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The Situation Room

Interview With Terry McAuliffe and Haley Barbour; President Obama Challenges Republicans Over Taxes; Shark Scare

Aired July 09, 2012 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: There's something President Obama didn't tell you today. He walked into the East Room of the White House and explained at length why he wants a one-year extension on the Bush income tax cuts for Americans earning less than $250,000 a year.

Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Congress doesn't do this, millions of American families, including these good- looking people behind me, could see their taxes go up by $2,200 starting on January 1 of next year.


BLITZER: The president, though, never spelled out the cold political reality. There's no chance his plan will get passed by Congress. Here's why.

While the president would let taxes go up for people who earn more than $250,000 a year, Republicans want to keep the tax cuts in place for everyone, including wealthy Americans.

So the president's plan will never get through the Republican-led House of Representatives. And guess what? It probably won't get through the Democratic-controlled Senate either. Six Senate Democrats, at least six of them, have already indicated in the past that they don't necessarily want to raise taxes on anyone during these tough economic times.

It shouldn't surprise you that four of them are in very tough reelection battles. Many independent economists have argued that this isn't the right time to increase taxes, given the fragile economic recovery in the United States. The president himself made that point back in 2009, when he agreed to keep the Bush tax rates in place for everyone.


OBAMA: The last thing you want to do is to raise taxes in the middle of a recession, because that would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: The president is changing his tune now because he and his advisers think they have a winning campaign issue, portraying the president as a friend of the middle class and Mitt Romney as simply a rich guy who is out of touch with hardworking families.

The Democrats are going on the offensive and they're talking about Romney's Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts, his refusal at least so far to release more than one year of his tax returns. They keep asking this question, what exactly is he hiding?

So the stage is set for a brutal battle over the next four months. Don't expect anything significant to happen in Congress on taxes or much else for that matter until after the election on November 6.

Kate Bolduan is here. She has more on what's going on.

This is going to be a very, very rough ride.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A rough ride. And this is a very big story. Wolf, as you said, the Obama campaign is really playing up Romney's wealth, but Romney's private comments show possibly a different side of the candidate.

I want to bring in our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta.

Jim, what do you have?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, first, it was Romney's business career. Now it's his transparency about his personal wealth that is under attack.


ACOSTA (voice-over): While liberal activists hounded Mitt Romney as out of touch near one of his weekend fund-raisers in the Hamptons, the GOP contender was inside telling a group of wealthy donors his campaign is focused on less fortunate Americans.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're here, by and large you're doing just fine -- but I spend a lot of time worrying about those that are poor and those in the middle class.

ACOSTA: Romney's comments follow a week of Democratic swipes at his personal wealthiest, the jet skiing and boating on a family vacation in New Hampshire to an article in "Vanity Fair," which reported the GOP contender has only recently disclosed an offshore holding in Bermuda.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Nobody knows why he has a corporation in Bermuda. Why he failed to disclose that on seven different financial disclosures?

ACOSTA: Romney's aides have said little about the issue releasing a lone statement to Fox News saying, he hasn't paid a penny less in taxes by virtue of where these funds are domiciled.

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: All of this nastiness and division about investments and money and rich versus poor. This comes down to how people feel in November. How do people feel about this president?

ACOSTA: An Obama campaign official tells CNN even the president's call to end the Bush tax cuts for wealthier Americans fits into a larger narrative of who is really looking out for the middle class.

OBAMA: That's why I believe it's time to let the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, folks like myself to expire.

ACOSTA: Romney argues that will hurt the wrong people.

ROMNEY: That will be another kick in the gut to the middle class in America.


ACOSTA: But Romney is not playing defense on fund-raising, with his total for June coming in at $106 million. That's $35 million more than the president -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: We keep saying the money game is a big story this election season. We will continue to follow it. Jim Acosta, thank you so much.


BLITZER: In Afghanistan right now, a manhunt is under way for members of the Taliban who took part in the public execution of a woman accused of adultery. The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, ordered their arrest today after the horrific video surfaced of the woman being shot at close range in front of a cheering mob.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us now. She has more on this source of international outrage, what it means for all of those secret talks that have been going on with the Taliban.

What is going on here, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, number one, Wolf, you know, Afghan officials say that they believe that this happened because two Taliban commanders were fighting over this woman.

They both apparently had some type of relationship with her, and in order to save face, this accused her of adultery. And so all of this is raising questions about that policy of talking with the Taliban.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): This is the video that is shocking people around the world, a young woman accused of adultery shot up close at least nine times with an assault rifle as more than 100 men cheer on the executioners.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This cold-blooded murder is another reminder to the Afghan people and the international community of the brutality of the Taliban.

DOUGHERTY: But even as it condemns the killing, the administration is defending its policy of talking with the Taliban.

CARNEY: There cannot be peace in that country without reconciliation, ultimate peace.

DOUGHERTY: The U.S. began secret talks with the Taliban a year- and-a-half ago trying to convince them to lay down arms, renounce al Qaeda, and work with the Afghan government to bring peace.

But those talks broke off in March. The Taliban accused the administration of backtracking on a promise to release Afghan prisoners from Guantanamo. It's not surprising those talks are dead in the water, one expert says. From the beginning, they were a long shot.

CHRISTINE FAIR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: It wasn't clear who within the Taliban organization was willing to negotiate. Would they be able to bring the bulk of the organization along? And then of course, we always had the problem of Pakistan. Pakistan was acting very aggressively to eliminate literally any officials that were willing to negotiate apart from Pakistan.


DOUGHERTY: And there's another problem, another reason why those talks are in trouble. And that is there's a new generation of Taliban. They are more radical, more interested in jihad than in any peace talks.

But the State Department says it still wants to see Afghans talking with Afghans. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this past weekend, Wolf, said that there are some positive signs.

BLITZER: She declared Afghanistan a friendly non-NATO ally of the United States, a significant development on that front as well.

Jill, thank you.

An unruly little passenger, an emergency landing and 19 hours of misery for people on board a flight. Just ahead, you will hear the pilot talk about the ordeal as it unfolded.

Plus, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he goes inside the hospital where dozens of children have died from a mysterious illness. Sanjay is standing by to join us live from Cambodia. That is coming up next.

And later, a well-known banker is missing. But so is $17 million. The mystery, that's coming up at 42 after the hour. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta is in Cambodia right now, where health officials are scrambling to learn more about a mysterious illness that's killing children, attacking their bodies in a merciless way.

More than 60 youngsters have died in Cambodia over the past three months. And it's not clear how fast or how far this deadly syndrome could spread and whether children in other countries may be at risk.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has traveled to Cambodia for CNN. He's investigating what's going on.

Sanjay, first of all, thanks so much for doing this. What is going on? Because a lot of folks not only in Cambodia, but all over the world, they are deeply concerned about these kids.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I will tell you, it is an ongoing investigation.

And I will preface by saying I was in the hospital today where so many of these kids are being treated. And as a parent, it's just -- it's tough to see what these children are going through. They're trying to figure out why so many children, 64 children, they say the number is, have died very quickly over the last couple of months, many of them treated at a hospital here in Phnom Penh, where I am now.

And they're starting to try and zero in on what possibly is causing this. One of the things, Wolf, that they have found is that 24 of the children had their blood samples taken. And out of those 24, 15 actually tested positive for something known as enterovirus 71. Most people have never heard of this, but it is something that causes hand, foot and mouth disease, something that is more common, but not nearly as deadly.

So now they're trying to figure out how is this particular pathogen, this virus possibly causing these deaths and doing it so rapidly? Could it be another pathogen on top of the enterovirus? Could it be a combination of this pathogen and a drug of some sort of, a medication that the kids are taking? They're still not entirely sure, Wolf.

So it's an ongoing investigation. I don't know if you're seeing any of the images from the hospital, but hospitals are crowded here as a general rule. So this is in addition to a lot of the health problems Cambodia already faces, Wolf.

BLITZER: Are international medical experts on the scene, the World Health Organization, others? Are they deeply involved in trying to figure this out?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's an interesting situation with regard to that.

There is a World Health Organization office here in Phnom Penh. But the hospital where so many of these children are being treated is a private hospital. So there's not necessarily a relationship between the World Health Organization and this hospital. What happens is the hospital reports what's happening to the Ministry of Health. And then they decide if they want to ask the World Health Organization to participate.

It's unlike a lot of situations that I have seen around the world. But that's the way it works here in Cambodia. To answer your question, the World Health Organization is involved. But the testing that found this enterovirus, the children are being cared for all through private facilities, Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the symptoms? These little kids, what do they go through as they apparently get sicker and sicker?

GUPTA: Well, this is the tough part of it, Wolf.

I mean, the way it was described to me -- and I spoke to the doctor who has cared for 66 of these patients, again 64 of whom have died -- this is nearly 100 percent lethal. What was so disheartening I think about this is that literally within 24 hours of admission, just one day of admission, these children are dying.

So it's very, very rapid. The children oftentimes come in with relatively mild fever, again according to this doctor, but then develop encephalitis often, which is an inflammation of the brain. The children become almost in a coma-like state.

And then, from there, Wolf, they develop a profound lung deterioration. As the doctor described it to me, the lungs become completely destroyed, and even putting the patient on a ventilator, these children on ventilators, doesn't help because the lungs simply aren't exchanging air anymore with the blood, oxygen with the blood. So it's frightening, Wolf, to see and to hear described.

BLITZER: Sanjay, thanks so much for doing this report, really, really appreciate it. We will stay in close touch and get hopefully some follow-up tomorrow. Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the scene for us in Cambodia.

GUPTA: You got it.

BLITZER: Kate, it shows, you know, there's a crisis like this, Sanjay, he doesn't waste any time. He goes there. He's not only a great journal, but he's a neurosurgeon. He's a physician. He wants to be there. Little kids are dying. And he wants to get that story out.

BOLDUAN: And it's one of these stories that when you put the eyes of the world on it, maybe it can bring about more change -- and 64 of them dead already, it seems that they have got to be able to find some way to help these children, Wolf.

Thank you, Wolf.



BOLDUAN: I want to actually you show you the shot this time. There you go, an amazing dunk off the gym wall. I think I might be able to pull it off. Yes.


Show it again. I'm going to be at the USA-Brazil game here in Washington next Monday, the dream team getting ready for the Olympics. How cool is that?

BOLDUAN: It's great. Where is my ticket?

BLITZER: We can work on it.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. Exactly. OK.


BLITZER: In what is turning out to be one of the biggest surprises of the political year, the Obama campaign's legendary fund- raising machine is getting clobbered right now by team Romney. Look at these latest numbers.

Official word came out today that Romney's campaign and the Republican National Committee took in $106 million in June. The president's reelection campaign and the Democratic National Committee raised $71 million, a whopping $35 million less than the Republicans.

Today, an Obama campaign official warned, and I'm quoting now, "If we lose this election, it will be because we didn't close the gap enough when we had the chance."

President Obama's campaign has been hammering on Mitt Romney's offshore accounts. Should Romney release his tax returns for more than just one year? You're going to hear what the former Republican Party chairman, Governor Haley Barbour, says about that and more.

And here's something you will never see on this program. A debate on a live TV show gets so heated, it gets so angry, someone actually starts throwing things, and then this one individual pulls a gun. You're going to see what's going on. That's coming up at 55 after.


BLITZER: Happening now: new recordings of the pilot who made an emergency landing that left passengers stranded for hours.

A major Republican and Democrat working together to create jobs.

And a terrifyingly close call with a great white shark.

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

Many Republicans and Democrats claim to know how best to create badly needed jobs in this country, but, Kate, you and I have seen a lot of partisan bickering going on that's preventing some of that.

BOLDUAN: It's definitely preventing some of that. Wolf, but that's why it's interesting to see two former party chairmen actually cooperating on an economic venture.

GreenTech Automotive, a company that makes small electric vehicles, began production at a new plant in Mississippi on Friday. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe is chairman of the company that is manufacturing what it's calling a revolutionary all-electric low-speed vehicle that doesn't produce any emissions.

McAuliffe relocated the company's operations from China to Mississippi with financial incentives offered under the former Governor Haley Barbour of the state. Haley Barbour is also the one- time chairman of the Republican National Committee. GreenTech says the move will create more than 400 new jobs in the short term.

Former President Bill Clinton was on hand to kick off production and also congratulate longtime friend McAuliffe.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It really matters that you can come to Horn Lake, Mississippi, and come up with a new technology that offers the prospect of providing a product at an affordable price.


BLITZER: Let's bring in Terry McAuliffe and Haley Barbour right now.

And, Terry, let's talk about politics first, a little bit of a subject close to your heart. You're a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Haley Barbour is a former chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Is President Obama doing the right thing now wanting to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year?

TERRY MCAULIFFE, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think what he said today, the point is, let's get those people who are making $250,000 and less, which are 98 percent of the population, let's go ahead. Republicans, Democrats agree that they ought to keep the tax cuts. Let's just do that, get that off the table.

The issue of the top 2 percent is much more contentious. It's probably not going to be done before the election. It's going to be a big fight. But let's take care of those 98 percent.

BLITZER: but do you think that in terms of when economic recovery now sort of fragile, is it smart to raise taxes on anyone right now?

MCAULIFFE: Well, what he is saying is that debate... BLITZER: Not what he's saying. What are you saying?

MCAULIFFE: Well, he's the president of the United States.

BLITZER: So you support him?

MCAULIFFE: Of course I support President Obama.

BLITZER: On this specific issue, raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 at this time?

MCAULIFFE: I thought it was a brilliant move today to say let's take care of those 98 percent.

Listen, I spent a lot of years working with President Clinton. As you know, our rate was 39.6 percent. We had the greatest economic expansion in the history of our country, 22 million new jobs, also passed the Deficit Reduction Act, took our government work force down to the lowest level since John F. Kennedy.

You got to do the cuts. You got to bring in some revenue. But let's go ahead out and make sure those 98 percent of people who are small businesses -- 97 percent of the people affected are small business. They create jobs.

My business down in Mississippi, with the help of the governor, we're going to have 1,000 employees by next year. We're a small business. We're growing. We want to be a big business, but we're working together in a bipartisan way.

BLITZER: Fair enough. Well, we remember the 39.6 percent tax rate during the Clinton administration.


BLITZER: The economy was doing just fine then.

BOLDUAN: Governor, I want to bounce off something that Terry just said. You two are working together in the spirit of bipartisanship. Listen here to something also that President Obama said today. Listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Republicans say they don't want to raise taxes on the middle class. I don't want to raise taxes on the middle class. So we should all agree to extend the tax cuts for the middle class. Let's agree to do what we agree on.


BOLDUAN: Seems logical. Why don't you -- you know, is this an area where Republicans should take what you can get and then fight about the other stuff later? HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MISSISSIPPI: It didn't seem logical to President Obama during the Obama care debate when Republicans said look, let's -- there are a lot of things we agree on. Let's pass the things we agree on.

And instead Obama and the Democrats crammed Obama care down the nation's throat, despite its unpopularity with any Republican votes, with no vote to spare in the Senate. It's always easy to say, "Let's do what we agree on." He didn't do what they agreed on. But this idea that they haven't raised taxes on the middle class, small businesses in America are about to have to start paying $3,000 per employee tax.

BOLDUAN: So you don't see any...

BARBOUR: For every employee they can't afford to give health insurance to.

BOLDUAN: You don't see anything in what the president's saying there? I mean, the American people want to see politicians doing what you guys are doing, working together.

BARBOUR: Sure, but American people want to see our economy grow. And if you want to put $850 billion tax on employers -- and remember that most of the small businesses in the United States pay the tax return, pay on the individual rate. We already have the highest corporate tax in the world. So now he wants to raise the taxes.

BLITZER: The president says 97 percent of those small businesses would not be affected by that.

BARBOUR: The president said 97 percent of people.

BLITZER: He said 97 percent of the small businesses would not be affected.

MCAULIFFE: Ninety-eight percent of people, 97 percent of small businesses.

BARBOUR: I beg to differ, if you look at the returns. But you look at where the jobs are created in the United States, the people who create jobs he's trying to saddle with the largest tax increase in American history. Unless Obama care turns out to be the largest tax increase in history.

BLITZER: He's saying that most small businesses don't show a profit of more than $250,000 here. The most successful of the largest ones, 2 or 3 percent of all the small businesses who employ a lot of people, they do show a profit of more than $250,000 a year, so they would be directly affected by this increase in the tax rate to 39.6 percent from 35 percent.

BARBOUR: Unless this recession has been so bad that so many small businesses now have had their profits reduced, during the Clinton administration and the Reagan administration, a whole lot higher percentage of small businesses made more than $250,000 a year. BLITZER: Are you surprised, Terry, that the Romney campaign and the Republicans this month for the second month in a row raising a lot more money than the Obama campaign and the Democrats?

MCAULIFFE: No, in fact, when I was chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2004, we outraised the Bush -- you know, the incumbent president campaigned every single month. By the end of the campaign, we raised more for the first time in history than the Republican National Committee and the Bush campaign together. So I'm not surprised.

After you win the nomination, I think a lot of people come together. There's a lot of excitement. We did it in 2004, so I'm not surprised. Still I know the president's raising a lot of money. A lot of grass-roots support. I will say this. I've said this consistently. We're going to come down to a basket of six or seven states we're fighting over. Both sides will have sufficient funds in order to get their message out.

BOLDUAN: You don't think this says something about the campaign that -- that Romney and Republicans are outraising them by, what, $35 million in June?

MCAULIFFE: Kate, President Obama has been raising money probably now for 15 or 16 months. So he's got a lot of the people. This is brand-new to bring all the other primary opponents together for Mitt Romney.

BLITZER: They both have about the same cash on hand. Where the Republicans do much better, and Haley Barbour knows this, are the super PACs. They're going to raise a ton more than the pro-Obama Democratic super PACs.

MCAULIFFE: That is probably the most frightening thing out there is the amount of money that's privately raised on the other side, through the Koch brothers and all these super PACs.

BLITZER: How much will they raise?

BARBOUR: We hope we can raise something close to what the labor unions have been contributing for the Democratic campaigns.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about this. The Democrats really going after the Republican -- going after Romney that he's not releasing his income tax returns. One year he's released. And they're saying he's got Swiss bank accounts, Cayman Island banks, secret business deals in Bermuda. Listen to Robert Gibbs, the former White House press secretary, now supports the Obama campaign.


ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a guy whose slogan is "believe in America." And it should be "business in Bermuda." That's what Mitt Romney is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Why doesn't he just release his income tax returns, as every other recent Democratic and Republican presidential candidate has done?

BARBOUR: It doesn't surprise anybody in the United States that Barack Obama knows he can't run on his record, so he always wants to change the subject.

He wants to talk about Romney's tax returns. He wants to talk about Romney's Bain Capital. He wants to talk about Romney's wife is an equestrian. They want to talk about anything except Barack Obama's record, which is a record of failed policies that are hurting the American economy. And we're talking about them right now.

Let me say, we came on here to talk about his car business. Let me tell you something about his car business. Terry said...

BLITZER: Yes or no, tax returns, should he release the tax returns?

BARBOUR: I would. But should it be an issue in a campaign? I don't think it amounts to diddly.

But Terry came to Mississippi, he said, because we had the best inventive package. Our package was all tax incentives. If they did certain deals, we would forgive taxes, taxes that they wouldn't pay us if they didn't come to Mississippi. That speaks volumes about how people create jobs. Low taxes create jobs.

An $850 billion tax increase plus Obama care, where you don't even know your obligations or cost for health insurance for your employees, no wonder our job market is being strangled by this administration's policies. That's why we want to talk about...

BLITZER: That's why we love the fact that the two of you, two former party chairmen, are working together in Mississippi. You've got a new car deal going on down there. I hope you make a lot of money. I'm sure you're pretty happy about that, as well.


BLITZER: Haley Barbour, Terry McAuliffe, guys, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Just want to add one note. Haley Barbour has been involved in American Crossroads. That's that Karl Rove-run super PAC, pro-Republican super PAC. He's a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, as I said, as well.

Terry McAuliffe former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, but he's now an entrepreneur, a major entrepreneur. He's got this new car company. He's building new cars in Mississippi, working very closely with the state there. Good work all around. Meanwhile, a banker is missing. So is $17 million. And the feds are trying to figure out what happened. We have much more on that story coming up at 6:41 p.m. Eastern.

And an unruly passenger, an emergency landing and a nightmare flight. You're going to hear the pilot talk about what happened during the 19-hour ordeal. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're learning more about the latest nightmare for airline passengers. Get this: people on board a Spirit Air flight were strapped in their seats for what they thought would be a five- hour flight from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Instead they wound up in Texas, and they were stranded for hours and hours and hours.

CNN's Sandra Endo is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've got some new recordings on what was going on. Hard to believe that this could continue in the United States of America at this time.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. You know, when it comes to air travel, all it takes is one person to spoil it for everybody. And that's what happened for about 100 passengers on board a red-eye flight, no less, who were just trying to get to Florida.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, what a mess at this time in the morning.

ENDO (voice-over): You can hear the frustration over the air- traffic radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no idea where we're going.

ENDO: Spirit Flight 310 was a red eye scheduled to go from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, this past weekend. But over Texas, an elderly passenger in his 80s became disruptive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This man was, like, touching everybody who was going to the bathroom. Letting nobody go to the bathroom, come out to their seats. You know, kicking their walls like, you know, like crazy.

ENDO: Complicating matters, the man's condition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think he's blind, think he might have Alzheimer's. He's not getting up out of his seat because he needed a wheelchair to get to his seat, so he's not threatening the flight deck. We think he might be off his medicine.

ENDO: And a language barrier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe the man speaks French, and that's the only language he knows. So if you have anybody who speaks French down there, that would help us with this situation.

ENDO: Pilots said they did not believe the man was a physical threat but diverted the plane to Houston.

(on camera) That presented other problems. Spirit does not fly to Bush Intercontinental Airport, so it took additional time to find a gate and pilots who could fly the remainder of the flight without violating FAA work-hour rules.

THERESA SHAVIANO, PASSENGER: It was terrible. It was unreal. It was painful. Nineteen hours. Nineteen hours we were in this mess.

ENDO (voice-over): Spirit said it flew in another aircraft and crew as quickly as possible to take customers to Fort Lauderdale. The airline said it apologizes for the inconvenience, but said safety is its top priority and it will provide full refunds to passengers.


ENDO: As for the elderly man, Houston police questioned him, and he was released without charges. He said he was scared by the flying experience -- Wolf.

BLITZER; All those hours on the ground in Houston, how many hours on the ground in Houston, the folks were just prevented from getting off the plane? Is that what it was?

ENDO: Well, according to some passengers, they said they were stuck on the tarmac in the plane without air conditioning or food for about two hours.

Then, eventually Spirit let them out into the terminal. They were given some food and some, you know, some services at that point. But again, it's a red-eye flight in the middle of the night in Houston, an airport that Spirit doesn't really fly out of. So really, the conditions were so tough. And imagine all these passengers just wanting to get to Florida, their original destination to begin with.

BLITZER: Thanks for that report. Appreciate it.

BOLDUAN: Sandra, thank you.

Now I want to turn to a full-blown federal manhunt. A Georgia banker is missing after being accused of stealing millions of dollars from investors, and that's just the start of this very bizarre story.

Our David Mattingly is joining me from the CNN Center in Atlanta.

David, just a few weeks ago this man told friends he was planning to commit suicide. But the U.S. attorney's office thinks he's still alive. Why?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's because of the way this has all been playing out. He sent this long and elaborate note to friends and family, saying he was planning to kill himself, admitting he had lost millions in investors' money. And he said he was going to end his life by jumping off of a ferry that went from Key West to Fort Myers, Florida.

Well, there's evidence that his ticket was scanned, that he got on the boat. And they've also been able to determine that he purchased diving weights before getting on that boat. But there's no way to track after that to find out if he actually exited the vessel later when it got to Fort Myers.

So at this point, they're looking at his other habits. They think that he owns property in Venezuela. They also were looking at what he last told his wife the last time they had contact -- he had contact with her, telling her that he had business in Central America. So they're -- cast a very wide net here to see where he might be.

BOLDUAN: It's really a phenomenal story. This man -- Aubrey Price is his name -- he himself, he actually sent a confession with this suicide note?

MATTINGLY: That's right, 22 pages. He sent it out to investors and to his family. And he admits, and this is from the SEC. This is a statement that they released. They said that it was, in his words, he called it "a confidential confession for regulators."

Price admits that he, quote, "falsified statements with false returns in order to conceal between 20 to $23 million in investor losses."

The FBI also is involved in this case. U.S. Attorney's Office was seeking an arrest warrant. And they also put out a statement saying that this man caused approximately $21 million of money belonging to a subsidiary of the bank, to be sent to certain security accounts.

The way this whole thing worked, he was supposedly trying to turn a failing bank around. He opened an investment company to take over that bank, attracted a lot of investors with millions of dollars. And now that money is gone and so is he.

BOLDUAN: Wow, what a wild story. David Mattingly, please stay on top of this. I obviously want to hear how this ends up. David, thank you so much.

BLITZER: Interesting stuff. No doubt about that.

There's another amazing story we're following. It starts with a kayaker hitting the water for the very first time and guess what shows up right behind him. The Great Whites are out along a popular beach with more sightings just today.


BLITZER: Do not go in the water. That warning today on Cape Cod where sharks are lurking just offshore. The shark hunters were out today tagging more Great Whites.

Our own Brian Todd is over at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He's watching what's going on, just back from Cape Cod. What are you hearing from your vantage point, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, authorities on Cape Cod are really on their toes right now, keeping a very close eye on exactly where the Great Whites are versus where the swimmers are. This is after a scare this past weekend when a kayaker literally had to paddle for his life.


TODD: This was Walter Szulc's first time kayaking. Take a look at the size of the dorsal fin lurking just a few feet behind him. He says he didn't hear people screaming at him from the shore but made it back to shore safely.

WALTER SZULC, OUT-PADDLED SHARK: I just figured, this is it. I'm dead or I'm going to make it. I don't know. I mean, but it was out of my hands.

TODD: That close call on Saturday led authorities to close Nauset Beach on Cape Cod.

On Sunday, the group Cape Cod Shark Hunters spotted three Great Whites in the area near Nauset Beach and Chatham. The largest, they say, estimated at about 18 feet. Watch from the air as they use a fast-moving boat to try to catch up to Great Whites and tag them today, along with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a tagger place the tag at the base of the dorsal fin using a harpoon method. So it's a very effective method for tagging these fish, and it doesn't necessarily handle them or stress them to any great degree.

TODD: Then they monitor the migration patterns of these apex predators with other devices.

We were with John Chisholm of the Marine Fisheries group when he deployed them.

(on camera) These may look like harpoons. But they're actually -- they're listening stations. These are buoys that have acoustic receivers in them to receive the transmissions from tagged sharks.

John says there are a lot of Great Whites in this area that have not been tagged.

(voice-over) Among the 20-odd Great Whites they have tagged here, Chisholm says they've tracked some as far away as Florida. It's not much of a mystery what draws them back to Cape Cod.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we've allowed seal populations to rebound over the course of the last four decades, I believe that they've now hit threshold levels that are drawing these sharks close to shore and, in essence, they become a viable food resource for them.

TODD: Rick Skomol (ph) says they're observing more Great Whites each year off Cape Cod, but as menacing as they seem, Great White sharks have had to be placed on the protected species list. I asked Andy DeHart, an expert at the National Aquarium, about the recent encounters.

(on camera) What can expert do to keep humans and sharks apart from each other?

ANDY DEHART, NATIONAL AQUARIUM: What they're doing up in Massachusetts right now is a great strategy. A lot of folks are kind of pointing to, well, maybe we need nets at the beaches. That's a strategy that's been used in Australia.

And what scientists have found is that those nets are actually doing a lot of environmental damage. They're killing sea turtles; they're killing whales.


TODD: DeHart says they should do that everywhere, what they're doing in Massachusetts: monitor where the sharks are and then pull people out of the water as needed.

No question here which of the species is the most dominant killer, Wolf. Seventy-three million sharks are killed by humans every year, and only about six humans die of shark bites every year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are the authorities out in Cape Cod, Brian, telling people specifically about where the sharks are most likely to be?

TODD: Very specific warnings, Wolf. They tell them do not swim within 300 feet of the gray seals. Now, the gray seals are all over the place up there right now and they're coming fairly close to shore, coming close to the swimming population. And still people are coming near them. The authorities say, get away from those seals. Three hundred feet at least or you could be in danger of getting attacked by a shark.

BLITZER: Pretty cool sharks behind you at the aquarium. Did you see the sharks...

BOLDUAN: I know. I love sharks.

BLITZER: ... going back and forth?

BOLDUAN: Brian took my plum assignment today.

BLITZER: All right. Get ready for "Fifty Shades of Grey," the musical. Jeanne Moos coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BOLDUAN: A TV talk show debate gets way out of hand, and emphasis on the way out of hand. We'll show you. It is our Video of the Day.

BLITZER: It could have been dangerous.

BOLDUAN: It could have been dangerous.


BOLDUAN: Political discourse takes a threatening turn in our "Video of the Day." This was a debate on live Jordanian TV. You're seeing it's heated already.

As the talk gets more and more heated, a member of parliament starts waving a pistol at his opponent. It also involves shoe- throwing and throwing of furniture.

The moderator scrambled to get between them. No one was reported to be hurt. But clearly, that was not the kind of debate you want to have.



BLITZER: "CROSSFIRE" taking on a new -- that guy's got a gun.

BOLDUAN: That is not allowed in THE SITUATION ROOM.

BLITZER: No. No way. Not happening.


BLITZER: First, it's a book that's gotten people talking. Now there's "Fifty Shades of Grey," the musical. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a closer look at the set of the send-up set to music.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Fifty Shades of Grey" has gone from mommy porn to musical. At least the musical won't make you blush 50 shades. It's relatively clean.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): "Fifty Shades of Grey," how could I refuse? In my boring life as a plain housewife, I can dream of being sexually abused.

MOOS: The musical pits a reader who loves the book against a reader who hates it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): Every page I read makes my eyeballs bleed.

MOOS: The makers of this 2 1/2-minute musical are brothers.

VIJAY NAZARETH, FILMMAKER: The idea came up when I saw -- I was in the subway, and I saw all women reading it from like small girls -- literally teenage girls to grandmothers.


MOOS: Eventually a gay character makes his entrance.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): "Fifty Shades of Grey," I pray that no one realizes that I'm loving it. Every bit.

MOOS: There have been other musical tributes to this lady porn phenomenon, turning the verbatim words of the book into lyrics.


MOOS: Jimmy Fallon featured "Fifty Shades of Grey" karaoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Like a whore's drawers.

MOOS: Seriously, that's from page 277, honest.

Comedians mockingly vied to record the audiobook version, from Gilbert Gottfried...

GILBERT GOTTFRIED, COMEDIAN: He scrunches my panties.

MOOS: ... to Ellen DeGeneres. Though Ellen chose to paraphrase the overheated prose.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: He guides his hands across my secret garden.

I'm just going to add some sound effects, if that's OK. Because I think...


DEGENERES: Apologize.

MOOS: What's been whipped up are sales. "The Wall Street Journal" reports the "Fifty Shades' trilogy has sold almost 20 million copies in the U.S. in five months. It took the "Dragon Tattoo" books three years to accomplish that.

And while some couples say the book's done wonders for their love life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have a big bed but we sure get around it.

MOOS: The musical has it both ways.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): It's the greatest love.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): I've had enough.

MOOS (on camera): So they've written their mini musical, but have they read the book?

ANTONIUS NAZARETH, FILMMAKER: I did not read the whole book.

MOOS: And you read just a little bit.

V. NAZARETH: Passages here and there. Yes.

A. NAZARETH: It's really -- some of it is awful.

MOOS: No shades of gray in that book review.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (singing): "Fifty Shades of Grey."

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Amazing work for the publishing industry. Electronic, old school, the whole nine yards.

BOLDUAN: It was an amazing, phenomenal success. I will admit: I read it. I'm sure you have not.

BLITZER: I have not. All right. But maybe one day I will.


BLITZER: That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.