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The Situation Room
Bill Clinton Speaks Out; Pastor Accused of Sexual Abuse
Aired September 21, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: former President Bill Clinton fighting for embattled Democrats ahead of an election that could cost the party control of Congress. This hour, his advice to candidates and to President Obama, plus the warning about the Tea Party movement.
Also, eight city officials arrested, accused of what a prosecutor calls corruption on steroids. Did they use their community's treasury as a personal piggy bank?
Plus, a prominent megachurch rocked by a lawsuit against its pastor, accusing him of sexual abuse. This hour, the church is responding.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The midterm election now only six weeks away and with President Obama's approval rating sagging and voters feeling strongly anti- incumbent, Bill Clinton may be Democrats' best weapon. The former president has campaigned in no fewer than eight states in the last month alone.
He is trying to help the party retain control of the Senate, where 37 seats are up for grabs and the House, where Democrats hold a 77-seat majority. The upcoming vote is so heated and many of the races so close, that the majority whip, Dick Durbin, now says the Senate will likely adjourn a week early so members can go home to fight to save their seats.
Mr. Clinton has some strong opinions about the momentum of the Tea Party movement, whose candidates have scored victories in Senate races from Alaska all the way to Delaware.
Bill Clinton and I spoke about that and much more today here in New York.
BLITZER: Are the Democrats underestimating the Tea Party movement?
BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know. I think it would be a mistake -- I think what we should say is, those Tea Partiers, 20 percent of them, by the way, say they would vote for Democrats if there were no Tea Party candidates on the ballot.
Those -- in their purest form, the Tea Partiers are saying: I have been let down by big business and big government. I have been let down because the big banks were bailed out, but nobody helped me, and the government that bailed them out, they are doing fine. They all have a job, making their mortgage payments, have health care, send their kids to college.
I want reform in both. But the funders of the Tea Party movement tend to be pretty far-right extremists who want -- their goal is to destroy the power of government to mediate the power of corporations. And I don't really think that's the sustainable position.
My advice for the Democrats is, don't play games. Make this about the American people. Tell them what we need to do and what you would do about it and ask them if they really think you are more likely to do it than your opponent.
I think we should just play it straight. If they have got a Tea Party opponent who says something weird, like the guy running for senator from Alaska who says unemployment compensation is unconstitutional, or the man running for senator from Arkansas who says that we should have a 23 percent across-the-board sales tax, instead of an income tax, which would raise taxes for 85 percent of our -- or the governor running in Colorado who says Denver's bike paths are a U.N. plot to take away the sovereignty of Denver away from the United States, they might want to comment on it.
But we should not be cute here. The American people are scared to death. And they're angry. And they want to know where we are going. My advice is, answer the throw them out after 21 months, say, no, no, give us two years. That will give us half as much time as you gave them. And if it's not better, throw us out.
You have to give -- you say, throw us out if it's not better. And then say, now let's talk about what we're going to do, who is more likely to do it.
Treat the American people with respect. Tell them what you are going to do. Ask them who is more likely to do it. If it is a choice, we can win. If it is a referendum, it is not good.
BLITZER: More of the interview, by the way, with Bill Clinton coming up later this hour on the economy and much more.
But there is some breaking news I want to get to over at the White House right now, where a top adviser to the president has just announced he is getting ready to leave.
I don't know if there has been a formal announcement, but we have learned that.
Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is joining us with more details.
What do we know about Larry Summers and his decision?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know it' official now, the White House putting out a statement really just within the last 10 or 15 minutes or so.
It is Larry Summers. He's leaving his position as director of National Economic Council. He, as you know, is a big personality, big stature, very formidable force in the economic team, one of the top advisers to the president.
He used to serve as the treasury secretary of President Clinton, also the chief economist of the World Bank, and of course he was the president of Harvard University. Well, that is where he is going back to teach.
President Obama released a statement praising him, very flattering, saying, "Over the past two, years he has helped to guide us over the depths of the worst recession since the 1930s to renewed growth. And while we have much work ahead to repair the damage done by recession, we are on a better path thanks in no small measure to Larry's wise counsel."
Larry Summers, as you know, Wolf, was one of those members of the economic team. Often, he got into some clashes with other members. He believed that you should be friendly business and to Wall Street. He was a little bit reticent about the amount of stimulus that was being pumped into the economy, so he clashed at times with some of the other members.
But the timing of this is really important to note, because this is a time, we just saw yesterday, when a lot of people quite frustrated with the Obama administration and the president over the economic situation that we are all in at this time, so there is a change here.
The White House is not describing it as a shakeup, but a natural evolution, but clearly, there needs to be some change here. What we are seeing just in the last three months or so, you had Peter Orszag, director of OMB, who has since left, Christina Romer as well, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, also gone.
Who is left? You've got Austan Goolsbee, who is replacing Romer. You also have one of the most powerful members, that of course the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. This is going to be a new team. It's going to look different. It's going to feel different. Obviously this administration is trying to respond to what people have been saying and that is we need to change this situation; we need to turn this economic mess around -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux with that breaking news, thanks very much. Let's go in depth now with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Three senior members of the senior economic team either gone or about to be gone. Is this a problem or an opportunity, Gloria, for the president?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, in a way, first of all, Wolf, it is to be expected. You know. You have covered the White House. I know folks at the White House. These jobs are burnout jobs, particularly given the last two years.
You can measure a year in the White House in dog years, particularly if you're in the economic team. So it is not a surprise that Larry Summers is leaving. As Suzanne said, he did clash with lots of folks. He was a forceful personality.
But I do believe it is an opportunity in a way for the White House. And I clearly think they see it that way, which is a way for them to integrate new policy, new economic policy, as they head into the next two years and even into the midterm election with the person that they are going to choose to replace Larry Summers.
We don't know who that is yet, but I would not be surprised with its new economic team if the White House is trying to send a signal to the American public that they are listening to their concerns and that they're focusing like a laser, as Bill Clinton would say, on economic policy.
BLITZER: We are going to start a series tomorrow, Gloria, here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I will be speaking with top business leaders, getting their thoughts on where are the economy needs to go, what needs to be done.
Donald Trump will be joining me here in New York tomorrow. That will be in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BORGER: He has been critical.
BLITZER: I will be looking forward to hearing what he has to say about jobs and the economy.
But let's get back to what the former President Bill Clinton told me. And you heard what he said about the Tea Party.
BLITZER: Is there a difference between what Bill Clinton is saying the Tea Party and what President Obama is saying?
BORGER: Yes, you know, there is a big difference, because President Obama doesn't really talk about the Tea Party, Wolf. When you talk to folks at the White House, they -- it is very clear they don't want to give the Tea Party movement any more oxygen than they have to before the midterm elections. So you can understand why he is not out there talking about it a lot, but Bill Clinton is very clever. As we all know, he is a great politician. He had a great way of dealing with it without saying that there are a lot of kooky ideas from some candidates out there. He then started talking about some of those far-out ideas from some of the candidates out there.
And he was also very smart in the way he separated the funders of the Tea Party, these people who are interested in corporate special interests, the big-money folks, from the people who are actually members of the Tea Party movement, whom he said are scared and anxious. And Democrats, he said, ought to listen to them, the people, not the funders, but the people, because I think it is very clear he wanted to turn the funders into just another bunch of Republican fat cats. Very smart.
BLITZER: Very smart, indeed.
All right, Gloria, thanks very much.
As I say, more of my interview with the former president coming up. He also says he has lost 24 pounds and is reversing his heart disease, yet he is not even exercising, he says, as much as he used to. How is Bill Clinton doing it? He spills the secrets to me -- more of the one-on-one interview with the president. You are going to want to hear about his diet right now.
And critics accuse her of using campaign funds for personal expenses like rent, food, even bowling. Now this controversial Senate candidate lands a counterpunch.
And the first lady, Michelle Obama, is about to take the campaign trail by storm -- new details are coming in our CNNPolitics.com desk.
BLITZER: Christine O'Donnell is adamantly denying allegations she misused campaign funds from a past race. Delaware's GOP Senate nominee is addressing that controversy and so is her new campaign counsel, who gave an exclusive TV interview to CNN.
Our Brian Todd is joining us now live from Wilmington, Delaware, with the latest -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Christine O'Donnell has recruited this high-powered lawyer to deal with these allegations that she misused campaign funds. That attorney is counterpunching hard right now while O'Donnell herself tries to take the high road.
TODD (voice-over): Swarmed by admirers after a campaign event, Christine O'Donnell chastises reporters who want to know about her finances, says she will address that on one condition.
CHRISTINE O'DONNELL (R), DELAWARE SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: If you back up and let me talk to the voters that I came here to see.
TODD: Minutes later, O'Donnell tells us she did not misuse previous campaign funds. But then I ask her about specific charges that some $20,000 from her 2008 Senate campaign were used for her personal expenses, rent, food, even a bowling outing.
(on camera): Mrs. O'Donnell, would you be able to talk about the specific question on the $20,000?
O'DONNELL: No truth to it.
TODD: ... personal -- no truth...
O'DONNELL: I will release a statement.
O'DONNELL: No truth to it, though, I assure you, Brian.
TODD (voice-over): The accusations come from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed a complaint with federal and state officials about O'Donnell's expenses. CREW cites information it says it got from a former O'Donnell campaign follow.
MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: By committing tax evasion, false statements, and basically embezzling her campaign funds, Ms. O'Donnell has broken the criminal law and must be held to account for that.
TODD: The counterpunch comes from O'Donnell's new campaign counsel, Cleta Mitchell, who we caught up with in Washington. She specifically addressed the charge that O'Donnell spent that campaign money on personal items at a time last year and early this year that critics say she didn't have a campaign.
CLETA MITCHELL, CHRISTINE O'DONNELL CAMPAIGN COUNSEL: Well, she did have a campaign, because she had gone from running in 2008 to running in 2010. She was already running. Christine has run for federal office I think three times at least. And, so, she moved from one campaign to another. And, frankly, the campaign headquarters was her home. That is not unusual.
TODD: Mitchell says CREW's claims is libelous, that CREW is a partisan liberal-leaning group that goes after only conservative politicians, allegations that CREW vehemently denies.
I asked Delaware political explain Jason Mycoff if he senses any swing in momentum based on these allegations?
(on camera): What do you make of the allegations from CREW and the financial improprieties at this point in the race? JASON MYCOFF, UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE: Well, these allegations have been raised throughout the campaign by the Castle campaign. And it is awfully difficult to prove these sorts of allegations quickly enough to affect the election, other than a shift in public opinion.
TODD: Mycoff says public opinion can shift very quickly in this state. He points out that O'Donnell was trailing her Republican primary opponent, Mike Castle, until near the end of that race, and then swept past him.
He says, literally, anything can happen between O'Donnell and her current opponent, Democrat Chris Coons, in the next six weeks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Has he, Chris Coons, Brian, had anything to say at all about O'Donnell's financial situation?
TODD: I asked a campaign aid for Coons this afternoon about that, Wolf. He said, no, they're not going to weigh in on this at all. He said that they're going to focus on the issues, that O'Donnell's campaign finances are a matter for her to deal with, and he emphatically said they have had no contact with this group CREW and they have no connection with them. They're going to focus on the issues.
BLITZER: Brian Todd in Delaware for us.
And I will be co-moderating a debate October 13 in Delaware between these two Senate candidates. That debate will originate at the University of Delaware. It will air right here on CNN October 13, Christine O'Donnell Chris Coons, together in our CNN/University of Delaware debate.
Money in the bank is a powerful asset in any political campaign. And the Democratic Party has more of it. New fund-raising reports show the Democratic Party's their campaign committees brought in a total of about $26.7 million last month. They spent more than $25 million of it and have more than $75 million on hand.
The Republican Party numbers are substantially lower, with about $20.6 million raised last month, more than $14 million spent, just under $55 million cash on hand -- money and politics.
For more political news, let's check in now with CNN's deputy political director, Paul Steinhauser, and our senior political editor, Mark Preston. They are over at the CNNPolitics.com desk.
First to you, Paul. What do you have?
PAUL STEINHAUSER, CNN DEPUTY POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Wolf, it is six weeks until the midterm elections, the 2010 elections.
But you know what? In some ways, it seems like the 2012 battle for the GOP presidential nomination is already under way. Brand-new on the ticker tonight, Jay McMichael (ph), take a look at this, Tim Pawlenty, he has now endorsed 30 Republican candidates in New Hampshire.
And Wolf, earlier today, I learned that Pawlenty is going to New Hampshire next week to campaign with the Republicans' gubernatorial nominee up there. Also in Massachusetts in the next couple days, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and -- and from Mississippi the governor down there, Haley Barbour.
What do all three men have in common? They all may -- may want to run for the Republican presidential nomination. And, of course, New Hampshire is a very important state in presidential politics.
Mark, what have you got?
MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: Hey, Wolf, you know, we haven't seen much of her on the campaign trail. In fact, there had been some grumbling that Michelle Obama was not doing enough for Democrats, but this just in, expect her on the campaign trail.
In fact, Michelle Obama is going to campaign for at least nine Democratic candidates, a couple Democratic committees, including the Democratic National Committee. She will travel to five states starting October 13. She will wrap it up in California on the 27th for an event for Barbara Boxer.
We know that Barbara Boxer is caught in a very difficult reelection campaign with Carly Fiorina. Michelle Obama's favorability rating, Wolf, is 62 percent, very, very high. Let me show you, Sarah Palin's is 38 percent. And the president's favorability rating is 53 percent. But why is she so important on campaign trail?
Because 69 percent of women have a favorable opinion of Michelle Obama -- 58 percent of independent voters think very highly of her.
And, Wolf, let me be one of the first to congratulate you on this debate in Delaware. CNN, of course, will be co-moderating this debate with Chris Coons and Christine O'Donnell originating from the University of Delaware. You will be there along with Nancy Karibjanian from public broadcasting in Delaware, very big news, very big debate. I can't wait to see it.
BLITZER: I'm looking for to it, guys. Thanks very much. Our viewers I think will look forward to it as well.
A check of today's top stories, that is coming up next.
And later: Has President Obama lost his mojo? It is a question I put to former President Bill Clinton. His answer, you will want to hear it, that's coming up.
Plus: Shocking allegations are leveled against a prominent pastor. We will have a live report.
Lots of news happening today right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Two Georgia men are accusing well-known Atlanta pastor Bishop Eddie Long of sexually abusing them and other young male church members during overnight trips. The allegations are being leveled in two lawsuits.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now with more details.
What do we know, Ed?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, this is a story that is just starting to develop here in the state of Georgia. These two young men, now 20 and 21, one by the name of Maurice Robinson, another by the name of Anthony Flagg, they were members of the church very close to Bishop Eddie Long.
And according to the lawsuits filed this afternoon here in the state of Georgia, essentially, what they accuse the bishop of according to this lawsuit is using coercion and manipulation to engage these young men into sexual acts, including oral sex as well.
So, these are allegations that are very, very shocking, to say the least, to Bishop Eddie Long, considering that the bishop is the leader of a very powerful church, a megachurch here in the Atlanta area, some 25,000 members. Bishop Eddie Long is an international televangelist. He's made quite a name for himself over the years.
In fact, just a few years ago, when Coretta Scott King, the wife of the Reverend Martin Luther King, passed away, her funeral service was held at Bishop Long's church. He shared the stage with three former presidents. So, these are stunning allegations that are being leveled at against him at this point.
We have reached out to his spokesperson, who basically told us this afternoon that they categorically deny these allegations and that they find it unfortunate that someone has gone down this path. They say their attorneys are reviewing the allegations at this point and will be able to provide further comment later.
But this is also because Bishop Long has been a very conservative, outspoken critic of anti-gay marriage. And allegations like these are surely to be shocking to many people in his congregation. As I mentioned, Wolf, this is a story that is just beginning to develop here in the Atlanta area.
BLITZER: I just want to clarify. He's anti-gay marriage or pro- gay marriage?
LAVANDERA: Anti-gay marriage, has been very vocal on this issue over the last few years, has held rallies about it in the past as well, so, clearly, this is the allegations that are being leveled against him with what -- these two men are accusing him of having improper sexual relationships with him -- will be very shocking to many people who follow him closely.
BLITZER: Shocking, indeed. All right, Ed, thanks very much.
Troubling new unemployment data and there's one thing Bill Clinton says President Obama can do right now to help. More of my interview with the former president, that's coming up next.
Plus, officials accused of using their city treasury as a personal piggy bank -- details of what a prosecutor is now calling corruption on steroids.
BLITZER: New details are revealing an even grimmer picture of U.S. unemployment -- the Labor Department announcing today the jobless rate rose in 27 states in August, almost double the 14 states that saw unemployment rise in July.
Former President Bill Clinton had some advice for President Obama as our interview continued.
BLITZER: A few quick questions, a few quick answers on some domestic issues right now. What is the single most important thing President Obama can do to turn the economy around?
CLINTON: I think the quickest thing he can do is to recognize the stunning report that just came out last week -- I mean last month.
The unemployment rate came out, said that it went to 9.6 because we had more private sector jobs, but the census workers were laid off. Buried in that unemployment rate was the stunning finding that for the first time since World War II, we are coming out of recession where posted job openings, that is, they will hire us tomorrow, you and me, posted job openings are going up twice as fast as job hires, because a little bit of the huge number of Americans living in homes worth less than their mortgages, so they can't move, but mostly because of the skills mismatch.
So, I think the quickest thing you could do is to accelerate the transfer the discretionary training money to states or to the local labor department people direct to employers so that people, while they're drawing unemployment, can get trained and move and fill those jobs.
That is what Michael Thurmond, the labor commissioner in Georgia, is trying to do. He's trained several thousand people on the job.
BLITZER: So, you see some silver -- you see some light at the end of this tunnel?
CLINTON: Oh, yes.
If we were just -- first of all, let's look at the facts here. According to this report -- now, these are the jobs that are posted all over America; I will hire you tomorrow. If we were filling those jobs, if we had been since last June filling those jobs at the same rate we were filling them in the early months of my presidency and the early months of every other previous recession, there would be 5 million more workers at work; unemployment would 6.9. So that's the quickest thing.
Then you've got to create more jobs in small business, manufacturing and clean energy. And we have to find ways to get the banks to loan money, because they have $1.8 trillion in cash uncommitted to loans, and to resolve whatever doubts the corporations have about investing the $1.6 trillion they have in cash.
BLITZER: That's easier said than done, but the president will have to show leadership, and here's the question: has he lost his mojo?
CLINTON: No, no, no. No. Their argument, the Republican argument is that we should throw him out because he had 20 months to get us out of the hole, 21 months; and we're not out of the hole, so we should put them back in.
Our argument should be two-fold. And they have a larger argument which is all of this strategy, the stimulus, the student loan program, the financial oversight Bill, and the health-care Bill are part of some vast conspiracy to have government choke off our life.
But our argument should be two-fold. We should say, you -- they've dug this hole over eight years. We had big problems before the financial meltdown. They want you to throw us out over -- after 21 months, and put them back in so they can do what they were doing before.
They promise -- they've been very honest. I'll give the Republicans credit. They promise to repeal financial oversight; to repeal the student loan reform, which is the best thing in my lifetime to get kids in school and in community colleges and help them stay there. They want to repeal health care, not improve it, which would be crazy, because the system they advocate, with the health-insurance companies running it, gave the health insurance a 26 percent -- insurance companies 26 percent increase in profits last year, taking us to over 70 percent of income for health care for the first time, spend $1 trillion more than all of our competitors, and every other rich country has a lower infant mortality rate and longer life expectancy. So we need to fix it, not make it better.
I think that the Democrats' argument should be, "Give us two more years. We've got our ideas under way. If it's not better, you can vote us all -- vote against us all."
BLITZER: In 2012?
CLINTON: Yes. "You gave us -- you gave them eight years to dig the hole. Just give us four to get out of it. If it's not better, go ahead and throw us out, but for goodness sakes don't bring back the shovel brigade."
And then I think they should pivot to saying, "What should we do now? We need more jobs, more financing, more training. Here's what our position is. Compare it with theirs."
In other words, if this election is a choice about the future, we have a chance to do quite well. If it's just a referendum on people's frustration, it's a bad deal for us.
BLITZER: The former president is here in New York for the sixth annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, which he started back in 2005. CNN's Mary Snow is joining us.
Mary, this is an eclectic gathering that comes together now every year in New York.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is. You know, from presidents to pop stars, it's really a chance to brainstorm; also make deals. We've heard President Clinton explain it, but you don't always see the end result, and today, we got a chance to do just that.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To get an idea of what is done at the Clinton Global Initiative, meet Jacob Lief, who runs an education fund in South Africa. He's here to network with people like former NBA star and philanthropist Dikembe Mutombo, who runs a foundation in the Congo, where he's from.
DIKEMBE MUTOMBO, FORMER NBA STAR: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
SNOW: Among the crowd of roughly 1,300 people, former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, Barbra Streisand, Google CEO Eric Schmidt, dozens of current or former heads of state, along with leaders of business and nonprofit groups, all brought together by former president Bill Clinton.
CLINTON: Thank you all.
SNOW: This is the sixth year of the Clinton Global Initiative, and the president touts $57 billion worth of commitments to date, helping improve the lives of 220 million people.
CLINTON: Reducing the burdens of illness due to dirty water, increasing access to education, whatever it is, I hope you will have an idea of what is most needed in the places you care most about.
JACOB LIEF, UBUNTU EDUCATION FUND: Everyone has got a name tag on. You can literally walk up to anyone you want and introduce yourself and just start to tell them what you're doing.
SNOW: For Lief, it's a chance to talk about the Ubuntu Education Fund he runs in the Port Elizabeth township in South African, where there is an 80 percent unemployment rate and a high number of AIDS cases. Lief tells us his program helps an estimated 24,000 children with the goal of having them attend college, and he just opened a $7 million community center.
(on camera) You met people here who helped you...
LIEF: Fund it.
SNOW: Fund it.
SNOW: And now as a result?
LIEF: Coming -- we opened it two days ago.
SNOW (voice-over): Along with speaking investments the other major exchange: ideas. In this room, for example, the focus is on education where Lief's project is highlighted and educator Geoffrey Canada shares his story.
In another room, a session on empowering women, which drew Rosanna Silva Souza of Brazil. Sosa manufactures and sells stainless steel sinks in Brazil. Because her family was so poor, she didn't get an education but was able to learn business skills through a program called 10,000 Women.
ROSANA SILVA SOUZA: It's increased my profit by 30 percent.
SNOW: Souza tells us she now funds scholarships for her workers.
The goal, says Dina Habib Powell of Goldman Sachs, which runs the program, is to invest in 10,000 women globally.
DINA HABIB POWELL, GOLDMAN SACHS: Investing in women, especially by giving them opportunities to be more economically independent, has an effect on all of society.
SNOW: Now the Clinton Global Initiatives runs through Thursday. Both President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will also be in attendance.
BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing amount of work that they do. And as I said, an eclectic crowd is very, very impressive.
SNOW: It really is.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Mary Snow, for that.
The former president loses 24 pounds. How did he do it? He tells us his secret. You'll want to hear it. That's coming up.
And a dire warning for a group of scientists. They say a proposed highway could ruin one of the world's great natural wonders. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
SNOW: Mary is back. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What else is going on, Mary?
SNOW: Wolf, the Supreme Court has denied the appeal of a Virginia woman to halt her execution. Teresa Lewis has pleaded guilty to her part in the 2002 murders of her husband and stepson in their home.
But Lewis and her lawyers argued she has an I.Q. that is borderline mentally retarded and that she was manipulated to commit the crime. The high court ruling means Lewis' execution by lethal injection should go ahead on Thursday night.
The Senate blocked a defense bill that would repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. The final vote was 56 to 43, four short of the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican opposition. Democrats are accusing the GOP of stalling on the defense bill while Democrats say Democrats are using this bill to force through provisions like "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
A group of scientists are warning against plans to build a highway through the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania. They argue the proposed road would cause environmental disaster. They say it would disrupt the annual migration of tens of thousands of zebras, gazelles, and more than a million wildebeests. Tanzania's president has said he is a conservation ally and won't allow something to be built that will ruin the ecosystem.
And finally, as bedbugs keep popping up all over the country, experts are gathering to attend a bedbug summit outside Chicago. On display are all kinds of products aimed at attacking bedbugs from steamers for your mattress to zip-up bags to put your suitcase in.
One pest control company says the most bedbug-infested cities include -- no surprise -- New York, Philadelphia and Detroit. Ohio, though, is the top bedbug-infested state, which is probably not the best one to have on the list.
BLITZER: So what are they saying, don't leave your suitcase near the bed? Is that what they're saying?
SNOW: There are some things that they have, covers for the suitcases.
BLITZER: So then in case -- so you don't bring the bedbugs back to your home after you stay in a hotel.
SNOW: Exactly. Yes, unless you want to crawl out of your skin.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Mary. Thanks very much.
We're following some other top stories including a city rocked by the arrest of eight current and former officials accused of corruption on a stunning scale.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: An unbelievable story of city officials allegedly abusing their power. Current and former officials of Bell, California, a city in Los Angeles County, rounded up and arrested today, accused of misappropriating millions of dollars.
Joining us now from Los Angeles, CNN's Ted Rowlands.
Ted, the details on this are just amazing and shocking. A city manager who, what, made more than $1 million?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, when you add in the benefits that he awarded himself, over $1 million a year, and this is basically according to the prosecutors here in this case, basically doing it underneath the radar and shifting money around. Basically, getting paid by different avenues.
They're claiming, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office, that this city manager -- his name is Robert Rizzo, he was taken away in handcuffs today, and the city councilors in this small city of Bell just outside of Los Angeles have been bilking taxpayers for years without them knowing it.
Today, they handed down an indictment of 53 counts against Rizzo and the others. Basically, they say Rizzo was the ring leader.
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STEVE COOLEY, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Rizzo, acting as the unelected and unaccountable czar of the city of Bell, secretly set his own salary. He misappropriated substantial pay and benefits by increasing each of them through a series of actions that no one approved of and few, if anyone, knew about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Now, the district attorney's office here in Los Angeles, Wolf, is asking that Rizzo who is in jail right now as we speak and will appear in court tomorrow be held -- they're asking that he be held on $3.2 million in bail. And they say if he does come up with that money, they want an investigation as to how he came up with the money. Basically, they're going to challenge him all the way here, try to keep him in jail as this process unfolds.
It is, as you mentioned, an amazing story that took place in Bell. First, the amazing facts of what these guys were making and then today, basically after this investigation came through, the details of how they pulled it off in front of taxpayers' eyes.
BLITZER: I also understand that Bell officials were allowed the use unused vacation days to make even more money. What's that about?
ROWLANDS: Yes, it was basically part of their scheme. They awarded themselves, a few of them, the city manager, included, in excess of 100 days of vacation a year, and then they would basically sell them back to the taxpayers, and then they would profit from that. In Bell today when the word came down that these indictments had came -- had come down and these folks had been arrested, eight in all, as you can imagine, people were celebrating. Here's a sample of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCELINO CEJA, BELL RESIDENT: Today is not a sad day for Bell. Today, it's a great day. Because now we, from the very beginning, I felt in my heart that this was criminal. And so this is the outcome. And I'm very happy with the outcome that, you know, these folks end up in jail, and then, you know, we'll be -- we'll be good. You know, we will be OK. We'll start to heal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROWLANDS: Now, we should note, Wolf, for people that have been following this story, the police chief in this city of Bell was making in excess of $450,000 a year, which of course, raises a lot of eyebrows, but he was not indicted today, the reason being, according to prosecutors, he did not try to hide his income and he just merely was paid a lot of money, and that in the state of California, even if you're a public official, is not illegal.
So they say he has done nothing wrong. A lot of people, though, especially the folks on the police force -- starting salary is $33,000 a year -- are very upset with him, as well.
BLITZER: This story has caused a lot of concern, not only in California but around the country. All right, Ted. Thanks very, very much.
How many people in their 60s can say they weigh what they did in high school? The former president, Bill Clinton can say that right now. He tells me how he lost 24 pounds by changing his diet, and he goes into detail what his new diet is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: The leaders who have to live with the consequences...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: More now on the interview with former president Bill Clinton. We concluded with the subject that seems to be on so many people's minds right now, his dramatic weight loss.
BLITZER: My last question, and it comes to me as a lot of my followers, as they're called on Twitter, sent me this question. They wanted me to ask you a variation of this question. How did you lose so much weight? What kind of diet are you on?
CLINTON: Well, the short answer is, I went on essentially a plant-based diet. I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit. I drink a protein supplement every morning. No dairy. I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder. So I get the protein for the day when I start the day out.
And it changed my whole metabolism, and I lost 24 pounds, and I got back basically what I weighed in high school. But I did it for a different reason. I mean, I wanted to lose a little weight. But I never dreamed this would happen. I did it because, after I had this stent put in, I realized that, even though it happens quite often after you have bypass, you lose the veins, because they're thinner and weaker than arteries. The truth is that it clogged up, which means that the cholesterol was still causing buildup in my vein that was part of my bypass. And thank God I can take the stents. I don't want it to happen again.
So I did all this research. And I saw that 82 percent of the people since 1986 who have gone on a plant-based, no dairy, no meat, no chicken or turkey. I eat very little fish. Once in a while I'll have a little fish. Not often. If you can do it, 82 percent of the people who have done that have begun to heal themselves. Their arterial blockage cleans up. The calcium deposit in their heart breaks up.
This movement has been led by a doctor named Carl Eckenstein (ph) at the Cleveland Clinic. Dino Arms (ph) who you know out in California. The doctors Campbell, father and son, who wrote "The China Study" and a handful of others. But we now have 25 years of evidence.
And so I thought, since I needed to lose a little weight for Chelsea's wedding, I'll become part of the experiment. I'll see if I can be one of those that have a self-clearing mechanism. We'll see.
BLITZER: I hope you're healthy for many years and get to see grandchildren for many years.
CLINTON: Me, too. That's really the big deal. You know, Hillary and I, we're happy. We love our son-in-law, and we admire him, but -- and we'd like to be around if there's grandkids. We want to be there to do our part.
BLITZER: Mr. President, good luck.
CLINTON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks for what you're doing.
BLITZER: A major league trip-up at the ballpark. You won't want to miss this most unusual moment. That story straight ahead. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Dramatic duels in the world of sports that have nothing do with the sport itself. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on these most unusual matchups.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When a guy in red spandex took to the field, it took a left fielder to take him out. Watch this move.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, tripping.
MOOS: Atlanta's Matt Diaz cut to the chase with fancy footwork that earned him a standing ovation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was sweet. That was sweet.
MOOS: Even from rival Philly fame. It could have been worse, earlier in the stadium, the very same stadium, a fan got tased for running out on the field. Managed to elude his would-be captors, and finally, a police officer brought down the 17-year-old with a taser.
About 30 seconds after he was tased, he was up and walking under his own power. None of them lasted as long as Drew Barrymore in "Fever Pitch." The outfielder didn't lift a finger to stop through on her way across the field to get to her boyfriend.
(on camera) And then there's the scourge of mascot on mascot violence. At the Ohio State/Ohio University game the other day, Lucas the Bobcat ran straight at rival mascot Brutus Buckeye and tackled him, losing his head in the process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was an adrenaline rush. That's for sure.
MOOS (voice-over): That's the aggressor, who then assaulted Brutus again in the end zone. Turns out 19-year-old Brandon Hannon had been planning this for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Honest to God, that was the whole reason I tried out to be the mascot.
MOOS: He was fired as mascot and banned from Ohio University athletics. Normally, mascots do silly things like dance to Lady Gaga. And flirt with the ump. But it was more than a love tap seven years ago when an Italian sausage got whacked with a bat by a Pittsburgh player. Mandy Block was the sausage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It wasn't that big of a blow, it's just -- I think because I'm so small.
MOOS: The batter, Randall Simon, was fined, suspended three games, and gave Mandy the autographed bat.
The latest trend is mascots eating people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa! MOOS: At football games, at basketball games. That's Mackerel Jordan gulping down a guy. There's even a Facebook page, mascots eating people. You can watch them spit out the shoes. These days the basketball court has become a food court for mascots. Who knew a pretty cheerleader could cause acid reflex.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM -- John.