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The Situation Room

House Aide Kirk Fordham Resigns; Many Casualties This Week For U.S. Troops in Iraq; Bill Maher Interview

Aired October 04, 2006 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Ali, thanks very much. 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. Breaking news here in Washington. Potentially explosive new developments in the Mark Foley fiasco. A senior congressional aide saying he had already told the speaker's office about Foley's questionable conduct. Today, that same senior aide resigned as chief of staff to a key player in this story. He is saying two years ago he told Hastert's office about Foley's behavior with congressional pages.

Also, it's 12:00 midnight Thursday in Iraq where there are killings and carnage. And some of the very people who should be protecting the people are suspected now of plotting against them with death squads.

Plus, political observer and outspoken humorist Bill Maher. He is standing by to join us live this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a major new development and a scandal over former Congressman Mark Foley's explicit Internet messages to a former congressional page. A top House aide now says he alerted the House leadership to concerns about Foley's behavior prior to last year. That aide, Kirk Fordham, has resigned his position today.

Chief of staff to Congressman Tom Reynolds who is in charge of efforts to try to keep the House under Republican control. Former was also Foley's former chief of staff. We have complete coverage for you this hour. All the breaking news. Our coverage with CNN's justice correspondent Kelli Arena and CNN's Mary Snow. They are both standing by.

But let's go to congressional correspondent Dana Bash who is watching the latest bombshell coming from the Hill. And they are coming in fast and furious, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's Right, Wolf. As you said, Kirk Fordham who had been Mark Foley's chief of staff. But most recently Tom Reynolds, the congressman from New York, his chief of staff. He resigned abruptly today and he dropped a bomb on his way out the door.

What he did in this statement which he just released is said even before anyone knew about what would have been described about overly friendly e-mails between Mark Foley and a former page, he had informed the House speaker's office about some questionable conduct.

Here's what he says in the statement. "Even prior to the existence of the Foley e-mail exchanges, I had more than one conversation with a senior staff at the highest levels of the House of Representatives asking them to intervene when I was informed of Mr. Foley's inappropriate behavior. One of these staffers is still employed by a senior House Republican leader."

Now Fordham told the Associated Press that he had this conversation about two years ago in 2004. Now if that were true, Wolf, that would contradict a very detailed timeline that the speaker's office put out over the weekend making it very clear that no one in their office knew about anything that had to do with inappropriate Foley behavior or conduct before 2005. So it certainly would seem to contradict that.

Now the reason very quickly, Fordham says he dropped this bomb before he left is because of an ABC report quoting sources saying that he was the one who tried to stop Republican leaders from a full investigation into Foley's conduct. He says in a pretty angry statement or maybe defiant is a better way to describe it, he makes clear that those who are trying to shift the blame to him are really looking at the wrong place. He tried to stop it and they should have done so.

BLITZER: The A.P. is quoting Kirk Fordham as saying at least two years ago that he alerted people in the speaker's office about the inappropriate behavior of Congressman Foley. Is that information that we have gathered ourselves now?

BASH: In this statement, the answer to that is no. The specific date we do not know independently. But as you said, Kirk Fordham did talk to the Associated Press and said in 2004. But what this statement does make very clear explicitly is that it was a well before the time with the speaker's office has up until now said they knew anything about Foley's conduct that he tried to inform them. And again, this statement makes clear that he tried to get them to intervene, but didn't. And also, pretty much puts the blame on somebody in the House speaker staff for not following up on it.

BLITZER: Let me read the last paragraph from Kirk Fordham's statement, Dana. I think you have it as well. "Rather than trying to shift the blame on me, those who are employed by these House leaders should acknowledge what they know about their action or inaction in response to the information they knew about Mr. Foley prior to 2005."

Prior to 2005 would be 2004. So that's probably two years ago. So it sounds as if he in this statement is saying they knew two years ago about what was going on and apparently didn't do anything about it. BASH: That's right. That's exactly what he's saying in a very strong way in this statement. And for the past couple of days, we've been hearing from Republicans around town that they are very worried that what we are about to see and what we are already seeing is a circular of firing squad over what has happened in the wake of the Foley scandal. And that is certainly what we are seeing with this in a big way.

Talking to people close to Kirk Fordham just in the past couple of hours, they were making it very clear he was very angry about allegations he didn't do enough, actually tried to prevent the investigation. You see with the statement that he's trying to correct a record in a way that's not going to be helpful to the House speaker and his damage control efforts.

BLITZER: We'll see how that plays out. Dana, stand by. We are going to be checking back with you.

I want to go to New York. Mary Snow is also watching this story. And Mary, you are taking a close look at Congressman Tom Reynolds. He's from Buffalo in Upstate New York. And he's played a significant role in all of this as well.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He has been, Wolf. He's a key player and once again, New York Republican Congressman Tom Reynolds is on the defensive over the latest fall-out from the Foley scandal. Now earlier this afternoon Reynolds hit the campaign trail with first lady Laura Bush. At that event, there was no mention of the scandal. Just a short time after that event ended, however, came word of Fordham's resignation.


REP. TOM REYNOLDS (R), NEW YORK: I've accepted his resignation.

QUESTION: Did you ask for it?

REYNOLDS: I think I outlined in the first part of this that Mr. Fordham believes that this is a distraction by him serving as my chief of staff. I've accepted his resignation.


SNOW: Now the resignation came after it was learned that Fordham had been advising his former boss of 10 years, Mark Foley as this scandal unfolded. Fordham said in a statement, when I sought to help Congressman Foley and his family when his shocking secrets were being revealed, I did so as a friend of my former boss. Not as Congressman Reynolds' chief of staff."

In addition, an ABC spokesman says Fordham approached ABC News Friday. Trying to prevent ABC from making public text messages in exchange for the exclusive story that Foley would resign. ABC declined. Fordham tells the Associated Press he disputes that account but he was trying to prevent the most graphic messages from being made public. Now Reynolds repeated today that he did not talk to Fordham about Foley. However he is facing questions about $100,000 contribution that Foley made to the Republican National Congressional Committee which Reynolds chairs. Now Reynolds has said he is not giving back that money, that it was fundraising that was honestly obtained.

He says he first learned about inappropriate e-mail exchanges between Foley and a former teen page back in the spring. He says he then went to House speaker Dennis Hastert. Hastert says he doesn't recall that conversation. But he doesn't deny it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we should button this up, Mary. The Associated Press now saying, quoting Kirk Fordham, the former aide to Congressman Reynolds and former Congressman Foley as saying that it was not two years ago that he informed the House leadership about this Mark Foley problem. But it was three years ago that he now says they were alerted that former Congressman Foley had inappropriate contact with pages.

This story continuing to unfold. Mary, we are going to have you stand by as well. Kelli Arena is our justice correspondent. She is watching the story. And there are now suggestions, Kelli, of criminal investigations.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the FBI is trying to conduct an investigation quietly which is pretty impossible in this climate. What's more, the bureau itself is coming under some criticism.


ARENA (voice-over): Behind this door in what used to be Mark Foley's office sits his computer. Disks and other materials that could be considered evidence. A senior justice official says the Justice Department requested it all be kept under lock and key and not touched pending a full criminal investigation. When the time comes to remove it all, agents want to do that themselves. And don't expect any challenge from Congress.

In the meantime, investigators are questioning former congressional pages about their relations with the former congressman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the extent that the FBI gets information from pages, leaving them to conclude that there was e-mail correspondence between a particular page and Congressman Foley, it could provide the FBI the necessary probable cause basis for obtaining search warrants.

ARENA: Officials who had been briefed say investigators had enough information to warrant a full sex crimes investigation. But the attorney general is refusing to comment at this stage.

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Obviously, we consider these allegations very seriously. And it's early in the process and so please give us an opportunity to do our jobs. To ensure that our children remain safe. ARENA: The investigation has been moving very quickly over the past 48 hours. The woman who first brought the original e-mail to the FBI's attention back in July says she doesn't know why it took so long.

MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS: It took literally less than 24 hours after the first set of e-mails were revealed for all the rest of the instant messages to come out. So if the FBI had done even just a modicum of digging they would have found out much more about Mark Foley.

ARENA: She alleges the FBI dragged its feet. And her watchdog group sent a letter to the Justice Department's inspector general asking him to investigate.


ARENA: Now, the FBI is refusing comment. But government officials insist that the FBI did investigate. In fact, they say that three squads looked at the e-mails. A public corruption squad, a criminal squad, and then finally a cyber squad. We are told that agents determined at the time there wasn't enough evidence to suggest any criminal activity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story, Kelli. Thanks very much. Kelli Arena is our justice correspondent. And coming up later this hour, we will hear from some of those former congressional pages who are now breaking their silence for the first time about their encounters with former Congressman Foley. CNN's Brian Todd is working this story. And he's going to be joining us later this hour.

Joining us right now is Jack Cafferty with the "Cafferty File." What a story! I mean, Jack, you can't make this kind of stuff up.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know, if you weren't being inducted into the Buffalo Hall of Fame yesterday, your attendance would have been mandatory here. This is just too good of stuff.

BLITZER: I think you are right.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. It's interesting, now we have the FBI apparently being made aware of this stuff. And they didn't do anything. And Dennis Hastert's office was made aware of this stuff, and they didn't do anything. Are you beginning to get the picture about how your government works here, kids?

Disgraced ex-Congressman Mark Foley claims he was sexually abused by a clergyman when he was a teenager. The list of reasons Foley apparently thinks he's a victim in all this keeps getting longer. First he said he was under the influence of alcohol while he sent these text messages. And now we hear from his lawyer that he claims he was molested.

Foley's lawyer did say the congressman doesn't blame his past for his inappropriate behavior. And that he doesn't offer any excuses for his conduct. So what's the point of boring us with your personal problems, Mr. Foley? You see, what may have happened to you years ago is irrelevant to you abusing your office as a United States congressman by trying to lure underage congressional pages into sex.

There's also no excuse for the fact that members of the Republican leadership knew what you are doing for months, maybe years, those e-mails, and didn't do anything about it.

Here's the question. How does it change things if Congressman Mark Foley was molested as a teenager? We don't know that he is. All we know is that he claims that he was.

Send your thoughts to or go to This is going to get a lot worse for some people before it gets better. I would sense by the time you and I are sitting here tomorrow, Wolf, Dennis Hastert will no longer be the speaker of the House. But I'm just guessing.

BLITZER: You would agree with Bay Buchanan and James Carville who made a similar prediction here in THE SITUATION ROOM in the past hour. They think he is going to resign very, very soon. The House speaker, no word from him.

But on this issue that one of the top aides to this Buffalo congressman, as well as former Congressman Foley, now saying he alerted people in the speaker's office three years ago. More than three years ago. This according to an interview he granted to the Associated Press earlier today. That raises the stakes big time.

CAFFERTY: And also, didn't he say something about he didn't want the most graphic e-mails to come out, out of consideration for Foley's family?

BLITZER: Yes, he said that. He tried to make a deal supposedly with ABC not to publish those graphic details because he was concerned about how it would impact on Foley's elderly parents and his sister.

CAFFERTY: What about the page's family?

BLITZER: He didn't say anything about that.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. I noticed.

BLITZER: All right. Jack Cafferty with the "Cafferty File." Thanks very much.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, dire new developments today in Iraq as well. Almost 20 Americans killed in only four days. Police units feared to be acting as death squads. We are going to go live to the Pentagon and we'll go to Baghdad for the latest developments.

Also standing by live for us, Bill Maher, will talk about all the new developments in the Foley scandal and lots more. Bill Maher here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.


BLITZER: Following the break news out of Capitol Hill, a bombshell, a former top congressional aide saying he alerted staffers in the House speaker's office more than three years ago about former Congressman Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior, contact with congressional pages, teenage boys. We are following the story. We are getting new developments coming in and we will update you momentarily.

But there is other important news we are following. Car bombings. Bullet-riddled bodies and almost 20 American troops dead in the past four days alone. Right now Iraq exploding with violence. Our Michael Ware is covering the developing story in Baghdad. But first let's go to the Pentagon for our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the dissolution today of the Eighth Police Brigade in Baghdad is providing a partial answer today to a question a lot of people are asking both inside and outside the Pentagon. That is with 300 Iraqi forces in uniform, why can't U.S. forces stand down?


MCINTYRE (voice-over): With both car and roadside bombs now at an all-time high in Iraq, and U.S. casualties on pace to make October even worse than September, which was the second-deadliest month this year, there's not much positive a military briefer can say.

MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: As far as U.S. casualties goes, this has been a hard week for U.S. forces over the last couple of days.

MCINTYRE: In just four days, 19 Americans have died in Iraq. And if that rate continued, it would result in 147 deaths in October. Surpassing the previous highest monthly toll, 137 in November of 2004.

Iraqis continue to die at even higher rates. About 1,000 a month. Most from grisly murders and executions in which the victims are tortured. And now a brigade of Baghdad's police have been pulled off the streets on suspicion of involvement with kidnappings and murders.

CALDWELL: They've been pulled offline and will go through retraining before they will be recertified and allowed to again conduct activities as police forces for the government of Iraq.

MCINTYRE: The police of the Eighth Brigade will get new criminal background checks and face lie detectors in an effort to weed out militia killers.


MCINTYRE: The situation in Iraq was labeled a debacle a year ago by supreme NATO commander General Jim Jones according to Bob Woodward's new book. I caught up with General Jones here in Washington today. He didn't deny saying that. But he said he doesn't believe Iraq is a debacle now. He did confirm, however, that he considered resigning in protest. He said, quote, "We all have some bad days." Wolf?

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you. We want to get more now about the Iraqi government and what it's doing. Are some of the people who pledged to protect Iraqis actually imposters bent on killing them?

And joining us now in Baghdad, our correspondent Michael Ware. What do you make of these reports, Michael, that there are now these death squads that have infiltrated the Iraqi police force potentially causing all sorts of havoc?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been the way it has from the beginning. The death squads have been a part of the Iraqi security apparatus that has been propped up by the U.S. forces. In fact, the death squad certainly on the Shia side have become institutionalized. In the sense that the government themselves, or factions within it, I should say, are running or operating these death squads.

And the U.S. military intelligence says, for example, Ministry of Interior commanders will rent out official government vehicles at night to death squads to allow them to operate. Iraqi security force units patrolling the streets at night or manning checkpoints allow the death squads through. And then let them come back.

It is a patent of the style of government that has dominated by very particular Shia blocks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you see the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, himself a Shia, as having the determination, the will, the guts to deal with these militias, these death squads that have infiltrated the police and other establishment forces in Iraq?

WARE: Well, this is what the U.S. is banking upon. They are putting all their eggs in the Maliki basket at the moment. This is a man who is relatively powerless. He was a compromise candidate for the prime ministership. All the big players saw him as relatively neutral or manageable. He doesn't have a militia of his own. He's a fringe player within a broader powerful Shia block.

So the U.S. is attempting to prop him up. By delivering security to Baghdad, they want him to take the credit and develop a popular base according to State Department officials and U.S. military intelligence officials I talked to, that would give him a wedge against these all-powerful militias who actually run the key elements of this government, Wolf.

BLITZER: President Bush and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld want the U.S. military, the U.S. policy to stay the course, if you will, to continue doing what it has been doing. Colin Powell is quoted as saying today, "Staying the course isn't good enough because the course has to have an end."

Does staying the course based on everything you are hearing from U.S. military commanders and others, that strategy, have an end?

WARE: Listen, Wolf, this is the way to put it in a nutshell. If the U.S. continues its policy and operations as they are now, the situation will worsen and the enemies of the U.S., principally al Qaeda and Iran will continue to strengthen.

There's a number of options that are presented to Washington at the moment. They either the do this or they don't do this. They either need to get serious about the battle here on the ground. Physically against al Qaeda or in the insurgency. And commit the troops that the commanders need. Or they need to look for alternative solutions.

At the end of the day, what they are facing is potential by most of this country being subsumed by a Shia led government with other parts of the government left as western al Qaeda desert training camps and facilities. To avoid that, something radical has to be done is the consensus.

So Colin Powell is right. Staying the course will only further strengthen America's enemies, Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Michael, thanks very much. Michael Ware is our correspondent in Baghdad.

And coming up, more on the breaking news we are following today in the Foley scandal. New claims that the House speaker's office was warned years ago. Years ago about what was going on.

Plus, former congressional pages now breaking their silence about their encounters with former Congressman Foley.

Also, coming up, my interview with Bill Maher. He's standing by live. We'll get his take on the Foley scandal and much more. Bill Maher here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Stay with us.


BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures are arriving all the time. Happening now, breaking news. Who was warned and when. A new bombshell unfolding right now in the Mark Foley fiasco. A senior congressional aide telling us he told the House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office about Foley's questionable conduct before 2005. Maybe three years ago.

Also, the president's domestic spying program can continue without warrants at least for now. Just a short while ago, a unanimous federal appeals court ruled that the Bush administration may continue the program as it appeals a ruling that says it's unconstitutional.

And yet another record breaker. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes at a record high for the second straight day. Today the Dow jumped 123 points. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news in the Foley sex scandal that's rocking Capitol Hill. A Republican staffer who resigned today now tells the Associated Press he went to the speaker's office with concerns about Foley three years ago. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is working her source on the Hill. She's joining us once again live with the latest. Dana?

BASH: Hi, Wolf. And we do have something new to report from our congressional producers Ted Barrett (ph) and Deirdre Walsh who report from a senior House leadership aide in response to Fordham's statement.

This is what the statement is. "This matter has been referred to the Standards Committee and we fully expect that the bipartisan panel will do what it needs to do to investigate this matter and protect the integrity of the House."

That from a senior House leadership aide. A Republican leadership aide. You see there the reaction is pretty general. And nothing from the speaker's office defending or more importantly, denying the report that we've been talking about for the past hour or so, that Kirk Fordham who just resigned today as the chief of staff to Congressman Tom Reynolds said that he told an aide, a senior leadership aide about two years ago.

Certainly before the speaker's office had said up until now, that he was concerned about Congressman Foley's conduct. He informed them about it. And at this point he's making pretty clear that they didn't do anything about it.

And the reason why he did that is because he's upset. Because he thinks that they were blaming him for the way this unfolded, Wolf.

BLITZER: Any reaction from the speaker's office?

BASH: Well, I said at the beginning, the reaction that we're getting from a senior House leadership aide is to the allegations that Kirk Fordham put out, which is that this matter has been referred to the Standards Committee, which we know as the Ethics Committee, and that they are sure that they will take this matter up and take it into account.

So, the bottom line is that's the reaction we're getting from the GOP leadership at this time, the official reaction.

Nothing, again, nothing from the House speaker's office denying what Kirk Fordham has said, the bomb that he's dropped on his way out...

BLITZER: And you know what...

BASH: ... essentially saying that the speaker's office, for the past week or so, has not been giving the full story as to when they really knew about Mark Foley's conduct.

BLITZER: And no direct comment yet personally from the speaker himself.

BASH: Correct.

BLITZER: We're waiting for that.

Let's see what he says.

Thanks, Dana, very much.

With the scandal ballooning, some former pages now breaking their silence about their encounters with the former congressman, Mark Foley.

CNN's Brian Todd has been talking to some of those pages.

Brian is joining us now live -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've confirmed that one of the young men you're about to hear from, Tyson Vivyan, has been interviewed by the FBI about former Congressman Foley.

Here's the account from Vivyan and another former page of some of the contact they say they had with Foley.


TODD (voice-over): Tyson Vivyan says when he was a page in 1996 and 1997, Congressman Mark Foley didn't speak to him. But Vivyan says shortly after he left Capitol Hill, the congressman initiated contact with instant messages.

Vivyan says he was 17 at the time, a minor.

TYSON VIVYAN, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: The conversation turned sexual almost immediately.

TODD: It went on for years, according to Vivyan -- e-mails, brief phone conversations, instant messages. Vivyan tells CNN on one occasion, after his tenure as a page, when he was about 19, he returned to Washington and was invited to Foley's house. He says he brought another former page with him to make sure things didn't get out of hand.

VIVYAN: He ordered pizza for us. He offered us beer, but we were minors at the time and we both declined.

TODD: The other former page who went with Vivyan that night, Josh Abrons, tells CNN he doesn't recall alcohol being present. Vivyan and Abrons both say nothing inappropriate happened. But Abrons also says Foley had exchanged instant messages with him after he left the page program, but while he was still a minor. Abrons says he initiated contact with Foley, but only to talk about politics. He says Foley did talk politics. And...

JOSH ABRONS, FORMER CONGRESSIONAL PAGE: He did make explicit references. He talked about anatomy, his own and other people's. He did enjoy talking about sex frequently and he did ask if I was attracted to him physically. TODD: Neither Abrons nor Vivyan could provide copies of their alleged communications with Foley from that time. Vivyan showed us correspondence he said he had with Foley later. Abrons and Vivyan say they made it clear they were not interested in physical relationships with Foley.

But why didn't they report this contact to authorities?

ABRONS: For a 17-year-old to receive instant messages from a member of Congress is quite something and you do not want to burn that bridge with a member of Congress.

MELANIE SLOAN, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY & ETHICS: What young man, even a 20-year-old, is ever going to think that he would be believed over this member of Congress?


TODD: We tried to reach Mark Foley's attorney, David Roth, for reaction to Vivyan's and Abrons' accounts. He did not return our phone calls. Tyson Vivyan tells us he is a liberal Democrat. Josh Abrons says he's been both Republican and Democrat, now considers himself independent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I suspect we're going to be hearing more from these and other former pages down the road.

Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

The Foley scandal is placing the Congressional page program clearly in the spotlight.

Today, at least one Republican congressman, Ray LaHood of Illinois, is saying the program should be suspended at a minimum.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is standing by with the reaction online -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, there are multiple forums online where former pages discuss and keep in touch with each other. And last week, they were all abuzz, as people tried to work out what was going on with this story.

Now, some of these sites have become hubs to try and keep the page program alive. These are on Facebook, this networking site where people can keep in touch after their program ends.

What's appeared on one of these multiple sites is a form letter that former pages can send to their representative stressing what a positive experience they had as a page. On another forum, a similar plea -- "Please get in contact with your member's office soon. Tell them how much the program meant to you."

Now, bear in mind, these are sites where people usually organize reunions and happy hours, talk about school. Now, they are -- in the light of the negative press of the page program, many former pages using these online forums to stress what a positive experience they had during that time in D.C. -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thank you for that.

Coming up, Bill Maher is standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll talk about the Foley scandal rocking Capitol Hill, the war in Iraq and much more.

Bill Maher here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Plus, criminal charges being filed in connection with that Hewlett-Packard boardroom spy scandal.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: More now on our top story, as many go mum over the Mark Foley fiasco.

My next guest is one man who's certainly not afraid to speak his mind, political observer, outspoken humorist, Bill Maher.

He joins us here in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

I should say the host of "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER" on our sister network. That would be HBO.

BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": I was hoping to be standing.

BLITZER: You like to stand in "THE SITUATION ROOM?"

MAHER: I see you standing.

BLITZER: You know, my mother wants me to sit down once in a while and I figured you're a distinguished guest, we can sit. The...

MAHER: Oh, is that who gets to...

BLITZER: Bob Woodward, he sat.

Bill Maher sits.

MAHER: That's how you decide it?

BLITZER: To let you sit.

MAHER: There's a pecking order?

BLITZER: That's right.

MAHER: The lesser people have to stand?

BLITZER: You know, you're... MAHER: Then I'm honored.

BLITZER: ... HBO is...

MAHER: Can we lie down?

BLITZER: ... HBO is...

MAHER: Then I'd feel really good.

BLITZER: HBO is huge, so you're worthy of sitting down.

But I'm glad you watch "THE SITUATION ROOM."

MAHER: I do.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MAHER: I watch it standing up.

BLITZER: What do you make of this Mark Foley scandal?

MAHER: I haven't heard about it. If only the news channels would cover it a little more, because I think it deserves more coverage.

BLITZER: You think we're underplaying the story?

MAHER: Yes, I mean considering that, you know, there's a war going on and we found out this last week -- oh, we found out -- we knew all along, but Bob Woodward, you know, reiterated once again that we were totally lied into this war. That...

BLITZER: "State of Denial," that's the name of it.

MAHER: "State of Denial." And I think, you know, everyone is on the page. I think there were a lot of Republicans who were towing the party line and pretending to support the president. But nobody except George Bush and, as he would say, his dog, doesn't get it, that this war is lost and we should get out.

That, to me, is the scandal.

BLITZER: When did you come around to that conclusion?

Because it's now three-and-a-half years since the start of the war.

But at what point did Bill Maher say to himself, you know what, this is not working?

MAHER: Well, a long time ago. I can't pinpoint an exact date. I certainly -- after we invaded -- I was not for invading Iraq, but after we went in, I tried to be fair. I said, you know what? This is America now. Even if you don't like George Bush, this is what America has done. Let's give it a chance. I think a lot of people have that fair and balanced outlook.

BLITZER: A hundred and fifty thousand U.S. troops were there. So...


BLITZER: ... the inclination was...

MAHER: As long as we were there, let's try to make it work. Let's see if we can make it work. Let's not pull the plug before -- you know, we've done it now.

BLITZER: Because Saddam Hussein was a thug. Everybody acknowledges that.

MAHER: Yes, but you know what? Now that we've found out that the torture levels are actually worse now than before...

BLITZER: That's according to the United Nations.

MAHER: Right.

You don't believe it?

BLITZER: Well, I don't want to compare what U.S. ...

MAHER: I'm just saying we're...

BLITZER: I think what the United Nations...

MAHER: We...

BLITZER: ... was suggesting is that Iraqi -- Iraqi forces were engaged in torture at levels worse, even than Saddam Hussein. But I don't want to -- I think it's...

MAHER: But who are we fighting for at this point?

I really don't know. I just saw your report and we've heard this for a long time, about the militias. The people -- are we fighting for the people who run-the government? Because the people who run-the government are the same people in the militias. You know, it's like after the Civil War, the people who were running the government in the Reconstruction South, at night they would put on the Ku Klux Klan outfits...

BLITZER: So what do you think the United States...

MAHER: ... and these people are putting on their Ku Klux --

BLITZER: How does the U.S. get out of this situation right now with...

MAHER: Just get out. You know what? I'm tired of hearing people -- especially on the right -- predict what's going to happen if we leave. Every one of their predictions about everything involved in this war has been wrong from the get go.

For George Bush, you know -- when did I ever lead you wrong George Bush -- to say if we get out now, this will happen, in 50 years, this will happen. Let's just get out and see what happens, because we don't know what's going to happen.

BLITZER: Because the point of the Bob Woodward book wasn't so much a state of denial, even though that's the title. But it does show widespread incompetence.

MAHER: To say the least, yes.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to pick up that thought.


BLITZER: And we've got a lot more to talk about.

MAHER: I know you want to talk about Mr. Foley.

BLITZER: We're going to talk about him, because our viewers want to get your thoughts.

MAHER: OK, I'll be ...


BLITZER: I know you haven't paid much attention to that story and I'm sure it's...

MAHER: No, I have.

BLITZER: ... probably not going to be mentioned on "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER."..

MAHER: Now that I've cleared my conscience...

BLITZER: Friday nights, 11:00 p.m. Eastern...

MAHER: ... and said it's not the most important story, let's get into it, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stand by.

MAHER: Let's get into it.

BLITZER: We'll have more of my interview with Bill Maher.

Also coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, my interview with Bob Woodward. He answers some of the criticism that's emerged from his new book, "State of Denial." That's an interview you're going to want to see.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: More now on our top story and more of my conversation with one of the nation's most astute political observers, a very funny guy, also a very serious guy, Bill Maher. "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER" airs on our sister network, HBO, Friday nights, 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Excellent show. I've been a guest on your show.

MAHER: Thank you.

Could we please get to this Foley thing?

BLITZER: We're going to get to it right now.

The Foley thing is an important story.

I want you to listen to what Florida Congressman Mark Foley said on June 6, 2002.

Listen to this.


REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: I warn all of you not to cry in front of me, please, so I can get through this very important day with you without shedding tears, as well.


BLITZER: Now, he was the chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Missing & Exploited Children.


BLITZER: And he was introducing legislation, you know, it's -- what?

MAHER: But the Republicans always do this. They always repress the things that are their demons inside them. Bill Bennett, right, with the gambling? Mr. Virtue, "Book of Virtues."

Rush Limbaugh, you know, went on the air day after day saying anyone who does drugs should go to jail -- no treatment. This guy was doing 30 Oxycontin a day. You know, Wolf, I've been high a lot in my life. I've never been that high.

So, you know, it doesn't surprise me that the people who came to Washington...

BLITZER: Well...

MAHER: ... to restore honor and integrity wind up being the biggest hypocrites. I mean this...

BLITZER: A few Democrats have been hypocrites, too. We've got to be fair, right?

MAHER: Yes, but the Democrats aren't the virtue people. They're not the people who want to legislate morality. The Republicans are.

I mean this, to me, is about how sexually repressed America is. And, by the way, I mean this guy was a creepy guy. He was doing some creepy things. But I don't think it's right to call him a pedophile. These weren't children, per se. These were...

BLITZER: Sixteen-year-olds, 15-year-olds...

MAHER: But I think the age of consent is 16.


MAHER: So I'm not saying what he was doing was right. It's like a professor hitting on kids, students in his class. But it is somewhat different than the way they're characterizing it.

BLITZER: Listen to this other clip that is making the rounds right now.

This is the former congressman, Mark Foley.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were one of these sickos, I'd be nervous with "America's Most Wanted" on my tail.


BLITZER: That's John Walsh, the host of "America's Most Wanted."


BLITZER: And he was very involved trying to get some of these sickos.

MAHER: But, again, you know, if we lived in a country that was not so sexually repressed, if -- if the Republicans didn't make gay marriage a campaign issue, this man could have come out of the closet a long time ago. He could be openly gay, like the mayor of Berlin is openly gay. And then he'd be living in Falls Church, Virginia with his long time companion, Steve, who worked at the Smithsonian, you know?

He wouldn't have to be trolling for kids -- for 17-year-olds on the Internet.

BLITZER: It's a -- it's a serious problem, though. It's a very serious problem because, as all of us know, there are other gay members of Congress who are not open about that.

MAHER: Right.

BLITZER: And what you're suggesting is that is a built in, what?

MAHER: Well, I think it's part and parcel of the sickness of our society that we repress sexuality so much. And, by the way, these kids -- kids are not innocent. Certainly sexually these days, not 17- year-old kids. These kids were flirting back. I hate to say what I've heard some right-wingers have been saying lately but it's true.

I mean if somebody says to you, "Are you a little horny?" and you go, "Yes, a little," you know, I mean -- I think the kids have the power, because any kid who printed out that e-mail message, you know -- would you measure your penis for me -- he's got a lot more power on the congressman than the congressman has on the kid.

BLITZER: Is this subject going to be coming up on "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER?"

MAHER: Oh, yes. We're not a strict news show. We can have fun- with it.

BLITZER: And you're...

MAHER: I'm having Robin Williams on.

BLITZER: Is that -- is Robin Williams going to be on...

MAHER: You think I'm going to avoid the subject of...

BLITZER: Who else besides Robin Williams is on this week?

MAHER: We have John Kerry in the satellite to begin with. And then we have Kerry -- I mean Robin Williams, Richard Clark and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on the panel.


MAHER: And Chris Matthews from your competition coming up.

BLITZER: It's a good show.


BLITZER: We watch it all the time.

MAHER: It's going to be a good show.

Thank you.

BLITZER: Bill Maher, thanks for coming in.

MAHER: Thank you, Wolf.

Always good to see you.

BLITZER: Listen to this, because I want to bring Lou Dobbs in and he's going to tell us what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, I have to say I enjoyed watching your reaction to Bill's approach to that story.

Wolf, thanks.

Coming up at 6:00 tonight, President Bush signing legislation to build a 700-mile fence along our 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

But has the president changed his position on amnesty for millions of illegal aliens?

We'll have that special report tonight.

Also, our illegal immigration and border security crisis is a top issue in the upcoming elections.

Senator Jon Kyl joins us here tonight. We'll be talking about his commitment to border security and just how sincere it really is.

And the White House, the Congress and big business escalating their war on our middle class by rewriting labor rules to deny millions of Americans the right to belong to a union.

We'll have that special report and we'll examine why Muslim media isn't telling you about it.

We hope you'll be with us at the top of the hour here on CNN -- back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lou.

We'll be watching.

Up ahead, Jack Cafferty with your e-mail on the Mark Foley scandal.

And an important note in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour. Bob Woodward talks about his new book, "State of Denial." He'll be joining us.



BLITZER: Let's check back with Zain Verjee.

She's got a closer look at other important news right now -- Zane.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, California's state attorney general is seeking felony indictments against former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn and several others. They have been implicated in the company's controversial leak scandal. The scandal involved the discovery of H.P.'s use of a practice called pretexting to spy on journalists, employees and H.P. directors. California's attorney general has called the move colossally stupid.

New developments on Wall Street today. For a second straight day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 123 points, soaring to an all time high. The Dow closed at just over 11,850. The Nasdaq rose to its highest level in five months. And the S&P 500 hit a five-and- a-half month high. The rally has essentially been driven by optimism over the outlook for interest rates and profits.

And what about this? He cut his teeth at CNN at the Pentagon during the first Gulf War and now he's THE SITUATION ROOM'S traffic cop and possibly, you know, the hardest working journalist in the business. Wolf Blitzer was inducted into Buffalo, New York's Broadcasters Hall of Fame last night. And, Wolf, we just wanted to say congratulations to you for that.

And how was that?

BLITZER: It was great. I loved every minute of it. I saw a lot of my old friends in Buffalo and saw some of the disk jockeys I grew up listening to, like Tom Shannon, Danny Neverath and Sandy Beach.

VERJEE: And now they're all listening to you.

BLITZER: It was fabulous. I had a great time. I recommend a visit to Buffalo for all concerned.

VERJEE: Congrats, Wolf.

BLITZER: Zane, thanks very much.

VERJEE: You and Tim Russert.

BLITZER: In the Hall of Fame.

What can I say?

Very nice.

Up next, Jack Cafferty on Congressman Mark Foley and the brewing scandal. He's going to read your e-mail.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack.

He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question we asked, Wolf, is how does it change things if Ex-Congressman Mark Foley claims now that he was molested as a teenager?

By the way, we don't know that's true. That's just what he says.

Dave in El Paso, Texas: "It doesn't change anything. Foley is still a monster. The House leadership still tried to cover all this up. This is the absolutely corruption that has consumed the GOP. It is time for a cleansing." Seth in Bothell, Washington: "If, I say if, Foley was molested, it makes no difference. He's come up with excuse after excuse instead of just owning his problem. I am a recovering alcoholic and addict and have had a tough life. It certainly didn't turn me into a pedophile. Mark Foley is a predator and he needs to pay for his crimes against children."

Anonymous, and for good reason, in Pennsylvania: "I was emotionally, physically and mentally abused by my mother for the first 18 years of my life. Am I completely normal? Probably not. Will I ever forget? No. However, I never abused my own kids, or anyone else, for that matter. You suck it up and try to be the best person you can be."

Charlotte in Florida: "Republican Speaker of the House Hastert must resign. The culture of cover-ups, the overt hypocrisy, lack of taking responsibility, the avoidance of taking appropriate and credible action and the absence of any accountability of Hastert and the Republican Party have caused so much harm to the United States. This must stop. He must go."

And Dallas writes from Jacksonville, Texas: "What's next? Will we hear Dennis Hastert claim that he suffered a cover-up that was perpetrated by a clergyman when he was a child?"

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read some more of these online -- Wolf, not a lot of sympathy out there for the ...



And a lot of -- and you know what?

I suspect we're going to be hearing a lot more not only from these former pages speaking out, but from other staffers on the Hill who are now going to come out and say you know what? We knew that there was a problem involving Mark Foley.

CAFFERTY: Well, and I wonder, too, with -- what do we have -- 400 and some congressmen and 100 senators...

if Foley is the only one that ever made a pass at one of these kids.

BLITZER: Probably not. But we'll continue to watch this story.

See you back here in an hour, Jack.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Remember, we're in the SITUATION ROOM 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, one hour from now. Among my guests, Bob Woodward, to talk about his new book, "State of Denial."

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT."

Lou is standing by in New York -- Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.