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The Situation Room

Michael Jackson's Mother Granted Temporary Custody of Children; Interview With Joe Jackson; Whites Win Race Bias Case

Aired June 29, 2009 - 16:00   ET


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a guardian is named for Michael Jackson's three children. A temporary custody order raises some eyebrows. Will anyone come forward to challenge it?

Also, Jackson's personal doctor denies injecting the singer with powerful painkillers. This hour, the doctor speaks out through his lawyer about the mystery surrounding Jackson's death.

And one of the worst swindlers in Wall Street history gets the maximum punishment. A judge called Bernard Madoff's sentence a fitting payback for extraordinarily evil crimes.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Four days after Michael Jackson's stunning death, his mother Katherine has been granted temporary custody of his three children. That means that they're living under the same roof as Jackson's father Joe, whom the late singer claimed beat him as a child.

A short while ago, Joe Jackson took part in an odd news conference talking about his son, but also promoting his new business venture.

Well, let's go to CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.

And Drew, what did you make of that?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was bizarre, Suzanne. We're going to get to that in just a second. But I want to quick give you an update on what is happening out in Los Angeles as we speak.

CNN photojournalist Tim Hart reporting that the Los Angeles Police Department and the coroner's officials are back at that Holmby Hills home where Michael Jackson was found not breathing on Thursday morning. Police had told us they wrapped up their investigation there, but for the last 20 minutes, they have been behind the walls of that mansion, along with a photographer, a police photographer.

We're not sure what to make of this yet, but we do have crews on the scene. And again, this information coming from Tim Hart, a photojournalist.

The petitioner is Katherine Jackson. She is the one who petitioned the court this morning not only for temporary custody of those children but, if we can show you what she said in her court filings, that, indeed, she wants to have sole custody, saying that she is the descendant's mother, and the petition seeking appointment as administration is the mother of the descendant. She intends to marshal assets of the descendant -- Michael Jackson, obviously -- for the exclusive use of the descendant's three children -- her grandchildren -- after payment of those debts and expensive of administration.

And just this afternoon, Suzanne, Joe Jackson, the patriarch of the family whom you mentioned, came out and said at his house is where his three grandchildren belong.


JOE JACKSON, MICHAEL JACKSON'S FATHER: They're happy though, but they're happy with the kids that they're around, because we have kids over there -- back there, at least. We have kids back there are small just like they are, and almost -- some of them are the same age. Because they were never around other kids. But they're happy.


GRIFFIN: Joe Jackson leaving the door open for the long-term nanny of those children whom he calls a friend of the family. But again, Katherine Jackson, these three children's grandmother, filing a petition to get custody of those children -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Drew, has there been any questions about what happened during Michael Jackson's own childhood, when he claims that his father abused him, he beat him badly, he mistreated him, that there was some abuse that went on in that household? Has anybody raised the question or the issue about whether or not these young kids should be in Joe Jackson's presence?

GRIFFIN: Well, those questions certainly had been raised throughout the years ever since Michael Jackson first came forward with those allegations against his father. But haven't seen them in this petition period.

Now, keep in mind, this was just filed this morning in Los Angeles, and nobody's come forward yet to challenge them. But certainly if either the mother of the two children or another person comes forward to try to claim that they should be the guardians of those children, you can expect that past relationship to come forward. But we just have not seen it yet -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Drew.

And there are still more questions about the words and actions of Michael Jackson's father, Joe. Well, our CNN's Don Lemon, he spoke with him a short time ago. This is their second interview in as many days.

And Don, we heard yesterday when he was talking about he had some concerns, some questions. You got a chance to catch up with him again today. What is he talking about, and what's his state of mind at this time?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I'm not exactly sure, Suzanne. A lot of people are asking that.

I gave him a chance to clarify some of those statements yesterday that drew controversy. And really, this whole press conference that they scheduled today was to clarify those statements.

Those statements Drew (ph) fired yesterday when at the red carpet, at the BED Awards, which were hastily made yesterday to be a tribute to Michael Jackson, a previously scheduled event, at that event on the red carpet, I asked Joe Jackson about his family, how they were doing, his state of mind. And I asked him about funeral arrangement. And he answered by promoting a record company, and people thought that that was a little bit odd.

So, this press conference today was to clarify that. But then after the press conference, all those things that you just asked me, about his state of mind, about trying to clarify those statements, I asked him, and take a listen.


LEMON: I wanted to talk to Joe about -- you felt compelled to come out and clarify the statements yesterday.

How are you doing? Good to see you.

JACKSON: Good to see you.

LEMON: Why did you feel compelled to come out and clarify those statements?

JACKSON: Because it's my son, you know. And I want to make sure the whole world knows that -- what a superstar he was all over the world. And I just wish -- I just wish he could have been here alive to see this happening, not to wait until he passed and then the recognition.

LEMON: And some people said they understood part of it because in your grief, you know, who knows what happens in grief and what state of mind you're in.

JACKSON: To me or him? To me?

LEMON: Yes, sir.

JACKSON: Well, I'm a pretty strong guy, but at least -- at least I suffer. I cry on the inside. A lot of people, you see tears coming on the outside, down the face. I mean, I take it in here. But I'm strong.

LEMON: How do you feel about all this stuff that's been released about the autopsy and leak and all that?

JACKSON: Well, the autopsy and the leaks and all that stuff, hey, you know, we waiting on the second autopsy. We're waiting on that one.

LEMON: And you talked about the questions. You said yesterday that there were questions, you do have some real concerns.

JACKSON: Yes, I do.

LEMON: What are the concerns?

JACKSON: I'll announce those later on.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got to go.

JACKSON: My publicists say I have to go.

LEMON: Reverend, you...



LEMON: So, you can see, Suzanne, it was a media frenzy, everyone trying to get to Joe Jackson and to the Reverend Al Sharpton. We were able to get those questions in.

We also asked him about funeral arrangements. He said they have not decided that yet. I asked him about a time frame, he said it was too soon to decide that. They're not exactly sure what they're going to do.

And just real quickly, Suzanne, I want to talk about something that you and Drew Griffin talked about, about Katherine Jackson filing to be an administrator for Michael Jackson's estate. When I spoke with the family attorney yesterday, L. Londell McMillan, he said that no will had surfaced. And if no will has surfaced or will surface, it's going to be interesting to figure out how exactly they're going to deal with Michael Jackson's assets once they do have those services and once we figure out what's going to happen.

MALVEAUX: Sure. And Don, did he talk at all about why they were asking for the second autopsy, what that's about?

LEMON: The reason they're asking for the second autopsy is that question, "What were your concerns?" I asked him specifically yesterday. He said, "I do have some concerns. I don't like how it went down."

They have concerns about the doctor, about the people who were around Michael Jackson during the last weeks, months, moments of his life. So they want to know exactly what happened. They want to talk to this doctor and they want to know. That's why they had that second autopsy, to clear all of that up.

MALVEAUX: OK. Don Lemon.

Thank you so much, Don. Appreciate it.

We are getting a new glimpse of Michael Jackson during his final rehearsal for his big comeback concert. Now, these are new photos. They were released just a short while ago.

They were taken at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It just happened last Tuesday. This is two days before Jackson's death, these new photos just coming into us now, rehearsals that went on before, just two days prior to his passing.

Well, time now for "The Cafferty File." Jack Cafferty bringing us the very latest.

And Jack, what are you looking at?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I'm looking at one of the things in the news besides Michael Jackson. There happen to be a number of other stories.

House Minority Leader John Boehner calls the climate change bill "a pile of manure," only he used the other word for it. The Democrats released a 300-page amendment to this 1,200-plus page bill at 3:00 in the morning last Friday, hours before the chamber would vote, and of course right before they all left town for the July 4th recess.

Sort of like the economic stimulus bill. Remember?

It seems nearly impossible the members even had a chance to read this thing. The bill passed by a narrow margin. There was virtually no Republican support.

The measure will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent, they claim, by 2020; 83 percent by 2050 through the so-called cap and trade program where companies will actually buy and sell emissions credits. It will also force utilities to make more power from renewable energy sources. The Democrats, of course, hail this as a transformational piece of legislation, but it faces an unclear fate in the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid says they'll take it up in the fall.

Opponents say some industries will simply move jobs overseas to places that don't control greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans insist the bill amounts to the largest tax increase in U.S. history, saying it will tax anyone who drives a car, flips a light switch, et cetera. But President Obama says it will cost the average American about the price of a postage stamp every day.

Here's the question: Should the House have passed a 1,200-page climate change bill amended only hours before it was voted on? Here's a hint -- no.

Go to and post your thoughts on this fine example of our government in operation on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: We got the message, Jack. We got that hint loud and clear.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thanks, Jack.

Michael Jackson's personal doctor insists that he did not see any red flags before the singer's death. Well, I spoke with the doctor's attorney just a short time ago.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing in his history, nothing that Dr. Murray knew, that would lead him to believe that he would go into sudden cardiac arrest or respiratory failure.


MALVEAUX: Ahead, tough questions about Jackson's death and his doctor's role in his life and medical care.

Also ahead, the Supreme Court takes a different view of race discrimination and overrules the woman tapped to be its newest member.

Also, a tribute to a high school football coach allegedly killed by one of his former players.


MALVEAUX: A major U.S. Supreme Court ruling on racial discrimination today. The justices determined that white firefighters and a Hispanic in New Haven, Connecticut, were unfairly denied promotions because of their race. In the 5-4 decision, the court reversed a ruling that high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor endorsed as an appeals court judge.

Our Mary Snow has reaction from New Haven.

And what are you hearing, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Suzanne, you know, for the firefighters who had their promotions in limbo for the last five years, there's certainly a sense of relief. They also expressed that they were overwhelmed, and they also expect that their fight will have ripple effects on millions of Americans.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was worth it, every minute of it. Right, guys?


SNOW (voice-over): The so-called New Haven 20 celebrates the Supreme Court ruling in their favor. The plaintiff, Frank Ricci, says he feels vindicated for suing the city for discrimination after he was denied a promotion. The city ditched the results of a promotional exam because no African-American would have been promoted. FRANK RICCI, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: This is just proof positive that people should be treated as individuals and not statistics, and that won out at the Supreme Court today.

SNOW: The city said it threw out the results for fear of being sued by minorities, but in a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the "Fear of litigation alone cannot justify an employer's reliance on race to the detriment of individuals who passed the examinations and qualified for promotions." Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a dissenter who called the court's majority ruling troubling, adding, "Relying so heavily on pencil-and-paper exams to select firefighters is a dubious practice."

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano says he can understand firefighters on both sides of this issue, but adds...

MAYOR JOHN DESTEFANO, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT: It's a continual erosion of civil rights law by the Supreme Court.

SNOW: The city viewed the test as flawed after they had already been conducted. A group of minority firefighters advocated using a system that would take into effect life and communication skills, not just written tests.

Ben Vargas is the lone Hispanic member of the New Haven 20. How does he respond to those who say the test wasn't fair?

BEN VARGAS, NEW HAVEN FIREFIGHTER: What I say to them is study hard, because we won this, and this was not only for us, but it was for them as well, for the entire country, not only in the fire service and police service and all public service. Because this is going to help everyone out.


SNOW: And Suzanne, the Firebird Society, which represents black firefighters here in New Haven, says that the evidence was clear that these exams had a discriminatory impact on minorities. And we expect to hear more from the group this afternoon. But bottom line, say legal analysts, is that the use of race in the workforce in order to achieve diversity is going to mean many legal fights in the next few years -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Mary.

Obviously, something that people have been paying very close attention to. And I want to talk about what this ruling could mean for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Joining me, Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger.

And obviously you have been following this, and this is one of those cases where conservatives took a good look at her and said she ruled one way, this is going the other way.

What do you make of this? GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, obviously, the issue of affirmative action and the fact that the Second Circuit was overruled is going to become an issue in the hearings. It does give her critics some new ammunition to say that she's a judicial activist, that she rules based on empathy rather than the law.

However, her supporters will say that what this proves today is that it's just the opposite. That, in fact, the Second Circuit, including Judge Sotomayor, followed precedent, and that what the Supreme Court did today was offer a new interpretation of the civil rights law.

So, this is clearly something we're going to be hearing more about. But I would say, remember, this was a 5-4 decision, so those who want to make the case that she's out of the mainstream, what about those four Supreme Court justices, including Justice Souter, whom she's going to replace, who ruled with her?

MALVEAUX: Right. And I suspect that the White House is going to weigh in on that and use that as a point.

Are they worried? Are they concerned at this point at all? What do they make of her chances?

BORGER: Well, I talked to a senior White House adviser today who's very optimistic about her chances about getting confirmed. I also spoke with someone on the Hill who's counting. And the count right now, they say, is they expect around 70 votes for Sotomayor. So, they're very optimistic she's going to get through pretty easily.

MALVEAUX: OK. Gloria, thank you so much.

The future of Neverland -- Michael Jackson thought of his former ranch as a magical place, but could it become his burial site? Wait until you hear what father Joe Jackson says.

And the winner is? Iran's government says it's recounted the votes in the presidential election and names a definite victor.



MALVEAUX: Well, we are starting to piece together Michael Jackson's final minutes and how his personal doctor reacted to his sudden death. Stand by for my interview with the doctor's lawyer, speaking out on his behalf.

And will Neverland become the new Graceland? How Jackson's famous estate may be turned into a tourist attraction like Elvis' home.


MALVEAUX: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, you have probably bought something he pitched. Famous TV pitchman Billy Mays is dead. Now a mystery of why he died. He bumped his head during a rough flight, but wait until you hear what the medical examiner has to say.

And in Iraq, some are celebrating while others are scared. American troops are set to pull out of towns and neighborhoods, but some wonder if Iraqi forces are ready.

And selling Michael Jackson. Fans are hawking over 50,000 related items on eBay, but are they celebrating his life or cashing in on Jackson's death?

I'm Suzanne Malveaux, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

As the world awaits answers to how Michael Jackson died, his personal doctor insists that he has nothing to hide. Jackson's physician is battling rumors concerning what he did and he did not do in moments before the singer's death.

Well, let's bring in our Brian Todd.

You've been following this the whole day, and you've got a pretty good sense of why he was hired for the concert and a lot of details. Tell us why.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. We know you've spoken to one of his attorneys. We've spoken to another. Through those discussions and through records that we've been able to dig up, we're getting new details about Michael Jackson's personal physician, the man who tried to revive him until the very end.


TODD (voice-over): Through his attorneys, Dr. Conrad Murray maintains he did nothing wrong in the death of Michael Jackson.

MATT ALFORD, ASSOCIATE ATTORNEY FOR DR. CONRAD MURRAY: Dr. Murray is not a suspect in the investigation of Michael Jackson's death. He is a witness.

TODD: Murray's attorneys tell CNN he did prescribe some medications to Jackson, but they emphatically deny rumors that he gave the star the narcotic painkillers Oxycontin or Demerol.

Conrad Murray graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville 20 years ago. He's known Jackson since 2006. His attorneys say at that time, one of Jackson's kids became ill in Las Vegas and someone in his security detail recommended Dr. Murray. They say Murray didn't become Jackson's physician until early May, when he was hired to be with the star through his upcoming concert series in London.

According to the reputable health care ratings group HealthGrades, Dr. Murray was not board certified in either of his two specialties, internal medicine or cardiology. His lawyers acknowledge that. We asked experts about board certification. DR. ART CAPLAN, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA CENTER FOR BIO-ETHICS: You're in absolutely no legal trouble for not being board certified unless you misrepresent yourself. It's a great thing to have, it's something to look for, but it's not legally required that you be board certified to practice medicine.

TODD: HealthGrades also has no record of any sanctions or malpractice claims filed against Murray in California. The groups says records from Texas and Nevada, where he also practiced, are not available.

There is evidence of some financial difficulty. Court records show Dr. Murray had at least two civil judgments filed against him last year by two financial companies totaling at least $250,000.


TODD: But of course none of that reflects on Dr. Murray's actual treatment of Michael Jackson. One of Murray's lawyers told us they don't know anything about his financial situation, but on those civil judgments, one of the attorneys said, "Show me a doctor who's been practicing for 20 years and hasn't gone through something like that."

Suzanne, they're maintaining it doesn't have any bearing on his treatment.

MALVEAUX: And Brian, you have details, new details about why it was that this doctor was hired. Specifically for the concert series? Can you explain that?

TODD: Yes. Well, we've talked with officials with the promoter AEG Live. They say that their original intent for this series was to hire a doctor for Mr. Jackson when they got to London. Michael Jackson insisted they say on hiring Dr. Murray.

AEG says that they gave Michael Jackson advance money to pay Dr. Murray. They were going to give him that money. They were making those arrangements when Michael Jackson died.

One of Murray's lawyers told us that Dr. Murray is owed $300,000 by AEG Live for that deal. An official with AEG Live would not comment on that.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you very much, Brian, following all that.

Of course, meanwhile, many of you want to know what happened during Michael Jackson's final moments and what did his personal doctor do?


MALVEAUX: Ed Chernoff, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We appreciate your time.

First question, I want to basically set the scene, if you will. Your client, Dr. Murray, when he first arrived he discovered Michael Jackson was in distress, that he wasn't breathing. To the time that the 911 call was made, what was your client doing? What was the doctor doing?

EDWARD CHERNOFF, ATTORNEY FOR DR. CONRAD MURRAY: Well, he was performing CPR, primarily.

MALVEAUX: Was he...


MALVEAUX: Was he by himself?

CHERNOFF: He was. He was by himself.

MALVEAUX: And what -- how long did it take before the 911 call was made?

CHERNOFF: The -- I'm -- we are estimating it took about -- at least 30 minutes before the 911 call was eventually made.

There was a slowdown primarily because there was no phone service in the house, and Dr. Murray did not know precisely the address, the -- the Jackson residence.

MALVEAUX: Well, why didn't Dr. Murray, from the very beginning, make that initial 911 call, when he realized that Jackson was -- was not breathing, that he started CPR? Why didn't he call at that moment?

CHERNOFF: Well, you're asking why a cardiologist and a doctor would -- would be calling for doctors.

His first goal was to resuscitate Michael Jackson. He knows what to do to -- he knows how to perform CPR. He performed it properly. And he -- that was his first -- that was his first goal, if -- if he could resuscitate him, and, then, if he needed further help, then he would call for that.

MALVEAUX: But let me just understand that Michael Jackson, he was in his bed. He wasn't in a hospital setting. He didn't immediately think that perhaps he should go ahead and -- and ask for some assistance at that time?


It -- well, look, no, he's a -- he's a cardiologist. He knows that, if a person -- if a person is not breathing, he knows what to do. And he -- he -- he did what he needed to do to try to resuscitate Michael Jackson. When he realized in a very short period of time, Suzanne, that he could not resuscitate him, then, of course, he started looking for ways to get help by calling 911.

MALVEAUX: How long did he actually perform CPR on Mr. Jackson before he realized he needed to make a phone call?

CHERNOFF: Well, it would have been five minutes, maybe, 10 minutes.

But -- but the phone call then was delayed, because, like I say, there was no phone -- phone service. He called security to ask for somebody to come up to help. There was no call -- there was no answer when he called.

He then ran downstairs at some point, yelled for help, got the chef, who was in the kitchen, to get security up there. By the time security got up there, then the call was made immediately. This entire time, with the exception of him running downstairs, he was performing CPR on Michael Jackson.

MALVEAUX: And the doctor didn't have a cell phone? He didn't...

CHERNOFF: He did. He did.

MALVEAUX: So, he didn't use his own cell phone to call?

CHERNOFF: No. No, of course, he did. He used his own cell phone, but he did not have the exact address, Suzanne.


CHERNOFF: And he needed the exact -- he knew how to get there, but he didn't have the exact address. He was -- at the same time he's using his cell phone, he's performing CPR. He's got a pulse, but he's still not breathing on his own -- Mr. Jackson is not. And -- and this is all going on at the exact same time.

Eventually, security came up and a phone call was made.

MALVEAUX: And were there any other doctors that were present, or it was just the two of them? Were they alone?

CHERNOFF: They were alone.

MALVEAUX: You have said before that Dr. Murray was -- was not aware -- or at least he did not administer Demerol or OxyContin to Michael Jackson, that he wasn't aware that he was taking any.

Did he know that Michael Jackson had any other doctors, or was he the only doctor?

CHERNOFF: He -- he didn't know for sure whether he had any other doctors. He -- there was some suspicions that there might be other doctors. But he didn't know for sure.

MALVEAUX: Why not?


CHERNOFF: Well, because Michael didn't share it with him, and -- and Michael denied it.

MALVEAUX: Did he ask him if he had other doctors that were administering these drugs? CHERNOFF: You're talking about Demerol and OxyContin?


CHERNOFF: No, of course not. He didn't suspect that he was using these other drugs.

MALVEAUX: Why didn't he suspect that?

There were other people who have come forward who have said that Michael Jackson told them -- Deepak Chopra, who actually told us on CNN that Michael Jackson admitted that he not only asked for prescribed drugs from his -- his friend, but that he also was receiving it from other people.

Why didn't Dr. Murray know that or inquire about that?

CHERNOFF: Well, I -- I saw that interview with Dr. Chopra. And I -- I was very interested in what he had to say about that.

But he's talking about a period of time long before Dr. Murray ever got -- became -- got on board to be Michael Jackson's private physician. Dr. Murray has known Michael Jackson since 2006, but he hasn't treated him as a physician until May of 2009, when he was hired by the production company.

MALVEAUX: But isn't that the kind of information his doctor would want to know, even if he hired him late in -- in the process here, whether or not he had been taking Demerol or OxyContin?

CHERNOFF: If you're asking, should he have asked, "Hey, Michael, just wondering, do you take Demerol or OxyContin?" he had no reason to suspect that he -- that he had.

It's not as if it was well-known that that was happening, if it was happening, by the way. I mean, let's not -- let's not rush to -- to judgment here and say that Michael Jackson was a drug addict. We -- we don't know that.


MALVEAUX: But isn't that part of the problem, is that that that is not known? Isn't that -- wouldn't that be a typical, traditional question that a doctor who is treating a patient would ask? "Are you on prescription medications?"

CHERNOFF: Oh, of course.

MALVEAUX: "Are you taking this, that, or the other?"


CHERNOFF: Yes. Well, no, no, not...


MALVEAUX: So -- so, he would ask him, correct?

CHERNOFF: Not this, that, or the other.

He would ask him -- and I'm sure that he did -- you know, "Are you on any other prescription medication? Are you -- are you doing this? Are you -- is -- are these -- are you doing anything that would -- would interfere with medications I might give you or that might affect your health?" especially since he was -- he was hired to make sure that he was healthy and -- and taken care of for the -- for the 50-concert tour that he was going to do in Europe.

I'm sure he asked. But Michael Jackson never told him that he was taking any other drugs, certainly not Demerol, certainly not OxyContin, if he was -- if he was.

MALVEAUX: So, you're saying he has asked; you're confirming that he did ask Michael Jackson whether he was on those drugs?

CHERNOFF: No, I'm not. No, Suzanne, I'm not confirming that. I am agreeing with you that that's something that -- that you would expect him to have asked.

And I -- and know -- knowing what I know about Dr. Murray, I'm sure that he did ask him that or ask him if he's on other drugs, or -- and I think that, if Dr. Murray had known that he was using other drugs, then he would have taken into that into consideration in -- in many respects.


MALVEAUX: More of my interview with Ed Chernoff ahead in THE SITUATION ROOM. And he will tell us how Michael Jackson's children learned of his death.

Well, Michael Jackson fans are leaving tributes to him at his Neverland Ranch. It could become an official shrine to the king of pop, much like Elvis' Graceland. But some obstacles do stand in the way. Jackson's parents are fighting to keep his estate in the family.

Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is going to walk us through the legal battles that are just beginning.

And President Obama confronted by the gay and lesbian community -- is she giving any ground on gays in the military? Stand by for our "Strategy Session."


MESERVE: Many parallels have been drawn between Michael Jackson and Elvis. Well, another one may also be in the works. Questions are swirling about the fate of Jackson's Neverland Ranch, a place where he famously indulged his inner child.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez reports from Los Angeles.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Jackson, the king of pop.


GUTIERREZ: Elvis Presley, the king. Elvis' beloved estate, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, is now a multimillion-dollar tourist attraction, where you can dine, wed, and bed. Can this be the same fate of Michael Jackson's 2,500-acre ranch, Neverland?


GUTIERREZ: That's because Neverland sits on unincorporated land in Santa Barbara County. Turning a ranch into a tourist attraction would require major changes in zoning. And that's not going to happen, according to the managing editor of the local paper.

LANZ-MATEO: And I can't imagine a politician around here supporting that without being run out of office. This is a very quiet agriculture land out here. People are very used to the quiet. They don't want a big tourist attraction out in the middle of nowhere, out in the middle of these agricultural lands. And, besides that, the infrastructure's not set up for it. It's a little -- tiny little old two-lane road going up there.

GUTIERREZ: Fans have already found their way there. Even though Jackson's possessions are no longer at the ranch, mourners left flowers and cards at the gates.

Billionaire investor Tom Barrack took partial control of the ranch last year, after Jackson nearly lost it to foreclosure, shelling out about $23 million to get the property out of default. Barrack's spokesman says no decision has been made about Neverland's future.

Today, Joe Jackson said, one thing is for sure: Neverland will not become his son's burial site.


GUTIERREZ: Photojournalist Tom Larson (ph) is at Neverland Ranch right now. He just called us. He told us that, a short time ago, he saw a Santa Barbara County sheriff's car leaving the property. We're not exactly sure what that means -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, Thelma, you have been there. And you have seen -- do we know if the family has actually gone to the ranch? Have they visited?

GUTIERREZ: Yes, Suzanne.

In fact, two of Michael Jackson's brothers did go to the ranch over the weekend. They met with Tom Barrack, the partial owner. They spent about three to four hours there at the ranch. They say that they were reminiscing and reflecting on Michael Jackson. Apparently, Barrack knew Jackson and said was -- was said to be very fond of him.

MALVEAUX: OK, Thelma, thank you so much. It will be interesting to see what happens to the ranch. Thank you, Thelma.

A famous TV salesman is dead. But why did Billy Mays die? We know he bumped his head during a rough plane landing, but now a medical examiner says that there may be another reason for the tragedy.

And the wife of a disgraced politician, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's wife, Jenny Sanford, is not doing what others like her have done before. Is she setting a new model for political wives who have been cheated on?






MALVEAUX: In Iran, a recount is said to confirm that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really did win the presidential election. Well, that is according to Iran's state-run media.

The group responsible for electoral oversight says that the vote result is valid after a partial recount, and that Iran's Guardian Council informed the interior minister in a letter -- this despite claims by some that the vote count was rigged.

Well, how do you feel that the U.S. is handling Iran's election controversy?

Let's bring in our CNN senior political analyst, Bill Schneider.

And tell us, Bill, are Americans satisfied with how the president, the administration, is dealing with this?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the answer is, yes, they are.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): President Obama's job approval is holding up pretty well, 61 percent. How do people feel about the way he's responded to events in Iran? The same, 61 percent. The president has calibrated his comments to the Iranian government's increasing repression of the election protesters -- cautious, at first... BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections.

SCHNEIDER: ... more critical as the repression escalated...

OBAMA: We deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place.

SCHNEIDER: ... and, finally, outraged.

OBAMA: ... the violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. And, despite the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it.

SCHNEIDER: Most Americans think President Obama's criticisms of Iran's leaders were about right. A third think the president did not go far enough.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: I don't believe that having the president of the United States express a word of unqualified support to the brave men and women who are risking their liberty and their lives on behalf of freedom on the streets of Iran would constitute meddling.

SCHNEIDER: Do Republicans believe President Obama's criticism did not go far enough? Nearly half do. But about the same number of Republicans think the president's response was about right or even went too far.

More than 80 percent of Americans believe the election results in Iran were fraudulent. Do people think the United States should openly support the demonstrators? Nearly three in four say no. Almost two- thirds of Republicans agree: Stay out of it.


SCHNEIDER: Most Americans say they are upset, but not outraged, by the way Iran's leaders have dealt with the demonstrators.

Now, interestingly, older Americans are more likely to be outraged. They may have bitter memories of the American hostages held by Iran for more than a year in 1979 and 1980 -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Bill.

Well, here for our "Strategy Session," CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and Republican strategist John Feehery.

I want to start off first in dealing with Bill's report and the situation in Iraq. We are looking at pictures from Iraqi television of a countdown, literally. They are taking a look. They say it's their last hour before it's midnight, before U.S. troops are out of there.

We have learned that Vice President Biden's got a new role in -- in overseeing this.

Put your strategy hats on here, if you would. This -- does this not become Obama's problem, if something terrible goes wrong, and you have got a mess in Iraq, once you have got those U.S. troops pulled out?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, he's the president of the United States, so it is in Obama's lap right now.

And the president, I think, is focusing on getting it right, and making sure that the policy is sound, that our troops can begin to come home by August of 2010.

But this policy was set in place by President Bush, the status of forces agreement. And the president reconfirmed it with -- with -- after talking with his military advisers. So, they are moving out of the large cities. And tomorrow is national sovereignty day in Iraq. This is a very important turning point for the Iraqi people, the Iraqi leaders to step up.

Our military, they have done a great job in training the Iraqi forces. Now it's time for the Iraqis to step up.

MALVEAUX: John, what kind of option does the Obama administration have, if this goes badly and we start to see violence on the street in Baghdad?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, it's a real problem for the Obama administration. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I think Donna is right. Let's hope everything goes smoothly and that they can gain complete sovereignty and we can have a situation that is stable and good for the Iraqis and for the American people.

I think it's kind of interesting, though, that they're appointing Joe Biden to be head of this, because he was the guy who came up with the partition plan in the beginning. He's been wrong on this several different times. You know, but the Obama administration, they have to play this very carefully, because they don't want to have a situation where -- where this goes awry, and where Afghanistan goes off course, and they have a -- a big problem in both places. They want to make sure that this goes smoothly.

BRAZILE: The president inherited -- inherited a mess. And the first thing he had to do, working with Vice President Biden, is to get the plan right. I think we have the -- a plan now to move our troops out.

MALVEAUX: I want to -- I want to turn the corner real quick.

I want to take a quick listen to what President Obama just said. He's meeting with the gay community at the White House, and he just made this statement. Let's take a -- a listen.


OBAMA: As I have said before -- I will say it again -- I believe don't ask/don't tell doesn't contribute to our national security. In fact...


OBAMA: ... I believe -- I believe preventing patriotic Americans from serving their country weakens our national security.



MALVEAUX: He's been consistent on this. He said this during the campaign.

But there is something that he can do immediately. We know that Congress would -- would have to repeal this in order for this to -- to be taken away. But he can do what's called a stop-loss and basically prevent gays from being discharged in the military on a temporary basis.

Should he do this?

BRAZILE: I -- I'm sure the president, in working with the Pentagon -- my short answer is absolutely yes. It's the -- the -- the law should be repealed. There's no reason why Americans should be discharged from the military simply because of their sexual orientation.

But the president is working with the Congress. He's working with the military, working with the Joint Chiefs to see what is the most effective way of getting this law repealed without sidestepping Congress.

We criticized the Bush administration from sidestepping Congress. So, I think he is working hard. He also went on in his speech -- and I got some excerpts myself -- to talk about, he wants to end hate crimes in America; he wants to ensure that gay and lesbians enjoy domestic partnerships. So, I think this will mend ties with the gay and lesbian community, this meeting today.

MALVEAUX: And -- and, John, he has sidestepped Congress on certain issues. He's -- he's issued executive orders. Do you think it's a good idea, as a temporary basis, to do this stop-loss, and -- and just temporarily say, look, gays in the military are not going to be discharged because of their sexuality?

FEEHERY: Let me put my political hat on.

You know, from his perspective, I think the military doesn't want to do that. So, he wants to be with the military on this. I think, from his perspective, having this issue out there, where he can kind of almost triangulate this community, in a sense, and look more moderate to -- to independent voters -- I think that, after a time, this will -- this will occur. But it's going to take time. And I think he's playing it very slowly for political reasons.

MALVEAUX: Got to leave it... (CROSSTALK)

BRAZILE: ... issue of equal, not triangulation. I just wanted to say that.

MALVEAUX: OK. I have got to leave it there. OK.

BRAZILE: All right.

MALVEAUX: Thank you so much, John and Donna.

President Obama on the move in Paris, and looking pretty stiff -- the Secret Service in our "Political Ticker."

Plus, new developments in the legal battle over Michael Jackson's children and his estate -- how hard will his family fight?

And Michael Jackson for sale on eBay -- frenzied buying and selling of his memorabilia.


MALVEAUX: President Obama is moving into a new home in France. Well...


MALVEAUX: ... it's actually a wax likeness of the commander in chief. It's complete with new gray hairs, two bodyguards. The statue is now in place at a Paris wax museum, after a swing by the Eiffel Tower. We are told that the resemblance is so uncanny that some tourists did a double take, stopping to take some pictures.

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

Jack's now joining us for "The Cafferty File."

And, Jack, what are you watching?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Should the House of Representatives have passed a 1,200-page climate change bill that had a 300-page amendment added to it only hours before a vote was taken last Friday, right before the July 4th recess?


CAFFERTY: Can you smell it from here?

Robert in New York writes: "During the campaign, President Obama committed to letting the American people view all legislation online for 48 hours before a vote. Apparently, the representatives voting on the bill don't even have that opportunity. I support climate legislation, but I also deserve the right to see what is in the bill, so I can contact my representatives if I oppose any of the funny business that usually gets sneaked in -- more change we can believe in."

Edith in Tennessee writes: No. It didn't take long for things to go back to business as usual -- except now it's the Democrats that are screwing us."

Robert writes: "There should have been more time to read the bill, no question there. But relative to the issue of climate control, we must do something now. It's not going to get any better or easier, so we have to bite the bullet for our future and the future of our children."

P. writes: "Yes, the bill should be passed. Why are we all acting like members of Congress read the zillions of pages presented before them? That is for the technicalities. They all know the few main provisions of the bills. My question is, did John Boehner ever read anything while Bush was president?"

Scott writes: "No, they shouldn't have passed the bill. The bill is nothing but a Nancy Pelosi special, should have been voted down. The fact that 300 pages were added to the bill just hours before the vote shows just how fast the Democrats were trying to push this thing through."

M. writes: "Wasn't it P.T. Barnum who said there's a sucker born every minute?"

Yes, it was.

"This is a massive tax hike, disguised as a feel-good environmental bill. Want zero emissions? Build nuclear power plants and move on."

And Len writes: "Not to worry, Jack. I'm sure that they all had their lobbyists that read the bill for them. I miss my country."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at, and look for yours there, or not -- Suzanne.


MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jack.


Happening now: Michael Jackson's parents move to take custody of his children and his estate. There is a flurry of legal action, as some of the last-known photos of the singer emerge. They show him not long before his death.

Also, Jackson's doctor gives his side of the story for the first time publicly through his attorney. He joins us live this hour with new details of frantic efforts to save the superstar's life.

And it's just now midnight in Iraq. The deadline for U.S. troops to leave the country's towns and cities has arrived. We're going to take you there live for a major milestone in the controversial war. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. Wolf Blitzer is off today. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.