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The Situation Room

Five Shot at Omaha Mall; Parole Case Haunts Huckabee; Romney Fires Illegal Lawn Crew; Interview With Mike Huckabee

Aired December 05, 2007 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to continue to watch this shooting incident in Omaha. Carol Costello will have a complete update on what's going on.
Also happening right now -- rape, murder, and the presidential campaign. A past parole case is fueling fresh anger at Mike Huckabee. I will ask the former Arkansas governor to explain what happened and whether his surge in the polls may now be in danger.

Also this hour, Mitt Romney trying to clean up a mess in his own back yard. He's now fired illegal immigrants doing his landscaping, but will this undercut his credibility on a red-hot issue in Iowa?

And the mortgage crisis front and center. Hillary Clinton promotes her fix-it plan hoping to get a step ahead of an expected announcement by President Bush. You're going to want to hear about a big deal that's in the works that could help a lot of people out there.

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

But let's begin with the breaking news out of Omaha. Gunshots, chaos and a hunt for a shooter under way right now in Omaha, Nebraska. The scene unfolding after someone opens fire on unsuspecting shoppers at a mall.

Let's turn to CNN's Carol Costello. She is monitoring the story for us.

What is the latest, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you know, Wolf, information is coming in to us fast and furious. I'm getting this from the eyewitnesses that we've had on the air in the past half hour or so.

The shooting took place in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska, in the Von Maur store, which is a department store, apparently in the furniture department. Witnesses say it appears the gun was targeting a specific person. One witness said that person was shot in the head.

We believe there have been at least five people shot and maybe more. We also believe that the gunman tried to take his or own life and was unsuccessful.

The mall is now locked down. As you can imagine, there are police helicopters in the air. And as far as we know, Wolf, they are still searching for that gunman.

People have been hiding out in the backs of stores. When they heard those four or five shots ring out inside that department store, of course, they hit the ground. They went into dressing rooms. Some of them were huddling in back rooms. And as far as we know, police are still searching for that gunman.

I'm going to keep following this, Wolf, and I will bring you the latest information when I have it.

BLITZER: Well, just to follow up on that, one report coming in from The Associated Press right now, Carol, suggesting one woman at one store said 20 to 30 customers were now huddled in a back room. Clearly, obviously, very, very scared.

"All we know is people were running and screaming down the hallway by Von Maur, saying there was a shooting. And then they locked us down."

I think we also have some eyewitness accounts of what happened. I want to go to -- to play those eyewitness accounts. Let's listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was just standing around getting ready to go back to work, and all of a sudden I heard this, you know, bang, bang, bang. And it sounded like someone shooting fireworks.

Well, I knew enough to know that that wasn't fireworks. It was probably some -- you know, it's almost like you don't believe it's happening.

And we didn't know if it was on the first floor or on the third floor. You know, we just didn't know where he was or who it was.

And so I stood there for a minute, and all of a sudden, we all kind of stood in shock and we heard some more bang, bang, bang. And the next thing we knew, I kind of ran back towards the back of the floor to try to get away from whatever was happening. And Susan (ph), who works on the same floor I do, she said she walked over to the center of the atrium and it looked like a customer walked up alongside her. And the shooter reached over the top of the third floor and just shot the man, and she was right there. And as she looked, he was shot in the head.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the center part of the mall, and with all of the construction going off, it sounded like nail guns and whatnot going off. But then people just started running frantically saying there's been a shooting in there. And I gathered my wife and kids and got out as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you see anybody running from the mall?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't see anybody -- I had just seen all of the people running from the Von Maur area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Describe that scene.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, it was pretty confusing, because you never think it would happen around here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you describe what you heard?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sounded like four or five rapid shots. It sounded like a nail gun.

You know, there's so much construction always going on in there, you just never -- when you've seen -- I had seen an older gentleman pushing a stroller getting out, and people following behind him saying, get out, there's somebody shooting a gun in there. So -- then we saw somebody with camouflage on the other side of the mall, but -- so I came over here to tell the police and they went over to the bus, and that wasn't him. But they don't know.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From what I hear, because I just talked to -- I think it's a lieutenant -- he said there's one person they were giving CPR to and one, possibly two with arm injuries. They said there could be up to five people hurt in there.


BLITZER: All right. We are going to stay on top of this story out of Omaha, Nebraska. A shooting incident at a shopping mall there. We'll update you with more information as it becomes available.

One interesting note, the president was in Omaha for a fund- raiser, a political event earlier in the day, but he left town about an hour before this incident happened.

We'll stay on top of it for you.

Let's move on to some other important news we are following right now.

Less than a month before the wide-open Iowa caucuses, the two Republican leaders there are getting hammered over mistakes that hit close to their homes. For Mitt Romney, it's illegal immigrants who did his landscaping. For Mike Huckabee, it's the case of a convicted rapist released while he was Arkansas's governor.

The man, Wayne Dumond, went on to rape again and to commit murder. And now people touched by Dumond's crimes are speaking out against Huckabee, including the mother of the woman Dumond killed. Listen to this.


LOIS DAVIDSON, MOTHER OF MURDER-RAPE VICTIM: I don't think Mr. Huckabee ought to be president. I don't think he should be running the country.


BLITZER: Let's go to CNN's Dana Bash. She's out in Iowa watching this story for us.

We're going to be speaking to Mike Huckabee shortly, but give our viewers a sense of what is going on, some of the background, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Wayne Dumond is someone who has actually been dead for two years now, but Mike Huckabee has predicted for some time now that the controversy that Dumond sparked would likely be an issue in his presidential race, and he was right.


BASH (voice over): As he surges in his race for the White House, Mike Huckabee's biggest controversy as Arkansas governor is now coming back to haunt him. Convicted rapist Wayne Dumond was released on Huckabee's watch, but then raped and murdered a Missouri woman.

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's horrible. I mean, there's nothing any of us could ever do.

BASH: Huckabee, in a CNN interview Sunday.

HUCKABEE: None of us could have predicted what he would have done when he got out.

BASH: But Huckabee was warned repeatedly by Dumond's rape victims not to set him free, including Ashley Stevens, who is reported to be a distant cousin of Bill Clinton.

ASHLEY STEVENS, RAPE VICTIM: I feel very depraved that the governor and the parole board failed me. Who is going to protect me now?

BASH: The Huffington Post blog posted a letter another Dumond rape victim sent Huckabee pleading with him, saying, "I fear that he will rape again if released."

A former top Huckabee aide confirms to CNN the then-governor got that letter and a follow-up call from the victim. Back then, Huckabee called Dumond's life-plus-20-year sentence a raw deal, especially since he was attacked and castrated while awaiting trial, and a local sheriff put his testicles in a jar.

Huckabee even wrote Dumond a letter saying, "... my desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society."

Huckabee had planned to grant Dumond clemency, but he dropped it in response to public outcry. Now he says it was the parole board's decision to set Dumond free. Yet, a member of the board tells ABC News Huckabee pressured them.

CHARLES CHASTAIN, FMR. ARKANSAS PAROLE BOARD MEMBER: To say that I -- I think this is a guy who grew up on the wrong side of the track and may have gotten a wrong deal.

BASH: Huckabee admits he brought up Dumond's case in that parole board meeting but denies pushing for his release.

HUCKABEE: Frankly, it was just part of a broader discussion. I did not ask them to do anything.

BASH: And Huckabee blames his Democratic predecessors for making Dumond eligible for parole.

HUCKABEE: The reason that Bill Clinton and Jim Guy Tucker commuted his sentence was because they believed it was an excessive sentence.


BASH: But the mother of the Missouri victim of Dumond, the murder victim, tells CNN that she doesn't buy that. Lois Davidson says now that Huckabee is doing well in the polls, she intends to actively campaign against him. She says that -- she tells CNN -- she tells us that she simply does not think that Huckabee has the right judgment to be president. And she's going to try to make that clear to the public even more so from now and until really the end of this campaign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, Dana, we're going to be speaking at length with Mike Huckabee about this case. That's coming up in a few moments right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Now to Mitt Romney's new campaign embarrassment. He's fired illegal immigrants who worked as landscapers at his Massachusetts home, but questions about his credibility aren't being dismissed quite as easily.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's watching this story in Boston.

Immigration clearly one of the major issues out there for the Republican candidates. Certainly for the voters, the Republican voters in Iowa.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Ask Republicans in Iowa about the top issues in the campaign, illegal immigration ranks number one. Ask Republicans in New Hampshire, illegal immigration ranks number two.

With those votes so close, this is a controversy, safe to say, that Romney could do without.


KING (voice over): This is what one rival calls the sanctuary mansion, and what others mockingly label Mitt Romney's house of hypocrisy.

SCOTT REED, GOP STRATEGIST: If he's going to talk the talk, he has to walk the walk. The fact is, it does make him look hypocritical, and he needed to take care of it.

KING: Romney quickly fired his landscaping company Tuesday after being confronted with evidence illegal immigrants were working at his Belmont home as recently as last week. A headline-turned-easy-fodder for conservative talk radio.

LAURA INGRAHAM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: And Mitt Romney fired another leaf company. Mitt Romney has a sanctuary mansion no more.

KING: "The Boston Globe" first reported on the issue a year ago, and Romney said then his landscaper assured him it would not happen again.

GIULIANI: So I would say he had a sanctuary mansion, not just sanctuary city.

KING: Romney bristled when attacked at last week's debate, and the morning after told CNN...

ROMNEY: No, it's not true. And he's dishonest in saying it and he knows that.

KING: But that very morning, The Globe says it interviewed two landscapers at Romney's home who conceded they were in the United States illegally. The risks for Romney go beyond being embarrassed by his decision last year to give the landscaper a second chance.

ROMNEY: We have got to stop illegal immigration.

KING: In speeches and tough campaign mailings, Romney slams major rivals, suggesting only he opposes amnesty for illegals. But in an interview two years ago, Romney embraced plans by President Bush and others that offered citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.

ROMNEY: At the end of that period, registering to become a citizen or applying to become a citizen and paying a fee. And those are things that are being considered, and I think that that's -- that those are reasonable proposals.

KING: Add in a switch on abortion, a tougher rhetoric on gay rights now than in his early days in politics, and the risk is a credibility gap.

REED: You don't want to get yourself in a situation where you're almost Clintonesque, where it looks like you will say or do anything to get elected. And that's something Romney and his campaign have to be sensitive to.


KING: Acting quickly and decisively when confronted with the evidence about these illegal immigrants, Wolf, the Romney campaign says it believes he has taken the steps necessary to put this controversy behind them and behind them quickly. But if you talk to senior Romney advisers, many privately will tell you, given all the volatility and emotion about immigration politics in this campaign, they hope that's the case. They are not positive -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John King reporting for us from Boston.

Thanks, John, very much.

Let's check in with Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" today in New York.

Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's a humble little dwelling that Romney lives in, isn't it?

BLITZER: He's work about $200 million or $300 million.

CAFFERTY: And if he's elected, maybe he won't move. It might be a step down moving into the White House.

BLITZER: The White House, nice place.


A private company, a government watchdog group, now says more than 10 million White House e-mails are missing. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington described this massive hole in White House e-mail records last April. At that time they thought the number was five million. Now they say it is more than 10 million e- mails.

In one of the great understatements of this here Christmas season, the group says this revised estimates "highlights that this is a very serious and systematic problem at the White House." Both CREW and another private group called the National Security Archive are suing the Bush administration to try to get information about all of these missing e-mails.

The White House e-mail problems first came to light during special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald investigation into the leak of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity. It's worth noting what a critical time period these missing e-mails represent.

Why, it's from March of 2003 to October 2005. That would include the start of the Iraq war, right up through the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As the director of one of these groups put it, "It doesn't get more historically valuable than that." Given the way the White House handled both the war and Katrina, it's also quite convenient that suddenly this mountain of stuff is missing. By the way, it's against the law that these e-mails be destroyed or lost. They are supposed to be saved.

The Presidential Records Act of 1978 mandates White House communications be preserved. Another law broken. Another example of nobody doing a damn thing about it.

Here's the question: What should be done about what may be more than 10 million missing White House e-mails?

E-mail us. We promise not to lose them --, or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ten million.

CAFFERTY: Ten million.

BLITZER: That's a lot.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: All right, Jack. See you in a few moments.

Coming up, Mike Huckabee. He's now getting more scrutiny of a leading presidential candidate. Just ahead, I will ask him to respond to those claims that he betrayed crime victims when a convicted rapist was released while he was Arkansas' governor. Is this the price he's paying for surging in the polls?

Plus, a new test of the way the United States treats terror suspects. It's now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

And new details about a deal in the works to try to solve the mortgage mess and prevent a new epidemic of foreclosures.

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


BLITZER: He's the underdog-turned-strong-competitor in the Republican presidential race, and now he's under fire over whether he was tough enough on criminals when he was Arkansas' governor.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the governor -- the former governor of Arkansas, that is, the current Republican presidential candidate, Governor Mike Huckabee.

Thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this Wayne Dumond case, which all of a sudden has become an issue. People are making very serious accusations against you, including Lois Davidson, the mother of this young woman who was raped and killed after Wayne Dumond was released from prison.

She's blaming you in part. And I want you to listen to what she said on the "CBS Early Show" earlier today.


LOIS DAVIDSON, MOTHER OF MURDER-RAPE VICTIM: I don't think Mr. Huckabee ought to be president. I don't think he should be running the country.


DAVIDSON: With a -- because I don't think he did enough background research on Wayne Dumond's life, and if he didn't do that kind of research, I don't think he is going to be good for the country.


BLITZER: All right. Well, that's a powerful statement from a woman. Our heart goes out to that woman, of course.

But we need your response.

HUCKABEE: My heart goes out to the Shields' family. There's no way to ever say anything that would bring some type of resolution to the understandable grief they have.

And quite frankly, I don't blame people for being angry, whether they are angry at me or they want to be angry at the governor before me who actually commuted his sentence, which I didn't do. Or angry at the parole board for paroling him. And if I'm the object of the anger, I understand that. I accept that.

BLITZER: Well, what -- but let me ask you this...

HUCKABEE: There's nothing bright about this situation. It's a horrible thing.

BLITZER: Well, what responsibility do you have in this horrible tragedy that developed?

HUCKABEE: Wolf, my only official action in this was I denied his commutation. It was actual given by Jim Guy Tucker when Bill Clinton was governor back in 1992.

It was on my desk. I did consider it. I even thought that he met the criteria for parole in support of it.

I wish I hadn't. But I didn't parole him. And governors don't parole people in Arkansas, nor can they stop a parole. And that's the tragedy, I think, that this went through several years and many different people. And all of us failed. That's the truth. All of us failed.

BLITZER: Because there's a letter that you apparently wrote that was published in "The Arkansas Times" to Wayne Dumond in which you said to him, "My desire is that you be released from prison. I feel that parole is the best way for your reintroduction to society to take place."

Did you write him such a letter?

HUCKABEE: I wrote it because that's when I denied him, and a parole meant that he had to have had supervision. Had I granted his commutation, there would have been no supervision at all. I wasn't comfortable with that.

He had an exemplary prison record, he had the recommendations, he had met all the criteria, and that's why I think all of us are very sad. But I did not commute his sentence. And his sentence was commuted several years before I became governor. That made him parole eligible. I not only denied his commutation once, actually three or four times when he presented it in the course of the time that I had the case during my tenure as governor.

BLITZER: There was an article written back in 2002 in "The Arkansas Times" that quoted three former parole members basically as saying that you influenced them in a significant way to let this guy go. One, Charles Chastain, writing, "He made it obvious that he thought Dumond had gotten a raw deal and wanted us to take another look at it."

Another, Ermer Pondexter, "I signed the (parole) papers because the governor wanted Dumond paroled."

And a third, Deborah Springer-Suttlar, "For Governor Huckabee to say that he had no influence with the board is something that he knows to be untrue. He came before the board and made his views known that (Dumond) should have been paroled."

Are they telling the truth?

HUCKABEE: Wolf, they are not. The reality is that I was invited to the board by the chairman, Leroy Brownlee (ph). He asked me to come as the new governor back in 1996.

I talked to them. The discussion came up, but it wasn't about Dumond. The overall discussion was about my general policy toward clemency.

Those are three people out of seven that waited six years before they ever came forward and said there was pressure. And every one of them had been appointed by either Bill Clinton or Jim Guy Tucker before me.

If as a brand-new Republican governor I was able to go in and convince a board, a board that every one of whom had been appointed by Democrat governors before me, I'm a pretty persuasive guy. And the other members of that board would give you a different story.

And interestingly, these people who make these allegations not only did so six years later, but did so after I did not reappoint them to $75,000-a-year jobs, to which they had been appointed by a previous Democratic governor.

BLITZER: So the charge you're making is they were politicizing, they were blaming you on political reasons, is that what you're saying?

HUCKABEE: And, Wolf, that's what is so heartbreaking about this. There are families who are truly, understandably and reasonably grief- stricken. And for people to now politicize these deaths and to try to make a political case out of it, rather than to simply understand that a system failed and that we ought to extend our grief and heartfelt sorrow to these families, I just regret that politics is reduced to that.

BLITZER: Let me ask you -- we are almost out of time -- one final question on this national intelligence estimate that was just released on Iran four years ago, apparently stopping its work on a nuclear weapons program.

The other night, last night, you were asked about it and reporters there thought you seemed to be oblivious, you didn't even know what was even in this NIE even though it's been out for about 24 hours. Had you not been aware that this new national intelligence estimate had been released?

HUCKABEE: I had been up about 20 hours at that time, and I had not even so much as had the opportunity to look at a newspaper. We were literally going from early in the morning until late that night and talking to guys like you. And so I had not had an opportunity to be briefed on it.

There are going to be times out there on the campaign trail, Wolf -- you've been on the trail, you know -- that candidates are literally driven from one event to the next. And it would have been nice had someone been able to first say here's some things that are going on, that are taking place. That didn't happen. It's going to happen again.

That's what exactly it was about yesterday. We barely came up for air yesterday in Iowa when we were there campaigning.

BLITZER: Governor Huckabee, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us. Good luck.

HUCKABEE: Thank you very much, Wolf.


BLITZER: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: Iran's president claims victory now that a report says Tehran dropped its nuclear weapons program four years ago. And he wants an apology. How does President Bush respond? It starts with a laugh. We will show you.

It's a story suggesting we should worry every time we step on a plane. Alarming things are happening in the nation's aviation system that are said to pose a huge risk of airplanes smashing into each other. We are watching this.

And could scenes like these becoming near you? Parts of the Northwest devastated by a killer storm that's moved now on to other parts of the country.

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

All that coming up, but, first, we want to go to Carol Costello. She's ready to update us on some other important stories coming into THE SITUATION ROOM now.

Carol, what's going on?

COSTELLO: Yes, we have this developing story, Wolf, in Omaha, Nebraska, in a mall there.

There's been a gunman. And, from what we understand it, that gunman is still on the loose. He opened fire in a department store called Von Maur. We know at least five people have been injured. Witnesses tell us one man was shot in the head. Another man was shot as he was on his cell phone calling 911.

Now, police have that mall in lockdown. They have let some people out of the mall, but, of course, they are not letting anybody in. From what we understand, there are still people hiding out in the back rooms of stores, in dressing rooms, anywhere they can, while police continue to search for this gun -- this gunman.

Witnesses report hearing five or six shots. Some other witnesses say they heard 20 to 30 shots. We will keep you posted, Wolf, but, as far as we know, five people have been injured and maybe more.

BLITZER: And, as of right now, we have no report of any deaths; is that right?

COSTELLO: Well, some local affiliates -- some local affiliates are reporting there have been some deaths, but we have not confirmed that. I am going to keep my eye on that.

BLITZER: All right. We will stand by for the latest information. I know you're monitoring it for us, Carol.

Thanks very much.

Other news we are following, including some news that potentially could affect you -- an estimated two million homeowners could be at risk of losing their homes once their so-called teaser mortgage rates increase.

Now we are learning new details of how the federal government is apparently going to help out. Let's go to our congressional correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's on Capitol Hill watching this story.

What is the latest? Because a lot of people are worried about their homes being foreclosed.


And Congress and the Bush administration say they are doing something about it. We understand that, right now, the Bush administration is working out a deal with mortgage lenders to help people who face sharp increases in their interest rates.

Now, according to congressional and administration sources, the deal is meant to target those borrowers who can afford their current rate, but can prove that they will not be able to pay the higher rate when it resets.

Now, under the plan that's in the works right now, they would find help in one of two ways. Either they could get a new kind of loan -- they are trying to work with the mortgage industry to fast- track new loans for these people, so that they are in a more affordable package -- or, for people who cannot qualify for a loan, they will let them go into a different category, where they can have their current rate fixed for a period of time, say, for five years.

Now, Secretary Paulson of the Treasury Department was up here on Capitol Hill. He met with Republicans this morning. Some of those Republican members had been highly critical and worried that this is not government's role, to intervene in private contracts. But, after that meeting, they came out and told the press that they were very comfortable with what they heard.

Here's what they said.

I'm sorry. I guess we don't have that sound.

But, essentially, we heard John Boehner, who is the minority leader in the House, say that this is a good plan. They think it will help a number of Americans, many Americans. And they are satisfied with it.

Now, Democrats here, they are keeping their powder dry. They say they want to see the final deal, which we expect to hear tomorrow, before they really comment.

But I can tell you that members on both sides of the aisle tell CNN that this is the right role for the Bush administration to be taking. They say, it's up to Congress to really legislate the long- term fixes, but it's for the executive branch, the White House and the Treasury Department, to deal with these short-term repairs and help people back on their feet right now.

Now, two things I can tell you, finally. One is that, when Secretary Paulson was here, he assured Republican members that this is voluntary by industry. It's not a government mandate. And, also, there could be a category of people that will not be helped by this. That includes all of those borrowers who have fallen badly behind on their rates already, who already cannot pay their mortgage. Those people, they say they are just not here to bail them out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, significant news that could affect a lot of people out there. Thanks very much for that.

Hillary Clinton wants those struggling homeowners to know she feels their pain. Today, the Democratic presidential front-runner urged Wall Street to help fix a mess she says it helped create.

Mary Snow is following this part of the story for us. She's joining us from New York.

She says the financial industry bears some of the responsibility for what's going on.


Senator Clinton is accusing Wall Street of having a see-no-evil mentality as the subprime mortgage crisis unfolded. Her economic adviser calls Senator Clinton's plan bolder than the Bush administration's plan, even though the full details of the Bush administration's plan have yet to be disclosed.


SNOW (voice-over): Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton moved to get a step ahead of the Bush administration, outlining her plans to deal with the mounting foreclosures threatening to trigger an economic recession.

SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The administration was asleep at the switch, but we can't wait until we have a new president.

SNOW: Senator Clinton is calling to impose a moratorium on foreclosures for at least 90 days, so that at-risk homeowners can transition to more affordable loans, freeze adjustable-rate loans for at least five years or until subprime mortgages are converted into affordable loans, and ask for regular status reports from Wall Street on the progress it's making on converting those mortgages.

Senator Clinton is pointing her finger at Wall Street and giving a choice: Do this voluntarily or she will seek legislation to mandate it.

CLINTON: Wall Street may not have created the foreclosure crisis, but Wall Street certainly had a hand in making it worse.

SNOW: But, on Wall Street, some analysts say, presidential politics could make the situation worse, if it stalls aggressive action.

ARTHUR HOGAN, CHIEF MARKET ANALYST, JEFFERIES & CO.: So, this is going to become that political football that everyone kicks around. And, by the time the election comes about, I think a lot of the medicine is going to already have been taken.

SNOW: One thing that does seem certain is that the economy is moving into the forefront for voters. And, for some states, it's a bigger concern than for others.

JARET SEIBERG, POLICY ANALYST, STANFORD GROUP: When you look at the electoral map, it's very interesting that the states that are being hardest hit are some of the most important in the presidential campaign season.


SNOW: And economists view those being states being hardest hit so far by the mortgage crisis as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Nevada, and California, all key states in the presidential elections -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.

Mary is watching this story for us.

And, as you know, Mary Snow and Jessica Yellin, they are both part of the Emmy Award-winning best political team on television.

And, remember, for the latest political news at any time, check out the Political Ticker at

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


BLITZER: Want to update you on that situation that is unfolding in a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska. There's been a shooting incident.

Carol Costello is monitoring information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

What's the latest, Carol?

COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, we -- we -- now it appears one person has died as a result of that shooting inside of that mall, that Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska. We are not clear if it's a victim in the shopping mall or if it was the shooter. We're just -- it's just not clear right now. There's all sorts of information coming in from all over. We do know police still have that mall in lockdown. And we do not know if they have caught the gunman. They have shot the gunman. They are not talking about it right now.

That's the latest I have for you now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks. I know you're monitoring the information as it's coming in.

We are getting a little bit now more from an eyewitness, who told our affiliates this just a few moments ago. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I -- I'm just still in shock. I can't believe it. I mean, I came here for an hour. Just -- I had an hour of extra time before I picked up my son from school. And I was going to grab a few presents.

And my daughter says, maybe they are doing construction downstairs, mom. And I thought the burst -- and, then, the second time, we just -- it was too much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When you realized that it was...


BLITZER: All right. We are going to continue to follow this breaking news out of Omaha and update you with more information as it becomes available.

There's other important news we are following as well, including the latest comments from President Bush -- President Bush speaking out on that new Iran intelligence estimate.

And Barack Obama's close encounter with a student known as the Clinton plant -- did she have something to ask him?

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


BLITZER: Now, with less than a month to go before the Iowa Democratic caucuses, the presidential candidates are wasting no time familiarizing their supporters with this relatively complicated process. And they are going online to try to do it.

Let's turn to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, now.

So, what are the candidates doing, Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the candidates first will need their Iowa supporters to, one, show up, but, second of all, understand how to caucus for them once they get there.

And demystifying the entire Democratic caucus process in Iowa is becoming a staple at the Democratic candidates' Web sites.

The latest from John Edwards -- he is explaining the whole thing in comic book style. Take a listen to this.


NARRATOR: At 6:30 p.m. in 1,784 precincts across Iowa, everyone starts to arrive.


TATTON: Rather ominous there, but there's various different tactics out there from the Obama campaign. They have got a calculator understanding the caucus mass of the evening.

And from Hillary Clinton, who was out early with this, an online video featuring husband Bill. And she's also getting some other support online from the advocacy group EMILY's List, who have their You Go Girl Web site. This is targeting women in -- in Iowa who may not have caucused before.

All these sites focusing on how to caucus for a particular candidate. For more of an overview, there is the Web site of the Iowa Democratic Party. They have got their caucus 101, a spokesman saying that: We are doing the nuts and bolts here. We are leaving the touchy-feely stuff to the individual candidates -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It is complicated, but people will learn. Thanks very much.

And a lot of veterans out there in Iowa know exactly what is going on.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is getting ready for what his campaign bills as a major speech on religious faith in America. Some are wondering, though, if he will address concerns from some people over his Mormon faith.

Let's go to out senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. He's watching this story for us.

Is Romney's Mormon faith a political problem going into this major address tomorrow morning?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, it seems to be a problem, but exactly what kind of problem it is, that's not so clear.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): How big a problem is Mitt Romney's Mormonism? In a Pew poll taken in August, a quarter of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for president who is a Mormon. That's less than the number who say they would not vote for an atheist or a Muslim. No atheist or Muslim is running.

We do have an evangelical Christian, a Hispanic, a woman, an African-American, and five Catholics. The number of people who say they would not vote for a candidate in any one of those categories is lower than the 25 percent who say they would not vote for a Mormon.

The problem appears to be specifically religious. Those who have the biggest problem supporting a Mormon are churchgoing and evangelical Christians, particularly those who believe that Mormonism is not a Christian religion. That's just over 40 percent of Americans.

Romney understands that he faces a different problem from the one John F. Kennedy faced running as a Catholic in 1960.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not going to be giving a JFK speech. He gave the definitive speech on -- if you will, on discrimination relating it a political campaign.

SCHNEIDER: Romney is a person of faith who will be addressing other Americans of faith, a different faith. He will defend the importance of faith in politics and stress the commonality of values across faiths.

ROMNEY: I think Americans want a person of faith to lead the country. I don't think that they care about the particular brand of faith, so much as to whether we share values.


SCHNEIDER: Romney says he will not talk about Mormon doctrine, which is a source of division, but about Mormon values, which he says are completely consistent with America's Judeo-Christian heritage -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We will watch that speech tomorrow morning -- Bill Schneider reporting.

Want to check back with Carol Costello on the breaking news coming out of Omaha, Nebraska, where there's been a serious shooting incident at a shopping mall there. Carol is monitoring this story and she's getting new information.

What are you getting, Carol?

COSTELLO: You know, it just seems to be getting worse, Wolf.

KETV, our affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska, is now reporting there have been multiple fatalities. And they are citing multiple law enforcement agencies for that information.

Other local affiliates saying they know of at least one person who has died, but we don't know if that was a victim of the shooting or a shooter, him or her self.

There could have been one or two shooters inside of that mall, Wolf. We don't know that either. We do know there is a report of a man in cuffs in a hooded sweatshirt outside of the mall. But we don't know if he -- if he is any way connected to the shooting.

I am still keeping track. I will keep you posted.

BLITZER: And we are just getting this information, Carol, from a local hospital -- two fatalities reported there, one additional person injured, this information just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM from out in Omaha.

We will stay on top of this story with you. Thanks very much.

Also coming up: It seems the queen of daytime talk will be greeted like a rock star. Oprah Winfrey will help Barack Obama in one key presidential contest, maybe more. But 18,000 seats apparently won't be enough.

Iran's president claims victory, now that there's a U.S. intelligence report that says Tehran dropped its nuclear weapons program four years ago. How does President Bush respond? It starts off with a laugh.

And some perpetrators of I.D. theft are turning to one book. It's called "The Art of Cheating," a nasty little book for tricky little schemers and their helpless victims. It's getting some people, though, into deep, deep trouble.

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


BLITZER: On our Political Ticker today: Oprah Winfrey mania getting even bigger in South Carolina.

Her rally with Democrat Barack Obama this weekend has been moved to a football stadium that seats more than 80,000 people. It had been scheduled for an 18,000-seat arena, but those free tickets were snapped up very, very quickly.

It's not that unusual for the first daughter Jenna Bush to phone home, but it is when she does it on the "Ellen DeGeneres" talk show. In a taped appearance, Jenna and Ellen got through to the president surprisingly quickly.

Listen to this.





J. BUSH: Are you mad?

G. BUSH: No, not at all.

J. BUSH: OK. Good.

G. BUSH: I'm glad to talk to you.

J. BUSH: See?


G. BUSH: And I'm glad to talk to Ellen.


Look there. We are showing a picture of you holding your daughters when they were just born. That's beautiful.


J. BUSH: The best day of your life, remember, Dad?



BLITZER: It's easier for them to get the president on the phone than it was to get me on the phone when they tried to call me while I was live on the air. We eventually did speak.

A lot more on this story coming up later -- we are going to have full details, in fact -- Jeanne Moos standing by with that.

In the meantime, Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File."

We have got all the news here, Jack...


BLITZER: ... not just big news. We have got some little news, too.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Why would Jenna Bush want to call you?

BLITZER: No, no, no. Jenna Bush called her dad. Ellen -- Ellen called me, you know, Ellen DeGeneres?

CAFFERTY: Oh. I have heard of her.


CAFFERTY: Why -- why would Ellen want to call you?

BLITZER: That's another -- that's another question. She claims she's the Wolf Blitzer of daytime talk, without the facial hair.

CAFFERTY: She's wrong.

The question...


CAFFERTY: The question: What should be done about what may be more than 10 million missing White House e-mails?

Rose in New London, Connecticut: "We have the best technology in the world. Use it. This reminds me of Nixon and Rose Mary Woods, his secretary. If we could find those missing minutes of tape 30 years ago, we can find missing e-mails today. This little circle is closing. The decider doesn't get a pass. He's squandered too many already. Make him accountable."

Jeff in Maryland writes: "Be patient. Justice will be at hand next year when voters get to hit the delete key on the Bush-Cheney regime, just as the West Wing hit delete on all those e-mails."

Mark writes: "Come on, Cafferty. You really taking valuable airtime to discuss another, oops, look what the Bushies did again in the White House? If that's the case, please remind folks and your closest friends about the missing files in the Clinton travel office. Did you spend this much time on that subject, which resulted in many people losing their jobs and being vilified?

Herb in Georgia: "We have 10 million missing e-mails from the White House. Who runs the White House? The American people voted him in twice. How dumb are we? Does the idiot Congress know how to spell the word impeachment?"

Martin writes: "I believe they were locked up with Hillary's millions of documents that nobody can see until after the election."

Jay in New York: "I think we know all too well by now that there's no such thing as a missing e-mail, no less millions of them. Everything put online is out there in cyberspace. I say send some 15- year-old hacker in there, and I bet you he will find them pronto."

And the last e-mail is from Ronnie in Pennsylvania: "What should be done about the lost 10 million e-mails? Easy. Cafferty should have to read every one of them when they're found."

I have no idea what Ronnie means -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He just wants you to read 10 million e-mails.

All right, Jack, stand by. Thanks very, very much.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, breaking news we are following: multiple shots fired at a shopping mall in Omaha, Nebraska, inside a department store. There are now reports of multiple deaths, and the gunman apparently still on the loose. We are going to have the latest for you on what's going on. Also, defiance and claims of vindication. President Bush is sounding new warnings to Iran about its nuclear program, while that country's president says to the world, "I told you so."

Plus, two planes come within seconds of colliding on a busy runway. We have dramatic tape of the near-miss. You're going to find out why some people say flying is getting even more dangerous on the ground and in the air.

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

But let's begin with the breaking news. We're getting new details on that story we have been following for the past couple hours, multiple shots fired inside a mall department store in Omaha, Nebraska. There are now believed to be at least five victims, with two of them now reported dead.

Carol Costello is monitoring developments for us. She's joining us now with the latest.

What do we know, Carol?

COSTELLO: Yes, Wolf.

As far as we know right now, police in Omaha, Nebraska, still searching that mall, going from store to store, searching for a gunman. Someone, either one or two people, opened fire inside of a -- that department store you were talking about called Von Maur, and, according to witnesses, shot one man in the head and another man on a cell phone who was calling 911.