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THE SITUATION ROOM
Hostage Crisis at Clinton Campaign Headquarters Ends
Aired November 30, 2007 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world, those joining us on CNN International.
This hour, police in Rochester, New Hampshire, are making clear it the hostage drama at Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign office is by no means over. There's late word about the hostage-taker, who claims to have a bomb.
CNN's Anderson Cooper is on the scene. We're following this breaking story.
Anderson, where does the situation, as far as we know, and it's still obviously a very fluid situation, where does it stand right now?
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "ANDERSON COOPER 360": Well, we understand the man's name is Lee Eisenberg. He is known to local police here. He apparently has some sort of a history with local police and is apparently concerned, has some concerns about the mental health care system.
That's about as much as we know. We're several blocks away from where the situation is taking place. It's taking place about two blocks to my right. Right behind me, you can see sort of the staging area for law enforcement. We have watched police and various agencies coming and going. Law enforcement is here. The Secret Service is here. The FBI is here as well as state and local law enforcement as well.
The chief of -- the captain of police here was saying that there are 50 sworn law enforcement officers on the scene. But it is a very fluid situation. That's the term they continue to use.
We know that at approximately 1:00 this afternoon a man walked into the office of Senator Clinton. He had a coat on. He opened up the coat and showed what appeared to be some sort of bomb strapped to his, strapped around his waist. We don't know if it is real or not. Nor do police.
At least three people have been released, two people and one child. The woman and a child were released about an hour or so after the incident began. She, according to a local witness, ran into a nearby store, called 911 and that's the police began to be informed about this. She got out with the child. One other person has been released. It is believed there is still one person, believed to be a woman, still inside. But, again, police are not confirming anything at this point. They are staying very tight-lipped. They say this is an ongoing situation. They say it is a hostage situation, and they don't want to say anything that might jeopardize the situation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I assume you and everybody else can't get anywhere near that block or the blocks surrounding that storefront office where Hillary Clinton's campaign had its Rochester, New Hampshire, headquarters. Is that right, Anderson?
COOPER: Yes. There's about a five-block area that has been evacuated, frankly. And no homeowners, no businesses, nobody can go in that area, for their safety.
BLITZER: Stand by, Anderson. We are going to be getting back to you as we continue to watch this drama unfold.
I want to bring in our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. She's getting some more details of this story online.
What are you picking up, Abbi?
ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, we just heard from Anderson that the man has been identified as Leeland or Lee Eisenberg. And online records showing up a man by that name turning up in Rochester police logs.
This is from the site Fosters.com. This is a New Hampshire news Web site. And from June of this year, from the Rochester politics log, you can see that a Leeland Eisenberg was charged with DWI and earlier on this year, in April, charged with stalking, two counts of stalking there in April. This according to Fosters.com, that has detailed records from the Rochester police logs there. Also online searches show that local residents have written letters mentioning this man's name as well.
It seems like he was known to local police and the local community -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. And continue to check your sources there online. We will get some more information for our viewers.
The suspect, Leeland Eisenberg, apparently well-known to local Rochester, New Hampshire, police authorities.
Mary Snow is also following this hostage drama. She's picking up additional information.
What are you getting, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned, with the identity of the hostage-taker, we have also been reporting that authorities were saying that he was upset with the mental health care situation in the United States.
The Associated Press is also quoting authorities as saying that the hostage-taker had requested to speak to Hillary Clinton. Now, several hours ago, we received a statement from the Clinton campaign saying that the senator was in constant touch with law enforcement officials. She is in Washington. She had been scheduled to go to an event at about 3:00 this afternoon that was canceled. An adviser had said there was no decision about whether or not she would travel to New Hampshire, but that she was monitoring the situation very closely, obviously, and taking her cue from law enforcement -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And it's been about five hours now since this hostage drama unfolded, when this suspect, Leeland Eisenberg, apparently walked into Hillary Clinton's campaign office in Rochester, New Hampshire, started to take hostages, claimed to have a bomb attached to his body, and the situation is unfolding as it is.
So right now, the latest information, and I know it's fluid and subject to change, Mary, is that three hostages have been released safely, that there may be, repeat, may be one hostage still inside; is that right?
SNOW: That's correct. And that is the latest information we're also getting from our affiliate WMUR.
And what we have been able to piece together is that a woman with a baby was apparently released right away when the hostage-taker walked in. And she, according to witnesses, was able to get to a nearby store and call police.
But, as you know, police are being very tight-lipped about this with a police official only saying that it was a hostage situation. It was fluid and ongoing and wouldn't release the details about how many people were involved.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Mary, because I know you're getting additional information as well.
We heard from a local law enforcement officer, a captain in the police department of the Rochester, New Hampshire, Police Department, Captain Paul Callaghan, just a little while ago, about an hour or so ago. And he said among other things this. Listen to this clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAPTAIN PAUL CALLAGHAN, ROCHESTER, NEW HAMPSHIRE POLICE DEPARTMENT: It's still ongoing. It's a fluid investigation.
The first thing I want to tell you is, after we assessed this situation, we evacuated the area. There was an elementary school, K- through-eight school, that was in the area of our lockdown. We worked with the school department to get some buses over there and safely transport those students over to another school, so their parents could come and get them conveniently.
We are working with -- we then notified our tactical response team. And that comprised -- a regional tactical response team -- that comprised our agency, which is Rochester, the Durham, New Hampshire, Police Department and the Dover, New Hampshire, Police Department. We then notified the state police explosive unit. And they responded here promptly.
Now, you may ask me why we notified the bomb unit. Because we had information that we felt we needed them there.
What I can tell you now, the situation is still fluid. I want our residents to know that the area is stabilized, that we're very confident that we have the resources available to us to handle this situation effectively and safely.
Again, we're dealing with a lot of cooperation from a lot of agencies, a lot of local agencies. The sheriff has sent us resources. State police have sent us resources. And we have the FBI, ATF and Secret Service.
We followed up a lot of active leads, and we continue to follow up some leads now.
QUESTION: Captain, could you just walk us through (OFF-MIKE)
CALLAGHAN: It's really -- it's really inappropriate to do that right now, because this is a fluid investigation.
I will just tell you that, based on the information we received and how we assessed that, is that we secured and stabilized the area and notified our regional team to respond and notified other resources to assist us in this.
QUESTION: How many people are inside (OFF-MIKE)
CALLAGHAN: This is a hostage situation.
QUESTION: Who is in the building right now? How many people?
CALLAGHAN: Again, that is information that's inappropriate to release.
QUESTION: But wait. You said this is a hostage situation. That means there are still people in the building?
CALLAGHAN: Again, I'm not going to get into any details.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) is or not?
CALLAGHAN: Again, I'm not going to get into any details on this investigation. It's still ongoing. It's still fluid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Captain Paul Callaghan briefing reporters just a little while ago in Rochester, New Hampshire.
We're going to get some analysis of what's going on from a former FBI hostage negotiator.
But I want to check in with Jack Cafferty up in New York. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, who is one of the really, really good guys in Washington, D.C. -- and there aren't many -- says, the Bush administration is one of the -- quote -- "most arrogant, incompetent administrations ever." This is a Republican.
The Nebraska senator tossed that little bouquet George Bush's way during a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations here in New York. Quoting now: "This administration has, in my opinion, been as unprepared as any I'm aware of. I would rate this one of the lowest in capacity, capability, policy, in consensus. Almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade" -- unquote.
And keep in mind he was including President Nixon.
Hagel said: "I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90 percent of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Hagel also has some predictions for what is to come. He says, the next president will understand that it's going to require consensus to govern, which, in his words, means not treating Congress like an appendage. He didn't say what appendage. He also believes the next president will make a conscious effort to put together a bipartisan Cabinet.
And despite this talk of how President Bush has failed the country, Hagel has hope for the future. He thinks the next president will have more of an opportunity to turn things around than almost any president in modern history. He might be right.
Here's the question. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel calls the Bush White House one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations ever. Is he right? E-mail your thoughts to caffertyfile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. I really wish Hagel would have stayed in the mix and declared that he was going to run for president. This country could use him.
BLITZER: He is a very, very smart guy. I have known him for many years, one of the more impressive legislators out there.
All right, Jack, thanks very much. We got much more of Jack Cafferty coming up this hour.
Remember, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts at the top of the hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Just ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM: a man in a presidential campaign office claiming to have a bomb, taking hostages. It's a situation all the campaigns certainly could face, they could fear. John Edwards' wife, Elizabeth Edwards, is here to talk about that fear.
Also, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has a message for one of her fellow Democrats. And the answer is no. It involves Congressman John Murtha and a spat over war funding.
And thousands march to support him after a march against him. Should Venezuela's Hugo Chavez be allowed to stay president for many, many more years?
Lots of news coming up -- right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: All right, here's some live pictures coming in from our affiliate WMUR.
You see another hostage we believe has just left that building. The affiliate is reporting this information.
Let's listen in briefly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Possibly a third hostage at this point. We are not quite sure. We have seen three people at this point with our own eyes that have come out of that office at various hours of this now six-plus-hour standoff that we have been here.
He is sitting in the back of that highway patrol truck, no doubt police asking him if he's all right at this point, and no doubt he will probably be moved out. We can also see the SWAT team armored truck coming back into this area. It's driving down from the command center moving in to most likely take this young man out of here. This is the scenario that we have seen three times now.
We also are panning back down to the Hillary Clinton entrance to her campaign office as the SWAT team moves in to take that possibly third hostage out at this point. It appears to be some movement outside of the office. There is a man in the street. A little hard to see, but you can see that he has put something down. His arms are up in the air. Or this person, his arms are up in the air.
Police getting around him right now. The SWAT team has moved a little bit closer in their armored vehicle. That third hostage that we saw brought out just moments ago is still sitting in the back of that highway patrol SUV.
I am told he is on his knees. He is now on his knees. He's now on his ground -- on the ground right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can see it. We can actually see it from our vantage point.
BLITZER: All right, so, there it is.
You see the apparent suspect there, one Leeland Eisenberg, on the streets in Rochester, New Hampshire. It may, repeat, may be, may be the end of this hostage crisis. The picture you're seeing is being delayed by a few seconds to make sure that we're watching this very, very closely.
But, you see, but you see this suspect now being handcuffed with his arms behind him, one Leeland Eisenberg, who is on the scene.
Let's continue to listen in from our affiliate WMUR.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... of Hillary Clinton, where he reportedly has held four young people, four young volunteers from the Hillary Clinton campaign hostage, with allegations that he had a bomb and with claims, reportedly, that he wanted to talk directly to Senator Clinton.
Again, Leeland Eisenberg, you're looking at live images right now of what we believe to be this man's arrest. Again, from reports that we have gotten throughout the day, he walked in some five-and-a-half- hours ago, distraught, having had supposedly been drinking for many hours, not employed, facing a divorce, well-known to police in Rochester as someone with some emotional and some mental problems.
You're now looking at live images of Leeland Eisenberg we believe being taken into custody, having been arrested by the state and local police, being escorted now to the back of a vehicle. It looks like they have him in cuffs, in custody, searching him, several members of law enforcement now surrounding him.
This is about 75 yards away from our live camera vantage point at this point on North Main Street in downtown Rochester, where we believe the crisis has ended and Leeland Eisenberg now being escorted into a vehicle.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, you are watching exclusive video from our WMUR cameras.
BLITZER: All right, our affiliate WMUR doing some excellent reporting from the scene in Rochester, New Hampshire.
It looks, it looks like this has been resolved peacefully. You saw it live here on CNN. The suspect, Leeland Eisenberg, he walked out. His hands were up in the air. He was spread on the ground. They handcuffed him and now they are taking him away in a vehicle.
Anderson Cooper is only a block or two away from this situation.
Anderson, we can only hope and pray that this is the end of the hostage crisis, almost five-and-a-half-hours after it began. What are you seeing and hearing?
COOPER: It certainly does look like that, Wolf. I can tell you that saw that vehicle with all those officers perched on the vehicle just as they are now moving toward the building about 10 minutes ago or 15 minutes ago, actually right before I talked to you last. I didn't say anything on the air about it, because, frankly, we know there are televisions in that office. And I didn't want to be giving locations or movement of law enforcement personnel, in case the people inside that office were watching.
But all of us over here on this side -- we're about a block-and- a-half away from the picture you're seeing right now -- could see that armored vehicle move into place with the law enforcement officers hanging from the side. Clearly, something was going on. It does appear that the man, Lee Eisenberg, has been taken into custody.
You're seeing the video again there replayed where he gets down on the ground very carefully. They're making sure that he's showing his hands, that he's moving very slowly. He appears to have some sort of -- well, something on his left side in his back area. It's not clear exactly what that is.
But officers, obviously, taking a very careful approach as they move toward him, getting him to spread his legs and then put his hands behind his back. I have not seen what may have happened to anyone else who was inside that building. The last report we had was that there was one person still believed it be inside, a woman.
Three other people, two adults and one child, had been released over the course of this afternoon. But it certainly seems as if this incident is just about over, which would certainly be good news.
Police now certainly want to move very carefully through the building and make sure that there is nothing else. Now we're seeing somebody else running away from the scene.
BLITZER: Anderson, this was one of the hostages who had been released earlier, and that hostage was taken into this vehicle. I believe this was the fourth and final hostage who had been held inside, although, obviously, that is subject to change.
But its it says live. I believe that's videotape of a situation that occurred just a few moments before Leeland Eisenberg -- and there you see him as he was escorted out of that Hillary Clinton office -- was removed and he was placed on the ground and he was handcuffed. That picture earlier was, I believe, the last hostage who managed to run away from that scene.
COOPER: I can tell you now, Wolf, that a young woman had approached us a short time ago. She's a waitress in a nearby restaurant, told us that Leeland Eisenberg's stepson had come into the restaurant and told -- said that he had been talking to police and told the story that his stepfather was not in a good mental state and that had actually asked him last night where he could buy some traffic flares. And it's not clear if those traffic flares was what he used to make whatever it was that was wrapped around his waist. But that is what he apparently asked this man who said he was the stepson of Leeland Eisenberg and then apparently said to the stepson this morning that he -- the stepson should watch television today. The stepson at the time didn't know what that meant, but clearly he seemed to know what that meant, after seeing this all on television.
He had been -- police had been talking to him apparently throughout the afternoon, Wolf.
BLITZER: And police in Rochester, New Hampshire, and apparently in some of the communities in the area apparently very familiar with Leeland Eisenberg, that they have had contact with him over the years and they knew who he was. They had a history of dealing with him.
He had been complaining, according to others, about the mental health system here in the United States and, apparently, he had some mental health problems presumably himself. A normal person doesn't walk into a campaign headquarters and claim he has a bomb attached to him and decides to take hostages. Clearly, there's problem there.
But it looks, Anderson -- and I want you to recap for our viewers who may just be joining us right now -- it looks like this crisis has, fortunately, thankfully, been peacefully resolved.
COOPER: It certainly does look like that, the video that we have been seeing a short time ago.
From our vantage point, we're not able to see the scene. We're about a block-and-a half away. But there you see it, the man believed to be Leeland Eisenberg getting down on the ground, police officers approaching him, the SWAT team, a state SWAT team, approaching him, being very cautious as they do so.
A short time before this video was taken, believed to be the last remaining hostage was seen running from the scene, getting into a police vehicle and being taken away.
But now what we are seeing is Leeland Eisenberg putting his hands behind his back, this the video shortly before that last video you saw, what is believed to be the last remaining hostage. We don't know the identity of this person running toward a police vehicle with police protection.
Earlier in the day, three people had been released, two adults and one child, a woman and a child released separately from the other adult. So, a total now of four people have come out of that building. And police will be doing a very thorough job now of searching the rest of the building. The area still cordoned off.
There -- now you see Leeland Eisenberg, the man believed to be Leeland Eisenberg, having restraints put on his hands, as his hands are behind his back. And we will soon see him being led away, a remarkable quiet, thankfully quiet end to what has been a very tense scene here in this small New Hampshire town, Wolf. BLITZER: I want to also report this information, Anderson, to our viewers.
And I want you to listen as well, because this is a statement that we have prepared here at CNN once this hostage situation was resolved, and we do believe now this hostage situation has been resolved peacefully. There you see the suspect, Leeland Eisenberg, on the ground being handcuffed and eventually taken away.
Earlier this afternoon, the CNN Washington bureau, we received a phone call from a woman inside the Clinton campaign headquarters in Rochester, New Hampshire. The woman was very, very upset, spoke to a CNN staffer, and then put the hostage-taker, Leeland Eisenberg, on the telephone with us.
Eisenberg told our staffer that he had mental problems, and couldn't get anyone to help him. He eventually hung up the telephone. CNN notified law enforcement about the phone call.
Throughout the afternoon, the hostage and Eisenberg called back to CNN here in Washington several times, talking with additional staff people. CNN, consulting with our own security personnel, and assuming the hostage-taker could be watching CNN's air at any time, chose not to report any of this, so as not to do anything which might compromise the safety of the hostages.
Thank God this situation has been resolved peacefully now. And we can report that he had actually called our Washington bureau, Anderson, throughout the afternoon, claiming that he was not getting the mental health treatment that he required.
It's important that, as you know, Anderson, having covered hostage situations live on television, and as we have over the many years, that you have to be really, really careful not to report something that could undermine the operation and cause serious harm to either the hostages or the hostage-holder.
COOPER: Well, that's certainly something all of us on the ground here have been very conscious of these last several hours.
If you have been wondering why I have sort of been repeating myself with very limited information, that, frankly, is why. We were all very aware that there are televisions -- or at least a television in that office and this person could very well be watching our air. So, we had been very careful not to go down the road of speculation.
There's been a lot of stories, a lot of rumors, secondhand reports swirling around this press area, where media, local media and national media, have been gathering. We have made a conscious effort not to report any of that, lest we in any way affect the situation.
But, certainly, now, it seems that this has been resolved. It is certainly a great relief to all of us here, but certainly the local population here and local law enforcement who have had a very stressful day trying to get a grip on exactly what the situation was inside. And there you see it again, a peaceful end to what has been a very long day.
BLITZER: Anderson, stand by, because I want to bring in Dan Coulson right now. He's a former commander of an FBI rescue hostage team.
And I want to get your assessment. It looks like it's all over with, Dan. It look like it's been resolved peacefully. We saw the suspect handcuffed and taken away.
You have seen the background. And this is, I guess, textbook, the way it's supposed to be resolved, a situation like this.
DAN COULSON, FORMER MEMBER, FBI HOSTAGE RESCUE TEAM: Absolutely.
And, first of all, let me command you guys for not reporting that tactical movement. That's really important. And that's very professional of you to do it that way. I know the police department appreciates that.
Yes, this was textbook. They did a perfect job. The negotiators obviously got a really good handle on this thing really quickly. They isolated the place. They evacuated everybody. And, if you had to put together a training course on how to handle a hostage situation, we would put this right up front. They did an awesome job. And glad it -- we're all certainly glad it came out the right way.
BLITZER: It sounds, Dan, like he was really sort of crying out for help. He knew he had some mental health issues, and he was reaching out, and, obviously, in a very, very dangerous way, appealing for help.
And, as we reported, as we now have been able to report, now that the situation has been resolved peacefully, he did call us here in the Washington bureau and spoke to some of us, not to me, but to some others here in the Washington bureau. And then called back CNN later elsewhere with more comments.
But, once again, we decided not to report any of that, for fear it could compromise this really, really tense, dangerous situation. And we decided not to report that, after consulting with our own security personnel throughout the afternoon.
COULSON: Very frankly, everybody did a good job here.
The police department up there, the state police, everybody involved did a great job. And you guys handled it the right way. And that's what it takes to make these things comes out right. If any one of those things don't work, then we could have a catastrophe on our hands. And we're lucky and everybody did a good job. And you're to be commanded for it, too.
BLITZER: Well, thank you very much. We're just trying to do the right thing to make sure that we do the right thing in a situation like this. I assume they're going to be looking at these five-and-a-half- hours almost, Dan, down the road. And FBI and other law enforcement personnel, whether federal, state or local, this could presumably be part of a training exercise, because they did do it the right way.
COULSON: Oh, I'm sure that will happen.
I would not be surprised to see these negotiators and their on- scene commander appear at the FBI Academy and make presentations to other negotiators. This was a great job. And it worked out great. And they should be really commended for what they did. And you are right. It will (AUDIO GAP) training exercise. I can promise you that.
BLITZER: Hold on a second, Dan. I want to go back to our affiliate WMUR. They're getting additional information.
We will listen in to their broadcast.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... come into the police station here in Rochester, the lights flashing.
We could not tell, though, if there was anybody in the back seat of that cruiser. We are stationed outside the sally ports right now. And there are some other photographers that are beginning to filter in as well. That was the only sign of activity outside the police station here.
We would expect to see, I think, a little bit more, if, indeed, he had been in the back of that cruiser. We're starting to see some of the other tactical units now break down and some of the other incident commands apparently move out from where they have been.
But that is it, very quiet scene outside the police station here in Rochester at the moment -- Scott (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, Ray (ph). We will come back to you if you are able to provide us with any information about a formal identification or possible -- some legal proceedings against...
BLITZER: All right, our affiliate WMUR with the latest information they're getting.
Still on the phone with us is Dan Coulson, the former commander of an FBI hostage rescue team.
We were really, really worried, Dan, as this situation unfolded. We heard that there was an individual complaining about the mental health system here in the United States. There had been suggestions that drinking alcohol may have been involved. There was at least one or two hostages who were still in there.
You have got to give the local law enforcement authorities, whether local, state or federal, who were on the scene a lot of credit for being patient in dealing with a situation that certainly could have ended a whole lot more tragically. COULSON: Yes.
And, you know, Wolf, I think one thing to consider -- and we talked about this earlier today -- and that is that we only saw the tip of the iceberg. There were a lot of people involved in this, investigators trying to get background on them, the officers that interviewed the hostages as they came out.
I will promise you that there was a psychiatrist consulting with these people to talk about his mental condition and the fact that he didn't take his medication.
So it was a great big team effort. And that's what it takes to make these things happen. Law enforcement has never operated better than they do right now and that we saw the benefits of that. And that's a very good thing.
BLITZER: All right, stand by, Dan.
We're going to get back to you.
But I want to check in with Mary Snow.
It's now the bottom of the hour.
Our viewers in the United States and around the world are watching this situation. The hostage crisis in Rochester, New Hampshire has been resolved peacefully. There you see the video of the suspect, Leeland Eisenberg, as he was handcuffed and taken away.
Mary Snow is standing by.
She's been covering this all afternoon, about five-and-a-half hours of this tense situation.
Update our viewers -- Mary, on what we know.
SNOW: This standoff going on for more than five hours, Wolf. And, you know, we have seen, watching the coverage, three people released before the hostage taker was taken into custody. We saw them walk out and, of course, what we've been reporting is that a woman with a child was initially let go when this situation began around 1:00 this afternoon, and she alerted police.
WMUR, our affiliate in New Hampshire, is reporting a little bit more about Leeland Eisenberg, the man who has been identified by authorities as the hostage taker. And WMUR reports that he was scheduled to appear in court this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. for a final domestic violence hearing. And his wife, apparently, according to this report, was supposed to attend, as well.
Now, this situation began at around 1:00 this afternoon -- the scheduled hearing apparently at 1:30. This is from WMUR and Fosters.com.
As we've been reporting, authorities say that he had been -- Eisenberg had been well known to police in Rochester, New Hampshire and that he apparently had been upset about the mental health care situation in the United States.
So, again, the hostages released after a five hour standoff. Three of them we saw released after 3:00 -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
Mary, thank you.
Stand by, because I know you're getting more information all the time.
Anderson Cooper is on the scene for us.
He's in Rochester, New Hampshire, right now, watching all of this unfold -- and, thank God it ended peacefully, Anderson because, as a lot of our viewers know, it could have been a whole lot worse.
COOPER: It certainly could have. It will be interesting to see -- And at that point, there's still a lot we do not know -- it will be interesting to see what sort of device this man actually had. The -- sort of the second-hand report that we have heard here -- basically a woman who works in a nearby restaurant said that a customer came in earlier today -- about an hour or so after this incident began -- and said he was the stepson of this man, of Lee Eisenberg -- although he didn't use his name -- and said that his stepfather, last night, had asked him where he could get some highway flares. The indication being that perhaps that is the material that was actually strapped to Lee Eisenberg.
Again, that's not confirmed. It remains to be seen from law enforcement. I assume at some point either tonight or tomorrow they will divulge exactly what sort of devices, if any, this man had on him. But it certainly apparently looked real enough to -- to certainly scare all those in Senator Clinton's office.
But there's been no injuries reported here today and that is certainly good news -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Very good news, indeed.
All right, Anderson, I know you're going to be there for a while.
So don't go anywhere.
We're going to come back to you.
Stephen Romano is joining us on the phone once again.
He's been helping us, throughout the afternoon, better understand this hostage crisis situation. He himself is a former FBI hostage crisis negotiator.
Stephen, it's ended peacefully. It ended very, very well. It couldn't have been any better. This was, as we've been saying in the past few moments, it looked like it was textbook work by the local, state and federal authority.
STEPHEN ROMANO, FORMER FBI HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. I can't emphasize -- I like what Danny Colson said. The -- the teamwork is really the key there. And I'm sure that there was a significant amount of it at the scene. And kudos to all those involved, because they had a very difficult situation there.
The other thing that came out there during your -- one of your representative's report was the fact that we talked about stressors earlier. And many time negotiators try to focus on what's happened in the last 24 to 48 hours in his life. And he had a very significant court case about to come down, which could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back that put him over the edge. And he selected that crisis site where he conducted this event knowing how much attention it would bring to him and what he -- the message he wanted to get out to the public.
BLITZER: Stephen, we're showing a robot that was deployed earlier to go out in the middle of the street. There was a bag -- some sort of suspicious bag there that the robot was going to get. Obviously, there was some fear it could be a bomb and they wanted the robot to be directly involved in dealing with that suspicious bag. That's what our viewers are seeing right now. This is videotape that we got in, courtesy of our affiliate WMUR -- videotape from earlier, as this hostage crisis was continuing to unfold.
Let's look ahead little bit right now, Stephen.
This incident -- it's obviously resolved peacefully. The lessons learned will obviously be studied by a lot of people.
But what about the campaign offices, whether in New Hampshire or in Iowa?
Do they beef up security now or do they see this as some sort of strange, isolated incident and just go ahead and not worry about it?
These are, by the way, live pictures of this robot that we're seeing still being deployed to deal with some sort of suspicious package that's out in the middle of the street there.
We'll continue to show our viewers these pictures as you tell us what the campaigns should now be doing as a result of this one specific incident.
ROMANO: Well, Wolf, hopefully they have an appropriate amount of security on a regular basis at these headquarters. But, as you know, we've seen in the past, you know, unfortunately, others are watching what unfolded today. And you can have cases of copycats, where they say, well this is a good idea. Look at how much attention this man got. Maybe I can do the same thing.
So I think there has to be a stepped up security profile at the headquarters, definitely.
BLITZER: I think that would make some sense, out of an abundance of caution, just to make sure that nothing untoward happens down the road, even though this looks like it was some sort of isolated incident -- one individual who has some grievances, as far as mental health treatment in the United States creating this crisis, as Leeland Eisenberg apparently did.
Leeland Eisenberg the suspect in this case. He has now been taken away and the crisis has been resolved.
We'll update our viewers on more information as it becomes available.
We're also looking at some other important news here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including leading Democrats apparently clashing over the war in Iraq.
Are they losing the issue they hope to win in November?
Jack Cafferty, Carl Bernstein and Gloria Borger -- they're standing by for our roundtable on that.
And just five weeks until the crucial Iowa caucuses and a new poll shows the race there too close to call. We'll talk about that, as well, in our roundtable.
Much more coming up, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Congressman John Murtha helped put opposition to the Iraq War on the political map. But now, the House speaker and some other Democrats fear he's taking the party and his anti-war message a little bit off course.
Our Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is standing by.
She's got more on this story.
Are we seeing some sort of rift develop between John Murtha and his good friend, Nancy Pelosi?
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, let's put it this way. Democrats have in place right now plans to step up their effort to push back against the president in their face-off over the war. But it doesn't look like John Murtha, one of the leading Democratic war critics, got the memo.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
BASH (voice-over): House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tells CNN she has no intention of giving into the president at all in their standoff over Iraq War funding.
(on camera): So you weren't blessing any compromises on the funding? REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: No.
BASH (voice-over): But just yesterday, one of her closest advisers, Congressman John Murtha, said Democrats might drop their demand for a withdrawal deadline -- and he's already talked to the president's Iraq adviser, Douglas Lute, about it.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The leadership may be willing to compromise on the time.
BASH: Pelosi made clear it CNN she was unaware of Murtha's talks with the White House and does not approve.
PELOSI: I don't know what those conversations were. But we've been very clear about saying we've provided the president and the troops all that they need and we hope the president would accept that.
BASH: Murtha talking publicly about compromise on Iraq War funding is just one way he knocked Democrats off message.
This was another.
MURTHA: I think the surge is working.
BASH: That assessment of the military strategy is far different from this -- seven months ago.
MURTHA: I think the surge has failed. I think there was no possibility it was going it work.
BASH: Murtha says the U.S. policy still has problems, calling the Iraqi government dysfunctional and saying this earlier on THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURTHA: The mixed result that I'm talking about is -- is the fact that militarily, sure, we can win. But the problem that we have is the Iraqis aren't stepping up.
BASH: But Republicans jumped on rare praise from Murtha -- an early and influential war critic -- issuing statement after statement, calling it proof Democrats should send the president money for Iraq -- no strings attached.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: And Speaker Pelosi also admitted to CNN that the military surge is working, but quickly then downplayed the importance of that progress, saying it hasn't led to a stable political situation. And, Wolf, Democrats point to polls that show public opposition to the war is at an all time high. But there's no question that headlines about military success in Iraq is making their message a lot trickier to sell right now.
BLITZER: Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash with a good explainer on what's going on.
So is John Murtha taking his party's anti-war message off course?
Joining us now in our roundtable, our CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
CNN's Jack Cafferty. His best-selling book is called "It's Getting Ugly Out There".
And the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Carl Bernstein. His new book on Hillary Clinton is called "A Woman In Charge". It's also a best-seller.
Jack, what do you think -- do the Democrats need to coordinate better their message?
CAFFERTY: The Democrats need to do what they promised this country tywgtdo more than a year ago when they were swept into office and in control of the Senate and the House in the midterm elections. They said at the time -- vote for us and we'll stop the war. We'll cut off funding for the war and we'll bring the troops home. They haven't done any of that.
So what they need to do is keep their word on something that they so far failed to keep their word on.
Jack Murtha, at the time, when he said the surge was failing, it isn't working as well as it is now. Now, he says it's working.
The main thing is the Democrats have not done anything they said they were going to do. So the rest of this is window dressing.
BLITZER: And, Gloria, it does complicate the Democrats' strategy if, in fact, the military surge in Iraq is working.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, Jack Murtha isn't the only person who has come back from Iraq to say that the surge is working. There have been people on both sides of the aisle who have been doing that. And it does complicate the Democrats' message.
So what they are going to do and what Murtha was saying today -- which was, look, the military has succeeded, but the political developments in Iraq have not matched the military success and that's -- that's the real problem. And if Murtha was talking at the White House without Nancy Pelosi knowing about it, Wolf, this is one fellow that's going it be taken to the wood shed.
BLITZER: Carl, what do you think?
CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, "A WOMAN IN CHARGE": I think this is a two day wonder story, that, first of all, the surge working is not -- does not mean that the administration's strategy is working. As Chuck Hagel has said, and the military leaders know in the Pentagon, this war has been a catastrophe for this country, a disaster, and we're looking for a way out that works with the least possible consequences in terms of lives and treasure loss. But this story is going to go away.
The really important reason that we're seeing its prominence is its relation to the political situation and for Republicans to deflect the problems they're having for having supported this war up to now. The real story right now that we ought to be focusing on is really what's happening in the Clinton and Giuliani campaigns, because they are really experiencing terrific difficulties that they want us not to look at.
BLITZER: Because that's a fair point. And look at this, Jack, this latest ARG poll in Iowa that came out today. It's a statistical tie -- Obama with 27 percent among likely Democratic caucus goers; Clinton, 25 percent; Edwards, 23 percent; everybody else way, way down. A 4 percentage point margin of error.
I think Carl makes a fair point, that this is a dead heat in Iowa right now.
CAFFERTY: It is. And with only four-and-a-half weeks to go, only 8 percent of the people in that poll are saying that they're undecided. So it looks like it's going to be among those top three -- Edwards, Obama and Clinton. It's interesting to note that in the last month in the same poll, Hillary lost 10 percent of support among women. As far as Richardson and Biden and some of these other people, it's time to look for something else to do this winter, because it's about a wrap on that deal, I think.
BERNSTEIN: It's much more significant than a dead heat because the Clinton campaign -- if you talk to people inside it, they know they're in terrible trouble. In Iowa, they expect that they might not win and it means that they go into New Hampshire with no notion of inevitability, as they had thought.
And, similarly, we're looking at a Giuliani campaign that is in free fall -- if the press stays focused on the real story, which "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" have had trouble doing these last couple of days -- of this absurd situation in terms of Giuliani's security expenses and the explanations that he's given.
We have two campaigns -- Clinton and Giuliani -- where voters are expressing...
BLITZER: All right. Hold on one second...
BERNSTEIN: ...very grave...
BLITZER: Carl, hold on just one second and our roundtable.
I want to show our viewers a live picture we're getting in right now. This is a picture -- that we're expecting Hillary Clinton -- there you see Howard Wolfson, one of her top advisers. Hillary Clinton is about to make a statement on the resolution of the hostage crisis in Rochester, New Hampshire. I want our viewers to listen to the former first lady, the Democratic senator from New York State, herself the Democratic presidential frontrunner. She's walking up to the microphone right now and she's going to be making a statement on the resolution of this crisis.
Here's the former first lady, Senator Clinton.
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I am very grateful that this difficult day has ended so well. All of my campaign staff and volunteers are safe. I want to thank them for their extraordinary courage and coolness under some very difficult pressures and dangerous situations.
I also want to thank all of law enforcement. We were in touch from the moment this began with local, county, state, federal law enforcement. And I am so grateful to them for their response which brought this hostage situation to such a good ending.
I also want to thank Governor Lynch, who was extremely helpful in marshalling the resources of the state and working with the local law enforcement officials to make sure that all resources were available. The FBI and the Secret Service lent their expertise and help, as well.
I was in touch during the day with the families of those who were held hostage and I really commend their extraordinary courage under, again, very difficult circumstances.
This has been a very hard day for all of us in our campaign, but even beyond that, every four years extraordinary young people come to places like New Hampshire because they want to change our country. They believe in our future. They work around the clock. They are so committed to their cause. And I just want to commend every one of them -- from every campaign -- who really makes what is a sacrifice and a commitment. A lot of them postpone school, leave their families, move across the country. And I'm so grateful for them every single day. And I'm especially just relieved to have this situation end so peacefully, without anyone being injured.
We don't have very many facts beyond what we garnered during the day. But I'm on my way to New Hampshire now to thank the law enforcement officials, to see my staff -- particularly those who not only were physically held hostage, but all those who supported this effort during the day to make sure we got information, that we kept families apprised, that we closely coordinated with law enforcement. And I just could not be prouder at the people who are in my campaign. And I want to thank them. And I'm so grateful that this day has ended well.
QUESTION: Senator, are you...
QUESTION: Talk from an emotional standpoint what it was like for you hearing about this. You talked about these young volunteers...
QUESTION: ...people coming to work. I mean when you first heard about this, describe your emotions, in that this was happening at your campaign office.
CLINTON: Well, it -- it's been a very difficult day, personally and emotionally, as I'm sure you would all understand if this were to happen to anyone that you cared immediately about the safety of the people directly affected. And then the ripple effect of all the rest of your staff, their families. Obviously, as this news spread across the country, there were a lot of worried family members and friends who were trying to get information that was accurate.
Talking to the families was probably the hardest part for me because, obviously, it's something that, you know, every parent can relate to.
So I think that it's been a difficult but eventually very gratifying day with the way it worked out.
QUESTION: Were you threatened personally?
Did you have any threats against you?
CLINTON: We're not going to go into any -- any details. We'll leave all of that to law enforcement. They're obviously still trying to untangle this situation, understand what was behind it, what the motivations were. And I'll leave any kind of that comment to them.
QUESTION: Senator, campaigns always have unique events that happen and this was truly of the more extraordinary things that happened. You've been through campaigns before with your husband.
I mean, tell me what that (INAUDIBLE) in that context.
CLINTON: Well, everything stopped. And it had to, because we had nothing on our minds except the safety of these young people who work for me. And everybody pitched in. People were extraordinarily committed to being part of a team -- the team that we've been putting together over the course of this year. And, as I said, I couldn't be prouder of everybody who works for me.
QUESTION: Thank you, Senator.
CLINTON: And I've -- I've got to get to New Hampshire. And I thank you all. I know that this wasn't exactly how you expected to spend your time, either.
But thank you very much for helping us to cover this and being there when it ended well, thankfully.
QUESTION: Thank you.
CLINTON: Thank you. BLITZER: And there she is, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate expressing her gratitude that this hostage crisis in Rochester, New Hampshire ended peacefully.
I want to get a quick reaction from our roundtable.
And we've the biographer, Carl Bernstein, here. You wrote the book about Hillary Clinton.
What do you think?
BERNSTEIN: I think it's time to move on to the next story, that she's addressed it. And that the real story is what is happening to her campaign right now in Iowa, the fact that their internal polls look bad and the fact that Giuliani's campaign right now is in terrible trouble.
And, also, Jack Cafferty's report earlier on Hagel. Obama met today with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York, because Bloomberg is seriously thinking about running for president. And that's a real factor. And if he ran, he might well run with Chuck Hagel, who has talked to Bloomberg about it -- about being the vice presidential nominee.
And so right now, there's a lot more upheaval in these campaigns than we think. And that's what we ought to be focused on as journalists.
BLITZER: We certainly will be focusing only -- not only on that, but all of the news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We've got to right now and take a break, because Jack Cafferty's Cafferty File is still coming up.
Carl Bernstein, thanks very much.
Gloria, thanks to you.
Jack, don't go anywhere.
We've got The Cafferty File right after this short break.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're making Jack Cafferty work hard.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Right before the break, Carl Bernstein alluded to a breakfast between Michael Bloomberg and Barack Obama. It was held here in New York City this morning.
Despite Mayor Bloomberg's protestations, it was held in a coffee shop -- a very public place. And the possibility that Bloomberg might be more interested in some role in this campaign as it continues is -- is -- continues to be fueled by this kind of thing.
An interesting note, Barack Obama had to pick up the check, 17 bucks. Bloomberg is a billionaire.
The question this hour -- and this kind of relates a little bit to what Carl was talking about a minute ago. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel called the Bush White House one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations ever in a speech that he made. Now, he said he's not running for president, but let's keep all these moving parts in mind.
"Jack, I was at ground zero" -- Augustus in Maryland -- "I was at ground zero though week after 9/11 when the stock markets reopened. The president, Rudy and Hillary were all there. President Bush had the whole world behind him. He could have asked anything of America and we would have done it. Instead, he told us to go shopping. Strategically, they must be able to recognize that one special moment in which they have to act to change history forever. What a waste."
Lesa in Virginia: "I sat here with my mouth open, listening to you read everything Chuck Hagel said. I couldn't believe I was hearing everything I ever thought come out of a Republican's mouth. Amazing. The guy sees it as it is and he's called Bush out. Kudos to Chuck Hagel and thank you."
David in Greece said: "It's sad that such candor, such truth telling is so rare among politicians. Witness the constant prevarication among most of the current crop of presidential candidates. I hope Senator Hagel is right, that the next president will be a consensus builder."
Beatrice in Louisiana: "No, Senator Hagel is incorrect in his one statement. The Bush administration is the most arrogant and incompetent ever. We've had arrogant. We've had incompetent. But never both together in such huge measure."
Nancy in Wisconsin: "Draft that man for president. Anyone who speaks the truth and has the integrity to act on those beliefs is a rare commodity in this government."
And Ed in California: "Senator Hagel has voiced what I imagine has been on many minds, including mine, for a long time. It's time to put this sad chapter of American history behind us."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File. Elsewhere got cut short because of the breaking news developments. I'd love to get Carl Bernstein back on here next week, Wolf, and talk some more about what he sees as serious problems inside the Clinton and Giuliani campaigns. That's fascinating stuff.
BLITZER: We'll invite him back next week, for sure, Jack.
You know, this race is getting incredibly close in Iowa. And if -- if it's as close as it is right now, it's anyone's guess who emerges from Iowa on to New Hampshire as the frontrunner among the Democrats or the Republicans.
CAFFERTY: It's worth nothing that Hillary maintains a more substantial lead in New Hampshire and a commanding lead in South Carolina. The Republican race is interesting because Huckabee is suddenly -- surging is too strong a word. But he's up about 8 points in Iowa. I think he did himself some good at the debate the other night. I think Romney and Giuliani might have done themselves some harm. Certainly the story about the expenses for Giuliani's security is not helping. Romney looked a little -- a little juvenile in some of his bickering with Giuliani over immigration.
So that could become a closer race. The Republicans still don't know who they want.
BLITZER: See you Monday, Jack.
Thanks very much.
And to our viewers, see you Sunday on "LATE EDITION". Among my guests, the number two U.S. military commander in Iraq.
Let's go to Lou Dobbs.
He's got "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" in New York -- Lou.
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