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The Situation Room
CIA Chief Porter Goss Resigns; Rep. Patrick Kennedy Checks Into Rehab After Car Crash; Hearings Continue In Scooter Libby Case;
Aired May 05, 2006 - 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: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world, to bring you today's top stories, and they're happening right now, a flood of breaking news here in the nation's capital.
Congressman Patrick Kennedy reveals he's reentering rehab. It's 4:00 PM here in Washington. An emotional and candid announcement just a short while ago, a day after Kennedy crashed his car on Capitol Hill. We're following this new setback for a member of America's most famous political family.
Also breaking this hour, a spy agency mystery. Why did the CIA director, Porter Goss, suddenly call it quits? We're examining Goss' recent rocky tenure and the inside story of why he's resigning.
And there are new details emerging right now in the case against Lewis "Scooter" Libby. The former Cheney aide and CIA leak prosecutor go head to head in court. We'll have a live report from the courthouse on the hearing that's just ended and how Karl Rove figures into the entire situation.
I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, we're following all the angles of the two surprise announcements here in Washington that played out only within the past few hours. Just a short while ago, Congressman Patrick Kennedy revealed he's entering treatment for addiction to prescription pain medication. He made the decision after a pre-dawn car crash near the Capitol that he acknowledges he doesn't remember. We're going to have complete coverage of this dramatic story. That's coming up.
Right now, though, another member of the Bush administration is on the way out. Porter Goss abruptly resigned today as CIA chief after less than two years on the job, trying to rebuild and repair the spy agency. During the surprise Oval Office announcement, the president didn't say why Goss is leaving. Neither did Goss. We have correspondents covering every angle of this story, but let's begin our coverage over at the White House. Our Kathleen Koch has the latest. Kathleen, lots of excitement going on there.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Quite a bit, Wolf, and it was, indeed, very much of a surprise, this announcement this afternoon, as you pointed out, Porter Goss only being CIA chief for less than two years. He was brought in to deal with the intelligence lapses that failed to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks, also the intelligence failures -- the faulty pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Still, President Bush praised Porter Goss in the Oval Office as he accepted his resignation this afternoon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This morning, Director Porter Goss offered his resignation as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. I've accepted it. During the course of this tenure, I have established a very close personal relationship with Porter, which is very important for the director of the CIA. He has spent a lot of time here in the Oval Office. He's told me -- he's given me his candid advice. I appreciate his integrity. I appreciate the honor in which -- that he brought to the job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOCH: Of course, the great unanswered question right now is why? Goss had seemed eminently qualified for the job. He had been a CIA officer himself for 10 years, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee for seven years.
A senior administration official tells CNN, though, that this resignation was based on a, quote, "mutual understanding" between Goss, President Bush and director of national intelligence John Negroponte, that official saying, quote, "The best way to describe it is when you ask somebody to do very difficult things during a period of transition, it often makes sense to hand off the reins to somebody else to take the agency forward."
Now, we don't know who that person will be, the White House being very quiet on possible replacements for Goss. And also, no word on how long he's going to stay on. Will he stay until a replacement is named -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kathleen, thanks for that. Let's get some more now on the resignation of Porter Goss. Joining us are CNN's national security adviser, John McLaughlin. The former deputy director of the CIA, and our senior national correspondent, John Roberts.
John McLaughlin, let me start with you. It looks like a strange way for a CIA director to leave under these circumstances. The impression is there's disarray under way.
JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, it is unusual to announce it suddenly, with no reason, and without announcing a successor at the same time. The concern I would have, Wolf, is that this will open up another period perhaps of revolving door directors out there. You know, for years -- if this follows through, we'll have something like three directors in about four years.
And one of the great advantages of some of the previous tenures is they've lasted a while. The CIA doesn't operate on a day-to-day basis, it operates on a longer-term basis, and you need stability there in order to go forward with operations and analysis. BLITZER: And it's highly unusual -- at least I haven't gotten a good explanation from Porter Goss or from the president why he's leaving. I read that entire statement he gave to the staff of the CIA. I heard what he said in the Oval Office. I still don't know why he's leaving.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we don't know. And we will, at some point, I'm sure. What I would say to you is that is, I can say from personal experience, one of the hardest jobs in Washington. And Porter Goss came in at a difficult time of transition, in that the whole structure of the intelligence community changed at about the time he arrived as director, a couple of months afterwards, and he had the difficult task of trying to orient the agency in that new structure.
BLITZER: It does come, John Roberts, at a time when there's an investigation going on, and it involves the number three official at the CIA. We really haven't been paying a lot of attention to this. But it involves scandals in Washington, including former congressman Duke Cunningham. I know you've been looking into this whole story.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not that we haven't paid a lot of attention to it, we have. It's just that there hasn't been a lot of there to do in a separate report. But brought up in the context of this whole thing, I think it's fair to illuminate it.
No one is saying that this has anything to do with Porter Goss. And in fact, anybody in an official position is saying absolutely the contrary, that it has nothing to do with him. We heard that from the White House today. We heard that from the CIA today. But here's what's going on.
Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who was the executive director of the CIA, who is a long-time friend of Porter Goss -- he's under investigation both by the inspector general's office at the CIA and the FBI for a potential connection with a fellow by the name of Brent Wilkes, who is implicated in the greater Duke Cunningham investigation.
There's another defense contractor by the name of Mitchell Wade, who has already admitted to bribing Duke Cunningham, who is cooperating with the FBI, who has told a story that Wilkes was involved in -- and again, these are only allegations by Mitchell Wade -- that Brent Wilkes was involved in procuring prostitutes and limousines for Congressman Cunningham.
At the same time, it's also alleged that Wilkes held poker games at the Watergate and the Westin Grand Hotel to which he invited lawmakers, and Dusty Foggo from the CIA. The CIA has said, Yes, Dusty Foggo did attend some of those games. They did not talk about his connection with Wilkes, but we understand that they're long-time friends. But Foggo absolutely rejects any notion that prostitutes were at those suites at the time that he was there.
But he is, again, under investigation by the CIA, by the FBI about this. And now there's the potential of, Well, what's the connection between Foggo and Porter Goss, and is that possibly involved in this? But nobody is saying Goss has anything to do with these poker games or the Cunningham investigation.
BLITZER: He's the executive director. That effectively is the number three official in the CIA, so he's not just a low-ranking official. This is a senior official.
MCLAUGHLIN: No, the executive director runs the place day to day in terms of the logistics and everything else. I would emphasize, though, this is something the inspector general is looking into. No one knows the facts, at this point. And CIA does have an independently confirmed by Congress inspector general who will at some point get to the bottom of this and tell us what the facts are.
BLITZER: The relationship between Porter Goss and John Negroponte, who came in to supervise the entire intelligence community, must have been awkward from day one.
MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they're good personal friends, went to school together, as a matter of fact. I don't think there's any personal animus there, but at the same time, for a CIA director, who was accustomed in the past to being the person who sees the president in the morning, to be displaced by someone else is an adjustment. And I don't know, I've never talked to Porter Goss about how that adjustment went. But that could be part of his thinking, at this point.
BLITZER: We're out of time, but one name I've already heard being mooted out there as a possible CIA director -- Fran Townsend, the president's homeland security adviser. You hearing anything else, John?
ROBERTS: No, I haven't heard anything, at this point, Wolf. Been chasing down the other things. But it wouldn't surprise me. I know he thinks very highly of her.
BLITZER: We'll leave it there. Both of you will be back in THE SITUATION ROOM on this and other stories. Thanks John and John.
Let's get a bit of background now on Porter Goss. Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is standing by with that -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here's a video on- line archive from the day that President Bush nominated Porter Goss as head of the CIA. This is fall of 2004. He officially became the head of the CIA in April of 2005. You can take a look at this running behind me.
He's been in the intelligence community since college. After attending Yale, he worked undercover in Latin America, in the Caribbean and in Europe. He left the CIA in 1972. He worked in business. Then he ran for Congress. And in 1988, he was elected to the 14th district of Florida. From '97 until 2004, he was the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. And then he was picked to succeed John McLaughlin as the CIA director, again, in 2004, officially taking that position in 2005.
And if you go to the White House Web site today, they have President Bush's official announcement accepting his resignation, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Now to that other bombshell announcement here in the nation's capitol, congressman Patrick Kennedy announcing he's entering rehab to get treatment for his addictions and his depression. The Rhode Island Democrat says he became deeply concerned after crashing his car into a barrier on Capitol Hill early yesterday. Kennedy says he's troubled because he doesn't remember the incident at all.
Our Brian Todd and Allan Chernoff are standing by with more on this story. But let's begin with Dana Bash. She's up on the Hill. Dana, update our viewers on all the drama that unfolded not far from where you are on this day.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. It was just about an hour ago that the congressman came into a hastily arranged news conference and said that he does not remember the events of Wednesday night, the night -- actually, into the early morning hours when he got into his car and crashed it into a security barrier just outside the Capitol.
Now, a source close to Kennedy tells us when he saw the police report that we all got today, detailing what happened, when he looked at it, he realized he didn't remember it at all. And you heard the congressman himself say he doesn't remember getting out of bed, he doesn't remember being pulled over by police, he doesn't remember getting the citation -- the infractions, I should say, that we learned about today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: I am deeply concerned about my reaction to the medication and my lack of knowledge of the accident that evening. But I do know enough that I know that I need help. This afternoon, I'm traveling to Minnesota to seek treatment at the Mayo Clinic to ensure that I can continue on my road to recovery.
The greatest honor my public life is to serve the people of Rhode Island, and I'm determined to address this issue so that I can continue to fight for the families of Rhode Island with the same dedication and rigor that I have exemplified over the past decade.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: And the medication he was talking about, we think. were the two medications that we were told late last night that he took, a medication for nausea and also Ambien for sleeplessness. And that, he believes, is why he was delirious. But it's really unclear at this point.
And another important point to make here, Wolf, is that he's not just entering rehab, he's returning to rehab. He also told us in this news conference -- he started by saying that he -- in his 15 years in public life, has always felt a responsibility to speak openly and honestly about the challenges of his addiction. But then he also went on to say that he was actually just in the Mayo Clinic that he's going back to over Christmastime.
He said he checked in for an addiction to prescription drug medication then, which we didn't know, and he stayed through the holiday season, even through the congressional recess, into January. Now, that was a new bit of information.
In terms of the congressman's father, Senator Ted Kennedy, he also released a statement. I can tell you, first of all, that his staff has been very involved. As you can imagine, his father has been very involved in the sort of response to this. Here's Senator Kennedy's statement.
He said, "I love Patrick very much, and I'm very proud of him. All of us in the family admire his courage in speaking publicly about very personal issues and fully support his decision to seek treatment. He has taken full responsibility for events that occurred Wednesday evening, and he will continue to cooperate fully in any investigation." That's from Senator Ted Kennedy.
Congressman Kennedy certainly is in the shadow, if you will, of his father, but he also has been somebody who's made a name for himself, especially somebody who has been working the financial sources, if you will, for the Democrats. He was chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee the last cycle, really sort of stood out in terms of where he is in the Democratic ranks in the House.
But today, this issue was, obviously, coming before the cameras, talking about going to rehab, but not answering any questions about the events of the other night, Wolf.
BLITZER: If there's any silver lining, he's lucky, Dana, that he only crashed his car, no damage to himself -- no physical injury to himself or anyone else. It could have been a lot worse, given the condition he himself described he was in. Dana, thanks for that.
Let's bring in our Brian Todd now. He's watching the story, as well getting new information on the investigation of this crash -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the critical part of this investigation is this police report that we got just a few hours ago. In it, it has a fairly dramatic description of the accident. It says that Representative Kennedy, in the early hours of Thursday morning, traveling down this street at a high rate of speed, first swerves into this oncoming lane, then swerves again and hit this is north curb here.
The momentum from that takes him back over here, where he swerves into an oncoming lane again, and this time, narrowly misses a police vehicle that is turning onto the street. Then the report says his rate of speed slows a little bit, and he hits this barrier that has just been lowered over here, now being raised, this police barrier on the right-hand side. This is what he hit.
Now, as Dana alluded to a few moments ago, the congressman did address what he remembered or didn't remember from the accident. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KENNEDY: But in all candor, the incident on Wednesday evening concerns me greatly. I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police or being cited for three driving infractions. That's not how I want to live my life, and it's not how I want to represent the people of Rhode Island.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Kennedy steadfastly denies using any alcohol in the hours before the accident. But again, another critical component of this police report, under the heading "contributing circumstances," there are four things listed: speed, alcohol influence, driving on the wrong side of the street and driver inattention. Kennedy, again, steadfastly denies using any alcohol.
We are told by a top law enforcement source that Capitol Hill police are checking bars and restaurants around this area, including one called the Hawk 'n' Dove, where there was a published report that a server might have seen Kennedy in those early morning hours or overnight Wednesday. Kennedy and his staff completely and vehemently deny that he was there. The police are checking into those reports right now. We hope to get some more in the days and weeks ahead, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thanks for that. We'll check back with you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Let's go to Patrick Kennedy's home state of Rhode Island now for more on the congressman, what voters are saying there. CNN's Allan Chernoff is joining us from Pawtucket in Rhode Island. What is the reaction up in his home state, Allan?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they certainly love their Kennedys up in New England. And over the past hour, since the congressman made his announcement, we've been talking with drivers as they've gone by the congressman's office over here. The response overwhelming sympathetic.
One driver said, Hey, he's such a nice guy. Another said, Anyone could get sick. Heaven certainly knows that Rhode Islanders have stuck by Congressman Kennedy through some tough times.
CHERNOFF (voice-over): Congressman Kennedy's car crash on Capitol Hill is his second auto accident in the past month. He hit another car in the parking lot of a pharmacy three weeks ago. Though the police report didn't mention either drugs or alcohol, Sheila Lash witnessed the accident and says he was impaired.
SHEILA LASH, ACCIDENT WITNESS: He was kind of swaying back and forth when he was sitting in the car, but he got out of the car and he stood between his car and the building, and he was swaying. You know, he was swaying back and forth, and trying to, you know, sort of pull himself together. I've never seen anybody on drugs, and so I don't know, but I imagine that's how they look, if they are.
TODD: The congressman has had trouble at sea, as well. Six summers ago, he abandoned a rented yacht off Martha's Vineyard. The charter company said Kennedy had trashed it. The congressman settled out of court. Kennedy also settled a dispute out of court with a security guard at Los Angeles International Airport after he shoved her while trying to rush through a metal detector.
KENNEDY: I apologized for my behavior, which was uncalled for and something I'm ashamed of.
TODD: Congressman Kennedy has spoken openly about the fact he suffers from depression, for which he has taken medication and received counseling. But that hasn't hurt his popularity. Constituents say he's been an effective representative in Washington.
ROBERTS: Well, Rhode Islanders say that they probably would vote for the congressman once again, and he certainly has gotten the vast majority of the votes in the past. The six-term congressman won the last election with about two thirds of the vote -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Allan, thank you very much. We'll check back with you in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Let's check in with jack. He's in New York. He's got "The Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: How are you doing, Wolf? It's a cardinal rule of good public relations you never, ever release good news on Friday afternoon. It only makes the Saturday papers, and nobody reads the Saturday papers. You do release bad news on Friday afternoon for the same reason.
So what does it mean when the director of the CIA suddenly announces on a Friday afternoon that he's leaving? The announcement is actually on videotape, no pesky press corps that way, that might start asking embarrassing questions. No reason for his leaving is given, no replacement is named. He's only been on the job for a little more than a year-and-a-half. Is this all just part of the White House shake-up Josh Bolten has under taken since becoming the chief of staff, or is it something more?
Here's the question. What does it mean when the CIA director suddenly resigns on a Friday afternoon, with virtually no explanation? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. It's very curious, Wolf.
BLITZER: Indeed, it is. It is, as I said earlier, a spy mystery, but we'll get to the bottom of it, as we always do, Jack. Thanks very much.
And if you want a sneak preview of Jack's questions, plus an early read on the day's political news, what's ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, here's what you got to do. You got to sign up for our daily e- mail alert. Just go to CNN.com/situationroom, and we'll tell you how to do that.
Coming up, much more in our top story, Porter Goss' sudden departure from the CIA. Is there any political fall-out? I'll talk about that with Paul Begala and Terry Jeffrey in today's "Strategy Session."
Plus, indicted White House aide Scooter Libby and the CIA leak prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald -- they go face to face in the same courtroom today. We'll have a live report from our John King. He's outside the courthouse. That's only moments away.
Also this hour: Who's falling faster, President Bush or Congress? There are new poll numbers out tracking the plunge in public opinion and the possible fall-out on election day. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: An incredibly busy news day here in Washington. Just a short while ago, the former Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby left the federal courthouse here in the nation's capital. It was his latest appearance as he battles perjury charges in the CIA leak investigation.
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has been laying out some of his evidence against Libby before his January 2007 trial. That's the scheduled date. In the process, we learned something new about the president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, who's another key figure in this leak case.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is outside the courthouse here in Washington. He's covering the story. He's got the latest -- John.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a fascinating hearing this afternoon here at the federal courthouse. Scooter Libby in the courtroom, said a brief hello as he went in, said he's doing quite well. We're beginning to learn a bit more about what case each side hopes to present when this case goes to trial before a jury in January.
Some new revelations today, most of them from the defense side, Scooter Libby's defense team making clear today that it has every intention of calling as a witness Karl Rove. He, of course, is the president's top political adviser, the deputy White House chief of staff, himself still the subject of the investigation by the CIA leak grand jury that continues, even as Mr. Libby prepares for his trial. That probably no surprise to the White House, but now officially on the record that the Libby defense plans to call Karl Rove as a witness.
It also said that it has five witnesses who will testify at the trial that Ambassador Joe Wilson was very open with them in saying that his wife worked at the CIA. Now, why is that important? One of the key allegations of the government's case against Mr. Libby is that he was involved, maybe at least tangentially, in a White House plot to out the identity of Valerie Plame, who was a classified CIA operative.
He's not charged with directly leaking that information, but the government says there was this White House campaign to discredit Mr. Wilson that, at some point, included leaking the name of his wife. The defense says it will show from five witnesses that Joe Wilson was openly discussing this with people. How could it have been a secret that his wife worked at the CIA?
And the defense repeatedly called Ambassador Wilson, quote, "a habitual liar," saying much of what he said in attacking the president's case for war, which of course, started this whole dispute, was not true. And significantly, Wolf, the defense also said it will challenge the testimony of Mark Grossman. He's a former undersecretary of state, a high-ranking State Department official.
He is the person the government says told Scooter Libby that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA. The Libby defense team saying today that he has a long-standing relationship with Joe Wilson going back to college, that it believes some of the dates and events he has described are simply not factually correct and intends to challenge his credibility, as well.
Much more discussed, Wolf, in the back-and-forth today, but this much is clear. These two sides are still having very contentious debates over what evidence the government has to turn over, and even though the judge keeps saying he does not want to have a trial about why we went to war in Iraq and the prosecution says it wants to keep it narrowly focused on whether Mr. Libby lied to a federal grand jury, as Mr. Libby faces the legal charges, we're going to have quite a spirited political debate in that courtroom, as well.
BLITZER: And John, producer, Stephanie Katube (ph), just got a statement from Ambassador Joe Wilson. Let me read it to you and to our viewers. "The last I heard," Wilson says, "this is case is about allegations Mr. Libby lied, perjured himself before the FBI, special prosecutor and grand jury and obstructed justice. None of those charges of which he's been indicted has anything to do with me."
Wilson goes on to say, "Furthermore, the government in the person of the special prosecutor in his court filings has made it clear it believes several White House officials were engaged in a campaign to, quote, `discredit, punish and seek revenge' on me. It would appear that campaign is ongoing."
So Joe Wilson already reacting to Scooter Libby's and his attorneys' charges against him.
KING: And the trial still months away, Wolf. It is clear the defense said that it wasn't sure that it would call Ambassador Wilson. But what it did say is that it would probably call him because it knew, once it put five witnesses on the stand -- and again, the defense is saying those witnesses will say that Ambassador Wilson was quite open in discussing his wife's employment at the CIA -- the defense made clear, at that point, it knows the prosecution would then feel compelled to call Ambassador Wilson. He is not right now listed as a lead witness in the prosecution's case, but you can be sure, just as we now know Karl Rove will be, that Joe Wilson will be involved in the courtroom here, as well.
Again, the trial, though, not until January. Still a lot of contentious back-and-forth over the evidence and over what will be admissible. First they decide what the defense gets to see, then they will have a fight over what the jury gets to see, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the fate of Karl Rove still very much still up in the air. John, let me switch gears briefly with you while I have you. I know in the midst of all of this, you've also been checking out the resignation, the sudden resignation today of the CIA director, Porter Goss. No explanation given by him, no explanation given by the president. What are you hearing from your sources?
KING: Wolf, another quite dramatic development, this one, of course, directly affecting the Bush administration. I'm told by sources, including a senior intelligence official who has been involved in all these deliberations, that this was a decision made after several weeks of tension between Mr. Goss, the CIA director, and John Negroponte, who is the new director of national intelligence.
According to these sources -- again, including someone who was very close to the deliberations -- there has been sometimes contentious arguments back and forth -- not personal, this source says, but policy arguments -- about some duties and functions of the CIA that Mr. Negroponte wanted transferred out of the CIA to his new office as the director of national intelligence.
Porter Goss, I am told by this source, fiercely resisted this, saying he believed it would too much dilute the powers, the authority, the focus and the ability to function of the CIA in the war on terrorism. And this source says when there was that disagreement, that director Negroponte and his deputy, General Mike Hayden, then went to the White House and said, We believe this has to be done. The CIA is resisting.
We need the White House to get involved and make a decision here as to who is going to win this argument. At that point, I'm told by these sources, everyone came together. Those in the White House took the side of Mr. Negroponte and General Hayden. And at that point, they're describing this as a mutual decision. Mr. Goss decided to resign.
BLITZER: Not going to do much for morale at the CIA, which is pretty low right now to begin with. John, thanks for that.
We are going to have a lot more on this story coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including in our "Strategy Session."
On top of all of this, President Bush went to a Washington, D.C., hardware store today to tout the new jobs report as evidence that the U.S. economy is strong. But a new poll shows 61 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the U.S. economy. And if you think the president's poll numbers have been bad lately. Wait until you see the new approval ratings for the Republican-led Congress.
Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, is joining us with more on all these numbers -- Bill.
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, how low can you go? Not President Bush. Congress.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): You have probably heard that President Bush's dropping in the polls. The latest evidence comes from the Associated Press/Ipsos poll. It shows Bush's job approval falling from 40 percent in February, just after the State of the Union speech, to 33 percent now.
Think that's bad? Here's something worse. Approval of Congress has dropped from 35 to 25 percent. Why? Oh let's see. Congress can't pass immigration reform. They can't pass a budget. They can't even control their own spending. Ethics, don't get us started: Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, and now a Democrat, William Jefferson, under investigation.
Can Congress do something about gas prices? Why, yes, a $100 rebate for all Americans. That proposal got laughed off the agenda.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: What does $100 buy you? Two tanks of gas, if you're lucky? Is that the best we can do in Washington, D.C., and then say, adios, voters; see you in November; we have taken care of the problem? Well, we certainly have not.
SCHNEIDER: There's mounting evidence that voters may take out their anger on Republicans this fall. It's their Congress, has been for most of the past 12 years. A majority of Americans say they would like to turn Congress over to the Democrats. Just over a third want Republicans to stay in charge.
Some Republicans see the tsunami warning.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I happen to believe we're losing our moral authority to lead this place.
SCHNEIDER: They are also losing their base. While 70 percent of Republicans continue to approve of the job President Bush is doing, only about half that number approval of the job Congress is doing. More than 60 percent are down on Congress. And those are Republicans.
SCHNEIDER: Has Congress' approval rating ever been this low before? Yes, in 1994, which was the last time angry voters overthrew the majority party in Congress -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Solid report. Bill Schneider, thanks for that.
Up next, much more on these new poll numbers. How damaging are they to the president and his party? I will ask Paul Begala and Terry Jeffrey in today's "Strategy Session." That's coming up.
Plus, Vice President Cheney speaks out on the nuclear crisis with Iran. We're going to tell you what he said.
Stick around for all this -- lots of news happening today. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Zain Verjee is off this week.
Fredricka Whitfield is joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a quick look at some other stories making news.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello to you, Wolf.
Three more U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq. The U.S. military says a roadside bomb blew up their vehicle south of Baghdad. Eleven U.S. troops have died in Iraq in the first five days of this month of May. Since 2003, 2,415 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war.
Vice President Dick Cheney is calling on Iran to halt its nuclear fuel program and renounce nuclear weapons. In Kazakstan today, Cheney said the U.S. is working with other countries to try to find a diplomatic solution. The issue is currently before the U.N. Security Council. Cheney also said he hasn't had a chance to study Moscow's reaction to his comments yesterday that Russia is backsliding on democratic reforms. Russian media today accuses Cheney of starting a new Cold War.
A major step today toward ending one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The Sudanese government and a main rebel faction in the Darfur region have signed an internationally-backed peace plan. Another rebel group rejected the agreement, while a third faction is split. Fighting in Darfur, in western Sudan, has killed tens of thousands of people since 2003 and turned two million others into refugees.
A huge shake-up for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet. Blair has fired his law and order chief, after his Labor Party was badly defeated in regional elections yesterday. Blair also demoted British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Blair's Labor Party lost 306 seats in yesterday's local elections. Opposition Conservatives were the biggest winners, picking up 310 seats -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Fred, thanks. We will get back to you shortly.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the CIA chief's surprise announcement, what does it tell us about the state of the Bush administration and the state of our national security?
And the president's poll numbers are bad, but the approval rating of the Republican-led Congress is worse. How will the numbers add up on Election Day? Paul Begala, Terry Jeffrey, they are standing by for our "Strategy Session."
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Today, in our "Strategy Session": The CIA director, Porter Goss, steps down. What does this mean for the intelligence community's ability to fight the war on terror? Is the agency being left in good shape or is it in deep trouble?
Joining us now, our CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Terry Jeffrey, the editor of "Human Events."
Here is how Porter Goss explained his decision, didn't really explain why he's stepping down, but what he said in the Oval Office.
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PORTER GOSS, RESIGNED AS CIA DIRECTOR: I would like to report back to you that I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well. I honestly believe that we have improved dramatically your goals for our nation's intelligence capabilities, which are, in fact, the things that I think are keeping us very safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How unusual is it for a CIA director to resign, Terry, without having a successor named at the same time?
TERRY JEFFREY, EDITOR, "HUMAN EVENTS": It's very unusual. And that cryptic statement from Porter Goss raises a lot of questions, Wolf.
This is a guy who was House intelligence chairman and a person who actually had 10 years of experience in the clandestine service of the CIA, thought that the CIA was decimating its human-intelligence- gathering capabilities. We found out he was right on September 11.
He went in there on a mission to rebuild specifically that, ran into a lot of friction inside the CIA. I hope he got the backing he deserves from the president of the United States. This is a very bad sign. We need a CIA that works. And this was a guy who could have made it work the way it was supposed to.
BLITZER: I made a few calls to sources I have in the CIA today. And everyone acknowledges there is a morale issue at the CIA right now. Jane Harman, by the way, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, she said the other day, she said, "Our intelligence reorganization is in a slow startup, and the CIA is in a freefall."
PAUL BEGALA, POLITICAL ANALYST: And this doesn't help. I don't buy the excuse we are given. Forgive my skepticism, but...
BLITZER: There's no excuse. There's no explanation given.
BEGALA: Well, that's a good point. They haven't given us one.
There -- there has to be more here than meets the eye. And I think we will find it out in the fullness of time. But Washington, even the CIA, isn't very good about keeping secrets. But if this is simply Porter Goss losing out on a bureaucrat battle with John Negroponte, the national intelligence director...
BLITZER: Which is what our John King is reporting.
BEGALA: If that's the sum and substance of it, then I think Mr. Goss has done a terrible disservice to the agency and to the country, in abruptly resigning in a petulant way like this, without an orderly transition to a new leader at the CIA. I suspect there's a lot more to this than just a bureaucrat fight, though.
BLITZER: What do you think, Terry?
JEFFREY: Well, I suspect there is a lot more to it.
But Porter Goss is a great patriot. He really was a guy dedicated to mission. We have had a lot of movement in changing the type of bureaucracies that oversee our intelligence in the last few years. It's not clear we have made real progress. I do believe Porter Goss was someone who is dedicated to making that progress. I think Jane Harman knows that, too. But we do need answers, Wolf. We need to know to why he leave -- why he left.
BEGALA: This is where I disagree with Terry. I don't know Porter Goss from -- from boo.
But he's a politician. He was a Republican congressman. Before that, he had worked for the CIA for many years. So, it wasn't a terrible choice by the president. He chaired the relevant committee in the Congress.
But it seemed to me that, when he went to the CIA, he never stopped being a Republican politician. There were a whole lot of reports that, rather than trying to rebuild and upgrade the CIA's capacity, he spent his time politicizing the agency with a Republican partisan agenda, which was really unprecedented, even when President Bush's father, another Republican politician, ran the agency.
BLITZER: You totally disagree with that.
JEFFREY: No, I think that's -- look, the Senate Intelligence Committee report on Iraq, among other things, reported, we did not have a single human intelligence source reporting on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction in the years leading up to the Iraq war, an absolute, utter, complete failure to do its core mission.
Porter Goss was the guy who understood how that mission should be done. He ran into a lot of people in that institution who weren't doing their jobs. And, of course, that caused friction. And I hope that isn't what led to his leaving now. The CIA still needs to be fixed.
BEGALA: But that report itself was written by Republican politician Pat Roberts, the senator from Kansas.
JEFFREY: It was unanimously signed off on by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
BEGALA: Excuse me. And since that -- since that report was written, Terry, Tyler Drumheller, one of the top officials at the CIA, has come forward and said, no, we actually had as a source one of Saddam's top officials, who told us that there were no weapons of mass destruction.
So, that report is, as they used to say in the Watergate days, overtaken by events.
JEFFREY: So, you think the CIA was doing its job when Bill Clinton was in office?
BEGALA: I think that -- I think Porter Goss has politicized the agency. And I think there's something going on here, that there's...
JEFFREY: You think the CIA was doing its job?
BEGALA: I think...
JEFFREY: How did he politicize -- what -- name one thing he did to politicize the agency.
BEGALA: Look, he is running through that agency right now.
They have lost, by one account in the Associated Press, 300 years of experience, veteran officers being driven out...
JEFFREY: So, Paul...
BEGALA: ... of the agency because of the political agenda that Mr. Bush sent Mr. Goss to enact in that agency.
JEFFREY: You would say that, when you have an agency that absolutely doesn't do its job, that absolutely, utterly failed to collect intelligence on Iraq, you send a new director in there, you say it's not a good sign that he's cleaning house and he's getting people out who were not doing their job?
JEFFREY: He should have left them there?
BEGALA: They are firing the guys who got it right.
JEFFREY: Who got it right in the CIA? What did they get right?
BEGALA: Tyler Drumheller, for one.
JEFFREY: Who got it right?
BEGALA: Tyler Drumheller, for one. The people who were warning that there were no weapons and there were no links to al Qaeda, the people who were warning that Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney were misleading the country, they have been purged. And the dunderheads who got it wrong...
BEGALA: ... are being promoted.
JEFFREY: George Tenet, the man that President Clinton named director of the CIA, used to be a staff director for Patrick Leahy when he ran the Intelligence Committee, went to the Oval Office...
JEFFREY: ... looked President Bush in the eye, and, according to Bob Woodward, twice said, it's a slam dunk the weapons of mass destruction are there.
BLITZER: All right.
JEFFREY: No one has refuted that story.
BEGALA: And Bush gave him a medal.
JEFFREY: That was your CIA director.
BEGALA: He was Mr. Bush's, too. And Bush gave him a medal.
JEFFREY: Bush should not have done it. He should have put Porter Goss in there.
BLITZER: A good discussion, guys, but, unfortunately, we're out of time, a serious discussion.
BLITZER: Clearly, there's a lot we don't know about Porter Goss' decision. But we're going to find out. I'm sure of that.
Thanks to Terry Jeffrey and Paul Begala. They are part of the best political team on television -- CNN, America's campaign headquarters.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, is the man known as America's mayor thinking about a run for the White House? We are going to look at why some signs are pointing to Rudy Giuliani in 2008.
Stay with us -- lots more coming up on a very busy news day here in Washington.
BLITZER: On our "Political Radar" this Friday, there's new evidence that Rudy Giuliani is seriously pondering a race for the White House. The former New York mayor has hired a former fund-raiser for President Bush to raise money for political action committee.
On Monday, Giuliani went to the leadoff caucus state of Iowa and confirmed he's weighing a bid for the GOP presidential nomination. We're watching this story.
And take a listen to this.
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BLITZER: That's something you don't see every day in the White House briefing room, namely, applause.
Reporters gave Scott McClellan a send-off today, his last day as the White House press secretary. The former FOX News anchor Tony Snow takes over the job formally on Monday.
Up next, it was a relatively quiet Friday afternoon, and then CIA Chief Porter Goss dropped a bombshell. He's resigning. Our question of the hour: Why do you think he made his announcement on a Friday? Jack Cafferty has your thoughts.
And today's other stunning announcement: Congressman Patrick Kennedy's admission he needs help and he's going back into rehab to try to get it. What could this mean for his political career? -- all that coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Could your name accidentally show up on a terrorist watch list? It has happened to tens of thousands of people at airports since 9/11, according to some newly released documents online. Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has the story -- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, here is an e-mail from a 100-pound gray-haired grandmother. She describes herself to the Transportation Security Agency, asking, "Why am I being frequently singled out at the airport for extra searches?"
Another one here from a Vietnam veteran, asking the same question. A third desperate cry: "Why is my family being singled out?"
These are all documents obtained by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and posted online, showing that, sometimes, federal employees, even airline staff, are accidentally targeted, because their names match names on the watch list.
The TSA doesn't reveal their criteria for getting a name on the watch list. To get your name off the watch list, it's at TSA.gov. They say they have had 33,000 complaints -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that.
Still to come, is there something more to Porter Goss' sudden announcement today that he's resigning as CIA director? And why did he choose to make the decision public on a Friday afternoon? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail, that's next.
BLITZER: Let's go up to New York. Jack Cafferty has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You all right?
BLITZER: I'm strong.
CAFFERTY: Good. All right.
CAFFERTY: The question is what does it mean when the CIA director suddenly resigns on a Friday afternoon? There's something going on here. We don't know what it is yet. But we will get it eventually.
Randall writes: "It means stay tuned. There's more to come. I don't think it's a scandal. I think Mr. Goss strongly objected to something he was asked to do, and he resigned, rather than implement it."
Sara in Conover, North Carolina: "As usual, this White House releases any news on Friday, because they think we are all so dumb, we will have forgotten all about it on Monday."
Steve in Atlanta: "What does it mean? Jack, it means all hell is breaking loose at the White House, and people are beginning to run for cover. No one wants to go down with this ship."
Henry in Michigan: "Jack, in this administration, it means stay tuned -- scandalous details to follow at a later date. Goss is going to be implicated in the Duke Cunningham/defense contractor/Watergate prosecution scandal. I would bet the farm on it."
Don writes: "It means next Friday is now open for Rumsfeld to resign."
Rick in Tuscola, Illinois: "It means the CIA now has all weekend to figure out why Goss resigned."
And Hia in Santa Barbara, California, writes: "Stinko de Mayo" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks for that smart e-mail from our viewers.
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