Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Jury Finds Moussaoui Eligible for Death Penalty; Air Force Cargo Jet Crashes After Takeoff in Dover, Delaware; Iran Test-Fires Underwater Missile

Aired April 03, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information from around the world are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you today's top stories.

Happening now, it's 5:00 p.m. in Alexandria, Virginia, where part of the verdict is in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui. Jurors have just decided whether the al Qaeda conspirator is eligible for the death penalty.

And it's 5:00 p.m. in Dover, Delaware, where the U.S. military is investigating the crash of a giant cargo jet. There were 17 people on board. One official calls what happened to them a miracle.

And it's 5:00 p.m. here on Capitol Hill, where we're following a developing story. Capitol Police are asking federal prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, involved in a scuffle with a Capitol Hill police officer. The Georgia Democrat joins me live this hour. She'll give us her side of the story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up first this hour, we're following that developing story in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal jury has just decided the confessed al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui is, in fact, eligible for the death penalty.

Our Justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is joining us live from outside the courthouse with late details.

Kelli, you were inside as this verdict was being announced. Update our viewers on what happened.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, before he even got in the courtroom, Zacarias Moussaoui could be heard yelling outside in the hall. We don't know exactly what he was saying, but he was brought in, and by the time he was brought in he was pretty much subdued.

The judge asking the jury if they had reached a verdict, they said, yes, it was unanimous on all three death penalty eligible counts, which means this trial will go to phase two. This same jury will decide whether or not Moussaoui is sentenced to death or if he gets life in prison.

They were very serious, very poker faced. No emotions shown. Not even from the family members who were sitting in the courtroom. Everyone just -- just listening very quietly and intently.

Moussaoui was staring straight ahead, not reacting at all. He was sort of mumbling to himself, not sure if he was praying or reciting something, but his mouth was continually moving. But he did stay seated, did not stand when the verdict was read.

He was flanked by five very large U.S. marshals. But when he did leave the courtroom, Wolf, as has become his custom, he did yell, and this time he yelled, "You will never get my blood, god curse you all" as he was being escorted out of the courtroom.

That was pretty much what happened. Very short. About 15 minutes in all. And now we wait for the next phase, which will start on Thursday, Wolf.

Thursday morning, the same jury back in the courtroom. And we do this all over again.

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you very much.

Jeff Toobin is our senior legal analyst. He's joining us from New York.

Walk us through, Jeff, the next phase, because what you believe is that phase one was obviously much more difficult for the prosecution to prove. It's going to be easier in phase two.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. What happened in phase one was that the government successfully proved to the jury that Moussaoui's lies caused the death of thousands of people. Now what the government has to do is show the aggravating factors.

Under federal death penalty law, they have to show that this was especially cruel and heinous, that this was an especially awful event that merits the death penalty. That, frankly, is not that hard to do, because we're talking about 9/11 here, where 3,00 people died.

So that's the government's task, and they're going to call victim's family members, they're going to play tapes of 911 calls, of course, of tapes between some of the planes and the ground. It's just horrifying material. The jury can't help but be moved.

The defense's task in the next -- in the next part of the case is to show what is called mitigating factors, reasons why the death penalty is not appropriate. And I think, based on what we heard, they're going to focus on the mental state of Zacarias Moussaoui, that he is apparently, according to the defense, a schizophrenic.

He has obviously displayed behavior that those of us who are not doctors would call crazy. But the question is, is his mental instability, nuttiness, insanity, whatever you want to call it, enough to persuade one juror -- and that's all it takes -- that the death penalty is not justified? Because this -- this next part has got to be unanimous, just like the first part of the death penalty procedure had to be unanimous, as well.

BLITZER: Jeffrey, thank you very much.

Jeff Toobin with some legal analysis.

And as we head into this next and final phase of the Moussaoui death penalty case, we're getting some new details online.

Let's bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we can see that two motions have just been filed moments after this jury's decision at the U.S. district court in Virginia. Those motions, one by the defense, one by the prosecution, have just been put online.

They are sealed. We can't see exactly what is in them, but what we do know is this from both sides putting forward, one side, aggravating, and the other side mitigating factors in this case. We can't see the details, as I said, but we can see that those have just been filed in court today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you very much.

We want to thank our international viewers for joining us. They're going to return to CNN International right now.

For our North American viewers, we're following other news as well, including a developing story in Dover, Delaware, where an investigation is now under way into the crash of an Air Force cargo jet. When you see these pictures, you're going to understand why some say it's a miracle no one was killed.

Let's bring in our Brian Todd. He's joining us now from Dover, Delaware, with the latest -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that is the operative word today. We've heard it from an Air Force official, we've heard it from an aviation safety expert. They say this is nothing short of a miracle. We're going to show you why.

Take a look at that fuselage over there. That is the Air Force C-5B that took off early this morning from Dover Air Force Base, just beyond this fence over here.

You can see the fuselage. The tail broke off on impact. The cockpit broke off on impact.

Now, if you see the left side of the plane, the wing collapsed a little bit there, the left wing collapsed, but just beyond that left wing collapse you see the cockpit twisted off to the left there. It's just above the wing. And this is why people are calling this a miracle.

Seventeen people were on board. No fatalities. Everyone survived.

At least we're told that 11 of them were crew members. Four of them were civilians. The other two we're not sure of, they could have been military people on a space-available flight. The flight was headed for Europe when it took off.

Part of the miracle here, no explosion on board on impact, no fire, possibly, we're told by an aviation safety expert, because it's all inert gas inside this plane. Also, when the plane is not very crowded, most of the people are strapped up high. If it's very crowded, they do have space down in the lower sections of the plane for other people.

But obviously, not a crowded plane. Seventeen people total on board.

The exact cause of this crash still unclear right now. Investigators are looking into it. But listen to the sequence of events as described by Air Force Colonel Chad Manske just a short time ago.


COL. CHAD MANSKE, U.S. AIR FORCE: The airplane took off at approximately 6:21 this morning, got to a point -- it was headed for Europe, and got approximately 10 minutes' flying time away from the base, at which point something happened on the flight deck. We're still trying to get all the information on exactly what. An emergency, in-flight emergency was declared with our local air traffic control.


TODD: And just after that, at 6:42 a.m. Eastern Time, is when impact occurred just over my right shoulder.

One key thing here, what we're told, again, the cause unclear, but an Air Force official told us earlier today that in that in-flight emergency call the pilot reported a "flame out" on engine number two. So it is possible -- they're not confirming anything yet, but it's possible that at least one of the engines failed.

But we're also told that with three of the four engines in operation, they should have been able to go ahead and land this plane safely back at the airfield. But again, everything is under investigation now, Wolf. We're being told very little. We're going to get back to the cause of it a little later on in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Brian. I know you're going to have a lot more on this story. And those pictures are dramatic.

Other stories we're following, including the tense nuclear standoff with Iran. The country is engaging in some high-profile war games, testing and touting what it calls new weapons. But is Iran simply showing its military might or is it simply showing off? Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, is watching this story. He's joining us live -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, if Iran's goal with the recent weapons test just the last few days was to get Washington's attention, it has succeeded.


ENSOR (voice over): The most recent tests were of two new types of high-speed torpedoes, capable, Iran said, of going over 200 miles an hour underwater to hit a submarine at any depth and to break a surface warship in two. Tests came as part of a large Iranian naval exercise in the Gulf dubbed "The Great Prophet."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman in a statement said, "It is not surprising that they have tested this weapon." He said, "The Iranians have been known to boast and exaggerate their statements about greater technical and tactical capabilities."

Just last week, Iran tested a new land-based missile, the Fajr-3, which it claims can carry several warheads and can evade enemy radar systems. Iran already has a mid-range missile, the Shahab-3, with a range of more than a thousand miles.

The tests come as Iran's leaders face a call by the United Nations Security Council for Tehran to give up plans to enrich uranium. Many fear Iran may be trying to develop an Iranian nuclear weapon.

DAVID KAY, FMR. IRAQ WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think the largest message was political, political to the U.S., political to our allies in the Gulf, and to the Chinese and the Russians and the Indians. Look, Security Council action, if it escalates, has the potential of escalating into a military conflict. And don't expect Iran to be like Iraq.

ENSOR: State Department and other officials say the new weapons are not as powerful as the Iranians would have the world believe, but they are advances on the existing Iranian arsenal.


ENSOR: The main point here, though, U.S. officials say, is to try to convince Americans and others around the world that military action to stop Iran's nuclear programs would simply carry too high a cost -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, thank you very much.

David Ensor reporting.

Let go back to New York. Jack Cafferty standing by the with "The Cafferty File."


It looks like we're going to find out whether it's too soon for a movie about 9/11. Something called "United 93," set to open at the end of this month, it's the first feature film to deal explicitly with what happened on September 11, 2001. The movie is about United Flight number 93. That's the one that went down in Pennsylvania after the passengers fought off the hijackers, which I think they were intent on crashing that one into the White House, as I recall.

Some are now wondering if people want to watch the events of 9/11 on a movie screen. One Manhattan theater here in New York actually pulled the trailer after getting several complaints saying it left at least one woman in tears. Critics say the studio is exploiting a national tragedy. But the filmmaker got approval from every victim's family, and Universal Studios plans to donate 10 percent of the opening weekend profits to a memorial fund.

The question is: Are Americans ready to watch a movie about 9/11?

You can e-mail your thoughts to or you can go to

I recall last week, Wolf, when they released some of those 911 calls, the tapes, a lot of the television coverage was accompanied by footage of the World Trade Center and the events of that day. And I remember seeing a couple of these reports and just being overcome with this feeling of sadness about reliving the events of 9/11.

So I don't think I'll probably be buying a ticket to this movie.

BLITZER: OK, Jack. Thank you very much. It is hard for all of us to remember those days.

Up ahead, we'll move on to another story that's developing in Washington right now. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, she's standing by to join us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll get her immediate reaction to news that Capitol Hill Police are seeking an arrest warrant for her after her scuffle with a police officer in recent days.

We're going to hear what she has to say.

Also, new poll numbers out on the immigration debate. We'll talk about that, the border battle and more, with our CNN contributor, Bill Bennett.

And which airline has the happiest passengers? Which gets the most complaints? We'll show you how your favorite carrier ranks in a new survey.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're following a developing story right now. CNN has confirmed from federal law enforcement officials that Capitol Police are asking federal prosecutors to issue an arrest warrant for Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. They filed a complaint stemming from an incident last week between the Georgia Democrat and a Capitol police officer as she tried to enter a House office building without a lapel pin that identifies her as a member of the United States Congress.

Representative McKinney is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta. Also joining us here in Washington, her attorney, James Myart. And in Orlando, her other attorney, Mike Raffauf. He's joining us, as well, by phone.

Thanks to all of you for joining us.

And let me get your immediate reaction, Congresswoman, to this news that federal law enforcement officials are being asked by Capitol Hill police to issue an arrest warrant because of this incident last week.

REP. CYNTHIA MCKINNEY (D), GEORGIA: Wolf, you know that's a legal issue and I can't respond to that. But what I can say is, first of all, I want to commend you for the balanced way in which you've covered this story. From what I have seen and from what -- the stories that I have heard from those who have watched you, you have been balanced, and I appreciate that.

What I want to say, though, is that we've had two press conferences. One was on Friday with Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover and several members of a tour group of young people who had come to Washington from Georgia. And surprisingly, I didn't even know about their experience. But surprisingly, they, too, had a story to tell about the Capitol Hill police. And these were African-American young people.

BLITZER: All right. I want to get to that story and I want to get to hear your side of what happened, but let me let your attorney, James Myart, respond specifically to this suggestion, this report that we're getting that we have confirmed that Capitol Police are asking federal prosecutors to go ahead and issue an arrest warrant.

What do you make of this?

JAMES MYART, MCKINNEY'S ATTORNEY: Well, let me just simply respond by saying that is simply not true. I have been in contact with the Capitol Hill police, and I have also had an opportunity to review just exactly what it is they're attempting to do.

They're doing no more than any of the law enforcement agency does. And that is simply to file with the prosecutors the necessary paperwork for them to further investigate the case. And that's all it is. With regard to the issuance of an arrest warrant, that is totally incorrect.

BLITZER: It's up to the federal prosecutors to determine whether or not to go forward with an arrest warrant. But what you're saying, James, is that you don't have a -- you're hearing that Capitol Police have not made a recommendation, is that what you're saying?

MYART: What I'm saying is, is that the Capitol Police have actually sworn out the affidavit and submitted it to the prosecutors. And that's basically it.

I have been in contact with them on a daily basis. In fact, even in person. And this is not what they have done. They have done what every law enforcement agency does, and that is to issue their -- their recommendations, or at least their report to the prosecuting attorneys, and that's it.

BLITZER: All right. Let's leave that for a moment.

Congresswoman, I want to bring -- bring you back into this conversation. Tell our viewers what happened last week.

You were walking into -- into the Longworth House Office Building, one of the House of Representatives office buildings right near the U.S. Capitol. You were going through the metal detector. Pick up the story. What happened?

MYART: Well, I'm going to have to respond -- I'm going to have to respond to that.

BLITZER: Hold on -- hold on one second, James. I was asking the congresswoman to tell us what happened.

MCKINNEY: I understand the question and I understand that while this is in this process there's certain questions that I can't ask, and they're better responded to by the attorneys. But what I can say is that this idea that the security of members of Congress is contingent on either a piece of jewelry or the way they wear their hair is -- I just don't understand.

It means, then, that the Congress and the members of Congress are not secure. If the members of the United States Capitol Hill Police who are charged with the responsibility of protecting the members of Congress don't know who they are, then what does that say to us about the kind of security that we have?

BLITZER: Congresswoman, there are 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 senators. There are law enforcement, Capitol Hill Police. Members of the House where a little lapel pin to identify them as members of Congress; thereby, they can avoid going through the metal detectors and they just go around them, as you well know.

On that day, you weren't wearing your lapel pin, is that right?

MCKINNEY: You know, if you look at C-SPAN and the speeches from the floor of the House on any given day, you will see that there are very many members of Congress who don't happen to have their pins on while they're speaking on the floor of the House. But let me just say that the requirement for pages to become a congressional page at age 16 is to know by face and by name the members of the United States Congress.

Don't you think that the United States Capitol Police ought to also know the members of Congress by name and by face? And then there are only 14 African-American women members of Congress. So I don't understand what it is about my face that certain members of the Capitol Hill Police Department can't remember.

BLITZER: Well, here is what some of your critics are saying, and I know you know this. And we'll put a picture up, a recent photo that is in the Capitol Hill book.

This was a picture of you now. This is what you look like now. Obviously, you have a new hairstyle, as opposed to your old hairstyle. And what they're saying is, when you changed your hairstyle, they didn't recognize you, they politely asked you to stop and you resisted several attempts by one of the Capitol Hill Police officers to stop and to identify yourself. And as a result, there was this altercation in which they say you allegedly hit the police officer.

MCKINNEY: Wolf, the only thing I can say about the juxtaposition of those two pictures is that in one of them I happen to have a little more makeup on about the way I am here on CNN today. But the bottom line is that my face hasn't changed, and I haven't changed.

I've looked like this for the entire 11 years that I have been in Congress. And so, I don't understand exactly why it is that certain police officers have a problem remembering my face.

BLITZER: Well, I guess the basic question, Congresswoman, is, if they asked you to stop and identify yourself and go through the metal detector, what was the big deal? Why not do that?

MCKINNEY: Well, you know, that goes to the heart of the press conference that we had today. And I want to thank you for covering the other press conference that we had on Friday with Danny Glover and Harry Belafonte.

But today we had black elected officials from the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus at the time when Coretta Scott King's body lay in state at the Georgia State Capitol. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus was not allowed into the building to perform a part of the procession. Why? They can't even answer the question except that the security at the Georgia Capitol did not recognize them as dually- elected members able to carry out the mandate of the people who sent them to the legislature.

And as a result of police action that was -- we can't even understand why the members of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus were disrespected -- that's what they said today -- and forced to look at the body of Coretta Scott King from the third floor of the state Capitol.

The bottom line on this is that it doesn't matter if you're in the United States Capitol or the Georgia Capitol, the issue is racial profiling.

BLITZER: All right. I want to pick up...

MCKINNEY: And that's something that we're going to have to deal with as a country.

BLITZER: Congresswoman, I want to continue this conversation, but I want to take a quick commercial break. I have more questions to ask you. Stay with us. Your attorneys are going to stay with us, as well.

Much more with Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. We're hearing her side of the story, but there are still several unanswered questions. Much more of our interview right after this.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia and her two attorneys, James Myart -- he's in Washington, D.C. -- and Mike Raffauf. He's in Orlando.

Congresswoman McKinney, did you strike one of those Capitol Police officers during this incident on Capitol Hill?

MCKINNEY: Wolf -- Wolf, before you bring on my two attorneys, let me just say for the record -- and this is something that you might want to do a little further investigation on -- but I'm sure if you would look, you would find that even inside the Capitol Hill Police Department there are problems inside with the treatment of -- or the respect for diversity, let me say.

BLITZER: Because you know there are many black officers on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman.

MCKINNEY: Well, I think you should look at some of the proceedings that are going on right now with black officers and white officers inside the Capitol Hill Police Department and you might reach a different conclusion.

BLITZER: We got a statement from Lou Cannon, the president of the D.C. Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. It was in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution."

He says, "There was no excessive force here. If she's trying to turn this into a racial issue, people should ask, 'Why is she doing this?' This is an insult to all police officers."

This is an extremely serious charge you're making, Congresswoman.


BLITZER: Well, let -- let's let the congresswoman respond. And then I will let you in, James.


MCKINNEY: Well, I haven't made a charge. I just asked you to do a little bit of research.

BLITZER: No, no, no, but...


BLITZER: ... you were talking earlier about racial profiling, and that there was racism involved in stopping you for questioning because you weren't wearing your congressional pin.

MCKINNEY: Now, Wolf, you know I didn't say that, so, don't twist my words.

BLITZER: Well, tell us what you said.

MCKINNEY: Don't even begin to twist my words.

BLITZER: Tell us what you said.

MCKINNEY: And whatever it is that I said is already on the tape. So, you can replay the tape.

Now, I think it's probably a good time now for you to bring in my attorneys. You have had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Myart, but you haven't yet spoken with Mike Raffauf.

BLITZER: I want -- I want to speak to both of them.

And -- and let me ask Mr. Myart, James, to respond, because I know you're anxious to weigh in, to this suggestion. There were other police officers there who were watching all of this. There may have been video, as far -- surveillance video, as far as we know as well, although we haven't seen it.

Was there a -- was there actual physical -- a physical altercation between the congresswoman and the police officer who asked her to stop?

MYART: Well, let me say this.

In my conversation with the Capitol Hill Police individual at the top, I understand that there may very well be a video. I have not seen it, and probably won't see it, unless there's an actual prosecution of this particular matter.

But, Wolf, I -- I think it's important for you to understand that this issue is really one that is more national. And that is how black individuals are treated throughout this country by law enforcement officials.

In addition to that, you should know that over 259 black police officers of the Capitol Police force have, in fact, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the Capitol Police board. There's division in the ranks over there. These are very serious issues that need to be dealt with. And Congresswoman McKinney is only one person who has been treated like this, when thousands of people, literally hundreds of thousands of black people, across this country, and other people, are racially profiled.

If that police officer had known his job, he -- this incident would not even be discussed right now. There are only 14 black female members of Congress, 42 black members of Congress total. It is just incredible that anyone would believe that they cannot even recognize the people that they are charged with the responsibility of protecting.

BLITZER: But -- but, as an officer of the court, James, if a police officer asks you to stop, don't you stop, and respond, and answer questions, and -- as opposed to -- to getting -- to -- to reacting, allegedly, the way the congresswoman did?

MYART: Well, let me put it to you this way.

The congresswoman acted and reacted, as far as I'm concerned, appropriately.

BLITZER: Did she hit the...

MYART: You do not...

BLITZER: ... police officer?

MYART: You do not...

BLITZER: Did she hit the police officer?

MYART: You do not touch an individual.

The facts are going to be what the facts are. The fact of the matter also is, in our jurisprudence, there is such a thing as self- defense. I am not denying, nor am I affirming that that happened. The tape will show what the tape shows. The point is, however, this incident would not happen if law enforcement officials did not have the predisposition that black people should be held to a heightened sense of suspicion.

BLITZER: Let me let the other attorney, Mike...

MYART: And that is what happened in this particular case.

BLITZER: Let me let the other attorney, Mike Raffauf -- he has been very patient on the phone.


BLITZER: He has been standing by.

I know you want to weigh in, Mike. And maybe you can answer the question. Did she actually hit the police officer who was asking her to stop?

MIKE RAFFAUF, ATTORNEY FOR CONGRESSWOMAN CYNTHIA MCKINNEY: Wolf, let me say that, first of all, sex, race and politics are probably involved in this. They're involved in most things out of Washington, D.C.

But, basically, what you have here is an ineffectual policy being implemented by an ill-trained officer. You cannot let people pass a checkpoint based on an I.D. badge. You -- you should pass them because you know them. He did not know the congresswoman. That's the policy that led to this breakdown.

He -- apparently, she walked by, just like she always does, just like all congressmen do. This officer did not recognize her. He chases her down. And he, again, uses inappropriate touching, as has already been said.

BLITZER: When you say inappropriate touching, Mike, what do you mean by that?

RAFFAUF: Well, I think that the evidence is going to show there was some kind of grab by this officer on the congresswoman.

BLITZER: If -- if the officer didn't know show she was -- and he clearly didn't -- and it may have been because she changed her hairstyle or didn't change her hairstyle. It may have been related to that.

But, in fact, she wasn't wearing her pin, she had a different appearance, she wasn't listening to him, she was continuing to walk around the metal detector, and he was concerned about the security of the Longworth House Office Building, wouldn't it be appropriate for her -- for him to try to stop her?

RAFFAUF: If -- if they were concerned about the security of that building, they wouldn't have the current policy in effect.

You shouldn't be able to bypass that just because you're wearing a name badge. Anybody can have a name badge on.

MCKINNEY: It's not even a name badge.


MCKINNEY: That's the issue. I mean, it's not even a name badge.


BLITZER: All right. Hold on. Hold on.

MCKINNEY: And it doesn't have your photo on it.


BLITZER: Mike hold on.

I -- I want Congresswoman McKinney to go ahead and respond.

Go ahead, Congresswoman.

MCKINNEY: Oh, I'm just saying that it's not a name badge and it doesn't have a photo. It's not an identification at all. It's just a piece of jewelry. It's a -- it's a pin.

And many of the members of Congress don't wear their pins every day. You can look at C-SPAN and see that.

BLITZER: When did you -- when did you change your hairstyle?

MCKINNEY: In January of this year. But don't you think it's really frivolous? And, really, I -- I can't even describe -- if the security of the House of Representatives of the United States is based on how members of Congress wear their hair, Wolf, I think this is really ridiculous.

And that is -- probably explains this entire situation of how ridiculous it is that we're sitting here now, talking about my new hairdo.

And let me just also add, I heard Judge Mablean Ephriam of "Divorce Court" on the Tom Joyner radio show this morning. And guess what? Judge Mablean had an issue -- or Fox News -- Fox had an issue with, guess what, Judge Mablean's hair.

Now, what is this, that, for a black woman, her hair becomes an issue in the workplace?

BLITZER: Only because -- only because this Capitol Hill officer and his colleagues, apparently, are saying, they didn't recognize you; you didn't stop; they asked you to stop.

MCKINNEY: My hair is not an issue. And it shouldn't be an issue.

And the policy is not based on the hair. The policy is based on facial recognition. And my face hasn't changed.

BLITZER: Your face is the same, but the hairdo is different.

MCKINNEY: Thank you, Wolf, for saying that my face is the same.



Well, let me -- let me also remind you, Congresswoman, this isn't the first time you have had this problem. And I'm sure a lot of African-Americans have had similar problems over the years.

But, in 1998, you wrote a letter to then President Bill Clinton because of an incident when you were walking in to the White House. You probably remember that. At the time you said: "I am..." MCKINNEY: I was with a 22-year-old white staffer. And the security at the White House assumed that the white staffer, who was 22 years old, was the Congresswoman, and that I was her help.

BLITZER: This is what you said at the time.

You said: "I am absolutely sick and tired of having to have my appearance at the White House validated by white people. I don't need to be stopped or questioned because I happen to look like hired help."

I remember that incident. I was then CNN's senior White House correspondent, covering President Clinton.

So, there -- there is a history. Were you thinking of that incident and other incidents when this most recent incident last week occurred?

MCKINNEY: Wolf, of course. I have been in Congress for 11 years.

And, quite frankly, you know, I can go into many airports, not just in America, but around the world, and people don't have a problem recognizing me. It's only with certain police officers on Capitol Hill.

BLITZER: We, unfortunately, have to leave it there.

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, thanks for joining us.

Want to thank your attorneys, James Myart, Mike Raffauf, for joining us as well.

And we will see what happens on this story. Appreciate it very much.

MCKINNEY: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We invited a spokesman from Capitol Hill Police to join us. At this point, they declined. But, of course, we welcome them to come into THE SITUATION ROOM at any time. And we will continue to cover this story for you, our viewers.

Coming up, the Senate embroiled in hot debate over immigration reform right now. We are going to talk about the border battle with our own CNN contributor, Bill Bennett. Is the Republican Party in trouble? I am going to ask him.

Plus, the president plays ball, throwing out the first pitch of the season. How did he do?



BLITZER: Welcome back. Let's turn now to the issue of illegal immigration and a new poll measuring Americans' opinions about it. The weekend poll was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation for CNN.

When asked where they stood on legislation to build fences along 700 miles of border with Mexico and increased penalties, 47 percent of those surveyed said they favor it. Forty-four percent say they oppose it. On the question on how important illegal immigration will be in this fall's election, 14 percent of those asked called it the single most important issue. Forty-three percent considered it to be very important.

Joining us now to hash out what these numbers mean is our CNN contributor Bill Bennett of the Claremont Institute and the host of the radio show "Morning in America."

This issue, Bill, is really splitting the Republican Party, I think, much more than the Dubai ports issue did, because most Republicans opposed Dubai ports taking control of American ports, operational control.

On this issue, the Republicans seem to be pretty much divided.

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Well, certainly on the Hill.

There is a division, I think, between most base Republicans, Republicans at the base of the party, and the president, and half of the U.S. Congress, mostly the -- the Senate. The House has a bill which is very different from the Senate bill.

And you're right. The Arab Emirates' port may be the precedent here. This is a very dangerous situation, I think, for the president and for the Republicans, because of this deep divide, which I'm not sure can be bridged. I don't think you are going to get legislation out of this...


BLITZER: Because the -- the key issue is the guest-worker program. Do you allow these 12 million or so illegal immigrants in the United States right now, most of whom are working, do you allow them to become guest workers and work their way over 11 years, according to the Senate Judiciary Committee version, towards citizenship?


And you have one senator from Arizona, John McCain, who says yes. And you have another senator from Arizona, Jon Kyl, both Republicans, who say, no, that they have to go back and start at the back of the line. And this thing is really threatening a major rift in the Republican Party.

BLITZER: But -- but -- but the supporters say that that isn't what they support, that they wouldn't jump ahead of the line of others who are waiting in line. BENNETT: But...

BLITZER: They would go to the end of the line, and it would take a lot longer than -- than it would for people who are going through the process right now legally.

BENNETT: First of all, a lot of people don't believe those provisions will really be enforced, such as the Mazzoli -- Simpson- Mazzoli of years back, where a lot of those provisions haven't been enforced.

And unless the back of the line starts in Mexico, a lot of the conservative base, the Republican base of the party, will not be -- will not be assured.

What else is happening now that I think is really roiling the waters -- and I have been doing my own talk show, plus listening to the other talk shows -- is that some conservative pundits who are on the side of the Senate bill, "Wall Street Journal," "Weekly Standard," are saying of the base that it is being reactionary, nativist, xenophobic. You remember these words from the ports debate.

And this is really getting people very angry, because they're saying, look, what about the rule of law?

Your last two stories, Moussaoui, the Cynthia McKinney flap, it's all about the rule of law. And a lot of people are saying, are we observing the rule of law...



BENNETT: ... when it comes to immigration?

BLITZER: It's interesting, in terms of this politics of this. You have a president of the United States who is a Republican, the leader of the Republican Party, saying, let there be a guest-worker program.

You have Senator Kennedy and a lot of Democrats agreeing. And you have Senator McCain, arguably, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 saying, basically, the same thing.

Listen to what McCain says.



SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't think that my position on immigration is exactly pleasing to the far-right base. I will continue to take positions that I believe in and I stand for. And I recognize that a lot of my credibility is based on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: What do you think?

BENNETT: Well, I think it's a conscious call.

You know, I watched that interview. And you want to know why Republicans are confused? John McCain was eloquent, I thought, on "Meet the Press" in defending the war, the reasons for taking out Saddam Hussein. on this one, he's not quite with, again, what many Republicans are thinking.

The -- the thing you don't get from the polls, Wolf, is the intensity of feeling on this. I mean, I have been doing this talk radio for two years. I have been talking to other people in the field. The intensity on this issue is tremendous. People feel very, very strongly about it.

Now, you mentioned it's strong in the Republican Party. It's interesting that it hasn't broken out in the Democrat Party. But I think it could, because when the labor unions, you know, have to face up to this, they're not going to be very happy with what their leaders in Congress are proposing either.

BLITZER: We have got to leave it there. Bill...



BLITZER: ... thanks for joining us.

BENNETT: You bet.

BLITZER: Bill Bennett, our CNN contributor.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program. That begins right at the top of the hour.

Lou, tell our viewers what you're working on. Welcome back to the United States.


Coming up at 6:00 Eastern here on CNN, we will be reporting on the showdown in the U.S. Senate over our illegal immigration crisis and our total lack of border security. My guest tonight is Senator John Cornyn, who says there can be no amnesty for illegal aliens. He met with the White House leadership on this issue today. He will be among our guests.

Also tonight, illegal aliens are already strongly influencing our society. And they are threatening the structure our -- of our government in ways that perhaps you can't imagine. We will be exploring how that is occurring. You will probably be surprised.

And, among our guests, Congresswoman Candice Miller -- she is proposing a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of American citizens and to assure that congressional seats are not being allocated on the basis of census counts of illegal aliens in this country. The details will be fascinating, I assure you.

Also tonight, one school that is already banning the display of the American flag -- we will have that special report on the ban of the American flag, as, tonight, we report on the deaths of nine more of our troops in Iraq.

We hope you will join us -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Lou -- Lou Dobbs coming up right at the top of the hour.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, would you go see it? That would be a movie about the 9/11 attacks. Jack Cafferty has his question of the hour. He's going to be reading your e-mail when we come back.

And, in Tennessee, it is the day after. Many are picking up the pieces, after a series of tornadoes caused death, damage, and devastation.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news -- Betty.


Abducted American journalist Jill Carroll, freed last week in Iraq, is now spending private time with family. Carroll arrived in the United States yesterday. Today, she visited the newsroom of "The Christian Science Monitor," her employer at the time of that kidnapping.

The paper's Washington bureau chief described, David Cook, described Carroll's first visit as -- quote -- "an emotional love fest." Cook says Carroll appeared healthy and in good spirits.

Take a look at this. From Illinois to Tennessee, people are shell-shocked, after a night of thunderstorms that stirred up dozens of howling, deadly tornadoes. Twenty-three people were killed in northwestern Tennessee, many of them in Dyer County, where homes were literally ripped from their foundations. Four other people died in Missouri and Illinois. Officials in eight states described scenes of other destructions.

We are going to shift gear now. Time to play a little baseball. President Bush tossed out the first pitch of the new Major League Baseball season today. He sent the ball high and wide to Cincinnati catcher Jason LaRue. The Reds hosted the Chicago Cubs for the season opener at the Great American Ball Park, not too bad of a pitch, but I don't think the president will be leaving his day job any time soon -- Wolf. BLITZER: Hey, he is almost 60 years old. That was a pretty good pitch, as far as I'm concerned.

NGUYEN: It was. Not bad.

BLITZER: Thanks, Betty.


BLITZER: Coming up, flying the friendly skies isn't what it used to be -- what people are saying about air travel and customer service.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: If you have recently had a bad experience flying, you're not alone. A new report online suggests, the number of complaints among airline customers is the worst in five years.

Jacki Schechner watching this story -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the Aviation Institute at the University of Nebraska has released its 2006 airline quality rating report.

It's based on information compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation. It's things like flights, and whether or not they're on time, how baggage is handled. JetBlue came in number one for the third year in a row. Number two was AirTran. They had the least amount of mishandled baggage. Also taking a look at on-time arrivals, SkyWest, Wolf, was number one.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail -- that's coming up next.


BLITZER: Let check in with Jack in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: "United 93," set to open in theaters the end of this month, it will be the first feature film to deal explicitly with what happened on September 11, 2001. And some wonder if it's too soon.

The question is, are Americans ready to watch a movie about 9/11?

Debbie in Anaheim, California: "No. And what happened to decency, humility, and compassion? I did not lose a loved one on 9/11. And my heart goes out to those who did. This is simple Hollywood greed."

Lisa in Nashville, Tennessee: "I saw the trailer in the theater last weekend. The image of the planes slamming into the buildings is still too hard to watch. I have watched documentaries on the subject. And, in that context, it's fine. But to put the events of 9/11 into an entertainment format is in simply poor taste."

Carla in Alabama: "I think it would be a great disservice to everyone who lost someone in that disaster. I would like to see the truth about 9/11 told in a movie. So, far, only 'Fahrenheit 9/11' has come close to the truth of those events as I believe they occurred."

Joel in Cairo, Illinois: "Pearl Harbor movies were being churned out less than a year after the December 7 attack. They were patriotic, expire -- inspiring. And even the 'Bowery Boys' starred in one. This time, the story is more than right, Jack. Flight 93 is a story of American heroes. I think this is one time where Hollywood has gotten it right."

And L. writes from Brooklyn, New York: "I saw the trailer over the weekend, before Spike Lee's 'Inside Man' in New York. I have got to tell you, it's the quietest I have ever seen a movie theater. We were suddenly all overcome with shock and sadness. I was with my mother, who actually started to tear up" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack.

Let's go to Lou. He's standing by in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you very much.