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Hillary Clinton vs. Howard Dean?; Republicans Rebel Over Dubai Port Deal; Former Iraqi Ambassador to U.N. Reacts to Dubai Deal; Jack Abramoff Admits New Disclosures; Possible Divide In Democratic Party; Deputy Who Fired Shots At Unarmed Iraq War Veteran Faces 18 Years In Prison

Aired March 8, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new -- new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you the day's top stories.
Happening now, it's 7:00 p.m. in Washington, where Republican lawmakers are in open rebellion against the White House, defying a veto threat and voting to block the Dubai ports deal. Will the president hold his ground?

They're talking tough -- very tough -- in Tehran, where it's 3:30 a.m. -- Iran warning that if it's punished for its nuclear program, it can inflict harm and pain on the United States. Is the Bush administration up to the challenge?

And it's 7:00 p.m. here in New York -- as Democrats gear up for crucial elections, are Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean headed into a power struggle for the heart and soul of their party?

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

We're in New York City tonight, just back in the United States from Dubai. We have been bringing you exclusive reports and interviews on the controversial Dubai ports deal.

Right now, in Washington, push is coming to shove in the port storm. Just a short while ago, a key House panel voted overwhelmingly to block the port deal, a dramatic show of Republican defiance of the president.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is standing by.

First, though, let's get the latest details.

Our congressional correspondent, Ed Henry, standing by with new developments on Capitol Hill -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after nearly five-and-a-half years of virtually marching in lockstep with this president, congressional Republican leaders all of a sudden standing in open defiance of this president, drawing a line in the sand on this port deal. We're also, though, seeing a lot of growing political pressure on the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, because he's getting it from all sides. First of all, he's being backed into a corner by his Republican counterpart, Speaker Dennis Hastert, who gave the green light tonight to the House Appropriations Committee to consider and pass this amendment that basically kills the Dubai ports deal.

They passed it overwhelmingly, 62-2. Take a listen to what we heard from the chairman of that committee, Jerry Lewis of California.


REP. JERRY LEWIS (R), CALIFORNIA: The amendment is straightforward and is a rifle shot crack to -- to block the Dubai Ports World deal only. This is a national security issue. This is a national security bill. We want to make sure that the security of our ports is in America's hands.

My amendment blocks the deal by prohibiting Dubai Ports World or any entity controlled by D.P. World from taking control of United States port operations.


HENRY: So, the amendment passes. It's attached to a must-pass piece of legislation that funds the troops in Iraq, as well as Katrina aid, and other major issues and -- and prerogatives of this president.

It will be voted on, on the House floor next week. And then it's sent over to the Senate, where Senator Frist will have that pressure. He's also getting pressure from Democrats -- Chuck Schumer today offering an amendment, a surprise, on the Senate floor to the -- an unrelated bill, the lobbying reform bill, that basically would kill the Dubai port deal as well.

Frist was able to use a procedural maneuver in order to block it for now, but Democrats like Dick Durbin say they will be back.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: We have offered Senator Frist an opportunity to vote on this later today. He said no. We offered him a vote tomorrow. No. We offered him a vote on the next bill. No. We have asked him for a vote at some time certain. He said no. Well, he can run, but he can't hide.


HENRY: Now, obviously, the president has made clear, if either one of these amendments or any legislation killing this port deal makes it to his desk, he has threatened a veto. But when you take a look at the vote count in the House Appropriations Committee, 62-2, it's pretty clear, at least in the House, they could override this president's veto -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Henry on Capitol Hill, thanks. Over at the White House tonight, President Bush is standing firm on the port deal, despite the Republican revolt in the House of Representatives.

Our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, is joining us now from New Orleans, where Mr. Bush visited earlier today.

What's the reaction, Suzanne?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Wolf, this is really a very difficult situation for this White House.

And, essentially, all they can do is continue talking to members of Congress, reaching out to Senators Warner, as well as Frist, and others.

I talked to Dana Perino at the White House. She said this. They're concerned about attempts to address this issue in an impending supplemental, because it would slow down the process of getting through legislation, of course, through Congress and the president's desk. And then she goes on to say this about funding, our troops, what they need to win in the war on terror.

Now, simply, some people believe here that all they need to do is buy time, that 45-day investigation period, that, hopefully, they will be able to change some minds. But they also believe, too -- perhaps they're making a stand in the House -- that cooler heads will prevail in the Senate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne, what about the president's visit to the Gulf Coast today? What did he accomplish, or at least try to accomplish?

MALVEAUX: Well, the president's message was clear, essentially, that he wants to tell people in New Orleans and Mississippi, look, I have made promises here to rebuild this area. He simply wants to say: I get it.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): Betty McDaniels was born and raised in the Ninth Ward. The memories of her first 15 years of marriage were created here.


MALVEAUX: But she is trying to move on. Six months after Katrina, it's still a struggle. But she doesn't blame President Bush.

MCDANIELS: He's doing the best he can do.

MALVEAUX: It was his 10th visit to the Gulf Coast region today.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Red beans and rice. MALVEAUX: But the first time in Betty McDaniels' neighborhood, once home to a predominantly poor black community, swallowed up by Katrina's waters when the levees broke. Mr. Bush used one of those levees as a backdrop to convey his message.

BUSH: I fully understand, and I hope our country understands, the pain and agony that the people of New Orleans and Louisiana and the parishes surrounding New Orleans went through.

MALVEAUX: President Bush has promised to repair the failed system to pre-Katrina strength before the next hurricane season hits in June, 350 miles of levees, 169 of those damaged or destroyed. The Army Corps of Engineers says it's about halfway done. But independent experts are critical, saying they're using substandard materials to do it fast and on the cheap.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL CARL STROCK, COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS: We are using the right material, and we are putting it down in the right way.

MALVEAUX: Cleanup efforts are stalled, as residents are unable to return. Mr. Bush implored Congress to approve a $4.2 billion housing initiative that would provide up to $150,000, not including FEMA and insurance payments, to Louisiana residents who lost their homes.

But critics say the president is not pushing the Republican-led Congress hard enough.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Will the president showed the political courage necessary to stand up to the leaders of his own party in the House of Representatives to make sure the people who need the money most get that funding?

MALVEAUX: Later in the day, he participated in a series of photo-ops in Mississippi, devastated by Katrina as well.

The point of his trip? To hammer home that the president is not in a bubble.


MALVEAUX: Now, Mr. Bush has staked his presidency on his ability to help protect the American people in times of crisis. Wolf, that next test, of course, come -- of course, coming in less than 100 days, with the arrival of the new hurricane season -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux reporting -- thanks, Suzanne, very much.

We're going to have much more on the Republican revolt on this ports deal that's going on up on Capitol Hill right now.

And, later this hour, we will be joined live by the leading Republican critic of the deal to -- for Dubai Ports to take over these U.S. ports, Congressman Peter King of New York. He is standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tough talk today from Iran, which is threatening to inflict harm and pain on the United States, if it's punished for nuclear activities. Is the Bush administration backing down?

Let's go live to our national security correspondent, David Ensor, in Washington -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the comment about harm and pain came from a senior Iranian national security official. He repeated it more than once to make sure the point was clear. He would not elaborate.


ENSOR (voice-over): With Iran referred to the United Nations, where it could face punishment for its nuclear programs, the war of words is escalating fast.

RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences.

JAVAD VAEEDI, IRANIAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it's also susceptible to harm and pain. So, if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll.

ENSOR: In House hearings, administration officials made clear the breathing period is over for Iran to consider the broad international coalition arrayed against it and to reconsider its uranium enrichment plans.

NICHOLAS BURNS, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: The 30 days are up. And we believe that, next Monday or Tuesday, the -- the United Nations Security Council will begin a very active debate about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

ENSOR: Officials said, Iran appears to have been using the time to speed ahead with what the U.S. says is work towards a nuclear bomb.

ROBERT JOSEPH, UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE: It has, since January, put both feet on the accelerator.

ENSOR: There was skepticism in the hearing about the president's endorsement of a compromise proposal, Russian President Putin's offer, to give Iran nuclear reactor fuel and then take it back before it can be reprocessed into bomb-grade material.

REP. TOM LANTOS (D), CALIFORNIA: Giving Putin's apparatchiks control of this process would be putting the fox in charge of the hen house.


ENSOR: But the U.S. knows it does not now have the votes in the U.N. Security Council for tough economic sanctions. And officials say, next week, they will seek support first for a statement calling on Iran to give in to the demand of the world for a uranium enrichment freeze -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David Ensor, reporting, thanks.

Zain Verjee is joining us from Atlanta now with a quick check of some other news making headlines.

Hi, Zain.


Three Birmingham college students are in federal custody in connection with a string of church fires in rural Alabama. According to an affidavit filed in the case, one of the students told a witness, the fires started as a prank, but then just got out of hand. Unusual tire tracks helped investigators locate the suspects.

There's some confusion over a missile launched by North Korea. The White House says that the country apparently launched two missiles today similar to test launches in the past, but Japan's Kyoto News Agency quotes sources as saying, the short-range missiles were fired to the east from the eastern coast, and may have been launched by mistake.

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards says that she has got cancer of the esophagus. An aides say, the 72-year-old Democrat went in for tests on Monday and got the diagnosis yesterday. Richards also suffers from osteoporosis. She was governor of Texas from 1991 until 1995, when she lost to George W. Bush -- back to you now, Wolf, in New York.

And you're there with Jack Cafferty. Are you guys going to go out for dinner together, drinks, celebrate the first time...


BLITZER: Not -- not tonight. Not tonight. But the next time, we're definitely going to go out to dinner, right, Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Plans are in the works, as they say.

BLITZER: We are working this out.


We might even get Zain to come up from Atlanta and join us.

VERJEE: Oh, how exciting.

CAFFERTY: You can pick up the check.



BLITZER: He was complimenting you, Zain. He was complimenting you on some of the pronunciation of the words.

CAFFERTY: Yes. It's...

VERJEE: Like -- like -- like -- like...

CAFFERTY: Like missiles.

VERJEE: All right. All right.

CAFFERTY: And -- and...

VERJEE: Missile.

CAFFERTY: And schedule.

VERJEE: Pentagon.

CAFFERTY: What was the other one?

BLITZER: Controversy.

CAFFERTY: Controversy.

BLITZER: Controversy.

CAFFERTY: All right.

Reality television does not get any better than what's going on in Washington, D.C., tonight. In the end, it's hard to know what drove that overwhelming vote against the ports deal by the House Appropriations Committee.

Sixty-two-to-two against sends a pretty clear message, or does it? Was it because the members of the committee are legitimately concerned about our nation's security and don't want a nation with ties to terrorism operating port facilities at six major ports in the United States, or was it because 70 percent of Americans don't want this deal and all of the members of the House of Representatives are up for reelection in eight months?

Patriotism or political pragmatism? It doesn't matter, really. The dye has been cast. And, eventually, all of this will wind up in the Senate.

What are you going to do, Senator Frist?

Here's the question: Will the lopsided vote by the House Appropriations Committee against the ports deal, 62-2, change President Bush's mind? E-mail us your thoughts at, or you can go to

It's going to be a train wreck down there. I can't wait.

BLITZER: It's a good -- good -- good political story.

CAFFERTY: Oh, it's great stuff. BLITZER: But a lot's at stake.


BLITZER: It's not just politics.

CAFFERTY: No, no. I understand.

BLITZER: There are real issues here.

CAFFERTY: I understand.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.


BLITZER: Coming up, GOP revolt under way right now on Capitol Hill -- they're staring down the president on the ports deal. The leading Republican critic, Congressman Peter King, he is standing by. He will join us live.

Hillary Clinton -- an adviser starts collecting information about voters. Is it a move for 2008?

Plus, my exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein's man in the United States in the days leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Find out why he says he was right all along about weapons of mass destruction and what he thinks about Iraq perhaps heading toward a civil war.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Tonight, we have seen a remarkable show of Republican defiance of President Bush, with the House Appropriations Committee's vote tonight to block the Dubai port deal.

Right now, let's talk to a key House Republican. He's a leading critic of the port deal, the chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, Congressman Peter King of New York.

Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.


BLITZER: Is this deal -- is this deal dead?

KING: Wolf, I think it has to be. It was a 62-2 vote in the Appropriations Committee. This will be on the House floor next week. It's going to pass overwhelmingly.

I have never seen such unanimity on any issue since I have been in Congress. I have seen some controversial issues, like impeachment, or abortion, assault weapon ban. But, you know, those are always like 55-45 votes. This one is as intense as anything I have ever seen.

And everyone, 99 percent of the people, are -- are against the deal.

BLITZER: Is it too late to find some sort of compromise?

We're hearing murmurings, for example, that John Warner, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, have been speaking with people close to D.P. World and the White House, trying to come up with this -- this notion of a subsidiary, an American subsidiary, perhaps taking charge of these six major ports. Is that something you still think could be worked out?

KING: Well, I suggested several days ago that there actually be a separate independent American company, not so much a subsidiary of Dubai Ports, actually a separate company, which would operate the contract.

Wolf, I will be honest with you. I think that train has left the station. And I think that Dubai Ports was too -- too reluctant and too slow to take advantage of that. I got the impression that the White House didn't realize until the last one or two days how severe this issue was.

I have a hard time seeing it ever coming back to the House and having any chance of getting through. We're going to pass this opposition to the deal. It's going to be part of the supplemental appropriation for the war in Iraq. And that's going to be inextricably tied into that.

And there's no way I see the House changing its mind on this issue. And, so, I -- I think really that DPW was -- was really too slow to move. They were, in a way, arrogant. They were locked in. They did not have any comprehension of the political realities, nor do they understand the legitimate concerns that the American people had.

BLITZER: Well, what about the White House threat, the threat directly from the president? Early on, he boldly came out and said, I will veto any such legislation that would -- that would torpedo this deal? Do you think he still would veto legislation as part of the bigger appropriations bill, if this amendment were included?

KING: Wolf, I don't see how he can, because this amendment is going to be part of the supplemental appropriation, which pays for the war in Iraq.

I don't see how the president of the United States, as commander in chief, can veto the appropriation that he needs for the war to be carried on. So, it's going to be very difficult. I don't see how the president can do it, because, in effect, he would be putting the United Arab Emirates before the welfare of the American troops. And this president, I know, does not want to do that.

BLITZER: I know you're in the House, but the Senate is, of course, an equal chamber. They still have to pass this kind of legislation. And -- and it looks like the Republican leadership there is certainly much more reluctant than Dennis Hastert and John Boehner, the Republican leadership in the House, to defy the president as boldly as you have in the House.

KING: But, you know, this -- this supplemental appropriation has to pass for the -- you know, for the war to be prosecuted.

I don't see how the Senate can hold this up. They are going to have to pass it. They are going to have to make the same decision the president does. Do they want to work out a deal with the UAE, or do they want to continue to provide the money that our troops need in -- in Iraq?

So, I -- I -- I think the Senate may try to delay it. I don't see how they can do it. And, again, I -- I think there will be such a public outcry against the Senate if they try to do it at this stage.

I -- I really think that -- that DPW and the White House and, to some extent, the leadership in the Senate, have failed to realize what a volatile issue this is, maybe because, as House members, we're closer to the people than the senators are.

But I have never seen an issue -- in my 14 years in Congress, 30 years in politics, I have never seen an issue like this. Now, I -- first of all, I -- I believe in this position very strongly. But it's a lot easier, when you believe in something, to also have 99 percent of the American people standing with you.

BLITZER: Peter King, you have at least 70 percent, based on some recent polls. We will see what happens down the road.


BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.

KING: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, he was Saddam Hussein's advocate at the United Nations. He has all but disappeared since the U.S.-led invasion. My exclusive interview with Mohammed Aldouri -- you will remember him -- that is coming up.

Plus, a controversial taped shooting by a sheriff's deputy leads to some very serious charges. We will go live to Southern California for the latest.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: Iraq remains in the grip of sectarian violence. It was an especially bloody day in Baghdad. And a mass abduction raises fears that the toll may soon rise.

CNN's Aneesh Raman is joining us from the Iraqi capital -- Aneesh. ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some 50 employees at a private Iraqi security firm kidnapped just around 1:00 p.m. local time today, after 25 gunmen dressed as Iraqi police commandos stormed the building.

Initial confusion suggested that police didn't respond to the incident. They thought this was a legitimate operation being conducted by Iraq's Ministry of Interior. The Interior Ministry has denied that, and said an urgent investigation has been launched into what exactly took place.

Meantime, Iraqi police say, late yesterday, a gruesome discovery -- 18 bodies were found in the western part of Baghdad, all of them men, all strangle angled, their arms bound behind their back. They have identified four of the remains as -- as Sunnis. The fear is that the rest will be as well. And, this morning, Wolf, an additional four bodies were found in three separate incidents -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman in Baghdad, thanks.

Before the U.S.-led invasion, he was a familiar face and the voice for Saddam Hussein's Iraq, representing the Baghdad regime at the United Nations, and warning Americans of trouble ahead.

Before I left Dubai, I caught up with Mohammed Aldouri. He's now one of the many residents, the foreign residents, in the United Arab Emirates.

In a moment, my exclusive interview with him, but, first, let's turn to our senior United Nations correspondent, Richard Roth, for some background -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he had a difficult hand to play. And Mohammed Aldouri played it right to the end.


ROTH (voice-over): Nearly three years ago, Mohammed Aldouri left the country, ending his time as Saddam Hussein's last United Nations ambassador.


Hopefully, I can return back to the United States when -- with another better time, better conditions.

ROTH: As Saddam Hussein was losing his grip on power, Aldouri was the loyal diplomat to the end, defending the regime inside the Security Council.

ALDOURI (through translator): What happened is that the Iraqi army up to now has not confronted the United States' forces.

ROTH: Aldouri was not as relaxed with the media as some of his predecessors.


ALDOURI: What has happened with you? Please, why you done -- you -- you came here?

ROTH (on camera): Because we thought...

ALDOURI: Tomorrow, I will see you in the U.N.

ROTH (voice-over): But, as the U.S. routed the Iraqis, resignation.

ALDOURI: Again, is over. I hope that peace will prevail and with -- the Iraqi people, at the end of the day, will have a -- a peaceful life.

ROTH: Aldouri lived on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He had local supporters who greeted him with paper cranes. He had also detractors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I had eggs, I would like to throw eggs at him.

ROTH: When it came time to leave, Aldouri was gracious to the U.N.'s host American city.

ALDOURI: I would like to thank also the people of New York and the people of the United States. They are very decent people. I hope that our future will be better, for the interests of United States and Iraq.


ROTH: Now, as you well know, Aldouri is no longer living in the United States.

Wolf picks up the story from Dubai.

BLITZER: Thanks, Richard.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Mohammed Aldouri.

Mr. Ambassador, thanks very much for joining us.

ALDOURI: Thanks.


BLITZER: You were Saddam Hussein's last envoy to the United Nations. And many of our viewers remember your outspoken words. We're going to talk about those days shortly.

But I'm curious what you think about the prospect of a possible civil war erupting in Iraq right now. Do you think that is likely?

ALDOURI: Yes. It is very likely.


ALDOURI: It's very, very likely.

I think because of the occupation. I think that the main problem for Iraq now is the occupation itself. I -- I think the -- the occupation play on the -- on -- on the sectarianism problems of -- of Iraq right now.

BLITZER: Because a lot of experts suggest...


BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting -- that if the U.S. and its coalition partners were to withdraw from Iraq, that would propel the possibility of a civil war; the only thing really standing in the way is this 130,000 U.S. troops.

You don't -- you don't accept that.

ALDOURI: Oh, no, I cannot accept that.

I think the Iraqi people is very, very capable to govern itself. I think those people who came with the occupation, they will go with him, when -- whenever he will go return back home.

And I think the -- the Iraq people can manage very well the situation.


ALDOURI: I don't think that there will be a civil war after the occupation, no.

BLITZER: Because a lot...

ALDOURI: Right now, the civil war is -- is most likely coming up.

BLITZER: Because a lot of people think that, if the U.S. and its partners were to leave, the Kurds would immediately try to establish their state in the north, the Shiites in the south, and there would be a bloodbath between the -- the Shiites and the Sunnis in the central part of Iraq.

ALDOURI: I think the Iraqi people are very rational. And they know very well their future, where, possibly, the Kurdish might do something if the regional situation is favorable of -- of -- of what they have in their mind.

But the other party of -- of Iraq, I -- I think they will stick on their unity. I think this is their -- their -- this is their hope.


BLITZER: But you can't condone the insurgency, this Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and these other terrorists blowing up Shiite mosques, killing fellow Iraqis randomly, suicide bombers, the al Qaeda in Iraq. This is something that I assume you condemn?

ALDOURI: Of course, not only me, but the Iraqi people also.

We -- we are -- our hope is concentrated on the resistance, on the national resistance, who resist the occupation, who -- who resist the foreigner armies in Iraq. But the others, I think nobody in Iraq can accept what is going on...

BLITZER: Well...

ALDOURI: ... either from them or either for -- for other militias in Iraq who were working and still working with the occupation. You know what about I am talking.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- let me just be precise. So, what you're saying is, you don't condone Iraqi insurgents attacking fellow Iraqis, but you do condone what you call resistance to the occupation, attacks against the U.S. military?

ALDOURI: No, this is a resistance. This is a national resistance.

BLITZER: You're saying that's OK?

ALDOURI: This is a legal one.

BLITZER: Illegal or legal?

ALDOURI: This is legal, international legal to resist foreigners the occupation. But other kind of action certainly I condemn all these -- all these actions who are not against the occupation itself because this is -- the legal one internationally recognized is to fight against the occupation.

ALDOURI: You served under Saddam Hussein. Are you still loyal to him?

ALDOURI: Well, I am loyal to Iraq, always to my country.

BLITZER: Do you think he still should be the president of Iraq?

ALDOURI: I think he is in prison now, and I think he face a trial. We know what is the -- what is the result of this trial. For me, what I am talking about always is my country and the future of Iraq, not the future of one person.

BLITZER: Does he belong to be -- should he be in prison, Saddam Hussein?

ALDOURI: Well, it is illegal also because you know, he is captured under occupation. The occupation powers, the occupying power captured him. So internationally speaking with the international law, he should not. But now he is in prison and he's facing a trial.

BLITZER: You said this three years ago. On March 7th, 2003, you said, while you were still at the United Nations, war against Iraq will not unearth any weapons of mass destruction, but it will wreak destruction.

ALDOURI: This is what is going on actually.

BLITZER: Did you know for sure there were no weapons of mass destruction then?

ALDOURI: Of course.

BLITZER: When you say of course, the rest of the world thought there was.

ALDOURI: You know what are the reasons behind that. I think this is not the real reasons behind the war against Iraq, behind the occupation.

BLITZER: Because even Hans Blix, who was the chief weapons inspector, he said on January 27th, 2003, before the war, he said it is not enough to open doors, inspection is not a game of catch-as- catch-can. Iraq appears not to have come to genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it.

Even he thought you were in violation of the U.N. resolutions that called for the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction.

ALDOURI: I am sorry, I respect very much Mr. Hans Blix, but he has been used by others to say all what he did. All his reports on the situation on that question was wrong.

BLITZER: Bring our viewers to up to date now. What do you do now? What is your position? What is your attitude? You live here in the United Arab Emirates.

ALDOURI: Yes, I am just living here as a citizen, as Iraqi citizen. Outside his own country.

BLITZER: Do you want to go back to Iraq?

ALDOURI: Well, I hope that -- yes, yes, I hope, of course. I want to.

BLITZER: What's sopping you from going back to Iraq?

ALDOURI: The situation, you know. This mess, this -- this state of chaos, certainly there will be a kind of danger against me, I would face a danger there. Also, I am, you know my position is clear. I am against the occupation. I am against those who are working with the occupation.

I want a real democracy in Iraq, a real election, a real election government so the Iraqi people can live peacefully and not as -- it is a state of chaos. BLITZER: You hope one day to return to Iraq.

ALDOURI: Yes, of course I still hope. And I am preparing myself to return back, but now certainly with the situation, I can't move back.

BLITZER: Ambassador Aldouri, thanks very much for joining us.

ALDOURI: Thank you very much.


BLITZER: And just ahead, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton, is he gearing up for a White House run for her? Plus, the indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's revealing magazine interview. Why it may be making some politicians very uneasy tonight. We're going to have details of what he said.

Plus, a veteran sheriff's deputy charged in the videotaped shooting of an Iraq war veteran. There are new developments in the controversial case. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been cooperating with prosecutors and now he's been talking to a magazine reporter, as well. It's just one more reason Abramoff's political contacts may be feeling a bit uneasy tonight. Brian Todd has more on Abramoff, ethics and politically charged photographs. Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, jack Abramoff was once as powerful, as high-powered, as you can get in this town, now he's being called radioactive after pleading guilty to federal criminal charges and cooperating with prosecutors in a crackdown on corruption.


(voice-over): Jack Abramoff believes the Washington heavyweights who knew him are now running from him. According to "Vanity Fair," there are at least ten pictures of President Bush or Bush relatives with Abramoff or his relatives. Recall the president in January.

BUSH: Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that, you know, I'm a friend with them or know them very well.

TODD: The White House tells CNN it stands by the president's comments, but "Vanity Fair" writer David Margolick got a different take from Abramoff.

DAVID MARGOLICK, VANITY FAIR: You have Abramoff recounting how Bush said, what are you benching, buff guy. Clearly Bush knew that Abramoff was a weight lifter.

TODD: What about former House Speaker Newt Gingrich? His spokesman says before the media attention, he wouldn't have known Abramoff if he fell across him. But Abramoff told "Vanity Fair," of Gingrich, I have more pictures of him than I have of my wife.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R-AZ) INDIAN AFFAIRS CHAIRMAN: It's simply and sadly a tale of betrayal.

TODD: Abramoff tells his own tale of John McCain, claiming to have a long contentious relationship, claiming McCain's staffers leaked e-mails to the media to humiliate Abramoff during Senate hearings. A staffer with the McCain's Indian Affairs Committee says information publicly released at the hearings was directly related to the defrauding of Indian tribes.

A McCain aide says the senator was unaware of Abramoff's existence till reading press accounts of his abuses.

LAURENCE LATOURETTE, FORMER ABRAMOFF COLLEAGUE: Was McCain aware of him? Probably. It's tough to be in this town and not be aware of them. Did he go out to discredit Jack purposefully? That's a little hard to believe too.


TODD: There is one powerful Washingtonian who is not disputing Abramoff's accounts in the article, Republican Congressman Tom DeLay's spokesman tells CNN he has no quarrel with anything in the piece, which stated that the two were friends who would talk about philosophy, politics and golf. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. Meanwhile there is new speculation tonight about a possible power struggle within the Democratic party. On one side, an aide to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, on the other the Democratic National Committee chairman.

Our Mary Snow has been looking into this story and finding out what really is going on -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a lot of money at stake and that speculation comes after the launching of a new, independent effort to collect information on Democratic voters.


SNOW (voice-over): With major elections in 2006 and 2008 at stake, why is an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton starting a company to collect voter data, a job usually done by Howard Dean's Democratic National Committee?

Former aid to President Bill Clinton, Harold Ickes, just started a private firm to collect information about voters. It can range from what kind of car they drive to whether they own homes. Democrats agree they lag behind Republicans in voter research. Political observers read more into the move.

LARRY SABATO, DIR., UVA CENTER FOR POLITICS: There's a lot of dissatisfaction with Howard Dean, the DNC chair, at least among establishment Democrats who are based in Washington. SNOW: Recently, Dean found himself on the defense on the topic of fundraising, and responded to critics in THE SITUATION ROOM last week.

HOWARD DEAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We're rebuilding the party. We've raised 20 percent more than we ever have before in an off year.

SNOW: But Ickes insists his private firm is not critical of Howard Dean or the DNC, saying "the DNC has the best database for Democratic candidates. Data warehouse will complement Governor Dean's work."

The DNC tells CNN it has primary responsibility is to gather voter information and is working to upgrade technical glitches that hampered Democrats in 2004 when voter lists weren't accessible to states. Behind the technology, some believe there is a Hillary Clinton factor.

SABATO: Harold Ickes is not an independent agent. He is very much connected to the Clintons, Bill and Hillary, has been for some time. And this is part and parcel, whether he'll admit it or not, of Hillary Clinton's presidential plan.

SNOW: But Senator Clinton repeatedly insists she is only focused on the 2006 U.S. Senate race.


SNOW: But some observers say her war chest suggests Senator Clinton is planning for 2008. She currently has $17 million in cash on hand from fundraising, and that is only expected to grow. Harold Ickes, by the way, also denies that his new firm is any kind of front for Hillary Clinton -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting. Mary, thanks very much.

Up ahead, a sheriff's deputy charged in the shooting of an unarmed Iraq war veteran. Their tense confrontation was all captured on videotape.

Plus, a Web site possibly related to Hamas and directed at children. Our Internet reporters are following the situation online. Stay with us.


BLITZER: A southern California sheriff's deputy has until Friday to post $100,000 bail. He's charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter stemming from a dramatic videotaped shooting.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is live in Los Angeles with details -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Elio Carrion survived a tour of duty in Iraq without a scratch, only to get shot right back here at home. Now the deputy who fired at him is facing 18 years in prison.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): An Air Force security officer was home from the hospital, wheelchair in tow. The California deputy who shot him left court Wednesday after being arraigned on a felony. Ivory Webb pleaded not guilty to attempted voluntary manslaughter, a charge the victim's wife wasn't happy with.

MARIELA CARRION, VICTIM'S WIFE: It's a comfort he was actually charged, but he wasn't charged for attempted murder, and that's what he wanted. That's what he did. He tried to kill him.

LAWRENCE: Both men are tied together by the grainy but graphic home video shot five weeks ago.

ELIO CARRION, VICTIM: I mean you no harm. I served more time than you in the police.

LAWRENCE: A car crashes after leading Deputy Webb on a short, high-speed chase. Elio Carrion is the passenger on the ground.


E. CARRION: I'm going to get up.

LAWRENCE: Prosecutors hired a special lab to enhance the video and amplify the audio.

MICHAEL RAMOS, SAN BERNARDINO CO. DISTRICT ATTY.: Not once did anybody in the D.A.'s office hear Deputy Webb say don't get up. We all heard get up.

LAWRENCE: Neither Webb nor his attorney stopped to talk to reporters on their way out of the court. Prosecutors charged him with attempted voluntary manslaughter, not attempted murder, after they looked at the circumstances and determined the Deputy Webb did not have malice aforethought.

RAMOS: The deputy had a reasonable fear, an honest belief that he thought I'm in danger, not knowing what these people and why they're evading him.


LAWRENCE: Yes, but prosecutors also say another officer in the same situation standing above an unarmed man on ground would not have fired three times as the deputy did -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence in L.A., thanks very much.

Returning now to one our of top stories, three Birmingham college students have been arrested in connection to nine Alabama church fires. Let's go straight to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.

She has more -- Jacki. JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, these are the three guys we're talking about. This is Ben Moseley, this is Russell Debusk, and this is Matthew Lee Cloyd. We found out today that all three of them had somewhat of a life online.

All three had posted profiles on the popular Facebook Web site. This is an online community geared towards college students. You can't dig any deeper into their profiles without being part of their immediate network of friends or being part of their university, but we found that.

We also found out what they were about through their college newspaper. They were both theater students, the two who went to Birmingham Southern College. This is Ben Moseley in a theater production, and you've got Russell Debusk here putting together part of a set.

We also had people talking about them online. Here you can see somebody who went to school with them saying "I would have never thought." Also from Southern, talking about how these were popular kids on campus. The southern University seems to be -- or College seems to be pretty shaken up right now. You can read the full criminal complaint also online through the Alabama District Attorney's Office -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacki, thank you very much.

Let's find out what's coming up in a few moments on "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Fortunately, Paula is here in New York with us to tell us. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, welcome to our town. Nice to have you with us tonight.

We're going to follow up on the story you just heard Chris Lawrence reporting about, that sheriff's deputy who was arrested for the shooting of an Iraq war veteran, all of it caught on videotape.

So tonight we're going to actually take you inside one of the most dangerous jobs in America. For police officers, why is even a routine night scary and sometimes deadly?

Also, a CNN investigation, why has the nation's number two healthcare provider been involved in billing disputes and a state investigation involving patients' deaths?

And a black family and a white family trade places. What's the state of racism and tolerance in America? We're going to hear from both of those families at the top of the hour. And you're going to see an argument really spill out, something we've just taped.

BLITZER: What do you mean? They sort of got make up and they changed what they look like?

ZAHN: They changed what they look like. They lived together for six weeks. They were exposed to a lot of different situations in the Los Angeles area, and tonight, after this whole series has been taped, wait until you see how an argument comes to head about one of the family members accusing another of being racist. Pretty good stuff.

BLITZER: All right, sounds good. Thanks very much, Paula, good to see you as always.

ZAHN: Nice to see you.

BLITZER: And up ahead, your answers to our question of the hour. Will the lopsided vote by the House Appropriations Committee against the ports deal change President Bush's mind? Jack Cafferty, "The Cafferty File," that's coming up.

And our Internet reporter standing by with new information about a hate site aimed at children. We're going to show you what they found online.


BLITZER: "The Bottom Line" on Wall Street today, a mixed session with the Dow and the S&P both up, the Nasdaq slightly down.

Today, there are troubling reports of a new Hamas-endorsed Web site directed at children. CNN's Internet team has launched its own investigation into the voracity of such reports. Let's go to Abbi Tatton, she's joining us with more. Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, this is a site that's been getting a lot of attention today. It actually went down this afternoon. It now looks like it's been hacked. But we saved a lot of the pages for you so we could show you what we're talking about here.

First of all, it is clearly a site directed at children. There are cartoons all over it, jigsaw puzzles to play. This picture here, a young child with a large sword on the back of a horse.

There are also disturbing images, photos all over the site. As to the question of whether it's new, that doesn't seem to be the case. We spoke to a counterterrorism analyst, Laura Mansfield. She tells us she's been monitoring the site since it was launched in 2002.

So the question of whether its promoting suicide bombers. We had CNN senior editor here, Octavia Nasr go through the site, translate the pages for us. She says the large focus of this site is on the Palestinian struggle. There are pictures of young children throwing rocks. They're described as heroes.

She says in the context of this struggle, it does speak to the question and glorifies suicide bombers. Now Laura Mansfield has traced this site to a Palestinian Web master someone -- I'm sorry, not a Palestinian, a Web master based in Beirut. We tried to contact him, he has ties to Hamas, says Laura Mansfield. We were unsuccessful to contact him today. Wolf?

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. Still ahead, Jack Cafferty. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack with "The Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: Thank you, sir. The House Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly today, 62-to-2 for an amendment that would block the Dubai ports deal. So the question we're asking is, will this lopsided vote in the House Appropriations Committee change President Bush's mind? He very much favors the deal and vows to veto any legislation that would block it.

Thomas writes: What better way for an extremely unpopular president to help him come at Republicans running for re-election than to adamantly oppose each other over an issue as galvanizing as the ports deal. It's Karl Rove at his best. While everyone's scratching their collective heads trying to figure out what the president is thinking, the White House has figured out a ways to bring the Republican Party together in an attempt to preserve their majority in Congress.

Larry in Sibley, Iowa: Once away, we need to reduce this to the lowest common denominator. Is this the opportunity for the president to show the world he can change his mind once he's gone public on an issue? I hope so.

M. writes: It's quite apparent the only reason Republicans have decided to be against this deal is because of the uproar by the press and the American public. They're in fear of their jobs. I told my senator he'd be looking for a new job if this deal goes through and he's a Democrat. Apparently they're finally listening to us, one for the citizens, Bush nothing.

Greg writes: It's become painfully obvious Bush does not have the best interest of this nation or its people at heart. Why would an overwhelming vote in Congress sway him now? He is already a lame duck.

And Gary in Pittsford, New York writes: Bush admit he made a wrong decision? Has hell frozen over and we didn't know about it?

BLITZER: He's going to have his hands full getting himself out of this mess.

CAFFERTY: What's he going to do now?

BLITZER: I don't know.

CAFFERTY: And I don't think Frist can save him. I think they're going to be hearing it in the Senate just like they're hearing it in the House.

BLITZER: You might be right.

CAFFERTY: He's in deep stuff. Nice to have you in New York.

BLITZER: Nice to be in New York.

CAFFERTY: Stop by anytime.

BLITZER: I'll come up. Jack Cafferty, thanks very much. I'm Wolf Blitzer in New York, let's go to Paula Zahn, she's in New York as well. Paula?

ZAHN: You know, Wolf, you could take the elevator to the seventh floor and come visit us sometime up here.

BLITZER: Will do.

ZAHN: On your return trip.


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