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The Situation Room

Chopper Crashes in NYC's East River; Amanda Knox Almost Home; Interview With Amanda Knox Attorney Carlo Dalla Vedova; Christie 'Now Is Not My Time'; Perry Loses Ground in Polls; Interview With Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Don Dileo; Kercher Family Left Searching For Justice Victim's Family Accepts Knox Ruling; New Financial Support for Romney; Helicopter Crash in New York's East River

Aired October 04, 2011 - 17:00   ET


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

Happening now, Amanda Knox on her way to the United States right now a day after an Italian court cleared her of murder. We're standing by for her homecoming. I'll also ask her lawyer if her nightmare around the world is truly over.

Plus, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, says New Jersey is stuck with him. Now that he's declared again that he's not running for president of the United States, will some other big name Republicans still be able to make a late jump into the race? Stand by for that.

And the country singer Hank Williams Jr. trying to explain why he likened the president of the United States to Hitler, but he maybe only adding to the controversy that got his Monday Night Football theme song yanked.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: All that coming up, but first, we want to update you on this tragedy unfolding in New York City right now. You're looking at pictures of the East River in Manhattan. A helicopter crashed about an hour or so ago, maybe an hour and a half or so ago. It crashed into the East River.

Five people on board, four have been rescued, but we now know a fifth person is confirmed dead. We do know that the pilot is in stable condition. Two females aboard this helicopter are listed in critical condition. Another male in stable condition, but unfortunately, one individual aboard this helicopter is now confirmed dead. We'll have much more on this story as the news unfolds over the next hours. Stand by for that.

Meanwhile, other news we're following, when Amanda Knox lands in Seattle about three hours from now she'll be a free woman, but won't be the same young woman who left the study abroad. I can only imagine what she's thinking and feeling on that plane right now after almost four years in an Italian prison, her murder conviction finally overturned.

Let's go live to Seattle right now. CNN's Drew Griffin is standing by, he works with CNN's Special Investigations Unit, he's been covering this story almost from day one.

This will be an emotional homecoming for Amanda Knox, Drew.

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: That's right. And for Curt Knox, her father, and Edda Mellas, her mother, they are both very concerned of how Amanda Knox will handle all the pressure yet to come.

She has been in prison, obviously a very stressful situation, but just a few hours from now, she's going to face all this, Wolf, the cameras and the relentless tabloids that have covered this case. She, securely behind prison walls, has not seen a lot of it, according to her family, and they are going to be try to be careful hiding her, sequestering her from the press until she can handle the fame she has gained while she has sat in prison.

We do know that both parents are expected to talk, an attorney is expected to talk and perhaps -- perhaps -- Wolf, we will hear a statement from Amanda Knox, though she's not expected to take any questions.

Quite a journey considering just yesterday she was in that courtroom as we saw and heard the verdict being read, which overturned that conviction that would have kept her in prison for more than 20 years. She was obviously so emotional, she was carried almost out of the courtroom crying.

But now she has spent one night in Rome. She has been flying all day today and within a matter of hours now, expected to land here and we are supposed to see her in her hometown of Seattle -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it very closely. Drew, stand by, I want to come back to you.

Amanda Knox's ordeal may certainly not be entirely even once she lands safely on American soil. Her lawyer, Carlo Dalla Vedova, is joining us now from Rome.

Thanks so much, Mr. Dalla Vedova, for joining us.

Is it still possible she could face further legal problems down the road in Italy?

CARLO DELLA VEDOVA, AMANDA KNOX'S DALLA VEDOVA: Well, thank you very much, first of all, for the invitation.

Well, it is possible once we see the motivation, the so-called of motivazioni (ph) decision which was read yesterday, that an appeal will be filed by the prosecutor to the supreme court, which is the third grade (ph). We have this possibility in this country. Therefore, there will be a possibility of further legal battle, and the prosecutor have announced this will happen.

However, we're not very worried because the supreme court will allow an appeal only if there is a violation of law. This means it would not be possible to go into the merits of the case and review any evidence or any of deposition or the famous DNA, this will not be possible.

So if this happened, of course, we will be ready to oppose the appeal presented by the prosecutor, and Amanda also eventually will be present at the hearing, if it's necessary. This will happen in the supreme court here in Rome.

BLITZER: You know the Italian justice system about as well as anyone. How likely would it be that the supreme court of Italy could overturn this decision from yesterday?

DALLA VEDOVA: It's going to be very unlikely because this -- it's a fundamental case based on a mistake. And mistake, it's provided a possibility in our legal system. The appeal is not a second trial. Is the same trial and the scope is to identify possible mistakes.

So the legislator has introduced this possibility and we have explained to the court of appeal why we thought that the first decision was wrong and we succeeded. So we are not worried because we will explain again, eventually, to the supreme court this same situation. Because certainly, this is a tragedy first of all because involved the death of a young student, but is also a tragedy because two innocent people, two innocent kid have been kept in jail for almost four years.

BLITZER: A real tragedy for these two young people.

Tell us what it was like in the courtroom about 24 hours ago. You were standing next to Amanda when she heard the judge announce the verdict against her and Raffaele were overturned. Describe is that emotional moment to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

DALLA VEDOVA: Well, it was certainly a very important moment, and Amanda was mainly scared. She had a very intense week. We had hearing almost every day from 9:00 to 6:00 in the evening and it was extremely heavy for everybody, but certainly for Amanda and Raffaele.

Amanda was having very little sleep and she was scared when she walked into the room before the big day because she knew that she was -- her life was in between a request of life in jail and a possible acquittal -- dismissal, which took place.

So as she heard the decision, she started to cry because for her was a completely, and as you saw from live, she was then taken away immediately. BLITZER: Did you see her after that, just before she boarded that plane to fly back to the United States? If you did, what was she like then?

DALLA VEDOVA: She was extremely happy. Happy walking out from the prison, which took very few minutes because everybody was organized and they all helped because there is a great support on Amanda.

I spoke to her this morning before she was leaving Italy just to make sure that everything was in order and she was smiling, laughing, as she was at the beginning when she came to Italy.

She was extremely happy she had the possibility to stay with the family last night in Rome. She slept with the mother and the sister. And she really wanted to go home. She really just want to go home and find her life again.

BLITZER: Carlo Dalla Vedova, thank you so much. Thanks for joining us. We'll stay in close touch with you. We'll see where this case unfolds.

DALLA VEDOVA: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're standing by for their arrival back in the Seattle, Washington. We appreciate it very much.

In just a few minutes, we'll also go back to Perugia, Italy. We'll hear from the brother of Meredith Kercher.

But there's breaking news we're following right now. A tragedy unfolding in the East River of New York City. You're looking at these pictures. A helicopter went down a little while ago, five people on board, four have been rescued; two in critical condition, two in stable condition, but a fifth person was recovered, the body was recovered. Unfortunately, this person died in that crash.

Jason Carroll is our correspondent on the scene for us.

Set the scene for us, Jason. What do we know?

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Just an incredibly sad moment here out here at the East River, Wolf.

As you know, search and rescue crews have been in the water for just about an hour, and right around 5:00 just before 5:00, they pulled a body of one of the passengers from the helicopter, pulled that body out of the East River.

From what we are being told from eyewitnesses, the accident happened at about 3:22 p.m. this afternoon. The felled (ph) 206 jet ranger missed its landing at the heliport. According to what witnesses were saying, it seems to be hovering above the helipad and then suddenly, the pilot was not able to keep the altitude and the helicopter crashed into the East River. Once it hit the water, it rolled over, sank within seconds. Again, five people were on board, four were rescued. The male pilot is in stable condition, another man also in stable condition. Two women, we are told, are in critical condition, they were taken to a local hospital.

The mayor, New York City's mayor, Michael Bloomberg, Wolf, is expected to give us a briefing within just a few minutes.

The NTSB, in any situation we have a crash like this, dispatches investigators out to the scene. They're expecting NTSB to arrive shortly.

But once again, five on board, four were rescued, the body of the fifth person pulled out just before 5:00 here at the East River in New York City.

BLITZER: We do have some dramatic pictures of one of the women on board that helicopter was rescued. I want to get those pictures and show them to our viewers. It was a dramatic scene, we're told this woman is now in critical condition. We're watching all of this very, very closely.

Jason, once we hear from the mayor, let us know. We'll stay in close touch with you, Jason Carroll, on the scene.

A tragedy in New York City, the East River, that's the scene where this helicopter went down. Much more on this story coming up. Much more on the Amanda Knox story coming up as well, but let's go to Jack Cafferty right now, he's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has closed the door on a 2012 presidential run saying quote, "Now is not my time."

Christie says he won't abandon his commitment he made to his state, New Jersey, as governor. You know, unlike a certain half-term dropout governor of Alaska did. Christie put it this way, quote, "New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me," unquote.

This also means Republican voters are stuck with the current crop of Republican candidates unless , of course, Mrs. Palin decides she'll get in, but it's getting a little late for that. Plus, more than two- thirds of Republicans say they don't want Mrs. Palin to run.

So with Chris Christie out, it looks like Republicans are going to nominate either Mitt Romney or Rick Perry the way polls stack up right now. Perry, as you know, has been sinking fast in the polls as of late. New "Washington Post"/ABC News poll shows Romney leading the pack 25 percent. Perry's tied for second place with businessman Herman Cain, each at 16. But for Perry, that's a whopping 13-point drop in this particular poll.

The Texas governor's stock has been falling after shaky debate performance and questions about where he stands on Social Security and immigration. Cain, on the other hand, has been surging in the national polls after his surprise win in the Florida Straw Poll and a flurry of media attention.

Ron Paul is the only other candidate who's getting double-digit support in this survey. He comes in at 11 percent.

With primary season sneaking up on us quickly now, it's time for Republicans to pick their poison.

Here's the question: Which Republican candidate benefits most from Governor Christie's decision not to run for president?

Go to post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, good question. Thank you.

And we just heard it from Jack, Rick Perry certainly slipping in the polls right now. We're taking a closer look at the political landmines that have been exploding around him. Stand by for that.


BLITZER: Chris Christie has been a looming shadow over the Republican presidential field for weeks. Not anymore.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I've explored the options. I've listened to so many people and considered whether this was something that I needed to take on. But in the end, what I've always felt was the right decision remains the right decision today, now is not my time. I have a commitment to New Jersey that I simply will not abandon.


BLITZER: So with Governor Christie staying out, one of the eight major Republican candidates will almost certainly challenge President Obama. Rick Perry's chances of being the nominee are looking less and less promising, though, right now.

Our Joe Johns has more on governor Perry's problems, problems that have helped him lose new ground.

What's the latest out there, Joe?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, conservatives had high hopes for this campaign and it is still early, but if Rick Perry had hoped to regain his footing after a bunch of stumbles, it hasn't happened yet.


JOHNS (voice-over): Emblematic of how the last several days have gone for Perry, an old Texas story resurfaced for the national audience with new details about how he used the multi-million dollar Texas enterprise fund as far back as 2004 to lure subprime lenders to the state only to see their promise of more jobs and prosperity collapse along with their risky bets in the real estate market.

A good government watchdog in Texas has been all over this story for years.

CRAIG MCDONALD, TEXAS FOR PUBLIC JUSTICE: That fund is not very transparent. There's very few documents available to us or the public. And we found the fund represents in some sense the essence of cronyism.

JOHNS: In fairness to Perry, it's public record that the whole country got bamboozled by bad loans during that period. But as governor of Texas, if he was in fact part of the problem that has hit the economy so hard, it chips away at his assertion that he's the solution voters need.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They want somebody who has a record and has the courage and the vision to stand up and say here's where this country needs to go, here's what's broken, here's how we fix it.

JOHNS: Perry's second weekend problem was when he suggested sending troops south of the border to fight drug related violence.

PERRY: It may require our military in Mexico.

JOHNS: Red meat for some conservatives perhaps, but to Perry's critics, a threatening remark like that about one of America's closest allies sounded a bit off message.

Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, Maria Cardona.

MARIA CORDONA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He is putting stuff out there that also makes him look like he has no idea how to deal with foreign policy.

JOHNS: And then making matters worse, there was a hunting camp story in Sunday's "Washington Post." Turns out, Rick Perry's family used to go hunting at a place in Texas known to some locals as -- well, Niggerhead allowing the black Republican in the race what might be referred to as a free kick.

HERMAN CAIN (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's just basically a case of insensitivity.

JOHNS: The Perry campaign issued all kinds of denials, saying the name of the camp wasn't prominently displayed, that the Perry family never owned it. And on this, many conservatives came to Perry's defense.

ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR, REDSTATE.COM: We've got two competing narratives. One is that Perry wants to let in illegal aliens from Mexico to overrun our school system on subsidy, and the other is that he hates black people. They're kind of incongruous themes.

(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: Now, Erick and some other conservatives say Perry can recover from the hunting camp story, but many people say his biggest problem is message discipline, just knowing what to say, when to say it and what not to say, Wolf.

BLITZER: Joe Johns on the scene for us. Joe, thanks very much.

Let's get back to the breaking news we're covering in New York City right now in the East River of New York. A helicopter went down a little while ago, five people on board. We're told four have been rescued, a fifth is dead.

Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Don Dileo is joining us.

And, Petty Officer, you were on board one of the response boats that the Coast Guard sent out there. Tell our viewers what was going on.

CHIEF PETTY OFFICER DON DILEO, U.S. COAST GUARD (via telephone): That is correct. We received a call that they were -- a helicopter down in the East River just off of the 34th Street heliport. Coast Guard search and rescue alarm had gone off, so we were one of the first Coast Guard assets to arrive on scene.

As we arrived on scene, we realized that they were close to 10 to 15 New York City Police and New York City Fire boats that were conducting operations and had the scene secure at the time. They were conducted dive operations as well.

We work very closely with our port partners here in New York that have the ability and have the assets to conduct operations like that, dive operations. And basically, our role as of right now is to secure the scene and conduct a safety zone around it, if you will, to make sure that the boating public stays out of the way while operations continue for recovery of the helicopter and so forth.

BLITZER: The helicopter, I take it, is still in that water. It has not been recovered yet, is that right?

DILEO: That is correct.

BLITZER: Do we have any idea what happened here? Was the helicopter taking off from the helipad? Was it about to land? What was going on based on the information you're getting?

DILEO: There was really no information that was passed to us upon arrival on scene. The only thing that we did recognize was there was a helicopter in the water, the scene was to be secured. There were already multiple port partner assets on scene -- U.S. Park Police, NYPD, NYFD. And just basically just trying to figure out exactly what happened. There was no definitive answer what exactly happened to the crash on our end as far as we know.

BLITZER: We know the National Transportation Safety Board has already launched a full scale investigation. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Don Dileo, thanks for joining us and for your good work. Thanks to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard as well. Much more on this story coming up.

Also, much more on the Amanda Knox return to the United States. You saw the joy of Amanda Knox and her family, but how did the family of the victim react to the decision clearing Amanda Knox of murder? We're going to hear from the brother of Meredith Kercher.


BLITZER: The homecoming that Amanda Knox was dreaming about during almost four years in an Italian prison is almost, almost here. Friends and supporters are waiting for her to land in Seattle. That's coming up fairly soon within the next few hours.

We watched Amanda Knox' release from prison play out live here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday, but now, the family of the victim is speaking out.


BLITZER: And Matthew Chance is joining us now, he's in Perugia, where the reaction is still intense from what happened only 24 hours ago.

You had a chance to speak to a member of Meredith Kercher's family to get his reaction. How did that go, Matthew?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, of course, as Amanda Knox, Wolf, celebrates her freedom, the other side of this terrible story has been the plight of the Meredith Kercher family. They're still in Perugia, they've been giving news conferences today.

Also got an opportunity to speak to the brother of Meredith Kercher, Lyle Kercher. He spoke to me of the disappointment that the family have that the murder convictions of Amanda Knox and her former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito have been overturned.

Take a listen.


LYLE KERCHER, MEREDITH KERCHER'S BROTHER: As we said, we respected or accepted the decision of the original trial and, you know, we accept what was decided yesterday. You know, we do have the utmost respect, obviously, for the decision and integrity of the court and what they've decided and, you know, we'll abide by that.

CHANCE: But I get the sense that you're not entirely convinced. That at the back of your minds, all of you still think there may have been some kind of connection with the killing with Amanda Knox and Raffaele. KERCHER: Well, I mean, as I've said before, it's obviously a very complex case. There's a lot of evidence there whether it's forensic or physical and -- and, of course, one of the things left questioning is how the decision that was so adamant first time has been, as I said, so emphatically overturned.


CHANCE: Of course, the decision of the court here in Perugia has opened all sorts of painful questions for the Kercher family, not least of which is that, you know, if Amanda and Raffaele did not take part in the killing, then who did. Remember, the family believed it was more than one person that carried out the killing; the police believed that, too.

And so, the family now are very distressed that the possibility that somebody else is out here who was involved in the murder of Meredith Kercher who hasn't been brought to justice.

BLITZER: But there is one person serving a 16-year prison sentence, Rudy Guede, for killing Meredith Kercher. He's not disputing. He pleaded guilty to that charge of participating in that murder even though he suggested he didn't actually use the knife. But a lot of people believe it was that individual who killed Meredith Kercher, simple no one else was involved.

Why can't they believe that?

CHANCE: Well, that's been the defense case all along. That there was DNA evidence from one person other than Meredith Kercher inside the place where she was murdered, and that was the DNA of Rudy Guede. His fingerprints were there, his footprints were there, and he fled the country without calling the police after he saw Meredith Kercher in a puddle of her own blood in her own bedroom.

And so, perhaps in other countries it would have been an open and shut case, but here, the prosecution suggested that there were other people involved. There was circumstantial evidence suggesting that was the case. That's something that the family of Meredith Kercher had kind of latched on to, it's still is what they still believe today.

BLITZER: Even though there's no hard evidence, specific evidence linking anyone else. And as you point out, the only DNA found at the scene of this murder was Rudy Guede and Meredith Kercher. No one else's DNA.

CHANCE: That's right. There was other DNA evidence that was used and was instrumental in the conviction of Amanda and Raffaele back in 2009, but independent forensic experts, remember, were brought in by this court in Perugia, and they rubbished those forensic tests that were done by the police. They said their methodology was all wrong, the forensic kind of samples were contaminated, potentially. And so the court essentially cast that DNA aside. Without that, there was actually no physical evidence connecting Amanda Knox to the murder scene. BLITZER: One final question before I let you go, Matthew. What's been the reaction in Perugia today, a day after the convictions were overturned?

CHANCE: Well, it's been much more muted than last night. Remember, last night, on your show, there were hundreds of people out in these streets in Perugia after the court decision. Some of them were shouting "Shame!" because they disagreed with the decision to set Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito free.

Today, it's much more quiet, as you can see, this evening. People in this city just trying to get on with their lives. There's been a lot of kind of people growing impatient with the media here, growing impatient with this murder case casting a shadow over this beautiful, medieval Italian hilltop city. And I think for most people here, whether they disagree with the court decision or not, they just want to put it behind them and get on with their lives.

BLITZER: I suspect they do. Matthew, thanks for the terrific reporting. We'll stay in close touch.

All right. I want to get back to some of the breaking news we're watching in New York City, the East River, specifically.

A helicopter crashed into the East River near 34th Street and 1st Avenue. We're standing by. The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, expected to speak to reporters soon. We'll hear what he has to say, give us the latest information. There you see the microphone. They're getting ready for the mayor of New York with all the latest information.

Five people on board. Four of them are in hospitals right now in New York. Two in critical condition, two in stable condition. A fifth person was recovered dead, unfortunately, from this crash. We're standing by for that story.

We're also standing by for a CNN exclusive. The treasury secretary of the United States, Timothy Geithner, opening up to our own newest anchor, Erin Burnett, about banks making big profits on fees while many Americans are hurting.

And the country singer Hank Williams, Jr. now is apologizing for mentioning President Obama and Adolf Hitler in the same breath.


BLITZER: We're learning about important new financial support for Mitt Romney now that Chris Christie says he's definitely not running for president in 2012.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's working the story for us.

Gloria, a lot of Republicans apparently are still unsatisfied with this field, but it looks like that field is the field that's going to be out there. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I think this is the field pretty much settled. Of course, the only question out there is Sarah Palin. She seems to be happy to be more of a wedding crasher than a candidate at this point, Wolf, so I think, you know, this is the field we're going to see.

The good news for Mitt Romney in all of this is we learned today that Ken Langone, the CEO of Home Depot, who was one of the people behind trying to get Chris Christie to run, has now moved into the Romney camp. So, he's an important fund-raiser in the Republican Party. And almost immediately after Chris Christie announced his decision, he let the Romney people know that he would be for them.

I think you're going to see a lot more of that. I also think these fund-raising numbers are going to come out in 10 days. It's going to be very interesting to see whether Rick Perry's fund-raising is really continuing at a good pace or whether, really, Mitt Romney is going to overtake him there.

So, those numbers, important.

BLITZER: I've always assumed that if Chris Christie had decided to run, that would hurt Mitt Romney the most, because they're both from the Northeast, so-called moderate Republicans. And Chris Christie would have taken votes away from Mitt Romney.

BORGER: Sure. He absolutely would have taken votes away from Mitt Romney.

And I think what you see in the Republican field is that there are a lot of Republicans who are kind of unsettled. They didn't really like Mitt Romney a lot.

I always say that Mitt Romney is kind of like the guy your parents wanted to fix you up with, and you decided you'd rather date some other fellows. And then, in the end, you take a look at this guy and say, gee, he doesn't look so bad. That's Mitt Romney.

They flirted with Mike Huckabee, with Mitch Daniels, with Paul Ryan, with Haley Barbour, and, of course, Chris Christie, and they continue to flirt with Rick Perry, who's in the field. But in the end, there are lots of people now making the case that you've got to focus on Barack Obama and you've got to nominate someone who is electable, and that is what Mitt Romney is selling himself as, a businessman who can go toe-to-toe with Obama on the economy and who is electable.

BLITZER: You've got a terrific new column at that you've written.

BORGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: I recommend it to our viewers. Do you want to recommend my blog as well?

BORGER: I do. I'd like to recommend your blog. BLITZER: I write about it as well. I'll read yours if you read mine.

BORGER: Absolutely. It's a deal.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.

We're seeing new movement in the Republican race just in time for our next debate. Join CNN for the Western Republican Presidential Debate in Las Vegas. It will air live Tuesday night, October 18th, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

At a time when so many Americans are in economic pain, new bank fees are an added financial burden. CNN's newest anchor Erin Burnett spoke with the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, about that today.

Listen to this clip from her exclusive interview.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": The reforms came through, and the banks are upset about them. And the banks are fighting back, and they're saying you and Dodd-Frank, the reform bill, have made life too hard, financial reforms are hurting Americans. It's hurt them so much, that they need to put new fees on customers.

I just pulled three of them from three banks everyone knows. Citibank, now charging $15 a month if you have a balance under $6,000. That's pretty regressive.

Bank of America, $5 a month for the right to use a debit card. And JPMorgan Chase, earlier this year, tried out $5 ATM fees for non- Chase customers.

Do they need to do these things, or are they purposely trying to do things that hit the public to try to get the public on board with them, getting rid of your reform?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: The banks are blaming the reforms and the government for everything, including lots of problems that they themselves were central to causing. And the people are terribly -- most people are terribly angry and frustrated with that, and they want to see things change.

And what we're trying to do is to make sure that we put in place the kind of protections consumers and investors deserve so they're not vulnerable again to the kind of mistakes we saw across the American financial system. There's no surprises, there's nothing strange about the fact that banks are resisting it, are pushing back. They're trying to weaken those reforms, and we're going to push back harder.

BURNETT: You're going to fight against those?

GEITHNER: And in the end, we're going to prevail, because what we're doing is a reasonable, sensible thing, which is to make sure the American economy is never again vulnerable to this degree of basic abuse, mistakes, excessive risk-taking. And that's why these are so important.


BLITZER: And you can see Erin's exclusive interview with the secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, later tonight on "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT." It airs 7:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Some Republicans now are pushing for a special counsel to investigate the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder. At issue, a controversial gun-running program and whether Eric Holder misled Congress.


BLITZER: We're hearing from the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. He's speaking about that helicopter crash in the East River of New York City. Four people rescued, a fifth, unfortunately, dead.

Let's listen in to the mayor.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: -- made any difference, apparently, in terms of saving the people.

QUESTION: What's involved? What's that chopper -- how does that work?

BLOOMBERG: Well, they get in, they try to get anybody out. Apparently, four out of the five people got out of the helicopter on their own. The fifth was trapped in the helicopter. Whether they were conscious at the time or not, we just don't know.


BLOOMBERG: We just don't know. The National Transportation Safety Board will interview people. It was inverted, upside down, when some of the people were rescued, and some of the passengers that got out were holding on to the skids.

QUESTION: Sir, the pilot escaped unharmed?

BLOOMBERG: The pilot did escape unharmed, yes.

QUESTION: Mr. Mayor?

BLOOMBERG: Yes, sir?


BLOOMBERG: It's optional whether you have flotation devices. They're very safe, and most helicopters do not have them. The tourist helicopters typically all have them, but if the helicopter lands upside down, it doesn't do anybody any good.



BLOOMBERG: This was not -- to the best of our knowledge, it was a private helicopter from Linden, New Jersey. Now, whether or not it was owned by a company or an individual, we just don't know at this point. Apparently, the pilot knew the passengers and had come over to pick them up.

Last question.


BLOOMBERG: We think -- and keep in mind, the story changes every minute, but we believe two were Brits who lived in Portugal. Two lived in Australia. One probably was Australian and one was English, but that's changed a number of times.

We're still trying to talk to families. And all I can say is all New Yorkers feel for this family, and we wish it had not happened. And our prayers are with the deceased, and our prayers are also that those three people in the hospital recover from their injuries.


BLOOMBERG: I've heard that story. I don't know whether that's true or not. And I don't know if it had any relevance to this.

The NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, will do their usual thorough examination. Eventually, they do issue a report that takes a lot of time because they're very careful and they check everything. And everything else is just speculation.

And -- yes, Miss?


BLOOMBERG: I'm sorry. I couldn't hear you.

QUESTION: The people that were rescued, were they all removed from the helicopter?

BLOOMBERG: No. I said four of them were outside the helicopter. Apparently, when the rescuers got to them, one was trapped inside.


BLOOMBERG: I don't know. And, you know, we've got -- everybody's got a different story, as you would expect in some -- last question, sir.


BLOOMBERG: There's some story that at least some of them were related, but we're just not sure.

QUESTION: All four of them?

BLOOMBERG: They apparently all knew each other, and probably all -- at least some knew the pilot.

QUESTION: And the person that's deceased, is it a child, an adult?

BLOOMBERG: No, they're all adults. It was a woman, and we can't release her name until we notify the next of kin, obviously.


BLOOMBERG: Apparently, the pilot said he was having problems, tried to turn around and come back, but that may change as well. That was what's been reported so far.

The National Transportation Safety Board will listen to the logs. I assume the radios were taken. And some day they'll issue the story.

Last question, sir.


BLOOMBERG: No, it's still in the water. It will take a while. But there's no bodies in there. We did get the body out of the woman who has died.

And I just hope that that's the only fatality. Our prayers are with the three in the hospital.

So, thank you all. It's a sad day, but I think one of the comforting things was the way the police department, fire department, and Office of Emergency Management came together, worked together, and did whatever was humanly possible to reduce the loss of life.

Thank you.

BLITZER: And so the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, giving us the latest information on that tragic helicopter crash into the East River. Five people on board, four rescued, one unfortunately dead.

We'll stay on top of this story. Much more news right after this.


BLITZER: The House Republicans are now questioning whether the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, misled Congress about his knowledge of a controversial gun-running program. They want to escalate the investigation right now with a special counsel.

CNN's Brian Todd has been covering this story extensively for us.

So, Brian, what is the new issue here? BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the new issue is just what the attorney general knew about this controversial gun tracking program and when he knew it.


TODD (voice-over): Add one more migraine for Eric Holder over the controversial Fast and Furious gun-running program, a possible investigation into whether Holder misled Congress about when he knew about Fast and Furious.

House Republicans are asking for a probe by a special counsel. It's over this exchange between Holder and one of the lead congressional investigators in early May.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R-CA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: When did you first know about the program officially, I believe, called Fast and Furious? To the best of your knowledge, what date?

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm not sure of the exact date, but I probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over last few weeks.

TODD: But documents leaked to CNN and other news organizations raise questions. A memo to Holder from the director of the National Drug Intelligence Center dated July 5, 2010 mentions Fast and Furious. The memo discusses straw purchasers buying 1,500 guns that were then supplied to Mexican drug cartels. It doesn't appear to mention the controversial tactics involved in the operation.

We spoke with Republican Chuck Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who is investigating Fast and Furious.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: These documents do prove that somebody in the Justice Department knew more about it a long time before. Like you said, July of 2010, as an example.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, a high-level Justice Department official strongly rejected the notion that Holder improperly testified. The official said those memos are " -- routine reports that provide general overviews. None of these reports referenced the controversial tactics that allowed guns to cross the border."

Fast and Furious was an ATF program designed to take down big weapons trafficking operations from the U.S. to Mexico, but ATF whistleblowers say, in the process of trying to track weapons, ATF agents were forced to watch as up to 2,000 guns were allowed to be taken into Mexico. Some wound up at murder scenes.

Former Justice Department prosecutor Peter Toren doesn't believe those memos show any detailed knowledge by Holder.

(on camera): How often does he get memos like this that mention program likes Fast and Furious almost in passing? Is it really too much for him to really remember in detail? PETER TOREN, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, being an attorney general is a 24/7 job, and he gets briefings like this every morning. And it's simply impossible for a single person to absorb all the details. And if there were details that were problematic, people below him should have pointed that out to him.


TODD: So, will the Obama administration appoint a special counsel on this? We've called and e-mailed the White House. They have not responded to us yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Justice Department, they're really responding to the critics though, on Capitol Hill.

TODD: They're firing back, saying there's a who knew what, when in Congress, too? They say Congressman Darrell Issa, the Republican who is leading one of these investigations, they say he got a briefing himself on Fast and Furious last year.

Issa's aides tell us that there were several congressmen involved, that that briefing ran over a lot of other topics, that the program was never mentioned by name, and they never discussed tactics. A lot of back and forth now between Justice and Issa's office.

BLITZER: I suspect this story is about to explode in the coming weeks and months. Thanks very much for that.

Let's go back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: Which Republican candidate benefits most from Governor Chris Christie's decision not to run for president?

Ed in Pennsylvania writes, "That's like asking who won the Miss Secaucus, New Jersey, Beauty Contest in 1955. Nobody! Nobody one wins even if they run and win."

"America's on the decline courtesy of both the Republican and Democratic parties, and Americans wishing to buy their snake oil politics. Christie is the big winner in this for staying out of it, perhaps being recruited later as the number two on the ticket with Romney. New Jersey's big boy gets his cake and can eat it, too."

Harriet in Bayside, New York, writes, "I think there are two Republican candidates who benefit: Romney and Huntsman. But the person who really benefits is President Obama."

Ron writes, "None of them. I mean, what does it say that the media flocked to Christie like seagulls to a kid with popcorn? It's obvious that the current bunch are leftover scraps and the GOP is still looking. Still way early, but the GOP I think is toast. It cannot win."

Joe writes on Facebook, "Without a doubt, Romney, Perry, and Bachmann are now fighting over the far-right wing of the Tea Party. Christie was appealing to the more moderate wing of the Republican Party, and with and him gone, Romney will pick up the more rational Republicans."

Brandon writes, "None of them do. Maybe you guys didn't notice, but Christie was never going to run. I'm sure the rest of the morons -- I mean candidates -- knew that, too. You guys have been hounding the poor guy because you don't want to report on things that actually matter."

"Get with the program, Jack. You're as much a part of the problem as the rest of us."

I guess that's all we have time for.

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog.

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much. See you tomorrow.

Now that Chris Christie is not running for president, will the comedians lay off the weight jokes? Jeanne Moos is next.


BLITZER: Chris Christie say he's not running for president. Now Jeanne Moos breaks down the drama.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We in the press tend to fall hardest for the guy who's hard to get.

BILL HEMMER, FOX NEWS: Is he in or is Christie out?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And is he in or is he out?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it yes or is it no?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The answer is no.

MOOS: Say it ain't so.

CHRISTIE: It's a no until it's a yes. What I said was I'd reconsider my "no," and I did. But the "no" never changed.

So, New Jersey, whether you like it or not, you're stuck with me.

MOOS: Governor Christie giggled his way --


MOOS: -- through a couple of the questions.

CHRISTIE: It's such a shock to people in New Jersey, right?

MOOS: His decision not run for president shocked nobody, but it disappointed many. (on camera): We are gathered here to mourn all of the unborn, undelivered weight jokes that will now not be told.

(voice-over): Late-night comedians will have to be content --

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Traveling down the New Jersey Turnpike, I saw him on the truck scales. He was --

MOOS: -- with the routines they've already managed to squeeze in during the courtship of Christie.

CHRISTIE: Yes, ma'am?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you run for president, I will give you this bucket of chicken, extra crispy.



MOOS: Governor Christie said he doesn't mind when comedians joke about his weight. That's their job.

CHRISTIE: All I care about is that they actually are funny, you know, so that I can at least laugh about it while they're mocking me. You know?

MOOS: But when political commentator say things like this --

LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cannot be president. He is just too fat.

CHRISTIE: The people who pretend to be serious commentators who wrote about this are among the most ignorant people I've ever heard in my life.

MOOS: David Letterman made a show of pretending not to do any more Chris Christie weight jokes.

CHRISTIE: The guy who was sent off to go and come up with jokes that weren't about me being fat, that guy was really good.

MOOS: Fat jokes disguised as dumb jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie is so dumb, his blood type is Alfredo.

MOOS: Fat jokes disguised as cheap jokes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie is so cheap, when he steps on a scale it reads, "One at a time."

CHRISTIE: As long as they're funny, what the hell do I care?

MOOS: Not only can he take a joke -- CHRISTIE: And Andrew would come to me and go -- with his computer -- "Hey, dad, did you see this one?"

MOOS: -- he can tell one.

CHRISTIE: So he's been grounded. But --

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I love you, Chris Christie!

MOOS: -- New York.


BLITZER: He's an impressive guy, the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. But he's not -- repeat, not -- going to be running for president of the United States.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The news continues next on CNN.