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The Situation Room
Interview with Joe Wilson; White House Nominates Judge Samuel Alito To Supreme Court
Aired October 31, 2005 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's 4:00 p.m. here in Washington, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Happening now, off the bench and into the fray. The battle is joined over the president's new Supreme Court pick, Judge Samuel Alito. But this time, the Republican right is on Mr. Bush's side.
Also this hour, the White House trying to rebound. Will the Alito announcement put the focus on the court and off of an administration that has seemed to be in free fall?
And the Monday after the Libby indictment. Is Vice President Dick Cheney a drag on the administration?
Plus, a live interview with the central figure in the leak story, the former ambassador, Joe Wilson.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
On this Halloween, the embattled Bush administration seems to be trying to avoid any final October surprises or setbacks. The president's new Supreme Court nominee, Circuit Court Judge Samuel Alito, has a lot of what Harriet Miers lacked, namely, experience on the bench and a conservative paper trail that may go a long way toward repairing relations with his base.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people. In the performance of his duties, Judge Alito has gained the respect of his colleagues and attorneys for his brilliance and decency. He's won admirers across the political spectrum.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democrats hardly sound like admirers of Alito, at least based on their first reactions to his nomination.
Our Dana Bash is over at the White House, Ed Henry is on Capitol Hill.
Dana, we'll start with you. It's been a very long day already for you, and it's going to not be over yet. DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: OK, we'll watch for that, Wolf.
But in terms of the Alito nomination, what you just heard from President Bush, and everything else we've heard from him, and also advisers here at the White House today, is intended to be in stark contrast to what we heard about Harriet Miers.
And this day is not just about one nomination. It is about a White House political team trying to show that they can get back on track, that they can rebound, in terms of what is going on here at the White House.
BASH (voice-over): If you listen carefully, at just about this moment...
JUDGE SAMUEL ALITO, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: ... and for honoring me with this nomination.
BASH: ... you may be able to hear a sigh of relief inside the White House.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His setting up the confirmation...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... and Judge Alito.
BASH: With that announcement, they changed the subject, step one in the post-Harriet Miers, post-indictment White House recovery plan.
ALITO: My real ambition at the time was to be the commissioner of baseball, and I...
BASH: With Samuel Alito, the political planets realigned. Beleaguered Bush aides say they can fight who they're supposed to, Democrats, not fellow Republicans revolting against their leader.
But Mr. Bush still faces a long list of problems. Just Monday, six more troops were killed in the increasingly unpopular Iraq war. And he still has problems in his own party. While conservatives like Alito, they have other complaints.
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": President Bush has not done a good job restraining the growth of government. He has not done a good job securing our borders. He has, in fact, proactively pursued policies such as his Medicare prescription drug plan, that have expanded government.
BASH: And then, of course, Wolf, there is still the big open question of the leaks investigation. It is, of course, still an ongoing investigation. The president was asked in the Oval Office, while meeting with the Italian prime minister, if he would answer Democratic calls for Karl Rove, his top political aide, to be fired. He definitely heard the question and ignored it.
And then, of course, there is -- there are several other questions when it comes to what the White House has said in the past about this particular problem, particularly Scott McClellan saying that nobody in the White House had anything to do with it, particularly Scooter Libby and Karl Rove.
And still today, Scott McClellan says he simply cannot answer any questions to perhaps clarify that, because it is an ongoing investigation.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thank you very much. Dana Bash reporting from the White House.
Shortly after his nomination, Judge Alito headed straight to Capitol Hill to start courting the senators who will decide whether to confirm or reject him.
Let's go to the Hill now, and our congressional correspondent Ed Henry, who's monitoring reaction. Ed?
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, another big Supreme Court fight, but this time the roles have been reversed. Conservatives are thrilled, and liberals are fuming.
HENRY (voice-over): Judge Alito's first stop in the Capitol, paying his respects to Rosa Parks, the civil rights pioneer lying in honor under the Rotunda, a solemn start to a battle that's getting ugly fast, with Democrats saying symbolism only goes so far.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: His record, as I'm sure Rosa Parks would agree, is much more important. A preliminary review of his record raises real questions about Judge Alito's judicial philosophy and his commitment to civil rights, workers' rights, women's rights.
HENRY: Democrats charge Alito is a sop to conservatives, who are irate over the Harriet Miers debacle.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The president chose to reward one faction of his party. I am concerned that the nomination may be a needlessly provocative nomination.
HENRY: With Democrats dropping hints of a filibuster, Republicans are already trying to head it off.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MAJORITY WHIP: What we guarantee you is a dignified process here, a respectful hearing. And at the end of that process, an up-or-down vote, as has always been the case on Supreme Court nominees throughout the history of the Senate.
HENRY: Even though that standard did not seem to apply to Miers.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I feel sorry for the -- Miss Miers, who really never got a chance to either have a hearing, let alone a vote.
HENRY: The real power may rest in the hands of the bipartisan Gang of 14 moderates, who, earlier this year, averted a nuclear showdown over filibusters against the president's lower court nominees.
HENRY: A senior Republican aide told me this will really come down to a gang of seven, seven Democratic moderates, like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, who will face heavy pressure to stay on board with other Democrats if there is a filibuster. So far, Lieberman and Nelson, other moderate Democrats, taking a wait-and-see approach. But we'll learn more on Thursday. CNN has just learned that, in fact, the Gang of 14 moderates will meet Thursday morning, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Ed Henry reporting.
Samuel Alito has the kind of pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps biography that President Bush tends to admire. Alito's roots run deep in New Jersey, where he was born the son of an Italian immigrant, went on to attend Princeton University, then it was on to Connecticut, and a law degree from Yale.
Fifty-five years old, Alito currently serves on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals based in Philadelphia. Before he was nominated to the federal bench by the president's father in 1990, Alito served as a U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey.
Alito is married to a fellow attorney, Martha Ann Baumgartner. They have two children, a college-age son, Phillip, and a younger daughter, Laura.
If confirmed, Alito would be the fifth Catholic on the U.S. Supreme court.
Alito's resume may play well with the public, based on a new poll numbers. Half of those surveyed say it's essential for the next Supreme Court justice to have experience as a judge. And more than a third say it's a good idea.
Now, half also say it doesn't matter if the next justice is a woman. Good news on that particular front for Mr. Alito.
On ideology, Americans are more divided. Just 21 percent say it's essential for the next high court justice to be conservative. This poll, by the way, was taken Friday through Sunday, before Judge Alito's nomination.
Time now once again for Jack Cafferty, a second chance to sound off on some of the big stories of the day.
Before we get on to that, Jack, you remember, you predicted that Harriet Miers would never show up, have to show up for confirmation hearings. JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: I know. I'm really disappointed, too. The entertainment value of those hearings was something that would just take your breath away. But I -- Ray Charles could have seen that she wasn't going to make it as a Supreme Court justice. I mean, there was no paper trail on her, and the paper trail that did exist was protected by executive privilege.
And so it makes you kind of wonder why they put that woman up there for nomination to begin with, doesn't it?
BLITZER: Well, you had said that if she did show up, if there were hearings...
CAFFERTY: No, I said if she was...
BLITZER: ... you said, I think you'd eat every brick in that building where you are.
CAFFERTY: What I said was, if she became a Supreme Court justice, I would eat the Time Warner Center.
BLITZER: You want to hear what you said? Let's listen to what you said.
CAFFERTY: There you go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAFFERTY: If she's confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, I'll eat this Time Warner Center, one brick at a time. Ain't going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. That was the exactly what you said, since we had the videotape.
CAFFERTY: Has Tom DeLay been indicted yet?
BLITZER: You predicted that one too. You called that on. I want to hear your stock picks.
CAFFERTY: My what?
BLITZER: Your stock picks.
CAFFERTY: Well, let me -- speaking of that, I have a question before we get to the question. Couldn't the Republicans find somebody to show the new Supreme Court nominee around besides a guy who's under investigation by the SEC and the Justice Department?
I mean, Bill Frist has a rather large cloud hanging over his head, based on those...
BLITZER: Well, (INAUDIBLE)...
CAFFERTY: ... alleged insider trading deals (INAUDIBLE)...
BLITZER: He's still the majority leader.
But let's move on to your question, because we're getting jammed with time.
CAFFERTY: Oh, all right.
What a difference a nomination makes. With -- We have to hurry up so we can get back to Scott McClellan at the White House. With the nomination of Harriet Miers, the president was fighting with Republicans. With Judge Samuel Alito, the fight will now be with the Democrats.
And already, the Democrats, some of them, whining about the Alito nomination. They want a woman, they want a minority. Nah, nah, nothing makes them happy.
Senator Harry Reid's complaining the president wants to leave the Supreme Court, quote, "looking less like America," unquote. He says if Alito's confirmed, the high court won't be diverse enough.
Here's the question this hour. Does the nomination of Judge Alito make the Supreme Court too much of an old boy's club? I guess Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be the only woman on the high court. You can e-mail us your thoughts at email@example.com. We'll read some of the e-mails in about a half hour.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you very much.
Coming up, a major figure in the CIA leak saga, live here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the former ambassador, Joe Wilson. His wife's CIA identity revealed, his own reputation attacked, does he feel vindicated by the indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby? Our interview, that's coming up.
Also ahead, the public weighs in on Vice President Dick Cheney. Is the leak bringing him and the Bush White House down in the polls?
And later, bird flu hits closer to home for Americans. We'll tell you where the virus has been detected.
All that coming up. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Coming up later this hour, my live interview with the former ambassador Joe Wilson about the CIA leak indictment, two years after the outing of his wife as a covert operative.
First, though, some new developments in the leak case.
The former Cheney chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, is now scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning on charges that he lied about his role in the leak. And the vice president has tapped his general counsel, David Addington, to replace Libby as chief of staff. Member of Cheney's national security staff, John Hannah, will take over Libby's duties, advising the vice president on security matters.
Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider's been looking at all the poll numbers on the vice president and the leak. He's joining us now live. Bill?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, is there any evidence of political damage resulting from the indictment of Scooter Libby? Yes, a lot of it suffered by his boss, the vice president.
PATRICK FITZGERALD, SPECIAL COUNSEL: We make no allegation that the vice president committed any criminal act.
SCHNEIDER: Maybe not, but the American public has drawn its own conclusions. The majority of those surveyed believe Libby did something illegal or unethical, and that Vice President Cheney was aware of it.
Most Americans, for the first time, express an unfavorable opinion of Cheney.
Is that a problem for Cheney? Unlike nearly every vice president for the past 70 years, Cheney says he is not running for president.
But it is a problem for President Bush. Critics, and even some supporters, say it's time for a shakeup in the White House.
GARY BAUER, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES: The president probably would be well advised to take a look at bringing in some fresh blood.
SCHNEIDER: The vice president is the only White House official who can't be fired. He was elected by the American people. But we could see Mr. Cheney's influence diminish.
Cheney is the administration official most clearly identified with making the case for war with Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, August 26, 2002)
DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: The special prosecutor insisted that his investigation had nothing to do with Iraq.
FITZGERALD: Anyone who's concerned about the war, and has feelings for or against, shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.
SCHNEIDER: One person is. Former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote, "They did it as part of a clear effort to cover up the lies and disinformation used to justify the invasion of Iraq. That is the ultimate crime."
Most Americans now endorse the view that the Bush administration deliberately misled the public about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
SCHNEIDER: Apparently, many Americans do connect the CIA leak with the war in Iraq. They see it as an effort to mislead them, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Bill. Bill Schneider reporting for us. Thank you, Bill, very much.
We'll have much more on the CIA leak investigation. That's coming up. The former U.S. ambassador, Joe Wilson, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about what's going on in this interview, that's coming up.
Also coming up, the royals are coming. And they're adding a new destination to their U.S. tour. We'll tell you about Prince Charles, the surprise stop, what's going on on that front.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Judge Samuel Alito already making the rounds up on Capitol Hill, meeting with senators. Met earlier with Republican leaders. Only moments ago, look at this, he's meeting, he's been meeting with the Democratic leader in the U.S. Senator -- U.S. Senate, that's Senator Harry Reid meeting with Samuel Alito. Harry Reid not very happy about this nomination, based on some initial comments. We'll monitor this story, get some more information for you.
But that's the picture just moments ago.
Zain Verjee is joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news right now. Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials in Canada confirm the discovery of a strain of H5 bird flu in wild birds. They say that tests are underway to determine if it's the same killer strain which has spread from Asia to Europe. That should take about a week. The avian flu was detected in birds in Quebec and in Manitoba.
At least 15 people are dead from a car bomb that detonated in a crowded commercial district in Basra today. Dozens more people were injured in the blast. Now, the bomb went off around 8:30 local time, when many Iraqi civilians were shopping and in restaurants. There's no immediate claim of responsibility.
The United Nations Security Council has voted unanimously in favor of a resolution calling on Syria to cooperate with an assassination investigation. A four-month U.N. probe suggests a Syrian connection to the February car bomb death of the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Today's U.N. resolution calls for sanctions on those suspected of involvement and warns Syria of further action if it doesn't comply.
And Britain's Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, will take off tomorrow for their first overseas since they were married. The royal couple will travel to New York, Washington, New Orleans, and San Francisco during their one-week tour. Prince Charles plans to promote environmental causes. The trip is basically seen, Wolf, as an effort for Prince Charles to win acceptance for his wife. The American public, you know, loved Diana, and he's hoping that, at least to an extent, Camilla will be accepted here in the U.S. like she has been in the British publics.
BLITZER: I suspect she will be. Zain, getting back to the U.N. Security Council, what was the government of Syria's response to that vote?
VERGEE: The Syrian foreign minister, Farouk al-Shara (ph), spoke to the U.N. Security Council after that unanimous vote was taken, and he essentially said, Look, Syria has cooperated with Detlev Meles's (ph) investigation that's lasted four months. He said Syria's acted in good faith. It could have refused requests, he said, but it didn't. And again, he echoed the words of many politicians in Syria that have essentially said this whole report has just been politically motivated. He said it was a set intention of investigators to blame Syria.
BLITZER: Thanks, Zain, very much.
Up next, the former U.S. ambassador Joe Wilson on the leak that changed his life and the life of his CIA operative wife. Wilson weighs in on the Lewis "Scooter" Libby indictment, whether more charges should be filed. We'll speak to Joe Wilson. That's coming up.
And later, the president's Supreme Court redo. Did he get it right this time? in our strategy session. Some Monday afternoon quarterbacking.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: When Lewis "Scooter" Libby is arraigned Thursday morning here in Washington, he may personally and publicly respond to his five count indictment in the CIA leak investigation. He's charged with repeatedly lying about his role in the leak. Joe Wilson and his wife Valerie Plame Wilson will no doubt be watching Libby's arraignment as closely as annyone. He's the former U.S. ambassador who questioned the Bush administration's justification for the war in Iraq. She's the CIA operative whose identity was leaked soon thereafter.
Joe Wilson is joining us now in "The Situation Room."
WILSON: Wolf, good to be with you. BLITZER: Do you have confidence in Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel who's investigated this leak?
WILSON: Absolutely. In fact, I think the one thing that the indictment showed the other day is that our system of justice works; that, in a nation that is based upon the rule of law, no man is above the law. And that's what Pat Fitzgerald said and made very clear.
BLITZER: Are you, though, disappointed that he didn't charge anyone with outing your wife as an undercover CIA operative?
WILSON: Well, I think it's important to remember two things. One, he was unable to indict on anything other than the charges because, as he said, his investigation into this was impeded by the obstruction of justice and perjury.
And two, as he said, the state's interests were vindicated by the indictments that were handed down. And three, finally, this is not a crime against Joe Wilson or Valerie Wilson, it's a crime against the country, against the national security of the country.
So we have no vote in whether or not we're disappointed or not disappointed.
BLITZER: But you were hoping that someone would actually -- that you'd get to the bottom of this: Who decided to out your wife as a CIA operative?
WILSON: Well, I think we pretty much are at the bottom. We now know, both from Mr. Cooper's testimony, the Time reporter testimony, that Mr. Rove gave him Valerie's name; and we know from the indictment that Mr. Libby was going around giving...
BLITZER: But you understand why that's not a crime -- that wasn't deemed a crime by Patrick Fitzgerald?
WILSON: Well again, it has not been indicted as a crime yet because, as Mr. Fitzgerald said, his investigation into the bottom of this was impeded by the obstruction of justice -- and the investigation is ongoing.
BLITZER: So you're still looking toward that.
On August 21st, 2003, at a forum, you were quoted as saying this -- and I believe you did say this because we've talked about it: "At the end of the day, it's of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs."
He's still working at the White House. He's the deputy White House chief of staff.
WILSON: And I think that Karl Rove should be fired. I think that this idea that you can, with impunity, call journalists and leak national security information is repugnant.
It is not fitting for a senior White House official. It is below any standard of ethical comportment, even if it is not technically illegal, because of the high standard of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.
But nonetheless, there's now clear evidence that Mr. Rove was leaking classified information. Mr. Fitzgerald made it very clear. My wife was a covert officer at the time that these people were leaking her name.
I believe it's an abuse of the public trust. And even if he can't be convicted of it, I see no reason why somebody like that, why the president would want to have somebody like that working on his staff.
BLITZER: Well, forget about conviction. He hasn't even been charged with a crime.
WILSON: Again, it's now very clear that he leaked it. Mr. Cooper's sworn testimony indicates that. The e-mails indicate that.
BLITZER: Let's go through some of the criticism that's been leveled at you, afresh over these past several days since this whole leak investigation was coming to a boil last Friday.
A lot of your critics blame you for the eventual disclosure of your wife as a CIA operative, and they go back to that early May 2003 column by the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof who first reports about an unnamed U.S. ambassador making this trip to Africa.
Were you the source, Nicholas Kristof's source, for that column?
WILSON: Well, I was a source for that column.
But let me just say two things. One, this has never been about Valerie or me. This has always been about the 16 words in the State of the Union address, first and foremost -- and then, second, about who leaked Valerie's name.
And I would point out to you that the indictment does not name Joe Wilson as somebody who leaked Valerie's name.
BLITZER: Well, the indictment doesn't name anyone necessarily as a crime in terms of leaking...
WILSON: The testimony that has been made public indicates that Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove leaked Valerie's name to the members of the press. There's nothing in any of the testimony to suggest that Joe Wilson did -- unlike what Mr. diGenova said on this program last week.
BLITZER: Why you tell Nicholas Kristof about your trip to Africa?
WILSON: I had attempted to talk directly to the State Department and to a number of Democratic senators and to get the record corrected. I felt that after it was clear that what the president was referring to in the State of the Union address was Niger and that the trip that I went on was based upon a transcription of these documents that later were shown to be forgeries.
It was important for the administration to correct the record.
BLITZER: Because, as you know, this was two months before the Robert Novak column appeared.
WILSON: It is an act of civic duty, it is what citizens across this country do every day in our democracy -- you hold your government to account for what your government says and does in the name of the American people.
This happened to be an area where I had certain expertise and experience.
BLITZER: The former CIA officer Robert Behr was quoted in Saturday's Washington Post as saying this: "The fact is, once your husband writes an op-ed piece and goes political, you have no immunity and that's the way Washington works."
In other words, he's one of those suggesting that, by your going public in various ways, your wife's identity was eventually going to be made known.
WILSON: Again, my name didn't appear in the indictment. There are instances of -- and you go to the Spy Museum here, you can see a number of high-profile people who served their country even though they had high-profile positions in different professions.
BLITZER: Even though some of your supporters were on this program last week -- Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer; Pat Lang, a former DIA intelligence analyst. They say your decision and your wife's decision to let her be photographed represented a major mistake because, if there were people out there who may have been endangered by her name, certainly when people might have seen her picture, they could have been further endangered.
WILSON: Her contacts and her network was endangered the minute that Bob Novak wrote the article. The photograph of her did not identify her in any way anybody could identify.
Now you asked me this question -- you've asked me this question three or four times...
BLITZER: About the photograph?
WILSON: About the photograph.
Now, I have never heard you ask the president about the layout in the Oval Office when they did the war layout. I've never heard you ask Mr. Wolfowitz about the layout in Vanity Fair. But you ask me all the time.
So let me just get this very clear: When one is faced with adversity, one of the ways one acts in the face of adversity is to try and bring a certain amount of humor to the situation. It's called irony.
And if people have no sense of humor or no sense of perspective on that, my response is: It's about time to get a life.
But in no way did that picture endanger anybody. What endangered people was the outing of her name --her maiden name -- and, subsequently, the outing of the corporation that she worked for.
BLITZER: So you don't have any regrets about the Vanity Fair picture?
WILSON: I think it's a great picture. I think someday you will, too.
BLITZER: It's a great picture. But I mean the fact that...
WILSON: I think someday it, too, will be in the International Spy Museum.
BLITZER: But you don't think it was a mistake to do that?
Let's talk about Joe diGenova, a former U.S. attorney, Republican. He was on this program, as you well know -- he among others suggesting: Well, she had a desk job, she was an analyst in the Counterproliferation Division at the CIA. She was no longer really what they call a NOC, someone working nonofficial cover overseas and that it was really no big deal.
WILSON: Well, I don't think Mr. diGenova knows what he's talking about in this particular matter. I would go back to the indictment and Mr. Fitzgerald's preamble in which he's made it clear: She was a classified officer. She was covered by the various statutes related to the handling of classified information.
It's as simple as that.
BLITZER: Did you ever go around in cocktail parties -- because this has been alleged against you as well -- before the Robert Novak column and boast "my wife, the CIA agent," "my wife works for the CIA"?
WILSON: Of course not.
First of all, have I five-year-old twins and so we don't go to very many cocktail parties. You've seen me at precisely one in the many years that we've been in Washington together. And that was actually a book party. And you did not see my wife there and you didn't hear me say anything about my wife at that.
BLITZER: How well-known was it that she worked for the CIA before the Novak column?
WILSON: It was not known outside the intelligence community. The day after the Novak article appeared, my sister-in-law, my brother's wife, turned to him and asked him: "Do you think Joe knows this?"
BLITZER: Your trip to Niger -- there's been some suggestion that she came up with the idea of sending you to Niger. And the Senate -- we've gone through this, but I'll let you respond since it keeps coming up over and over again -- the Select Committee on Intelligence that came out July 7th, 2004, last year said this:
"Interviews and documents provided to the committee" -- the Senate committee -- "indicated that his wife, a CPD" -- Counterproliferation Division -- "employee suggested his name for the trip."
Did she come up with the idea?
WILSON: No, that is not accurate. It doesn't reflect what happened. I was invited to a meeting. She conveyed that invitation from her superiors.
She also, at the request of superiors, provided them with sort of a list of my bona fides because they were doing contingency planning as to what they might want to do as a consequence of the outcome of the meeting, which was two days later after she wrote the report.
The reports officer, who apparently was quoted as saying that she offered up my name -- that's a quote -- came into her office subsequently and said that that was a misquote and he wanted to be reinterviewed by them.
That was contained in my letter back to Senator Roberts and Senator Hatch and Senator Bond after their additional views were published.
BLITZER: Larry Johnson, on this program last week, the former CIA officer, said your wife has been threatened by Al Qaida. Is that true?
WILSON: I won't go into specific threats. I'll tell you that there have been threats. And as a consequence, we've been working closely with the appropriate law enforcement agencies. We've changed our phone number and taken other security measures.
BLITZER: You don't want to go into details on that?
WILSON: Absolutely not.
BLITZER: If you had to do it all over again, looking backwards, any changes you would have done?
WILSON: I would have written the article as I did because I believe -- I believe firmly -- that it is a civic responsibility to hold your government to account in a strong democracy. And I can't think of much I would have changed. I suspect that, given the two-year character assassination campaign which was really designed to divert attention from the two key issues -- the 16 words in the State of the Union address and who leaked Valerie's name -- that there may have been some things I might have done differently, such as perhaps not getting engaged in a political campaign.
Although I will say this about that, and that is that I resent deeply the idea that others would try and deny me my right to participate fully in the selection of this country's leaders.
BLITZER: Because your wife is a CIA operative.
But let me ask a final question, now: Are you going to file any civil lawsuits against Libby, Cheney, anyone else?
WILSON: We're keeping all of our options open. There's a very complicated procedure for this, even though the case itself is relatively simple. And we have not come to any decision yet.
BLITZER: Joe Wilson, thanks very much for joining us.
WILSON: Thanks, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: Coming up, Lewis "Scooter" Libby indicted. What can and should the White House do now? Damage control advice, that's coming up in our "Strategy Session."
And new and more bloodshed in Iraq, and the political toll on the president. New statistics, that's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Strategy Session." Our political analysts Donna Brazile, Bay Buchanan here to discuss the fallout from the CIA leak, the new pick for the Supreme Court and a lot more.
We just heard Joe Wilson, let me get your response to what you heard. He makes a strong case that this was just part of a political vendetta against him, the outting of his wife.
BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I don't buy it whatsoever. And I don't there's any evidence that supports it. There's clear there was no crime committed in the sense of a conspiracy inside this White House in an effort to move...
BLITZER: At least not yet.
BUCHANAN: Well, we're up to two years, we don't have anything there. So, so as you say, anything can happen next year. But so far, we have no evidence to suggest that. And I think it's pretty clear what was going on in that White House is that there was a lot of inquiries as to what the heck a guy like Joe Wilson was doing over there. The guy assigned to go over there and get this information for Cheney. And so people made an inquiry and found out, indeed, indeed, his wife had a role in it.
BLITZER: But, should the White House only be held up to a criminal standard? Is there a moral responsibility that some people should take for outing, if you will, the wife of Ambassador Wilson?
BUCHANAN: Well, there's no-- no. A wife of an ambassador, there's nothing wrong with that.
BLITZER: But, she's a CIA operative.
BUCHANAN: Yes, but they didn't know that she was covert. It comes across now. The information appears that they weren't aware. Not even Libby was aware of this.
And so there's no mean spiritedness and deliberate attempt to hurt Joe Wilson. They were trying to get information out, Wolf, and they have a right to do that when the press was looking at them, as if they somehow were involved in sending Joe Wilson over there.
BLITZER: There is evidence that Libby knew that there was a problem in outing her because she worked for the CIA. And that comes through in the indictment.
Donna, what do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, I do think that there was an attempt to punish Joe Wilson for the comments that he was making in the press.
And in their efforts to punish Joe Wilson, they went overboard. And that's what the evidence suggests. That's what the prosecutor said on Friday.
And the truth of the matter is, these are serious allegations and charges. And now the burden is on Mr. Libby to prove them wrong.
But, I think what the president needs to do right now is to hold a news conference and to answer some of the most pressing questions that are still outstanding, in terms of why the White House went out of its way to try to...
BLITZER: His press secretary today was asked a lot of those questions. And, repeatedly fell back, the investigation continues. The White House counsel has advised everyone, don't discuss this until it's completely wrapped up. The president, presumably, is going to say the same thing.
BRAZILE: Well, somehow or another he went out there, almost, I forget now, two years ago. And said no one is involved in the White House, and exonerated them before the evidence was produced.
And now that we know that they were involved and trying to punish Mr. Wilson and uncover his wife, I think it's important the president go forward and tell the American people what he knows.
BUCHANAN: There's no evidence they were trying to punish Joe Wilson. No evidence, whatsoever.
They were trying to get information out. The press was going after the White House saying you guys somehow might have been involved in sending Joe Wilson over there. And this is a guy that's critical of the administration, why would do you that.
They were trying to get that information. And when they got it, they were trying to move it to the press. It was nothing mean spirited...
BRAZILE: They didn't like what he said.
BUCHANAN: Sure, they didn't like what he said. He was a critic.
But, the politics of it, the White House should not say anything more, Wolf. They shouldn't.
BLITZER: Let's move on to talk about the other big news of day.
Samuel Alito, the new nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Listen to what Senator Kennedy said here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier today.
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: My concern is that this nomination was more out of weakness rather than strength.
We know that it was sort of the extreme right wing of the president's own party that sank the previous nominee. I think many of us want to know why they're so ecstaticly happy today. What do they know that the rest of the--either the judiciary and the American people don't know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, you're part of that so-called--how does he phrase it? Extreme right wing.
Bay Buchanan, what do you know about Samuel Alito that the rest of the country doesn't necessarily know?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, let's tell her to get that grin off her face. That's the evidence right there that's a bad pick.
BUCHANAN: Oh, the phone calls are coming through, Wolf.
There is celebration going on in this country. It's happy days are here again.
BLITZER: You weren't happy with Harriet Miers. But, you are thrilled about this one?
BUCHANAN: We were not.
We are thrilled. We are celebrating. This is terrific appointment by the president. It couldn't be greater.
And I want you to know, a reporter called up there to the 91- year-old mom of Judge Alito and asked if he was--what his position is on abortion.
And you know what she said?
Of course, he's against abortion. So, we have it from the mom.
This is great news. We all, of course, knew that. The key is, though, and the reason you can relax is because he will interpret the constitution, that is what he's proved to be. He's got 15 years of experience. This is Roberts with experience. And we are thrilled.
BRAZILE: Well, if he is going to interpret the constitution then maybe his mom should call back, and say you know what? He will allow Roe v. Wade to stand.
BUCHANAN: He might.
BRAZILE: Look, this is a judge that ruled at one point that in order for a woman to have an abortion, she must get the permission of her husband. That is so archaic.
So, on gender rights, on racial issues, he has a really tough record to prove. I mean, a really tough record to embrace. And I think Democrats are going to scrutinize this nominee. And at the end of the day we may not be smiling, Bay.
BUCHANAN: Listen, Judge Alito, by the way, I know that your Planned Parenthood friends are pushing the fact he requires a woman to notify, he voted that. So, it's notification, not required to get approval. It's notification.
BRAZILE: You want a man to approve something like that?
BUCHANAN: Not approve. Notify your husband. What he said is that is constitutional, as the courts and the laws are today. It's the constitution. And that's all he was doing is upholding what he...
BLITZER: But, he was overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
BRAZILE: Thank God.
BUCHANAN: Next time around.
BLITZER: Should the Democrats try to filibuster it?
BRAZILE: Well, I think the Democrats should have every weapon in their arsenal now. Because this is a very extreme nominee.
I haven't found much in his record to celebrate and smile like Bay. I think this requires Democrats to do their homework and be prepared to give him a fair hearing, but a tough hearing. This may not be the right choice.
BUCHANAN: The good news and why the president really did a terrific job here is he has unified, not just the base, the Republican party is unified, is excited.
And we've got the Democrats -- those people who voted for George Bush were promised a certain kind of judge. He kept his promise to the voters of this country today.
And the Democrats are the ones unhappy. So, this isn't unusual, the Republicans win, the Republicans are happy. Democrats are unhappy. Nothing unusual about that.
BRAZILE: That's the way you want it, but that's the wrong way to go because this should be a nominee that brings us together, and not tear this country apart.
BUCHANAN: Now, how can that be? You and I will never agree on a nominee. It's never going to bring us together.
BRAZILE: That's true Bay.
BUCHANAN: So, I should be the happy one.
BRAZILE: Maybe if Wolf is the nominee. We'll agree on Wolf, but he's never going to be nominated.
BLITZER: We're going to move on.
Thanks very much, Bay Buchanan, Donna Brazile. Good discussion.
On our political radar today, a unique tribute to a civil rights legend and the movement she helped spark. Many of Washington's top officials paid their respects today to the late Rosa Parks, the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
And over at a memorial service later in the day, Oprah Winfrey and others said a final thank you to Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man 50 years ago.
Parks died last Monday at age 92.
Another six U.S. soldiers in Iraq dead. Four were killed by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad. Two were killed by an explosive device in northern Iraq.
That brings the total U.S. death toll to 2, 023 since the start of the war more than two years ago.
Opposition to the war in Iraq appears to be on the rise again. Our new poll shows 54 percent of Americans now say it was a mistake to send U.S. troops to Iraq. That figure had dropped to 49 percent earlier this month after the vote on Iraq's draft constitution and the start of Saddam Hussein's trial.
Up next, Hurricane Wilma adds insult to injury this Halloween for the youngest victims. We'll explain.
And the president gives it another shot. Will his new supreme court nominee help him change the subject of the CIA leak indictment?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the hot shots coming in from our friends over at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.
Over at the United Nations headquarters in New York, stern warning -- the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice cast the American vote to adopt a resolution demanding Syria's full cooperation with an investigation into the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
In Baghdad, U.S. troops on patrol. Six American soldiers killed in two bombings today, making October the second deadliest month this year.
In Pakistan, small pleasures. A girl gets a balloon at a refugee camp where a carnival was held for kids displaced by this month's earthquake.
And in Macau, East Asian Games. An 11-year-old diver competes in the final round of the woman's springboard competition.
Those are some of today's hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
Let's go to CNN's Zain Verjee in Atlanta once again with another quick look at some other stories making news -- Zain?
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, almost half a million commuters in Philadelphia have to find different ways to get around with transit workers on strike. They walked off the job after last- minute talks failed to produce an agreement last night.
Governor Ed Rendell is urging both sides to return to the bargaining table. The two key sticking points are health care and salary structures. No new talks are scheduled.
In South Carolina, the driver of a semi is facing felony drunk- driving charges after his 18-wheeler slammed into a tractor pulling a hayride last night. The collision killed a toddler, a teenager and two adults, 16 other people were injured. Two are still hospitalized and the investigation is continuing.
Honduran officials are assessing the damage from Hurricane Beta, which roared over the Central American country over the weekend. Four rivers overflowed and strong winds downed signs, trees, fences and power and phone poles. There are no reports of deaths or injuries, though. Thousands of people were forced from their homes. Food distributions have begun for those displaced by the storm.
Well, it's going to be no trick or treating for most children in South Florida, thanks to Hurricane Wilma. Government officials have asked parents not to let their children out after dark. Power outages caused by the storm a week ago still affect much of the area. That danger along with remaining piles of debris makes walking after dark quite dangerous. Almost 1 million people still have no power. Florida Power & Light says it could be Thanksgiving before electricity is fully restored. And Wolf, I just want to show you my Halloween outfit, because I just want to make sure it meets with Jack Cafferty's exacting standards. I'm not sure if he'll approve of it. Jack, do you?
BLITZER: What are you trying to be there, Zain?
VERJEE: A cow girl from Texas. Howdy, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It doesn't matter, just get me a saddle. I like that.
BLITZER: Zain's going to go trick or treating. Zain, you're going to be sticking around because you're going to be here for a while.
VERJEE: Yes, I'll be here for awhile. Jack, I hope you're going to be here for a while, as well. What are you dressing up for?
CAFFERTY: I don't have to put on a mask, Zain. I just go out like this.
BLITZER: Jack, go ahead.
Tell us what the response has been to your question.
CAFFERTY: There are some real idiots watching this program this afternoon. Not long after President Bush announced the nomination of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court this morning, some Democrats already out whining about it. They want a woman or a minority on the court.
The question is, does the nomination of Judge Alito make the Supreme Court too much of an old boys' club?
David in Chicopee, Massachusetts writes, old boys' club is perhaps too strong a term. If, as reported, he is a clone of Scalia, the fair-minded and progressive American public should head for the nearest foxhole. I have never believed that ethnic, gender or religious diversity is needed on the Supreme Court. Fairness is the key word.
Paul in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Judge Alito is not mainstream America. He'll be "borked."
David in Chestertown, Maryland, less important than the fact that it's continuing to be an old boys' club is the fact that the Supremes are the most conservative bunch since Roosevelt. I look forward to a reversal of the Dred Scott decision with Judge Thomas writing for the majority.
Dale in Philadelphia writes, Judge Alito looks forward to meeting with Ruth Bader Ginsburg; he has some new ideas about what kinds of sandwiches and beer she can serve the men of the court.
And Kim, in Corn, Oklahoma, you mean there isn't one single right-wing not job woman out there?
BLITZER: Kim in Corn, Oklahoma, wow. She's got a sense of humor.
Thanks very much, Jack. We'll get back to you soon.
Still to come, the Democratic party Chairman Howard Dean rarely minces words. How riled is he about the president's new Supreme Court nominee and the CIA leak indictment?
Howard dean's our guest. That's coming up in the next hour of THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, victims, heroes, or villains? Bloggers take on the CIA leak and try to bust the case wide open. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Bloggers have spent the weekend analyzing Friday's indictment against Lewis Scooter Libby.
Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is here to take us inside the blogs. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, the conclusions that liberal bloggers have come to this morning is that President Bush's nominee announcement today was a diversionary tactic.
We're seeing a lot of that online. We start over at The Huffington Post, one of the blogs that has been following the CIA leak for quite sometime.
And Harry Shearer basically says it's all in the timing. Bush's announcement this morning was taking advantage of the news cycle today.
Over at blogpulse, wanted to show you this. You can track online how blog posts are basically rising and falling.
I plugged in Rove, Libby and Plame, just three names that I picked. You can see how they spiked on Friday and then dropped off considerably over the weekend.
Just to give you an idea, Technorati, a blog search engine. The No. 1 search this hour, Alito. You can see on that list of top ten, there is no CIA leak investigation term on there at all.
Over at TalkLeft, they're bringing up the latest news today. The appointment of two people to sub in for Libby. That would be David Addington and John Hannah.
There is some commentary on that online, for example, from Talking Points Memo. Josh Marshall saying this is an example of the Bush administration circling the wagons.
And finally, just wanted to point out to you, online is the 2002 Geneva Convention memo...or, I'm sorry, the Guantanamo Memo, the torture memo. This was authored by David Addington, that's where I'm connecting the dots here. Sorry to be a little confusing on that, Wolf.
But essentially, Addington not a new name, which is what I'm trying to get across. And that's available online for you to read at the washingtonpost.com.
Send it back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for that, Jacki.
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