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THE SITUATION ROOM

CIA Leak Case Blame Game; Deadly Baghdad Battle Rages in City Center; Controversy over Jimmy Carter's Book; Interview with Dick Cheney

Aired January 24, 2007 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: 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 today's top stories.
Happening now, Vice President Dick Cheney standing firmly against critics on Iraq in an exclusive, candid, sometimes contentious interview. I'll ask him about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, the trial of former aide "Scooter" Libby and if he thinks Senator Hillary Clinton would make a good president. You'll want to see what he has to say.

Also, a deadly Baghdad battle -- fighting raging for hours between U.S. and Iraqi forces and Sunni insurgents right in the city center. Our cameras were there as it unfolded. We're going to show you what happened.

And new developments in the controversy over Jimmy Carter's new best-seller on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He faces a potentially hostile audience and he apologizes for the first time. You'll want to see this.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Once again, a fierce and deadly gun battle right in the heart of Baghdad pitting U.S. and Iraqi forces against well-armed Iraqi Sunni extremists. Iraqi officials now report at least 30 insurgents were killed. We'll talk about it in just a few moments with CNN's Michael Ware.

But first, CNN's Arwa Damon.

She was embedded with U.S. forces and was right in the middle of the action.

She's joining us from Baghdad with details -- Arwa.

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, by dawn, Haifa Street was once again the scene of yet another fierce firefight pitting insurgents against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

For the second time in as many weeks, the insurgents using a lot of the same tactics as they did in the last round of fighting on Haifa Street, even using the same buildings to fire at U.S. and Iraqi forces down below.

At one point, the forces identified a building that they were receiving heavy machine gun fire from, Apache helicopters circling overhead were unable to hit that together.

So U.S. forces radioed in for a precision guided missile that ended up leveling that building.

They detained at least 21 suspected insurgents. Two of them coming in wounded, according to one of the Iraqi Army soldiers. One of those insurgents was actually throwing a grenade down at Iraqi troops from a rooftop. The other was firing at them with a machine gun.

Really, those that were fighting saying that this was street to street, alley to alley -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon reporting for us in Baghdad.

She's got a tough assignment.

An insurgent group, by the way, has posted video of American helicopter shot down in Baghdad yesterday. It belonged to the private American security company, Blackwater. The five U.S. civilians on board were killed. Their bodies all had gunshot wounds, although it's not clear when they were shot or if the chopper itself was shot down.

Again, this is insurgent video. CNN has not been able to independently verify it.

Two other insurgent groups are also, by the way, claiming responsibility for downing the chopper.

As blood spills in the streets of Baghdad, here in Washington, the Bush administration continues to map out some sort of strategy to try to stop the bloodshed.

Today, I spoke exclusively with the vice president, Dick Cheney. We spoke about what was being done right, what was being done wrong in Iraq and whether or not Iraq's prime minister, Nouri Al-Maliki, will take action on key Iraqi agitators.

Here's more of this exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: What was the biggest mistake you made?

CHENEY: Oh, I think in terms of mistakes, I think we underestimated the extent to which 30 years of Saddam's rule had really hammered the population, especially the Shia population, into submissiveness. It was very hard for them to stand up and take responsibility, in part because anybody who's done that in the past had had their heads chopped off.

BLITZER: Do you trust Nouri al-Maliki? CHENEY: I do. At this point, I don't have any reason not to trust him.

BLITZER: Is he going to go after Muqtada al Sadr...

CHENEY: I think...

BLITZER: ... this anti-American Shiite cleric who...

CHENEY: I think he has demonstrated...

BLITZER: ... controls the Mahdi Army?

CHENEY: I think he has demonstrated a willingness to take on any elements that violate the law. He has been...

BLITZER: Do you want him to arrest Muqtada al Sadr?

CHENEY: He has been active, just in recent weeks, in going after the Mahdi Army. There have been some 600 of them arrested within the last several days.

BLITZER: Should he be arrested, Muqtada al Sadr?

CHENEY: That's a decision that's got to be made...

BLITZER: Because, as you know, the first U.S. general there, Roberto Sanchez, said this guy killed Americans, he has blood on his hands, he was wanted, basically, dead or alive.

Whatever happened to that?

CHENEY: Wolf, you've got to let Nouri Al-Maliki deal with the situation as he sees fit, and I think he will.

BLITZER: You think he's going to go after the Mahdi Army?

CHENEY: I think he will go after all of those elements in Iraq that are violating the law, that are contributing to sectarian violence. There are criminal elements, there are Baathists -- former regime elements -- all of them have to be the target of the effort. He'll have a lot of help, because he'll have 160,000 U.S. forces there to work alongside the Iraqis to get the job done.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: We're going to have much more of this exclusive interview with the vice president.

That's coming up. More tough questions, including the issue of credibility.

Does the Bush administration right now have enough credibility to convince the Congress, the American public, that their strategy can and will work?

Right now, though, we want to talk about the situation in Iraq and bring in CNN's Baghdad-based correspondent, Michael Ware.

He's joining us from New York -- hopefully a lot safer in New York, Michael, from where you usually are.

You've been in Iraq ever since day one of this war. You've seen this whole situation unfold on a day to day basis, done some incredible work for all of us, and especially -- not only CNN, but "Time" magazine, where you worked earlier.

What do you make of the optimism of the vice president that Nouri Al-Maliki is going to finally get tough with the Shiite militias?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a word, Wolf, baseless -- completely baseless. I mean in all this time, I'm yet to see any sign or any indication that Prime Minister Al-Maliki would do as Vice President Cheney says he has faith that he will do, principally, to move against the rebel anti-American cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, and his massive Mahdi Army militia; and, of course, its influential political bloc that has put the prime minister in power.

In fact, I found that the tone of the vice president almost contradicts the tone of President Bush's State of the Union speech. I think if you recall the address last night, President Bush, when he's talking about relying on the Maliki government, their so-called partner in Iraq, he immediately went about and chided that government and said you need to deploy forces, you need to confront the radicals, and, he said, President Bush said, they need to remove the needless restrictions on coalition and Iraqi forces.

I believe that was specifically a reference about the Mahdi Army and how Prime Minister Maliki has been protecting them to this point.

BLITZER: What would happen to the prime minister, Nouri Al- Maliki, if he did what so many Americans would like him to do, go in there and crush the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr and actually arrest this young anti-American Shiite leader?

WARE: Well, it would tear his government apart. It would tear the country apart. And, quite frankly, I don't think it's possible. I think even with the vice president's 160,000 American troops, they cannot crush Muqtada or, particularly, his Mahdi Army.

If you arrest Muqtada now, this rebel cleric who's got American blood on his hands, or, indeed, if you killed him now, he becomes nothing more than a martyr. And his Mahdi Army is much more than just a force, it's a movement. And it has mobilized the great disenfranchised, impoverished Shia population. That can't be stopped.

Once that genie is out of the bottle, Iranian supported as it is, it can't be put back in.

So it's difficult to see where Vice President Cheney gets his faith from -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I raised this scenario, this nightmare scenario, with the vice president. I wondered if he feared that all of this U.S. military equipment, this training, building up this Shiite-led Iraqi Army, in the end, could turn against the United States and be aligned with Iran and Syria.

He rejected that as unrealistic.

What do you think?

WARE: Well, I think in that assessment, the vice president is either himself being unrealistic or isn't being quite frank enough.

Now, whether these forces would physically turn on American forces, I agree, that's highly unlikely. That's a battle that the Iraqis would never have a chance of winning.

However, the way they turn, the way they work against U.S. interests is much more insidious. It's -- it's much more behind-the- scenes. It's much more subtle.

I mean, the -- essentially, what the American troops are doing are training forces who are essentially opposed to American interests, or, at the very least, they don't share American interests, either within Iraq, with this government, with this so-called democracy or in the region.

And, in fact, you will find that many of these troops have long histories with Iranian forces or have since developed relationships with Iranian Special Forces.

BLITZER: Michael Ware in New York for us, getting ready to head back to the war zone.

Michael, be careful when you get over there.

Thanks again.

WARE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have more of the interview with the vice president coming up this hour.

Among other things, we'll talk about Senator Hillary Clinton, what he thinks about her and whether he thinks she could be a good president of the United States.

All that coming up.

In the meantime, let's check back with Jack Cafferty for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You should have had Michael Ware do the rebuttal to the State of the Union last night.

BLITZER: Yes.

CAFFERTY: You know, we get a lot of mail everyday, a lot of mail from a lot of viewers. And over the last month, while Michael Ware has been away on a much deserved and well earned vacation, we have gotten consistent, numerous inquiries on a daily basis -- something that doesn't happen -- I mean we've got a great stable of correspondents, but no other correspondent has triggered the number of inquiries that I've read from viewers who want to know where is he, when is he coming back, we miss him, he's terrific, his journalism is so solid and so sound.

And, you know, just huge bouquets flowing his way, each and every day, that come into The Cafferty File via e-mail. And now the viewers will be happy to know he's back and I assume -- is he going back to Iraq now?

BLITZER: ... you know, and he doesn't just sit there. He actually goes out with U.S. troops. He's embedded...

CAFFERTY: Oh, I know.

BLITZER: He risks his life on a daily basis to bring us the stories of the men and women fighting this war, which is a lot more courageous than what you and I, Jack, do.

CAFFERTY: Well, no question about that. And it's obvious that he does more than read dispatches because his reportage has a texture and a subtext and a context that's a little tough to come by and is sorely lacking in 99 percent of the other stuff that comes out of there, referring now to the other news media.

Anyway, it's good to have him back and now stop bugging me about where is Michael Ware. He's back.

Arizona Senator John McCain appears to be trying to create a little distance between himself and the administration when it comes to the war in Iraq. This is a bit of a surprise.

McCain's been resolute in his support for the president ever since the start of the war. In response to last night's State of the Union Address, he says there's no choice but to give the president's plan a chance to succeed "because it's the only game in town."

But there's something new. McCain is now blaming Vice President Cheney for what he calls the "witches brew of a terribly mishandled war" in Iraq.

McCain says: "The president listened too much to the vice president. Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense." That would be Rumsfeld.

That's a little different from back in 2004, when McCain said this about the vice president: "Cheney is one of the most capable, experienced, intelligent and steady vice presidents this country has ever had."

Gee, can you tell there's an election coming and Mr. McCain might be interested in trying to run for office? Here's the question -- what does it mean when Senator John McCain begins criticizing Vice President Cheney for the mishandled war in Iraq?

E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You and our viewers, Jack, are going to be interested in what the vice president has to say about John McCain, because I ask him these specific questions.

That's coming up, as well.

So stand by for that.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: And other news coming up, as well.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Here's the problem that you have, the administration -- credibility in Congress with the American public because of the mistakes, because of the previous statements, the last throes, the comment you made a year-and-a-half ago, the insurgency was in its last throes.

How do you build up that credibility, because so many of these Democrats and a lot of Republicans now are saying they don't believe you anymore?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: You're going to want to see what -- and hear what Vice President Dick Cheney said in response to that and other questions about his credibility. We're going to have much more of this exclusive interview. That's coming up.

Also, President Bush huddling with members of the joint chiefs of staff this hour. Iraq clearly a key topic. We're going to get the latest from the White House.

And former President Jimmy Carter now, for the first time, apologizing for that controversy, at least part of it, that erupted over his new book.

We're going to have details of what he's saying.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More now of my exclusive interview with the vice president of the United States. One day after President Bush laid out an ambitious set of goals in his State of the Union Address, the vice president talked about one key issue that could stand in the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: Here's the problem that you have, the administration -- credibility in Congress, with the American public, because of the mistakes, because of the previous statements -- "the last throes" -- the comment you made a year-and-a-half ago that the insurgency was in its "last throes."

How do you build up that credibility, because so many of these Democrats and a lot of Republicans now are saying they don't believe you anymore?

CHENEY: Well, Wolf, if the history books were written by people who are so eager to write off this effort or declare it a failure, including many of our friends in the media, the situation obviously would have been over a long time ago.

The bottom line is that we've had enormous successes and we will continue to have enormous successes. It is hard. It is difficult. It's one of the toughest things any president has to do. It's easy to stick your finger in the air and figure out which way the winds are blowing and then to try to get in front of the herd. This president doesn't work that way.

He also will be very clear, in terms of providing leadership going forward, for what we need to do in Iraq.

Now the fact is, this is a vitally important piece of business. It needs to be done. The consequences of our not completing the task are enormous.

BLITZER: You...

CHENEY: Just think for a minute -- think for a minute, Wolf, in terms of what policy is being suggested here. What you're recommending -- or at least what you seem to believe the right course is -- is to bail out...

BLITZER: I'm just asking a question.

CHENEY: No, you're not asking a question.

BLITZER: Yes, I am. I'm just asking...

CHENEY: Implicit...

BLITZER: ... the questions...

CHENEY: Implicit in the critics...

BLITZER: ... that your critics are asking. CHENEY: Implicit in what the critics are suggesting, I think, is an obligation to say well, here's what we need to do or we're not going to do anything else, we're going to accept defeat. Defeat is not an answer. We can, in fact, prevail here and we need to prevail. And the consequences of not doing so are enormous.

BLITZER: You've said that Iran, as a nuclear power, is unacceptable.

CHENEY: Right.

BLITZER: Are you ready to go to war to stop that from happening?

CHENEY: Come on, now, Wolf. You know I'm not going to speculate on something like that.

BLITZER: Well, how are you going to stop them?

CHENEY: Wolf, we've got a policy in place that is, I think, producing results. We've gone to the United Nations. We've gotten a unanimous agreement to a sanctions resolution that is now in place with respect to the Iranian -- the Iranian uranium program. And we're continuing to work the problem. We want...

BLITZER: You've heard...

CHENEY: We want to solve the problem diplomatically. We'll do everything we can to achieve that. But we've also made it clear that all options are on the table. Now...

BLITZER: Now, when you...

CHENEY: ... no administration in their right mind is going to answer the question you just asked.

BLITZER: Because you've heard Senator Biden and Senator Rockefeller say they think you need more congressional authorization if you're going to take any military steps against Iran.

Do you?

CHENEY: I'm not going to speculate on military steps, Wolf.

You can ask that question all day long.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: And we're going to have more of the interview coming up, including this...

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CHENEY: Now, Wolf, you knew when we set up the interview, you can ask all the questions you want. I'm going to be a witness in that trial within a matter of weeks. I'm not going to discuss it. I haven't discussed it with anybody in the press yet. I'm not going to discuss it with you today.

BLITZER: You -- but you're a very close friend...

CHENEY: Wolf, you've got my answer. You've got my answer.

BLITZER: Have you contributed to his legal defense fund?

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BLITZER: We're going to get the answer from the vice president when we continue with this exclusive interview.

Is he standing by his former top aide, Louis "Scooter" Libby, who is now on trial for obstruction of justice in that CIA leak case?

That's coming up.

Also, the latest on the trial. It's now in its second day. We're going to take you live to the courthouse.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The president of the United States is meeting with meeting with members of the joint chiefs of staff over at the White House. High on the agenda, the war in Iraq. And only moments ago, the president spoke about it.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: It's my pleasure to welcome Secretary Gates, the joint chiefs of staff and the combatant commanders to the White House.

First of all, there -- it's an honor to be in the presence of such fine citizens, men who are doing their duty to protect this country. And we have no more solemn duty than to protect America in this war against extremists and radicals.

I'm looking forward to our discussion about the theaters in which you are representing America. I'm looking forward to the discussion about the new way forward in Iraq.

I thank you for your service.

I also call upon the Senate to move quickly to confirm Lieutenant General Petraeus as the commander of the Multi-National Forces-Iraq, Admiral Fallon as the commander of Central Command and General Casey as the Army chief of staff.

It is important to get these three fine individuals in their posts as soon as possible so that we have continuity as we do our duty to protect the American people. We'll have a good, wide-ranging discussion here and then Laura and I have the high privilege of welcoming you and your spouses to dinner tonight. Welcome and thank you for coming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The president meeting with the military command over at the White House.

We're going to follow up on this story.

And still to come, the former president, Jimmy Carter, speaking candidly about the stinging criticism of his new and controversial book. He says he's been called a liar, a bigot, an anti-Semite and he shares his reaction.

Plus, the trial of Louis "Scooter" Libby and details of the so- called scapegoat defense. Libby's lawyers say he was set up to take the fall by the White House and Karl Rove.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, thanks very much for joining us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.

Happening now, a rare one-on-one interview with the vice president. We'll have more of this exclusive interview with Dick Cheney. That's coming up. I asked him some hard questions, questions you want answered, including whether or not he thinks Hillary Clinton would make a good president.

Also, a fierce fight in the streets of Baghdad. Iraqi and U.S. troops battled militants along the capital's dangerous Haifa Street. An Iraqi Defense Ministry official saying at least 30 insurgents are dead and that the situation has been calmed down.

And as Iraq explodes with violence, the U.S. Congress brims with debate over the war. Today, a Senate committee approved a non-binding resolution opposing more U.S. troops being sent to Iraq, saying it's not in the national interests of the United States. The vote in the Foreign Relations Committee, 12-9.

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

Let's get more of my exclusive interview now with the vice president. It's not often that Dick Cheney grants interviews, so today it was clear, at least to me, he was eager to address some strongly felt issues, issues he feels very strongly about.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The whole notion of your long-time aide, Scooter -- Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- he's in the papers, his lawyer now, suggesting on opening day of the trial that he was basically set up by people in the White House to protect Karl Rove, the president's political aide.

What do you -- what do you make of that?

CHENEY: Now, Wolf, you knew when we set up the interview -- you can ask all the questions you want. I'm going to be a witness in that trial within a matter of weeks. I'm not going to discuss it. I haven't discussed it with anybody in the press yet, I'm not going to discuss it with you today.

BLITZER: Are you -- but you -- you're very close friends.

CHENEY: Wolf, you got my answer. You got my answer.

BLITZER: Have you contributed to his legal defense fund?

CHENEY: I'm a strong friend and supporter of Scooter's. I have not contributed to his legal defense fund. I think he is an extraordinarily talented and capable individual.

BLITZER: Let's talk about illegal immigration right now, because a lot of your conservative Republican base, they're upset at the president and at you for supporting a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants right now.

What do you say to them, who are worried that you're going to team up with a lot of Democrats and moderate Republicans and pass this legislation?

CHENEY: Well, we think we need immigration legislation passed. And it would be irresponsible for us not to try to deal with that problem.

It's a serious problem. It's very important from the standpoint of the millions of illegals who are already here, from those segments of our economy that depend upon them. But it's also important that we have secure borders and that we have control over our borders.

And we've done a lot already to move in that direction. We've doubled or tripled the size of the Border Patrol force in the budget. We've got border security measures adopted in the last Congress.

What we need now is a temporary guest worker program, a comprehensive solution that will regulate -- regulate that flow. I think we can do it. I believe that in fact there is sufficient support on both sides of the aisle, and I think we'll get the legislation passed.

BLITZER: Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?

CHENEY: No, I don't.

BLITZER: Why?

CHENEY: Because she's a Democrat. I don't agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint.

BLITZER: Do you think she will be president, though?

CHENEY: I don't.

BLITZER: Who do you think will be?

CHENEY: I'm not going to speculate.

BLITZER: It won't be you?

CHENEY: It won't be me.

BLITZER: John McCain?

CHENEY: I'm not going to speculate.

BLITZER: He's been rather critical of you, John McCain, lately.

CHENEY: Well, John's a -- John's a good man. He and I have known each other a long time and we agree on many things and disagree on others.

BLITZER: He said -- the other day he said, "The president listened too much to the vice president. Of course, the president bears the ultimate responsibility, but he was very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, the secretary of defense."

That was John McCain.

CHENEY: So?

BLITZER: You want to react?

CHENEY: Well, I just disagree with him.

BLITZER: He said about the former defense secretary, "Rumsfeld will go down in history, along with McNamara, as one of the worst secretaries of defense..."

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree. You heard my speech when Don retired. I think he's done a superb job.

BLITZER: We're out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you.

Your daughter, Mary, she's pregnant. All of us are happy she's going to have a baby, you're going to have another grandchild.

Some of the -- some critics, though, are suggesting -- for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family, "Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father doesn't mean it's best for the child."

Do you want to respond to that?

CHENEY: No, I don't.

BLITZER: She's obviously a good daughter...

CHENEY: I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf. And obviously I think the world of both my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.

BLITZER: I think -- I think all of us appreciate...

CHENEY: I think you're out of -- I think you're out of line.

BLITZER: No, we like your daughters. Believe me, I'm very, very sympathetic to Liz and Mary. I like them both. That was just a question that's come up, and it's a responsible fair question.

CHENEY: I just fundamentally disagree with you.

BLITZER: I want to congratulate you on having another grandchild.

Let's wind up on a soft stuff -- Nancy Pelosi. What was it like sitting up there with her last night, as opposed to Dennis Hastert?

CHENEY: I prefer Denny Hastert, obviously. I liked having a fellow Republican in the Speaker's chair. Nancy's now the speaker of the House. We had a very pleasant evening.

BLITZER: But it's different to have a Democrat in control.

CHENEY: Well, sure it's different to have a -- yes, but it's the way it's been during most of my career in Congress. So I didn't find it all that surprising or startling.

BLITZER: How do you feel?

CHENEY: Good.

BLITZER: Good.

Mr. Vice President, hank you.

CHENEY: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And if you missed any of the interview, we aired the whole thing over the course of the last two hours. We're going to replay it during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check back with Carol Costello for some other important stories making news -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf.

Hello to all of you.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Coming up, former president Jimmy Carter now confessing he's hurt by some of the stinging criticism over his new bestseller. We're going to have details of that. And an apology, at least on one part of the book. We'll tell you what he's saying right now.

Plus, a risky defense by former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, now on trial in the CIA leak case. We're going to go live to the courthouse here in White House for the latest.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's high-profile trial involving high-profile government officials and featuring explosive allegations of lies and betrayal, some of which are being lodged against officials in the White House.

Today in the CIA leak trial, the government continued to call witnesses. But will anything they say be as highly charged as what Lewis "Scooter" Libby's lawyers alleged yesterday?

CNN's Brian Todd is over at the courthouse with more -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, today's testimony dealt mostly with the credibility of Scooter Libby's memory defense, but many are still talking about the opening statements of this trial and how a bombshell from the defense adds even more political intrigue to this case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): He's turned on a White House that places a fierce premium on loyalty and set the tone for a trial that one observer says will portray the Bush administration as engaging in a scorched earth campaign against critics. In his opening statement, attorney Ted Wells said his client, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was to be sacrificed. Karl Rove was to be protected.

Experts says this is not Libby's legal defense as he fights charges of lying to investigators in the CIA leak case. This, they believe, is designed to play to the sympathies of a jury drawn from a city where Democrats heavily outnumber Republicans.

JONATHAN TURLEY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: So what the defense is doing is to say, yes, we know you don't like the administration. And you know what? They're just as bad as you thought they were, and this guy is the guy they want to take the fall for them.

TODD: Ted Wells said Libby even went to Cheney saying he was concerned about being scapegoated. Wells quoted a note from Cheney to Libby saying he wouldn't be sacrificed. A former prosecutor warns this could undermine Libby's defense that he accidentally misled investigators because of a bad memory.

MICHAEL ZELDIN, FORMER SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: The notion of a scapegoat in the midst of a conspiracy and the notion of "I forgot because this wasn't important," seemed in contradiction to me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Karl Rove, the president's high-powered political adviser, has not been charged in this case, but he could appear as a witness. Sources close to Rove have acknowledged that he was one of the sources for the disclosure of a CIA operative's covert identity.

Now, we contacted the White House, Rove's personal representative, and the vice president's office. None would comment on Ted Wells' statements about Libby being sacrificed to protect Rove -- Wolf.

Brian, who else testified today?

TODD: Robert Grenier (ph), a former CIA officer, and Mark Grossman, a former State Department official. These were prosecution witnesses that the prosecution is trying to set up to shoot holes in Libby's memory defense. They are -- they testified essentially to when they met with Libby about this case, what they said to him, and when.

They started to being cross-examined by the defense, and we should hear more from them soon.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of this trial every step of the way.

Brian, thank you for that

There's another development in the criminal trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby as well. Last week we told you a select number of bloggers have been granted access to the courthouse to give the public real-time coverage of the trial. Now those reports are about to get a major boost online.

Let's get some details from our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner -- Jacki.

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, that's right. The Media Bloggers Association is now partnered with The Associated Press, which is going to make bloggers' content available to some 750 news sites across the United States. Here's how it's going to look to you.

You go to a news site like "The Des Moines Register," for example. You'll go to the main Libby article on the trial. You'll scroll down to the right-hand side of the page and you'll se a box like this that says "blog." If you click on that, it's going to take you to a separate pop-up window page, and that will be a compilation of the posts from the bloggers that are blogging from inside the courthouse.

Now, there is a statement on this site that says that the opinions that are contained herein are those of the writers of these blogs, and not of The Associated Press. But the AP says they wanted to do this, one, just to see how it worked, and also because they think the readers garner something from seeing how bloggers cover the trial.

For example, James Joyner from the conservative "Outside the Beltway," was inside the courthouse today and he says this is really good for readers. They'll get real-time coverage and they'll get alternative voices.

He's one of 15 bloggers that are going to rotate in and out of two seats that were obtained by the Media Bloggers Association. There's also three other independent liberal bloggers who are going to be inside that courthouse blogging as well.

Go to cnn.com/situationroomblog. We have compiled all of the links that you need pertaining to the trial there -- Wolf

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jacki, for that. We'll stay on top of this trial.

And we're just getting this in. The Senate Armed Services Committee has now confirmed the nomination of General David Petraeus to be the new U.S. military commander in Iraq. That nomination now goes to the full Senate floor, widely expected to be overwhelmingly approved by the full Senate by the end of this week.

Now Lieutenant General, soon to be David -- full general David Petraeus, the new commander of multinational forces in Iraq.

Coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour, more of my exclusive interview with the vice president, Dick Cheney. I'll ask him if he thinks Osama bin Laden is still alive and why hasn't the U.S. been able to find him more than five years after 9/11.

And still ahead this hour, former president Jimmy Carter now saying he's hurt by some very personal criticism over his latest book. We're going to have details. New developments in this controversy that you will want to see.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs getting ready for his program that begins right at the top of the hour. He's going to give us a preview -- Lou.

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.

Coming up at 6:00 here on CNN, we'll have an interview with Senator Jim Webb, the Democrat who gave his party's response to the State of Union Address last night. Senator Webb represents a new generation of lawmakers prepared to defend middle class values and Americans.

Senator Webb is a highly-decorated Vietnam veteran. His son serving in Iraq. He has strong views on the conduct of this war.

Also, communist China refusing to explain its aggressive anti- satellite missile test. We'll have a special report on Beijing's dangerous and rising threat to U.S. interests.

And one border state governor sending hundreds more National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to do the work that the federal government refuses to do.

We'll have that report.

And is there a government cover-up in the case of two U.S. Border Patrol agents sent to prison for doing their jobs? Congressman Michael McCall is demanding answers from the Department of Homeland Security. He's among our guests here tonight.

We hope you'll be with us.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We always are, Lou.

Let me read to you a little clip, an excerpt of what the vice president, Dick Cheney, said to me. He was very confident that the administration could get the comprehensive immigration reform legislation through this new Congress.

He said, "What we need now is a temporary guest worker program, a comprehensive solution to regulate that flow. I think we can do it. I believe that in fact there's sufficient support on both sides of the aisle to get the legislation passed."

Do you believe he has that kind of support, the president and the vice president?

DOBBS: I believe, Wolf, as in other issues and policies undertaken by this administration, that the fact that he could accomplish it does not make it the correct policy. And I think it would be a disaster for this country.

BLITZER: He says there would have to be tighter border security, in addition to this temporary guest worker program.

DOBBS: I have to say that the lack of sincerity on the part of this administration talking about national security while leaving our ports insecure, only five percent of the cargo being inspected, our borders wide open, while the president stands before the Senate and the House last night and the nation and talks about a war on terror, I find absolutely -- I'm incapable of reconciling that kind of reasoning or this kind of policy that would permit such a thing five and a half years after September 11th.

So, while the vice president may ultimately be proved correct in passing such legislation -- I hope he's not -- I still maintain it would be a horrible mistake on the part of this government. But it has not (INAUDIBLE) from creating other very bad policies.

BLITZER: All right, Lou. We'll see you with your program right at the top of the hour.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs coming up shortly.

There are also some new developments today in the controversy over Jimmy Carter's new book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He spoke publicly and candidly about the criticism he's been receiving, and he actually apologized for the first time on one issue, all before a potentially very unfriendly audience.

Let's bring back CNN's Carol Costello. She's watching the story for us -- Carol.

COSTELLO: President Carter, who has refused to apologize for any part of his controversial book, did bend. Standing before a Jewish audience, he at times looked hurt, defiant, and charming.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice over): Jimmy Carter faced controversy head on at the historically Jewish Brandeis University.

JAMES CARTER, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is first time that I have been called a liar and a bigot and an anti-Semite and a coward and a plagiarist. This has hurt me.

COSTELLO: His best-selling book, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," has enraged some Jewish leaders over that the use of the word "apartheid". But Carter did not back down.

CARTER: I chose that title knowing that it would be provocative.

COSTELLO: But when it came to this controversial passage on page 213, that reads, in part, "It is imperative all Palestinian groups make it clear they would end the suicide bombings when international laws and the ultimate goals of the roadmap to peace are accepted by Israel."

Students told Carter the line suggests suicide bombings are tactic used in war and should only be stopped when peace comes. Carter did bend there. And for the first time since the controversy began, apologized.

CARTER: That sentence was worded in a completely improper and stupid way, for which I have apologized to many audiences.

COSTELLO: As for whether Carter brokered another peace accord with that mea culpa, Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who rebutted Carter's remarks, says no.

PROF. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: This was the Brandeis speech, and then there's the Al-Jazeera speech in which he mentions none of the above.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: I asked Mr. Dershowitz why Jimmy Carter would say one thing about his book to a Jewish audience and another to a Palestinian audience. Dershowitz says it all boils down to who donates to the Carter center -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alan Dershowitz, strong words about Jimmy Carter.

Thank you. We're going to continue to follow the fallout from this, Carol.

Thanks very much.

Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know, what does it mean that Senator John McCain starts criticizing Vice President Cheney for the mishandled war in Iraq? That's Jack's question. He's got your e-mail when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends over at The Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Tokyo, a small remote-controlled helicopter flies around at a toy fair.

At the White House, President Bush shouts for his dog, Ms. Beasley, to get back into the Oval Office.

In the Philippines, rescue personnel participate in an anti-terrorism training exercise sponsored by the U.S.

And at the Budapest zoo, animal keepers provide the lunch to a newborn rhino.

Some of today's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth a thousand words.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File".

You like that rhino, huh?

CAFFERTY: Well, I just wondered, does that suggest that the little rhino's mother wanted nothing to do with him? I mean, they are kind of homely, those little things.

BLITZER: They're beautiful to the mothers.

CAFFERTY: Well, but the rhinos don't see very well.

The question this hour is: What does is mean that Senator John McCain is suddenly starting to criticize Vice President Cheney for mishandling the war in Iraq?

Brad in Cincinnati says, "Jack, like you said, there's an election coming up and Cheney makes for an easy target. McCain should have run with Kerry. Then we could have gotten all the flip-flop comments over with during one election. Now we'll have to endure them all over again."

Mike in California, "It looks like McCain is beginning to see the light, at least for the moment. Now if he would just add Karl Rove and Scooter Libby to his list, he'd just about be ready for the Democratic nomination."

Joyce in Woodville, Alabama, "It means John McCain will say anything, do anything to promote his own egotistical power grab. He'll never be president because the American people see right through his facade."

R. in Boston writes, "Say goodbye to Vice President Cheney. It means they're getting ready to throw him under the bus."

Joseph in Oceanside, California, "Come on, Jack. If you were running for president, would you be anywhere near the current administration? The old saying goes, when you lie down with dogs, you're going to get up with fleas. Watching the excerpts of the interview with Vice President Cheney confirms this man is definitely in some parallel universe."

Robert in Amherst, Ohio, writes, "He was for Cheney before he was against him."

And Johnny in Redford, Michigan, says, "It means John McCain would be very wise not to accept an invitation to go hunting with the vice president."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to cnn.com/caffertyfile, where you can read more of these online -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are our viewers saying about our interview with the vice president?

CAFFERTY: Lots of comments. You get very high marks from a good number of the people who wrote in for provocative questions. A couple of viewers took exception to asking about his daughter's pregnancy. They felt like maybe that line of questioning was out of bounds.

Many people feel as though the interview was illuminating, giving them a look into the -- into the soul of Vice President Cheney. And so, you know, lots of reaction, most of good.

BLITZER: All right. We'll have more of it coming up at 7:00 p.m., Jack. See you then.

Let's go to Lou, in the meantime, in New York.

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