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Political Fallout Continues Over Mark Foley; Conservative Republicans Call For Speaker Dennis Hastert To Resign; North Korea Threatening to Conduct Nuclear Test

Aired October 03, 2006 - 17:00   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you very much, Jack.
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 today's top stories.

Happening now: A capitol scandal grows. President Bush says he's disgusted by revelations concerning former Republican Congressman Mark Foley and there is a new report of more scandalous Internet messages Foley alleged wrote to a former congressional page.

Also, damage control: Republican House leaders are trying to contain the scandal. This, as others call for Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign his post.

And it's 5:00 p.m. in Pennsylvania, where disturbing new details are emerging in the Amish school shooting that left five girls and the gunmen dead.

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

Major new developments this hour in the spreading scandals surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley and explicit Internet messages to former congressional pages. ABC News is now reporting an incident in which Foley allegedly engaged in so-called cyber sex with a former page just before going to the House floor to vote.

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are scrambling to contain the fall-out. Amid calls from some conservatives for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign his leadership post over his handling of this scandal. We are covering all the angles of this fast-developing story for you, with CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano, CNN Congressional Correspondent Andrea Koppel, and CNN's Brian Todd, all standing by for us.

We begin with Brian right here in Washington with the latest messages -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, new details based on our contacts with former pages, and on some other reporting about alleged exchanges by the former congressman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): New information tonight about Mark Foley's alleged contacts with former pages.

According to ABC News, Foley had internet sex with a former page just before going to the House floor to vote in 2003. ABC says its transcripts of those exchanges were provided by former pages. A different former House page tells CNN he was warned early on about Foley.

Mark Beck-Heymen didn't want to go on camera. He says the first warnings about Foley were general in nature. And he said it wasn't long, in that summer of 1995, before Foley introduced himself and got friendly. Foley asked the page, quote, "Want to go out for some ice cream?" Beck-Heyman says he turned that down because he was working. And says Foley later told him they should get together in San Diego the following summer. Beck-Heymen says they never did.

Beck-Heyman was a Republican then, but is now a Democrat. Beck- Heymen says he didn't think much about Foley's approaches to him at the time. But they seem more significant in retrospect. CNN contacted several other former pages to ask if they got any warning about Foley or other congressman. Some said they heard gossip, but ...

SAMUEL BURKE, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: They never said stay away from in congressman, never.

KARA FRANK, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He was very nice to us. I mean, again, I never got that creepy feeling from him or anything. And I never heard any stories. So to hear this -- I mean, it's just very shocking.

TODD: Another former page tells CNN, quote, "A supervisor mentioned Foley was a bit odd or flaky and did not connote by tone or otherwise that he should be avoided.


TODD: We called Mark Foley's attorney David Roth for reaction to Mark Beck-Heymen's comments and the ABC News report. Mr. Roth did not return our calls.

A senior law enforcement official tells CNN that FBI agents are trying to track down former pages to question them about Foley. And to make sure the electronic communications attributed to him are authentic -- John.

KING: More troubling by the day. Brian Todd thank you very much for that.

Now to Capitol Hill and calls for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to step down from his leadership post over his handling of the scandal. Andrea Koppel joins us live with the latest -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: John, over the last several days, the phone lines had been burning up between Washington and capitals and districts all across the country. As Republican leaders and specifically Speaker Hastert tries to do big- time damage control.

Last night, in fact, there was a conference call involving Republican leaders in the House and about 100 rank-and-file members. But today, the focus of these phone calls shifted to shoring up support for the speaker himself.


KOPPEL (voice-over): It was the most explicit criticism of Speaker Dennis Hastert to date. And the opening salvo came from a most unlikely source. An editorial in a leading conservative newspaper called on Hastert to do the only right thing and resign his speakership at once.

The paper accused Hastert of being either "grossly negligent for not taking the red flags fully into account in the Foley case," or said he, "deliberately looked the other way."

Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Ohio ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Boehner, welcome to the program.

KOPPEL: The second-ranking Republican in the House got in a few shots of his own.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MAJORITY LEADER: I believe I talked to the speaker and he told me it had been taken care of. In my position, it's in his corner, it's his responsibility.

KOPPEL: Appearing on a syndicated radio show, and in a startling move, Boehner broke ranks with Speaker Hastert.

BOEHNER: The clerk of the house, who runs the page program, the page board, all report to the speaker, and I believed that it had been dealt with.

KOPPEL: But at the same time, Boehner said he disagreed Hastert should resign. In a Letter to the Editor of "The Washington Times" Boehner suggested, "Whoever leaked these sexually explicit instant messages, exchanged between Congressman Foley and an underage page, had a political agenda.

Speaker Hastert agreed. And in a separate radio interview warned, if he is forced to step aside, the Republican Party could suffer.

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are some people who try to tear us down. We are the insulation to protect this country and if they get to me, it looks likes they effect our election as well.

KOPPEL: In fact, the Foley scandal is now ammunition in at least one Democrat's campaign ad. Minnesota Democratic Patty Retterlin (ph) rolled out this ad today. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: It shocks the conscience. Congressional leaders have admitted covering up the predatory behavior of a congressman who used the Internet to molest children.


KOPPEL: Now, just to be clear, even though a growing number of Republicans are expressing their criticism, very public criticism, of the way their leadership, in particular, Dennis Hastert has handled the Foley scandal, no one is outright calling for the speaker to resign.

In fact, his spokesman also, John, said that isn't even on the table. And the number three Republican in the House, Roy Blunt today expressed very strong support for the speaker saying that he has led the Congress through dangerous and important times. His leadership has been steady and consistent. And he has the support of the conference, says Roy Blunt, John.

KING: Andrea Koppel, for us on Capitol Hill, a remarkable day. Andrea, thank you very much.

As we mentioned President Bush speaking publicly about the scandal for the first time and weighing in on the political fallout. CNN White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president; she joins us now live from Stockton in California's Central Valley.

Hi, Elaine.


President Bush today said he was shocked and dismayed over what he called unacceptable behavior by Mark Foley. The president made he has comments after a congressional fundraiser, here in Stockton, California. Adding that he was disgusted by the revelations and disappointed.

Now, the president also made clear he is standing by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Saying that he backed Hastert's call for an investigation into the Foley matter. The president said the investigation should be thorough and said that any violation of the law should be prosecuted.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I know Denny Hastert. I meet with him a lot. He is a father, teacher, coach who cares about the children of this country. And I know that he wants all the facts to come out.

And he wants to ensure that these children up there on Capitol Hill are protected. I'm confident he will provide whatever leadership he can to law enforcement in this investigation.


QUIJANO: Now, the president's decision to stand by Dennis Hastert comes at a critical time in a congressional campaign. This is a moment when the White House had been hoping to draw distinctions between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of national security. Instead, we are now seeing President Bush having to respond to the day of news, if you will, trying to quell concerns of a Republican leadership just five weeks out from the congressional midterm elections -- John.

KING: Elaine Quijano, for us, live in California. Elaine, thank you very much.

Jack Cafferty is in New York standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: John, in Iraq, seven more United States soldiers were killed yesterday; 12 of our soldiers had been killed there so far in October. And today is the third day of the month.

Elsewhere, in Iraq, police say they found 30 more bodies in different parts of Baghdad today. Most of them full of bullet holes. Some of them showing signs of torture. Bombs exploded in three different parts of the capital city today.

Meanwhile Bob Woodward's book, "State of Denial" continues to make waves especially when it comes to how honest the Bush administration has been with the American people about violence in Iraq. He claims we are not getting the whole story.

A new CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation shows that 58 percent of Americans say the Bush administration has deliberately misled the public about how the war in Iraq is going. And 57 percent of those surveyed say the Iraq war has made the U.S. less safe from terrorism.

Wasn't that the point of this whole thing? Remember, fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here? Well, a lot of people don't think we are any safer. In fact, we are probably according to some, more vulnerable.

So the question is this: Do you think the Bush administration has deliberately misled Americans about the war in Iraq? The keyword obviously is deliberately.

E-mail us at or go to

At the rate they are killing American soldiers over there, John, 12 people in three days, we'll lose 120 of our young people over there this month. I hope that doesn't happen.

KING: The Foley scandal dominating the headlines right now. But the Iraq war will factor in these elections as well. Jack Cafferty, we look forward to the answers. Thank you, Jack.

Up ahead, my interview with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Does he think House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign his post over the Foley scandal? I'll ask him.

Also, disturbing new details in that massacre in the Amish schoolhouse, including a possible motive. We'll have the latest for you.

Plus, North Korea makes a defiant announcement escalating tensions in its nuclear stand-off with the United States. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: More now on our top story, the growing scandal surrounding former Republican Congressman Mark Foley and calls for the Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign.

My next guest is a representative from the same state of Speaker Hastert and a friend of the speaker. Republican Congressman Ray LaHood of Illinois, joins me from Peoria.

Congressman, thank you for joining us on this day. Let me just ask you quite simply, there's all this pressure on the speaker to resign. He's making calls today to members, he's making talk radio calls and the like. Has he put this fire out or will these calls continue?

REP. RAY LAHOOD (R), ILLINOIS: Well look, he's going to continue to do what he does best, which is talk to members, listen to members. And I know that he has plans to be around the country and campaign in at least 30 districts in the next 40 days, either for incumbent members or for challengers.

KING: Do you suspect he will still get those invitations. Even if he did nothing wrong, as you know in politics people are talking about this scandal and this speaker's handling of it. Do you think it will become a little nuclear even if he can keep his support within the Republican caucus?

LAHOOD: I don't think so, John. Some things have been set well in advance and they're fundraisers and people are going to raise some significant dollars. And I think the speaker will be able to explain how he was not involved in this and what his actions have been. And then hopefully move on to some of the issues that effect people of the districts where he will be campaigning.

KING: Congressman LaHood, the speaker's explanation right now is that he doesn't recall a conversation with Congressman Tom Reynolds, in which Congressman Reynolds is adamant that he brought this to the speakers attention, saying there was a questionable e-mail -- not the sexually explicit instant messages, but a questionable e-mail in which Congressman Foley asked a 16-year-old boy to send him a picture.

Now the speaker says he doesn't remember that conversation. He also says he thought his staff was handling it. Is that good enough?

LAHOOD: Well, look, John. The speaker talks to many members throughout the day -- maybe 25 or 30 ...

KING: But, Sir, this was a warning about a 16-year-old kid in the care of the House of the Representatives.

LAHOOD: Well, I think if there is anyone at fault here, it's the speaker's staff. They should have brought this to his attention. I think the idea that someone spoke to him about this and he doesn't remember it is pretty logical when you consider the kind of schedule the speaker keeps, the number of people that he talks to, including a number of members.

And I really don't know how it was presented by Mr. Reynolds, but I don't fault the speaker for not remembering it. And I believe him when he says he doesn't remember it. And I hope other people will too.

KING: Another person involved in this is Congressman John Shimkus, a Republican colleague of yours, the Republican chairman of the page board. He got the house clerk, appointed by the Republicans, and went to Mark Foley and said stop it. Stop it. Don't do this again.

But he didn't reach out to Democrats, didn't bring in any attorneys. There is no evidence he did what most corporations would do in a case like this. And say, even if we believe your story, you need some counseling. You need to understand why you shouldn't do this again.

Your former colleague J.C. Watts, was just with us, he says that's a big mistake. Should have brought in the Democrats, should have opened this up so you had transparency here. Should Mr. Shimkus still be the chairman of the page board? Would you send your child into a situation where you are not getting a thorough investigation when there is an allegation like this?

LAHOOD: Well, look it, I think John probably should have brought the speaker into this. It is the speaker's program and he's the one that appoints the pages; he should have alerted the speaker to this. And I have no doubt that Speaker Hastert would have brought Foley in, had a Dutch Uncle talk with him, and monitored the situation. That didn't happen.

If I had a child in the page program, they'd be back in Peoria with me today. That's why I've called on the speaker to suspend the page program, ask some scholarly people to evaluate the program and determine if this program really fits with the 21st century Congress we have today.

I think that it is a flawed program. And I've asked the speaker to do that. But look it, 20/20 hindsight is perfect. And much more could have been done, should have been done, and I think we all feel that there's a flaw in the system. There's no doubt about it. KING: Let's talk about what you think will happen. You are not only a veteran of the Congress. You are a veteran of the congressional staff. You know how politics works quite well. There will be a federal investigation and state investigations into Mark Foley's conduct.

There will be a continued inquiry internally and by journalists, and the like, as to who knew what when and what they did about it. American people have to vote in five weeks. Democrats are making an issue of this. And you know how this works in a midterm election, turnout is traditionally low. You need your base to turn out.

I want you to listen to something Tony Perkins the president of the Family Research Council told us in discussing this last night. And his guests, that many Christian conservatives, other pro-family voters might simply stay home this year, because they're disgusted by this.


TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: I think this is a real problem for the Republicans as they 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 they represent.


KING: Do you agree with that statement? Or do you think Republican turn out will be down? And Congressman LaHood, do you think you will be in the minority party come January?

LAHOOD: John, I think we do have to work very hard to get our base out. We have to energize our base, this does not help us. I don't disagree with what Mr. Perkins said. It's going to be tough and we have a big challenge ahead in the next 40 days to energize our base.

The truth is nobody knows who the majority party will be. It's going to be a very close election. We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of persuading to do. We have to make sure our people get to the polls.

KING: But this is not what you want to be talking about in the final few weeks?

LAHOOD: The first three questions when I arrived back in Peoria, John were about pages, Mark Foley, and e-mails. Ordinarily they would have been about the war, the war on terror, immigration, border control. And, look it, people are talking about this. Not only on the Main Street in Peoria, but all over America.

And we have to change the subject and get back to the issues that energize our base. I hope we can do that. KING: Congressman Ray LaHood, of Illinois, sir, thank you very much for your help today. Understanding this ...

LAHOOD: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you, sir, take care.

Coming up, a role for the Taliban in governing Afghanistan? Some people say yes. I'll talk about that and much more with the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. He'll join us in had THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, the death toll climbs in the shooting of the Pennsylvania Amish school. As police reveal what the gunman may have been planning to do. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Troubling new details are emerging about yesterday's rampage at an Amish school in Pennsylvania. It claimed the lives of five girls. Right now officials are trying to piece together the story and the details they're uncovering about the gunman are disturbing. CNN Senior Correspondent Allan Chernoff is in Lancaster County with the latest -- Allan.


Police believe that they may have uncovered a motive in this absolutely horrific schoolhouse shooting. A plan hidden deep inside of a man, who on the surface appeared to be an ordinary father.


CHERNOFF: Minutes before milkman Charles Roberts shot 10 schoolgirls and killed himself Monday, he revealed his deepest, darkest secret to his wife Marie during his final phone conversation. Twenty years ago, he claimed, he had sexually molested two of his very young relatives when they were three or four years old. A claim police are still working to confirm.

As he held the schoolgirls at gunpoint, Roberts told Marie where his suicide notes to his wife and three children were located. And that he would not be coming home.

In this letter to Marie, Roberts wrote, he had dreamed for two years of molesting children again. Police say Roberts may have planned out to carry out his dreams at the Amish schoolhouse.

COMM. JEFFREY MILLER, PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE: It's very possible that he intended to victimize these children in many ways prior to executing them and killing himself.

CHERNOFF: Roberts also spoke in the note to his wife about his anger that his first-born daughter, Elise (ph), died only 20 minutes after her birth.

MILLER: Roberts was angry with God. For taking Elise, as outlined in the suicide note, stating that it had changed his life forever. And he was not the same since it happened. Roberts expressed hate towards himself and towards God.

CHERNOFF: Police quickly arrived at the schoolhouse, and authorities say Roberts panicked and began shooting the girls execution style.


CHERNOFF: Five of those girls are dead and five others, this afternoon, are fighting for their lives in local hospitals -- John.

KING: Allan Chernoff for us on a truly horrible story. Allan, thank you very much.

Coming up, more on the scandal that has many people talking, especially on talk radio. How's the Mark Foley fall-out playing on those air waves? We'll listen in.

And nuclear concerns. North Korea threatens to conduct a nuclear test. How is the United States responding? We'll tell you right here. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, the scandal over a congressman's explicit online exchanges with a former page is snowballing. And questions are swirling about the future of the Republican House leadership and control of Congress itself. I'll talk about it with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Nuclear tensions on the rise as North Korea makes a defiant announcement. Is it real or just a political ploy? We'll get the latest from the Pentagon.

And flying high on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones industrial average hits the record. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm John King. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're standing by at this hour for a news conference expected a bit later from Mark Foley's attorney. Meanwhile, Republican leaders of the House are trying to contain the Foley fiasco. But how might it affect this year's midterm elections? It's a question I put to a key senator a bit earlier today.


KING: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, thank you for joining us today in THE SITUATION ROOM.

You are in Baghdad, Iraq, but I want to begin with the political controversy here at home. Former Congressman Foley, of course, will face investigations now, perhaps face the criminal justice system, but in the political fallout, there are many conservatives who are unhappy with how the House leadership handled this scandal, and they think the speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, should resign. What do you say to that, sir?

SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Yes, John, I have, as you know, been in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and I don't mean to avoid your question, but really have not been briefed on the events of the last 48 hours. When I left, obviously Congressman Foley, the allegations had come out. That is to be condemned if those are true. The events of the last 48 hours I just haven't been briefed on. Obviously I have tremendous respect for Denny Hastert but have not been briefed on any of the details.

KING: Well let me ask you a specific question or two then about how you might have handled this. One of the things that happened is that Congressman Reynolds says he came to Speaker Hastert and he said you know there's this questionable e-mail conversation between Congressman Foley and a 16-year-old former page. The Speaker says he can't recall that conversation.

Many are saying how could that be? How could somebody in such a position of authority not remember such a conversation. Especially because these pages as you well know, are put in your care. You are essentially their guardians while they are there.

FRIST: Yes, John, again, I don't want to be drawn into the hypothetical. But clearly if somebody had allegations against them of this nature, I would immediately go to the responsible people and address it. And again, I can't comment on what happened in the House because I don't know. We have a strong page program in the United States Senate, though we have not had allegations like that. And again, it's inexcusable. It is to be condemned in terms of what the allegations say that Mark Foley did.

KING: You raised some eyebrows at your previous stop in Afghanistan. I want to read you the lead of an "Associated Press" story from yesterday. "Senator Bill Frist said Monday the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and urged support for efforts to bring 'people who call themselves Taliban' and their allies into the government. The Tennessee Republican said he learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield."

Now the House Minority Leader Democrat Nancy Pelosi put out a statement today as you traveled saying this, quote "We went to war in Afghanistan five years ago to crush the Taliban for the role it played in the 9/11 attacks. Senator Frist now suggests that the best way forward in Afghanistan is to coddle the Taliban by welcoming Taliban members into a coalition government, as if 9/11 had never happened." What do you say to that, sir?

FRIST: Well, to Nancy Pelosi I say your rhetoric is really just a frenzied attempt to give purpose to a party that has absolutely no agenda. I'm over here with our troops in Afghanistan. I was in southern Afghanistan yesterday. The Taliban is on the rise in Afghanistan today. But that doesn't mean now, I guess she's implying, cut and run in Afghanistan.

The Taliban is on the rise, and we do need to capture the hearts and the minds of the Afghan people. And my remarks yesterday were made after an extensive day of not just briefings, but actually being in southern Afghanistan. Where it's clear that the Taliban is capturing the hearts and the minds of people there. Not for ideology, but those 10 or 15 percent of the so-called Taliban in the south are foreign fighters. They are to be condemned they are to be defeated, they are to be killed.

But there's a large number of people because they don't see hope ahead. And that's why we have to appeal to their hearts and minds through economic development. Creation of jobs, roads, education. A lot of them are just farmers by day. But when the Taliban stick arms in their hands, they say well, I guess I'm Taliban. Those are the people that we need to go after to let them vote. Let them capture the hopes and the dreams that are a part of that government today.

KING: Senator, how then would you make the distinction. You say people who are handed a weapon and say well I guess now I'm Taliban. The Taliban of course was an oppressive regime. Women didn't get the right to vote. They didn't have any rights in that society. A whole long list we could go through of oppressive, repressive policies of the Taliban government. How do you say, you're ok, join the coalition government, come on in. And no, I'm sorry, you are real Taliban, you're out.

FRIST: Well, what is happening now is we have maybe, oh, 30, 40 percent of the people who say they are Taliban in the south right now today are foreign fighters who are coming across the border and recruiting. And their intent is to take down the Afghan government, to take down the west as we saw with 9/11. There is a large number of people though today who look to the future.

They may be farming by day but when that gun's put in their hands, they say well, that empowers me in some way. We have to win their hearts and minds by reaching out with education, with trade schools, which is being done. Building roads, improving that economy. Not just at the government level but at that fundamental provincial level to improve that ability to translate hopes and dreams into reality.

KING: Senator Bill Frist the majority leader joining us today from Baghdad. Senator thanks so much.

FRIST: Thank you, John.

KING: Will they or won't they? Right now that's the question many are asking about North Korea, as that nation threatens to conduct a nuclear test. CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre is following this story and joins us live with the details. Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: John, earlier this summer the North Korean test of a long range missile fizzled just a couple of seconds after take-off. What North Korea would like to do eventually is have the ability to threaten the United States with nuclear-tipped missiles. Something that it sees as crucial to preventing a U.S. attack on North Korea.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): The U.S. has spy satellites trained on several potential North Korean nuclear test sites including this one on the eastern coast line. And Pentagon sources confirm there has been suspicious movement of people, equipment and vehicles that would tend to buttress North Korea's claim it's preparing for an underground nuclear test. It's a threat the U.S. is taking seriously.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: It would be a very provocative act by the North Koreans. They've not yet done it. But I think it would be a very provocative act.

MCINTYRE: While the U.S. considered a preemptive strike against North Korea's Jung Jung Nuclear Plant in 1994, Pentagon officials tell CNN there is no planning for a military option this time.

JOHN BOLTON, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It seems to me if there were possible test case for the council to engage in preventive diplomacy, considering this threat by North Korea would be an excellent example.

MCINTYRE: North Korea claims to have nuclear weapons and wants to be dealt with as a nuclear power. According to a just-released House Intelligence Committee report, the 8,000 spent fuel rods North Korea removed from its Jung Jung Nuclear Plant in 2003 could produce enough plutonium for about five nuclear weapons. But the reality is, when it comes to the hyper secretive North Koreans, no one knows for sure if they are serious or just bluffing for political advantage.

JOHN PIKE, GLOBALSECURITY.ORG: They either will or won't test. My concern is that North Korea may want to convince everybody beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are a nuclear weapon state. And the only way that they can do that is by testing.


MCINTYRE: And one of the big concerns here at the Pentagon is that North Korea would do with nuclear weapons what it's done with its other weapon technology, namely sell it for hard cash. That could result in the nightmare scenario of nuclear weapons being in the hands of terrorists -- John.

KING: Nightmare indeed. Jamie McIntyre live for us at the Pentagon. Thank you Jamie. And still to come here, remember we're awaiting a news conference in Florida by Mark Foley, former Congressman Mark Foley's attorney. We'll bring that to you when it happens. Also, much more on the scandal surrounding the former congressman and his explicit Internet communications with a former page. It's the hot topic on talk radio. We'll have details.

And we'll talk to Wendy Wright, she's the president of Concerned Women for America. It's her group among the conservatives who think the House Speaker Dennis Hastert should resign his post. Stay with us for the answer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Our Zain Verjee joins us for a look at other stories making news right now. Hi Zain?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, John. Falling oil prices helped the Dow surge to a record closing high today. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 57 points to close at 11,727. That breaks its former closing high set back in January of 2000. This comes as oil prices fell sharply for the second straight day. They dropped below $59 a barrel. Oil prices have plunged 25 percent in less than two months.

The Supreme Court got down to business today. The justices heard all arguments in the first case of its new term. Government attorneys told the court that immigrants convicted of state felonies can be deported even if the same crimes are misdemeanors under federal law. Upcoming cases before the high court include whether the federal ban on a controversial type of late term abortion is unconstitutional.

A U.S. soldier who fled to Canada to avoid going back to Iraq turned himself into military officials in Kentucky today. Darryl Anderson faces a desertion charge. He says he went AWOL last year because he didn't want to continue fighting in what he says is an illegal war. Anderson received a purple heart during his first tour of duty in Iraq. In attorney says, Anderson will likely receive a dishonorable discharge.

The alleged hijacker of a Turkish airline is seeking political asylum in Italy. Passengers say the unarmed Turkish man entered the cockpit as the jet was going from Albania to Istanbul today. The Boeing 737 landed at an airport in Brindisi, Italy. All 113 passengers and crew were released and they were unharmed -- John.

KING: Zain Verjee. Zain thank you very much. And just ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM, more on the Mark Foley political fall-out. How's all of this playing on talk radio? And do Christian conservatives think the speaker of the House should go as well as the congressman at issue? Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: More now on our top story. The spreading scandal surrounding former Congressman Mark Foley and explicit Internet messages to a former congressional page. His attorney David Roth is expected to speak any minute now in West Palm Beach, Florida, you see the scene of that news conference just behind me. When David Roth speaks to reporters, we will bring that to you. The scandal also has talk radio buzzing today.

CNN's Peter Viles is live for us in Los Angeles with details of just what's being said. Pete?

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, conservative radio hosts have been generally supportive of the Republican leadership and the House on this issue. But it is clearly a cause for concern. Concern not just for these radio talk show hosts, but for their millions of listeners.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And if Hastert knew anything about it, it's just going to give the Democrats the fuel that they need to burn down the party and I hope it doesn't wind up in a Republican meltdown.

VILES (voice-over): On conservative talk radio, cause for concern, how will the Foley scandal play out? Listen to this exchange between conservative host Bill Bennett, also a CNN contributor, and his guest Republican insider Vin Weber.

BILL BENNETT: Should Hastert resign?

VIN WEBER: I don't know.

BENNETT: Oh, that's a close one. I can hear in your voice, that's a close one!

WEBER: Well, you know I love Denny Hastert. He's a good man. I'm not ready to say he should resign, but this is a big -- Boy, I've been talking to members who are all on the defensive about this yesterday.

VILES: After Foley, embattled House Speaker Dennis Hastert was the most talked about politician on talk radio Tuesday.

VOICE OF MARK TAYLOR, FROM "THE DENNIS PRAGER SHOW": When I look in our government, Tom, there are good people and there are bad people. They pretty much -- I think for the most part, reflect how we are in society. They're good people and they're bad people. I think Hastert's a good person.

VILES: The man who pretty much invented conservative talk radio was urging his listeners to support Speaker Hastert and the Republican Party.

FROM THE RUSH LIMBAUGH SHOW: If you want to say good-bye to the Supreme Court actually having a fundamental change in its ideological orientation. If you want to say good-bye to all that, then fine. You go ahead and you encourage Hastert to resign and anybody else you think ought to resign. And then you encourage Republicans to lose.


VILES: Today Dennis Hastert was a guest on "The Rush Limbaugh Show" again defending the way he has handled this scandal. And demonstrating John that he knows just how important talk radio is to the Republican base at election time -- John.

KING: Peter Viles tracking a very important part of this conversation. Talk radio for us from Los Angeles. Peter thank you. And for more now on the Foley scandal we're joined by Wendy Wright, she's president of the group Concerned Women for America, very prominent among social conservatives in this country. Let me put to you the question that's being asked of conservatives around the country on this day. Mark Foley will deal with the criminal justice system now. Should Denny Hastert resign as Speaker because of his handling?

WENDY WRIGHT, PRES., CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: Well there needs to be an investigation and all the facts put forward. It's premature to judge people before all the facts are put forward. And what people really want to know is who would possibly advocate or assist someone in this kind of behavior.

The fact is, there are groups out there and there are individuals that encourage lowering the age of consent that claim that all sex should be celebrated and that diversity should be celebrated. I think what this shows is that not all diversity should be tolerated. This kind of behavior is reprehensible. And whether it's by a congressman or any other adult in a position of authority that abuses that authority to sexualize minors, that should be seriously dealt with.

KING: And was it dealt with seriously then? They did have information. They didn't know about these sexually explicit, the horrendous, the horrible graphic messages with young boys. But they did have an e-mail communication in which Congressman Foley, then 50 years old, I believe, asked for a photograph of a boy who was 16 years old.

That is a red flag if you study Internet sex, Internet predators. That's a red flag. He asked for a photo. What happened was a Republican Congressman and the Republican House Clerk went to Congressman Foley and essentially said don't do it again. They didn't bring it in the Democrats, they didn't bring in the lawyers. They didn't tell him to get counseling. Was that the appropriate way to handle this?

WRIGHT: If that's all that happened, then it does need to be investigated further, and that's not enough. And I say that across the board. If this is happening in schools, there's graphic sex education curriculum that's being used in school that encourages behavior like this.

That needs to be pulled. I think that the investigation should go on beyond what happened with Foley, with Representative Foley. We need to be looking at our society that sexualizes children. That laughs at adults having sex with minors. We need to instead be taking all of this very seriously.

KING: While these issues play out in a political environment, the election is less than five weeks away from now. The Republicans are trying to keep their majority. When you hear the talk radio report you just heard, Rush Limbaugh saying stand by the speaker.

Bill Bennett, fielding what seemed to be back and forth about whether people should stand by the Speaker. Do your grassroots supporters take their cue, or it's a chicken egg argument in some way. Or will we be hearing a different tone from those talk radio hosts? What are you hearing from your people at the grassroots?

WRIGHT: Well it all remains to be seen what will happen in a number of weeks. And it would be premature to try and predict what might happen come the election. But I think people, we are encouraged that Americans are outraged at Mark Foley's alleged behavior. And we hope that they will be looking even within their own communities to find out if there are adults that are encouraging sexual behavior with minors.

KING: But should they trust the biggest issue, the short term issue politically. And I don't mean to make this all about politics but there is an election in five weeks and the Republican leadership is saying trust us, keep us in power. My question to you when you communicate with pro-family voters, conservatives across this country who made this party, made the Republicans the majority party. Should they still trust them?

WRIGHT: I think we need to recognize that pro-life and pro- family people don't just blindly follow one party or the other. We look at individuals. And Mark Foley himself was not someone who voted pro-life or pro-family. He's not someone that our constituents would have supported.

KING: Wendy Wright, president of the Concerned Women for America. We will check back in with you over the next month or so and as this debate continues. Thank you very much.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

KING: Lou Dobbs is getting ready now for his show right at the top of the hour. Let's check in with Lou now. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: John thank you. Coming up at 6:00 p.m. eastern here on CNN. Tonight we're reporting on communist North Korea's threat to conduct its first-ever nuclear weapons test. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton will be here with us to assess the rising North Korean nuclear threat and U.S. policy options.

Also, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, he says he has no intention of resigning over his handling of the Internet messaging scandal in Congress. Should Hastert step down, the author of "Conservatives Betrayed", Richard Biggery joins us.

And the district attorney in Pennsylvania is taking action that neither the White House nor the Congress would even consider in this country's illegal immigration crisis. Get ready, he's actually arresting employers of illegal aliens. We'll have that special report tonight from eastern Pennsylvania and a great deal more. We hope you'll join us.

John, back to you.

KING: And we're getting ready to watch. Lou, thank you very much.

DOBBS: Thank you.

KING: Federal authorities are investigating former Congressman Foley's electronic communications. How easy is it for law enforcement to recover old chat sessions? Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner standing by with details on that -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well John law enforcement can get access to your old chat sessions or your instant messages or IM's if they have a subpoena and you've chosen to save them on your computer. But they're not going to get them from AOL or Yahoo! or Microsoft. All three companies told us they do not save your instant messages.

Now Microsoft did not address the issue of e-mails with us. But AOL, which is also a Time Warner company like CNN says it does have access to some old e-mails. And Yahoo! told us that they also have access to the e-mails that you've chosen to save.

But again, none of these companies save your instant messages. If you're going to save them, that has to be an option that you choose yourself or the person that you're talking to chooses. And on many messengers, this is a very easy option. In some cases it's not the default, but it's just as easy as checking a box in your menu's option and then they're automatically saved.

There's also the option of cutting and pasting them and putting them into an e-mail or a general text document. It's all very, very simple. Now law enforcement again needs a subpoena to get these off of your computer and if you choose to delete them there is forensic evidence and ways that they can dig them up even if you think that they're deleted. But again, the major companies John are not keeping your instant messages.

KING: And why do I think Jacki a lot of people are going to make sure they haven't checked that box? Jacki Schechner, thank you very much. Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know do you think the Bush administration has deliberately misled Americans about the war in Iraq. Jack's standing by with The Cafferty File. Stay right here, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


KING: Here's a look now at some of the hot shots coming in from the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your newspaper tomorrow. Paris, French police deal with a simulated hostage scenario during a law enforcement exercise.

In southwestern China, a man spits fire during patriotic celebrations. That's pretty cool.

In the American south, Alabama Governor Bob Riley accepts a birthday gift from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a bouquet of flowers.

And in Japan, check this out, mesmerized people watch a robot ride a bicycle during a technology exhibition. And that's today's hot shots, pictures often worth a thousand words. Time now to check back in with our hot shot Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY: Funny. Where is Wolf today by the way?

KING: Wolf is being inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. It is a great high honor and we are proud of him.

CAFFERTY: Indeed, we are. The question this hour is do you think the Bush administration has deliberately misled Americans about the war in Iraq.

Tydestra writes, "Misled is a weak soft word, blatantly lied is more like it. Bush sold the war in Iraq on WMDs that simply were not there, on a connection with al Qaeda that did not exist. The nation blinded by unity in the post 9/11 became 'yes' men and women which gave them wide birth to do as they pleased. The sheer fact that somewhere in this country, 40 percent of people still think he's doing a good job, makes me want to at least bang my head against the wall."

Mary in Fort Washington, Maryland, "The Bush administration did not mislead us about going into Iraq. Stockpiles of old WMD were found in May of last year. Hussein only awaited the lifting of sanctions to begin production of new WMD, massive human rights abuses, genocide, uncontrolled terrorist camps in northern Iraq, financial rewards to families of Palestinian suicide bombers and Saddam's aspirations to wipe Israel off the map in order to earn himself the title of the new Nebakanezer were included in the Bush administration reasoning to remove this tyrant. Why does the public and news media have such short memories."

Louise writes, "Of course George Bush has deliberately misled us. But he had a lot of help from the media. It's only within the last three months we've been seeing that we've done some damage to these poor people. And I see now they've extended a contract to a company for $6 million to see that the news is good coming out of Iraq. But don't tell them I said so, George can have me arrested and not tell me why and keep me in jail for life without a trial now."

Andrea in Brookville, Indiana, "There seem to be only two choices, either the Bush administration is guilty of misleading the American people, or they are utterly and totally incompetent. Come to think of it, there's a third choice, they are both."

Dikoma, "To ask the question is to leave the impression with your viewers at this late date that anyone with an ounce of gray matter has not yet figured out that the Bush administration did mislead the U.S. public in their drive to war and ever since, especially about how well things have been going. In the words of Tenent, this is a slam dunk. We were all misled. And to even ask the question implies this is in doubt." Well, it ain't.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to You can read more of these online. A lot of mail today, John.

KING: Is it fair to say in a situation like this where you ask a question that is a bit in the face of the White House that the responses tend to come from those who are opposed to the White House?

CAFFERTY: Yes, in a broad, general sense. Although there were a couple as you heard, people who defended the White House handling and the decision to invade Iraq. But yes, the question is a bit leading, but I feel no particular obligation to be as they say fair and balanced over at that other place. We sort of call them like we feel like calling them here.

KING: And I think many Republicans would prefer we'd be talking about Iraq than the Mark Foley scandal. Jack Cafferty, thank you very much. And remember, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. We'll see you in an hour.