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Democrats Take Power; New Details Emerge on William Rehnquist's Addiction

Aired January 4, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Standing by CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you tonight's top stories.
Happening now, the power shift in Congress is complete. The anticipation for action is building. Will the new Democratic leadership make good on promises that they've made or will they fall into the old ways of stalemates and sniping?

Also tonight, shocking details about the late chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist -- secrets revealed about his powerful and dangerous addiction.

And springtime in New York -- well, that's the way it feels. This wacky warm winter could be one for the record books. What's behind the heat?

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

Up first tonight, the new face of the United States Congress -- Democrats now in charge of both chambers for the first time in a dozen years. And a woman is now the House speaker. That's for the first time ever. Right now everyone is trying to adjust to the new reality, especially President Bush and members of his Republican Party.

Let's begin our coverage of this momentous historic day in Washington with our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf that new democratically-controlled House is still in session this evening. They are working on a measure to ban travel-related funded -- I should say funding from lobbyists for any kind of traveler or gifts for any lawmakers.

But what is going on right now is certainly quite different from what happened during the day. The air is still crackling with electricity from the day's ceremonies.


BASH (voice-over): A moment to saver -- Nancy Pelosi seized the gavel and with it, power for the Democrats. An ambitious agenda ahead, but first a reflection on making history, the first female speaker second in line to be president.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: For our daughters and our granddaughters. Today we have broken the marble ceiling.


BASH: Symbols of a new Democratic era everywhere, liberal Hollywood actor Richard Gere in the gallery. Now former Republican speaker Dennis Hastert hovering in the back with the rank and file. Bipartisanship was the buzz word from the House...

PELOSI: I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership. Not partisanship.

BASH: To the Senate where Democratic leader Harry Reid began the day calling senators from both parties behind closed doors to clear the partisan air. The vice president swore in 33 senators giving Democrats their razor-thin majority.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MINORITY LEADER: The voters are upset with Congress and the partisan gridlock. The voters want a government that focuses on their needs.

BASH: Yet Democrats waste no time challenging the Republican president on Iraq. The issue they say swept them into power.

PELOSI: Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in the war in Iraq.

BASH: But first, the House will debate another voter concern -- corruption. New ethics measures like banning gifts from lobbyists. Next week House Democrats start the clock ticking on 100 legislative hours of campaign promises. Enacting 9/11 reforms, increasing the minimum wage, lifting federal limits on embryonic stem cells, lowering Medicare drug costs, cutting student loan rates, and reducing oil subsidies.

The Senate will work on those issues at a slower pace. Passing anything there requires compromise with Republicans. But this was a day for families to come watch history unfold. The first Muslim member of Congress, 43 black lawmakers, 90 women led by the new House speaker.


BASH: And the day ended with a congratulatory phone call from the president to Speaker Pelosi. And the House Republican leader, he promised that he's ready to work with them. It was an olive branch of sorts, Wolf, but also a not so subtle reminder that Speaker Pelosi may wield the speaker's gavel, but he still wields veto pen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash on the Hill for us -- thank you Dana.

Here's another notable snapshot from the power shift in the Congress. Senator and Democratic presidential prospect Hillary Rodham Clinton was sworn in for a second term today by the vice president, Dick Cheney. At her side, her husband, the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. Among the new lawmakers sworn in today, the first Muslim ever elected to the United States Congress. And at his private ceremony, Democrat Keith Ellison of Minnesota took his oath on the Koran, a move that's sparking some controversy.

Let's bring in CNN's Jill Dougherty. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with the story -- Jill.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf. Well Thomas Jefferson had one. He owned it. He studied it, so why can't a new U.S. congressman be sworn into office with his hand on one? Well when that book is the Koran, there's no easy answer.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): It's a tradition that goes all the way back to George Washington, first president of the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please raise your right hand.

DOUGHERTY: Elected officials taking the oath of office with their hand on a holy book. It's not a legal requirement, it's just a symbol. They swear to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, not religious principals. Christians often use the Bible, Jews the Old Testament. Some don't use anything.

Keith Ellison, the very first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, chose the Koran, the sacred text of Islam, an 18th century copy from the Library of Congress that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson. Ellison's choice of the Koran had some critics fuming, including one of his fellow congressman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My personal belief is not to use the Koran.

DOUGHERTY: Congressman Virgil Goode says the U.S. should protect what he calls its traditional values.

REP. VIRGIL GOODE, JR. (R), VIRGINIA: I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt strict immigration policies.

DOUGHERTY: Other colleagues of Ellison's say they're outraged by such comments. On his first day in Congress, Ellison shook Virgil Goode's hand saying he was trying to build bridges.

Keith Ellison isn't an immigrant.

REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: My name is Keith Ellison...

DOUGHERTY: He's a 43-year-old African American lawyer, a Democrat elected from Minnesota in a landslide vote. He converted to Islam from Catholicism as a teenager. During the campaign, he didn't make his religion an issue, but e-mails from proud Muslims around the world poured in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Indonesia, Egypt, Mauritania, Brazil. ELLISON: I don't think I fully apprehended that this was an event that people around the globe might be interested in until well into the campaign.

DOUGHERTY: The new 110th Congress is more religiously diverse than ever just like U.S. society. There are members from 32 different faiths and denominations including also for the first time, Buddhists. But it is America's Muslims who are in the spotlight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Americans don't know much about Islam. People like Congressman Ellison represent their community, you know, and he's going to be a teacher. He's going to be the way in which you know the attitudes and belief of Muslims are going to be, he's going to be their representative whether he wants to be or not.


DOUGHERTY: Ellison says he wants to put that controversy behind him that there are much more important things to get done in this new Congress. Wolf?

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty, thanks very much. Jill is now based back here in Washington -- Jill, good to have you back here. We hope you'll visit us in THE SITUATION ROOM often.

DOUGHERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty here in Washington.

Tonight, Congress isn't the only place here in the nation's capital where change is in the air. President Bush is shuffling his diplomatic and military team even as he rethinks his overall Iraq strategy. Just a short while ago, Mr. Bush spoke to reporters with the German chancellor at his side. He said he is getting close to finalizing his new war plan that he'll unveil to the public next week.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Ed Henry -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that's right. In fact, CNN has learned that it's now likely that the president will have this speech next Wednesday night in prime-time. Some officials saying it could slip to Thursday. Depending on how well the final details are worked out. But it will be a prime-time speech. Officials also saying it's likely the president will call for a surge of some 20 to 30,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

The president in this joint press availability with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, was still coy about the details, however, he also would not condemn the taunting that we've seen in those video images, the taunting of Saddam Hussein before his hanging. The president pressed by a reporter, basically because of those concerns that this could inflame the sectarian violence even more. But also when pressed on exactly what his strategy will be, the president would not get into details.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And my thinking is taking shape. I'm -- I'll be ready to outline a strategy that will help the Iraqis achieve the objective of a country that can govern, sustain and defend itself sometime next week. I've still got consultations to go through.


HENRY: He also has a lot of personnel shuffling going on within the administration. The White House will not confirm this yet, but various officials saying it's likely the president will nominate as his new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad who is now the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Also the White House confirming that tomorrow the president will officially nominate retired Vice Admiral Mike McConnell as his new director of national intelligence. He will of course replace John Negroponte. He is moving over to be the number two at the State Department to Secretary Condoleezza Rice.

The bottom line here is that he also -- the president is looking for a new counsel. Harriet Miers saying she is going to resign -- White House dealing with the potential for a mass exodus. White House spokesman Tony Snow insisting they are not expecting that. But as you know, once the president starts reaching lame duck status late in his final term, a lot of people start heading for the doors, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the president getting ready to make some major announcements -- new blood -- military blood to deal with the war in Iraq. We are told that General George Casey is about to retire -- he's the U.S. military commander in Iraq -- and General John Abizaid, the overall commander for the Central Command, he's about to retire as well. Ed Henry at the White House -- thanks very much for that, lots of changes going on in the administration and beyond.

In just a moment we'll get an assessment of the situation in Iraq from a Democrat, Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania. As you know, he's very critical of the war right now. I'll ask him what he thinks of the possibility that the president will send yet more troops, thousands of additional troops to Iraq. Congressman Murtha coming up in a few moments -- coming up right now Jack Cafferty with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Speaking of Iraq, Wolf, most Americans don't think they are getting the real story when it comes to the war in Iraq. A new Gallup poll shows 56 percent of those surveyed say the news media coverage of the Iraq war is inaccurate. Only 41 percent say the story is accurate. Of those who think the coverage is inaccurate, 61 percent say the media have painted too negative a picture. Thirty-six percent think they are showing the situation as being too positive.

Meanwhile, just today, 20 Iraqis were killed in attacks around Baghdad. Iraqi police found more than 1,200 bullet-riddled bodies throughout Iraq during the month of December, another 100 of them just this week. And of course, more than 3,000 U.S. troops have been killed since the start of the war. Another 20,000 plus seriously wounded. It's a little tough to imagine how the picture could be all that rosy.

Nevertheless, here's the question. What's your opinion of the news coverage of the war in Iraq? E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll be interested to hear what our viewers think, Jack. Thanks very much for that. And coming up, we'll have more on Iraq. We'll go to Baghdad.

Also, the secret life of a Supreme Court justice -- addiction to painkillers and moments of paranoia, we have the story.

Plus, one of the world's most wanted men in a rare interview speaking out about the last time he saw Osama bin Laden.

And what happened to winter? A toasty season have some scientists ringing alarm bells about global warming. We'll tell you what's going on.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A live picture of the U.S. Capitol -- Nancy Pelosi is now madam speaker, the first time ever in our history a woman has been Speaker of the House. That puts her right in line to the presidency right behind the vice president of the United States. We'll have more on this. We'll speak to a top lieutenant to Nancy Pelosi. That's coming up.

But first in Iraq today a second security guard present at Saddam Hussein's execution has now been detained and Iraqi officials are questioning what role he may have played in the leaking of a cell phone recording, a videotaped recording of Saddam Hussein's hanging. The first guard was detained yesterday. Also in Iraq, the chaos continuing -- CNN's Ryan Chilcote is in Baghdad with the latest -- Ryan.

RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a double bombing in the Iraqi capital today, two car bombs going off in short successions, the second car bomb as emergency workers rushed to the scene. Thirteen Iraqis killed, 22 wounded at a gas station as people were lining up to buy heating fuel, then a mortar attack, two of them actually, the more lethal here in Iraqi capital, mortars hitting a mostly Shiite neighborhood.

The police say that they believe it was a sectarian attack. At least five civilians killed in that attack. Very difficult to verify the nature or the goal of that attack, but it will most certainly be perceived as a sectarian attack by the people living in that neighborhood and could quite likely provoke some kind of retaliation on a Sunni neighborhood. And finally the Iraqi police are telling us that they found 47 bullet-ridden bodies around the Iraqi capital, four of those bodies decapitated, almost certainly victims of Iraq's sectarian death squads, yet another sign of the sectarian violence here in Iraq -- Wolf. BLITZER: Ryan Chilcote in Baghdad, another day in the Iraqi capital. A Taliban leader meanwhile wanted by the United States is now speaking out and raising new questions about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden himself.

Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He has our details -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, tonight when so much attention is focused on Congress and the White House, a harsh reminder of the U.S. government's failure to catch two of the most wanted men in the war on terror.


TODD (voice-over): Partially blind, for more than five years, a high-value target. Now with a $10 million bounty on his head, Mullah Mohammed Omar still makes time for a provocative interview. The reclusive Taliban leader on the run since U.S. and Afghan forces drove his militia from power in Afghanistan is asked by a Pakistani newspaper if he's met with his old ally Osama bin Laden since that period right after September 11.

Quote, "I have neither seen him nor have made any effort to do so. But I do pray for his health and safety." He also says the Taliban has never felt the need for a permanent relationship with al Qaeda. Terrorism experts say even if Omar hasn't met with bin Laden face to face.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: They are working with al Qaeda. They are sharing tactics. They are sharing ideology. They are sharing resources. In some cases, they are sharing personnel.

TODD: As evidence of that, analyst Peter Bergen cites more than 100 suicide attacks over the past year just in Afghanistan. In the interview, done by e-mail, Mullah Omar suggests he is in Afghanistan. A U.S. intelligence official tells us they believe he's somewhere along the mountainous Afghan/Pakistan border, but won't say which side. Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. does not equivocate.

SAID JAWAD, AFGHAN AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: NATO intelligence, our intelligence also has credible reports that the Taliban leadership sure (ph) is in Quetta.

TODD: Quetta, a rugged mysterious city on Pakistan's side of the border. Contacted by CNN, top Pakistani officials say that's ridiculous. The Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. tells me American intelligence is in Pakistan working with Pakistani forces. And if Omar was in Quetta, quote, "he would be a dead fish."


TODD: Still, Peter Bergen and the Afghan ambassador cite Omar's curious answers in that interview. Specifically, he broke from past Taliban patterns and seemed to take pains not to criticize the Pakistani government -- Wolf. BLITZER: I think people will be studying that interview for a while, Brian. Thank you very much. Brian Todd will be back later this hour.

Up ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM Democrats take control of the Congress. Will they shake up U.S. policy on Iraq? I'll ask war critic and Congressman John Murtha.

Plus, pills and paranoia -- the secret life of a U.S. Supreme Court chief justice. We have the documents.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: There she is -- Fredricka Whitfield standing by for a quick look at some other important stories making news -- hi Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, Wolf. Marketers of four weight control pills will pay a total of at least $25 million to settle allegations of deceptive marketing. The money will be used for consumer refunds. It will come from the coppers of Xenadrine EFX, Cortislim, TrimSpa and One a Day Weight Smart. The Federal Trade Commission says the weight loss and weight control claims by the companies are not supported by evidence.

Former President George H.W. Bush is resting in a Minnesota hospital at this hour after undergoing hip replacement surgery. According to a statement from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Bush had his right hip replaced yesterday. A day earlier, the 82-year-old former president delivered a eulogy to former President Gerald Ford. It's the second time Bush has undergone the operation. He had his left hip replaced six years ago.

The man dubbed subway super man by New York's tabloids is getting more than just a new nickname. Yesterday in THE SITUATION ROOM we first told you about Wesley Autrey who jumped on to the subway track to hold down a fellow rider who was having a seizure as a train passed just above them. Well today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented him with the city's highest civic honor. A short time later, Donald Trump handed Autrey a check for $10,000. And Autrey and his family have been offered a free trip to now Disney World -- can't beat that, Wolf.

BLITZER: He did an amazing job and he really...


BLITZER: ... risked his own life to save someone else doesn't get much better than that.

WHITFIELD: He's a fine example for all of us.

BLITZER: I think he is a very courageous guy. Thanks, Fred, for that.

Just ahead, Democrats in power in Washington, death and devastation in Iraq -- might more U.S. troops need to go in to try to bring law and order? We'll ask Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania.

And it's the fourth day of January, but where is the snow and the cold? Several parts of the United States are seeing unseasonably warm weather. What's going on? Mary Snow is standing by to take a look.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM where new pictures and information are arriving all the time. Happening now, it took only more than 200 years -- Democrat Nancy Pelosi accepting a gavel and with it the power and the praise of becoming the first female ever to become Speaker of the House. It comes as Democrats take over Congress for the first time in a dozen years.

Also, President Bush says he will announce his new Iraq war plan next week. The president says he's making final decisions on the plan, but one thing he's clear on is that the mission must be in his words, clear, specific and achievable.

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

As the congressional minority, there was little Democrats could do except complain about the Bush administration's policies and actions to which they objected. But now that they are in charge of both Houses of Congress, Democrats have the power to hold hearings and we're expecting quite a few of them in the coming days and weeks. Once again let's turn to Brian Todd with this part of the story -- Brian.

TODD: Wolf, a top aide to new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told me that right now she's focused on her first 100 hours agenda on domestic and foreign policy, but it's Pelosi's committee chairman and some in the Senate who observers say are about to unleash years of pent-up frustration at this White House.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From California...

TODD (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, they smile, shake hands, swear the oath. Down the street they may just be swearing. It's payback time in Washington. Newly-empowered Democrats after years of frustration over Iraq, pre-war intelligence, the wire-tapping controversy are poised to launch an onslaught of subpoenas that might drive an already-embattled White House to distraction.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE BROKEN BRANCH": There's no question we are going to see a huge number of investigations taking place.

TODD: Experts say Henry Waxman is likely to lead the charge. As the new Democratic chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, Waxman has the power to look into Halliburton contracts or energy deals by Bush allies. A Waxman aide says he won't conduct witch hunts. Congress watchers agree, but Waxman has been a relentless Bush critic and will likely be a formidable force.

STUART ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: He's tenacious. He's regarded as an attack dog. He's a good interrogator, and he apparently likes to do it.

TODD: Waxman's colleague John Conyers isn't just a Bush critic, he's previously looked into grounds to impeach the president. Conyers takes over the House Judiciary Committee. Experts say his efforts, combined with those of his fellow Democrat on Senate Judiciary, Patrick Leahy, should make people in the Justice Department nervous over the domestic surveillance and detainee programs.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE BROKEN BRANCH": The House and Senate Judiciary Committees are going to pounce all over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales with questions about how he is protecting or not protecting basic civil liberties in the country.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE, (D-CA): I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship.

TODD: Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid will be crucial to this equation. House Speaker Pelosi has said subpoenas of White House officials will be a last resort. Political observers say for the Democrats' own sake, they better be.

KEN RUDIN, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: If the Democrats are involved in some kind of a payback when the Democratic Congress comes up for renewal before the voters again, voters may say they over-reached.


TODD (on camera): The challenge to reign in their committee chairmen may -- actually maybe -- present itself to Pelosi and Harry Reid sooner than expected. We're told by congressional aides there are at least six hearings on Iraq and the war on terror on the schedule this month alone -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be covering all of them with you, Brian. Thanks very much.

Brian Todd reporting.

When Nancy Pelosi became speaker today, she said Americans voted for change in the Iraq war. Just a short while ago, I spoke with Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a vocal critic of the war.


BLITZER: Congressman, Happy New Year.

Thanks very much for coming in and congratulations on being a member of the majority once again. REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's better in the majority for 12 years than the minority. It's better to be in the majority, Wolf.

BLITZER: You've been in both and you like being in the majority. That's what I hear you saying.

MURTHA: Yes, I like it.

BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi was very firm. She -- she referred to the situation in Iraq -- in fact, let me play this little clip of what she said in her remarks.


PELOSI: The election of 2006 was a call to change, not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in the war in Iraq.


BLITZER: Hi, Congressman.

I assume you were among those standing and applauding, as well.

So as a Democrat, what do you do now? What can you do to change the direction in Iraq, because the president's on the verge of announcing he's going to be sending more troops into Iraq?

MURTHA: Well, I hope that's not true, Wolf. I met with Steve Hadley, the national security adviser, about a month ago. And the vice president came to the meeting and we spent about 45 minutes. The president stopped in. And he says we have an honest disagreement, but hopefully we can work things out.

Well, I hope we can work things out, too. But we can't work things out if they propose something without consultation. Now, consultation, to me, is meeting with the people that have responsibility in the Congress -- for instance, the defense subcommittee, the Armed Services Committee, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Operations -- and then asking them what they think, asking for suggestions before they make a speech, not just making a speech and then expecting it to get bipartisan support.

They know well my views. I was very firm in what I had to say and I would hope we can work with them. This is an historic opportunity. The people have spoken. They were very clear. He fired the secretary of defense. Now he needs to take the next step, and that's to give the Iraqis the incentive by redeploying our troops and let them take over.

BLITZER: Well, what if he announces he's going to deploy another 20,000 or 30,000 U.S. troops together with a strategy that he says will result in victory? MURTHA: Well, of course, that's been one of the biggest problems. Even the troops themselves, Wolf, have lost confidence in this president. The latest poll that I just saw showed that the majority of the troops disapprove of what the president is doing in Iraq, don't understand the mission. And we have never had an achievable military mission. And that's been part of the problem.

Now, let's talk the surge. If you are going to surge, you're going to have to keep people there in Iraq -- in other words, extend them. You're going to have to stop loss, which means you won't let people get out. And then you're going to have to send people back that have less than a year in country with their families.

So this would be a phenomenal hardship on the families.

But it's not going to prove anything because we sent another 15,000 troops into Baghdad and it's gotten worse. So I haven't seen anything yet that showed me they have an achievable plan -- achievable ability of the military to achieve victory in this campaign in Baghdad.

BLITZER: Your Democratic colleague, Dennis Kucinich, from Ohio, who is running for president, he says, you know what? There's about $70 billion in the pipeline already for the military. Use that but simply don't appropriate additional funds for U.S. military operations in Iraq. And that's one sure way to get the troops back home.

Is he onto something?

MURTHA: Well, he may be onto something. He's going to bring his plan over to -- in the next couple of days -- for me to take a look at. But what we're going to do, Wolf, is have hearings on the supplemental. Now, normally supplementals, before this administration, were a couple billion dollars a year.

We have a $97 or $99.7 billion supplemental. We're going to go through this. And I asked the national security adviser to get it over to us, because we want to have two months of hearings to verify why they need the money.

This money should be in the base bill. They know how much it's costing to run this war. There's no reason for it to be in a supplemental. They just want to hide the facts and figures and the cost of the war, not only the human cost, but the cost monetarily to the Congress and to the people of the United States.

BLITZER: They say it's costing about $2 billion a week -- $2 billion a week -- to the American taxpayers.

Now, let's talk briefly, Congressman, about Saddam Hussein and the execution. Some analysts are suggesting the way it was botched with that cell phone video showing up could further endanger American troops in Iraq.

Do you believe that? MURTHA: Well, I think there's a lot of things that can endanger the troops, and that's certainly something that the Sunnis are going to use to incite their people.

Part of the problem has been our occupation of Iraq -- and that's what the Sunnis believe, we have occupied -- and many of the Shias believe. Most of the people in Iraq believe they would better off, it would be more stable, if we were to get out of Iraq. And I believe that myself.

I've come to the conclusion that the only answer is you set a table for redeployment, you tell the Iraqis you're going to redeploy, they're going to have to take over.

Our troops, for instance, in the green zone, now they have all the amenities they need. They eat the food that they want. While right around them are the Iraqis, and this is very similar to when Saddam Hussein was there, living in the same condition.

Now, of course, we don't have the same -- the same type of treatment of the people, but on the other hand that's the way they perceive it.

So there's a lot of things that are endangering our troops and that's just part of it.

BLITZER: John Murtha, Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania.

Congressman, thanks very much.

Once again, congratulations.

MURTHA: Thanks, Wolf.

Nice to talk to you.


BLITZER: And can a virtual Capitol Hill and cyberspace help House Democrats advance their new agenda? The first online meeting wrapped up earlier.

Our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton was in attendance and she has the story -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, a virtual press conference populated by characters with names like "Savage" and "Tofu Sticks". And today Congressman George Miller, a California Democrat. There he is at the podium. That's his avatar, at least. And pretty soon you'll see him leaving. There he goes.

This is the virtual Congress of the online community "Second Life" where users operate a virtual version of themselves. Congressman Miller was there today addressing new Democratic Party initiatives for the new Congress, reaching out to this growing online constituency. "Second Life" and its sites boasts more than two million members.

Though today's event was just opened to invited guests, members of the media were there. They asked some questions and generally flew around, occasionally bumping into each other. There was one man even with his hair on fire.

But from tomorrow, this virtual Congress will be open to anyone on the community "Second Life". There will also be areas where people can discuss the new initiatives of the Democratic Party.

Congressman Miller said that though he's been getting some blank stares from his colleagues, he hopes that others will join him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Still ahead tonight here in the SITUATION ROOM, some surprising new details about the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and his struggle with an addiction. It was far more serious than almost any of us ever realized.

Plus, where is winter? People in parts of the United States who should be shivering are basking in sort of balmy temperatures. We'll get the experts to explain what's going on. Mary Snow has that story.

Stay with us.

You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It's a once-secret file filled with stories of addiction, paranoia and political infighting, and it concerns the late chief justice of the United States, William Rehnquist.

Let's turn to our justice correspondent Kelli Arena with details -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is an FBI file that's been kept secret and was only made public when reporters filed legal requests. It shows the two Republican administrations instructed the FBI to question or to do background checks on Rehnquist critics. But that political drama pales in comparison to the other information that we found in this report.


ARENA (voice-over): More than a year after his death, shocking details of the life of former Chief Justice William Rehnquist are revealed.

TONY MAURO, LEGAL TIMES: To not have the American public know about this, even during a confirmation process where this kind of thing is supposed to come out, is pretty shocking.

ARENA: In 1981, it did become public that Rehnquist was addicted to a powerful and dangerous sedative, Placidyl. But the extent of that addiction has been kept secret until now.

MAURO: There's testimony that's contained in the FBI files indicating that Rehnquist was filling three months' prescriptions every month, meaning he was taking three times the dosage of this very strong sedative or painkiller. And you just have to wonder, was this impairing his functioning as a justice?

ARENA: During a 1981 hospital stay, Rehnquist suffered withdrawal symptoms. The doctor who treated him told FBI agents, "He imagined there was a CIA plot against him," according to the documents. The doctor also said, "He had gone to the hospital lobby in his pajamas in order to try to escape."

Rehnquist had been taking the drug for over a decade, from 1970 to 1982. E. Barrett Prettyman argued more than a dozen cases before Rehnquist, and he says he never questioned his competency.

E. BARRETT PRETTYMAN, HOGAN & HARTSON: I didn't see any side- effects, outrageous behavior, or anything of that sort.

ARENA: But the fact that Rehnquist was using such a powerful drug for so long raises concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it really does raise the question of, when a justice is impaired, or could be impaired, there's no way to find that out.


ARENA: Wolf, there may be even more to the story. More than 200 pages of that FBI report are still classified, and the FBI says that an entire section of it just couldn't be found.

BLITZER: Pretty shocking stuff. Thanks very much, Kelli, for that. Kelli Arena is out justice correspondent.

Some parts of the United States and Europe, meanwhile, are basking in spring-like temperatures with hardly a sign of winter to be seen. What's the cause of the unusually balmy weather?

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York with this story -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the thermometer is inching towards 70 degrees in New York in January. A forecast from British scientists say that 2007 could be the warmest year worldwide. Is it global warming? Scientists say it's not the entire reason but it is partly to blame.


SNOW (voice-over): In New York's Central Park, it's looking more like spring with temperatures in the 50s. Cherry blossoms are blooming in the nation's capital months early. Skiers in New England have to find snow between the patches of grass. In Ohio, that lack of snow means golfers get a jump start on the season in what would normally be frigid temperatures.

There's been plenty of snow dumped on Colorado, why is it so unusually warm in the Northeast? Scientists say one culprit is El Nino.

BRENDA EKWURZEL, UNION OF CONCERNED SCIENTISTS: It's essentially a warm pool of water in the Pacific that sloshes back and forth on a two- to seven-year cycle.

SNOW: Forecasters say for the U.S., El Nino means a mild winter in some parts of the country and wetter conditions in others. And others say it's not just El Nino. Some experts, including one at the government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says global warming plays a part.

TOM KARL, DIRECTOR, NOAA'S NATIONAL CLIMATE DATA CENTER: It's playing a large factor. And, in fact, if you didn't have the increase in greenhouse gases, we would not be seeing these consecutive very warm years following one after the other both here in the U.S. and globally.

SNOW: Parts of Europe, including the Alps, have had unseasonably warm temperatures and British climate scientists predict a new milestones to the globe.

WAYNE ELLIOTT, MET OFFICE: There's a high likelihood that 2007 will be the warmest year globally on record.

SNOW: Scientists say one year doesn't make a trend. But some say it's part of an overall climate change that is triggering concerns. Some believe the impact can be seen in the U.S. in the past year alone.

EKWURZEL: In the United States, we had a record wildfire season in part because of the large drought conditions in the summer, record temperatures, and we've burned about 9.5 million acres of our forests. And so these type of trends do have a profound impact.


SNOW: Some of the scientists we spoke with say decisions made the next decade on things like building will have a significant impact on the climate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Mary, for bringing us that story. Mary Snow in New York.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the very latest on a California man who set out to sail around the world solo and is now adrift on the high seas. We'll go online to update you on the rescue effort that's underway.

Then, a piece of space junk lands in New Jersey? A flying saucer hovers above Chicago's O'Hare Airport? Jeanne Moos wants to know what's going on. You are going to want to see her report. Stay with us. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Nursing a bit of a cold. Sorry, Wolf.

A new poll shows 56 percent of Americans say the news media coverage of the Iraq war is inaccurate. Forty-one percent say it's accurate. We asked what's your opinion of the coverage of the war?

Jim wrote from Cleveland, "I realize the need for censorship, but as a Vietnam War veteran, I guarantee you if you showed the real blood, gore and guts for just one day, we'd be out of Iraq faster than President Bush could make up another catch-phrase or excuse to keep us there."

Greg in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania: "I am disappointed that CNN's coverage of Iraq has not been more aggressive. Where are the photos of all our dead returning home for burial? Where are the follow-up stories of how of the lives of the wounded and the survivors of killed veterans have been forever disrupted? Where are the stories of sacrifice for the sake of arrogance and pig-headedness. We've all been lax in our responsibility of keeping our government accountable."

Dave in Wisconsin: "I asked my brother in law, who actually served in Iraq, from the very beginning. In his opinion, the media are not telling the whole story of what we've accomplished in Iraq, nor are they providing an accurate picture on the true level of violence there. He says it's indeed not as bad as the media portray.

R. in Ketchum, Idaho writes, "What coverage? All I see is seemingly endless daily videos of the two New York immature gas bags, Trump and O'Donnell's latest publicity stunt."

Maria in Rehobeth Beach, Delaware: "Sometimes it doesn't even feel like we're really engaged in a war. No pictures of the aftermath of the almost daily killings of our men and women, no pictures of flag-draped coffins arriving home on military transports, and no coverage of the almost daily funerals. This is the coverage that we're all afraid of, but which we need in order to know how we feel or, indeed, to even feel at all."

And Richard writes from Nashville, Tennessee, "Jack, coverage got noticeably better after Hurricane Katrina, but there's still not enough light shed on the truth. The Bush administration started the war under false pretenses, not accidentally but on purpose, for profit and for their own private agendas. I'd really like to hear the word impeachment more. Overall, you, Wolf, Lou Dobbs and CNN in general are my favorite news source. Thank you."

Thank you, Richard.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to and read some more of them online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'll thank Richard as well. Thank you, Jack, to you also.

Meanwhile, military officials in Chile say they have spotted an American sailor who ran into trouble on a solo around the world voyage. Ken Barnes is on a 44-foot boat that was damaged in a storm off the southern tip of South America. Both masts are broken and his food and supplies are soaked.

Jacki Schechner is watching this rescue effort online -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, Barnes has been chronicling his own journey online, and he posts it took him five years to find the perfect boat. He was choosing between strong and fast. He chose strong and that may be what saved him now.

On December 20th, he wrote that there were massive swells but the boat was handling them well. Then on the 28th, he wrote he knew there was a large, low-pressure system in the area. He wasn't heard from again and the Coast Guard got a distress signal from him about four days later.

Now his friends are updating his Web site not only with the latest information but pictures of the boat that were taken from the air. And they tell me, Wolf, that they expect to have him rescued by early this coming morning.

BLITZER: Let's hope that happens. Thank you very much, Jacki.

Let's find out what's coming up right at the top of the hour.

That means Paula is standing by -- Paula.


And that's coming up just about six minutes from now for all of you who are looking at your watches and counting when that's going to happen. Tonight, we bring in tolerance out into the open again. Tonight, we look at plans to build mosques in a pair of suburban neighborhoods and how that has set off some really nasty fights, including one led by a minister.

Plus, a sitcom produce who thinks laughter might be the best way to poke a hole in intolerance. Her new show is called "Little Mosque on the Prairie."

Also more on the country's first Muslin Congressman and the uproar over his being sworn in on the Koran, not the Bible. We have a guest who will be joining us tonight, Wolf, who feels that this is the beginning of poking at the foundations of democracy. We'll hear what else he had to say coming up.

BLITZER: All right, Paula, very good. Sounds good. We'll be watching.

Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, strange things in the sky. Jeanne Moos with the story. You'll want to see this. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There have been some unusual space sightings lately. CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a look.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Weird spacecraft, mystery chunk falls through the roof of a house, UFO sightings over Chicago's O'Hare and now this.


MOOS: Maybe a certain chicken was ahead of its time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chicken Little! What is it? What's going on?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

MOOS: Must have seemed that way in Freehold Township, New Jersey. Police say this metallic lump, the weight of a can of soup, fell from the sky above this neighborhood, made a neat hole in someone's roof and ended up embedded in a wall.

Was it a meteorite? Experts are still analyzing it, but kids in the neighborhood have their own theories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I say it's a UFO. It's part of a UFO part.

MOOS: No kid, that's over at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport where a dozen witnesses saw a...

JON KILKEVITCH, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE" REPORTER: Metallic, gray object low in the sky.

MOOS: Hovering over Concourse C, a silent frisbee. Forget the flying saucer movie jokes. According to the "Chicago Tribune" reporter who broke the story, these are witnesses are anything but witless.

KILKEVITCH: They're all United Airlines employees ranging from pilots to supervisors who heard chatter about this on the radio and then raced out and saw it in the sky.

MOOS: The thing supposedly hovered for several minutes, then shot up through thick clouds leaving what was described as a hole in the overcast skies.

The FAA figures it was a weather phenomenon. Meanwhile, jokesters on YouTube have their own reasons to doubt aliens would come here.

Maybe this looks like an alien spaceship, but it's an actual test flight of a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle that may someday carry tourists to the edge of space. The founder of is funding the effort, and from the look of the 35-second test flight, don't pack your bags yet.

And who needs to go to space...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Down. Down, right there, Jim. Something's reentering the atmosphere.

MOOS: ... when space is coming to earth? Pre-dawn traffic helicopter pilots over Denver were stunned to stumble on what turned out to be a Russian booster rocket breaking up upon reentry. Space junk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've never seen anything like that.

MOOS: Next thing you know, frogs will be falling like in the movie "Magnolia." And "Chicken Little"...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're all in danger!

MOOS: ... could be a little right.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for us. Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.


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