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THE SITUATION ROOM
Pope's Unprecedented Apology; Final Health Care Push
Aired March 19, 2010 - 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: an extraordinary letter of apology from the pope. We're taking you to Rome, where the Vatican comes under siege as a sex abuse scandal spreads through the Catholic Church.
As the president makes a final push for passage of health care reform, a top Republican says Democrats are crazy if they think the matter will end with Sunday's House vote. I will speak with that senator, Senator Orrin Hatch.
And a cyber-attack on America, there's growing concern about this country's readiness, and there's confusion about how the U.S. should respond.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Two months after a devastating earthquake, torrential rains have now flooded the camps where Haiti's homeless are living, as the misery grows and grows for hundreds of thousands of people.
Let's go live to CNN's Sara Sidner in. She's in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with more.
Things couldn't get worse. They're getting pretty bad right now, Sara. Tell us what's going on.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. It rained and rained and rained all night long, very, very hard rain, and then a bit today. And it's what everyone has been worried about, just a taste of what is to come in mid-April, when the rainy season begins.
There are about 40,000 people who live in this particular camp. It's the largest one in Port-au-Prince, the largest makeshift tent city, and people are very, very scared about what is to come. But they are already dealing with major problems in the camp. It is just a swamp, sticky, nasty mud.
SIDNER: It's really easy to see some problems that people are having. I can barely walk down this slope without slipping. And there's so much mud, you get stuck in it. We just spoke to one of the families here. Jean Pierre (ph), his entire family was unable to sleep last night, like many people in this camp, because the water was starting to rise in their tents. So, they had to sit on the pallet just above the water to keep dry. All of their stuff was ruined. They have no idea how they are going to deal with this.
But he's just taking things out and trying to make basically a better place for them to live. It's extremely difficult in these conditions.
It's incredibly muddy, incredibly slippery, and remember that these people have nowhere else to go. And it started raining again. And this nice gentleman, Matso (ph), helped me come down this steep hill. But people still have to operate here. People are carrying water.
They're trying to resume their lives after their lives have already been toppled by an earthquake. And now the rains have come. And this is what everyone has been dreading. And this is just a small bit of the rain that normally happens here.
Normally, there is a deluge, and it goes on for days and days and days. Those rains are expected to come in mid-April, but they have already shown up. Whew. And it is it is extremely dangerous. Even my photographer's having a difficult time just walking through these camps.
SIDNER: And what we should mention to you also is that, you know, we talked about people trying to go about and do their business. But people are actually rebuilding these makeshift tents, because the rains were so heavy last night that some of them caved in. And, imagine, you have lost your house once, and now little that you have, the little tarp that you have, has caved in and all your things ruined again -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's really heartbreaking, when you think about what those people have endured, Sara.
But what about the problem of disease, with all the rain that's coming down now? How significant, how worried should we be about that?
SIDNER: Well, a lot of the international aid organizations say we should be very worried about that, because there are some 150,000 people who these organizations believe are in very, very dangerous conditions.
They are in the flood zone, so to speak. And being in that flood zone, the water just sort of stays there and can just sit, and, you know that many diseases can -- waterborne diseases can appear. All sorts of thing can happen to the population. So, it is a very serious situation, although luckily the rain has stopped for now.
But when the rainy season really is here and really hits Haiti, there's a lot of concern that those people need to get up and get out of where they are, and right now that's a very difficult task. We heard from the U.N., who said they may not be able to get everyone moved until May./ That's halfway through the rainy season.
BLITZER: Yes, our heart goes out to those people.
Sara, we will stay in close with you. Thank you very much. Good luck to all the folks in Haiti.
Meanwhile, an unprecedented letter of apology from the pope. Hours from now, Ireland's Catholics will get an extraordinary message from Pope Benedict XVI, addressing decades of chronic child abuse by priests and cover-ups by church leaders.
The pope himself has been in the spotlight, as scandal spread from country to country.
CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson breaks it all down for us from Rome.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): The questions at the center of the crisis are, what did Pope Benedict know, and when did he know about it, and what did he do about it?
COLM O'GORMAN, VICTIMS RIGHTS ACTIVIST: So what we're seeing is a global phenomenon in a global church, a global system at work with the Vatican at its center.
ROBERTSON: They are questions that began two decades ago when the pope was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. For 23 years, he was the Vatican's chief investigator into allegations of abuse by priests.
O'GORMAN: In 2001, he wrote to every bishop in the world, telling them in the letter that every case of a priest who abused a child was to be referred to his department at the Vatican.
ROBERTSON: Vatican officials are defending the pope, praising his investigative work after he took control of abuse cases.
(on camera): According to one of the Vatican's top prosecutors, who's also a priest, Cardinal Ratzinger showed great wisdom and firmness in dealing with these cases and, he said, he showed great courage dealing with the most difficult and thorniest of them. And therefore, he said, to accuse the pope of a cover-up is false.
(voice-over): But the pressure just keeps mounting. Newly released details of abuse in Germany are raising questions about the pontiff's judgment, even before he came to Rome, overseeing cases of abuse.
(on camera): In 1980, when the pope was still a bishop in Germany, he oversaw the case of a priest involved in child abuse. The pope moved the priest from one diocese to another -- his own -- so that the priest could get therapy. Several years later, the priest was convicted of child abuse.
The pope's critics say he should have paid more attention at the time and taken child abuse more seriously.
(voice-over): In Germany over the past few months, several hundred allegations of abuse have been made. New cases are surfacing in Holland, Spain, Switzerland and Brazil, but nowhere is the pressure on the pope and the church greater than in Ireland.
Pressure is growing on the leader of the Irish church, Cardinal Sean Brady, to step down, following revelations he knew of abuse in the 1970s. He kept it from police and had the victims sign an oath of secrecy. The priest involved, Father Brendan Smyth, the Irish church's most prolific pedophile, continued to abuse children for another two decades.
(on camera): Cardinal Brady says he'll only resign if the pope tells him. Officials here at the Vatican have responded, saying that, in the coming days, the pope will send a letter to the Irish people.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Vatican City.
BLITZER: Democrats are scrambling right now to try to round up the final votes for Sunday's health care showdown in the House of Representatives, but one leading Senate Republican says -- and I'm quoting him now -- "They're nuts." That's what he says -- "They're nuts" -- if Democrats think that will be the end of it.
Utah's Orrin Hatch joins us here in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour.
Also, deep disappointment in Indonesia. President Obama is postponing his trip to his childhood home because of the health care vote. We're going there. We're going to Jakarta.
And the very real threat of a cyber-attack on the United States. Who would lead the response? I will ask CNN's national security contributor, Fran Townsend.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: To borrow a cliche from the world of sports, do-or-die time when it comes to the president's signature issue of health care reform.
After more than a year of debate, the showdown now set for Sunday, when the House is expected to vote. In the meantime, it's not clear if the Democrats have the votes to pass this thing. President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are meeting one by one with lawmakers who are on the fence, the undecideds, trying to turn no- votes into yes-votes, political arm-twisting at its finest. But it's not all good news for the Democratic leadership, because some caucus members are showing signs of defecting, including those who aren't satisfied with the language on the subject of abortion.
Meanwhile, the stakes couldn't be much higher for President Obama. The future of health care reform could play a defining role in the future of his presidency, which is probably why he's postponed his trip to Indonesia and Australia until June.
But some are criticizing the president's decision to cancel the trip for now and stay in Washington for the health care vote. Anyway, here's the question. What will it take to tip the health care vote one way or the other on Sunday?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Just to our viewers, Jack, I will be anchoring our coverage starting at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. We will be here leading up to the debate and the final vote. We will have live coverage all afternoon Sunday as this event unfolds.
As both sides scramble for support, President Obama today made a final, almost desperate appeal for health care reform. Two days before that House vote, the president is accusing opponents of spreading distortions about the health care bill.
Over at George Mason University in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, he led a campaign-style rally. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me say this, George Mason: I don't know how this plays politically. Nobody really does. I mean, there's been so much misinformation and so much confusion and the climate at times during the course of this year has been so toxic and people are so anxious because the economy has been going through such a tough time. I don't know what's going to happen with the politics on this thing. I don't know whether my poll numbers go down, they go up. I don't know what happens in terms of Democrats versus Republicans.
But here's what I do know. I do know that this bill, this legislation, is going to be enormously important for America's future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's discuss with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, you have been doing some reporting. Take us behind the scenes. Tell us what's going on right now on the Hill.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are lots of debates going on right now simultaneously.
First of all, Wolf, there are questions about substance on this bill. There are members who are worried about Medicare provisions, members who are worried about abortion provisions in this. But this is a moment when the politics really comes to the fore.
And what you have got is the House speaker, members visiting her and saying, look, this is very dangerous for me politically. I'm not sure that I can be with you on this, but I also don't want to be the vote to kill health care reform, if I'm a Democrat.
So, she's trying to figure out, now, who she can give a bye to, if she can get enough votes, if she can get those 216, which Democrats she can say, OK, we don't need your vote. So, she's looking at, who are the Democrats that were elected marginally in Republican districts? Who are the Democrats that are likely to get reelected, you know, and who are the ones that are retiring? Because, if you're retiring, you can maybe hand us your vote here.
So, if you look at -- I saw John King talking about this earlier -- if you look at John Boccieri, he actually came out, switched his vote, said he's going to support her. And he is somebody who is one of those tough districts who could have very easily gone to her and said, look, I need a bye on this. But he decided not to. He decided to vote for her.
Democrats are hoping that's going to give them some momentum, because, usually, when a couple people come out, it's easier to get a couple more.
BLITZER: Will all of this be the centerpiece of the fall campaign?
BORGER: I think so. I think the Republicans are banking on it. You had John Boehner coming out today, the leader of the Republicans in the House, saying, we will be talking about this for months and months to come.
You have the Democrats saying to their members, they may be right. We're going to be talking about health care reform, but you're going to be talking about it in a positive way, because, within six months, people are going to begin to understand that they can keep their 21- to 26-year-olds on their insurance policy. They're going to understand there are immediately no preexisting conditions for children. Seniors are going to get better drug benefits.
And so they're banking on the fact that people will say, gee, it may be better than I thought. We don't know what the debate's going to be, but you can guarantee, Wolf, that this is going to be front and center.
BLITZER: And there's a lot of nervous members in the House of Representatives right now as we speak. We will watch it unfold on Sunday.
BLITZER: Thanks, Gloria, very much. In order to make a last-minute push for health care reform, President Obama made a last-minute decision to postpone that trip to Indonesia, where he spent part of his childhood.
The press plane was already in the air when the president made that decision. And CNN's White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux, went on to Indonesia.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's the presidential visit that wasn't. OK. We're here a little bit early, but here in Jakarta, it was supposed to be the homecoming to beat all homecomings.
Barack Obama spent four years of his childhood here. This is the Besuki School where he went to the third and fourth grade. He was simply known as Barry Soetoro back then, but eventually Indonesia would claimed the U.S. president as one of their own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a little sad.
MALVEAUX: A little sad, why?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he's a gentleman.
MALVEAUX: He's a gentleman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): Signs welcomed Mr. Obama's arrival. Schoolchildren have been preparing special songs in a state dinner at the presidential palace is now on ice. President Obama called Indonesia's leader to deliver the bad news and promised he'd visit in June.
Mr. Obama choosing to stay in the U.S. to make a final push for health care reform, his top domestic priority.
In the White House Rose Garden his press secretary Robert Gibbs shocked the U.S. press corps with the last-minute switcheroo.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president greatly regrets the delay.
MALVEAUX: At least they were still in Washington. We, however, got the news after landing in Singapore. After an 18-hour flight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Suzanne, what did you learn about this trip? The postponement, obviously a very significant development. The president was supposed to be going to Indonesia and Australia.
MALVEAUX: Well, Wolf, I have to say, I must admit I thought it was an early April Fool's joke when we landed here in Singapore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The Robert Gibbs of Indonesia, their press secretary, Dino Patti Djalal put his own spin on it.
DINO PATTI DJALAL, PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESMAN: We're not taking this personally.
MALVEAUX (on camera): Despite the disappointment some Indonesians are looking on the bright side of a June visit. After the health care reform debate is over, President Obama will be a little focused on U. S. -Indonesian relations and perhaps the first lady and daughters Sasha and Malia will able to join him in Indonesia during their summer break.
Suzanne Malveaux, CNN, Jakarta.
BLITZER: And Suzanne will have another opportunity to go back to Jakarta in June, when the president is next scheduled to go there.
It all comes down to this Sunday's high-stakes debate on health care reform -- or does it? Republican Senator Orrin Hatch says Democrat are nuts, his word, nuts, if they think that's it. He's here to explain why.
Plus, a sexual abuse lawsuit and now questions about secret files. It's not the Catholic Church. It's the Boy Scouts. We're learning new details.
BLITZER: There's another way, by the way, for you to follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets. I'm at @WolfBlitzerCNN, all one word, if you're interested in Twitter.
A top Republican says Democrat are nuts if they think Sunday's House vote will end the fight over health care reform. I will speak with that senator, Orrin Hatch. He's standing by.
And an explosive court case reveals accusations of sex abuse and a culture of cover-up within the Boy Scouts.
And how great is the cyber-threat to America? What if -- what if this country is attacked? There are growing concerns about U.S. readiness. We will have a full report.
BLITZER: A cyber-attack against the United States of America, there's growing concern right now about readiness in this country. And there's confusion about how the U.S. can respond.
Joining me now, our CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security adviser to President Bush, worked in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration as well.
Fran, I know there's a lot of concern right now that the U.S. is very, very vulnerable. Here's the question: How vulnerable are we?
FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, the real problem here is, is there are authorities, both in the military community and in the intelligence community, but we haven't looked for where the gaps are. It's not clear in a crisis when there's an attack what standards by which will we judge that there's an act -- it's been an act of war. Who will have responsibility to respond, and who will be in charge in such a crisis?
BLITZER: Well, who is in charge? Would it be the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA, the NSC? Who would be in charge?
TOWNSEND: Well, when the administration, and the prior administration, to be fair, talked about this, we have talked about it in suggesting the Department of Homeland Security will be involved. But...
BLITZER: In charge or involved?
TOWNSEND: Well, in charge.
The problem is the capability that really exists in the government is either in the intelligence community, that is, the CIA, or the capability's in the military, either with the National Security Agency in Fort Meade or with the military commanders in the field, like in CENTCOM.
The problem is, how do you make sure that you de-conflict them? How do you make sure they know who's in charge? And, as we have seen today, on the front page of "The Washington Post," there was a whole discussion of this issue. And it hasn't been resolved.
The problem is, this is -- probably requires action both on the part of the executive branch, the administration, and Congress, who will have to create authorities. We saw in the simulation, Cyber Shockwave, that you were at, Wolf, that Jamie Gorelick said, we don't really have laws in place to deal with this.
BLITZER: She was playing the attorney general in that war game, Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general.
TOWNSEND: Exactly right.
And so what happens, Wolf, is, if there aren't the requisite legal authorities, in a crisis, the government will act to the best of its ability. The problem is people after the crisis is over are not always happy. Remember the terrorist surveillance program. BLITZER: It looks like to me, just based on what I have heard about it, the reporting that I have done on it, is, until there's a real crisis, it's not a high priority, that they sort of just push this to the side.
But they should be dealing with all these issues right now.
TOWNSEND: That's exactly right, Wolf.
And my understanding, you talk to sources in the administration, the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department has been trying to work through the legal issues. They then will draft a legal opinion. They will circulate it among the lawyers across the federal government, like in the Department of Defense.
But my understanding is, they're having trouble coming to closure, and what you worry about is the worst time to make these decisions is in the midst of a crisis, when the government really needs to act to protect us.
BLITZER: Let's hope they act now and get this game plan organized. Fran, thanks for coming in.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story right now. House Democrats scrambling big time to line up the votes for Sunday's vote on health care reform, but one leading senate Republican is warning that even if -- even if the sweeping health care reform bill passes the House on Sunday, the fight is by no means over. Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah says democrats are quote, "nuts, nuts," if they think there's only going to be one vote. Senator Hatch is joining us from Capitol Hill. Senator, always good to speak with you. Thanks for coming in.
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: Nice to be with you, Wolf. It's always good to be with you.
BLITZER: Explain what you mean when the House Democrats will be nuts if they think that the senate is simply going to roll over. What are you planning on doing?
HATCH: First of all, you know, they take some of their money right out of social security. That's an absolute no-no under the -- under the budget rules, and it's an absolute no-no under reconciliation rules, and secondly --
BLITZER: To pay for health care reform is going to come from the social security trust fund, is that what you're saying?
HATCH: That's exactly right. And as you and I both know, there's no trust fund, that means they are just going to take money that would go to the social security trust fund, if there was one and --
BLITZER: All right. So, let's walk through. Let's be precise and clear with our viewers. Let's assume -- it's still a big assumption. Let's assume Sunday afternoon sometime, the House of Representatives passes the senate version of the bill that you guys passed -- you didn't vote for it -- that senate Democrats voted for it, on Christmas eve, and they attach all these amendments, all these fixes as they call it, and they pass that as well. You've already passed in the senate, the senate version, but now you have to pass the sidecar as they call it, the fixes. What will happen beginning on Monday?
First of all, they actually are going to use the scheme-and-deem approach so that they don't have to actually vote on the senate bill, which will be the final bill, and you know, that's just not what should be done, because that would be unconstitutional --
BLITZER: This has been done many times before, including Republicans have done that -- done that maneuver. Deem and pass as it's called.
HATCH: Yes. Wolf, it's never been tested in the Supreme Court, and I have to tell you that it will be tested.
BLITZER: But it's been tested other -- at lower levels of the federal judicial system, and they've always said, you know, whatever the Congress, the House of Representatives has their rules, the senate has their rules, they don't want to get involved.
HATCH: This goes beyond those rules, because you actually have to pass in both houses the exact same bill and that won't happen here. It won't be the same language. You know -- you know, what they don't tell you is that not only -- they're not going to -- they're not covering the doctor fix in this, and it's $371 billion more that they're going to have to add to this.
BLITZER: Let's listen to Jeffrey Toobin, our senior legal analyst, he's an authority on this.
HATCH: I heard Jeffrey this morning.
BLITZER: Yes. Listen to what he told Rick Sanchez just a little while ago. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Once a bill comes to the President with the signature of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, in this case, and the signature of the President of the Senate, who is Joseph Biden, the vice president of the United States, we are not going to look at how that process was done. We are not going to walk -- look in to how the sausage was made. As far as we are concerned, the Supreme Court says, that's a law, the House and Senate approved it, and the game over. So, I don't think deem and pass has any shot of being declared unconstitutional, starting, of course, with the fact that it's been done many times before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You disagree with Jeffrey on that?
HATCH: Jeffrey is a very bright guy, but Jeffrey is not a member of the Supreme Court, and I have to tell you that it's explicit in the constitution that the identical bill has to be passed by both houses, and in this case, it will not be done. Now, who knows what the Supreme Court will do, but if they follow the constitution, this will be declared unconstitutional. Secondly --
BLITZER: So, what are you going to do, Senator, if it does pass the House and it comes to the senate? What do you do, then, practically speaking?
HATCH: I think litigation will automatically begin almost immediately, and that, of course, is going to be very interesting to see what happens there. We're not there yet. All I can say is they're at least one or two votes away, and this is the "let's make a deal" time. You can't believe the deals that are being made over there, even using school funds, you know, loan funds of young people -- they're using -- even taking the money out of that budget, and a special deal with North Dakota, the only state in the union. The only bank in the union's going to have government subsidies of student loans. Everything else will be done by the government itself. There are so many phony deals in this thing that I think the American people are going to be outraged. I think --
BLITZER: So will the Republicans in the senate, Senator Hatch, start attaching amendments to this legislation once it comes back to the senate?
HATCH: Yes, there's no doubt about it. That there will be a whole raft of amendments that Democrats and Republicans are going to have to stand up and vote on. And they're going to be very difficult amendments. I was walking through the Dirksen Building today, and I came across a number of people who work in the Dirksen Building saying, Senator, don't let that pass. Please, defeat that bill. We can't afford it. That's the one thing that comes across for almost everybody.
Even, you know, people you don't even know walk up to me and say, we can't afford it. And that's true. We can't afford it. They're actually going to bankrupt this country if they keep going this way. The President's own budget says that they're going to have trillion dollar deficits all the way to 2020. We can't afford it. And this bill is just unbelievably expensive.
BLITZER: So, you don't buy the Congressional Budget Office assessment that there will be, when you add it all up, there will be a deficit after the first ten years and then a much greater deficit after the first 20 years? You don't think the CBO is right?
HATCH: The CBO has come out and said there will be some surplus, but the CBO's never been right, and the reason they're not right is the CBO has to determine this based upon the documents that the democrats have given them. They have played all kinds of gimmicky rules, everything from the -- from the Nebraska thing to the Louisiana to Massachusetts to the bank deal in North Dakota, which even the senator from North Dakota, Senator Conrad, the president -- the Chairman of the Budget Committee, says he doesn't want, you can just --
BLITZER: Let me just kind of pin you down on this, because some of your colleagues have told me, Republican colleagues, that they're going to do whatever it takes to try to kill this legislation in the senate by going and attaching amendment after amendment. Is there a time limit, though? How long can you just go through that process before debate ends and you got to do an up-or-down vote?
HATCH: You need to know that under reconciliation, even though this bill affects one-sixth of the American economy, there are only 20 hours of debate. Now, I might add that the Democrats will look like -- it looks like they're going to waive their ten hours, so we'll only have ten hours, and we'll have to use that basically to make our case against the bill. But immediately after that, what happens is what's called the vote-a-rama, there will be dozens of amendments that will be brought up and there'll be tough amendments, but they should vote on.
Now, if it goes on too long and the amendments are not germane, then I can see the parliamentarian saying that it's dilatory. But these amendments are very important. Since there's one-sixth of the American economy and only ten hours of debate, I think any -- any parliamentarian would have a very difficult time cutting off the amendments until a significant number of amendments that are germane are called up, voted upon, so the American people can see what they're doing to them.
BLITZER: So what I hear you saying it could be a while before--
HATCH: It could be a while.
BLITZER: Before all of this becomes the law of the land, despite the vote on Sunday. Senator Hatch, always good to have you here in The Situation Room.
HATCH: Nice to be with you.
BLITZER: Orrin hatch, key member on the Republican side.
the boy scouts, now accused of covering up on some ongoing sexual abuse, keeping secret files and more. We're learning details of a disturbing lawsuit.
BLITZER: Allegations of ongoing sexual abuse and a cover-up. We're not talking about the Catholic Church right now. We're talking about the boy scouts. CNN's Brian Todd is here. He's got details of an explosive lawsuit. What are you finding out, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, an attorney in this trial is not only charging the boy scouts with mishandling the case of one abuser who is in its ranks, but he says the organization kept a secret file on several other cases and covered it up for decades. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
TODD (voice-over): As it marks a century of molding the character and morality of young men, this is another image the Boy Scouts of America must deal with, a convicted sex offender's deposition in open court and charges that the scouts' organization engaged in a culture of cover-up. How the scouts handled the case of former scout leader Timmer Dikes (ph) is at the center of an explosive lawsuit in Portland, Oregon. Attorney Kelly Clark represents six men who are suing the boy scouts, alleging the organization knew that when they were young boys in the 1980s, at least one of them had been abused by Dikes.
They also alleged that although Dikes was removed as a scout leader, he was allowed to stay on as a volunteer, and they claim the abuse continued.
KELLY CLARK, PLAINTIFF' ATTORNEY: When they knew this, the evidence will be, was in January,1983, before (EXPLETIVE WORD) the --
TODD: The accusers' lawyers provided CNN with a copy of the complaint and their opening statement. We couldn't get similar documents from the defense, but in court, the scouts' lawyers say the organization didn't know about Dikes' prior record and an outstanding warrant until he was pulled over during a routine traffic stop.
PAUL XOCHIHUA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: That bench warrant wasn't known. Nobody followed up on it, until after Mr. Dikes was pulled over in Tillamook with several boys.
TODD: The scouts' lawyers claim the organization acted immediately and cooperated with police, but Clark, the lawyer for the accusers, has a broader allegation. He produced documents that he says were part of an archive of secret boy scouts files chronicling the abuse of young boys for decades. Contacted by CNN, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America didn't respond specifically to that allegation. He said the organization does have confidential files. He said that's to protect information about people who are ineligible to be scout leaders but who may not have done anything illegal.
I spoke about that with Patrick Boyle, author of a book about asexual abuse in the boy scouts, who says he's also seen some of these files.
TODD: What about the boy scouts' argument that, look, these files contain confidential information that could damage people who are not involved in these cases?
Patrick Boyle, author, "Scout's Honor": Sure, they absolutely do which is one reason the first time these files were ever made public back in 1985 in a lawsuit. The scouts blacked out the names of every victim and every molester. And then they turned the files over. So, there is a way to make these files public.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (on-camera): Now, the attorney for those accusers says over the next several weeks, he'll keep making the documents public, and he'll prove that the organization often knew about pedophiles in its ranks, covered it up, and didn't warn parents. Now, again, the Boy Scouts of America isn't commenting on specific charges in this case, but the spokesman there told us in recent years, they've taken extensive measures to keep abusers out and protect those young men -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Now, the abuser in this particular case, is he out on the streets, though?
TODD: Seventeen convictions for sex crimes, yes, he is free now. We spoke to the Multnomah County Parole and Probation Office, that's in Portland, Oregon. They are monitoring him constantly, they say. They are in close contact with both him and his family to make sure that he does not go anywhere near children, but they say they don't check on him every day, and he's not wearing an ankle bracelet. Still they say, they could put one on him at any time. They say they are keeping close tabs on him, but he is out though.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, disturbing story. Thanks very much.
Did celebrity Twitter help save a life. Why the accounts of Demi Moore and another actress are getting credit right now. Stand by. You're in the Situation Room.
BLITZER: Let's go back to Jessica. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in the Situation Room right now. Jessica, what else is going on?
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, banks that are on the brink of collapse during the financial meltdown are about to be outed. The government has kept secret the names of some banks that got $2 trillion from the U.S. Federal Reserve, but today, bloomberg.com reports an appeals court has ordered the Fed to make that information public. So far, the Fed has sided with banks, saying if they released the information, it would actually be bad for the banks that got the money. A spokesman for the Fed said it's reviewing the decision and considering an appeal.
Wolf, imagine police officers pounding on your door thinking you're a criminal, by mistake. Now, imagine having to endure that more than 50 times! That's what's been happening to an elderly Brooklyn couple for the past three years. Yes, it's all because their address was used to test an automated crime computer. Now, the NYPD insists it won't happen again, and they're apologizing.
And actress Demi Moore and Nia Vardalos are being credited with helping to save a life by using the social network Twitter. Moore responded to a tweet that an 18-year-old man planned to hang himself outside of his home near Orlando. Vardalos also saw the tweet and called the suicide hotline, which then connected her to Florida authorities. When local sheriff's deputies got to the house, the teen's mother said, yes, he was very emotional and the teen admitted to the tweet and was placed in protective custody. So, Twitter is saving lives now.
BLITZER: Good for Twizzer.
YELLIN: Pretty amazing.
BLITZER: Very impressive. Thanks very much for that.
Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.
Then the accused bank robber who ate his holdup note. Yes, Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.
BLITZER: Right back to Jack for the Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is, what's it going to take to tip that health care reform vote Sunday one way or the other. Michael writes from Alabama, getting more democratic support and convincing a few Republicans to vote for health care reform. It will show some bipartisan support. Those Democrats who hold on to their "no" vote will answer for it in November.
Paul writes, courage, courage to pass it and not give in to the fear mongering and lies of the Republicans and their corporate masters.
Ethel says, it will take nothing short of Newt Gingrich bursting into the halls of Congress wrestling Harry Reid to the ground and Michael Steele tasering Nancy Pelosi for the health care reform bill not to pass on Sunday.
Pete in Georgia writes, this is easy. All of democratic congressman has to do is look in the mirror and ask himself if he wants to be the deciding factor in starting the ruin of what was once the greatest country ever devised by mankind. The bill would then die by a healthy margin.
Keith in Connecticut writes, remove the funding of abortion from the bill. Isn't that the big bone on contention for folks against it. Deal with the abortion issue later! I don't want to go without health care because someone forgot to use a condom.
Rick writes probably a constitutionality review by the Supreme Court.
Al writes from Alabama, how about the 31 million uninsured? About a choir member who can't afford the insurance payments? About a person who has high co-pays she can't get her kids shots? We need action, even if it's flawed.
Pat in Michigan says, the tipping point might be some congressman's brother getting a free condo in Costa Rica. Steve writes, I think it's a national disgrace that in this great country of ours, elves have to bake their cookies in hollowed out trees in the forest. We should all unite for universal elf care reform.
If you want to read more on this, you'll find amusings of other great minds on my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Yes, interesting, jack. Even if the House passes this version on Sunday, it's going to the senate and the Republicans have all sorts of tactics. They're ready to delay, attach amendments, try to get it back to the House. So, it's not necessarily over with on Sunday.
CAFFERTY: It's getting ugly out there.
BLITZER: Yes. It's going to be tough. And you know, if they do pass the senate version in the House, the president then will sign it. So that will be the law of the land, even if the fixes aren't necessarily enacted right enacted right away, so it's complicated.
CAFFERTY: Yes. Much too complicated for my feeble mind. Did you get the joke about national elf care reform?
BLITZER: Yes, I did. I laughed.
CAFFERTY: That's my speed.
BLITZER: Okay. Have a great weekend, Jack.
BLITZER: Thank you.
There's another way for you to follow what's going on here in the Situation Room. Remember, I'm on Twitter. You can get my tweets at wolfblizer@cnn, all one word.
It's one way to get rid of the evidence, eat it. CNN Jeanne Moos takes a Moost unusual look when we come back.
BLITZER: Story, the alleged bank robber whose paper trail led directly to his stomach. He's now charged in three Ohio holdups. CNN's Jeanne Moos has the back story.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's no picnic dining on the hood of a police car. Maybe you've seen the alleged bank robber eating what police believe was a holdup note saying, give me the money or I'll shoot. You may have seen it but the Twinsburg, Ohio police collecting for weapons didn't see it until police from the city where the bank was robbed called. VOICE OF DETECTIVE SGT. GREG FEKETIK, TWINSBURG POLICE: They contacted our department say, hey, by the way, did you guys find a note? And then that's when the officers were checking their dash cam video, and whop, there's this guy eating a white piece of paper.
MOOS: But eating the evidence is nothing new. Whatever this lady is eating in a Chinese courtroom, at least she had the sense to wash it down. The most common thing suspects eat seems to be pot, as seen on this episode of "Cops".
UNKNOWN MALE: Can I see what's in your mouth again real quick, please? Can you open your mouth? What is that? What's in that? Just spit it out. It's okay.
UNKNOWN MALE: And you ate plastic and everything.
MOOS (on-camera): And then there was this North Carolina teenager, who at least ate appetizing evidence after allegedly trying to rob a store. Police say the suspect used a banana stuck under his shirt to stimulate a gun and then the owner and the customer jumped the suspect and sat him down to hold him until police came, but before they arrived --
BARRY MABE, STORE OWNER: The boy pulls the banana out and peels and eats it. So, he had to eat the evidence.
MOOS: But not all of it. He couldn't eat the peel. So police photographed it as evidence.
Sometimes, the evidence eaten isn't the main course. Police in the bank robbery case say they still have surveillance pictures and money found in the car with an exploded dye pack and a gun. So, they don't have to like sit around and wait for the guy to pass the note.
SGT GREG FEKETIK, TWINSBURG POLICE: No, I don't think so, and I don't know if we'd get anybody to volunteer for that job.
MOOS: At least a note is low in calories, high in fiber. Jeanne Moos, CNN.
Maybe he didn't have any breakfast.
FEKETIK: That could be.
MOOS: New York.