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The Situation Room

Hill Scandal Gets More Explosive

Aired October 02, 2006 - 19:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Lou. And 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 tonight's top stories.
Happening now, a capital scandal gets more explosive. New reports tonight about a former congressman's computer messages to a former page. It's 7 p.m. here in Washington where House Republican leaders are calling Mark Foley's behavior shameful and his online messages vile. We're following the investigations and the developing political fallout.

Also this hour, a deadly shooting in Amish country. Police say a gunman apparently took a 20-year-old grudge out on female students. We'll have a live report from what authorities are calling a horrendous crime scene.

And remarkable new claims about the president and a Saudi prince, the state of their relationship examined in the new book "State of Denial". Tonight, how much influence does Prince Bandar really have over President Bush?

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, former Congressman Mark Foley is in rehab and under investigation by the FBI and Florida officials. His trail of computer messages to a former page is at the center of his personal crisis, a criminal (INAUDIBLE) and a growing political scandal. Top House Republicans are scrambling to insulate themselves and their party from lurid allegations and possible consequences come Election Day.

John Zarrella is standing by for us in Florida. We begin our coverage though with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be order.

CROWLEY (voice-over): Out of Congress and into rehab, ex- Congressman Mark Foley wrote a Florida TV station saying quote, "I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic." And he is seeking treatment for that and what he calls related behavioral problems and his former colleagues call something else.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT, (R-IL) SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Instant messages reportedly between Congressman Foley and a former page said in 2003 were vile and repulsive.

REP. JOHN SHIMKUS (R), ILLINOIS: The very thought of this behavior made me sick and Mark Foley should be ashamed.

CROWLEY: Rehab of the political sort on Capitol Hill where the Republican leadership is getting pummeled for knowing as early as last fall that the then 52-year-old Foley had, at the least, crossed a line when he e-mailed a still underage former page asking for a picture. Foley was told to knock it off and that was that until ABC began late last week to report on a string of lurid Internet messages ABC says were between Foley and another teenage former page. ABC says Foley used the screen name maf54. CNN has not independently confirmed these exchanges.

Foley: I want to see you.

Teen: Like I said, not until February, then we will go to dinner.

And then what happens?

We eat. We drink. Who knows? Hang out late into the night.


I don't know.

Don't know what?

(INAUDIBLE) I have the feeling that you are fishing here. I'm not sure what I'd been comfortable with. We'll see.

Hastert says nobody in the Republican leadership saw anything like this until ABC uncovered them.

HASTERT: Congressman Foley duped a lot of people. He lied to Mr. Shimkus and he deceived his in-state paper when they each questioned him. I have known him for the all the years he served in this House and he deceived me, too.


CROWLEY: No dice with Democrats who refuse to accept any excuse for not acting on the original e-mail request for a photograph. Said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Republican leaders admitted to knowing about Mr. Foley's abhorrent behavior for six months to a year and failed to protect the children in their trust. Republican leaders must be investigated by the Ethics Committee and immediately questioned under oath -- John.

KING: And Candy, as you know, Republicans not only here in Washington but they're spread out around the country, now they are nervous about this. How nervous, from your conversations?

CROWLEY: Oh, very nervous and here's why. What they understand is that the Jack Abramoff scandal, any number of things that have happened, even when you talk about you know national intelligence estimates, people don't focus in on those because they can be confusing. You start talking about somebody sending suggestive and downright lewd e-mails to an underage page, people get that. And so they know that this is just one of those issues that really hits home and so obviously they're quite worried about it because the leadership still hasn't been able to get out from under.

KING: Candy Crowley for us on the developing both of human drama and a political story. Candy, thank you very much.

And tonight, Mark Foley's lawyer is speaking out in Florida. We're getting late word right now about his comments, his new explanations.

CNN's John Zarrella joins us from West Palm Beach -- John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Just within the last hour, David Roth, who is a close friend and attorney of Mark Foley's, came out and spoke on Mark Foley's behalf. Roth saying that Mark Foley has been an alcoholic all his adult life, that he has led a double life, in terms of alcoholism, but David Roth saying, frankly and quoting here, that "Mark has never had inappropriate sexual contact with a minor in his life, that he is absolutely positively not a pedophile."

Now Mr. Roth saying that Mark Foley has entered a substance abuse and also a mental health facility. He would not say where it was but he said that Mr. Foley would likely be there for at least 30 days. And he told us that Mr. Foley is devastated by what has happened.


DAVID ROTH, FORMER REP. MARK FOLEY'S ATTORNEY: Describe how Mark is doing -- he's completely devastated by letting his community, his family, his political party, his constituents and his country down. He was extremely depressed. But his concern is not for himself. His concern is for the damage that his actions have caused to others.


ZARRELLA: Now Mark Foley, also according to David Roth, did not blame anyone for what's happened but took the full blame on himself. Now, the Republican Party of Florida met in Orlando, Florida this afternoon where they picked Joe Negron to replace Mark Foley. Negron is a state representative. Now Negron's name will not appear on the ballot. Foley's name will be on the ballot but Negron says that the people here in the 16th congressional district are smart enough he says to figure it out -- John.

KING: John Zarrella for us tonight as developments continue in the 16th congressional district, West Palm Beach. Thank you very much John.

Well it's not clear at this point is what laws if any Foley may have broken. For more we're joined now by our senior Internet producer and legal analyst, Alex Wellen. Alex, let's start with a very basic question. FBI is looking into this; the state of Florida is looking into it. Do we believe at this point any prosecutions will come from this or too early?

ALEX WELLEN, CNN SR. INTERNET PRODUCER: Well I think we have to be very careful, especially in the light of the statements we got from his lawyer. There are a lot of unknowns, John. We don't know whether it will be in the federal law or the state law. There's a difference here between where it actually conducted this alleged criminal conduct. Did it happen in Florida, Washington? Is it federal? And finally, there's a really big difference between meeting minors. Of course and then some of these instant messages are very, very sexually explicit in comparison to some of the e-mails that are a little more tame, at least that's what we've seen so far.

KING: And so when you have this happening on dual tracks, the state investigation, a federal investigation, do they happen separately, do they talk to each other? Does it make a difference?

WELLEN: They will be talking to one another. And often you know the feds will lead. But it really depends on jurisdiction. Let me give you an example. So let's say everything happens in Florida, let's say the conduct, the messages are sent to someone in Florida from someone in Florida, theoretically, it would all stay within Florida. But more likely, you will see conduct that is stretching over interstate lines, might include the federal government. Also it might include very well both states involved.

KING: You know the law very well. Congressman Foley sends an e-mail to a 16-year-old former page, says hey, how are you doing, want to keep in touch with you. Can you send me a picture of yourself? Now that's a red flag for any parent policing their kid on the Internet, but is it breaking the law?

WELLEN: And that's exactly what we want to figure out. There are federal laws and there are a few and it's definitely not clear and again, we want to be very careful because we only know so many facts. We understand that this individual -- this minor, 16-year-old from Louisiana may very well include Louisiana.

I've been looking at the federal laws just for a moment, their Communications Decency Act, there are some laws in there that don't deal with age. They deal with harassing or annoying someone. There are other laws that deal with sending someone obscenity, a minor obscenity. Now are actual conversations, words, text of obscenity, sometimes, but probably not in this case. And the individual, as we know, in the e-mails is supposed to be 16, so that one might not very well apply.

There's another federal law that deals with, that was sponsored by congressman -- former Congressman Foley that dealt with sexual predators, registering multiple offenses. That very well could be triggered. On the state side, there are a few different things. Every state is difference.

In Florida, for example, you can't send material to a minor that's harmful to that minor. So as a result, we want to keep an eye on that. That could very well be a felony up to five years in prison.

KING: The investigation is just beginning. We'll keep track of them. Alex Wellen, our legal analyst and senior Internet producer. Thank you very much for your help.

And Jack Cafferty joins us now from New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, when Bob Woodward raises questions about whether the president of the United States is telling the truth, people tend to listen. The last time he and Carl Bernstein got serious, President Nixon was eventually presented with a choice. Either resign the presidency or be impeached.

Nixon resigned in disgrace. And it's probably worth remembering that with Watergate, it wasn't the crime that led to Nixon's downfall, but the cover-up, the lies, denial, and deception. Americans tend to forgive an error but they rightfully expect their leaders to be honest with them. In Woodward's new book, "State of Denial", he suggests President Bush may not be telling us the truth when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Woodward says conditions in Iraq are actually worse than we are being told here. And when combined with that recently leaked national intelligence report that says things are going to get worse in Iraq next year, well it's not good.

Here's the question. How will Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial", impact the midterm elections? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- John.

KING: Check back in, in a little bit. Jack Cafferty, thank you very much.

And coming up, conservative outrage, find out why some activists in the Christian right are furious over the Mark Foley scandal and will they take it out at the ballot box?

Plus, the third school shooting in less than a week. A gunman storms an Amish schoolhouse and goes on a deadly rampage, a closer look at just what happened.

And President Bush and a Saudi prince, a closer look at their allegedly cozy relationship.

Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: More now on our top story, the scandal over former Congressman Mark Foley's explicit communications with a former congressional page. Joining us from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to talk about this as a potential political fallout is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Tony Perkins thank you for joining us. I want to begin with a simple question to you. You're a leader of a grass roots conservative organization that a lot of pro-family voters around the country look to for guidance and advice in moments like this. There are conservative activists like Richard Vagary (ph), conservative groups like Citizens United who say the Republican leadership blew this, they did not handle this well. The speaker and others should resign from office. Do you think that's the case?

TONY PERKINS, PRES., FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well I think it's premature to say whether or not the leadership should resign. I think it certainly raises questions about what did the leadership know and when did they know it. We do know that they had indications that there were improper communications between this congressman and pages as long as two or three years ago. But, I think there may have been some fear that they had in pressing it forward out of fear of being seen as gay bashing or homophobic because of the orientation of Congressman Foley.

KING: Well let's talk about one specific incident. John Shimkus, the congressman -- he's the Republican chairman of the Page Board. He oversees essentially the page program. He is -- his job is to protect those kids whose parents send them up to Washington, it's a position of great responsibility.


KING: He acknowledges that in an e-mail exchange that he knew about months ago, Congressman Foley asked about the former page's wellbeing after Hurricane Katrina and requested a photograph. Any parent out there telling their young kid what to do and what not to do on the Internet would take requesting a photograph as a red flag of a serious problem.


PERKINS: Oh I agree.

KING: Congressman Shimkus went to Mark Foley and said don't do it again. But there's no evidence he called an attorney, no evidence he said Mark, you need counseling, no evidence -- we know he didn't tell the Democrats, didn't even tell other Republicans on that board. As we speak, sir, John Shimkus is still the chairman of the Page Board. Would you send your child to Washington to be a page?

PERKINS: Oh, I -- there's no defense of this behavior. It's outrageous, it's shocking. But it shouldn't be totally surprising when we hold up tolerance and diversity as the guidepost for public life this is what you end up getting. A congressman chasing 16-year- old boys down the halls of Congress, it's a shame. It's a tragedy and it does need to be addressed but not just the symptoms here.

We need to go to the source of the problem. And if the leadership was negligent, it should be dealt with and it should be dealt with in the most severe way possible. But what prevented the leadership from acting? Were they fearful of acting because they would be seen as homophobic or gay bashing?

I mean every parent in America should be -- should feel that their child is secure working as a page in Congress. I mean think about it. If our kids aren't secure in Congress, if they're not safe walking among our congressmen, where in the world are they safe?

KING: Well in your -- your voters -- your -- the people who are constituents of your organization who I think it's fair to say tend to vote Republican in most elections, not always, but conservative pro- family voters, they're out there across America. They might be registered as Democrats, but they vote on these issues. Should they support the Republican leadership? It says in the next five weeks you have to come out and vote. You have to keep us in office because you can't trust the Democrats.

PERKINS: No, I think this is a real problem for the Republicans as right or wrong are seen as the guardians of value, the party that preserves and works for family values. This certainly is not a family value. This is going to be, I think, very harmful for Republican turnout across the country because it's inconsistent with the values that the Republicans say that they represent. I think that's why we've got to go beyond this and see further into this, get the facts. There should be a full investigation. Who knew what, when they knew it and why did they not act?

KING: What are you hearing from your people out in the country? I know the organization has e-mail exchanges. It's involved in radio programming? What are you hearing?

PERKINS: People are concerned about this. I mean think about this. I mean any mother or father thinking about their 15, 16-year- old daughter or son that goes to Congress to get an experience of a lifetime. People will look for this opportunity as a chance of a lifetime to work in the halls of government, the most powerful country in the world and the thing that they have to be concerned about most is being sexually harassed or potentially molested by a congressman. It's outrageous. It shouldn't happen.

KING: I asked you about Congressman Shimkus and whether he should still be the head of the Page Board a few moments ago. I want to ask you about Speaker Dennis Hastert. Congressman Tom Reynolds, who's the chairman of the Republican Campaign Committee, said he came to Speaker Hastert and said it had come to his attention, this e-mail exchange, again, not sexually graphic, but an e-mail exchange, a 54- year-old, 50-something-year-old member of Congress to a 16-year-old kid asking questions, familiar questions and then asking for a photograph.

Congressman Reynolds said something to Speaker Hastert about this. The speaker says he probably said that but he can't recall it. Now the speaker is a very busy man in his defense, but this is a conversation about potential misconduct by a member of Congress involving a young child. Should the speaker have listened more closely?

PERKINS: Well, I would like to know what was exactly said to the speaker and why he did or did not do something. Was it out of fear of pushing something too far, overreacting and that because of the orientation of Congressman Foley, they would be seen as being gay bashing? You know was that a part of the decision not to act?

That's what I think we need to know. I do think that the speaker should have paid closer attention to this. I'm not prepared to say that the speaker should resign. I would like to see all the facts. I hope they're forthright and forthcoming in the next 48 hours and present this information to the American public.

KING: Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, we thank you for your time tonight and we'll touch base again as this unfolds in the days to come.

PERKINS: Thank you.

KING: Thank you, sir. And still to come tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM, questions swirling on Capitol Hill. What did House Speaker Dennis Hastert know about the Foley scandal and most importantly when did he know it? We'll hear from the speaker himself.

And there are new details emerging tonight about that massacre in an Amish school, we'll go live to Pennsylvania for an update. Stay right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: It's a stunning crime in an unlikely location, a truck driver and father of three barricading himself inside a one-room Amish schoolhouse killing three young girls execution style and then killing himself. New details are emerging tonight and CNN's Jason Carroll is live for us in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania with the latest -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And John, a very, very sad day for people here in this rural community. It all began when a milk truck driver, a man by the name of Charles Roberts, he is 32 years old, we have a picture of him, all began when he decided early this morning to exact his revenge in some way for a grudge that he's been holding for 20 years.

He decided to take all of his anger out on little schoolgirls who were attending school today, just very, very sad for these people who are here. It happened just before 10 a.m. He broke into the one- room schoolhouse armed with a semiautomatic handgun, as well as a shotgun, knives, 600 rounds of ammunition. He allowed the boys in the Amish schoolroom to leave, about 15 of them. He also told some of the other older women in the room that they were allowed to leave. Then he lined up the young girls against a blackboard.


COMM. JEFFREY MILLER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: A majority of them, at least, were bound in some way, either with the ties like wire ties or plastic flex cuffs. It appears that all of the female students were shot and as well as perhaps an aide -- at least one aide, which is a student older than the age of 13 that would be assisting in the classroom was shot. And I believe the one aide was killed.


CARROLL: Again, three girls dead, eight taken to area hospitals, in critical condition. And again, Charles Roberts died after he turned the gun on himself. Roberts, we are told, is the father of three young children. He is not Amish. And apparently, John, the reason why he targeted this community is simply because it was convenient, very close to where he's from. He lives just about three miles from here. So that's the reason why he ended up here, unknown as to why he exacted his revenge on young girls -- John.

KING: Jason Carroll for us tonight live at the scene of this gruesome, gruesome day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Jason, thank you very much.

And just ahead, House Speaker Hastert facing criticism, even some calls to resign over his handling of the Foley scandal, we'll hear from the speaker.

Plus, a child advocacy group finds itself in an awkward opposition over its ties to Foley. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, an attorney for former Congressman Mark Foley says his client is not a pedophile. A short while ago, the attorney also said Foley is an alcoholic and he's now seeking treatment for alcoholism.

Also violence claims the life of an American soldier in Baghdad today. The military says the soldier died from wounds received in small arms attack. Also in Baghdad, gunmen dressed as Iraqi government forces raided several computer stores and kidnapped at least 14 people.

And lawyers representing 25 men being held in Afghanistan signal they'll challenge President Bush's plan for the trying of terror detainees. Court documents filed by those lawyers demand that the men either be released or charged and allowed to meet with their attorneys.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

By anyone's definition, the allegations about Mark Foley's conduct are stunning. But what gives this story even more weight is the fact that the former congressman had a high profile role and legislative debates about protecting children.

CNN's Brian Todd is covering that angle of the scandal -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, in those first hours after Mark Foley's resignation from Congress, crucial decisions had to be made. Members of Congress, organizations associated with Foley had to figure out what to say. One of those is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which worked with Foley on child predator legislation.


TODD (voice-over): Friday night the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children issues this statement.

Congressman Mark Foley's resignation is a great loss to Florida and the nation. He has been a hard-working, dedicated and effective congressman. He will be missed.

ERNIE ALLEN, NATIONAL CTR. FOR MISSING & EXPLOITD CHILDREN: When additional details became available and we discovered that there was much more than we thought, we generated an update of that statement.

TODD: The next day, a much more toughly worded statement, calling reports on Foley, deeply troubling. And, "if it is determined that he has engaged in acts which have harmed children or put them in jeopardy like any other person, he must be held accountable. If he has violated the law, he should be prosecuted."

But another well known children's advocate is outraged by the first statement.

MARC KLAAS, BEYONDMISSING.COM: This guy resigns because of inappropriate Internet communications with young buys and they don't even see that?

TODD: Marc Klaas whose led campaigns against child predators since his daughter was abducted and murdered in 1993, accuses the National Center of being too close with Congress and in particular, Mark Foley.

KLAAS: He had son extremely cozy relationship with Ernie Allen and with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

TODD: Foley had a history with the group, had worked with the center to produce sweeping legislation to shield kids from predators. This picture from the signing ceremony last summer. President Bush shaking Foley's hand with John Walsh of "American's Most Wanted" beside them.

Walsh is a co-founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. But on Klaas's charge of a cozy relationship.

ALLEN: We worked with Democrats and Republicans. We worked with the House and the Senate. And that has always been our approach and will continue to be.

TODD (on camera): But when apparent, someone who goes to your website and who looks to your group for guidance sees the first statement, and says, wow, that's really -- what's going on here, how would you respond to that person?

ALLEN: I think what parents need to understand is that the statement reflected the facts as we knew them at the time. And when the facts changed, we changed the statement.


TODD: So why issue that first statement at all?

Well, Allen says they were besieged with media calls on Friday and felt they had to respond. But he admits he probably issued that first statement too quickly.

An important note, Marc Klaas has a longstanding dispute with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He accuses them of stealing his idea for web-based fliers.

Ernie Allen denies that, saying the center came up with the idea first.

Also for transparency here, last year, CNN partnered with the national center to run pictures and information about children missing from Hurricane Katrina -- John.

KING: Brian Todd, an interesting look behind the scenes for us. Brian, thank you very much.

And on Capitol Hill tonight, the Speaker of the House is facing tough questions about the Foley scandal -- what he knew about it, and when, and what he did about. Hanging in the balance potentially, the battle for control of Congress.

Our congressional correspondent Andrea Koppel spoke with the speaker late today -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, with so many tight races facing Republican members, House speaker Dennis Hastert would have rather spent his time on the campaign trail. Instead he was here in Washington campaigning on his damage control agenda trying to minimize the fallout of both on the e-mail that was exchanged between Representative Foley and that 16-year-old boy in Tennessee and the e- mails, the instant messages that surfaced last Friday that happened back in 2003.


KOPPEL: This 16-year-old boy who was the young man who had the e-mail exchange.


KOPPEL: With Congressman Foley, he contacted Congressman Alexander's staff that was his host congerssman.

HASTERT: Right. KOPPEL: And he said that he felt uncomfortable. And he said that he thought the exchanges were, I think he used the word sick, something like a dozen time. Sick, sick, sick, sick, sick. Why wouldn't that set off any red flags?

HASTERT: Well, let me just tell you, we didn't -- I don't think we were privy to what the contacts were, the e-mails with the young man and the staff were. All we know is we were contacted by the staff.

We were asked by the staff -- the Alexander staff was asked by the parents not to make this widely known, but they just wanted the problem solved.

And I'm saying this all in retrospect without knowing what the situation was. That went to the clerk of the House, brought in the chairman of the page board and they did exactly what the parents want. They confronted Mr. Foley and told him not to do it anymore.

KOPPEL: And they asked him if there was anything more to it?

HASTERT: I don't know what they asked him. I wasn't there. I wasn't present. I don't know what they asked him.

KOPPEL: But you said they did an exhaustive review of the situation.

HASTERT: We had a review of exactly what happened. And that wasn't a recording of what the -- that I know of, of what that conversation was with Mr. Foley.

KOPPEL: OK. But did anybody say what they had asked him or what they said? There was just a statement, please don't do this again.

HASTERT: Look it -- I think what happened in there is they conformed completely with what the parents asked them to do, and asked Mr. Foley not to contact the young man again.

KOPPEL: I mean, I think that there is the impression out there that when you don't ask Congressman Foley whether or not there was something more to this, that you leave the impression that you're trying to hide something?

HASTERT: Well, I think there's no impression there. The question was, they asked the question of the staff is there -- was there anything of a sexual nature to this. And they said no it wasn't. It was just an overfriendly contact, period. That's what we had to work with.

KOPPEL: Does it bother you at all that they didn't ask to see the e-mail?

HASTERT: I think they asked to see the e-mails. And they were told the family didn't want the e-mails disclosed.

KOPPEL: As this investigation continues, who do you think should ultimately be held accountable?

HASTERT: Well, first of all, the perpetrator of the problem. And I asked the attorney general of the state of Florida and also the attorney general of the United States government.

But I think even more so, we're looking at these e-mails that happened in 2003. We didn't know about those. Nobody knew about those e-mails until they were revealed last Friday. And those are the e-mails that if we would have known that they were out there, we would have taken immediate action.

KOPPEL: Do you feel at all responsible, Mr. Speaker?

HASTERT: I'm responsible for everything that happens around here. And if we could have rolled this thing back a while and if I would have known back all the things that have happened, if I would have known what happened with the exchanges in 2003, we could have done something about it. But I do what I can. Plus run the Congress itself.

So yes, I'm sorry. I'm outraged at what happened. And I wish we had more information at a time that we could have done something different. But we did the best we can with the information that we had.


KOPPEL: And now, Speaker Hastert says they're going to have a 1- 800 number, toll free number John, for family members, pages, anyone who has information they want to give of a confidential nature of any kind of communications that they think might have been untoward between members and house pages -- John.

KING: Andrea Koppel for us tonight on Capitol Hill after a one- on-one meeting with the speaker. That one-on-one interview designed, in part, an effort by the leadership to put to rest questions about what the leadership knew, when it knew it and what did it do about it.

But I can tell you, in Washington tonight, more questions being raised by some of these interviews.

You heard the speaker tell Andrea Koppel, the leadership didn't have any knowledge about the contents of that e-mail. This is a statement from John Shimkas the chairman of the page board. And he did know, at laest, quoting his statement. Congressman Foley had asked about the former pages well-being after Hurricane Katrina and requested a photograph.

That is the signal many in Washington, Democrats and Republicans, say should have alerted the leadership to more.

Also in dispute here, the speaker Foley says he can not recall a conversation with another member of his leadership team -- Congressman Tom Reynolds. He is the chairman of the House Republican Campaign Committee, raises money to try to help elect Republicans. Congressman Reynolds put out a statement on Saturday saying, this was brought to his attention, that initial e-mail between Congressman Foley and the page who used to work in a Louisiana Republican's office. It was brough to his attention some months ago. Mr. Reynolds says he brought it to the speaker's attention. Speaker Hastert says he cannot recall that conversation. Tonight, in his district back home in New York, Congressman Reynolds standing by his statement.


REP. THOMAS REYNOLDS, (R) NEW YORK: I acted promptly initially. I acted swiftly and immediately, after learning of the second set of e-mails on Friday. Anyone who says differently is flat out wrong. What most people would do in a work place, I heard something, I took it to my supervisor.


KING: The Republican leadership still on the defensive tonight.

And up ahead tonight, the U.S. president and a Saudi prince, they're spotlighted in Bob Woodward's new book "State of Denial." We'll take a closer look. And we'll get reaction from the White House. Stay right here.


KING: President Bush's relationship with the Saudi royal family comes under scrutiny in Bob Woodward's new best selling book. In particular, it takes a very close look at the president's ties with the former Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar. CNN's Zain Verjee is here with the details, Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: John, smooth, smart and charming, he was once described as the Arab Gatsby. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia's former ambassador to Washington influential, even over the president.


VERJEE (voice-over): In "State of Denial" journalist Bob Woodward revealed startling new details about the state of the union between President Bush and the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar. According to Woodward, the president's father urged him to seek foreign policy advice in 1997 from the prince, as he considered a run for the White House.

The president is quoted as saying, "I don't have the foggiest idea about what I think about international foreign policy. My dad told me, before I make up my mind, go and talk to Bandar." Reacting to Woodward's book, White House press secretary Tony Snow fired back.

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The quote has been cobbled together in such a way to make it sound like the president just fell of the turnip truck. VERJEE: Woodward claims Prince Bandar counseled the then governor all the way through the 2000 election on issues ranging from world diplomacy to why he should care about North Korea. The Saudi embassy tells CNN, it's no secret that Prince Bandar has been a friend of the president's family for years. And when Bandar is asked for his advice, he gives it. The White House doesn't deny it.

SNOW: Prince Bandar for a considerable period of time was the Saudi ambassador to the United States and would obviously be somebody with whom one would have a conversation.

VERJEE: According to Woodward, the relationship went beyond just providing advice. The summer of 2001, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict killed hundreds, cease-fires were called and promptly broken. Woodward says, on August 27th, Prince Bandar delivered this ultimatum to President Bush, the Crown Prince will not communicate in any form, type or shape with you because it is obvious that U.S. policy has taken a strategic decision in adopting Sharon's policy."

President Bush is described as shocked and Secretary of State Colin Powell was angry. But two days later, Woodward says, the president wrote a letter to the Crown Prince in support of a Palestinian state. The Saudi embassy tells CNN, "There was no ultimatum. We would never do that. It was an exchange of opinions on the middle east process."

Woodward also outlines a conversation, he says, took place in the Oval Office on Friday, February the 20th, 2004, an election year. He claims President Bush, quote, "thanked Bandar for what the Saudis were doing on oil, essentially flooding the market and trying to keep the price as low as possible. He expressed appreciation for the policy and the impact it could have during the election year."

The Saudi embassy tells CNN, "Yes they increased production, but that was to make sure there was a global oil supply and that there would not be a world recession. Saudi Arabia does not respond to domestic U.S. politics and elections when it comes to oil supply."


VERJEE: One Saudi analyst we spoke to says Prince Bandar was very influential in the past. But since 9/11 that influence has decreased, saying it's not what it used to be, John.

KING: Fascinating subplot of an interesting book. Zain Verjee for us tonight, Zain thank you very much.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty is wondering how will the Bob Woodward book "State of Denial" impact the midterm election. Jack is standing by with the Cafferty File.

Plus, politics and adultery making for one very unusual race. CNN's Jeanne Moos is on the story and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: There are multiple investigations under way into former Congressman Mark Foley's conduct. In the meantime webpages used by current and former congressional pages today are dominated by discussions about the former congressman. Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton is standing by with the details, Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: John, shock and disgust at these sights and also concern from these former congressional pages that the entire page program will suffer. We're also finding mentions of Mark Foley in these postings going back several years. This is the U.S. House Page Alumni Association website. It's offline right now. But we found archived versions of pages going back to 2004 that show Foley's interest in the page program.

And you're weighing in online also. Earlier today we asked "will allegations that former Republican Rep. Mark Foley exchanged sexually explicit instant messages with a 16-year-old make it less likely you'll vote Republican in November?" Almost 90,000 of you voted. Fifty eight percent said yes, less likely to vote Republican, 42 percent said, no, John.

KING: Abbi Tatton, Abbi thank you very much. And Jack is in New York now with the Cafferty File, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, the question is how will Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial," impact the midterm elections. This book suggesting that the White House isn't being honest with us about what's going on in connection with the war in Iraq.

Chris writes from Tennessee, "Unfortunately Americans are in denial about what has been going on over the past few years. Maybe this country should be called the United States of Denial. Maybe this book will serve as a wake up call to the American people."

Janette writes, "I think Bob Woodward's book will effect the midterm elections only if it remains a big news topic on television. The elections are still a month away. Unfortunately I don't believe the American public's attention span lasts that long."

David in Annapolis, Maryland writes, "Not much. As long as the Republicans check doesn't bounce at Diebold." Diebold is one of the companies that provides electronic voting machines.

Frank in Pennsylvania, "If this country is not aware of the fraud perpetrated on them by the Bush-Cheney crime syndicate and the corrupt Republican Congress, by starting a war based on lies, killing thousands of soldiers and civilians and squandering our national treasury, then no book, periodical or newspaper article will do it."

John in New York writes, "Jack, there's a scandal out there involving a 16-year-old page and a 52-year-old Republican congressman. This is America. That's juicy news. Who's going to read Woodward's book about White House screw ups when we've got those repulsive instant messages to read.

And Eric in Ontario offers this, "Remember, denial is not just a river in Egypt." John.

KING: Jack Cafferty, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

CAFFERTY: Something for you to hold on to.

KING: You have interesting fans out there. We love to hear from them.

CAFFERTY: Yes, I do.

KING: Thanks very much, Jack. Let's find out now what's coming up next hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW. John Roberts is filling in for Paula. Hi John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: You just don't want to be on the wrong side of those fans. Thanks John. At the top of the hour, we're going to go in depth on the Mark Foley scandal, the latest allegations, the finger pointing and the political fallout.

We're also watching developments in Pennsylvania where eight girls are in critical condition and three others dead after a shooting at a schoolhouse in Pennsylvania. All that plus the White House counter-attack on Bob Woodward's new book all at the top of the hour. See you then, John.

KING: Thank you John, we'll be watching. Our Zain Verjee join us with a look at other stories making news right now, hi Zain.

VERJEE: Hi John. The Summer recess is over (INAUDIBLE) The court began it's new term today with a seven-minute session. I beg your pardon.

KING: Zain, we'll give you a second to get your microphone there. There we go.

VERJEE: I'm here.

KING: That's all right. It's one of those things that occasionally we need in television. Let's try this again. You got the microphone set back up.

VERJEE: I do. I apologize. By law, John, the court must convene on Monday. No oral arguments were held today because of the Yom Kippur holiday, but the court did deny about 2,000 appeals that had built up over the past three months.

The Iraqi parliaments extending Iraq's state of emergency as scattered violence continues. Gunmen snatched 14 employees from computer stores in Baghdad today in the second mass kidnapping in two days. Also in Baghdad, a U.S. soldier was shot and killed.

Tropical Storm Isaac is losing its steam. Canada canceled wild weather warnings today for the province Newfoundland as Isaac swirled away and weakened sharply. Officials at the Canadian Hurricane Center say the storm is likely to remain offshore and they say rainfall should be less than they had expected. The center warned earlier that Newfoundland could face raging winds and heavy rains from Isaac, John.

KING: Zain, thank you very much. Keep that mic handy.

Still ahead, the candidate whose private life is eclipsing her campaign. What impact will it have on the race. History offers some lessons and Jeanne Moos takes a look. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: For most married couples, private problems are hard enough to deal with. But when one or both spouses are in the public eye, those problems can be even more difficult. As CNN's Jeanne Moos explains, one spouse in New York is unfortunately learning that firsthand.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside of New York, Jeanine Pirro wasn't exactly a household name, but now she's lampooned as a household item, a door mat for her reportedly philandering husband.

JEANINE PIRRO (R), NEW YORK ATTY. GEN. CANDIDATE: Many of you have asked why I stay in my marriage. These are personal choices that I have made and I shouldn't have to keep explaining them.

MOOS: News that the Republican candidate for state attorney general considered bugging the boat where she suspected her husband was having an affair raised the question.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it OK to eavesdrop and go through your husband's things?

MOOS (on camera): Now is it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It seems a little farfetched. I can't imagine that's good for the marriage.

MOOS: Now, would you ever bug someone that you suspected.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Of course, you hear that?

MOOS (voice-over): And though Pirro continues to campaign.

PIRRO: I'm not going to roll over. I'm not going away.

MOOS: Divorce attorney Raoul Felder calls her candidacy dead.

RAOUL FELDER, DIVORCE ATTORNEY: Waiting for rigormortis (ph) at this point.

MOOS: Felder is an attorney who hands out pens that say "Sue Someone You Love." He describes Pirro as attempting damage control. FELDER: When there's an atom bomb gone off, you can't have any damage control.

MOOS: But some have survived the A-bomb. A for adultery.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I was, as I say in the book, ready to wring his neck.

MOOS: But they're still together, his neck un-wrung. And how about Lee Hart. Gary Hart's wife stood by her man when he was being accused of marital hanky panky while running president in 1988.

LEE HART, GARY HART'S WIFE: Gary says nothing happened, nothing happened.

MOOS: Well actually, something had happened. Remember Donna Rice sitting on Hart's lap aboard the Monkey Business. Nevertheless Gary and Lee Hart are still together, married for 48 years. And then there's Dena McGreevey, left out when her husband, the governor, came out.

JAMES MCGREEVEY (D), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: I engaged in an adult consentual affair with another man.

MOOS: But can you imagine reading all the explicit details, hearing them come out of your husband's mouth on Oprah?

MCGREEVEY: We undressed and he kissed me, sent me through the roof.

MOOS: Bet that sent his wife through the roof as well. Maybe Jeanine Pirro is better off not knowing any details.

PIRRO: And had him followed to see if what I suspected was true.

MOOS: After all, he had already had child with yet another other woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She loved well, but not wisely.

MOOS: Maybe she should have left well enough alone.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


KING: Jeanne Moos there as only Jeanne Moos. Remember we're on weekdays at 4:00 p.m and 5:00 p.m Eastern and back again at 7:00 p.m Eastern every night. Until then, thanks for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm John King in for Wolf Blitzer today. Up next "PAULA ZAHN NOW." John Roberts is in for Paula.