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Power Outage in the NYC Subway System. Subpoenas Issued by Congress in Connection with the Bush Administration's Secret Wiretap Program. Reaction to the Subpoenas at the White House
Aired June 27, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Hi, guys.
Thanks very much.
Happening now, the Bush administration hit with a new flurry of subpoenas, including the vice president's office. It's the latest in a series of showdowns between Congressional Democrats and the White House. We're going to tell you what's at stake right now.
Also this hour, President Bush tries again to shape his Middle East legacy. But with growing opposition to the war in Iraq and new GOP defections, are Americans buying what he has to say?
And trench warfare -- the Senate immigration reform bill is under attack from both sides.
Will the newly revived compromise live another day?
I'm Wolf Blitzer
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
All that coming up.
I want to go to Carol Costello.
There's a story we're following out of New York -- Carol, what's going on?
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT:
I'm telling you, Wolf, there has been a major power outage in the New York subway system -- this is according to local media here -- just in time for rush hour. Literally thousands and thousands of people ride the subway home from work or to and from, play -- a lot of tourists in the New York City area right now. So this is bound to be one big mess.
Don't know what caused the power outage yet. We're going to keep follow the story. When I get more information, of course, I'll pass it along to you.
BLITZER: Well, is it just one line? Is it all the lines, the entire subway system for all five boroughs...
BLITZER: ... in trouble right now? Or is it just one line?
COSTELLO: This bulletin says "the New York subway system suffers a major power outage." So I would think it's more than one station. I don't know if it's system-wide, but it sure sounds that way. We're still trying to find information on this story and we'll get it to you as soon as we can -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's no doubt that this is a moment that would be awful at any time. But right now, 4:00 p.m. On the East Coast, here in New York, especially, that's when a lot of people start really jumping on those trains.
COSTELLO: You've got that right. And it's hot today. It's up in the 90s. It's very humid and uncomfortable in New York City. It will be one ugly scene.
BLITZER: I assume we've got people checking all of this out and we're going to get the latest.
Carol, stand by.
As soon as you get more information, let us know.
We're going to come to you in a few moments.
A big headline out in New York. The subway system in New York, at least part of it, in deep trouble right now. A power outage.
We're going to go back to Carol in a few moments with more information.
We'll stay on top of this story.
Meanwhile, top Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee right here in Washington say they're simply fed up with what they call "a pattern of evasion and misdirection" by the Bush White House. So they're issuing now subpoenas demanding documents about the president's controversial warrant-less wiretap program. And the White House and the vice president, Dick Cheney's office, are among the targets.
The administration charges this is yet another example of Democrats resorting to confrontation.
Our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano, is standing by with the reaction from there.
But let's get the specifics of these subpoenas from our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman said just a short while ago is that they actually issued nine formal requests over the past 18 months to the administration to try to get documents and information about their internal deliberations that led to the authorization of that wireless -- warrant-less, I should say -- surveillance program. And all of those requests, according to the Democratic chairman, were rebuffed.
So with these subpoenas to the White House and to the vice president's office, they're saying their patience has run out.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I've never known an administration so willing to operate outside the law, even to operate against the law, in violation of the law, as this administration. Certainly not since I've been old enough to vote have we had an administration so willing to ignore the law. Well, I want the American public to know exactly what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, this is the second time in about three weeks that Congress has sent subpoenas over to the White House. And there's no question that this is really an illustration of how much the dynamic here in Congress and the difference between now and before November has changed with Democrats in control.
But what's interesting, Wolf, about this is that the vote to authorize these subpoenas last week was 13-3. That means that many, if not most of the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, actually thought that this was a good idea because this warrant-less surveillance program has certainly been controversial in both parties.
And one more thing I should tell you, that they announced that they've asked the attorney general to come back to Congress July 26th. That could be a very interesting hearing if it goes through.
BLITZER: All right. Yet another showdown between Congress and the Bush administration.
Dana, thanks very much.
Let's get the administration's reaction to these new subpoenas.
Elaine Quijano, our White House correspondent, standing by with that -- will the White House, the administration, Elaine, comply?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not clear right now what, if anything, the White House is going to provide as a result of these particular subpoenas. Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino would only say that they're certainly aware of the committee's actions and will respond appropriately. Essentially the same response, Wolf, that we got from Lee Anne McBride, Vice President Cheney's spokeswoman.
But interesting to note that Perino, also in her response, said that it was "unfortunate" that Congressional Democrats were continuing to choose the route of confrontation.
But as we heard Dana just point out, this is a bipartisan vote, -- Wolf. So Republicans also on board with this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let's -- let's turn corners now.
The president also made an unusual excursion today to an Islamic center right here in Washington with an appeal, a specific appeal to Muslims in the United States.
Tell our viewers what happened.
QUIJANO: That's right. This event was actually the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Islamic Center of D.C. And the president, essentially, in his remarks, was trying to get moderate Muslims to be more vocal in denouncing Islamic extremists. But, at the same time, clearly his remarks were meant to counter criticisms of his Middle East policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
QUIJANO (voice-over): Against a backdrop of criticism from his fellow Republicans on Iraq and growing tensions in the Middle East, President Bush defended the principles behind his policies and alluded to staking his legacy on success in the region.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've invested the heart of my presidency in helping Muslims fight terrorism and claim their liberty and find their own unique paths to prosperity and peace.
QUIJANO: Speaking at the same Washington, D.C. Mosque that he first visited days after the September 11th attacks, the president pledged support for moderate Muslim voices worldwide and urged them to condemn violence by Islamic extremists.
BUSH: We must help millions of Muslims as they rescue a proud and historic religion from murderers and beheaders who seek to soil the name of Islam.
QUIJANO: With just over a year-and-a-half left in office, the president again defended his democracy agenda and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
BUSH: We believe the ultimate success of Afghans and Iraqis will inspire others who want to live in freedom, as well.
QUIJANO: But some say that a agenda has yet to bear any real fruit.
MICHAEL O'HANLON, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Of course, Iraq is in -- is in chaos and the Middle East peace process, at the moment, is going nowhere.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
QUIJANO: And on that Middle East peace process, President Bush today welcomed the appointment of Tony Blair, former British prime minister, as the new Middle East envoy. The president saying that Blair's role will be to help work towards the goal of one day eventually seeing a Palestinian state and Israel living side by side in peace -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elaine, thanks very much.
Elaine Quijano at the White House.
Like President Bush, Tony Blair's legacy in Britain will be influenced to a great degree by Iraq. Blair's decade-long tenure as prime minister ended today and he was officially appointed as a special Middle East envoy to the Middle East representing the U.S., Russia, the U.N. and the European Union.
Our Brian Todd is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Does he show any resentment towards President Bush because of the war in Iraq?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the only inklings of frustration that we've heard so far is Blair admitting that he's had behind the scenes discussions with the president about the management of the war. Tony Blair has, indeed, seemed to place as much a premium on loyalty as his American friend.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And that is that, the end.
TODD (voice-over): And to the very end, Tony Blair defends his decision to send British forces to Iraq.
BLAIR: I believe they are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life.
TODD: But this became a war so unpopular in Britain, it pushed Tony Blair out earlier than he'd planned and cast a shadow over his other accomplishments. Blair has paid an immense political price for his alliance with George W. Bush, but publicly says since September 11th, he's never had any doubt about standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Could he have had those doubts in private about Bush?
BLAIR: Not even in private, that I am aware of. And I've -- I've spoken to many people who have worked for him and with him. He is absolutely dogged in his loyalty.
TODD: But why, when it's cost him so dearly?
Analysts say Blair is driven by a sense of honor, not wanting to let down the man who's shown unwavering faith in him.
BUSH: When Tony Blair tells you something, as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank.
TODD: Observers say the strength of their religious convictions still bonds the two men, and Blair, they say, has a firm belief to this day that intervention in Iraq was right.
EDWARD LUCE, "FINANCIAL TIMES": Tony Blair almost shared very similar objectives. He regarded Saddam Hussein's Iraq as a dangerous regime.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: And that belief, analysts say, dates back to the late 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president and Blair advocated a hard line against Saddam Hussein -- an interventionist streak that led him to push for action in Kosovo, as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Brian, thanks very much.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: I want to go back to Carol Costello.
She's in New York.
The breaking news involving a major power outage in the city affecting the subways.
What else do we know -- Carol?
COSTELLO: Well, Wolf, it's not -- it's not it's not as major as we originally thought, but it's still pretty massive. This power outage is affecting the East Side line, which, of course, is the most heavily trafficked subway system in the city of New York, in Manhattan. It effects the E, V as in Victor and D as in dog trains.
Now, the tracks apparently have power, so that means that the doors of the train cars can open and people are not trapped inside those cars. But the signals do not have power, which means when the conductor looks at the red and green light, he doesn't know whether to go or stop because he can't tell when an oncoming train or a train is coming up behind him. So that has put a stop to the East Side line.
Now, this still affects thousands and thousands of people. ConEd, the electric company here in this area, is trying to figure out what happened. But there was a major power dip.
And, as I find out more information, of course, I will keep you posted.
BLITZER: So Reuters is reporting three subway lines of the subway system apparently down. That's a significant number, but it's not the entire subway system.
COSTELLO: Not the entire system, but it is the most heavily trafficked. So it's going to still going to cause major problems in Manhattan, on the East Side of town.
BLITZER: All right. We don't know why. We don't know how much -- how long this is going to go on.
But, Carol, stand by.
We're going to get on top of this story, get some more information together with you.
Jack Cafferty is also in New York.
A lot of us remember that huge power outage in New York a few years back. I happened to have been in the city when it occurred and it caused a lot of disruption for a lot of people.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, although this doesn't sound like, at this point, it's anything that will begin to resemble that. It's been extremely hot and very humid in the city the last couple of days. That means that a lot of air conditioning is being run and that draws a lot of the available energy down. So it's not unusual to get little glitches in the system at the height of hot hazy, humid summer days.
Something that might surprise you I came across earlier got my attention. It's a good thing -- young people apparently getting into the 2008 race for the White House.
Their interest apparently goes beyond boxers and briefs this time, too. A new CBS/"New York Times"/MTV poll shows that 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 29 say that they are paying a lot or some attention to the campaign. And that's a huge increase from the 35 percent who responded that way at this same point during the 2004 campaign.
Most young people tend to support the Democrats, as reflected in these numbers. These youthful potential voters most familiar with two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Eighteen percent of those polled say they're enthusiastic about Obama. Seventeen percent feel that way about Clinton. Only 4 percent are enthusiastic about Rudy Giuliani, a Republican.
If anything, the poll, perhaps, gives an indication that young Americans are more tuned in to what's going on and perhaps plan to make their voices heard in November of 2008.
That's a good thing
Let's hope it happens.
Here's the question then -- why is the interest in the presidential campaign among people under 30 almost twice as high as it was four years ago?
E-mail your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's encouraging that these young...
BLITZER: ... young people are interested. Let's hope they stay interested and that they vote.
CAFFERTY: Well, let's hope so. Part of that, I guess, is our job. We've got to keep them stirred up and -- and wanting to be a part of this.
BLITZER: All right.
We're trying our best.
CAFFERTY: So get to work.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
Thank you very much.
We're going to stay on top of this story in New York that we're following, the power outage affecting some of the subway lines in the city. We're trying to figure out what's going on there. We'll stay on top of it.
Carol Costello and Mary Snow are both working the story.
Also coming up, would-be presidential candidate Fred Thompson visits some friendly turf.
Could South Carolina be his ticket to winning the GOP nomination?
Plus, our brand new poll shows Americans' views towards gays and lesbians are changing. We're going to tell you about a first of its kind shift in opinion on whether homosexuals are born that way.
And is he a self-made target or the Democrats' punching bag?
Vice President Dick Cheney under fire again and now slapped with a new subpoena. Paul Begala and J.C. Watts, they're standing by live for our Strategy Session.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: A significant power outage in Manhattan and now apparently in at least parts of the Bronx, as well.
Carol Costello is watching this story for us -- update our viewers, Carol, who may be just tuning in, precisely what we know.
COSTELLO: Well, the MTA, the transit system here, has reported a major power outage on the East Side lines of the subway trains. They have been telling people to get out of the lines. This is effecting the E, V as in Victor, D as in Dog lines and the trains four, five and six. And those would be in the Bronx area.
This is one of the most overwhelmed lines in the entire city of New York. So this is involving a lot of people.
Now, that doesn't mean that people are struck inside the trains. What the power outage is affecting are the train signals. That means the conductors don't know who's coming from where. You can't run trains like that. So those subway systems, those lines are shut down.
We also understand there's a major power outage on Lexington Avenue up in the 60s to the 80s. In fact, 20 traffic lights are out. Also, there are a number of people without power, which is bad today, Wolf, because it is very hot here. Temperatures up in the 90s and it is very humid.
They do not know what the problem is yet. And it may be as simple as the generators or the -- whatever generates electricity is overwhelmed by all the air conditioners running. We just don't k. But that's as much information as I can forward to you right now.
I'm still checking it out.
BLITZER: And various reports coming in. The East Side, the Upper East Side, you say from the 60th block up to the 80th block, Lexington Avenue. But, also, some of our affiliates now are reporting that some of -- some parts of the Bronx have been apparently affected, some subway lines coming in from there.
But we have no indication that people are stuck in subways right now, do we?
COSTELLO: No, they are not stuck because the trains are actually able the move because the tracks have power. So, you know, the doors of the train can open. But the people have to get out of those subway -- you know, they have to get out of the subway lines because the signals aren't working. And that means the conductors can't move the trains because they don't know who's coming up behind them.
BLITZER: All right, Carol...
COSTELLO: So those lines have been evacuated.
BLITZER: I know you're working this story.
Mary Snow is working this story.
We'll get back to you shortly.
A significant development in New York City right now.
Let's move on to some other stories we're following here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Like any good actor, Fred Thompson realizes it's good to know your audience. The former senator is in South Carolina today, his first trip to that key primary state since becoming a prospective presidential candidate. And he's playing up conservative themes that could be -- could be a ticket to victory.
Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is joining us from South Carolina right now -- Candy, he's given a speech there today.
Tell our viewers what happened.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, he came here for a fundraiser for the South Carolina party. But I can tell you, there were a lot of people in this event who want him to run. They already have signs made up. It looks very much like a campaign, Wolf, except for one thing -- the say-so of the candidate.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're glad you're here.
FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank you very much.
And I'm glad you're here.
CROWLEY: There he is, the un-candidate, campaigning -- sorry -- speaking at a South Carolina party fundraiser, hitting all the right conservative notes.
THOMPSON: The bottom line is what's best for the strength of the long-term endurance of this country. And this immigration bill is not it.
CROWLEY: His speech was what he hopes to be -- Reaganesque -- both optimistic and tough, calling for an America strong enough, patient enough to confront the new age of global terrorism.
THOMPSON: This is going to be not a war of bombs. This is going to be a war of will, a war of will that we have to win, over whatever period of time.
CROWLEY: This was Thompson's first trip to South Carolina as a probable presidential candidate who, as it happens, leads state polls -- a feat that speaks to both his notoriety and an unsettled Republican field.
The party fundraiser was SRO.
KATON DAWSON, SOUTH CAROLINA STATE REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: We could have doubled the crowd here. We picked a venue where a lot of people on the ground who were undecided wanted to come see him. They wanted to hear him and he has instant celebrity status.
CROWLEY: What they heard was a conservative's conservative speech -- a more efficient government, a stronger military, an economy fueled by low taxes. And while many Republicans are beginning to walk away from the president on Iraq, Thompson stood with him, telling the story of the sons of friends who re-upped for a tour of duty in Iraq.
THOMPSON: I read their e-mails. They send them to me. They're full of hope, optimism, doing something good for their country. And as long as they have hope and optimism, I have hope and optimism, and I'm not going to cut it off short.
CROWLEY: He keeps saying he is testing the waters. But the speech says he's already in the pool. Now he just needs to say so. It won't be today.
THOMPSON: And maybe I can come back a little bit later in a different capacity and we can talk a little bit more about some of these issues.
CROWLEY: The un-candidate exits to a standing ovation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to do it.
THOMPSON: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CROWLEY: So why not just go ahead and make it official?
For one thing, right now, the Thompson non-campaign is a collection of people who want him to run. What he really needs is a strong campaign support system -- a strong staff of people in states so that he can compete with some of these candidates who have been running for some time, some of them for years -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy, watching this story for us.
Still ahead, we're following the breaking news out of New York City. A power outage partially shutting down some of the subway system on a very hot and steamy day in New York City. We're going to have the latest on what's going on.
Later, Elizabeth Edwards takes on her husband's fight with conservative pundit Ann Coulter. We're going to tell you what's happening now in that war of words.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: They're calling it a power dip in Manhattan in New York City, parts of the Bronx, affecting the subway system.
Carol Costello is monitoring the developments. A very hot and steamy day in New York.
What do we know -- Carol?
COSTELLO: I can't tell you how uncomfortable the weather is today, Wolf.
New York City police just told us that the four, five and six lines are running, which means the subway is up and running downtown. But uptown, the Upper East Side, they're still having problems with the subway system. And, also, at street level, there are reports of some power outages affecting traffic lights and also homes. So they're still struggling with that.
I'm going to keep on eye on everything. Everyone is busy back there. And we have people on the outside, as well.
I'll keep you posted.
Also in the news this afternoon, North Korea may have fired a short-range missile off of its east coast today. That's the word from South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. A South Korean Defense Ministry official could not confirm that report. North Korea has fired at least two short-range missiles over the past month. This all comes at a time when North Korea had said it would shut down its nuclear reactor and let U.N. Inspectors visit the site.
The U.S. is calling today's missile launch report "troubling" and "provocative."
That huge wildfire near Lake Tahoe in California is now 44 percent contained. It's almost destroyed 200 homes and is threatening almost 1,000 others. Mandatory evacuations have been issued for several neighborhoods. The fire started on Sunday. The U.S. Forest Service says the blaze was caused by human activity, but it's not clear if it was deliberately set.
Flooding is causing big problems in parts of Oklahoma and Central Texas. In Austin, Texas, strong wind and intense rain have forced rescuers to abandon attempts to get people stranded on rooftops. It's rained for the 15th consecutive day in Oklahoma City. The old record was 14 days. That was set way back in 1937. Some roads there are closed because of the high water.
And, of course, I'm still keeping an eye on that power outage in New York City. But it's at least -- power is at least partially restored downtown -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They say no matter what happens, is going to be a nightmare for a lot of commuters getting out of Manhattan later today.
All right, Carol, thanks very much.
We'll check back with you on that. We'll take a quick break.
When we come -- when we come back, there are new battle lines being drawn in the border wars. The Senate immigration reform bill under fresh attack today. We're going to tell you what's happening right now.
And I'll speak about the pros and cons of the bill with one of its supporters, the first Hispanic mayor of Los Angeles in more than 100 years, Antonio Villaraigosa. He's standing by live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Happening now. Former President Bill Clinton becoming more visible in his wife's presidential campaign. But her rivals are also giving him a bigger role. Stand by for that. We have information.
Also, the U.S. has spent billions of dollars to train Iraqi troops, but a new congressional report casts doubt on how effective the training has been.
At the same time, the U.S. military is claiming a major success in the battle against insurgents.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, the Senate immigration reform bill is under fresh attack from both sides of the aisle a day after its revival. Scenes likened to trench warfare that could blow holes in the bipartisan compromise if it doesn't kill it altogether. Let's go back to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching this. Where does it stand, Dana, right now?
BASH: Well, today, Wolf, supporters of this immigration bill defeated four amendments, four attempts to change the underlying bill. And as we speak, they're voting on a fifth, but there's still a long way to go in this emotional debate.
BASH (voice-over): They may have revived debate, but authors of the Senate immigration compromise know its fate is still very unclear.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, (R) PA: So it's going to be a rough ride for Mr. President. We're in trench warfare and it's going to be tough, but we're going to see the will of the Senate work one way or another.
BASH: The bill's supporters won their first big battle, voting to kill a proposal to make it harder for illegal aliens to gain legal status by requiring them to return home within two years. The proposal's Republican sponsor argued this new hurdle for illegal immigrants would calm critics who call it amnesty.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON, (R) TX: This is the amendment that will take the amnesty out of this bill and say today's standards will be enforced.
BASH: Later, the immigration bill's supporters feed back another attempt by critics to change it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amendment is therefore tabled.
BASH: A measure from Democrat Jim Webb to allow only illegal immigrants in the U.S. for at least four years to qualify for U.S. citizenship.
SEN. TED KENNEDY, (D) MA: Two of those amendments, those that wanted to undermine this proposal have been defeated. Others will be. But today is the time, now is the place, this is the hour.
BASH: Despite the early victories, immigration reform still a steep hill to climb.
SEN. DAVID VITTER, (R) LA: Frustrated about our ability to exercise our rights on the floor of the Senate as duly elected officials.
BASH: In order to get around staunch opponents determined to block the bill, leaders took advantage of rarely used Senate rules to limit amendments from the left and the right.
BASH (on camera): And one of those amendments is being voted on from the left as we speak. I mentioned that earlier, Wolf. What this is, is a measure by Democrat Bob Menendez to essentially change the formula of this bill to allow for immigrants coming into this country to -- for it to be more weighted to family ties as opposed to their eligibility for employment, which is what many Republicans want in this bill.
We're waiting for this. It's pretty important because if this actually succeeds in passing, that could jeopardize some Democratic support. It's very unclear, as I mentioned, whether or not at the end of this week this bill will actually pass. Because it could lose votes on the right and the left depending on amendments like the one we see right now on the floor.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Touch and go, Dana. Thanks very much.
Let's get some analysis. What's going on by a key supporter of the immigration reform bill. That's the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. Mayor, thanks for coming in.
MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA, LOS ANGELES: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: You came to Washington to help try to propel passage of this bill. What, Ted Kennedy asked you to come?
VILLARAIGOSA: Yes, he did. We had a press conference earlier today with Senator Salazar and Congressman Gutierrez and others to talk about the need to take advantage of this historic moment. Look. There's opposition from the left and the right. Both Democrats and Republicans have some concerns with the bill. So do I. I'd like to see a stronger family reunification provision. I don't support a wall. I think we need bridges. I think we need to secure our borders but also provide a pathway for citizenship to the 12 million people who are living in the dark right now.
BLITZER: What about this notion that every one of those 12 million would have to touch back, would have to go back to their home countries, whether it's Mexico or Ukraine or wherever, not just the head of household. How do you feel about that?
VILLARAIGOSA: That's another problem. How does it work? It's very difficult to implement something of that magnitude. And yet we have a situation today that if we don't take advantage of this opportunity, we may not pass immigration reform for three or four years. The system is broken. Both parties agree on that. Part of what we have to do when something is broken is fix it. Maybe not fix it in perfectly, but fix the problem. Right now it's broken.
BLITZER: You were with senators like Senator Kennedy, one of the key architects of this bill. Also others all day today. What are they saying to you? What do they think the chances are that it will achieve -- that it will be passed this week before the 4th of July in the U.S. Senate?
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it's - as your correspondent said a few minutes ago it's touch and go. I don't think anybody really knows. I wanted to come to provide some support, to hopefully convince some members of the Senate that there's an opportunity here to move forward, for us to find a common ground. Part of the problem, frankly, with Washington is that there's so much finger-pointing on these kinds of issue. A very divisive and vitriolic debate.
BLITZER: You know that and you pointed out there's opposition from the left and from the right. The opposition from the right seems to be more intense, at least right now. But is there something, one of the poison pills that if included in the Senate version would cause you, a key supporter of this legislation, to say, you know what? I can't support it anymore.
VILLARAIGOSA: There are a number of amendments, Republican amendments primarily, but there are a number of amendments that would ...
BLITZER: Give us some examples, something that would force you to back out of this.
VILLARAIGOSA: I think what's important is not that. I want to focus on the positives. The positive is that it's moving forward. Most of those amendments have been defeated. I don't want to finger point. What I want to do is find common ground with Republicans, with Democrats to move this forward.
BLITZER: You recently found political common ground with your Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the now independent mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg. The three of you were together in L.A. and out of that, Bloomberg eventually announced he's no longer a Republican. He used to be a life-long Democrat. Tell us what was going on. We're showing our viewers pictures of that extraordinary meeting that the three of you had.
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, for a long time, Mayor Bloomberg and I had been talking about the need to address the political divide, the vitriol, the partisanship that we see in the Beltway. The need for mayors to come together and governors to address the -- the lack of effort to fix the real problems or at least the failure to remedy some of the real problems like Social Security, like immigration reform.
The question of investing in infrastructure in our cities. So we came together. We invited Governor Napolitano and Governor Schwarzenegger as well and we had a conversation about the need for mayors and governors to lead the way to address many of these issues not ideologically but based on ideas and based on what works.
BLITZER: You support Senator Clinton for president, right?
VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely. That's right. I am supporting Senator Clinton.
BLITZER: Did he give you any indication, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg that he was going to run as a third-party candidate?
VILLARAIGOSA: No, he didn't. In fact it was quite the opposite. But obviously he's looking at the issue. He's not completely discounted it. But I am supporting Senator Clinton and I've made that absolutely clear.
BLITZER: Tell us ...
VILLARAIGOSA: To Mayor Bloomberg and everybody else.
BLITZER: Tell us why you like Senator Clinton as opposed to some of the other Democrats including Barack Obama.
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, first of all, this is a deep and talented field of Democratic candidates. Probably deeper and more talented than any time since 1968, when Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey and McCarthy were running for president.
I like Senator Kennedy because she has experience.
BLITZER: Senator Clinton?
VILLARAIGOSA: I'm sorry. I like Senator Kennedy because he has experience as well. I like Senator Clinton because she has the experience and the strength of leadership that we need right now.
When you look at the crisis that faces America and the world and our support and image around the world, we need somebody that can restore that image, someone who will get us out of Iraq, invest in America again. In middle class families, and ensuring that we're protecting our security at home and abroad.
BLITZER: Mayor, thanks for coming in.
VILLARAIGOSA: Thank you.
BLITZER: You should be happy you're the mayor of Los Angeles today, not the mayor of New York because there's significant problems in New York City right now that we're watching. A huge power outage. In fact, mayor, I want to speak to Bob McGee of ConEd, a spokesman for ConEd.
The power system in New York right now. Bob, tell us what we know about this power outage affecting subways, traffic lights and others in New York.
BOB MCGEE, CON ED SPOKESMAN (on phone): Well, we're investigating a transmission disturbance that's affected areas of the West Bronx and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, impacting about 136,700 customers in those two areas.
And the cause is currently being investigated. We're working to restore power to the areas. In the West Bronx, it's approximately 57,900 customers between the Harlem River, 174th Street, 144th Street and Park Avenue.
BLITZER: Is it -- is the problem still continuing right now? Or is it basically resolved?
MCGEE: It's still continuing. In Manhattan it's approximately 78,800 customers between Fifth Avenue and the East River from 77th street to 110th street. And Randall's Island also is affected. And the company is urging customers without electrical service to report it at 1-800-77-CONED or online at www.coned.com.
BLITZER: So does this mean that people in high-rises, the elevators aren't working and that they're getting no power? That individuals could be stuck in those elevators or could they be stuck in the subways?
MCGEE: Yes. And we're -- this was a transmission disturbance. So it could be storm-related. Concerning the storm passing over Westchester. We're still investigating the cause and we have crews out there trying to restore power as we speak.
BLITZER: But this is very different, correct me if I'm wrong, than that huge power outage that occurred, what, in 2004?
MCGEE: Well, this -- it's under investigation right now. So we can't conclusively say exactly what has caused this and how it's different from any other past outages.
BLITZER: But right now you're working on the problem. Any indication of when it might be completely resolved?
MCGEE: Can't say as of this moment. We're getting information feeding in as we speak. And hopefully it will be resolved as soon as possible. But we've got folks out there over the place checking it out.
BLITZER: Good luck to ConEd. Good look to everyone in New York in Manhattan right now. Must be a mess, especially as this rush hour gets going. Bob McGee, a spokesman for ConEd joining us. We're going to stay on top of this story and update you as more information becomes available.
Also coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, there's new evidence that Americans are now more open-minded about gay rights and changing their minds about whether homosexuals can change their orientation. We're going to tell you what's going on.
And later, the actor and activist Bill Cosby rarely pulling any punches. He's speaking out about the impact of violence on children. He'll be joining us live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. This is an interview you're going to want to see it. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We're staying on top of this story, the breaking news in New York City. A huge power outage affecting large parts of the city. It's continuing. We just heard from ConEd moments ago it's continuing right now. Traffic lights are out. Electricity, power out in major parts of Manhattan, in the Bronx and elsewhere. Subway systems affected. Clearly this is a story that's not going away yet. On this, a very, very hot day in New York City. We're going to go back there in a moment.
Let's check out some other news we're watching right now.
Same-sex marriage and gay rights continue to be potent political issues in this country as we head deeper into this election season. Today CNN is focusing in on issues involving sexual orientation and morality. We have a brand new public opinion poll. Let's bring in our senior political analyst Bill Schneider. He's watching this for us. Are the public's views on this issue changing, Bill?
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Relating to gay rights? They are. Toward greater support for equal rights, Wolf.
SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Should people who are openly gay be allowed to serve in the military? In the CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll, 79 percent of Americans said yes. So did two thirds of Republicans. Not much controversy anymore. Mr. Clinton's wife is prepared to change her husband's policy.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) NY: Don't ask don't tell is not working. I've been against it for many years.
SCHNEIDER: Leading Republican candidates oppose any change.
RUDY GIULIANI, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is not the time to deal with disruptive issues like this. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: So I think it would be a terrific mistake to even reopen the issue. It is working, my friends. The policy is working.
SCHNEIDER: The issue of same-sex marriage seems to have Democrats on the defensive. Since the Massachusetts Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in 2003, 23 states have voted to ban such marriages. The voters of one state, Arizona, rejected a ban. About a quarter of the public favors legal recognition of same-sex marriages. Just over a quarter more favors civil unions.
A new poll finds young people much more favorable to same-sex marriage. Forty four percent of Americans under 30 are in favor compared with 24 percent of all Americans. That suggests attitudes are likely to liberalize over time. So does this.
Most Americans now believe gays and lesbians cannot change their sexual orientation even if they choose to. Growing numbers believe it's something people are born with. Those views are connected to greater support for equal rights.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): ... percent of Americans feel gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to adopt a child. Those who support same-sex marriage or civil unions feel couples should have the same right. Wolf?
BLITZER: Missed the top of that. How many percent did you say believe that Americans should have the right to adopt children, same- sex couples?
SCHNEIDER: Fifty-seven percent. That's larger than the number who support same-sex marriage because people who support same sex marriage and those who support civil unions overwhelmingly believe that the couples should have the right to adopt children.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider watching this story for us. Bill, thanks very much.
I want to go back to Bill McGee, a spokesman for ConEd in New York. We've been watching for the past hour or so. A major power outage in the city of New York. In Manhattan and elsewhere. I understand there's some new developments. What can you tell us?
MCGEE: Yes. ConEd has restored power now to 136,700 customers affected by a transmission disturbance. It was out to customers in the West Bronx and the Upper East Side of Manhattan for about 50 minutes today.
BLITZER: So does that mean that everything is back to normal? Every one is getting electricity now?
MCGEE: Everyone is getting electricity. The outage was between 3:42 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and the cause is being investigated. In the West Bronx, it was approximately 57,900 customers between the Harlem River, 174th and 144th Streets. In Park Avenue in Manhattan, approximately 78,800 customers between 5th Avenue and the East River from 77th to 110th Streets. And Randal's Island also was a part of that. All of this power has now been restored.
BLITZER: What do you mean by a transmission disturbance?
MCGEE: It could be a -- as a result of electrical storms up in Westchester. We're still looking into that.
BLITZER: Bill McGee joining us from ConEd.
MCGEE: Bob McGee.
BLITZER: Bob McGee. Excuse me. Bob McGee joining us from ConEd. Bob, we're going to check back with you. Thanks very much.
The headline, though, power has been restored. Cleaning up after this situation, though, is going to be problematic. There's going to be huge delays. Everyone in New York City should have patience right now. Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, some House Republicans indicate they're ready to oppose the immigration bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House GOP Conference disapproves of the Senate initiative, the Senate bill, targeting immigration reform. This is the wrong answer. This is the wrong way to solve this problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The White House facing an up-hill battle again and the Senate also demanding some documents from Vice President Dick Cheney's office. We're going to have the latest on all of that coming up in our "Strategy Session." We'll be right back.
BLITZER: House Republicans say they're ready to oppose the immigration bill and Vice President Dick Cheney facing a new showdown over some subpoena documents. Joining us now in our "Strategy Session," Democratic strategist Paul Begala, former Republican congressman, J.C. Watts. Thanks for coming in, guys.
Let's talk about the latest subpoenas coming in from the Senate to the White House, including the vice president's office. Here's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VT: Certainly not since I've been old enough to vote have we had an administration so willing to ignore the law. Well, I want the American public to know exactly what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Is there a possibility that the democrats might overreach in issuing all of these subpoenas, Paul, to this Republican administration the way that Republicans overreached during the Clinton administration when you were a key figure in the White House? You understand the question?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Absolutely. When I worked for President Clinton, one committee issued over 1,000 subpoenas and investigated President Clinton's Christmas card list.
Now I don't think that the Democrats are going anywhere near that. This is I think the first time the Judiciary Committee has voted to subpoena. And the three highest-ranking Republicans on the committee, Senator Specter, Senator Hatch, who have chaired the committee in the past and Senator Charles Grassley, a veteran Republican from Iowa, they all voted to give their chairman the power to subpoena. It was a 13-3 vote.
So this is now just a question of whether this president and his vice president will continue to hold themselves above the law. If they're going to decide that they're above the law, that the law does not apply to them, then there is going to be a constitutional clash.
BLITZER: How worried should Republicans be, J.C.? You're a Republican. The vice president is becoming the sort of bad news magnet right now.
J.C. WATTS, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN: Well, Wolf, when Senator Grassley and Senator Hatch, when they vote to give the chairman subpoena power, they're pretty responsible senators. I don't care if you're issuing one subpoena or 1,000 subpoenas. I would hope that Republicans and Democrats both do it responsibly.
I don't think it's good for the administration if you've got a Hatch and a Grassley that's agreeing with the chairman. But, again, I would hope that they would do it responsibly.
BLITZER: What about the bigger picture that the vice president is now sort of drawing so much attention on some of his controversial decisions?
WATTS: Well, what's new? I mean, Vice President Cheney has always drawn this kind of attention. He's not been your -- your normal vice president. He's been very engaged. I don't think that's bad. He's been very engaged. I think he's done good things in terms of looking over the terrorism issue. We haven't been attacked. I think he deserves -- the administration deserves a whole lot of credit for that. Wolf, this is politics. And if it was a Democrat presidential, Republicans would be doing the same thing. I just would encourage them to do it responsibly.
BLITZER: What do you think.
BEGALA: I think that Dick Cheney is so polarizing because he is such a person of contradictions. Here's this man who swears to uphold the law and then he says he's above the law. He was -- his country asked him to serve in combat in Vietnam, he got five draft deferments and now he sends young men to fight and die under false pretenses in another war.
As a businessman he made millions at Halliburton doing business with Iranians, with the terrorist state of Iran. Now as vice president he wants to go to war with the Iranians. There's fantastic contradictions here and I think that's why he's so unpopular.
BLITZER: Let me ...
WATTS: I don't think those are contradictions, Wolf. That would be, you know, Paul using that analogy would be like saying that Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton should never be able to serve as president because they didn't serve in the military.
I don't think the vice president is doing this for economic gain. I think we're in a war. And Iran is talking about doing bad things to America. Doing bad things to Israel. And I think we have to protect ...
BLITZER: Very quickly to both of you. This immigration bill, is it going to get through the Senate this week?
BEGALA: I think it will get through the Senate but it will die in the House until -- unless President Bush can deliver 60 to 70 Republicans for his top domestic priority. If he can't do that, he's not functioning as president anymore. He's a lame duck.
BLITZER: In the House.
WATTS: I just left the Hill about 30 minutes ago, Wolf. I think the president has got to find 70, 75 votes from the Republican side. That's going to be a tough haul.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in. Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty. He's got "The Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: What was the vote in that committee on the subpoenas? Thirteen to three?
CAFFERTY: Beginning the transcend politics, isn't it?
CAFFERTY: The question is why is the interest in the presidential campaign among people under 30 almost twice as high as it was four years ago.
A lot of them felt as Richard did in California, "It's finally beginning to dawn on them that there could very easily be a reinstatement of the draft. This time it will include both males and females."
Elizabeth in California. "I'm a 26-year-old woman. The past seven years, which comprised more than a quarter of my life, have shocked and awed me. I've seen more clearly now that I did in 2004 how destructive ignorance can be. I hope the rest of us 20-somethings will continue to get together and make a difference this time. As the old saying goes, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Now that the shame is on us, it's our responsibility to respond accordingly."
Paul in Maryland writes, "The reason why people like me are so involved with politics now is because so much is at stake. Our friends and classmates are being sent away to war, some will never come back alive. The political process is the only way for us to bring our friends back home."
Hugh in Florida writes, "I think part of it has to do with the fact that you don't have a sitting president or vice president seeking the presidency. Both parties have a full slate of candidates to choose from whereas in the past one party was pretty much stuck with the heir apparent, stifling any real debate in that party. I believe this little oddity is keeping more of the younger generation interested."
Dave in Colorado, "Mr. Cafferty, as a 24 year old member of the U.S. military I can tell you the reason I am interested in the upcoming presidential election is because my friends and peers are the ones giving up their lives in Iraq and I am very interested in electing someone who can put this to an end."
Bobby in Virginia, "People in my age group are fearful that if we do not pay attention, we could be subjected to another four years of an administration that will further tear down our ability to do very much of anything."
And John in Toronto might have his finger on as much of the reason as anything. "Five words. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert." Those guys over at "The Daily Show" that make politics entertaining to a young audience every night. They do a pretty good job, too, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very funny, consider creative. Thanks very much, Jack. A war of words, by the way, erupted on cable yesterday when Elizabeth Edwards told Ann Coulter to stop, and I'm quoting now, "personal attacks" on her husband, John Edwards. Coulter refused.
Now Edwards is using the incident to try and raise some money. Let's go to Abbi Tatton. She is watching this for us online. Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest here is Ann Coulter is once again front and center of a fund-raising push from John Edwards. Yesterday Elizabeth Edwards, or this morning, rather, sending out an e-mail explaining why she called into MSNBC yesterday when Ann Coulter was a guest, saying she wanted to tell Coulter she was lowering the political dialogue.
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