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Freed Journalists Return Home; Fitness Club Shootings; Counting Down to 200 Days; Grading the President on the Economy

Aired August 5, 2009 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, back from a nightmare in North Korea -- a dramatic homecoming for two American journalists. But Bill Clinton's high profile rescue mission is coming in for some criticism.

Extraordinary emotion from freed journalist, Laura Ling, as she tells what kept them going in their darkest hours. You'll hear here.

And that wrong way driver whose head-on collision killed eight people, including four children, was heavily intoxicated -- growing outrage in New York.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


Well, their nightmare is over -- two young journalists are back on U.S. soil and reunited with loved ones. They faced a dozen years of hard labor in North Korea's brutal prison system, until suddenly a former U.S. president showed up. We've been following this story for months and only CNN has the global resources to bring it to you from Korea, China, Washington and California.

Let's go straight to our CNN's Dan Simon -- Dan?


I'm at Current TV's headquarters. I had a chance to talk to the new CEO here. Get this -- he's only been on the job for about a week. I asked him what he thought about everything that happened today. He said he was, "ecstatic." I'm sure that's a sentiment felt by everyone who works here.


SIMON (voice-over): The plane touched down just before 600 a.m. Pacific time. A short time later, from inside a hangar, the two journalists emerged; then former President Clinton -- so much emotion. But this may be the most enduring image -- of a mother, Euna Lee, clutching her 4-year-old daughter.

Laura Ling described the surreal moment when she and Euna entered a room and saw President Clinton there to take them home. LAURA LING, FREED JOURNALIST: When we walked in through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

SIMON: Ling, whose experience in front of the microphone was evident, said there was constant fear that the North Koreans would make good on the verdict to send her and Euna to 12 years in a hard labor camp.

LAURA LING: The past 140 days have been the most difficult, heart- wrenching time of our lives. We are very grateful that we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea.

SIMON: It was also striking to once again see Clinton and Gore side by side. The former vice president is the co-founder of Current TV and was said to be instrumental in bringing his employees home.

AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It speaks well of our country that when two American citizens are in harm's way, that so many people would just put things aside and just go to work to -- to make sure that this has had a happy ending.

SIMON: President Obama, who telephoned the women's families Tuesday night, said he, too, was extraordinarily relieved at the journalists' return.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reunion that we've all seen on television, I think, is a source of happiness not only for the families, but for the entire country. I want to thank President Bill Clinton -- I had a chance to talk to him -- for the extraordinary humanitarian effort that resulted in the release of the two journalists.


SIMON: Well, the plane that everyone flew on is owned by Stephen Bing. He is a real estate heir, a friend of the Clintons, a well known Democratic donor. We told -- we're told that he donated the use of that plane. And, Suzanne, it's another indication that this whole ordeal of this trip was -- was not meant to be seen as an official government trip -- back to you.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Dan.

Well, one striking part of the story I found quite surprising myself is that Laura Ling and Euna Lee were separated during their harrowing ordeal in North Korea.

Laura Ling's sister Lisa talked about it.


LISA LING, SISTER OF LAURA LING: They had worked together for a while, not directly. And they actually were kept apart most of the time. In fact, I think, that they saw each other very early on for a couple of days in the beginning and then they were separated for the duration of the four-and-a-half months. So I think on the day of their trial they hugged each other and that was it. In fact, one time on the phone -- and we only had four conversations with Laura throughout this time -- she said will you please write a letter to Euna and tell her that I'm thinking about her and I love her.


MALVEAUX: Lisa Ling speaking this morning in Burbank, California.

Well, turning now to a tragedy in suburban Pittsburgh. Last night a man walked into a health club and opened fire. He killed three women and wounded nine others before turning the gun on himself. Today, we are learning what may have pushed the gunman, George Sodini, over the edge.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve is in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania with the details -- Jeanne, what have we learned today about this guy?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, George Sodini came to this health club last night, walked into the aerobics room, turned off the lights and pulled a .9 millimeter gun out of his gym bag. He started firing. When that was empty, he pulled out another .9 millimeter.

When it was over, three people were dead, nine were wounded. Police don't know why he stopped firing. But when he did, he pulled out a .45 and he shot himself. Another gun was found in his pocket. Police say all of the guns were legally owned by Sodini.

It all happened in the space of about a minute. Police say the rampage was fueled by rage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's had the hatred in him and he blames everybody, his mother and everything else -- society. And he just had a lot of hatred in him. And he was hell bent on committing this act and there was nobody going to stop him.


MESERVE: Sodini left a note in which he expressed his anger toward women. That's a theme that also runs through a blog that he kept outlining his thoughts and actions.

Here's one excerpt reflective of what it contained: "I guess some of us were simply meant to walk a lonely path. I have slept alone for over 20 years. The last time I slept all night with a girlfriend, it was 1982 -- proof I am a total malfunction. Girls and women don't even give me a second look anywhere. There is something blatantly wrong with me that no (EXPLETIVE LANGUAGE) person will tell me what it is."

That was dated -- this blog also tells us, rather, that back in January, he came to this club with the intention of committing mass murder. He chickened out, went back home.

The last entry in the blog is dated August 3rd. That's on Monday. And the last words in the blog: "Death lives."

Now, investigators say they are looking very carefully at this blog, doing forensics to try and figure out if anybody looked at it before Sodini came here -- anybody who might have been able to tip off police and prevent this horrible act from taking place -- Suzanne, back to you.

MALVEAUX: Thanks, Jeanne.

Such a tragic story.

Jack -- Jack Cafferty here with The Cafferty File.

That's a terrible, terrible story.

CAFFERTY: Horrible.


CAFFERTY: Critics say, Suzanne, that the U.S. violated its own policy against negotiating with terrorists by sending Bill Clinton to North Korea. Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, calls Clinton's role in winning the release of these two women a significant propaganda victory for that communist regime. Bolton says sending someone of such high stature, like a former president, gives North Korea more legitimacy.

Bolton served under President George W. Bush. He says North Korea essentially took these women hostage and: "In such a situation, our efforts to protect them should not create bigger risks for other Americans in the future. Yet after Bill Clinton's visit, it's possible that a country like Iran may want similar treatment before it releases the three American hikers recently taken captive there."

Other experts say that North Korea will now expect dealings with a high profile figure when it comes to the nuclear issue.

The Obama administration insists Clinton's visit was a private, humanitarian one; that he didn't relay any messages or apologies from the White House. One top official says that Clinton's trip will not be part of any broader negotiations between the two countries or will it be tied into talks over North Korea's nuclear program.

The problem is Kim Jong Il might not see it that way. For one thing, Bill Clinton was greeted at the Pyongyang airport by top government officials, including North Korea's head nuclear negotiator.

Here's the question then -- did Bill Clinton's meeting with Kim Jong Il to win the release of two Americans violate this country's policy of not negotiating with terrorists?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Well, the first 200 days -- how would the GOP grade the president?

Well, I'm going to ask the Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele.

Freed journalist Laura Ling speaks emotionally of her nightmare in North Korea and what it means to be home. You'll hear it right here.

And a living donor sets in motion an extraordinary seven-way kidney transplant. It allows doctors to give new hope to people running out of time.


MALVEAUX: CNN is counting down to the second 100 days of the Obama administration. Tomorrow night, we'll issue a new national report card on the president.

CNN's Tom Foreman joins us with more on how you can take part in all of this and how that report card is shaping up right now -- Tom, what are we seeing?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is the kind of report card you wish you had in school, the kind you can vote on. And that's what we're allowing you to do on our Web site. It's very interesting. Go to, click on the politics section and you can go down to this area, where what you can do is look at a series of questions about different things.

This one is about foreign affairs. You can read some background on it. You can see some of the stories we have related. You can get a sense of what's going on in that.

Then, you go right over here and you can go up and down here and you can pick whatever grade you want to give on that particular topic. We have a lot of them here. We have them on the Congress and on the president and on the Republicans -- on many, many different subjects.

Let's look at some of the results here. Once you've voted, then you will get your results and you'll also show where you are so we'll have a sense of it.

Now, here's a map that shows the economy, which is the overall question here. And you can see these different colors. I'll get you a sense of the key over here.

If it's red or orange like this, it's up in the As; the blues are B; Cs are green; then D; and after that the purple. So you can see, there are a lot of Cs in here, not the best in the country. Right over here is Washington, D.C. with a C plus. But then you get down to Louisiana down here, that's a D. That's not so good.

If you move on to health care, another case of a lot of purple in here, a lot of bad grades in areas of the country that tend to vote Republican. And then down here, the overall grade for Barack Obama looks an awful lot like the economy -- overall, a lot of Cs; not looking so good. This is the online voting so far. But here's the important part -- whether you like this president or don't like this president or you're indifferent about it, you can weigh in and you can help change these colors the way you want them changed by simply going to our Web site, Suzanne, and registering your vote.

We'll tell you all about it tomorrow night in our special on the second 100 days.

MALVEAUX: OK. Well, thank you, Tom.

We'll see how our next guests will change the -- the vote or not.

How would the GOP grade President Obama in his 200 day mark?

Well, joining me now, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele.

Good to have you here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

George Sodini


MALVEAUX: You've seen some of the grades he -- for health care. He predominantly got a B there and we saw some Cs overall.

Let's -- let's start -- how would you grade the president?

Let's go first to, let's say, the economy overall.

What do you -- what do you think the president is performing...

STEELE: Well, I think the economy overall...

MALVEAUX: How do you think he's performing?

STEELE: Yes, I think you're king of looking at somewhere around the C minus area, I mean, because there's still a lot of pieces that need to get filled in. I think the stimulus was obviously bad policy right off the bat, right out of the box. But, you know, again, there's not a whole lot to judge it against in such a short period of time.

I think that there are many factors that went into where we are right now beyond just what the president has said he's going to do -- some of the things that he's done, some of the votes that have been taken.

I think right now, though, the strength we see in the economy is what from what the Congress and what the president is not doing. It is the market saying, you know guys, don't -- don't help us. You know, we can work this out. Markets have a way of -- of working through these things. Let us do that and a little less government intervention goes a long way. I think that's probably some of the -- some of the grading that you see on the economy, may come from the market saying, well, we've got this, we don't need government taking part in it.

MALVEAUX: You don't see, perhaps, the raise in home sales or the Dow -- the level of the Dow -- or even the GDP raising as any part of this -- the result of the stimulus package or anything...

STEELE: No, I don't.

MALVEAUX: (INAUDIBLE) administration?

STEELE: No, I don't, Suzanne, because we've only spent 7 percent of the purported $787 billion that you said we absolutely need to spend. And we didn't absolutely need to spend it. The market has ways of working this thing through. The problem we have and where that C minus or C grade is going to become an F a year from now is when we get into inflation, when we get into high interest rates and we get into all those bad things that come from infusing $2 trillion of spending that the government didn't have -- that has, in fact, borrowed from tomorrow to pay out today.

So we enjoy a little bit of a blip right now and that's because of dollars that are working their way through the system.

MALVEAUX: Let -- let's move on...

STEELE: But you're not creating jobs. 2.5 million jobs have been lost

MALVEAUX: Michael, if I can interrupt...

STEELE: And I think the numbers will show that's...

MALVEAUX: Let's go ahead and move on to health care...

STEELE: Go ahead.

MALVEAUX: ...the health care reform debate.


MALVEAUX: Obviously, this is something a lot of people are talking about. The new ad from the DNC that is pointing to members of your party saying that the debate that's taking place in this country has turned rather nasty in some of these Congressional town hall meetings.

And this is what the DNC is putting out.

Let's take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their goal -- destroy President Obama and stop the change Americans voted for overwhelmingly in November.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It will break him.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This mob activity is straight from the playbook of high level Republican political operatives. They have no plan for moving our country forward, so they've called out the mob.


MALVEAUX: How do you respond to this?

STEELE: Oh, those scary Republicans. Oh, my God. Let's see. We don't -- we have 40 seats in the Senate and we're down some 30 plus or more in the House. Gee, you know, stop using the boogeyman. The policies that this administration is pulling out is what's scaring America and it's not Republicans. In fact, what we've been saying is -- is trying to draw people and educate people to the fact that these plans are, in fact, what they are.

MALVEAUX: But what do you think of the...

STEELE: And I find it rather amusing...

MALVEAUX: ...that Robert MacGuffie, who is the head of the grassroots organization Right Principles, who talked to CNN earlier today?

And he -- he did have a strategy memo that he put out encouraging people. And he says don't carry on and make a scene, just shout intermittent shout-outs. That there has been some real emotion here on both sides and that this has been encouraged...


MALVEAUX: ...from, also, members of -- of your party.

Do you think this constructive?

STEELE: Well, I -- I don't -- I don't know Robert MacGuffie. I don't know that he is, in fact, a Republican. He does -- he doesn't work for me. He's not a member of the RNC. It's not part of any coordinated strategy that we have here.

You have citizens, Republican, Independent and otherwise, who are concerned here. And I find it the height of arrogance and hubrance -- hubris to sit there and think because people want to smart and coordinated in their (INAUDIBLE), because they want to speak out, because they have something to say here, that there's -- they're being demonized and demagogued as being extremists.

You know, when we get to a point in this country where dissent is extremism, we've turned, I think, a very dark page in our history. And I don't want us to go there. I encourage Americans and I'm -- right now, to go to these town hall meetings, to -- to talk to your Congressmen, the people that you elected...

MALVEAUX: Mr. Chairman... STEELE: ...empowered to come to Washington.

MALVEAUX: Overall grade for the Obama administration in the first 200 days?

STEELE: You know -- you know, I could do the partisan oh, give the boy enough and move on, but I'm not saying that. I think this -- this has been a D plus, C minus effort, because we don't know all the stories. We're not being told everything. The direction we're headed in is not in the best interests of the country right now. And I -- I'm going to wait and see where we go in the next 100 days. So I guess I'll see you in another hundred days if this becomes a routine for us, to chart these 100 days...


STEELE: I just want the administration to stop campaigning and start governing.

MALVEAUX: We'll invite you back for the -- for the 300. Don't worry, Michael, we'll -- we'll invite you back for the 300.

STEELE: All right.

MALVEAUX: Michael Steele, chairman of the RNC, thank you very much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

STEELE: Take care.

MALVEAUX: Well, how do you grade the president?

Go to and weigh in. Then get all the results from the best political team on CNN's National Report Card, tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern.

Well, federal authorities release evidence involving a group of North Carolina terror suspects. We'll bring you the video and audiotapes that led to their arrest.

And shock and sadness over a deadly highway crash in New York turns to outrage after some disturbing information about one of the drivers is revealed.

Stay with us.



MALVEAUX: Deb Feyerick is monitoring all the sorties that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- and, Deb, what are you following now?

FEYERICK: Hey, Suzanne, well, some breaking news right now. L.A. Police Chief William Bratton, who imposed sweeping reforms, is stepping down after seven years on the job. Chief Bratton says when he came to Los Angeles, the police department was a troubled organization, but now is the right time for him to leave. During his tenure, Bratton implemented major reforms in the LAPD. He leaves office October 31st.

And attorneys for six of seven terror suspects in North Carolina were in federal court today, arguing their clients should be released because they are not a flight risk or a danger. But federal authorities released video showing one of the suspects, Mohammad Omar Aly Hassan, firing an AK-47-style assault weapon. The FBI also released photos of weapons and ammunition confiscated from the home of lead suspect, Daniel Boyd and an audiotape recording of Boyd allegedly training with firearms.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You see that stuff flying down there?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a bullet, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a bullet.


FEYERICK: Now, Boyd and the six other suspects are accused of plotting attacks on an unspecified foreign country.

Two window washers are safe after being rescued from a dangling platform on the 37th story of a downtown Boston building. Firefighters were able to get to the men, who were cleaning windows when one side of the platform they were on shifted downward. Investigators are trying to determine whether one of the platform's cables snapped. The window washers were not seriously injured.

And North Korea's Kim Il Jong is going to have a meeting with the president coming up.

MALVEAUX: Yes, he is.

OK, thank you very much, Deborah.

FEYERICK: Of course.

MALVEAUX: We appreciate that.

Well, Kim Jong Il had a meeting with former President Bill Clinton and returned two detained American journalists are coming home -- or, rather, have come home.

Will that lead to a breakthrough on other issues dividing the U.S. and North Korea or did what transpires -- transpire set a bad precedent? Plus, she tells of the nightmare she and her colleague endured during 144 days of detention. We'll bring you journalist Laura Ling in her own words.

And an extraordinary event in the world of medicine -- a 14 way kidney transplant gives new hope to patients running out of time.



Happening now, an emotional recount of 144 days detained in North Korea -- journalist Laura Ling talks about her ordeal and the joy of returning home. We'll also hear from the man Ling works for, former Vice President Al Gore.

Also, what psychological toll does being detained for months or years take?

We'll look at the impact and what it might be on the newly freed journalists.

And two Russian submarines sighted off the East Coast of the United States -- could it be the sign of another cold war?

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


Well, just like that, their nightmare has ended. Two American journalists are home after months in North Korean captivity, following an extraordinary mission by former President Clinton.

Freed journalist, Laura Ling, spoke emotionally after their arrival.

I want you to take a listen.


LAURA LING: Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp. And then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked in through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here, home and free.

Euna and I would just like to express our deepest gratitude to President Clinton and his wonderful, amazing -- not to mention super cool team, including John Podesta, Doug Band, Justin Cooper, Dr. Roger Band, David Strauss, the United States Secret Service, who traveled halfway around the world and then some to secure our release.

We'd also like to thank President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Vice President Gore who we also call Al, the Swedish ambassador, Max Boyar, Kurt Tom, Linda McFade (ph), and then the people at the U.S. State Department, who worked so hard to win the release of their fellow Americans.

Steve Bing and his crew, and Andrew Liveris and the Dow Company. And I know that I am forgetting a bunch of instrumental people right now, but forgive me if I'm a little incoherent.

To our loved ones, friends, colleagues, and to the complete strangers with the kindness of hearts who showed us so much love and sent us so many positive thoughts and energy, we thank you.

We could feel your love all the way in North Korea. It is what kept us going in the darkest of hours. It is what sustained our faith that we would come home. The past 140 days have been the most difficult heart-wrenching time of our lives.

We are very grateful that we were granted amnesty by the government of North Korea and we are so happy to be home. And we are just so anxious right now to be able to spend some quiet, private time getting re-acquainted with our families.

Thank you so much.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Former Vice President Gore co-founded Current TV, the employer of both women.


AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: We want to welcome Laura and Euna home. We want to thank President Bill Clinton for undertaking this mission and performing it so skillfully and all the members of his team who played key roles in this.

Also to President Obama, Laura mentioned this, but President Obama and countless members of his administration have been deeply involved in this humanitarian effort. To Secretary Clinton and the members of the State Department, several of whom are here, they have really put their hearts in this. It speaks well of our country that...


MALVEAUX: Those two American journalists faced a dozen years at hard labor until former president Bill Clinton arrived to win their release. But did the U.S. yield to a form of blackmail?

Well, CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty joining us now. And Jill, I understand that the backlash has already started.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, Suzanne, Bill Clinton did what he set out to do -- come back with these journalists -- but could he -- should he, be packing his bags again for another similar mission?


LING: When we walked in through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): An emotional Laura Ling sings the praises of the former president who helped free her and her fellow journalist, Euna Lee, from captivity. So, now that he's got his high-profile face time with Mr. Clinton, does that mean Kim Jong-Il will agree to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear program?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: Now maybe there's a chance to sit down to those six-party talks and really make some progress.

DOUGHERTY: But critics say Mr. Clinton's mission is setting a dangerous precedent. Former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, a fierce critic of talks with the North, charges, "It comes perilously close to negotiating with terrorists."

What happens, Bolton asks, if Iran, believed to be holding three American hikers, asks for its own high-level visit?

ROBERT WOOD, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Each situation has to be evaluated on its own merits. They all have their own peculiar circumstances.

DOUGHERTY: As the temporary diplomat wins kudos for bringing the journalists home, his full-time diplomat wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, returns to the unglamorous and difficult task of dealing with North Korea.

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Now we have to go back to the ongoing efforts to try to enlist the North Koreans in discussions that the world wants to see them participate in.

DOUGHERTY: But one Korea watcher says both Clintons benefit from this mission to Pyongyang.

GORDON CHANG, FORBES.COM: This does not undermine Hillary Clinton. With Bill Clinton being considered doing a great job, this helps Hillary Clinton in the long time.


DOUGHERTY: But sending Bill Clinton as special envoy to North Korea was not an idea that Hillary Clinton originated. U.S. officials say it was North Korea that wanted the former president. They began floating the idea, they say, in mid-July, looking for the highest profile person they could find other than President Barack Obama. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Jill. And I want to let our viewers know that we do have a development, this verdict, rather, in the corruption trial of former U.S. representative William Jefferson of Louisiana.

You may recall that a federal grand jury indicted Jefferson on corruption charges in June, that was in 2007, when federal agents found $90,000 in cash in his freezer. That trial began on June 16th. We now understand that there is a verdict and we'll be bringing more of that to you on the other side of the break.

Also the psychological impact of being a prisoner. We'll explore what being detained for months or years can do to the minds.

Also, seven donors and seven patients. How doctors came up with a 14- way kidney transplant.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

MALVEAUX: We now want to bring in our correspondent Elaine Quijano out of Washington who has breaking news on the trial of former U.S. representative William Jefferson of Louisiana.

Elaine, what can you tell us?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know that just moments ago the jury did reach its verdict on this corruption case, 16 counts in all, guilty on 11 counts including bribery and money laundering, not guilty on five counts including obstruction of justice.

Of course this is a case that people remember. Former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson, perhaps best known for the image that you see right there, stashing some $90,000 in cash in his freezer, wrapped in foil and stuffed into Boca Burger boxes and Pillsbury frozen pie crust boxes.

Prosecutors had argued that that cash was just the tip of the iceberg. All in all, they accused Jefferson of receiving more than $400,000 in bribes in exchange for using his influence to broker business deals back in 2005.

So there you have it, the information still coming in from our producers at the courthouse but guilty on 11 counts including bribery and money laundering in this case of Congressman William Jefferson. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: All right. Elaine Quijano, on breaking news. Thank you very much, Elaine.

For more on the implications of Bill Clinton's high-stakes mission, let's bring in our CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, along with Republican strategist, Tony Blankley.

I want to first start off with this case of William Jefferson, obviously. And I want to start off with you, Donna, because we know this congressman, you know, representing much of New Orleans there. What do you make of the verdict? DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, it's a very sad chapter in the history of Louisiana politics. As you know, he was defeated last year and he's no longer serving in Congress, but, again, this is part of that history that we like to always put in our past.

It's unfortunate. Bill Jefferson served his constituents so well during his time on Capitol Hill, and I'm very sad about this verdict and even sadder that his entire family, some of his family members have been implicated in this bribery charge.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it'll probably come as no surprise to anyone in America that there are, in fact, congressmen, both senators and representatives, who are doing things they shouldn't be doing, who are corrupt.

I mean, this is, unfortunately, as Donna says, another former congressman. But he was a lawmaker when this happened -- that has been caught doing corrupt things apparently, and now he's been convicted of it.

I think it's sad, but this is what the American people, many of them, have come to expect as sort of the usual fare.

MALVEAUX: Tony, do you think it's fair to characterize this in a manner that this is Louisiana politics or much, much broader than this that we're seeing these kinds of things on both sides of the aisle?

TONY BLANKLEY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No, I was going to say that I don't -- I understand Donna is from Louisiana, but this is something that, you know, Republicans and Democrats, South Californians and Louisianans and New Yorkers, unfortunately corruption exist.

It's not as bad I think as some people fear, but it's bad enough, and it breaks down -- it increases the cynicism of the public, which is the most damaging aspect of these crimes.

MALVEAUX: What do we think of Nancy Pelosi's promise to basically, you know, drain and clean out the swamp here of all this corruption?

BLANKLEY: Every out party makes that promise, and every party that gets in power ends up having some corruption. It's the nature of power in government. You never can (INAUDIBLE) even if you try to.

MALVEAUX: I want to talk a little bit about Bill Clinton's role in bringing home these two American journalists and whether or not this sets a precedent that is perhaps concerning for the administration, puts them in a box.

We have the Taliban holding marine in Fallujah. You've got three hikers now that are in Iran's custody.

Candy, what do you think? Do you think that this puts the administration in a situation where now they have to look at negotiating perhaps with terrorist groups to free hostages? CROWLEY: I think they won't. But obviously, this is something that comes up in the aftermath of this, looking at it. This is just something -- I think this is the price in some ways of being this country, which does put great value on and brags upon its rights of the individual, the worth and the value of the individual.

There probably was not much choice here in getting these two young journalists out of there other than to have former President Clinton go over, but I can assure you at the White House that it obviously occurs to those involved in diplomacy that this can be seen as setting some sort of precedent.

I just don't think it will. I think it's very doubtful who they might send over to Iran, for instance, to try to get out those three hikers.

MALVEAUX: OK. Donna Brazile, Tony Blankley...

BRAZILE: I agree. I agree with Candy. This was a unique mission and Bill Clinton did a fabulous job, and he should be applauded, along with Vice President Gore, who used those back-channel connections to ensure that these two journalists were freed.

BLANKLEY: Let me just suggest that I agree with Ambassador Bolton that this does create a dangerous precedent. On the other hand, that's not the entire story. It's one that the humanitarian component that is positive, and two, it does mix things up a little bit.

We'll see whether President Bush -- President Clinton has brought any movement back from North Korea. But there's no doubt that the downside risk that Ambassador Bolton has talked about does exist.

MALVEAUX: We have very little time left. Does anybody care to give the Obama administration a grade over the first 200 days? Real quick?

BRAZILE: Well, I'm planning to give him a very satisfactory grade, because I believe that the administration has rescued this economy from a freefall and that clearly with healthcare reform and other efforts to revive the economy they're trying to get this country back on its fiscal track.


BLANKLEY: It's an incomplete. I'll be ready to give him a grade in December.

MALVEAUX: And we journalists, Candy and I, will remain neutral.


We will remain neutral on this question. All right. Thank you so much, Donna Brazile, Tony Blankley, and Candy Crowley. Appreciate it.

Well, nightmare in North Korea. CNN has the untold story of what those two American journalists faced during their month of captivity.

And what wrong-way driver whose head-on collision killed eight people was, we find out, heavily intoxicated. Growing outrage in New York.



MALVEAUX: New information about a deadly highway crash in New York has turned sympathy into anger.

Mary Snow is in New York, with me now, and this is really quite an amazing story. You have more details today.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Such a horrible story, Suzanne. This is a story where eight people, all told, were killed. And authorities saying now with toxicology tests showing that the driver was drunk and could have smoked pot anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before the crash.

The family of two of the victims say they want justice. And their attorney is questioning whether anyone can be charged as an accomplice if they knew the driver was drinking.


SNOW (voice-over): At first, the tragic crash was incomprehensible. A 36-year-old mother, Diane Schuler, seen here in "Newsday", drove the wrong way for nearly two miles on a New York highway with five children inside her mini-van.

They struck an SUV with three adults head on. Eight people were killed. But a week later, the shock and sadness has turned to outrage. Headlines now reading, "How could she?" as authorities revealed Schuler had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit, equivalent to 10 drinks and that she also had traces of marijuana in her system.

ROSEANNE GUZZO, CRASH VICTIMS' RELATIVE: How do you put five children in a car when you are a mother and you're drunk? How do you do that? It's incomprehensible. I can't even -- we have children. I would never, ever do something like that. It's just -- it's crazy.

SNOW: Roseanne Guzzo's father, Michael Bastardi, her brother Guy and family friend, Daniel Longo, were killed as they headed to a family outing. The Bastardi's family lawyer calling now for a full investigation saying he senses what he calls a fragrance of criminality.

IRVING ANOLIK, BASTARDI FAMILY ATTORNEY: It's unconceivable to me that the family would be unaware of the fact that this woman drank a lot and used marijuana.

SNOW: An attorney for Diane Schuler's husband, Daniel, told her Schuler never had an alcohol problem and that the family is absolutely in shock over the toxicology reports. Part of the family includes three nieces who were the children of Schuler's brother.

The horrific story has generated calls to Mothers Against Drunk Driving which says it gets 17,000 calls a year from people who are worried children are with an impaired driver. The group hopes future technology may help put an end to tragedies such as this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps one day, there may be a car that if you are above a .08, the illegal limit in all 50 states, your car simply will not start.


SNOW: Diane Schuler's brother who lost three of his girls released a statement this afternoon saying he would never have let his daughters travel with somebody who might jeopardize their safety, saying this toxicology report raises more questions than answers. And Schuler's husband plans on holding a news conference tomorrow. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Perhaps we'll get more answers. Thank you, Mary.

Well, Canadian authorities are investigating a hard-to-believe YouTube video discovered by a local media. It shows a small boy driving a car by himself with adults cheering him on.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, has those details. Abbi, what is exactly does this show? What are we learning?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Suzanne, this is a child so young that he can barrel see over the steering wheel of this SUV. And the audio in the background, which is in French, you can hear an adult male egging him on. He's saying, smile for the camera, which the boy obligingly does.

Later in this video, the camera zooms to the backseat where it appears there are people, including children, not wearing car seats. And if that wasn't enough, the video was then proudly uploaded by someone claiming to be the boy's father to YouTube.

Well, police in Quebec, Canada have identified that this was shot in their province. They're investigating it, seeing if any charges will be brought. They have identified with the family at this point that Canadian police did -- Canadian TV, sorry, did talk to someone saying he was the boy's father.

He said the reaction was overblown because his son wasn't going that fast but that he regretted posting it to YouTube. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you, Abbi.

Well, seven donors and seven patients, a stunning procedure enables kidney transplants for a group of patients who few hoped of finding a suitable match.


MALVEAUX: Time now to check back with Jack Cafferty. Jack?

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, did Bill Clinton's meeting with Kim Jong-Il to win the release of those two Americans violate this country's policy of not negotiating with terrorists?

Steve in California says, "Technically, they were arrested and tried for violating North Korean law. They technically were not kidnapped and held for ransom by terrorists. Bill Clinton went as a private citizen. No money or anything else changed hands. The only problem I see will be that this is just another thing that the right wing will treat like raw meat in their never-ending quest to let no-good deed go unpunished."

Mark m Houston, "Who cares? Have we become so terror traumatized the rescue of American citizens should be set aside if it involves sitting down and talking to an enemy? The media seems less interested in celebrating the freedom of the two young women than they are finding fault with the process."

Jerry in Mead, Oklahoma, "As much as I dislike splitting hairs with you, Jack, North Korea is sovereign nation. President Kim Jong-Il is the ruler of that nation. And therefore the policy we don't negotiate with terrorists does not apply in this particular instance. The burden of responsibility lies at the feet of those two reporters who crossed the border knowing they could be arrested and imprisoned. Now you guys will turn them into national heroines when they and the guy they work for, former Vice President Gore, should be publicly chastised for creating this mess in the first place."

Rich in Indiana says, "Reagan used to work at the camera, earnestly promised we'd never negotiate with terrorists. Then he did just that and illegally traded arms with Iran. That was negotiating with terrorists. Kim Jong-Il, Fidel Castro, and yes, John Bolton and George Bush -- they all live in the dark world of enemies and paranoia. Bill Clinton just showed Kim Jong-Il the light. Thank God our nation's still capable of diplomacy."

Leon writes, "I'm sure Bill Clinton has talked with Cheney and Bush as well. Does this constitute a violation of the same policy?"

And Christine in New York says, "Maybe you ought to ask Laura Ling's mother and Euna Lee's 4-year-old daughter how they feel about violating policy."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog, Look for yours there among hundreds of others. Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Thank you.

Happening now, two freed American journalists are back in the arms of their families. We are learning more about their 140-day nightmare in North Korea and what Bill Clinton did to bring them home.

This hour, the reunion, the emotion and the dramatic back story.

Plus inside the carnage at a Pennsylvania gym. Police now believe the gunman was on a mission, driven by his hatred of woman. And we discovered he was playing sick games with people online before he opened fire. And two Russian attack thugs are lurking off the east coast of the U.S. It seems like a threatening flash back to the Cold War. But it turns out Moscow is sending a very surprising message.