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Illinois Governor Speaks Out; Interview With Illinois Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.; Obamas Told "No Vacancy"; Foreign Car Companies Could Get Hurt
Aired December 12, 2008 - 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: And, to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The embattled Illinois governor talks exclusively to CNN, as state officials launch new efforts to give him the boot.
Also this hour, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. on how this scandal is forcing him to fight right now for his political life.
Plus, the White House moves on its own to try to keep the auto industry in this country alive. It may take cash from one bailout to pay for another.
And even the future president can't get everything he wants. The move the Obamas had hoped to make and why the current administration said no -- all that and the best political team on television.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He's embroiled in scandal, accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. And the Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, has been dodging the news media now for days.
But just a short while ago, our own Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit, caught up with Blagojevich, who state officials are now trying to force from office.
Listen to what he said in this exclusive exchange.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Drew Griffin with CNN.
Can you say anything to the people of the state of Illinois, sir? Do you have anything to say?
GOV. ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), ILLINOIS: I will at the appropriate time, absolutely.
GRIFFIN: Are you going to resign, sir?
BLAGOJEVICH: I will have a lot to say at the appropriate time.
GRIFFIN: Governor, are the authorities right in their petition, the criminal complaint? Did you do what they say you did? Governor? Just 30 seconds for anybody? For the state of Illinois?
BLITZER: All right. Let's go to Drew Griffin. He's joining us now live from Chicago with more on this developing story.
Drew, what is the latest? What's going on?
GRIFFIN: You know, as little as he said, Wolf, I'm surprised to learn that those are the first words he publicly spoke since his arrest on Tuesday.
And he didn't say the words that Illinois politicians want him to say, which is, "I resign." There are several movements afoot now to strip Governor Blagojevich of all his power, basically before he can do anything more, any more damage, as the Illinois politicians like to say.
They're going to move to impeach him and possibly get the Supreme Court to remove him from office.
GRIFFIN (voice-over): In perhaps a sign he has nowhere else to turn for help, pastors of local churches showed up at the governor's door this morning, emerging to say they came to offer support.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had a prayer with -- we had a prayer with my governor. He called me.
QUESTION: What was your prayer? What did you say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That he continues to be a great governor. Stay the course.
GRIFFIN: The governor waved to the press and waved off any questions on what he is going to do. At the downtown office building where the governor works, Illinois' attorney general announced she had filed a motion with the state Supreme Court to have the governor stripped of his power.
LISA MADIGAN, ILLINOIS ATTORNEY GENERAL: We think it is very clear that he is incapable of serving, and we are certainly hopeful that the Illinois Supreme Court will hear this matter and appoint Lieutenant Governor Quinn as the acting governor.
GRIFFIN: Behind the scenes, the legislature is gearing up to start their own removal procedures.
Meeting on Monday, the House and Senate are expected to take up motions to strip the governor of his ability to name a U.S. senator to the vacant seat prosecutors say he was trying to sell. And Democratic House members are circulating this letter, asking colleagues to join them in impeaching the governor. But that will take time. Politicians agree the best thing for the state is for the governor to resign.
And while his accused chief of staff, John Harris, did submit his letter of resignation, the governor apparently is still on the job, working, and not telling his press secretary much else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People are trying to deal with today's issues, as opposed to what's been going on this whole week.
GRIFFIN: The governor spent most of the day at his lawyer's office. That's where we caught him late this afternoon. But, earlier today, Wolf, he was supposedly at his governor's office, carrying out his work as governor, showing no signs that he's going to resign, at least to his staff -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have a lot more, Drew, on this story coming up, including Don Lemon's interview with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. in Chicago. Stand by for that.
Meanwhile, another huge story we're following: The auto industry's hopes for a bailout now seem to rest on the Bush White House. The administration says it may tap into the billions set aside to rescue Wall Street to prevent the Big Three automakers from going bust.
And there's new urgency right now, after the U.S. Senate rejected a $14 billion plan to bail out the American carmakers.
Let's go to our White House correspondent. I should say our senior White House correspondent, Ed Henry. He's working the story for us.
Ed, what are you learning about this timing?
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have learned from two senior officials that the president could move as early as this weekend to tap those emergency funds, something the automakers say they need desperately.
HENRY (voice-over): Abandoned by his fellow Republicans and now under heavy pressure from Democrats to save the American auto industry on his own, the president is making a U-turn. He's thinking about tapping billions of dollars from the Treasury Department's Troubled Asset Relief Plan to help the big three, a sharp reversal from just a few days ago.
DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We have always said that the TARP program was passed for a very different purpose, and that was to prevent the collapse of our financial institutions. HENRY: Auto institutions now may need to be helped as well, Dana Perino explained in a written statement Friday because, A precipitous collapse of this industry would have a severe impact on our economy, and it would be irresponsible to further weaken and destabilize our economy at this time.
The president's support in his own party has also destabilized. Intense White House lobbying efforts, including Vice President Cheney on the Hill and the president on the phone, failed to move enough Republicans to support a legislative bailout Thursday night. And top Republicans are now warning the White House not to take unilateral action without guarantees the auto companies will become more viable.
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: If the White House puts TARP money in on top of GM's $62 billion in debt, OK, and doesn't require all of these things that I'm talking about to happen, OK, all they're doing is throwing good money after bad.
HENRY: Ironically, it's Democrats who are giving the president cover to tap the funds, declaring the situation is dire not just for automakers, but car dealers, bankers, parts suppliers.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), BANKING COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: There is a cascading occurring as you and I are talking, so I'm hopeful that this day, before the day ends, the White House will make that decision, send that signal the markets need to hear, before even more damage is done. In a matter of hours now. We're not talking days or weeks now, we're talking hours.
HENRY: Now, the White House wants to carefully review all this, make sure there are some strings attached to the money, so maybe taxpayers will get something back.
But, in the end, the president is expected to dip into these funds. After all, Democrats privately say they hardly believe the president wants to add the death of GM, an American icon, to his legacy -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed, we will watch the story with you over the coming days. Thank you.
And, as you would expect, Michigan has the most auto industry jobs, and would be hardest hit if the Big Three go bankrupt, but several other states would feel the pinch.
Take a look at this. California has the second biggest auto work force of any state. And that's followed by Ohio, Texas, and Indiana. And it's not just states that would feel the pinch if American automakers are squeezed. Foreign competitors making cars in the United States would as well. Workers for companies like Toyota and Honda could also feel the effects of any collapse of the American car companies.
Brian Todd is standing by. He's going to explain this story for us.
In the meantime, let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is critiquing members of his own political party, and he's not mincing any words.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Powell said the Republicans' attempt at polarization for political advantage backfired in the most recent election. You will recall that Colin Powell crossed party lines and actually endorsed Barack Obama before the election, and he has since said that he's not interested in a position on the Obama team.
Colin Powell said that Republicans have to stop -- quote -- "shouting at the world and at the country" -- unquote -- saying the party needs to take a hard look at itself. Powell said he was impressed by a recent article by Mort Kondracke in the Capitol Hill newspaper "Roll Call" that asked the question, can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh?
Powell asked if this is the kind of party the Republicans really want to be, when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts, rather than our better instincts -- talking about that gas bag Limbaugh.
So, here's the question: Should Republicans stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?
Here's a hint. Yes.
CAFFERTY: Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
His currency, I think, in the wake of these recent election results, has probably gone down a little bit.
BLITZER: I wonder if his ratings, though, have gone down. He does really well, you know, with those listeners.
CAFFERTY: I don't know. And his paycheck hasn't gone down.
CAFFERTY: What did he sign, a $400 million contract to peddle that malarkey that he puts out every day?
BLITZER: He's got a lot of money there.
BLITZER: Jack, stand by. The incoming president of the United States may want to browse around for a hotel room. Apparently, there's no space available for Barack Obama at one place he wants to stay only days before he's sworn in.
And dirty allegations against the Illinois governor, they're dragging a lot of people through some potential mud. Is Barack Obama's incoming chief of staff being touched by this? We have new information for you.
And a congressman facing serious questions about that political mess in Illinois, he's talking exclusively to CNN and is really desperate to clear his name.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JESSE JACKSON JR. (D), ILLINOIS: I'm fighting now for my character, and I'm also fighting for my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President-elect Barack Obama's incoming White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, is a product of Illinois politics, just like his future boss. And he's been facing some questions about his contacts with the state's embattled governor.
Let's go to Jessica Yellin. She's covering the transition to power for us in Chicago.
What's the latest on this part of this story, Jessica?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I have been told by a person briefed on the investigation that Rahm Emanuel himself was told by investigators that he is not a target of this investigation. Well, that is significant for two reasons.
First, most obviously, the president-elect would not want his incoming chief of staff to be suspected of any wrongdoing. And so the prosecutor in this case is saying that he was in their view involved in no wrongdoing, so no doubt a relief to the entire team that that speculation can be dispelled, any speculation out there.
The other piece of this is that it seems unlikely that the federal investigators would inform Emanuel that he's in no way a target if he weren't in some way involved. So, perhaps he could have been one of those D.C. advisers that the governor instructed his aides to call. Perhaps there were some contacts.
But the overriding message out of this information is that he clearly was involved in no wrongdoing and won't be implicated by the investigation, but, of course, just more speculation that they continue to not answer questions about over at Obama headquarters. There's a lot of silence coming out of there these days -- Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, we will see when they release the final summary, as the president-elect said yesterday he would be releasing within days. But if you read that 76-page criminal complaint that the U.S. attorney filed, Jessica, you can see there's no love lost between Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich, the embattled governor.
All right, we will watch this story with our viewers. Thank you.
Many Illinois Democrats are going to great lengths right now to try to distance themselves from the corruption charges against the governor. Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. says for him it's nothing short of a fight for his political life.
Let's bring in CNN's Don Lemon, who had a chance to sit down with Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. earlier today.
Don, good work, but tell our viewers the bottom line, what he told you.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the bottom line is that he's professing his innocence, and more vehemently and adamantly than he did in the press conference just a couple of days ago.
We're live here, Wolf, on the North Side of Chicago. Jesse Jackson Jr. Lives way on the South Side of Chicago. And, basically, what he said to me in that interview is that they live far apart in the city and they couldn't be further apart at least politically, if the governor thinks that in any way Jesse Jackson Jr. thought he was going to buy that seat. Take a listen.
LEMON (voice-over): This is what Senate candidate number five, congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., woke up to, a "Chicago Tribune" investigation questioning whether two of his campaign contributors, along with Jackson's brother, Jonathan, took part in a scheme to raise millions for Governor Rod Blagojevich. In return, he would appoint Jackson to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.
(on camera): Do you know these businessmen? Have you done business with them? And to your knowledge, were they emissaries at all to raise money for you in order to get you that Senate seat?
J. JACKSON: No, they were not. I made that perfectly clear.
And, so, Mr. Nayak also happens to be a friend of the governor. Did I ask him to advocate on my behalf? No. Did I send him as an emissary to me on behalf of the Senate campaign? The answer is no. And that's unequivocal.
LEMON (voice-over): Jackson and his wife, Sandi, sat down with me and talked about what they say is the fight of their lives.
J. JACKSON: On this question of being in the United States Senate or not, let me be perfectly clear. While I would be honored to serve the people of this state, it is clear to me that I am in no capacity to serve them if there is a cloud over my head that seems to suggest I am involved in some unscrupulous scheme to be a United States senator or to be anything else.
And so it's very important for me to allow this process to play itself out. I need to find out, and we all need to find out the truth.
LEMON (on camera): Your name is being dragged through the mud.
I have got a great name, given to me by great parents. And I have got a great father who has a great legacy of public service.
J. JACKSON: It's so great, it's so great, that I named my daughter Jessica, and I named my son Jesse. So, I'm fighting now for my character.
But I'm also fighting for my life. And I'm fighting for them. And I'm fighting for them. And I'm fighting for them.
This is about my children being able to Google their name in five years, and there be nothing there associated with it that suggests anything wrong.
LEMON: Do you personally know the Blagojeviches, both of you?
SANDI JACKSON, WIFE OF JESSE JACKSON JR.: Yes.
LEMON: Do you know them? Do you know them?
S. JACKSON: Yes, sure, we do.
LEMON: Do you know Patti?
S. JACKSON: I do.
LEMON: You know Patti?
S. JACKSON: I know Patti.
And even that surprised me. I -- because I just -- I never saw that side of Patti. So, I was shocked by it. I don't know why she said what she said. I could only think that, you know, she's under an immense amount of stress. Whatever was going on in their lives had to be promoting some stress. And so maybe she was reacting to that.
LEMON: It's interesting, Wolf, because Jesse Jackson Jr. says, although he thought he was being honest about all of this, going and talking to the governor as late as Monday, and then the governor arrested the next day, he said he thought he had a real clear shot at that seat.
But now that he looks back at it and he has read the affidavit, he doesn't believe that the governor was really considering him or taking a serious consideration of him at all, Wolf.
BLITZER: And I know one part of this interview, you talked to him, and he's not a rich guy, but he's got to go ahead and hire an attorney now to represent him. And that's going to cost a lot of money.
I talked to him in his kitchen, and he said: You know, I will be honest with you, Don. We're not rich people, and I probably have less money now than when I entered public service. And he said: I have to keep a house here in Chicago. I have to keep a house in Washington. I have to send my kids to school, and now I have to pay for a high- powered attorney. He said: This Christmas will not be good.
In fact, he is asking his brothers for money to help out.
BLITZER: All right. Don Lemon in Chicago for us -- Don, good work. Thanks very much.
LEMON: Thank you.
BLITZER: If American automakers collapse, foreign automakers and their workers could feel the pain as well. We're taking a closer look under the hood of the cars you may be driving. Stay with us.
And in Texas a terrifying role reversal. Prison inmates take control and are holding some guards as prisoners.
And desperate for a place to stay for Barack Obama's inauguration -- at least one place is still available. It will cost you only $50,000 a night.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: President-elect Obama had hoped to get an early start on his new life on Pennsylvania Avenue, but the current Bush administration said, sorry, there's no room for you. We will tell you what's going on.
And we heard Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. fighting and emotionally charged about having his name dragged into a corruption scandal. Now his father is speaking out as well. The best political team on television is standing by with that.
And if the Big Three U.S. automakers go bust, guess what? Honda and Toyota workers and drivers right here in the United States, they could be affected big-time as well. Brian Todd is standing by to explain.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: The Obamas want to move to Washington early to get their two daughters in school. But they don't have a place to stay. So, who's in the presidential guest house? We're investigating.
And if the Big Three go bust, it's not just their problem. The entire auto industry here in the United States will feel the pain. We're about to get under the hood and show you the ripple effects.
And the feds say the Illinois governor wheeled and dealed, even though he knew he was being watched -- politicians doing self- destructive things. We will ask the best political team on television what they think. Do they think -- these politicians, do they think they're untouchable?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
He may be the next president of the United States, but Barack Obama can't get the room he wants right here in Washington, at least not when he wants it. That would be Blair House. That's the official White House guest house, the residence across the street from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, where the Obamas hoped to check in early.
Let's go to CNN's Elaine Quijano. She's covering the transition in Chicago.
She has some details -- Elaine.
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a tricky situation, conflicting schedules, and something had to give.
(voice-over): President-elect Barack Obama wanted to move his family across the street from the White House two weeks before January 15, the start of the traditional stay for incoming presidents, five days before the inauguration.
But Blair House is booked. The Obamas had explored the idea of moving in early, so daughters Sasha and Malia could start school on schedule, according to an Obama transition spokesperson.
But the family was told there were previously scheduled events and guests that could not be displaced.
In a written statement, a spokeswoman for the first lady said that Blair House, the president's guest house for visiting dignitaries, is available to President-Elect Obama and his family starting January 15th, as is historically the case.
The White House isn't saying who exactly might be coming to visit, but an official says: "There are previously scheduled events and receptions prior to January 15th, which makes it unavailable for a full-time, overnight occupancy.
However, we will be happy to work with the president-elect's transition team to make the Blair House available to them during the day whenever possible."
The official adds they want to make this an easy and seamless transition for the Obamas.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
QUIJANO: While no one's being specific about what events are scheduled, there are apparently no hard feelings. An Obama transition spokesperson says the White House has been extremely accommodating to the Obama family, adding that the entire process has been smooth and friendly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Elaine Quijano in Chicago for us.
Let's get some more now on one of our top stories. Now that a rescue bill has died in the Senate, there are signs the auto companies may still get help before they run out of cash and before many, many people lose their jobs. But if the American auto companies collapse, their competitors here in the United States could also get hurt.
Let's to go Brian Todd.
He's explaining what's going on -- Brian, especially under the hood.
Tell our viewers what we know.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.
Some people will look at this scene and say what's this engine of a Toyota Camry going to tell me about the ripple effect of a big three automaker failing?
Well, I've got one word for you -- parts. If you look at who makes this particular starter motor and who that company sells to, you get a much clearer picture.
TODD (voice-over): If those Ford or Chevy assembly lines shut down, fitters and foremen at Honda and Toyota beware.
No, your companies aren't on the verge of bankruptcy. But here's the problem.
RON HARBOUR, "THE HARBOUR REPORT": They are so interlinked today. They have so many common suppliers.
TODD: Suppliers like Goodyear, which makes tires for overseas- based and American automakers, will feel an immediate pinch, experts say, if one of the big three goes down. To show how that will then hurt the European and Asian car companies, we asked industry expert Ron Harbour, whose publication looks at manufacturing and performance, to take us inside the hood of a Toyota Camry sedan.
HARBOUR: This engine has a starter motor that's supplied by a company called DENSO, or formerly known as Nippondenso. It's a Japanese supplier, but with a huge manufacturing presence here in North America. They provided this component for Toyota. But they also provided components for most of the car manufacturers here in North America.
So if one of those companies was to leave the market, go bankrupt or whatever, that would have a huge impact on DENSO.
TODD: Harbour says DENSO could then lose a big chunk of its income. It may have to down-size, possibly layoff hundreds of workers at big plants, like its facility at Battle Creek, Michigan. Harbour says that could be repeated at parts manufacturers throughout the Midwest Corridor, from Michigan through Southern Ohio to hubs down South, like Kentucky, where Toyota has big plants.
What's Toyota thinking then?
HARBOUR: You know, what Toyota is worried about is what impact it would have on their quality or the delivery of their parts to their plants -- would it potentially shut any of their facilities down or create a quality problem that they would have to be concerned about?
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: All right. That was Brian Todd reporting.
Brian -- unfortunately we lost his shot there.
But a good report showing the impact, potentially -- if one or two or three of the U.S. automakers go down, that could have an impact on Toyota and some of the other automakers who build cars here in the United States.
Turning up the heat on the Illinois governor -- there are multiple efforts underway right now to force him out of office.
How much longer can he stay in power?
The best political team on television is standing by.
And some of Wall Street's wealthiest investors are bilked out of billions of dollars in an alleged high stakes pyramid scheme. Now a shocking arrest and a former Nasdaq chief stands accused. Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN," COURTESY WORLDWIDE PANTS INC.)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't want to talk about the bleeping campaign, understand?
MCCAIN: If you think I'm going to go back to that bleeping situation, then bleep you.
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST: OK. Thank you. Whoa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: John McCain speaking with David Letterman, having some fun last night on David Letterman's show.
Good to see him back on television a little bit. We hope he'll be joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM not too long from now, either.
The Illinois state officials who are lining up -- they're trying to get the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, out for allegedly trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. But now there are new questions swirling around others who have been dragged into this, including Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and his father, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, himself.
Let's talk about this and a lot more with our CNN political contributor, Steve Hayes, of "The Weekly Standard;" CNN's Jessica Yellin -- she's covering the transition in Chicago; and our own political analyst, Roland Martin. They're all part of the best political team on television.
I'll play a little clip and I'll let Roland start this off -- the Reverend Jesse Jackson responding to all of this. We heard from his son earlier in that interview with Don Lemon.
Listen to this, Roland.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY ABCNEWS.COM)
REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW-PUSH COALITION: I am not an emissary. I am a -- a -- I'm not targeted. (INAUDIBLE) that's simply not true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could anyone, on your behalf, have gone to the governor promising help on behalf of "Candidate No. 5?"
JACKSON: Absolutely not. That is not -- not remotely true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. Roland, you live in Chicago.
Give us in a nutshell, what is going on right now?
ROLAND S. MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Everybody's in a search for answers. And so there are so many holes here -- who's number one, two, three, four, five, who's the emissary, who talked to the governor. And so in the absence of clear answers, you have a lot of people who are just simply throwing stuff out here, Wolf, who don't have any facts whatsoever.
You've got people who are saying it's mysterious that Valerie Jarrett chose not to take her name out of the race, who was the person -- was it Reverend Jackson?
And so that's what you have going on here. There are more questions than available answers because it's an ongoing investigation.
BLITZER: The Obama team has to be really careful, Steve, right now, because they're going to release some sort of catalog of all the contacts between representatives from the Obama transition and the embattled Illinois governor. But they have to do it -- they have to do it quickly, but they have to do it complete. They don't have a second shot, if you will, if there's additional information that comes forward.
So isn't it better to be careful and precise and take another day or two, rather than rush out with information that may not necessarily be complete?
STEPHEN HAYES, SENIOR WRITER AT "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes. I think it is. I mean, I think the biggest potential problem they would face is if they put out, as you say, a list that's not accurate.
But meanwhile, here we are, you know, having had this promise from Barack Obama himself, saying that he was going to put out this list of contacts. And as Roland says, you know, everybody's guessing, who are these people, what are the contacts?
It seems clear that there were some contacts, but we don't know the nature of those contacts. You know, the longer this drags on, I think that creates additional problems. And when you have people like Rahm Emanuel and you have sources saying, well, he's not a target -- just the fact that someone is saying that he's not a target isn't helpful for the Obama transition.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk about the transition -- Jessica, what are you hearing behind-the-scenes?
What are they saying?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN Capitol Hill CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, first of all, this is Obama's style. He is such a patient guy. Remember when we were all speculating who his vice presidential pick would be and we thought it might come before he went on vacation?
YELLIN: He dragged it out weeks. He would rather take his time, be patient -- he's so confident -- and get it right. And he thinks we'll all go hysterical no matter what they do, so they may as well do it their way.
Behind the scenes, Wolf, they're really not answering many questions. I mean I was told it's not a vast investigation. It's a handful of people. They're talking to them. They're getting their facts down -- no massive e-mails. But they're really not too nervous. They just want to do it right. And they are not talking. They are on lockdown on this one.
I suppose you agree, Roland?
What do you think?
MARTIN: Well, absolutely. I think, look, you have to get it right. And look, we know what our job is as journalists. We all want the information and we want it now. And somebody sometimes has to say, you know what, guys, shut up. I'll get to you when I get it to you.
And so we have a job, they have a job.
But the bottom line is -- what bothers me, Wolf, we have a bunch of folks who are going around throwing stuff out there and, in essence, trying to out people to say well, you might not be the person, but we hear you might be the person, can you comment?
Well, you're forcing folks to respond. That's what you have going on here.
BLITZER: Steve, how much longer does he have -- Blagojevich -- to resist this enormous pressure on him to step down?
HAYES: Very little time, I think. I mean, you know, practically speaking, he probably can wait until some -- until an external body, whether it be the Illinois attorney general or the legislature, forces him out.
But really, who in the world doesn't want him gone at this point?
I think there are probably two people, maybe three -- and that's Blagojevich himself, maybe his wife and his attorney. Everybody else wants him out. And I think when you have that kind of, you know, mass of people wanting him gone, he's likely to be gone sooner rather than later.
BLITZER: And what are you hearing, Jessica?
You're in Chicago, as well.
YELLIN: Well, they all think, frankly, that he's nuts. I mean there is not a Democrat you can find who doesn't say we all knew this guy was radioactive, we all kept our distance. And they just think he is the last one to know it.
And the sense here is even if he does get pushed out with a vote next month -- sorry, next week with the legislature -- he'll still be popping up on TV declaring his innocence, you know, talking to journalists. He isn't going to go gently into the night.
MARTIN: I do think, Wolf, you're going to see a process there where he is going to step aside. He does not want to be forced out by the legislature or even by the courts.
And so I think, as Steve said, it will certainly be sooner rather than later. And I wouldn't be surprised if those conversations -- very private -- are being held right now, because he understands, look, there is no way out of this except a resignation.
BLITZER: All right. One final question, Steve, before I let you go. I'm guessing he could be waiting for a plea agreement with the U.S. attorney, because the only political leverage he really has, if you believe that 76-page document -- and I saw you reading it the other day. The only piece of leverage he has is his job as the governor -- to give up that job, maybe for some sort of reduced -- reduced charge or whatever.
HAYES: Yes. And, you know, I think even as the days go by here, I think even that leverage is diminishing. You know, it's clear that he's going to be gone, you know, whether it's in a matter of days, whether it's in a week. It's clear that he's not going to be able to keep his job. So I think, you know, if that's leverage now, it's not likely to be leverage in, you know, in a few days or in a week.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
This story is not going away.
A high stakes pyramid scheme and now, a former Nasdaq chairman is accused of bilking investors out of billions.
Also, should Republicans stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?
That's Jack's question. He has your e-mail.
And an extra paid holiday for tens of thousands of lucky workers just announced.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Lou Dobbs is getting ready for his show that begins right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight, the Blagojevich scandal -- questions about the Obama team's involvement with the governor still unanswered. Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refuses to answer reporters' questions. We'll have complete coverage.
Rahm Emanuel, by the way, being declared not a target of the investigation.
Also, a critical moment for the auto industry. After the Senate kills their bailout, the White House planning to step in and could keep the carmakers alive until a new administration. We'll have that story from the White House.
And communities across America battered by our mortgage crisis have literally nowhere to turn for help.
What will it take to convince this government to finally step in and help those losing their homes to foreclosure and help the housing industry in this country?
Please join us at the top of the hour for all of that, all the day's news and more, from an Independent perspective -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: See you then Lou.
They're some of the wealthiest investors on Wall Street. And the man they trusted most with their money -- a Nasdaq chairman 18 years ago -- is now confessing to authorities he cheated them of billions of dollars.
CNN's Allan Chernoff is working this story in New York.
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The arrest of Wall Street legend Bernard Madoff has clients panicked that their wealth may be gone.
JACOB ZAMANSKY, ATTORNEY: It's hard to believe that somebody so successful, who people trusted for years, was so greedy and so corrupt to steal their money. It's -- it's remarkable. People who I've spoken to are shocked that Bernie Madoff, a trusted guy, would steal their money.
CHERNOFF: Madoff, former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, built one of the most successful trading firms on Wall Street. It was in a separate, more secretive investment division, located on a different floor in this office tower that he allegedly perpetrated the fraud. According to civil and criminal complaints, Madoff confessed he had been cheating investors for years. And he estimated his total losses from the fraud may have been $50 billion. (on camera): According to the criminal complaint, on Wednesday, here at his Manhattan apartment, Bernie Madoff confessed to his two sons, Andrew and Mark, both senior executives in the company. The father said of his investment firm: "It's just a big lie. It was basically a giant Ponzi scheme."
(voice-over): Madoff allegedly had been using new investment money from clients to pay supposed profits out to other investors. Under the weight of a tumbling stock market, the scheme had collapsed.
One of Madoff's attorneys said: "Bernie Madoff is a longstanding leader in the financial services industry. He will fight to get through this unfortunate set of events."
(on camera): Madoff is out on $10 million bond. He's facing a single count of securities fraud, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Deborah Feyerick is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Deb, what's going on?
FEYERICK: Well, Wolf, a treacherous situation in New England tonight. Snow, ice and a million homes without power. Conditions are so bad that Massachusetts and New Hampshire are now under states of emergency. And the governor of Massachusetts is warning it will take not hours, but days, to restore electricity.
And many Americans are about to catch a break, thanks to the president. Mr. Bush issued an executive order today granting federal employees an extra day off, with pay, on December 26th. The White House says when Christmas falls on a Thursday, it's not uncommon to excuse federal workers from duty the next day, too. But postal workers still have to report to work.
Oh, well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right.
Thanks very much, Deb, for that.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is -- should the Republicans stop listening to Rush Limbaugh?
Gina in Racine, Wisconsin: "If they want to stop being distracted by misplaced hatred and hyped up stories that turn their attention from our country's real issues and if they want to come together and unite to make this country better, they will stop listening to Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly and Coulter."
Annie in Georgia writes: "It's only the most ignorant of them that put any credence in Limbaugh's hateful rhetoric. And, sadly, they can't help themselves -- so they won't. But they should. He's toxic and that becomes dangerous in such difficult times."
Ryan in Illinois: "I never thought of sociopathy as good entertainment, but Limbaugh does get paid a lot of money for inciting hate and fear. Basically, I just feel bad for those who listen to the man. Even after just a few minutes of him, I always feel dizzy and a little nauseated."
Connie in Chicago: "Yes, Limbaugh's a far right agitator of the worse sort -- the 1950s mentality of what values 21st century America should reflect. I expect him and other like-minded Sean Hannities of the world to step out of their closet and display their white sheets and dunce caps. Limbaugh is a bad joke."
Joyce in Florida: "Other than Hannity and O'Reilly, I didn't know anyone did listen. Most people prefer to actually think."
Cynthia writes: "They ought to have done that a long time ago, especially when they found out about him taking his happy pills."
John in Massachusetts: "Telling a Republican to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh is akin to telling Pat Robertson to discontinue his alleged conversations with God."
And Jim in Vancouver, British Columbia: "Rush Limbaugh always good for a laugh. But his followers now form the basis of a waning right-wing political faction. Moderate Republicans should scrape this faction from their shoes."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile and look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Have a nice, relaxing and wonderful weekend, Caylee.
CAFFERTY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: See you back here Monday.
CAFFERTY: Same to you.
BLITZER: Appreciate it.
So how much would you pay to be in town for Barack Obama's inauguration?
How about $50,000 a day?
And for that kind of money, it's not just the inauguration festivities you're going to be able to enjoy.
Plus, a flowerful offering in riot-ravaged Greece -- Hot Shots coming up.
BLITZER: Here's a look at the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In Greece, with tensions still high, a schoolgirl tries to give flowers to riot police.
In Italy, labor union members protest the government's handling of the economy.
In Austria, heavy snows prompt supermarket workers to shovel snow off the roof.
And in Portugal, a young body border lives it up and rides the waves. Look at this.
Some of this hour's Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
Some people are spending a lot of money to come and experience this historic inauguration of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States.
But would you even consider spending $50,000 a night?
Let's go to CNN's Samantha Hayes.
She's joining us from outside Washington in Northern Virginia right now -- Sam, what can you get for $50,000 a night?
SAMANTHA HAYES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one thing you can get is a seat inside this state-of-the-art custom symphony hall for a concert that will be going on in this room the Sunday before inauguration. Fifty thousand dollars a night is a lot, but the couple offering this package says that that money will go to funding the arts.
HAYES (voice-over): Castleton Farm is a ways away from Capitol Hill, but this 550-acre Virginia estate may offer the most luxurious accommodations for the presidential inauguration. There's room for up to 50 of your closest friends in homes scattered around the estate's grounds.
There's an indoor pool and Turkish steam room, a bowling alley, an exquisite art collection. And even though this is considered horse country, this farm even has its own camel, Omar.
The owners are offering their estate for $50,000 a night.
And who might they be? Maestro Lorin Maazel, who recently led the New York Philharmonic on a high profile trip to North Korea. His wife is actress Dietlinde Turban-Maazel, who we met in New York City.
DIETLINDE TURBAN-MAAZEL, ACTRESS: The moment I found out just a week ago that there's this housing need for the inauguration time, I figured we could actually share this beautiful place with people who need to find a place to stay.
HAYES: The money will go toward teaching young artists through their own foundation.
TURBAN-MAAZEL: And we're very excited about this, because we're working with young artists. It's part performing and part learning and all in one. And to mount that, obviously, funds are very much needed. And fundraising is difficult, especially now in these difficult times.
HAYES: But she thinks they'll have a taker soon.
TURBAN-MAAZEL: We already got some individual calls. And I expect from everything that's out there now, from newspaper articles, corporations that we have talked to, travel agency packages and stuff, I expect there will be some response.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
HAYES: Maestro Maazel has -- this is his seventh and final season with the New York Philharmonic. And so he wants to spend even more time concentrating on his music foundation, which, again, this package will go to fund and help develop young artists -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A lovely place, indeed.
Let's see if anyone gets it.
Thanks very much, Sam, for that.
BLITZER: Samantha Hayes reporting.
Among my guests this Sunday on "LATE EDITION," Republican Senator John Ensign and Democratic Senator Bob Casey. We'll talk about a lot with them. "LATE EDITION" airs Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Lou.
DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.
Tonight, the Blagojevich scandal -- questions about the Obama's team involvement with the governor still unanswered. Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, refusing to answer reporters' questions, but declared not a target of the investigation. We'll have complete coverage.