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Illinois Governor Arrested on Corruption Charges; Congress Pushes For Auto Bailout Deal

Aired December 9, 2008 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And, to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: the Illinois governor charged with plotting to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat -- this hour, the astounding allegations of corruption, even hardened prosecutors sounding shocked and appalled.

President-elect Obama says he is saddened by the scandal in his home state. Will it cast a cloud, though, over last early days in the White House? The best political team on television is standing by.

And what Barack Obama wants from Al Gore. We're going to take you inside their one-on-one meeting today in Chicago.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

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

The headline in Illinois right now, the governor busted for allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bidder -- Rod Blagojevich is now free on bail facing the fallout from a staggering series of charges described by prosecutors -- and I'm quoting now -- as "a corruption crime spree."

CNN's Jessica Yellin is standing by with reaction from the president-elect in Chicago.

But let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She has gone through all of this information.

And, Kelli, a lot of jaws were dropping.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Oh, Wolf, that is an understatement. The sun was not even up yet when FBI agents were outside the governor's home ready to arrest him. And, as you said, it was a jaw-dropping end to years of investigation.



ARENA (voice-over): Prosecutors accuse Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President- elect Obama.

FITZGERALD: The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.

ARENA: And they say they have got the proof on tape. The FBI tapped the governor's home phone and bugged his campaign offices.

ROBERT GRANT, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: The FBI agents that participated in this wiretap investigation were thoroughly disgusted and revolted by what they heard.

ARENA: The criminal complaint reads like a movie script, peppered with profanity. It quotes Blagojevich as saying the Senate seat was a valuable thing. You just don't give it away for nothing.

FITZGERALD: The tapes reveal that the Governor Blagojevich wanted a number of things in exchange for make the appointment to the Senate seat -- an appointment as secretary of health and human services, or an ambassadorship, or appointment to a foundation, a higher-paying job for his wife, or campaign contributions.

ARENA: The governor is also accused of going after a children's hospital, threatening to pull millions of dollars in funding unless the CEO made a campaign contribution. And he allegedly tried to get tough with publishers of the Chicago Tribune, pushing to get editors who were critical of him fired. If they weren't, he allegedly threatened to hold back state assistance in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field.

Investigators say they have never seen anything like it, even in Chicago.

GRANT: If it isn't the most corrupt state in the United States, it's certainly one hell of a competitor.

ARENA: The governor has been under investigation for years, but agents hit pay dirt just in the last two months after they started listening in. Investigators say the shakedown operation was so rampant, they didn't have time to wait until the investigation was over.

FITZGERALD: We're in the middle of a corruption crime spree and we wanted to stop it.

ARENA: The governor has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I don't care whether you tape me privately or publicly. I can tell you whatever I say is always lawful, and the things I'm interested in doing are always lawful.


ARENA: Wolf, I wrote that report and it still shocks me to listen to it. Now, the governor did pay his $4,500 bail, walked out free this afternoon, but he was ordered not the leave the country and did have to give up his passport -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, interesting stuff. Amazing stuff -- let me rephrase.

Kelli, thank you.

Even in the midst of this stunning corruption scandal, Rod Blagojevich still has the power to name president-elect Barack Obama's successor in the U.S. Senate as long as he remains the Illinois governor.

And the Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is urging the state legislature to quickly pass a law setting a special election to fill Barack Obama's seat, rather than leave it up to Blagojevich.


SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: A special election is costly, I know, but the alternative of a vacancy or a tainted appointment, those alternatives are not acceptable.


BLITZER: Another option, for Blagojevich to resign. The Illinois lieutenant governor and the Illinois attorney general were among the first today to call for the governor to step dun and to do so quickly.

One prosecutor says if Illinois is not the most corrupt state in the nation, certainly -- and I'm quoting now -- "one hell of a competitor."

The president-elect, a product of Illinois politics, is hoping to keep his distance from this scandal.

Let's go to Chicago. CNN's Jessica Yellin is covering the Obama transition for us.

Jessica, the president-elect spoke out against this a little while ago. Tell us what he said?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Barack Obama, the president-elect, says that he has had no contact with Blagojevich or his office or a transition aide tells me that today's news came as a surprise to them.


YELLIN (voice-over): President-elect Barack Obama on charges against his state's governor.

BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENT-ELECT: I had no contact with the governor or his office, and so we -- I was not aware of what was happening. And as I said, it's a sad day for Illinois. Beyond that, I don't think it's appropriate to comment. YELLIN: The federal prosecutor made it plain -- Barack Obama was not involved.

FITZGERALD: I should make clear the complaint makes no allegations about the president-elect whatsoever, his conduct.

YELLIN: The complaint alleges Governor Blagojevich was angling to profit off naming the replacement for Barack Obama's Senate seat, including the president-elect's own preference. CNN reported that Valerie Jarrett, Obama's adviser and friend, was believed to be the president-elect's preference to take that seat. She withdrew from consideration while the investigation was ongoing. She was named as a senior adviser to Obama in the White House.

The complaint does not name Jarrett, but it calls this person Senate candidate 1, describing her as a female and an adviser to the president-elect who "was likely to be supported by the president- elect." The complaint goes on to quote Blagojevich saying, "Unless I get something real good for Senate candidate 1, expletive, I will just send myself. You know what I'm saying."

The prosecutor says that ploy fell apart when the candidate in question decided not to seek the Senate seat.

FITZGERALD: This part of the scheme lost steam when the person that the governor thought was the president-elect's choice of senator took herself out of the running. But after the deal never happened, this is the governor's reaction: "They're not willing to give me anything but appreciation. Bleep them" -- close quote.

YELLIN: Today, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin says he spoke to Governor Blagojevich two weeks ago and the governor pressed him to see if there's any chance Valerie Jarrett would like to put herself back into consideration for that seat.

DURBIN: By the time the governor returned my call, Valerie Jarrett had taken her name out of the running and had told me personally. It came up in the conversation when the governor asked me if I thought that she was serious about not being appointed. And I said, yes, she told me point blank she was, and I accept her word on that.


YELLIN: Now, Wolf, I want to emphasize that there is absolutely no suggestion of any wrongdoing by Valerie Jarrett, Barack Obama, or anyone involved in the transition or in his future administration.

In fact, I spoke to one Obama aide who says he didn't even have a preference for that Senate seat. But, in the end, Wolf, still, this is very uncomfortable for Obama's team. It's never pleasant to be connected in any way, even indirectly, to such an ugly investigation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Absolutely true. I understand, though, there seems to be one contradiction between what Barack Obama said today, Jessica, and what one of the aides had said.

YELLIN: That is right.

David Axelrod, who is a senior adviser to Barack Obama, was on a local FOX channel at the end of November and said that Barack Obama had talked to Governor Blagojevich about the Senate seat. Today, a transition aide tells me that Axelrod misspoke and Barack Obama was correct when he said today that he in fact had no discussion with Blagojevich about that seat -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thanks for clarifying that.

Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, no big surprise here. The architect of George W. Bush's two successful runs at the White House, Karl Rove, has signed a $1.5 million deal with publishing giant Simon & Schuster, going to write a book.

He promises the usual behind-the-scenes look. He vows to not only name names. But he told Cox News that he will go a step further, give examples of how Washington insiders were unaccepting of President Bush. A lot of them simply felt Bush was not qualified to lead the country. Really?

Rove also says that while Bush was quick to call on his subordinates to take responsibility for their actions, the decider was a little slow to ever take responsibility for his own. According to Rove, Bush's failures were always, always someone else's fault.

Rove says he will identify those who questioned whether or not George Bush could be a legitimate president. In an interview, Rove said, much of the resistance to George W. Bush and his administration was directed toward the Texans that Bush brought with him to Washington, because they were not beltway insiders.

Here is the question, then: What would Karl Rove have to say in order to get you the buy his book? Go to and post a comment on my blog.

Don't buy his book. I have one coming out in March. Save your money, and buy mine.

BLITZER: Can't wait for yours. And I hope you sell a million copies, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Me, too.

BLITZER: Because the first one was a huge success, this one even bigger. I'm predicting it right now.

CAFFERTY: All right, from your mouth to God's ears.

BLITZER: We are going to make it happen, you and me.

CAFFERTY: All right, partner.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by.

Look closely at this picture: Barack Obama and Al Gore seen publicly after meeting privately. Is the former vice president interested in working for the incoming president?

Also, stay tuned. Any moment now, we could telling you there is an agreement on a deal to save the U.S. auto industry.

And many people want to party at Barack Obama's inauguration, but wait until you hear what two U.S. senators are doing. You may be wondering if they are trying to spoil your party.

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


BLITZER: The clock is now ticking on a plan designed to save the U.S. auto industry and possibly millions of American jobs. Congress and the White House are feverishly trying to hash out final details for a $15 billion bailout. And there is hope for an agreement soon.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill. Our congressional correspondent Dana Bash is working the story for us.

We are bracing any moment now literally for some sort of announcement. What do we know, Dana?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I just got two cryptic e-mails, Wolf, one from an administration source and one from a Democratic source, saying that they are now closer to an agreement for bailing out Detroit and advising me not to go home tonight, or at least not to go home any time soon, because a deal could be imminent.


BASH (voice-over): Congressional Democratic aides and White House staff are hunkered nearly down around the clock urgently trying to work out differences over a $15 billion short-term loan to bail out the auto industry.

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There do not appear to me to be differences in principle of sufficient nature to blow this thing up. There are some differences, understandable, among people who are committed to the principle of how you get it done.

BASH: There is broad agreement that the government led by a so- called car czar will force a massive overhaul in Detroit in exchange for taxpayer money, but there are sticking points.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: This proposal doesn't go nearly far enough. It holds neither management nor labor truly accountable. BASH: Republicans say their concern, the car czar doesn't have enough authority under the Democrats' plan to ensure the Big Three can become viable long term. Also, the Democrats' proposal allows to czar to revoke government loans if auto companies can't prove they will be profitable. Republicans want that to be a requirement.

MCCONNELL: By giving government the option of canceling government assistance in the event that reforms are not achieved, rather than requiring it, we open the door to unlimited federal subsidies in the future.

BASH: Democratic leaders who have long tussled with the auto industry over improving environmental standards insist they are just as interested as Republicans in forcing strict reform in Detroit.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: But we are not going to be engaged in corporate welfare, so that they cannot succeed.


BASH: Now, striking a deal behind closed doors for an auto bailout is just step one in this process. The challenge for Democratic leaders is making sure that they can actually pass it.

And this is still an evenly-divided Senate, and there still is a fair amount of Republican opposition to doing this at all, but, Wolf, both sides at least privately say that they do think, despite that opposition, which is real, they think that they can probably pass something as soon as they get this agreement.

BLITZER: Yes. We heard earlier from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. He is one of the opponents. He thinks it will be passed if in fact they work out the final details.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by. We're going to get back to you as soon as you get word of what is going on.

In Chicago, meanwhile, a meeting that launched a lot of speculation, the president-elect, Barack Obama, going one-on-one with the former Vice President Al Gore.

Let's go to Deborah Feyerick. She's taking a closer look at what happened. What do we know, Deb, about this meeting in Chicago?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was not just the Illinois governor who was making news today in that state. Team Obama busy taking some important cues on global warming and the environment from none other than the Oscar winner. A hush-hush meeting today had many wondering some sort of higher position was in the works.


OBAMA: The purpose of this meeting here today was to listen and learn from Vice President Al Gore on the extraordinary work that he has done around the issue of climate change.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Soon to be president, Barack Obama trying to put the rumors to rest after a closed-door meeting with vice president-elect Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore.

Word of the get-together raised questions that maybe the incoming president was considering adding Gore to his team. The official line from the transition office was that no offer was in the works, that the meeting was about energy policy and figuring out ways to make global warming a top priority.

OBAMA: all three of us I think are in agreement that the time for delay is over, the time for denial is over. We all believe what the scientists have been telling us for years now, that this is a matter of urgency and national security.

FEYERICK: A Gore spokesman says the former vice president is not interested in serving in the Obama administration. Gore has made millions since he left politics following the 2000 presidential race. He shared a Nobel Peace Prize and an Oscar for raising awareness on the dangers of global warming. Both Gore and the president-elect believe going greener can energize the economy.

OBAMA: We have the opportunity now to create jobs all across this country in all 50 states to re-power America, to redesign how we use energy.


FEYERICK: And a close friend of Gore's tells CNN the former vice president would not fly to Chicago and burn that much carbon just to chat.

Gore did not speak to reporters and Mr. Obama made no announcements, and, of course, the EPA job is still open -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Deb. Stand by.

You may have noticed, by the way, that the CNN logo at the bottom of the screen now is green. The network is gearing up for a new "Planet in Peril" special with our own Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Lisa Ling. It airs Thursday night right here on CNN. That is why you are seeing the green logo.

Without a job and fighting back -- those workers in Chicago who have been occupying their factory are seeing some results of the protests. We have new details coming in right now, also of what happened when Hillary Clinton met with Condoleezza Rice about her new job.

And a unique look at the Islam's rituals at one of its holiest sites.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot of stones flying above us. There's a lot of elbowing that is going on.



BLITZER: In Saudi Arabia, millions of Muslims are casting stones. they're trying to cast out the devil. It is the annual hajj pilgrimage with typically more than two million Muslims traveling to Mecca.

CNN's Arwa Damon is right in the middle of it right now.


ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we are in the Jamarat, what is known as the Stoning of the Devil ritual.

We are going to try to make our way towards a pillar to give you a sense of what it is like up close. And the closer that we are getting, the more you can feel the intensity and the fervor with which the pilgrims are throwing their stones.

This is symbolizing a rejection of evil and vice, a rejection of Satan's temptations. You can hear the pilgrims shouting (SPEAKING ARABIC) God is great, as they cast away their stones. You can also hear them cursing at the devil.

This ritual associated with Prophet Abraham. According to Islamic history, God asked Prophet Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael. Satan came and tried to convince the prophet to ignore God's command, but the prophet refused.

Pilgrims will come here for three days casting their stones here, seven stones thrown at every single pillar, very much a lot of passion, a lot of religious fervor here.

And, at this stage, most of these pilgrims have completed a better portion of the hajj -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Wow. Arwa Damon right in the middle of things there right now in Saudi Arabia.


BLITZER: The U.S. describes the corruption case against the Illinois governor as shocking, shocking in every one of the details. Stand by. You're going to hear from the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, in his own words. The allegations, they're very specific and they're very stunning.

Also, this: Who will fill president-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat? And will there be a cloud over this process? The best political team on television is standing by.

And the nation's capital bracing for a traffic nightmare on Inauguration Day.


PETER PANTUSO, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION: We're only 42 days, I believe, away from the inauguration. We're running out of time. And -- and the phones are continuing to ring every single day.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald says the conduct of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich would make Lincoln roll over in his grave. The investigation in Fitzgerald's own words -- coming up.

The state still needs to fill president-election Barack Obama's Senate seat. We are going to sort out the various options -- all of this, plus the best political team on television.

And a fourth victim is found after that terrible crash of a military jet into a San Diego neighborhood. We have new details about what happened.

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

Stunning allegations against the governor of Illinois, arrested early this morning and hauled into a federal court, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat -- sell Barack Obama's Senate seat.

Federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald detailed the 76-page complaint against Rod Blagojevich and what he called the political corruption and crime spree.


FITZGERALD: This is a sad day for government. It's a very sad day for Illinois government. Governor Blagojevich has taken us to a truly new low.

Governor Blagojevich has been arrested in the middle of what we can only describe as a political corruption crime spree. We acted to stop that crime spree.

The most appalling conduct Governor Blagojevich engaged in, according to the complaint filed today or unsealed today, is that he attempted to sell a Senate seat, the Senate seat he had the sole right under Illinois to appoint to replace President-Elect Obama.

Let me take you back eight weeks ago to set the allegations in context. Back eight weeks ago, we had the following environment. There was a known investigation of the Blagojevich administration that had been going on for years involving allegations of pay to play conduct and corruption. There had been a recent trial of an associate of Governor Blagojevich in which allegations were aired where people testified that Governor Blagojevich was involved in corrupt conduct.

And there was an Ethics in Government Act that was pending -- that would go into efficient January 1 of 2009 -- that would bar certain contributions from people doing business with the State of Illinois.

You might have thought in that environment, that pay to play would slow down. The opposite happened. It sped up.

Governor Blagojevich and others were working feverishly to get as much money from contractors -- shaking them down to pay to play -- before the end of the year.

I will give you one example. A month or so ago, a $1.8 billion tollway project was announced. And while that tollway project was being announced, Governor Blagojevich was privately seeking to have a person benefiting from that contract raise $100,000 in contributions. And privately, the governor said: "I could have made a larger announcement, but wanted to see how they would perform by the end of the year. If they don't perform, bleep 'em."

That's a quote. And the word bleep was not the word he used.

After being aware that, actually, the pay to play scheme had taken -- taken up greater steam and greater urgency back eight weeks ago, after careful review, the decision was made that more extraordinary means of investigation needed to be used.

After that point, a bug was placed in the campaign offices of Governor Blagojevich and a tap placed on his home telephone. And that tap and that bug bore out what those allegations were.

But the most cynical behavior in all of this -- the most appalling -- is the fact that Governor Blagojevich tried to sell the appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-Elect Obama. The conduct would make Lincoln roll over in his grave.

The governor's own words describing the Senate seat: "It's a bleeping valuable thing -- thing -- you just don't give it away for nothing."

Another quote: "I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden. I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing. I'm not going to do it. I can always use it. I can parachute me there."

Those are his words, not our characterization -- other than regards to the bleep.

The tapes reveal that Governor Blagojevich wanted a number of things in exchange for making the appointment to the Senate seat -- an appointment as secretary of Health and Human Services or an ambassadorship, an appointment to a private foundation, a higher paying job for his wife or campaign contributions. At one point, he proposed a three-way deal -- that a cushy union job would be given to him at a higher rate of pay, where he could make money.


BLITZER: All right. The U.S. attorney speaking out earlier today.

What a case.

Let's get some more now on the political fallout and what happens next.

We're joined by our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger; our chief national correspondent, John King; and our CNN political analyst, Roland Martin.

They're all part of the best political team on television -- Gloria, will this hurt the president-elect, Barack Obama?

GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think you've already heard this afternoon on your show afternoon, Wolf, some Republicans trying to link Barack Obama somehow to this governor. But I think you have to take Barack Obama at his word. He says he did not discuss this with Blagojevich, they're not friends, they never have been in the same political circles. And I think, you know, it's kind of a really, really long stretch for people to try and connect Barack Obama to this.

BLITZER: There will be some, as Gloria says, John, who will try to make that stretch.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There are, Wolf. There will be. Republicans are already saying that President-Elect Obama did not far enough. And virtually every Republican organization you could mention has issued a statement saying that Governor Blagojevich should step aside -- if not resign, at least take a temporary leave. And they've all said President-Elect Barack Obama should have been more aggressive.

I can tell you, Gloria is correct that it is a stretch to try to connect Barack Obama to this in any way. But there are also a number of other Democrats -- if you look at the statements the other Democrats have issued, Wolf, they are very strong -- including calls for the governor to resign or step aside. And there are some Democrats I've spoken to privately who think that President-Elect Barack Obama could have been a lot stronger in his statement, saying that this is my state governor and this was my seat, governor, and, at a minimum, you should step aside during the investigation.

BLITZER: You know, Roland, you're there in Chicago. You've studied political corruption, unfortunately, in that city and that state for some time. Give us your perspective on this.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, NATIONAL TALK RADIO HOST: I mean, look, corruption, to be honest, is in the DNA of this state.

And in many ways, voters seem to say, you know what, we accept it. I'm going to give you an example. Look, this governor, according to that complaint, has been investigated since 2002. He was first elected in 2002. He ran for Congress and won and served six years.

Who did he replace?

Dan Rostenkowski, who served federal prison for corruption. He used Governor George Ryan in campaign ads in 2002 and 2006, saying I am a reformer. Governor Ryan right now is sitting in federal prison.

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: You look at what's happening in city government, in terms of patronage jobs. The mayor has the folks around him, the city clerk, aldermen. You have people all across this state who have gone to jail because of corruption and the voters pretty much say you know what, it's the cost of doing business, just keep moving forward.

And so that is the reality. You know, it's so significant because, look, "The Chicago Tribune," they've already put out an extra edition. And, look, this business is broke, Wolf. So for them to put an extra edition out, this is major news on this state...


MARTIN: ...and the bottom line is I think voters have to step up and say wait a minute, are we saying enough is enough or do we say that's just the way Illinois politics is?

BLITZER: Well, Gloria, where do we go from here in terms of a replacement in the U.S. Senate for Barack Obama?

BORGER: Well, Senator Dick Durbin had suggested that there be a special election. Lots of people I spoke with today believe that -- that that's a good idea, that you have to remove the governor from this process, even if he remains governor -- you've got to just take it out of that process and hand it -- and hand it back to the people.

And I think that there are lots of folks who are going to...

MARTIN: But, you know, Gloria...


MARTIN: But he didn't -- there are problems with that. First of all, you've got to go through the House and the Senate to deal with impeachment. Then you have to then pass a law. Then the question is, is the lieutenant governor -- and first of all, you also study whether this is a law or it's a constitutional mandate as to how you appoint senators.

If it's in the state constitution...

BORGER: Right.

MARTIN: ...that's a whole different procedure, not the general assembly.

So it's not as simple as...

BORGER: They have to figure out a way to...


MARTIN: ...hey, let's hold a special election.

BORGER: ...get around Blagojevich.

BLITZER: Well, is there a way to do that, because he shows no indication, John, that he's about to step down?

KING: There are people in Senator Durbin's office here in Washington, there are people in state government back in Illinois studying this very question -- the constitutional and the legal questions Roland just mentioned. Some have said the legislature should quickly try to pass a law calling for a special election.

Instead, Democrats of all stripes, Wolf, are saying we need a process and need a process quickly that eliminates the governor from any involvement.

And I just quickly want to add, I spoke to three of the people who want this seat over the past four or five weeks. And all three of them mentioned to me how worried they were of being caught up in the investigation of the governor -- not specifically about this seat pay for play, but all saying what a terrible thing it was that a governor who already was under the taint of a federal investigation had this power to begin with.

BLITZER: Yes, go ahead, Gloria.

BORGER: You know, it's just...

BLITZER: One final question.

BORGER: It's just -- it's -- you know, by any standard, even by Illinois standards, Roland, the stupidity and the breathtaking sweep of this is remarkable. And if the voters...

MARTIN: Oh, I agree.

BORGER: And, you know, the voters in Illinois, as you point out, at some point, have to say enough is enough.

BLITZER: It's -- you're absolutely right.

All right. We'll continue this conversation.

Guys, thanks very much.

They're certain to be among the top parties of the year, but the inaugural balls aren't just for the political elite. There are many you -- I'm talking about you -- you can attend some of these balls. Also, days of violence now reaching a new level, threatening topple the Greek government. We'll update you on what's going on in Athens, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: When Barack Obama is inaugurated as president, he's certainly hoping to break the political gridlock here in Washington. But his swearing in is likely to create traffic gridlock that the nation's capital may not be able to handle.

CNN's Samantha Hayes has been looking into this story for us. And they're bracing -- D.C. officials -- for enormous crowds coming town.

SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they're calling everybody with an available parking lot, basically. And this has to do with all the buses coming in. You know, during the busy time in D.C., during the spring, for the Cherry Blossom Festival, there's a thousand buses a day. And that causes enough problems during the springtime.

For this inauguration, we could be talking about 10 times that many.


HAYES (voice-over): This is bus traffic on a normal day in the nation's capital, which is accustomed to hosting lots of tourists. But for the upcoming inauguration...

JIM DINEGAR, PRESIDENT, GREATER WASHINGTON BOARD OF TRADE: Just the sheer ability to accommodate 10,000 buses in this town will be a daunting task.

HAYES: And Jim Dinegar, who is looking out for the interests of businesses, says that transportation task is bigger than anything city leaders have tried to do before.

Even the Million Man March in 1995 did not bring in a million people.

This inauguration, on the other hand, may reach five million. And most of them are sharing a ride and will need a place to park.

DINEGAR: You can't close off a tarmac at an airport or one of the air bases or you can't just say, we're going to take the section of the stadiums, because even those don't hold enough of these 10,000 buses.

HAYES: Ten thousand buses, nose to tail, would ring the beltway -- the interstate around D.C. -- and go all the way to Baltimore.

PETER PANTUSO, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION: We know the buses are coming on January 20th, but we don't know what to do with them when they get here. To the city, we've said, please tell us. You know, we need to know right away. We're only 42 days, I believe, away from the inauguration. We're running out of time. And -- and the phones are continuing to ring every single day.


HAYES: Well, the city tells CNN that organizers are working on bus parking and other big issues related to the inauguration, but they won't go into specifics now. A spokesperson says that information will be provided in announcement yet to come.

And, you know, all of that said, if you're coming for the inauguration, pack plenty of patience. Getting around is going to require creativity, planning and maybe some luck, too.

According to the Washington's Metro system, 1.2 million people ride trains and buses daily. But city officials think four times as many people -- four million or more -- might come for the inauguration. The transit system is increasing its service for some days in anticipation of crowded trains and buses, but all the extra ridership will stretch the system.

So, go ahead and prepare. They're saying, you know, don't bring too much stuff if you're going to be using the Metro system. And there is a small token for your transportation troubles especially designed -- a fare card that has Obama's picture on it.

BLITZER: Very cool.

HAYES: So you'll have a keepsake.

BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people are going to be excited about that.

Thanks very much.

Once the visitors arrive here in D.C., what will they do for fun?

Dozens of unofficial inaugural balls are being advertised to celebrate the new president.

Let's go our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, what's on tap?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, as long as you've got a tuxedo and a few hundred dollars, there is plenty of choice. We counted about 50 of these unofficial balls and galas all planned in Washington around January 20th.

From the Urban Ball, which is hosted by rapper and actor Ludacris and friends, to the Purple Ball, which, in the spirit of bipartisanship, promises that you'll be surrounded by carefully laid, lush purple velvet.

Then there's all the state-centered balls, like the Texas Black Tie & Boots affair, which was very popular last time around. This time, it's the Hawaii Inaugural Ball that's sold out already. Organizers tell me that they're already taking inquiries for 2013.

Now, all of those are unofficial affairs. The official events will be announced by the Presidential Inaugural Committee. That yet to happen, but you can imagine that when those are announced, that's going to be a very tough ticket to get -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, indeed it will be.

Thank you.

Let's go back to Lou Dobbs right now to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Well, lots of great stuff, Wolf.

Coming up tonight, we'll have much more on what prosecutors are now calling a political corruption crime spree led by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. I can barely say it, but I'll have it by the time we roll around to 7:00 Eastern.

And we'll be reporting on contradictions within the Obama team over the president-elect's contacts with Governor Bogav -- with the governor of Illinois.

And, also, new questions about the power of governors to appoint U.S. senators, the role of nepotism, favoritism and even cronyism in all of those decisions. That report coming up.

And the Congress and the White House -- they appear to be, again, on the verge of agreeing to a $15 billion bailout of Detroit. General Motors vice chairman, Bob Lutz, has worked each of the three big carmakers. He joins me tonight to tell us why a bailout of Detroit is in the national interests.

I'll also be joined by three of my favorite talk radio show hosts and your favorites.

Join us at the top of the hour for all of that and more, from an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

Rod Blagojevich. I know you'll get it right by the top of the hour.


DOBBS: I had it for a little while.

BLITZER: Yes. It's not that hard. I'll say it three times. Blagojevich, Blagojevich, Blagojevich.

DOBBS: Blagojevich.

BLITZER: You've got it, Lou.

DOBBS: Blagojevich.

BLITZER: All right, Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.

You saved me again, partner.

BLITZER: Thank you.

A power dinner unlike any other -- Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice -- they're sharing a meal and their thoughts. We have new details of the meeting.

Also, this hour's question -- what would Karl Rove have to say to get you to buy his book?

Jack Cafferty and your e-mail.

And new developments in that military crash in a San Diego neighborhood.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Deb, what's the latest?

FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, more misery to add to the tragedy in San Diego, where a Marine Corps jet crashed into a residential neighborhood yesterday. The body of a 15-month-old girl was found today in the rubble of a house demolished in that crash. The remains of the child's grandmother, mother and 2-month-old sister had already been recovered. An investigation into the cause of the disaster is underway.

And in Greece, violence in the streets there has reached a fever pitch. Protesters clashed with riot police and thousands of people marched on parliament in Athens. The rage was touched off when police shot and killed a 15-year-old boy over the weekend. The teenager was buried today. Thousands attended the funeral and a few grew violent at the end of the service -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Deb.

Thank you.

Let's go right back to Jack.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question, Wolf, is what would Karl Rove have to say in order to get you to buy his book?

Simon & Schuster has reportedly signed a $1.5 million deal with Mr. Rove for his memoir.

Pete in Florida writes: "Jack, I think you're just trashing Karl's book in an attempt to size down the competition against your book. Good move."

Jim in North Carolina: "Karl Rove -- one of the most intelligent men the public has ever seen. He wouldn't have to say much for me to buy his book. His book would be a most interesting read. On the other hand, it would take a balanced person with unbiased opinions to understand it."

Daniel writes: "There's nothing under the sun -- no scenario couldn't imaginable that could get me to buy, steal or bother to read anything by Karl Rove. It's time for all Americans, especially Republicans, to finally and forever say good-bye to the divisive, evil, dirty politics of people like Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Steve Schmidt. We can all start by refusing to watch them on television, listen to them on the radio or purchase or support anything they have to offer."

Ken in North Carolina: "If he threatened to run off with my wife, I'd go out and buy two books. One, if he promised to take her and a second copy if he promised to keep her."


CAFFERTY: Kathleen in Boston writes: "Karl Rove would have to tell me he was involved in a homosexual encounter with Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein. Then I might consider it."

And Monty writes: "I'm interested in learning of the people who were unwilling to give George Bush and his team credit for anything positive. Jack, my guess is that you'll be named as one of those people. I will not be buying your book and I'm sure you won't read my comment."

If you don't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at and look for yours, among hundreds of others -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And your book comes out in March.

Have you got a title already?

CAFFERTY: It's called "Enough Already."

BLITZER: Good. I can't wait to see it. I'm going buy your book.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Me, too.

BLITZER: Can't wait. On our Political Ticker, we're told that Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice talked about the challenges of being secretary of State when they sat down for dinner last night. The nominee and the current secretary of State shared a catered meal at Secretary Rice's apartment. No specifics from the State Department about their conversation. We do know they ate sea bass. Probably delicious.

Republican Congressman Peter King says he's preparing to run against the Democrat appointed to fill the next two years of Hillary Clinton's Senate term. The New York lawmaker says he's interested in the job even if he has to challenge Caroline Kennedy. King says he'll meet with campaign aides next week to discuss fundraising.

Replacing Obama and Clinton as they move on to bigger jobs -- filling their Senate seats looks like a Moost Unusual process.

And coming up in our Hot Shots, residents of Northern Texas cope with the aftermath of a powerful storm.


BLITZER: Here's a look at the Hot Shots coming in from our friends at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Texas, severe storms take a devastating toll on a house.

In Jerusalem, a rabbi places letters written to God into cracks in the Western Wall.

In India, a cricket player pats a stray dog that appears during practice.

And in Wisconsin, two high school students go for a run through the snow.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.

On the heels of a riveting presidential election, a couple of political appointments might pale in comparison.

But CNN's Jeanne Moos finds a Moost Unusual amount of interest in two Senate seats.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An itty bitty tattoo on a candidate, a former nanny...


FRAN DRESCHER, ACTRESS: Mr. Drescher goes to Washington.


MOOS: And a Senate seat for sale on eBay? Who knew that replacing this guy and this gal in the Senate would be so interesting?

Is it possible that former "Nanny" star, Fran Drescher, could hustle her way into the Senate seat Hillary Clinton is expected to vacate?


DRESCHER: I think I've pulled a hustle muscle.



MOOS: She might not be able to muscle her way into the Senate, but this political and cancer awareness activist is serious about asking to be considered.

Meanwhile, another of the potential candidates was having her tattoo analyzed. Caroline Kennedy reportedly got tattooed on a dare from her brother and cousin. OK, it's nothing fancy like this Hillary tattoo on some guy's thigh or this Obama tattoo.

But who expects to see any tattoo -- even a faded butterfly -- on a Kennedy?

But all that fades in comparison to the news about this guy allegedly selling President-Elect Obama's Senate seat.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST: Illinois Governor Rod Blag...




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Into Governor Rod Galoy -- Blagojevich.


MOOS: You'd figure the prosecutor knows how to say it.


FITZGERALD: Governor Blagojevich.

The Blagojevich administration.

Government Blagojevich.


MOOS (on camera): When your dealing with a name that's this long, this unpronounceable, there's only one thing to do.

(voice-over): Shorten it to Blago, as they did in the blogosphere. That and G-Rod are his nicknames in Illinois. This kid, posted on YouTube, tried to spit out the whole thing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's going to jail next?



MOOS: As for what the governor himself spit out when secretly recorded by prosecutors...


FITZGERALD: "Fire all those bleeping people. Get them the bleep out of there. I've got this thing and it's bleeping golden.

I'm just not giving it up for bleeping nothing. Bleep them."


MOOS: The governor even called the president-elect a bad name. Next thing you know, some joker puts Obama's Senate seat up for auction on eBay, quoting what the governor allegedly said.


FITZGERALD: "It's a bleeping valuable thing."


MOOS: In this story, the unprintable meets the unpronounceable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Illinois governor, Blag -- Blagojevich.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: It's not that hard. Blagojevich. We can say it. Blagojevich. You've got it right now.

We want you to check out our political pod cast. To get the best political team to go, subscribe at

I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.