Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Whitney Houston Death Investigation Continues; Rick Santorum Leading; Supreme Court Justice Breyer Robbed By Man With Machete; Santorum Leads Romney in New Polls; Op-Ed: "We Didn't Do Enough"; Is The Romney Campaign In Trouble?; Obama To Meet China's Next Leader

Aired February 13, 2012 - 16:00   ET


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now: new details in the sudden, shocking death of Whitney Houston. Investigators speak out in the wake of the autopsy.

Also, Rick Santorum pulls ahead of Mitt Romney in the GOP race for the White House.

And just coming into CNN, word of an abrupt about-face by House Republicans on extending the payroll tax cuts. Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Jessica Yellin and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

YELLIN: Now, this is just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, a major development that will impact the paychecks of 160 million working Americans.

In a sudden turnaround, House Republicans are now saying they will agree to extend President Obama's payroll tax cut past this month. The unexpected move came just hours after President Obama put new pressure on GOP lawmakers.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Congress needs to pass an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance without drama and without delay and without linking it to some other ideological side issues. We've -- we've been through this before, remember? We've seen this movie. We don't need to see it again.

The time for self-inflicted wounds to our economy has to be over.


BALDWIN: Let's go straight to CNN congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan.

Kate, this is a surprising turnaround. What are you hearing there? What made them decide to make this move?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, a surprising turnaround and a sharp and surprising reversal by House Republicans on the issue of the payroll tax cut. As you know, one of the demands that House Republicans have been making all along during this months-long battle over extending the payroll tax cut is their insistence that the payroll tax cut and other measures that would be included in the deal be paid for, be covered and be paid for by offsets that would include spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Well, what we hear now from House Republican leaders as they put out a statement just a short time ago, they're saying that they're introducing what they're calling a backup payroll tax extension, a simple 10-month extension of this payroll tax cut set to expire at the end of the month and they're dropping this insistence, this demand that it be paid for.

According to a House Republican aide, this is designed to reduce the leverage that Democrats have in this political battle that has been a bitter partisan battle. Jessica, they say that Democrats have refused to consider any spending cuts by way of paying for this.

And let me read you a statement in part from the House Republican leaders in announcing this. They said, in part, "Democrats' refusal to agree to any spending cuts in the conference committee has made it necessary for us to prepare this fallback option to protect small business job creators and ensure taxes don't go up on middle class workers."

As you know, Republicans wanted to be avoid being labeled as opposing a tax cut of millions of Americans, as was a problem when this was debated back in December, Jessica. But according to Democratic sources, they tell CNN from their view, up here on Capitol Hill, this is a major cave on the part of Republicans.

One Senate Democratic aide said that Republicans made the offer on the payroll tax cut extension without being paid for elsewhere, made this offer over the weekend and according to this aide, that House Republicans should send this on over, according to this aide. So they are seeing it as a major breakthrough and Republicans are trying to spin it in their favor and Democrats are trying to spin it in their favor.

Still, a major development of the ongoing battle over the payroll tax cut.

YELLIN: It sure is. And I know Democrats and both the White House will accept it. They say they want unemployment insurance extended, but they will accept this, a big victory for Democrats.

How soon do you expect House Republicans to actually move on this?

BOLDUAN: According to House Republicans, they could move on this as early as this week, according to the Republican aides. The House leadership, House Republican leaders will be meeting with rank and file members tomorrow evening, where they will be going over this plan. But according to one top House Republican aide, they do expect, meaning they're going to be leaning on and pretty much looking to House Democrats to help vote for this and push this through in the House, because they may have trouble. They need to obviously gauge the opinion and the views of rank-and-file Republicans.

But some House conservative Republicans may have real issues with this as this has been part of their philosophy all along, that if you're going to -- anything that's going to require spending is going to have to cut spending elsewhere, Jessica.

YELLIN: Right. So they could take some heat from their constituents in their base, but that means real money in the pockets for 160 million Americans. Thanks so much for your reporting, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Of course.

YELLIN: And the other major story happening now, her death rocked the music world. Whitney Houston, she is being remembered as equal parts unparalleled talent and tortured soul.

Two days after the singer was found dead in the bathtub of her Beverly Hills hotel room, just what killed her still remains a mystery.

CNN's Don Lemon has been posted outside the Los Angeles county coroner's office pretty much all day.

Don, you have been covering this story from the moment it broke, I know. What have you learned today from officials there in Los Angeles?

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, quite a lot, as a matter of fact.

Usually, in one day, we don't learn this much information, but one of the latest things we learned, Jessica, is that Whitney Houston's body, according to the assistant chief coroner here of Los Angeles County, is no longer behind us in this building.

We're being told it was -- it left here a short time ago and that it is somewhere en route to the airport and will be flown by private plane back to the East Coast to her home state of New Jersey. So that's one thing that we learned.

I also had the chance to speak with the assistant chief coroner here and he told me about what led up to the death of Whitney Houston. He's saying that at least an hour before she died that she was seen alive and well in her hotel room.

And then, an hour later, once someone left and then they came back they found Whitney Houston's body and Whitney was in the bathtub, we're told. And the person called for help. They removed her from the bathtub and they tried to revive her and they couldn't. We know at 3:55 p.m., Pacific time, on Saturday, Whitney was pronounced dead at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. And they have since, Jessica, they have completed the autopsy on Whitney Houston. And usually from an autopsy one would think that they would know the cause of death, but the coroner said it will be six to eight weeks until they get toxicology reports.

And I said, shouldn't you have some idea? You should know by now, at least have an idea. And he agreed and then disagreed as well. You can take a listen and then we will talk after.


LEMON: Toxicology report is just a confirmation, but you have some idea, usually, just from the initial look at the scene looking at her body as to what the cause of death might be. I know you don't want to speculate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, that's not true.

You can look at a body and not know what the cause of death is. You might have a suspicion, but the person could have suffered a heart attack or embolism or something. And no matter what medications they're taking, until we run a tox and see the level and what's in the system, we're not going to speculate.


LEMON: And so you can say they have sort of a suspicion about it, but most people will tell you they have an idea and they pretty much know what it is, but just as a confirmation, they're waiting for those toxicology reports.

And, again, just a short time ago, the Beverly Hills Police Department, Jess, held a press conference talking about what happened in the hotel room and what they're saying is that they have completed their investigation at the hotel. They released Whitney Houston's body and it's going to her family and they will hold some sort of services some time this weekend.

Let's take a look now, Jess, at the last time people saw Whitney Houston alive. Her last performance, it was at a club here. It was called Club Tru. She performed with Kelly Price. They believe that was the last time she performed. And then there were pictures of her leaving the club and she appeared, you know, just be somewhat disheveled.

But the interesting thing is that Kelly said there was champagne flowing. They were partying inside of that club. And so, it was hot and warm in there. Whitney, according to her, her friend, didn't show any signs of any sort of drug use, at least in her estimation, just that it was hot.

And when they left the club, anybody who had been partying for that long would be sweating. So that was the last time Whitney was seen. People have been drawing a lot of conclusions about the pictures, but the pictures only tell a snapshot in time. So what we do know is the body is gone. Toxicology reports, at least six to eight weeks before we know. And Whitney Houston, there will be services back in her hometown in New Jersey some time this weekend -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Don, there's so much tragedy out of this story. One of the tragic left pieces is her daughter. She has this 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina, who has been in and out of the hospital. What do we know about her condition?

LEMON: On Saturday night, after Bobbi Kristina was staying with her mom at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, she wasn't there when it happened.

So when Bobbi Kristina got word of her mom's death, she rushed up to the room to go see her mother's body. Beverly Hills police, the police would not let her in. She became hysterical and there was a bit of a shouting match there, as anyone can imagine, 18-year-old girl, I want to see my mother, I'm the daughter. I should be able to see her.

She became hysterical and they had to take her to the hospital. They released her the next day and she was overwhelmed with grief again. They had to take her back to the hospital and she was released. Then we're being told that Bobby Brown who was on a reunion tour with his old group, New Edition, came back from the -- in Mississippi, came back to Los Angeles to take his daughter back to New Jersey to be with her family.

So that's the latest. And she's fine now. So that's what we're hearing about her. But you would understand, Jess, an 18-year-old girl losing her mother suddenly and then hearing about it either from someone in a hotel lobby or on the television news, you would be hysterical yourself.

YELLIN: Yes, yes. So upsetting, Don. All right, well, our hearts go out to Bobbi Kristina. And thank you for your reporting. You have been covering this nonstop and we will check back in as it goes on, Don.

We have breaking news now with the Supreme Court.

We're going to our senior producer Bill Mears, who has this breaking news about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Bill, what can you tell us?


We can report that Breyer was robbed by an intruder armed with a machete last week while he and his wife were vacationing overseas in the Caribbean island of Nevis. The family owns a vacation home there, according to a court spokeswoman. His wife and two guests were in the home when at time when this intruder came in, robbed the family of about $1,000 and left. Nobody was hurt in the incident.

And so far, no arrests have been made.

YELLIN: So to be clear, you said there was a machete used but this happened last week so everybody is fine?

MEARS: Everybody is fine. It happened last Thursday about 9:00 p.m. in the evening. Somehow this intruder got in armed with a machete and he demanded money -- $1,000 was turned over and the intruder left and everybody is fine.

YELLIN: Do we know where Justice Breyer is now? Has he returned to the United States or is that not yet clear?

MEARS: It's not yet clear. We have no gotten an indication. The court is on recess this week. They return next week and so he had some free time available.

YELLIN: He was on a vacation in the Caribbean. Any indication the robber knew who he was and targeted him because he was a Supreme Court justice? Or we don't know?

MEARS: We don't know. The justices, typically, when they travel keep a pretty low profile. They're not usually recognized even around their neighborhood here in Washington.

So most of them keep a pretty low profile. It would not be not unusual that vacation homes down there would be targets of intruders. But it's unclear whether this particular intruder knew who Justice Breyer was.

YELLIN: Do you know, do justices usually travel with any kind of security?

MEARS: Court officials are very hush-hush about the kind of security the justices have, even traveling around the country around their homes and traveling overseas. So no indication exactly what kind of security he might have had. But this investigation is being handled by local authorities.

Federal officials at this point are not involved.

YELLIN: All right, Bill Mears, thanks so much for that breaking news.

Again, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer we're learning was robbed at not just knifepoint, but by a machete while he was on a vacation in Nevis, the Caribbean island. But he's fine now. And the robber took $1,000. We will continue to follow the story as we get more developments.

And moving on, Rick Santorum in the horse race politics. Rick Santorum describes himself as Mitt Romney's main competitor for the Republican presidential nomination. And a new poll is now backing him up.

The Pew Center national survey conducted after Santorum's triple win last Tuesday shows 30 percent of registered Republicans want him to face President Obama in November, compared to 28 percent who want Mitt Romney to.

Although with the margin of error, that's really a statistical tie.

Now let's get more on this with CNN senior correspondent Joe Johns.

So, Joe, what is the latest on the race between Romney and Santorum?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jess, as you know, Mitt Romney claims a stake in at least three states, Massachusetts, where he was governor, New Hampshire, where he has a home, and Michigan, the state where Romney grew up and got his legacy in politics.

Now, though, the question is whether Michigan could actually be up for grabs in the race for the Republican nomination.


JOHNS (voice-over): Home sweet home perhaps no longer Mitt Romney woke up to find out that Michigan, the state where his father served as governor, is not necessarily Romney country anymore.

With the primary there less than two weeks away, the latest American research group poll shows former Senator Rick Santorum slightly ahead among Republican voters in Michigan, a poll taken during Santorum's big week in which he won three state contests. But the fact is that reality may have set in over the weekend after Romney narrowly won the Maine caucuses and the straw poll of conservative activists in Washington.

Santorum was suddenly calling for Newt Gingrich to get out of the race, claiming it's now between him and Romney.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We think this is a two-person race right now.

JOHNS: But he was also left grumbling Sunday about how the straw poll contestants get out their vote.

SANTORUM: The campaigns that want to win go out and recruit people and provide, you know, free tickets for them to come and vote. And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, that's absolutely a strategy. We just don't think that's a good use of our resources. And -- but Governor Romney, obviously, you know, may have a different idea.

JOHNS: Other factors clearly help Santorum, including a slew of social issues hitting his political sweet spot: the uproar over contraceptives, a court decision overturning a gay marriage ban, an issue he raised about whether men in combat might have a natural tendency to protect women soldiers -- issues that might help him in the short term but one Republican strategist says it's the big-ticket items the voters care most about these days.

DOUG HEYE, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Ultimately, the key challenge for Republicans is going to find who is that conservative to best pushback and defeat Barack Obama on the issues of jobs, the economy, spending, debts and deficit? Republicans often say that Democrats are tax-and-spend liberals to the point that it's become a cliche. The reality is that cliche as we saw with the budget today is often true.

JOHNS: And it's also true that Mitt Romney has a lot of work to do. In Michigan, for example, Romney opposed the government-sponsored bailout of the auto industry, even writing a November 2008 op-ed in "The New York Times" calling for the industry to go bankrupt. His campaign says he favored a managed bankruptcy which is essentially what happened.

For Romney, though, it's important which part of that message voters are actually paying attention to.

HEYE: If you can communicate a positive message but if it's heard negatively, that's a problem. That's where candidates need to be careful. So, often candidates worry about, as they should, what they say. But what's more important is what voters hear, and ultimately that's what voters respond to.


JOHNS: I asked the Romney campaign about Santorum's strong showing in the polls and they say in their view there hadn't been that much focus on the Santorum record at all and they think that's going to change as the public takes him more seriously as a candidate.

Newt Gingrich is out on the West Coast today raising money. Both Romney and Santorum will visit Michigan later this week and that's when we may get a better feel for how the Romney campaign is playing in the state where his dad used to be governor.

YELLIN: Romney people thinks are going to focus more on his record or they happen to know that because they're going to see to it.

JOHNS: The television ads we've seen before. Right.

YELLIN: Thanks so much, Joe.

JOHNS: You bet.

YELLIN: Joe Johns, reporting.

And Rick Santorum has made a series of controversial comments about women. Will those comments come back to haunt his campaign? We'll talk about that with Donna Brazile and Rich Galen in our strategy session.

Also, Osama bin Laden's surprising alleged advice to his children and grandchildren: don't follow in my footsteps.

Plus, Israeli embassy staff, the target of bombs in India and the republic of Georgia? We're getting new details.


YELLIN: Jack Cafferty is here now with "The Cafferty File".

Hi, Jack.


It seems Mitt Romney is not selling what conservatives want to buy. Apparently, his focus on jobs and the economy isn't connecting with the right wing of his party.

Peter Beinart writes in "The Daily Beast" the Republican base is more fired up about how to keep government from destroying our liberty than had you how to use government to grow the economy.

Yes, conservatives see shrinking government and boosting the economy as related, but their focus is on greater freedom. It helps explain the success of many of the previous GOP candidates who caught fire this time around, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and currently, Rick Santorum. All of them described the 2012 election on some level, as a struggle between government tyranny and individual freedoms.

Chances are, in November, more Americans want to hear how the next president can fix the economy, create jobs -- and that would play into Romney's strength. But for now, he's got to figure out how to make conservatives like him.

And here's a hint: his speech over the weekend is not the answer. In that speech he described himself as a, quote, "severely conservative Republican governor." That is just awful. Severely conservative? It sounds like a disease. It once again highlighted he's got problems on the right.

But Romney did get some good news over the weekend after the Santorum sweep last Tuesday, Romney narrowly defeated Ron Paul to win the Maine caucuses and he won the straw poll vote at CPAC as well.

And there's this -- should Romney become the nominee eventually, conservatives could fall into line faster if it means defeating President Obama in the fall.

So here's the question: Why can't Mitt Romney catch fire with conservatives?

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

YELLIN: All right. Thanks, Jack. We'll check in with you in a bit.

And coming up, well, she's written her own -- about her own struggles with substance abuse. Up next, we'll talk to HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell about the death of Whitney Houston.

And then, he lived in the shadows and was hunted at one of the world's most wanted terrorists. Osama bin Laden may have had vastly different hopes for his children. His advice to them is coming up.


YELLIN: At the peak of her career, she was unstoppable. Whitney Houston, who died suddenly on Saturday, has been described as a diva, the voice of a generation.

But in recent years, her soaring voice and talent were overshadowed by her struggles with addiction. Someone in our own ranks has a strong opinion about the actions of people in Houston's circles who should have taken action.

She should know. She's had her own similar substance abuse struggles and has written a book about it.

Joining us now is Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Jane, thanks for being with us. I've read the op-ed you wrote on and you argued that we didn't do enough. What do you mean by that?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, ANCHOR, HLN'S JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, I think that there has to be a national wake-up call about the dangers of prescription drug use and abuse. And, also, we all have to get educated about addiction and how it works because there is just a tremendous ignorance and it ends up, I think, contributing to the problem.

For example, it was said by a friend, Whitney Houston's friend says, hey, she was drinking Thursday night. But she was happy and joyful.

Well, let me say this. As a recovering alcoholic with 16 years of sobriety and hopefully, by April, I'll have 17 years. When you are in recovery, you are not to have a thimble, a thimbleful of anything that's mood-altering. I do not even gargle with mouthwash that contains even a trace of alcohol. I will not have a piece of food that has been cooked in alcohol, because even a crop can trigger a binge.

YELLIN: But, Jean --

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Once you have that first set, that even the tiny crumbled piece of a pill, you lose control and you essentially are not able to say no. It's like one drink is not enough, a thousand isn't enough.

YELLIN: But, Jean, doesn't everybody have their own recovery habits? Their own way of doing it? I mean, we're not getting into the specifics of what is reported to have been found in her room, but some of these reports suggest that it's stuff that high-functioning everyday people take, and this might just be regular prescription drugs someone needs for a regular ailment.

VELEZ-MITCHELL: Well, it's a slippery slope. We're told as people in recovery, that we are only to take a medicine when it is absolutely medically necessary and then, only for exactly how long it is absolutely medically necessary.

And this is part of the problem. Doctors are ignorant about addiction. So, they're giving people across America powerful narcotics that are highly, highly addictive and then not realizing they're turning people into addicts. This is a wake-up call to the nation.

Again, we do not know what was found in Whitney Houston's system. So I'm not jumping to conclusions. But the fact is that she was in rehab -- less than a year ago, she checked herself back in rehab. A person who was in rehab several times and last checked herself in less a year ago should not be having anything to drink.

No alcohol and if Americans take that one thing away, then maybe that will save other lives.

YELLIN: I wonder if, speaking as a former recovered addict yourself, you talk about what society could have done, if we could have done something to intervene.

And does this speak a little bit to the way -- I don't know, the way we all look at aging women in Hollywood. Do you think that's something maybe Whitney Houston was suffering from?

MITCHELL: Well, listen, I think all performers suffer from that. You're only as good as your last performance and eventually your last performance won't be that good because we age.

Michael Jackson couldn't dance the way he did when he was a teen and Whitney Houston couldn't sing the way she did when she was younger. So if your entire self-esteem is based on your ability to perform, ultimately you're going to end up in a corner and feeling desperate.

So I think that we do have to look at the demands that we place on performers and stars to be eternally youthful. We live a disposable society and we dispose not only of physical objects but people, when they pass their expiration date. And I think we have to rethink that as a culture.

YELLIN: All right, Jane, thanks for being on and thanks for sharing your own history and good to see you.

MITCHELL: Thank you, Jessica.

YELLIN: Jane will have more on the life and struggles and the untimely death of singer, Whitney Houston. You can join her on our sister network, HLN's Jane Velez-Mitchell show this evening at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Well, Mitt Romney is now trailing Rick Santorum in two new polls. How much trouble is Romney in right now? Plus, Santorum's controversial remarks about women. Will they end up costing him votes? We'll talk about all that and more next in "Strategy Session" with Donna Brazile and Rich Galen.


YELLIN: One thing is certain in politics and that is, nothing is a sure thing. Two new polls today show that Rick Santorum has given frontrunner Mitt Romney a run for his money.

A Gallup daily tracking poll has Santorum dramatically closing the gap among registered Republicans with 30 percent support to Romney's 32 percent support. Basically, they're neck-in-neck.

Look at this American Research Group Survey of likely Republican primary voters. Rick Santorum has surged ahead to 33 percent support to Romney's 27 percent.

Joining me now for today's strategy session, our CNN political contributor, Donna Brazile and conservative commentator, Rich Galen. All right, Rich, I'm going to start with you, but I know Donna is going to have a lot to say about this.

So get your points in quickly. Is Mitt Romney in trouble? Given the fact that there's not an opportunity for him to save himself between now and the next debate, how much trouble is he in?

RICH GALEN, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: Well, he doesn't have to save himself because there's nothing going on between now and the 22nd. One of the things if we've learned anything this cycle, it's, A, these polls are not predictive two weeks out.

In Florida and South Carolina, they were not predictive five days out so two weeks are not predictive at all. Secondly, this has been a normal kind of pattern if you go back to even before December.

Remember Newt was up and then Romney was down and these things -- this is part of why, Donna, that people think that Romney really does have the upper hand because he's got the campaign that can sustain these valleys all the way to June, if he has to.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I agree with you, rich. I believe Mitt Romney will eventually become the Republican Party nominee if for no other reason he will spend the next few days before the voters in Michigan and Arizona go to poll, destroying yet, another conservative.

Rick Santorum is surging because at this point, he is seen as the alternative to both Mitt Romney as well as Newt Gingrich. His favorability rating is almost 64 percent or 65 percent.

And I'm sure the Romney campaign is taking a look at that and saying, you know what? We're going to have to give him a taste of the medicine we gave Newt Gingrich down in Florida.

YELLIN: But, Donna, I know the Obama campaign and Democrats would expect to run against Mitt Romney. They'd love to run against Rick Santorum instead because they consider him the weaker candidate. But I wonder if there's a counterargument, could Rick Santorum actually be more formidable because he energizes the Republican base?

BRAZILE: You know, I know for the last year and a half we've been talking about what Republican will be like to run against. Well, most of them have dropped out and decided not to run. So I'm sorry, Herman Cain, this was not your moment.

The truth of the matter is it doesn't matter if it's Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney, we know they're running on the same failed economic policies that have gotten us into this deep mess.

And it is true that, you know, Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum will be able to rally those hard-core conservative voters, but at the end of the day you know what's going to happen? Those conservative voters, many will come home and they'll back and embrace Mitt Romney.

It will be a very, very tough race in the fall. And I do believe that the Democrats as well as President Obama will be prepared to run against not only Mitt Romney, but everybody else.

GALEN: We've talked about this before on the show. That four years ago, then Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, duked it out all the way to June. We're only in February so this has a long way to go.

YELLIN: But the numbers were a little different then and they maintain their favorability. I want to move on to something now because Santorum's frontrunner status has earned him a little more scrutiny.

On CNN last week, he was pressed by both John King and Wolf Blitzer about women in combat and he suggested that emotions might get in the way of women serving effectively there. On Sunday shows, George Stephanopoulos pressed him further. Listen to what he said.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Radical feminists are making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace. Isn't that something everyone should value?

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes. I have no problem -- I don't know -- that's a new quote for me. I don't know what context that was given, but the bottom line is that people should have equal opportunity to rise in the workforce.

And again, if you read the entire section, I don't think anyone will have a problem with the fact that what I was calling for clearly calling for is a treatment of affirmation of whatever decision women decide to make.


YELLIN: He went on to say that his wife wrote that section of the book and so he wasn't quite sure -- look, women voters are going to be -- suburban women voters are a key swing block, isn't that something like that going to hurt him in the general election?

GALEN: it would be nice if people who held those views had actually been in a war zone for more than one weekend visit under very special circumstances.

I was in Iraq for six months, in '03 and '04 and I will tell you that young women, I'm not talking about women that look like they ought to be driving an 18-wheeler.

I'm talking about women who were just regular, American, literally, girls, in forward positions, in dangerous situations. They weren't treated any differently than their male counterparts.

YELLIN: You get it, but does he -- is this going to catch up with him?

GALEN: I think this is the kind of thing that if people are looking for reasons why, let's just stop and think about Rick Santorum, that's the sort of thing -- it won't be determinative I don't think around the country, Donna. But this certainly is the sort of thing that you'll look for.

YELLIN: Donna, isn't this the kind of thing that the president would run away with if Santorum were his opponent?

BRAZILE: You know, I want to just say, Rick is absolutely right. We've lost over 120 American women in the military combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Women are clearly equipped to do much more than what we've been limited, but based simply on our gender.

Rick Santorum comments are pretty much retro. That's part of the conversation we had 40 or 50 years ago. That's not the conversation we should be having in the 21st Century when we see women making advancements in all aspects of life.

So I would hope that Rick Santorum would not throw his wife under the bus when he makes stupid comments and say, look, I made a mistake. I'm sorry. I have daughters. I'm very sensitive to this issue and I want my daughters and my son --

YELLIN: Quickly, are you surprised he's doubling down given how important suburban women are in this election? They're a key swing vote, aren't they?

BRAZILE: I think his wife should really pull him aside and have a nice conversation with him. This is a ridiculous comment along with some of the other things he said about women and contraception and everything else.

But the bottom line, Jessica, is that we're in the 21st Century. We're not going to allow men to define our existence or try to limit our success simply because we're women and that's what women should think about. GALEN: And that goes back to the first thing we were talking about. That's why Mitt Romney, I think, has the best chance of being the nominee. He can attract those women you were talking about.

YELLIN: OK, great. Thanks to both of you, Rich Galen and Donna Brazile, as always, great to talk to you.

And he lived in the shadows and was hunted as one of the world's most wanted terrorists. But Osama Bin Laden may have had vastly different hopes for his children, his advice to them when we come back.


YELLIN: He was the world's most wanted terrorists, but there are new reports now that before his death last year, Osama Bin Laden urged his children and grandchildren not to follow in his footsteps.

CNN'S Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, this is a fascinating possible window into Bin Laden's final days what he may have been telling his children and grandchildren about his life and the path they should follow. And we got some added detail on the raid that killed him.


TODD (voice-over): He was committed to a life and death struggle with the west. But an extended family member now claims Osama Bin Laden didn't want that for his children. You have to study, live in peace and don't do what I am doing or what I have done. That quote attributed to bin laden by the brother of Bin Laden's youngest wife.

She relayed that remark to the "Sunday Times" of London and said that Bin Laden advised his children and grandchildren to go to Europe and America and get a good education. Can the brothe-in-law be believed?

CNN national security analyst, Peter Bergen says while living in the compound in Pakistan, Bin Laden would have more likely discussed those topics with his wives and children than anything about operations.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: They know about what Bin Laden was eating and you know, they can tell you a little bit about his routine. But, you know, Bin Laden wasn't telling his wife about, I'm planning to attack Chicago or anything like that. He wouldn't have had those conversations with them.

TODD: But Michael Sawyer who once ran the Bin Laden tracking unit at the CIA is skeptical about Bin Laden telling his offspring to take a different path.

(on camera): Are you buying him saying that? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's very unlikely. At least there's precedent. There's no evidence in anything he said over the course of his life that would have indicate that he would turn 180 degrees. He once said that -- I would rather die with my children than live Europe.

TODD: The man that relayed those quotes to "The Sunday Times" is identified as the brother of Amal Al-Sadda also known as Amal Ahmed Abdul Fatah, Bin Laden's wife from Yemen.

He says their daughter, a young girl names Sophia, is the child most traumatized by the raid that killed her father. He tells the "Sunday Times," Sophia was cradling the head of her wounded mother when Pakistani forces arrived after the raid.

(voice-over): The brother-in-law according to the "Sunday Times" met with his sister in Pakistan. In the wake of the raid, Pakistani officials contacted their counterparts in Saudi Arabia and Yemen to arrange repatriation for the three wives Bin Laden had been living with.

But a senior Pakistani official who's close to the Bin Laden investigation tells CNN the wives and their children remain in Pakistani custody.


TODD: The official says that's because the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen have not made their own arrangements to repatriate them so the Pakistanis are holding them for their safety.

We've called and e-mailed Saudi and Yemeni officials here in Washington to ask why the governments have not moved to take back Bin Laden's wives and children and we've not heard back -- Jessica.

YELLIN: Brian, the Saudis and Yemenis, they obviously would have their own motives for not taking the wives and children of Osama Bin Laden?

TODD: The terrorist expert we spoke with Michael Sawyer, as far as the Saudi wives are concerned, if the Saudi Arabian government has them back, they would bring back sons of Bin Laden with them.

He says the Saudi regime does not want that under any circumstances. They feel too threatened by it and don't want any family members in either of those two countries right now.

YELLIN: Even if Osama Bin Laden told them to go into a different line of work?

TODD: That's right. They would never really feel quite secure.

YELLIN: Bizarre story. All right, thanks so much. He's likely China's next president and he's coming to the White House tomorrow. What we know about him and what's at stake.

And amid the brutal slaughter in Syria, the U.S. steps up its espionage operations. Details of what the intelligence reveals.


YELLIN: The man in line to be China's next president is coming to Washington. He arrives here tonight and will meet with President Obama at the White House tomorrow.

Let's go to CNN's Erin Burnett, host of "Erin Burnett Out Front" at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Erin, so what do we know about Xi Jinping?

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUT FRONT": It's pretty interesting. Xi Jinping is 58, pretty young when it comes to the powers that be in the Communist Party in China and it's expected that he's going to take over as head of the Communist Party later this year and then as president for Hu Jintao early next year.

As I said, he's young. This is his second visit to the United States. He actually studied here, lived with a family in Iowa back in 1985. He's going to be visiting with that family briefly after his visit to Washington then heading out to Los Angeles.

So it's pretty interesting. This is only his second visit to the United States. One thing I thought interesting today in "The Washington Post," Jessica, today there was a whole insert called "China Watch."

It's the China daily and the Chinese government puts it in English and tries to put it in U.S. newspapers. Today it had a whole story about American firms heading home saying that labor costs in China are rising 15 percent to 20 percent a year.

So U.S. companies are bringing jobs home, which clearly shows the Chinese sensitivity to the election issue of losing jobs to China this election year so that's going to be a big issue and we don't expect there will be any major deals announced.

But this is a man that everyone in the United States will soon know because he will be the leader of the second biggest economy in the world and of course, the biggest foreign owner of American debt probably within the next 12 months.

YELLIN: And your sense, what's China's goal for the trip?

BURNETT: I think they just want him to build relationships. They're very proud. Every time in China when you talk about their leaders coming to the U.S., they're very proud. Their main goal from the government official perspective is to try to explain to the United States that we're not -- China is not on enemy of the United States.

And more over China is poor. In the U.S. you think we're rich and we're taking all of your jobs, but you're wrong. They tried to change that narrative. They'll try to get Americans focused on this number, Jessica, which is $5,500. That's the average income for a Chinese person last year, $5,500.

That compares to the per capita income in the United States of $48,100. So they try to make the argument of we're poor. Don't fight us. Don't think we're out to get you and out to take your jobs. We can all be in this together and please don't start a currency war. We'll see if they succeed, but that's the goal.

YELLIN: Right, a lot of pressure on the president with this one too. We'll be watching you at 7:00. Thanks so much, Erin.

And Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail about Mitt Romney and conservatives.

Coming up in our next hour, the latest from India, the scene of a bombing targeting Israeli embassy staff.

Plus, allegations that Israel is using proxy terrorists to attack Iran. We're digging deeper.


YELLIN: Jack joins us again with the "Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Hi, Jessica. The question this hour is why can't Mitt Romney catch fire with conservatives?

Jenny in New York writes, "Romney can't catch fire with conservatives because he's severely a bad liar. He's trying way to hard to look like something he's not and people can smell the desperation oozing out of him."

Dave in Orlando, "Very simple. They aren't certain that he intends to completely destroy the middle class and eliminate all taxes for the wealthy by the end of his first day in office."

Drew writes, "With his stances on the left, right and center, Romney has reduced himself to a parody of the three stooges, flip, flop and flip-flop Romney. The only conservatives that support him are the ones that hope his severely conservative persona will bang the other two's heads together."

Carroll writes, "Severe typically describes a disease. That's problem. Mitt secretly thinks conservatism is akin to chicken pox." George in North Carolina writes, "Even the dim-witted self-absorbed conservatives can spot an over-reaching rich brat who thinks he can buy and pate nice his way into getting votes."

Larry writes, "Catch fire, he can't even catch a cold. Romney's been running so long he has no clue where he's running too. Brokered convention, just watch." Fred in Mississippi, "Jack, the reason Romney can't catch fire with conservatives is because he's not a conservative. He's a moderate or as Newt Gingrich has called him, a liberal."

If you want to read more on this, go to my blog, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Pretty funny. YELLIN: Pretty funny and a tough -- you know, severe wasn't even scripted. He adlibed that.

CAFFERTY: Yes, he should never go off the prompter. Obama needs a prompter to say good morning to the first lady. Romney should never be allowed off the prompter ever.

YELLIN: Well, maybe they'll listen to you, Jack. OK, talk to you in the next hour. I don't know if they will.