchanges. I mean, what exactly are they hoping to evoke from the people that they are sending images.

It's certainly something that has become pervasive. It is a problem. It has gotten to the point where people almost abuse one another with these sorts of things.

But let's keep it back to the personal facts of this individual. It's very common for people with these sorts of compulsions to end up progressing to the point that they have consequences. I know a lot of people out there shake their heads and just say oh, my goodness, people in power misbehaving again. And what if they hadn't gotten caught?

I would just remind you that, yes, indeed, to some extent, their sense of specialness and entitlement does insulate them from thinking about the consequences, but more often than not, it's like any other addiction where they really don't feel that there consequences until they come to bear -- until the family brings them in, until they're caught, until the courts bring them in. That's when they feel the consequences and that's when things have to change.

KING: If the congressman asks for your help, Dr. Drew, would you say stay in your job and fight to save yourself politically and personally? Or would just say, quit your job and save your life?

PINSKY: Boy, I would have to talk to him. That's a great question actually. I would say I would hope that he would put his personal life as the priority because that marriage can be salvage and they can end up in a very good place. And oftentimes when people go and engage in treatment of an intense nature of these sorts of disorders, they end up making very different career plans anyway.

So, oftentimes, it is the people important in our lives that should be the priority. Not our career. When people take on this much responsibility and this much of a public life, you know, it's hard for them to let go. And he may decide that's more important or at least they're equally as his personal life. And as such, he is in for a difficult battle.

KING: Dr. Drew Pinsky, appreciate your insights tonight.

PINSKY: My pleasure.

KING: Thank you.

And tonight, Yemen's president is in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. Next, could that actually help end Yemen's chaos and will it get worse if he tries to come home?


KING: There's tremendous uncertainty tonight in Yemen. Today, a U.S. official tells CNN the country's president is more severely hurt than reports implied after Friday's attack on his presidential palace. Tonight, President Ali Abdullah Saleh is in a Saudi Arabian hospital and Yemen's vice president is the country's acting ruler.

Significantly, the U.S. official says some tribes are honoring the vice president's call for a ceasefire.

Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is monitoring the situation in Yemen from Abu Dhabi.

Let's start there, Nic. How important is this ceasefire and how fragile is it?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's incredibly fragile and it's hugely important. It's hugely important because the security forces have the potential to be very destructive. It's incredibly fragile because, overnight, tonight, we are getting reports from Sanaa, the capital in the district that are close to the presidential palace, not around the place, but that area, of having gunfire there tonight from the city of Taiz where there's been over the past few months, demonstrations against the government tonight. The anti-government gunmen facing off in gun battles with government security forces. Government killed 50 protesters there last week under much international condemnation in the town of Zinjibar.

According to a government security source, Islamist gunmen have been engaged in gun battles, killing five civilians, four government soldiers and wounding 17 civilians. That's the picture that we are getting tonight. We're not able to get visas to go into Yemen. We don't have our own accurate information on the ground.

But that does give an indication of it was calm during the day. Tonight, it's a different story. It's an incredibly fragile ceasefire, John.

KING: And, Nic, in that circumstance, Saudi Arabia, obviously closest at play here, the neighbor. That is where President Saleh is getting his treatment. How important and what role the Saudis are taking in trying to broker peace?

ROBERTSON: The Saudis are playing a leading role. They were behind the ceasefire that was broken on Friday and managed to pressure the president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, to leave the country. But at the same time, Saudi Arabia can really influence both sides and can influence the president and can influence the opposition.

The al-Ahmar family, principal family leading the main Hashid tribe, they can play a significant role, but can they convince the President Saleh not to go back to Yemen? That's the big question. The vice president today, the man he left in charge there, he'll be back in a few days -- John.

KING: We'll have to keep our eye on that one and we'll do so with the help of Nic Robertson. Nic, thanks.

Joining us now from Yemen's capital, Shatha al-Harazi. She's "The Yemen Times" political reporter.

Let's just start with this word today that the President Saleh may come back -- may come back from Saudi Arabia. Would that be acceptable do you think, or would cause an outbreak in violence?

SHATHA AL-HARAZI, YEMEN TIMES REPORTER (via telephone): The only choice if he came back, it means a bloody civil war. There is no other choice he is coming back and doing his jobs as a president again.

KING: And what is the sense now with the temporary government? Will it be a temporary government? Will it be a transitional government? Is there a possibility the ceasefire will hold or is that just all too uncertain right now?

AL-HARAZI: The opposition has said yes for the vice president to be the acting president so far.

The protesters themselves, they don't want him to be the acting president. He's saying that he is part of the regime and he has to be gone, too. And he is not a character that can fill the position. He is ruled by Ahmed Ali, the president's son, from behind the scenes.

So, the protesters now are actually holding more discussion and trying to plan for the coming days.

KING: So, if there's -- whether it's a government official or American citizen who has the fear today that because of the chaos in Yemen, it could become the new pre-9-11 Afghanistan and a country in which al Qaeda is well-connected, which terrorists are free to train and organize. Is that a possibility in your view or would that be an exaggeration?

AL-HARAZI: That's exaggeration for sure because the al Qaeda is a minority for sure and there are a few members. So, they are dangerous. That's it.

It's everybody here, (INAUDIBLE) against al Qaeda. They believe they have to fight them. So, it's exaggerating actually.

KING: Shatha al-Harazi is the political reporter for "The Yemen Times" -- we appreciate so much your insights tonight. Thank you.

AL-HARAZI: Thank you very much.

KING: Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeated the administration's call for a peaceful and orderly transition of power in Yemen. The big worry for the United States is whether that transition will give al Qaeda terrorists what the U.S. officials acknowledge could be more of a free reign than they already have.

With us now to discuss this important issue, CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She was President Bush's homeland security adviser, now a member of both the CIA and the Department of Homeland Security external adviser boards.

And Bernard Haykel is a professor of near eastern studies at Princeton University.

Fran, I want to start. You just heard the assessment there of "The Yemen Times" political correspondent saying, yes, we have an al Qaeda problem, but they don't have support. They are a distinct minority. So, it wouldn't become a huge problem.

Do you agree? FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: I think it's too early to really say that, John. Look, al Qaeda has been able to thrive inside Yemen and forged this very strong al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula with their bomb-making capability because they had the protection of tribes. Some of those tribes are part of Saleh's opposition right now.

And the question is, how do you bring these tribes and groups together to form a transitional, the next government? Islamists have been a real problem inside the Yemen parliament. And so, this -- it is by no means certain that al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula would not try to take advantage of the chaos and insert themselves into the power structure that follows Saleh.

KING: And, Professor, come into the conversation, as you do, I'm just sort of walk over the map here just to help our viewers understand Yemen just a little bit better. And you bring it up. And it is like many countries of the region, it is more tribal-based than provinces or anything like that. You have tribes and you see some al Qaeda influence. I'm just saying influence in the light orange.

When you look at this, and you understand the tribes -- as you know them well there -- (a), how fine of a line is this for the United States? And does the United States actually have much influence in how this power struggle plays out?

PROF. BERNARD HAYKEL, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I think the United States has influence through Saudi Arabia. I mean, the Saudis are as invested as not having al Qaeda in Yemen as we are. So, it's crucial that the Saudis help bring about a national unity government that will prevent al Qaeda from forming.

The other thing that we have to keep in mind is that President Saleh has constantly used the al Qaeda threat to extract concessions and money and military equipment from the United States, and from Saudi Arabia. So, his relationship to al Qaeda is not one of enmity. He has in the past collaborated with them and he has found it very convenient to have them on the ground.

KING: You hear the professor say that, Fran, that Saleh, for international help, has found it convenient to have on the ground. If you're an American citizen -- and I know firsthand the president says this is the country and the organization, AQAP, that keeps him up most late at night. The Christmas Day bombing attempt in Detroit, cargo plane packaged bombs, links to the Fort Hood shooter, the Times Square attempted bombing attempt.

Al Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula has not been able to pull off a huge full-scale attack, with the exceptions of the links to the Fort Hood shooter here. But what your worry be if you are back in the White House right now?

TOWNSEND: Well, there's no question they're the most active and operationally capable. It is true to say, John, that they haven't pulled of a successful attack. But the professor if absolutely right. They survived with the protection of the tribes and the sort of the acquiescence, if you will, of the Saleh government.

It was maddening to me when I was in the White House, we pushed him very hard, but having al Qaeda there got him -- you know, it was like a bad child. He got attention. He got money. He got resources as a result of that.

We too relied on the government of Saudi Arabia because of their relationship and proximity to Yemen, but also because of the same group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was responsible for the attempted assassination of the head of the Mobahis (ph), the Saudi security service, their version of the FBI. And so, the Saudis have a real interest here.

Remember, this is the same group, John, that launched an attack with guns from Yemen, against our consulate in Jeddah when I was in the White House. And so, this is a shared national security interest between the United States and Saudi Arabia.

KING: And, Professor Haykel, to that point -- obviously, you know, we, in the United States don't like these -- normally, we go along with them a lot. But your reflex as a citizen is not like these strong arm regimes, at the same time, in this power vacuum.

In your view, how likely is a civil war?

HAYKEL: I think if President Saleh comes back to Yemen, the likelihood of a civil war is very high, because he wants to sow chaos to prove that he's the one man who can bring stability to the country. So, allowing him to come back -- and I'm getting conflicting signals from the Saudis whether they will allow him to return or not, but his returning is a very bad omen for the future of Yemen.

KING: Professor Bernard Haykel, and our Fran Townsend, of course, thank you so much for your insights. It's a very important story. We'll stay on top of it in the days ahead. Thank you both for coming in tonight.

And this has also been a very bloody day in Syria. There was a new and a potentially dangerous twist. The regime admits more than 100 of its own fighters are dead.

Next: is Syria another country closer perhaps to civil war?



KING: Another bloody day in Syria. State television says 120 members of the regime's security forces were killed by what the regime calls armed gangs. Reports from both the government and opposition groups indicate this time the heavy violence is in the northwestern part of the country.

CNN's Arwa Damon joins us now from Beirut.

Arwa, state TV in Syria reporting 120 security forces killed by what they call an ambush by armed gangs. Obviously, we're not there independently. Can we verify this or do we believe it's propaganda from the regime?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's difficult to tell at this stage, John. According to what state TV is saying, the bulk of those casualties happened today in the combination of an ambush, a firefight that took place and a number of other clashes with individuals who they are calling armed gangs. They're saying that they entered this area in northwestern Syria at the request of residents, claiming that the residents said that these armed individuals were holding them hostage in their homes.

What we had been hearing from eyewitnesses and activists over the weekend is that the military laid siege to this part of northwestern Syria, entering it using tanks, armored personnel carriers, even according to activists, using attack helicopters to indiscriminately strike at residents.

And then, today, we have this news coming out on Syrian state television that some sort of clashes had erupted, resulting in great casualties to Syrian security forces.

Now, we did get in touch with one activist who's a resident in the area. He said that some people were trying to fight back using their hunting rifles. Another activist saying that it did appear that in this case, individuals had, in fact, armed themselves and were quite certainly, would appear, according at least to this activist, that they were fighting back.

But this most certainly a very disturbing development, and activists growing increasingly worried that these types of possibly extremist armed elements are going to try to hijack what activists were really trying to make sure remained a peaceful uprising at this stage, John.

KING: Arwa Damon in Beirut for us tonight. Arwa, thank you.

Just a remarkable time across the region. We'll stay on top of it. That's all for us tonight.

Remember, it's Monday. We're exactly one week away from the CNN/WMUR/"Union Leader" presidential debate in New Hampshire. I'll be moderating starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. That's one week from tonight on June 13th.

Senator Rick Santorum, one of the Republican candidates, right here tomorrow night as we begin our preview of that debate. We'll see you then.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.