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Health Care Summit; Political Gridlock; Health Care Lobbyists; New York Scandal

Aired February 25, 2010 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And happening now, what you didn't see during the president's televised health care summit, this hour the behind-the-scenes comments that the cameras didn't capture and what happens next.

He is the son of a Palestinian militant leader and he's making an explosive claim that he spied for the long-time enemy of Hamas, Israel and terrifying new details about the death of a SeaWorld trainer by a 12,000 pound killer whale.

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

It was part political theater, part medical seminar, part strained family get-together. There are a lot of different takes on what today's health care summit accomplished and did not accomplish. It certainly drove home how complicated this issue is, and we were reminded over and over that the Democrats and the Republicans have deep and genuine ideological differences. Listen to these exchanges.


BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am curious. Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care or do you think we'd be better health care purchasers? I mean do you think -- is that a change that we should make?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Yes, I think actually we would. We would really focus on it. You'd have more, as you say, skin in the game --

OBAMA: Because --

BARRASSO: -- and especially if they had a savings account, a health savings account --

OBAMA: Would you -- would you --

BARRASSO: -- they could put their money into that --

OBAMA: Would you feel the same way --

BARRASSO: -- and they would be spending the money out of that.

OBAMA: Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000? SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: So with all due respect, I disagree. It's just a fundamental disagreement between us. Does Washington know best about the coverage people should have or should people have that choice themselves, pay a little less, get a little less coverage or pay a little more and get more coverage?

OBAMA: Can I just say that at this point any time the question is phrased as does Washington know better, I think we're kind of tipping the scales a little bit there since we all know that everybody is angry at Washington right now.


BLITZER: Just a little taste of what you get when you put the president of the United States in a room with almost 40 members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans for more than six hours with the cameras rolling live. We showed you a lot of what happened live here on CNN. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash can take us a little bit behind the scenes right now. What did they say, the Democrats and the Republicans? Were their expectations met or not so much?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Actually were met, because the expectations among Democrats and Republicans weren't very high. Nobody expected that they were going to walk out of the room holding hands and singing Kumbaya and they didn't really expect to have any real agreements and that's exactly what happened. But when it comes to Democrats, Wolf, I think that they feel like they were able to get their points across, and in particular, when it comes to congressional Democrats, they feel much better because they have been asking for this kind of presidential leadership, presidential messaging on the health care bill that they think is a pretty good one and pretty good policy but has not gotten through in terms of communication. So they're happy about that.

Republicans, they were really worried about going into this. Remember when the president announced this on Super Bowl Sunday they were pretty reluctant on the Republican side. They thought they might walk into a trap and really jeopardize some of the political plusses that they were getting on health care. But all in all talking to Republicans back here on the Hill they feel that they were able to chip away at the Democrat's main argument against them and that is that they're the party of no because if you really listen they did come up with a lot of ideas, the big issue though is that the ideas that they have, the ideas that the Democrats have, they're just philosophically different.

BLITZER: Very far apart, still. So what's next for health care reform, Dana?

BASH: You know you heard the president say well maybe we should take a little bit of a breath, four to six weeks, see if anything can come of this. Well let me tell you what the reality is here and that is that what the Democrats were quietly planning yesterday is probably going to be the same tomorrow, and that is trying to figure out a way to use a parliamentary maneuver, known as reconciliation, to still pass the majority of their health care plan, the Democrats' health care plan, without Republican support.

That is still in the works. They are dealing with parliamentarians in the House and the Senate trying to figure out if they can do it legislatively, logistically and then of course if they even have the Democratic votes to do that. It's very interesting the president did say maybe we should wait four to six weeks. On his way back here, the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters I want to move more quickly than that. That was the president's suggestion.

BLITZER: Yes, they'd like to resolve it by the end of March when they go into the Easter recess.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right Dana thanks very much. Critics of health care reform might have pointed to this clock in the summit room. Could it be a metaphor for reform? Guess what? It was broken. It was stuck at 4:00. That was the time the session was supposed to end. It went well over an hour, actually an hour and a half longer than that, didn't break up until around 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

At 4:00 or another time, some of you watching the health care summit may have wondered, how can both parties break the gridlock? We continue to report on "Broken Government" here in Washington. Let's bring in our national political correspondent Jessica Yellin.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Washington deadlocked and partisan divide, the big question we've been looking at all week is how do you start to break through it? And as you guys have all been discussing, President Obama attempted a new way to do that today. We saw a civil discussion, leaders of different parties face to face talking about substance, really unusual and actually not the way our system is structured.

So it was President Obama coming up with one new attempt at breaking gridlock. We thought we would ask regular folks if they have other creative solutions to breaking the partisan divide in Washington. Here are some of the suggestions we got from our viewers.


YELLIN (voice-over): At a CNN focus group last month, I met Stephen White, a law student who thinks the president should use his veto pen to force the two parties to work together.

STEPHEN WHITE, LAW STUDENT: Tell Congress that if it does not have bipartisanship in any of its bills, that is, does not have co- sponsors from both parties, that is, it does not bring both parties to the table to have discussions on ideas and solutions and actually incorporate those ideas into the substantive content of a bill, then he's not going to sign that bill.

YELLIN: Congress would howl, but it's a creative solution. Our iReporters suggested other ways to break the gridlock. Three of the most creative solutions -- Jeff Esposito suggest musical chairs. Make Democrats and Republicans sit next to each other. JEFF ESPOSITO, CNN IREPORTER: Let's go back to the grade school mentality. When people aren't getting along and clicks are forming interject people where they shouldn't be, so jumble (ph) in people. Put people who don't like each other sitting next to each other. Maybe that way we can start to get things done.

YELLIN: David Kronmiller wants a truth amendment.

DAVID KRONMILLER, CNN IREPORTER: I propose a truth amendment to the constitution of the United States to actually force our politicians to do what any average citizen might have to do if they go in to dispute a traffic violation. Swear to tell the truth. So let's hold our politicians to the same standard.

YELLIN: And Jimmy Deol says we should be more like his country, Canada, and we should spread the power around.

JIMMY DEOL, CNN IREPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) political base. You could use a third, perhaps a fourth party, one from the center and one with another agenda and that would force all parties to compromise and come to a swift conclusion to help the people.


YELLIN: And Wolf, I'm sure plenty of our viewers will have reasons they don't want us to be more like Canada, but the point is our government is not static, it can change, and we can urge our elected officials to change or update our system if we really believe it's broken right now. Personally, I like that truth amendment. If folks want to comment on the suggestions we just heard or add some of their own, as always they can go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right Jessica thanks very much. By the way, we'd like to thank Director Jeff Reichert who provided some footage from his upcoming film "Gerrymandering" that we used in yesterday's segment by Jessica Yellin. Thanks, Jeff, for that.

It's a claim raising many eyebrows. It involves Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that's long battled Israel. A son of one of Hamas' founders says he, the son, actually spied for Israel. And some hair-raising new details on the assassination of a top Hamas official in Dubai. We're learning about disguises, stolen identities and more on where the trail is leading investigators right now.

And some wonder how much scandal can one state take? The New York governor suspends a senior aide. That aide is at the center of domestic violence allegations and the governor has asked for an investigation.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Lobbyists are one major reason why our government is broken, and you don't have to look any farther than health care reform to see that we have the best government money can buy. Consider this, more than 1,700 companies and organizations hired 4,500 lobbyists last year to work on health care reform. That translates to eight health care lobbyists for every single member of Congress.

According to this report by the Center for Public Integrity, the health sector spent more than $540 million on lobbying last year. The health industry has given $45 million in campaign contributions for the 2010 midterm election cycle and it spent more than 200 million on TV ads related to health care reform last year. Do you think anybody in Washington hears the voice of the common man? Think again.

The fingerprints of lobbyists are all over this legislation. As one expert put it, quote, "They cut it. They chopped it. They reconstructed it. They didn't bury it. I don't think they wanted to" -- unquote. Lobbyists apparently succeeded at blocking the public option and softening the effect of cost cutting measures on health care companies.

The American Medical Association says it helped kill some fees for doctors and attacks on cosmetic surgery, among other things. At the end of the day, we're talking about legislation that will no doubt be called reform. What it really is -- is a three-card Monte game designed to protect all the vested interests in the debate except the taxpayer.

Here's the question. What are the chances of health care reform when there are eight lobbyists for every member of Congress? Go to and you can post a comment on my blog.

BLITZER: Which leads me to this question for you, Jack, tomorrow at this time you have a "Broken Government", "Jack Cafferty File" special that will air. Tell us how that's coming along.

CAFFERTY: Well we taped it this afternoon, and it's a look at how badly the government is broken, why the government is broken, what the chances are of fixing the government -- they're not very good -- we have got some interesting pieces that were put together by an army of CNN reporters. We've been featuring the "Broken Government" theme all week on CNN, and it's a -- it's a right dandy little program that I hope everybody will take a look at.

BLITZER: Right after THE SITUATION ROOM, we'll be watching, Jack. Thanks very much. See you in a little while.

New York Governor David Paterson is being swept up in a scandal involving one of his top aides. At issue -- did Paterson improperly use his influence in a potentially damaging case? CNN's Mary Snow has been working the story for us. All right Mary, what's the latest? What's going on?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these new allegations have already caused one resignation today. A top criminal justice cabinet member of Paterson staff stepped down today, really in disgust. And also some Democrats are urging Paterson not to seek reelection, and this all comes after a story about an aide. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): David Johnson, Governor Paterson's right-hand man quickly rose through the ranks from intern to senior adviser, but now he could derail his boss' political future after "The New York Times" broke a story about allegations of domestic abuse against Johnson and questions about whether the governor and state police intervened to try to keep it quiet.

The allegations were serious enough for one of Paterson's cabinet members to resign. Denise O'Donnell said "The behavior alleged here is the antithesis of what many of us have spent our entire careers working to build -- a legal system that protects victims of domestic violence and brings offenders to justice."

Paterson suspended Johnson Wednesday and asked New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a potential political rival, to investigate. And that probe includes a phone conversation Paterson had with Johnson's ex-girlfriend who had sought a restraining order against him. The "Times" quotes a spokesman for the governor as saying the call happened the day before a scheduled court hearing in the domestic violence case, a hearing the woman skipped. The governor spokesman tells the "Times" the woman initiated the call. Her lawyer disputes that. Paterson was asked about it during an interview with WOR Radio.

GOV. DAVID PATERSON, NEW YORK: You see John, I don't want to talk about that because it just -- you know, those are things that I'm sure the attorney general asked myself about, and I'm sure they'll ask anyone else, and so I don't want to step in front of it.

SNOW: The state police say they're cooperating with the investigation. Their superintendent told the "Times" a state trooper did meet with a woman after the incident even though it was outside of state police jurisdiction, saying the visit was only to tell the woman of her options, including seeking counseling. The fact Paterson turned to the attorney general who is widely expected to challenge Paterson in the governor's race to lead the investigation is also raising questions -- CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SR. LEGAL ANALYST: Certainly Paterson had other options besides Andrew Cuomo. He could have given it to a district attorney, to a judge, to an independent counsel. Instead he sticks this hot potato right in the lap of his top political rival.


SNOW: And we did reach out to Andrew Cuomo's office; they did not return our phone call, just issuing a one-line statement saying they're looking into this investigation. Wolf, not people talking today. The lawyer for David Johnson also declining any kind of comment.

We do, however, expect to hear from Governor Paterson. We're at a dinner here in New York where he is expected to speak and he is expected to take questions from reporters -- Wolf. BLITZER: And only last weekend he announced he was going to run, that he's not backing out by any means. He was here in THE SITUATION ROOM earlier in the week, yet now we're getting reports that other Democrats they are increasing the pressure on him to step down?

SNOW: Yes and as you know, Wolf, he was adamant that he was not going to step down because there had already been pressure on him before this happened. Congressman Steven Israel, a long-time friend, long-time congressman from New York is one of the Democrats who thinks that Paterson should not seek reelection and he said that he did call Paterson this morning and urged him not to run -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right thanks very much. I shouldn't say step down. He's not -- no one is calling on him to resign, but they are saying, the Democrats don't run. Let Andrew Cuomo or some other more popular Democrat --

SNOW: Right.

BLITZER: -- run -- top that that ticket, they're afraid of the (INAUDIBLE). All right Mary thanks very much. You'll let us know what he says, right?

SNOW: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Mary Snow is in New York working the story. A month after a major security breach closed a terminal at Newark Airport security cameras are getting a major upgrade.

And years before she was dragged to her death by a killer whale, the trainer talked about just how physically demanding her job was. You're going to hear that in her own words.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we can I'd like to take a look at some of that footage and you can talk to us a little --



BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well we have been following a developing story -- a body is believed to be that of Andrew Koenig. He is the former star or actor on the series -- the TV series "Growing Pains". A body was found in Stanley Park around midday or so and police are scheduled to hold a news conference at 8:00 Eastern. We will be monitoring this and bring you the latest details as they become available.

And Newark Airport now says security cameras are being fitted with alarms to warn of malfunctions. You may remember last month's security breach when a man slipped under a barrier and scrolled past a security checkpoint to say goodbye to his girlfriend. The breach closed the airport delaying flights around the world. Security cameras were not working and officials had to retrieve this footage from Continental Airlines.

And two men have pleaded not guilty to new charges of a suspected bomb plot against New York's subway system. They're accused of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction as well as several other counts. They have previously been charged with lesser offenses. Prosecutors say the two 25-year-olds conspired with confessed terrorist Najibullah Zazi to blow up subway targets. Zazi pleaded guilty this week.

And yet another blast of winter is roaring through the storm weary northeast. This storm is expected to dump at least a foot of snow on much of the region, snarling air travel and closing schools again. Wind though is a big concern with this one; forecasters say winds could gust up to 55 miles an hour from central Pennsylvania to coastal Maine. Utility companies say they already have repair crews on stand-by. I don't know about you, Wolf, but I am so ready for spring.

BLITZER: Yes, I know even here in Washington, we're not going to get any snow, any serious snow, but it is going to be heavy winds and they're afraid power lines could go down, so we could be in for a little bit of disruption in the greater Washington, D.C. area. But let's hope not, but you know who knows. Thanks, Lisa.

Years before she was dragged to her death at SeaWorld, the killer whale trainer spoke about just how physically demanding her job could be. You're going to see that interview. That's coming up.

And the son of a top Hamas militant reveals that he was actually a spy for Israel. We're talking about the son and that's not the only stunning part of this story.


BLITZER: Critics are calling it a P.R. stunt and a spectacle, but President Obama and lawmakers from both parties spent hours discussing some very, very serious differences about health care reform.

David Axelrod is the president's senior adviser. He's joining us right now from the north lawn. Was it just political theater, David Axelrod, or was something substantive achieved?

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRES. OBAMA: Well look I think any time Republicans and Democrats sit down in Washington and have a substantive discussion on a serious issue, that's progress rather than just shooting lines across on cable television trying to score political points. There was a little of that in this meeting, but I also thought there was some substantive exchanges. And one thing that came across loud and clear is that we have a big problem in health care in this country and with health insurance that it's getting worse and not better and that we need to do something about it. BLITZER: Well the president said they're very far apart on the issue of insuring an additional 30 million Americans. The Democrats have a plan, which is pretty expensive. The Republicans, he says their plan would insure another three million Americans. On this issue, which is a gut issue, they're very far apart, although there are other issues where they are closer, the president rejecting the step-by-step incremental progress. Why is he doing that? Why not reach agreement on what is reachable and then move on to the more difficult issues later?

AXELROD: Here's the problem, Wolf, and let me give you an example. Both the Republicans and Democrats said we shouldn't discriminate against people who have preexisting medical conditions. They should be eligible for insurance. They're now excluded by most insurance companies. Any expert will tell you that you can't do that unless you have everyone in the pool, in the health care system.

We all believe in the private health care system. Well, that's the way the private health care system works. So a lot of these pieces don't work unless you do it comprehensively. And so it's nice you're for, for example, helping people with preexisting conditions, but you really can't do it unless you take on the larger problem.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley has a question for you, David.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, David. What's the game plan here? The president said, well, if in four or six weeks, the Republicans are going to do this soul searching and to see what they could agree to. So is it now the Republicans who come forward? Is he going to sit back now and wait for that four to six weeks to pass?

AXELROD: No, I think what he's going to do is contemplate the exchanges they had today. There were a number of issues on which ideas were raised that the president expressed interest in that might improve on the proposal that he made, but --

CROWLEY: Could I ask you what?

AXELROD: Well, you know that he had an exchange on medical malpractice with Senator Coburn. That was one area. There was more talk about how to approach this issue of creating competition over state lines between insurance companies. That was another issue. There were a number of areas in which there's some room. I mean but the one area that I think -- Wolf mentions coverage and I responded to that.

The one area that they seem very timid about is whether or not we're going to have some minimum standards as it relates to insurance companies, whether people can have the ability to appeal when insurance companies deny them care, for example. And you know we are -- we believe that we need to give people consumer protection so that they can count on the insurance that they get when they need it. And that's something that seems troubling to our friends on the Republican side. JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: David, John King here. The president made quite clear, he said baby steps don't get you where you're going, meaning he believes you need to stay with the big sweeping bill. If the Republicans don't come forward, if there is no epiphany in the next month or whatever time of reflection we have here, he made clear that Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi should go ahead and use whatever means they have at their disposal.

Is that the next step or will you count the votes first? Because there is a report in "The Wall Street Journal" this morning, our Ed Henry confirming much of it that you guys are working on a plan B, a more modest bill that would cover, say, 15 more million more Americans and have more modest proposals in some of the other areas if you can't get the big bill. How does this work going forward?

AXELROD: Look, John, for the reasons that I said at the outset we believe that we need to move forward in a comprehensive way in order to achieve all the goals --


AXELROD: Many of which -- many of which are goals that Republicans say they share. There are people all over America with insurance and without insurance, particularly small business people and people who don't get insurance through their work who need us to help. The bill we proposed, for example, the plan we proposed includes some $400 billion over the next 10 years and tax credits for small businesses and people who don't get insurance through their employers to help them afford health care. They can't wait for us to debate this endlessly and we want to move forward.

KING: If you can't get a big bill that covers roughly 30 million people, if that went down, or the speaker, the majority leader told you we don't have the votes, would you come back with another proposal that will covers, say, 15 million, or would you say enough this year, we need to focus more on the economy.

AXELROD: Well, John, we're going to focus on the economy regardless. This of course, is an economic issue particularly for many small businesses, but we're going to focus on job creation regardless of what happens with this. But I'm not going to hypothesize about what might happen if a set of circumstances occurs. We know we have a big problem, I think it was described in great detail today. We have a very strong answer to that problem. We think it would help greatly, and we want to move forward with it.

BLITZER: All right. David Gergen has a question, too. Go ahead, David.

GERGEN: All right. Just because there is some ambiguity here which is a little bit more. It sounded that I like the president ended the meeting by saying, the only way for with the republicans is, if they want to come forward, with amendments to the comprehensive bill, we will talk, but he took off the table looking, any idea of starting over and then looking for three or four democratic ideas, three for republican ideas and putting it up to a small bill. And yet you left the door open tonight also to the possibility of the president himself, John King, there's a possibly having plan B or plan A doesn't work. I just want to be clear. You're demanding republicans only come forward with the amendments to the comprehensive bill, but no starting over and we leave open the door to plan b.

AXELROD: Well, listen. Starting over in my mind is a code for delay and obstruction, David. We've had a lengthy debate. One thing that should be clear today is both republicans and democrats are given this an awful lot of thought. All the ideas are out there. There is not going to be an epiphany sometime in the next, you know, month or two or three, and, you know, what we don't want to do is get into a stalling game with a mind towards stopping any action because someone believes that they can score political points by keeping us from moving forward on a serious problem.

But to the extent people want to cooperate and share ideas, we've embraced many, you know, the idea of a pool for small businesses and people who don't have insurance to buy insurance at a competitive price where they have choice and competition. That's something we both agree on, we want to move forward on. Let's focus on the fact that there are many, many areas of agreement and let's get something done.

BLITZER: David Axelrod is the Senior Adviser to the President. David, thanks very much for that.

AXELROD: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I think we do a little bit smarter right now than we were when we woke up this morning and where all of this stands. Appreciate it very much.


BLITZER: All right. We're just getting new comments in from New York's embattled Governor David Paterson. He's being swept up in a scandal involving one of his top aides. We'll go back to Mary Snow. She's on the scene. Stand by.

She's accused of killing three people this month at the University of Alabama Huntsville. Now a Massachusetts prosecutor is taking a new looks at a 1986 shooting involving Amy Bishop.


BLITZER: The Governor of New York has now responded to additional pressure on him to not seek reelection this year. Let's go back to Mary Snow. She's at New York. What happened there?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Governor David Paterson just answered a few questions. He's basically saying, he won't answer any questions about this investigation now underway by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, saying that he doesn't want to do this while the investigation is going on. Yesterday the governor said he asked Cuomo to take over this investigation into his aide, these allegations that were in the "New York Times" story. Throughout the day, there have been democrats in New York putting pressure on the governor, urging him not to run for reelection. He just announced his campaign over the weekend. Take a listen to how he responded to those questions.


GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: I'm not sustaining my campaign, but I am talking to a number of elected officials around the state as I would fellow democrats to hear their opinions.


SNOW: And Governor Paterson is supposed to speak here tonight. This is a dinner for the organization "100 Black Men," and this is the first time we have seen Governor Paterson today since that "New York Times" story broke, raising questions about whether the state police and whether the governor intervened in a case involving one of his aides, an aide who is now suspended without pay, and the allegations are this aide was involved in a domestic dispute with his ex- girlfriend -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly a change in tone from the governor tonight as opposed to when he told us here in the Situation Room earlier in the week when he was adamant he's running, there is no doubt about that. Now he's saying, you know what, I'm going to go consult with other democratic leaders, so obviously he's been influenced by this latest "New York Times" story and the reaction it has generated.

SNOW: Yes, absolutely. You know, there was a resignation today of one of his cabinet members, and if you remember, you know, a couple weeks ago when these rumors had started about Governor Paterson and he came out saying that he wasn't resigning, that he was going to seek reelection, and he was even more adamant and he gave several interviews at that time and was very outspoken, so this is definitely a very different change for him.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of the story with you, Mary. Thank you.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the situation room right now. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Toyota's CEO Akio Toyoda says, the company is at a crossroads and must rethink its operations to win back customers. Toyoda visited workers at the automakers assembly plan in Georgetown, Kentucky today. One day, after testifying before Congress. The world largest automaker is in a legal pr pinch because of its recall of millions of vehicles worldwide over safety concerns.

And the past case involving accused University of Alabama shooter Amy Bishop is being reopened. A Massachusetts prosecutor is ordering its inquest to the 1986 shooting death of Bishop's 18-year-old brother. The killing was ruled an accident back then. Bishop is now accused of opening fire on faculty colleagues at University of Alabama Huntsville on February 12, killing three people. And water gashing from a leak, in a shark-filled aquarium at a mall in Dubai, sent shoppers scattering today. See the video there. The amateur video posted on It shows water showering down on the Dubai's mall floor. The mall owner says, the leak was quickly plugged and no harm came to the 30,000 fish in the aquarium. The Dubai aquarium has been in operation for a little more than a year. It's unclear though when the attraction will reopen.

And the Iraqi history once again with their rightful owner. The United States handed Iraqi artifacts back over to the country today. Immigration of Customs Enforcement signed them over to Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. in a ceremony in Washington. Among them, ancient gold earrings, an old Roman coin and a rifle bearing Saddam Hussein's image. They are the latest in the series of Iraqi artifacts found and returned by the U.S. Pretty interesting stuff there, isn't it, Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure they're very valuable but they belong back in Iraq. Good thing to the United States did what it did. All right. Thanks very much, Lisa.

From the Middle East, the son of a Palestinian militant has a truly stunning claim. He says, he has been spying for Israel.

And we're learning more about the death of the SeaWorld trainer by a 12,000 pounds killer whale. Just ahead, we'll hear from the trainer a decade before her death.


BLITZER: This development involving a democratic Charlie Rangel of New York. Brianna Keilar our Congressional Correspondent. What's going on, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, as we know, Charlie Rangel is the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The tax writing committee in the House, very significant figure. He has just confirmed to reporters that tomorrow he will be formally admonished by the House Ethics Committee. This came out to the AP broke story on this. And the issue here has to do with travel that he and some other members of Congress took to the Caribbean, to sort of a business event in 2007 and 2008.

Actually, more than one trip. This has to do with travel over the course of those two years. And the question here is over impropriety about who paid for this trip, how this trip was funded and who paid for it. This was an investigation that we knew had been going on since this summer involving Charlie Rangel and also a handful of other democratic members who were also members of the congressional black caucus. I just saw Rangel in the hallway and he told me the ethics committee had approved that travel.

He's called for a press conference. We are just doing this a few moments ago. He's going to be having a press conference at 8:00 Eastern, so we're expecting some pushback from him obviously, considering that he said the ethics committee approved this travel. And again, Wolf, very significant because he is the head of this Tax Writing Committee. He was at the White House today involved in that health care summit, and what we've seen is a political back and forth that's been going on for some time involving him. Immediately after this news broke tonight, republicans calling for him to step down again. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has always said, let the ethics committee do its work and then we'll see, so now we're waiting to see what her response is to this -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, we'll stay on top of it with you. Thank you.

Now, one man's story of war, espionage and betrayal. It centers around Israel's long conflict with the Palestinian group Hamas. He's claiming a stunning connection to both sides. Brian Todd has been investigating for us. So, what do you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you more than many know of Hamas's reputation. They are long known as a ferocious advisory of Israel, their group is also known for secrecy and discipline but there are explosives new claims that a close relative of one of its founders turned on Hamas.


TODD (voice-over): He's the son of one of the founding members of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group has been battling Israel for decades and this considered the terrorist organization by the U.S. Now, Mosab Hassan Yousef claims to have been a spy for the Israelis for ten years. That's according to Yousef's new autobiography "Son of Hamas." The Israeli newspaper Haaretz which interviewed Yousef and did some of the first reporting on the book, also spoke with someone who claimed to be a former handlers of Yousef's inside Shin Bet, Israel's Internal Security Agency. The Haaretz reporter tells us how valuable an asset, the handlers says, Yousef was.

AVI ISSACHAROFF, HAARETZ REPORTER: He managed to lead the Israel Shin Bet to the most wanted terrorists, and actually, he is the one that gave the lead to the Shin Bet to continue and to progress until they were arrested. In many other occasions, actually, he prevented suicide attacks.

TODD: CNN spoke with Yousef literally agent who said, Yousef couldn't do an interview with us at this time. The agent told Yousef's living in the u.s. but couldn't give us specific location due to security concerns. Yousef claims that Shin Bet recruited him while he was in prison. And code named him the green prince. He says, he converted to Christianity during his time as an informant. I asked Analyst Matthew Levitt who has written extensively on Hamas, about that.

(on camera) If this is true, what does it do to Hamas's carefully crafted image of discipline and secrecy?

MATTHEW LEVITT, WASHINGTON INSTITUTE FOR NEAR EAST POLICY: Well, whether of not it's true, Hamas has a big PR problem. The son of one of its prominent members didn't just leave the fold, left Islam and rails against Hamas in defense of Israel. (voice-over): Yousef also claims to have compromised his own father. Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef in order to protect him. In the book he says, he told his Israeli handler, I'm not going to leave him behind to be assassinated. Go ahead and arrest him, too. Can Yousef's claims be believed? Contacted by CNN, Israeli officials in Jerusalem and Washington wouldn't comment on the story but didn't wave us off it. From an Israeli prison, Yousef's father Sheikh Hassan Yousef issued a statement saying, the published accounts of his son's activities are an out right lie. Sheikh Yousef said, his son was not an active member of Hamas, not in the position to know about its operations. But he did hint that his son might have been compromised by the Israelis. Saying, quote, "In 1996, when he was 17-years of age, he was subjected to a blackmail and pressure from Israeli Intelligence."


TODD: Sheikh Yousef said, at that time, Hamas found out that his son had been pressured by the Israelis and that from then on, Mosab was carefully monitored by his father and other Hamas leaders -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about any possible retaliation from Hamas for these revelations?

TODD: You know Hamas has been known of being very harsh to its people inside its ranks that it suspects of betraying it. Yousef's father is, as we mention, in an Israeli prison, he has somewhat clearly protected in an Israeli prison. We're told that most of his extended family still lives in the West bank. And I asked about possible retaliation and this literally agent said, he would try to ask Mosab Hassan Yousef about that and try to get his take on whether his fearful enough. We haven't heard back from the agent yet. So, we're not very clear if Mr. Yousef really does fear for his family's retaliation against this family or not but it's clearly got to be a concern.

BLITZER: We'll stay on top of it. Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report.

Lobbyists and health care reform, Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.


BLITZER: Jack's back with the Cafferty file, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Question this hour is what are the chances of health care reform when there are eight lobbyists for every single member of Congress? Health care lobbyist? E. Maryland writes, "I say, Democrats should shove health care down the Republicans' throats and keep moving. We've wasted enough time trying to pacify the Republicans who have no intention working with the president."

Leroy in Jersey City, "You got to admit, Jack, these guys are good, facing a public option that would create competition and provide coverage for the uninsured. They morphed the bill into a mandate making it illegal for the uninsured not to buy public insurance. I'd say, they got their $45 million worth."

Ken writes, "As the members of Congress were addressing their Health Care Summit today, the box to the left of them should have depicted campaign contributions they got from medical insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, the AMA, and other special interest groups. Then the American people could have seen who these politicians really work for."

Bob in Houston writes, "You have a better chance of breaking Vegas than reforming our health care system."

Kathy writes, "Health care will never be passed in a response good way. Because the minute we elect our voice, they start campaigning. These people don't care about doing the right thing. They care about perception."

S. writes, "Jack, I'm afraid the health care reform bill has about same chance as a snowball in hell. I don't think Congress really understands the plight of the average working family in regards to health care costs, premiums going up, coverage going down. High prescription and medical care costs. Congress doesn't have a clue or they care more about the health insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies".

And Pam in Pennsylvania sums it up. "Money talks, politicians listen."

You want to read more on this, you'll find it at my blog at

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thanks very much.

The trainer killed by an orca at SeaWorld knew the risk, she talk about her work. You're going to hear her in her own words. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Let's see what Campbell has coming up at the top of the hour. What are you working on Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Wolf. We're going to obviously have plenty to say about President Obama's health care reform summit. We'll ask Paul Ryan, one of the prominent republicans who was at the meeting today, if there really is any room left for compromise.

Also, Wolf, our special investigation into broken government. Looks at some of the strangest shapes you have ever seen. They look like snakes or barbells and strange creatures with long tails. And they're actually congressional districts and they are just one way, our leaders water down the power of the people. We will explain that tonight at the top of the hour, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much Campbell. See you in a few moments. Officials at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, say the orca who killed a longtime trainer yesterday will not be isolated and the trainers will continue to work with the animal. The medical examiner's office says, 40-year-old Dawn Brancheau likely died from multiple traumatic injuries and drowning after the killer whale grabbed her by her ponytail and dragged her under water. Brancheau was among the park's most experienced trainers. She talked about her work to CNN affiliate WESH ten years ago.


DAWN BRANCHEAU, WHALE TRAINER: We really do go to a lot of physical exertion. You can see in the show, you do a lot deep water work, breath holds. I'm very high-energy behaviors with the animals. They're giving out a lot of energy, too. But we're working together having and having a lot of fun as well.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we videotaped your performance yesterday. And if we can, I'd like to take a look at some of that footage and you can talk to us a little bit about that. What are you doing here?

BRANCHEAU: That's actually a sit down. I'm sitting on the nose after a killer whale. She's blasting me up throughout the water. And those are some porpoise behaviors. As you can see, we're doing deep behaviors in the water with the animals, kind of a expectorating the power and -- the killer whale.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watched the whale yesterday push you down towards the bottom of the pool. How many feet did you go?

BRANCHEU: Actually 36 feet is how deep the pool is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you are not wearing scuba gear or anything?

BRANCHEU: No. You get used to it. Your body will -- some deep water and how deep you go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. And you also, have to know a lot about animal behaviors as well. I mean, you're not just out there as a performer. You really work with these whales.

BRANCHEU: Sure, we do. We interact with them day in and day out teaching them some very basic things as well as more complex behaviors that you see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Now, when we talk a little bit more about your personal physical fitness. It's very grueling to be out there. The water is very cold. And yesterday you gave me a taste of the fitness test that some of your job applicants go through. Let's talk about that.

BRANCHEU: Sure. Well, you had me do a deep swim, swims 24 feet to the bottom of the pool. There's also a breath hold portion swimming across the pool. You got to taste of the cold water which took your breath away. We actually have a trainer for a day program that let applicants interested in a job get a sample of the water which can be very overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is you -- we went to the workout room with you. You were on the stair master actually watching one of the killer whales swim by and now you're doing some swats with your trainer. That's how you stay fit. And it's really important, isn't it, because this water's cold and you're under there for a long time?

BRANCHEU: Right. You want to basically prevent any injury as well as staying in really great physical fitness so you can be real strong out there in the water with the animals.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Well, I know that you were nice enough to take me in the water yesterday just so I could get a feel for it. And it really took my breath away when I dove in.

BRANCHEU: Yes, and it really does surprise people. And that's why, it's a great opportunity for people to come do our programs to get a sample of the water and what it's like to be a trainer as well as an applicant who comes to do as --.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Touch me a little bit to about the other thing you did for -- you told me you've done marathons?

BRANCHEU: Yes, I've been participating in two marathons. And I kind of do seasonal athletics whether I'm running or I'm cycling or into weight lifting. So, just kind of depends. Everything to keep you in really good shape for what we're doing out there.


BLITZER: Brancheau's sister says that the trainer loved the whales as she like her children and wouldn't want anything done to the one who killed her.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. Up next, Campbell Brown.