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The Situation Room

Sonia Sotomayor Hearings Continue; Jackson Custody Battle?

Aired July 14, 2009 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How a football-sized hole forced the emergency landing of a Southwest jet. Could it happen again?

We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

President Obama is confronting harsh economic realities today in Michigan, the jobless rate in that state, 14.1 percent. That's the highest in the nation. And Mr. Obama acknowledges it may only get worse in the months ahead.

So, he is trying to focus in on a long-term plan, a plan to train workers for what he calls jobs of the future.

Our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry, traveled with the president to Warren, Michigan -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's interesting. The president, big push today for more education money. People here in Michigan obviously really feeling the economic pain because of the auto industry's woes. And the president was greeted by a blistering editorial this morning in "The Detroit News," charging that his stimulus plan has not worked as promised.

So, the president came here to Macomb County, home to those vaunted Reagan Democrats so pivotal in elections. In fact, their support helped the president carry Michigan big-time over John McCain, but, right now, voters here very nervous, concerned, apprehensive about the economy, the president trying to reassure them, saying it is going to take time for the stimulus to work, but vowed that his number-one job is turning this economy around, getting it back on its feet.

And he had a poke at the Republicans as he made his point.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And it's a job I gladly accept. I love these folks who helped get us in this mess and then suddenly say, well, this is Obama's economy. That's fine. Give it to me. My job is to solve problems, not to stand on the sidelines and carp and gripe.


HENRY: Trying to show that he is rolling up his sleeves, getting to work, specifically, unveiling a plan today to pump more than $12 billion into community colleges, like the one here in Macomb County, basically, more scholarships, more money for facilities to try to improve them, encourage millions more people to come to community colleges, the president saying that, when you have jobs like in the auto industry that may have disappeared altogether, they didn't just go away for a short time, people need to be retrained, go back to community colleges to learn new skills.

That's his push today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president of the United States, Ed, only a few days ago, he was in Europe. He was in Africa. Now he is here in Michigan. It's sort of a stark reality of the enormity of what's going on in terms of the economy domestically.

HENRY: Absolutely.

That's why, yesterday, in the Rose Garden, you saw him immediately focusing back on the domestic agenda, specifically health care, saying he heard that chatter while he was overseas about how it's going to die. He's trying to pump new life into that.

Then, immediately, on the second day back, coming here to Michigan, pivotal state in the Midwest, trying to show that he is all over the economy as well.

But, on the way home, he is going to stop in St. Louis for the Major League All-Star Game. And in fact he was taking Air Force One with Willie Mays, so having a little bit fun as well, but he's also trying to show the American people that he is on top of the economy and health care, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. And we are going to have more on that part of the story. That's coming up. Missouri, though, an important state. The president barely lost to John McCain by about 3,000 votes, Missouri, in last year's presidential election.

Meanwhile, a stunning turnaround by the banking giant Goldman Sachs. Second-quarter profits shattering expectations.

Let's go to our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi.

A dramatic success for Goldman Sachs. What's going on?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you were just talking to Ed about how important the economy seems to be to the president. And that's why he is shuttling around the story.

Goldman Sachs, you wouldn't know we had a recession, an economic problem. Take a look at the wall here and I will show you what Goldman Sachs brought in, in the second quarter. That is April to June of 2009, $3.4 billion. That's net profit, $3.4 billion, that top line.

From January to June so far this year, this company has cleared a profit of $5.25 billion, with a B. Goldman Sachs wasn't without its problems. It had some exposure during this crisis. There are a lot of people wondering, how on earth did this company turn around and make this kind of money, while the rest of us are still seeing jobs being lost and markets at least at this point treading water, Wolf?

BLITZER: It is true. All of this is true. And Goldman Sachs has returned the so-called TARP money that the federal government gave them in the bailout. So, they are free and clear.

But a lot of people tend to forget, and I know, Ali, you remember this, that they did get billions of dollars from AIG, billions that the federal government gave AIG, the insurance giant, because of some of the insured investments they have.


VELSHI: Yes. So, first of all, the money that was given back by Goldman Sachs to the government, that allowed them to issue their bonuses and not fall under restrictions about what they pay.

The AIG money was sort of insurance. They were called credit default swaps. They had bought it against their investment in AIG diminishing. And they were paying it. And that's part of why Goldman Sachs is doing better.

Let me give you a few bullet points as to why Goldman is doing better. First of all, than other of its competitors, it had less subprime exposure than let's say Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns or even Merrill Lynch. That was the stuff that really took a lot of these banks down.

The other thing is it had better risk management. While they were making these big bets on mortgages and other things like that, they had a group of people who were instructing them to bet against that. And those are the very people who bought these credit default swaps from AIG and that when the mortgage situation started to go bad, Goldman Sachs actually made some money out of it.

And the third thing is that Goldman Sachs has a great deal of diversified investment. They weren't just betting on one side of the house. They really did bet all over the place. This is part of the history of Goldman Sachs. It's why they're the gold standard on Wall Street.

But, right now, these kind of profits, Wolf, are attracting a lot of attention, some of it negative. And some of it could get very political when people start to see the rest of us are suffering. Look at how Goldman is doing -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, they're suffering, and also a little bit less competition.

VELSHI: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Lehman Brothers gone, Bear Stearns gone, so Goldman Sachs picking up some of their business.

VELSHI: That's right. BLITZER: No doubt about that.

Thanks, Ali, very much.

Goldman Sachs has some very prominent alumni, among them, Robert Rubin, the treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton. He spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs. Josh Bolten spent five years in Goldman Sachs' London before becoming George W. Bush's presidential -- joining his campaign and then becoming the White House chief of staff.

Bush chief economic adviser Stephen Friedman was a former Goldman Sachs partner. And Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, spent more than 30 with the company -- a lot of alumni in prominent positions.

It's been a long day of questioning for the Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor on this, the second day of her confirmation hearings. She gave a more detailed explanation of her controversial remark suggesting that a wise Latina woman might make better judicial decisions than a white man.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, covered all of this today.

It was a pretty dramatic day, the first day of actual questioning of this nominee, Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, almost six hours of questioning during this first day of Q&A with the senators.

And, you know, it really ranged from questions about her judicial philosophy to her temperament. But everybody knew that what was going to make headlines were questions about her so-called wise Latina comment. The That's why Democrats got to her on it before Republicans could.


BASH (voice-over): The Democratic chairman opened with a preemptive strike.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: You've heard all of these charges and countercharges, the wise Latina and on and on. Here's your chance.

JUDGE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judging.

BASH: But Judge Sotomayor's denials of bias on the bench did little to reassure Republicans.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: I just am very concerned that what you're saying today is quite inconsistent with your statement that you willingly accept that your sympathies, opinions and prejudices may influence your decision-making.

BASH: After Republican Jeff Sessions asked nearly a dozen questions about her controversial comment that a wise Latina woman could make a better judgment, Sotomayor backed off what she called a rhetorical flourish that fell flat.

SOTOMAYOR: It was bad, because it left an impression that I believed that life experiences commanded a result in a case, but that's clearly not what I do as a judge.

BASH: Perhaps the most dramatic line of questioning on the issue came from a Republican who is open to voting for her.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: But do you understand, ma'am, that if I had said anything like that, and my reasoning was that I'm trying to inspire somebody, they would have had my head? Do you understand that?

SOTOMAYOR: I do understand how those words could be taken that way, particularly if read in isolation.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't know how else you could take that. If Lindsey Graham said that I will make a better senator than X, because of my experience as a Caucasian male...

BASH: Studiously taking notes from start to finish, Sotomayor treaded carefully on hot-button issues that make any Supreme Court nomination so politically charged.

On abortion, she did what Republican nominees have, suggesting Roe v. Wade is settled law, hard for the court to reverse.


BASH: Sotomayor sidestepped questions on other controversial issues, everything from gun rights to executive power. Extreme caution was today's watchword.

That really frustrated some Republicans, who called her evasive. But they are thrilled. Democrats here on Capitol Hill and over at the White House, they are thrilled with her performance. In fact, one senior official just boasted to me via e-mail no one laid a glove on her. But, Wolf, there are, of course, several more rounds to go.

BLITZER: Yes, a lot more questioning. And the questioning will resume 9:35 a.m. Eastern tomorrow morning. We will have live coverage right here on CNN.

Dana, thank you.

A wrangling after a potential bombshell -- there is news that the CIA director told lawmakers the former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell them about a secret counterterror program. Is a full-scale investigation coming up?

And regarding Michael Jackson's kids, a newspaper claims she has -- quote -- "sold her kids again." Now Debbie Rowe's lawyers put out an angry response.

And every plane passenger's nightmare -- you are flying at 34,000 feet when out of nowhere a football-sized hole opens up in the plane. Could this happen? It did. Could it happen again?


BLITZER: The former Vice President Dick Cheney once again at the center of a controversy for trying to keep secrets -- at issue right now, reports, many reports, that it was Cheney himself who ordered the CIA to withhold information from Congress about a classified counterterrorism program.

Let's bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen. He was an adviser to four presidents.

This program, I am told, David, involved assassinations, close-in assassinations, right after 9/11 of al Qaeda suspects. It was never operational. It was widely discussed. Congress was not informed about it. Should it have been informed about it?


But we still don't know the full facts in this case. What we seem to know is that, after 9/11, Congress was informed by the Bush White House, the Bush administration that the president had approved the killing of al Qaeda operatives, but they were never informed of what the follow-up panning was, so that they never understood that they were actually trying to move toward an operational plan.

And indeed they never did have an operational plan. They were thinking of -- from all the reports, they were thinking of setting up small teams of commandos, in effect, to go in and kill people at close range, rather than using the drones, which can often cause a lot damage to civilians as a way -- has often been used to go after al Qaeda.

And the Congress rightly does expect under the National Security Act of 1947 with a lot of amendments since -- that act does require the executive branch to keep Congress fully informed, with some loopholes.

But, Wolf, you know from your own experience this is always a fight between the executive branch how much to tell Congress, and the Congress, which wants to know everything and fully believes -- and it should -- and it is appropriate under the law to be informed, and the executive branch terribly worried that if they tell too many people up on Capitol Hill, a very secret program will suddenly be in the newspapers.

It gets leaked within a few hours, and they're exposed, and the whole program collapses on them. At least that's the fear that a person like Dick Cheney has.

BLITZER: The most sensitive information, though, is only supposed to be shared with what's called the gang of eight, the House and Senate Democratic and Republican leaders, and the chairmen and the ranking members of the Intelligence Committee. It's supposed to be kept to those eight.

There is this loophole that you talk about in that 1947 National Security Act. It says that they should share information on these operations with Congress, to the extent consistent with due regard for the protection from unauthorized disclosure of classified information relating to sensitive intelligence sources and methods or other exceptionally sensitive matters.

So, there is a loophole?

GERGEN: There is a loophole. And it sort of -- it was written in there intentionally with the executive branch pushing for it, because they wanted to have this sort of fuzzy gray area where they would have a little bit more discretion.

And, in this case, they exercised their discretion not to tell. But the problem is, Wolf, that, for a long, long time, there has been this fight. It goes back decades, this struggle. But, with the Bush administration, there came to be an excessive sense of secrecy and an excessive sense of presidential powers.

And Congress got very, very agitated about that. And so, when it is learned now, now we have a new President Obama, that these things were going on, they are on the warpath to figure out what happened. Why were we not told? How do we hold the CIA more accountable?

Leon Panetta is caught in the middle, wanting to keep the morale of his terror at the CIA high, but feeling he also has to be very responsive to Congress. The president doesn't really want a full- blown investigation that's going to soak up airtime.

He would much rather have Sotomayor being the front and center and his health plan being front and center.

So, this is one of those classic Washington controversies that is spinning against the CIA, spinning against the Bush administration. And we don't quite know yet where it is going to wind up.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect it will wind up with some investigations, some committee hearings by the House and/or Senate Intelligence Committee.

GERGEN: I suspect...


BLITZER: And I think they're going to want to call George Tenet and Michael Hayden, the two former CIA directors during the Bush administration, to come up there and explain what they did and what they didn't know.

We have got to leave it there, David.

GERGEN: OK. Thank you.

BLITZER: Unless you have a quick final thought.

GERGEN: But just -- the big question is, will they call them up in public hearings or will they do it behind closed doors? That's going to be a key point.

BLITZER: Yes. I suspect behind closed doors to start, and let's see if it goes public later.

GERGEN: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, David, for that.

Imagine you are on a plane and, suddenly, you can look up and see the sky through the roof. It happened on a Southwest Airlines flight, new details of a nightmare in the sky.

Also, the country's newest senator gets a front-row seat to history. We're talking about Minnesota's Al Franken, part of the Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearings.

And new developments in a potential custody battle over Michael Jackson's children.


BLITZER: What a nightmare in the sky. A hole opens up on a Southwest flight in midair, forcing emergency landing. And lots of questions need to be answered.

We asked CNN's Brian Todd to take a closer look at this nightmare.

What happened?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first, we are going to show you this hole. This is a hole the size of a football. It's actually just forward of the tail section of the plane.

And there is the hole right there with part of the fuselage kind of flapped out of it. Now, experts say, contrary to popular myth, passenger aircraft are built to withstand damage like this. But it did force an emergency landing. And experts are telling us, keep an eye on the issue of wear and tear.


TODD (voice-over): ... reunion on the ground. A passenger recalls what it was like to get her small children through the ordeal when a football-sized hole in the fuselage forced their Southwest Airlines jet to make an emergency landing.

SHERYL BRYANT, PASSENGER: Especially as a parent, you are doing a lot of talking and calming and that kind of thing and how you have never gone through this before, and it's kind of exciting, and... TODD: No one was injured when the plane with more than 130 people aboard veered off its Nashville-to-Baltimore route and landed in Charleston, West Virginia.

A Southwest Airlines spokeswoman says there is no word yet on the cause. Former NTSB investigators tell us metal fatigue, possibly from dents or repair patches, will be thoroughly examined.

The age of the aircraft also contributes to metal fatigue. This Boeing 737-300 came into service in 1994. Experts say it is not the number of years that determine the wear and tear from age, but cycles. Each takeoff and landing together is one cycle.

BEN BERMAN, FORMER NTSB CHIEF INVESTIGATOR: You will see some characteristic marks that look like kind of rings of sand on the beach as the tide goes in and out that show how the metal may have fatigued as the airplane pressurized and then depressurized with each flight.

TODD: The possibility of metal fatigue has experts recalling this horrific 1988 accident, when the top of an Aloha Airlines jet peeled off during flight, killing a flight attendant.

The pilots managed to land the plane in Maui. We talked about that with former NTSB managing director Peter Goelz.

(on camera): Are there any comparisons that you can draw with the Southwest Airlines flight and what may have happened there to something far more catastrophic, like this Aloha Airlines jet in 1988?

PETER GOELZ, FORMER MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: Well, this accident was really the watershed event for the aging aircraft program that keeps our planes flying safely. And the NTSB investigated this accident and found that it was a combination of fatigue in the rivets combined with corrosion from flying in a high-salt environment.


TODD: Goelz says the salt content in the Pacific Air took a massive toll on the metal fuselage of that Aloha Airlines jet, which was also a 737. But he says, with the Southwest Airlines plane, it is more likely that metal fatigue, if that is what caused this, was the result of those takeoff and landing cycles, or possible maintenance mishap with that section of the fuselage.

Wolf, he said it could have even been something like a mechanic dropping a wrench on it, which, combined with the age and the wear and tear, could have caused this.

BLITZER: Yes, who thinks that just that that could have resulted?

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: We know that Southwest Airlines last year was penalized by the FAA for operating planes without conducting these checks for fuselage cracking.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Do we know if this plane, this specific plane was one of those checked?

TODD: We checked with the FAA and Southwest Airlines about that. Now, Southwest tells us they are not sure if this was among that fleet of planes. An FAA official says that they are trying to determine that.

But this one official said that the damage in this Southwest Airlines plane from last night was forward on the plane from the area where a lot of those cracks were discovered last year. It is unclear whether this is part of that fleet. So, that may be determined later.

BLITZER: It shouldn't be hard to determine that. We will check it out.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brian, for that.

Sonia Sotomayor said it over and over again today, but are Republicans buying her claim that it is not her job as a judge to make the law? The best political team on television is standing by.

Michael Jackson's ex-wife accused of trying to leverage her kids for cash. Her lawyer now responds to claims that a custody deal has been struck.

And, later, Senator Al Franken's front-row to seat to history. The former comedian takes the president's Supreme Court nominee very seriously.


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

Happening now: Judge Sonia Sotomayor under the microscope. The Supreme Court takes a grilling by sometimes testy senators on everything from her background to Roe vs. Wade. How is she holding but?

New Senator Al Franken makes his debut with a lot of face time at Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing. We're taking a closer look at how the former funny man is taking his new job very seriously.

And the custody drama over Michael Jackson's children. Lawyers for the biological mother of two of them deny reports she is using them as a bargaining chip to make money -- all of this coming up, plus the best political team on television.

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

There are new twists and turns surrounding Michael Jackson's children after his death.

Today, a newspaper reported that the mother of the two kids -- quote -- "sold her kids again," claiming Debbie Rowe worked out a custody deal with Katherine Jackson, Michael Jackson's mother.

But Rowe's lawyers maintain that's flat-out false.

Let's go straight to CNN's Randi Kaye. She has been working the story for us.

What do we know about this latest development and the overall investigation, Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, so much drama still around this custody case.

"The New York Post" is reporting that Debbie Rowe has reached a deal in exchange for the two children that she had with Michael Jackson for $4 million. The newspaper also said that she would forfeit her parental rights, all of this supposedly according to a family source.

Well, CNN called Debbie Rowe's attorney to ask if this story was true. And we were told, simply -- quote -- "completely false." That was all we got. Well, that happened this morning. But, hours later, Debbie Rowe's attorney, Eric George, demanded a retraction.

Now, "The Post" told CNN it stands by its story. But Rowe's attorney sent this letter, which we have right here, to the paper. It reads, in part: "This letter constitutes a demand for an immediate retraction."

It goes on to say: "There has been no agreement reached between Ms. Rowe and the Jacksons. And Ms. Rowe has not and will not give up her parental rights." Also, that "no determination has been reached concerning custody or visitation."

What's interesting, Wolf, about this letter is that it never says that there aren't negotiations taking place behind-the-scenes. It just simply says an agreement has not been reached yet.

We reported last night on CNN that a deal is being brokered behind the scenes by the family's attorneys and that Debbie Rowe, according to our source close to the family, is expected to be paid "many millions" for giving up custody and visitation with the two children.

BLITZER: You also, Randi, had a chance to speak with the man in charge of Michael Jackson's security detail.

Did he shed any new light on Michael Jackson's apparent drug problem?

KAYE: He did, actually. I spoke with this man. And he worked for Jackson from 2001, actually, until 2004. And he told me: "Jackson and I spoke of his addiction." He also talked about how hard he was working and how he was trying to do everything in his power to get off prescription drugs. This man told me that Michael Jackson knew he had a drug problem and was addicted to prescription drugs.

He told me that Jackson was taking lots of prescription medicines. He "didn't like the way it made him feel." He said that they would stay up sometimes all night, until 5:00 in the morning, because Michael Jackson, he said, could not shut off his brain. The way he put it was, he had a "constant beat in his head."

So Michael Jackson was really having a hard time sleeping.

But I want to update you on one big thing today, Wolf, from the investigation. We've reported there's this list of doctors that our source told us investigators have been working their way through and learning what they can about the doctors that -- and what they possibly prescribed Michael Jackson, trying to figure out which of these medications, if any, may have contributed to his death.

And our source told us last week that along with Jackson's personal physician, his long time dermatologist, Dr. Arnold Klein, is on the list of doctors being looked at.

Well, today, late in the day, it turns out that a swarm of media descended on Dr. Klein's office. Apparently, the assistant coroner was there to pick up more records related to Dr. Klein's treatment of Michael Jackson. We know that Jackson was at his office just a few days before his death. Klein said that when he was there, he danced for other patients and he looked healthy.

But Ed Winter, the assistant coroner and investigator for the office, spoke when he left Dr. Klein's office.

This is what he said.


ED WINTER, ASSISTANT CORONER: We're still conducting our investigation. There is a security hold on the case and I can't comment either way.


QUESTION: Are these new documents or are you looking at medication, as well?

WINTER: No, no. We're just -- we're looking for some documentation that Dr. Klein has agreed to provide to us.


QUESTION: Medical records of Michael Jackson?


QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) toxicology results (INAUDIBLE)?

WINTER: No. No. We hope to...


WINTER: We hope to have the findings probably the middle of this next week.

QUESTION: How many medical records have you been able to get?

WINTER: Not -- Dr. Klein has cooperated with us extensively.


KAYE: What this means for the investigation, Wolf, still unclear. But, certainly, investigators appear to still be gathering as much information as they can to try and make sense of what role his many doctors might have played in his death.


Randi Kaye doing excellent reporting for CNN, as she always does.

Randi, thanks very much.

Let's bring in Jim Moret, chief correspondent for "INSIDE EDITION," who knows a great deal about what's going on.

What do you make of this back and forth between "The New York Post" and Debbie Rowe's attorney that, deal or no deal?

JIM MORET, "INSIDE EDITION" CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, Debbie Rowe's attorney didn't say there's no deal in the works. He said there's no deal. He said that Deborah Rowe doesn't want any additional money over and above that which she already agreed to with Michael Jackson.

So I don't know that that is inconsistent with what's being reported that a deal is in the works. All he's saying quite emphatically is the deal isn't done, the deal isn't signed.

He said he -- she has not and will not give up her parental rights. Look -- look, there may be something, Wolf, in this where she may want some visitation of -- of the children.

Joe Jackson could be the wild card in this. You know that Debbie Rowe spoke to an attorney last week and made it very clear that she did not want her children to be raised by Joe Jackson, especially in light of the fact that Michael Jackson had for years claimed that he was abused by Joe Jackson. And then we just heard Joe Jackson a couple of days ago talking about the potential of getting those kids in show business.

So, you know, there are some wild cars here. And there's nothing inconsistent with the fact that the hearings have been delaying. We've been told that both sides are talking and we have every reason to believe that this can be worked out without a bitter court battle.

BLITZER: And we know that the scheduled resumption of that custody hearing is supposed to be next Monday, unless there's a further delay in that.

What does California law say her rights are as the biological mother of the two older kids -- parental rights?

MORET: She is presumed to have custodial rights as the biological mother. Now, the judge has to take into consideration what is in the best interests of the child. These children, as far as we are told, do not know Deborah Rowe to be their mother. That doesn't mean that she doesn't have rights.

But, you know, you have to take what's best for the children. First of all, Debbie Rowe only has interest in two of the children. There are three children involved here. You don't want to split up the kids. They know Katherine. They know the aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. There's a family bond there. I know that Katherine has made it very clear she wants to raise these kids in a normal, loving environment.

That doesn't mean that -- that Debbie Rowe doesn't have rights. But she's going to have to show that -- that this is in the best interests of the kids for her to have two of them.

BLITZER: Jim Moret, thanks very much.

We'll speak with you tomorrow.

It's a remark that comes back to haunt her -- now the Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, finally gets a chance to explain what she meant about "a wise Latina woman judge." And the senators are reacting.

Plus, Senator Al Franken makes a high profile debut and it's no laughing matter.



SOTOMAYOR: I want to state up front, unequivocally and without doubt, I do not believe that any ethnic, racial or gender group has an advantage in sound judgment.

I believe my record of 17 years demonstrates fully that I do believe that law -- that judges must apply the law and not make the law. My record shows that at no point or time have I ever permitted my personal views or sympathies to influence an outcome of a case. The job of a judge is to apply the law. And so it's not the heart that compels conclusions in cases, it's the law.


BLITZER: Sonia Sotomayor very firm in explaining what she sees her role to be.

Let's assess what happened today, the first day of questioning.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here; our chief national correspondent, John King, the anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION"; and our CNN senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin.

Did she -- did she make her case convincingly -- Jeff?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think she did what she had to do, which was she had an answer on the "wise Latina" question. Maybe it wasn't the greatest answer in the world -- she made a mistake, she spoke imperfectly, it wasn't a very good analogy. But she made clear that she doesn't think Latinas are smarter or better judges than other people.

She -- her answer is out there. I think that's all she needs to do.

BLITZER: And Lindsey Graham had this exchange with her. He put her really in the hot seat.


GRAHAM: But do you understand, ma'am, that if I had said anything like that and my reasoning was that I'm trying to inspire somebody, that they would have had my head?

Do you understand that?

SOTOMAYOR: I do understand how those words could be taken that way, particularly if read in isolation.

GRAHAM: Well, I don't know how you could take that. Lindsey Graham said that I will make a better senator than X because of my experience as a Caucasian male makes me better able to represent the people of South Carolina. And my opponent was a minority. It would make national news and it should.


BLITZER: Yes. He really was tough with her.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, he was -- he was very tough with her. But I think he gets the award today for being the most honest questioner, the most down to Earth questioner. He -- he scored points, but not just for political reasons. He allowed at the outset, you know, I might end up voting for you. I'm not going to make this particular statement the make or break statement.

But he did say to her, look, you know, you've got to watch your words when you speak publicly. He also made the case, Wolf, that she has to watch her temperament.

BLITZER: And it was interesting he might -- he said, also, you know, I might still vote for you after all is said and done -- John.

TOOBIN: Right.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And I think that's what made it so interesting. That was the most captivating and the most compelling, those 30 minutes with Lindsey Graham, because it was more of a conversation. It was less scripted and rehearsed.

He's a practiced attorney, as well as a practiced politician. And she had to navigate with him. And he also planted some seeds, Wolf, of what we will see in the next round on war powers, the president's war powers, detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. He asked some questions about that; indicated he's coming back.

He tried to flush her out on her positions as a lawyer when she was an advocate back for a Hispanic legal group on abortion and other issues.

So he's going to come back again. But the key point there was he said -- it was tough love, if you will, saying that, you know, presidents get to make their picks. I'll probably vote for you in the end, even though I disagree with you.

TOOBIN: He was, also, I think, a little misleading about how Constitutional law works.

Because he said to her at one point, well, does the Constitution say anything about abortion?

Well, you know what, the Constitution doesn't say anything about school segregation either, but that's un-Constitutional. The Constitution doesn't say anything about how you can't force a child to salute the flag if it's against their religion.

The words of the Constitution only are the beginning. They're the key part, but, you know, I think that was a little misleading.

BLITZER: And he read -- he read some statements other lawyers have made regarding her -- anonymously, with no names attached -- not very flattering, indeed. And he said, you know what, you're about to become a Supreme Court justice. Maybe it's time you rethink some of the way you do business.

BORGER: He said that maybe this is time for a little bit of reflection. And, you know, he also made the point, though, that -- that there are others who praised her. These are anonymous statements that are made by -- by people and, you know, it's very easy to criticize somebody anonymously. But I think -- I think she took it to heart.

What we saw today from Lindsey Graham was part one. This was the softer stuff, setting the ground for the other questions he's going to raise. I also think he set the ground for asking questions about the death penalty -- how she feels about the death penalty.

And he's going to come back, like the good lawyer that he is, now that he's laid the groundwork, and. You're going to see the questions get tougher...

BLITZER: But, John...

BORGER: ...on substance.

BLITZER: She's going to be confirmed, we know that, barring some...

KING: And there were some very interesting...

BLITZER: ...major bombshell.

KING: ...very interesting legal discussions today. There will be more. But on the political calculation, the Democrats have 60 votes, which means she has to lose 10 to make this at all iffy and risky. She'll probably get a couple of Republican votes, maybe 10 or 12.

But the first calculation is, is she losing any Democrats?

If you ask the Senate Democratic leadership and you ask the White House, they say not one Democrat so far has come to them saying I'm a little worried about how I vote on this one.

So they feel as safe as can be at the end of a big day.

BLITZER: 9:30 tomorrow morning the questioning continues and all of us will be watching.

BORGER: We will.


BLITZER: Thanks, guys.

TOOBIN: The nerd Super Bowl.


TOOBIN: We love it.



TOOBIN: I can't wait.

BLITZER: The news junkies, that's us.

All right, let's check in with Lou.

He's watching this and a lot more coming up at the top of the hour -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: That's right, Wolf.

Thank you.

Complete coverage today of day two of Judge Sotomayor's confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill. Tonight, we examine the judge's latest retreat from her previous statements, this time from her controversial assertion that a "wise Latina woman" would make better judgments than a white male. We'll also take a look at Judge Sotomayor's responses to a number of questions on issues facing the Supreme Court, including gun rights and illegal immigration. Two of the country's best legal analysts join us.

And House Democrats moving closer to an all-out investigation into the policies of former President Bush and former Vice President Cheney in connection with CIA missions kept secret from Congress. We'll ask whether an investigation is warranted, whether Democrats are playing politics with national security.

Who will be the winner?

Who will be the loser?

That's the subject of our face-off debate tonight.

Join us for all of that, all the day's news and more at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: See you then, Lou.

Thank you.

From "Saturday Night Live" to the U.S. Senate, "SNL" fans will hardly recognize Al Franken as he takes a new front row seat in history.

And we all know you shouldn't text while driving. One teen learns the hard way why you probably shouldn't text while walking, either.


BLITZER: Democrat Al Franken is getting a very high profile forum to make his debut as a U.S. Senator, after the long drawn out election challenge in Minnesota. Franken has a front row seat to Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearing as the most junior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. And the former "Saturday Night Live" comedian wants everyone to know he's taking his job very seriously.

Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is watching this story for us -- Jessica.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Senator Franken will be in the spotlight tomorrow. As you say, as the most junior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he'll get a chance a to grill Sonia Sotomayor.

Some advice -- don't hold your breath waiting for a punch line.


YELLIN (voice-over): Like a kid starting school, the Senate's newest member was the first to show up for Tuesday's Judiciary Committee hearing and he seems to be making friends.

Less than seven days into his term, Senator Al Franken is striking a tone that's somber...

SEN. AL FRANKEN (D), MINNESOTA: I am concerned that Americans are making new barriers to defending their individual rights.

YELLIN: ...and exceedingly deferential. To committee Chairman Patrick Leahy...

FRANKEN: I have admired your strength and integrity.

YELLIN: ranking Republican, Jeff Sessions.

FRANKEN: I look forward to working over the years with you and my other Republican colleagues.

YELLIN: And to the committee as a whole.

FRANKEN: I know I have a lot to learn from each of you.

YELLIN: Don't hold your breath waiting for a punch line. No jokes here. The former comedian barely smiled. It's the same serious Franken we saw during his race for the Senate seat. But that voice is instantly recognizable to fans of "Saturday Night Live."


FRANKEN: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggonne it, people like me.


YELLIN: And that's still how visitors to the U.S. Capitol think of Al Franken.

(on camera): I say Senator Franken, you think?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm strong enough, I'm good enough and doggonne it, people like me.

YELLIN: But they're flexible, saying he can earn their respect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. It depends on what he does when he's in there, not what he did before, but what he's -- what he's about now.

YELLIN: He'll have a chance to show his stuff when he begins questioning Sotomayor during the hearing on Wednesday.


YELLIN: And, Wolf, over the last few days, Franken has been spotted walking around the Capitol actually asking Capitol Police for directions. He's clearly the new guy on the job. He has said already that he plans to take a low profile, take some time to learn and that though he is the Democrats' 60th vote, he will not be a rubber stamp for the Democratic agenda.

BLITZER: We'll watch his questioning of Sonia Sotomayor tomorrow.

Thanks very much, Jessica Yellin.

On our "Political Ticker," President Obama landed in St. Louis just a short while ago with the baseball legend Willie Mays at his side. The president is set to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the All Star game tonight. It will be only the fifth time in the 76 year history of the All Star game that a commander-in-chief has performed that honor. Presidents routinely throw out the first baseball at Major League baseball games on opening day or at the World Series, but it's been more than 30 years since a president took the pitcher's mound at the mid-summer classic.

That would be, by the way, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt. They were the only other presidents to demonstrate their pitching skills at the All Star game.

I hope he throws a good strike right in there.

Some people can't walk and text messages at the same time. One teenager is battered and bruised after typing and taking the wrong step. What happened to her could happen to you.


BLITZER: In this age of text messaging, it seems to be getting harder and harder to watch where you're going.

CNN's Jeanne Moos has the "Moost Unusual" story of a story of a teenager who learned the very hard way that texting while walking can land you in some deep trouble.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): It's one of those stories that almost sounds like a joke.

(on camera): Did you hear about the girl that fell in the manhole...


MOOS: ...while texting?


MOOS (voice-over): This 15-year-old from Staten Island fell six feet into this manhole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like there was no warning of a big open hole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How could my kid fall down a manhole?

MOOS: Well, for one thing, workers left the manhole open, her mom says, while they went to get safety cones. But the daughter was also checking out a text message on a friend's cell phone.


MOOS: And when folks heard texting was involved, insults like "idiot moron" started to fly. People posted joke text messages. This one translates to: "Oh, my God, be right back, I landed in a sewer. Talk to you later once I'm out of here."

But people who themselves text while walking shouldn't throw stones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I tripped over a cone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I had a tree branch -- I snapped a tree branch like that.

MOOS (on camera): I run into these.


We call this a pole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I've walked into the middle of like dog leashes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I ran into a bicyclist two days ago.

MOOS (voice-over): How about a motorcyclist...


MOOS: ...texting while driving on an expressway?

MAN: Isn't this (INAUDIBLE)?

MOOS: In an age when texting occurs at 12,000 feet while freefalling, not to mention while falling asleep...


MOOS: ...someone coined this term...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The techno sexual.

MOOS: a mock public service from the Web site GizMoto. We all have our excuses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was checking a date.

MOOS (on camera): I read. I go through and I delete e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm embarrassed by my texting. There should be a black line over it.


MOOS (voice-over): In London, a certain street was outfitted with padding to protect preoccupied texters. If the collisions seem a little staged, it turns out this is a stunt involving the phone directly company. But at the rate we're going, maybe we could use a little sonar in our cell phones...


MOOS: demonstrated by this Hungarian research group.

(on camera): Have you ever had any mishaps texting while walking?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I stepped in dog poo.

MOOS (voice-over): At least she didn't end up getting banged up in a manhole with four inches of sewage. LOL it isn't.


MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.



Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.