Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

Oil Slick Nears U.S. Coastline; Interview With Carly Fiorina

Aired April 30, 2010 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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

Happening now, high winds and high tides are compounding the crisis off Louisiana, as that massive oil slick inches closer to shore. The gulf coast is now bracing for a disaster that some say -- some say -- it could now eclipse the "Exxon Valdez."

Also, two Americans are accused of being al Qaeda's tech support. They've just been in court, and new details are emerging about this case.

And desperate just to get into the United States, illegal immigrants resort to extreme and very dangerous measures.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A massive effort is now unfolding to protect some of America's most spectacular and sensitive coastlines from a giant oil slick, and the weather could hardly be worse.

Winds and tides are now up, along with fear that tens of thousands of gallons of oil will soon blacken shores from Louisiana to Florida, where states of emergency are now in effect. Among the latest developments, 1,900 federal workers have been dispatched to the Gulf Coast, and more than 300 ships and planes now are on the scene.

And with cleanup costs running $6 million a day, the owner of the sunken rig that sparked this disaster could be facing a bill of $3 billion or more.

Meanwhile, the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, has ordered inspections of all deepwater oil operations in the Gulf. Let's go straight to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us in Venice, Louisiana.

Brian, you're there up close. How bad is it?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's starting to get closer, Wolf, and people here are increasingly worried. We have just flown over huge sections of coastline. We have seen oil starting to creep past some of the outlying barrier islands.

And leaders in this area are scrambling to get ahead of it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): This is what it looks like when a local official is desperately trying to protect his coastline.

Billy Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish in Southern Louisiana, strides into a high school gym packed with fishermen. He is recruiting them to get out and lay protective boom along hundreds of miles of exposed shoreline.

BILLY NUNGESSER, PRESIDENT, PLAQUEMINES PARISH, LOUISIANA: One of our big concerns is right now it looks like it's east side of the river. If it makes it around that finger to the west side, we have big trouble.

TODD (on camera): How? Why is it big trouble there?

NUNGESSER: Well, because that's all of the coastal Louisiana.

TODD: This is Billy Nungesser's command center here in Plaquemines Parish, where they're coordinating a lot of the response. Right now, their main effort is to try to contain the oil coming into some of the coastal marshlands in Plaquemines Parish in this area. They are going to starting laying out booms pretty soon, but it's pretty a frantic effort. And there's a lot of coastline here to contain.

(voice-over): Nungesser admits he should have mobilized sooner. But I press him on an often-raised question.

(on camera): Was the federal government too slow to respond to this accident?

NUNGESSER: I think we should have had some people on board a lot earlier, yes.

TODD (voice-over): Mitch Jurisich, an oyster fisherman hired by Nungesser to help coordinate this effort, is more blunt.

(on camera): What's your opinion of the response, the U.S. government's response, the Coast Guard, BP, everybody?

MITCH JURISICH, OYSTER FISHERMAN: You can pretty much compare it to Katrina. It's something bigger than expected, bigger than originally thought. And people basically -- someone got caught with their pants down.

TODD (voice-over): A charge the Obama team aggressively swats back.

JANET NAPOLITANO, U.S. HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We have anticipated and planned for a worst-case scenario since day one.

TODD: But are the current efforts too late? We fly with Jurisich over the marshy coast where he makes his living. The concern on his face grows each minute.

(on camera): How much was your business slammed by Hurricane Katrina?

JURISICH: We lost roughly 40 percent of our overall crop.

TODD (voice-over): We spot slivers of oil creeping into the marshes, the first traces of landfall. Booms have been stretched out, but rough seas are breaking them apart.

(on camera): You can see a boom stretching around the Breton Island Wildlife Refuge here. Thousands of pelicans and seagulls gathered, you can see them all around. They don't seem to be in any distress. The boom seems to be leaving part of the island exposed, and this is what local officials are worried about. The boom's not going to be able to cover all of these areas.

(voice-over): As the oil creeps ominously toward this wildlife, Jurisich tries to be stoic.

JURISICH: Just as bad as you feel for yourself after a hurricane like Katrina, you watch a earthquake in Haiti and here and there, volcanoes, just -- and you realize you're not the only one that suffers these things.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Despite the potential devastation at hand, Billy Nungesser, the parish president, says he does not favor a halt to oil drilling, not even temporarily. He says this area is just too dependent on that industry right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the interior secretary, Ken Salazar, says the same thing. There's not going to be a halt to existing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico; is that right?

TODD: That's right. He said a short time ago that the oil and gas production from the Gulf Coast is going to continue and continue into the foreseeable future.

I think a lot of people around here were worried about that. They had heard talk about the Obama team maybe halting the idea of drilling in other areas of the United States, and they got a little concerned about the drilling in this area, but they say it's going to keep going, even through all of this.

BLITZER: What are they saying? Wouldn't it be prudent, you know, while this accident is being investigated, what happened, to make sure it can't happen again, to sort of put a -- put a freeze on that kind of drilling, the similar kind of -- similar kind of rig that just exploded?

TODD: It may make sense to do that, Wolf, but, you know, the need for oil production in this area is just so great, that they have to continue the drilling in at least some areas.

And one thing to remember here is that there are only maybe 20 or so drills like the one that capsized, like the one that sank last week. There aren't that many of those compared to roughly, you know, 4,000 or so oil drills, oil derricks in this whole Gulf region. So, those types of oil rigs are fairly rare in this area. BLITZER: Yes. Well, you got to be hopeful that there isn't a similar kind of problem elsewhere, that this was just one-of-a-kind accident. We will watch it, Brian. Thanks very much.

You have a chance to help impact your world. Some groups are already looking for volunteers to help with some of this cleanup from the oil spill, and it's massive. You can find a list of them on our Web site at CNN.com/Impact.

The looming disaster is national in scope, but very personal for many of those who live and work along the Gulf Coast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB ABRUSCATO, GULF COAST FISHERMAN: I never took any fish that I ever caught for granted, or I tried not to. But, boy, these last couple days, I have -- you know, just -- just have to enjoy every one of them now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to all those folks who have been impacted, and so many more are about to be impacted by this disaster.

Let's bring in our meteorologist, Chad Myers, to walk us through the situation, where it stands right now, Chad, and where it's moving.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is moving onshore, although in southern Louisiana that's a relative term. Shore and coastline, they're all basically moving every time the delta moves as well.

But what we're seeing is sheen. We're seeing a thin film of oil now into the marshland at the very mouth of the Mississippi into Louisiana.

Let me take you to a graphic and I will show you, kind of explain what's happened over the past couple of days. We have seen this oil slick down the bottom here. We have seen that now move right onto the shoreline into the delta.

And as the president said there of Plaquemines Parish, it's still on the east side. We don't want it to go on the other side around the horn here. Now, I'm going to take you right down to where Brian Todd was. That's Venice. That's right where he is. That's the town he's in, not really to the populated area yet.

Here's the problem. With the winds continuing out of the southeast, it will eventually move on up to that barrier island. That's the Breton Island area, and then by Sunday up now toward Mobile and for that matter even toward Dauphin Island, then to Pensacola.

And if you have never been to this part of the country, let me tell you, the beaches are as white as it gets. And it's as populated as it gets in many areas, and they're worried about $3 billion, with a B, dollars worth of vacation rentals going out the door, if, in fact, this oil does wash up onshore. The vacation and the resort areas could really take an entire -- now, that said, though, BP has said they will pay back anyone who can prove they have had damages because of this well problem. We will see -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, but what I hear you saying, and what we heard from Bill Nelson, the senator from Florida, he says it's going to hit Florida by Monday, but we're talking about Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida. This entire Gulf Coast could be in some serious danger.

(CROSSTALK)

MYERS: No question about it. By Tuesday and Wednesday, though, a cold front comes down and tries to push it back offshore. And then on Thursday and Friday, Wolf, it's going to try to push all that oil back into -- believe it or not, into the Lake Pontchartrain area, with a strong east-to-west breeze blowing the water in, just like Katrina did.

We're not worried about flooding. We're worried about oil getting to Lake Pontchartrain, too, another big fishery.

BLITZER: Wow. All right, Chad, thanks very much for that.

Experts say this could -- this could become the worst oil spill in U.S. history. The 1989 spill from the Exxon Valdez is widely considered to be the worst spill in terms of damage to the environment. The oil tanker spilled 11 million gallons of oil when it ran aground.

The well in the Gulf is currently spilling an estimated 200,000 gallons of oil a day. But officials say it could take three months to stop it. Do the math. The Gulf of Mexico well pulls from deposits of oil far more significant than any single tanker could hold.

Another key difference is the type of oil involved. The Exxon Valdez spilled heavy sour crude, as it's called, whereas the current spill is light sweet crude -- crude oil. Light sweet crude oil can be burned off, getting rid of the majority of the oil and leaving a waxy film that can be skimmed off.

But this is a disaster, a disaster, by anyone's definition. We will have much more on this story coming up.

Also, Americans accused of supporting al Qaeda -- two men have just appeared in court in Virginia. They're now being sent to New York. We have new information about the charges against them.

Also, desperate measures by people desperate to get into the United States. We're taking a closer look at some dangerous efforts to sneak across the border.

Plus, he has a horse in one race. He is the horse in another race, derby day and Election Day coming up in Kentucky.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Two American citizens have been arrested, accused of providing computer and other technical help to al Qaeda. They have just been in court in Virginia, and are now being sent to New York for a detention hearing.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is working this story for us.

What do we know about this case, Allan?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that the two men are both from Brooklyn. They're being charged with helping to computerize al Qaeda.

Thirty-four Sabirhan Hasanoff, a citizen of both the U.S. and Australia, and 33-year-old Wesam El-Hanafi. He was actually born in Brooklyn. The indictment says little about Hasanoff, but says El- Hanafi allegedly traveled to Yemen, met with two al Qaeda members, swore allegiance to the terror group, and then received assignments.

The indictment also says that he subscribed to a software program that allowed him to communicate securely over the Internet. Then, last year, he allegedly bought seven Casio digital watches over the Internet on behalf of al Qaeda, the kind that have been used to detonate bombs in prior attacks.

But there's no specific plot that has been revealed here. Both men are facing one count of conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, the maximum prison term, 15 years. They will be arraigned here in Manhattan before federal Judge Kimba Wood -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Allan.

Let's dig a little bit deeper with our national security contributor Fran Townsend. She was the homeland security secretary for President Bush, also worked in the White House during the Clinton administration.

You have been looking over all the information that they have publicly released. Big deal? Little deal? These guys significant or sort of bit players?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Well, hard to say, but the case is significant.

Let's remember, Wolf, first of all, you can tell from reading the indictment that their activity goes back to 2008. This is the height of the presidential campaign. McCain and Obama are at war with each other, basically, and you have got the allegations that the actors here committed -- had assignments from al Qaeda in New York in August of 2008.

What are assignments? Well, typically, that's sort of legalese for casings. Remember, in the 2004 reelection campaign, there was the threat against the financial center, and we had found that there had been very detailed casings of financial buildings.

So, it's significant that they're doing this operational activity, they're doing it in August of 2008. And where does one of the defendants in this case, accused, have sworn allegiance to al Qaeda? In Yemen, well, of course, we have heard a lot about Yemen recently. Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day attempted bomber of the Northwest Airlines flight all took direction in Yemen.

Yemen is significant here. And so you have got to believe that the federal government is looking to see, what can these two defendants tell them if they cooperate about al-Awlaki, about other members?

BLITZER: Al-Awlaki is the Muslim cleric, the American-born Muslim cleric in Yemen, who is sort of at the center of a lot of this. Is there any mention of him in this indictment?

TOWNSEND: There's not, Wolf, and that's what I find so interesting. It's not possible that they're focused on al Qaeda in Yemen and the relationship of these two men to al Qaeda in Yemen without al-Awlaki being at the center of it.

And, so, the fact that al-Awlaki is not mentioned in it is very interesting.

BLITZER: Here's what's concerning to me, especially concerning. Al-Awlaki is an American citizen. He was born in the United States. And these two other suspects now, they are American citizens as well.

TOWNSEND: Right. And the fact that al-Awlaki is an American citizen means he understands how to communicate with other Americans to inspire them, to recruit them, to pull them into the al Qaeda web.

And, so, that's always been American officials' concern about al- Awlaki's draw. And, so, it will be interesting to see. Of course, this indictment focuses on the computer support they provided -- these two guys provided to al Qaeda.

And, interestingly again, remember Nidal Hasan, the Christmas Day bomber, all these guys seemed to communicate with al-Awlaki in Yemen via computer. And so, if these guys are focused on computer security, it's understandable that the federal -- the feds were very concerned about that.

And that seems to be the current focus of the indictment. Any connection to operations is not really spelled out in the current indictment.

BLITZER: And I guess their thinking is they might be able to come up with what they believe to be secure communications lines, but guess what? The U.S. government has some other ideas about that.

TOWNSEND: Well, and it's clear they had a source in this case which led to the indictment. And interesting the way it's referred to, and we saw Commissioner Kelly at the press conference. I will bet you, based on what we know so far, that that source was very much run by the New York Police Department.

BLITZER: Fran Townsend, thanks very much.

TOWNSEND: Thank you.

BLITZER: As security tightens along the border, would-be immigrants are going to extreme lengths to sneak into the United States, some of them risking their lives in the process.

And winning the Kentucky derby would only be half the battle. This man has an even bigger race in front of him.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

BLITZER: She's beaten breast cancer and now she wants to take on Senator Barbara Boxer of California. But there's a big hurdle to clear first, the Republican primary. And a big issue in her state is immigration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLY FIORINA (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: The reality is, the federal government needs not one new piece of legislation to secure the border. President Obama ought to do his job, use his presidential powers and secure the border.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I will go one-on-one with the GOP Senate candidate, Carly Fiorina. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A tough new Arizona immigration law slowing border crossings. We're going to show you how far those who do cross are willing to go to get here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: (AUDIO GAP) new immigration law is closely watched in neighboring California, and candidates there are lining up both for and against it.

I talked about that and a lot whole lot more with Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina. She's the former chairman of Hewlett- Packard and a former economic adviser to John McCain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Did the folks in Arizona do the right thing or the wrong thing in passing that new immigration law?

FIORINA: Well, you know, the folks in Arizona are responding to their frustration and their fear.

What I think is terrible is that they are being vilified, when what we ought to be talking about is the federal government's failure to do its job. The reality is, the federal government needs not one new piece of legislation to secure the border. President Obama ought to do his job, use his presidential powers, and secure the border.

BLITZER: So...

FIORINA: And Barbara Boxer ought to do her job and demand that the federal government do its job.

BLITZER: So, did the people in Arizona do the right thing or the wrong thing?

FIORINA: The people of Arizona did what they felt they had to do. Now...

BLITZER: Do you support it? Do you support that law?

FIORINA: I support their need to protect their citizens.

But what we ought to be talking about is, the federal government needs to secure the border. This is an administration that has cut funding to secure the border.

BLITZER: Do you support comprehensive immigration reform on a federal level?

FIORINA: I support the federal government doing its job. Without...

BLITZER: Do you support comprehensive immigration law?

FIORINA: I'm going to get to your question.

Without one new piece of legislation, the federal government has the power and the responsibility to secure the border and to come up with a temporary program -- temporary-worker program that works. That's what the federal government needs to do.

Forget trying to change the subject and talk about comprehensive immigration reform. Let's do what the federal government is required to do.

BLITZER: Do you support a pathway citizenship for 12 million, 14 million, whatever number of illegal immigrants are in the United States?

FIORINA: I do not support amnesty. I support the federal government doing its job.

Secure the border. Have a temporary-worker program that works, because, in California, there are industries that depend upon truly temporary worker. And that program doesn't work.

BLITZER: So, let's just be precise. On this issue of a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform, you disagree with the positions that Lindsey Graham and John McCain took, because they were leaders in the failed effort back in 2007, when President Bush was president, to get this kind of legislation through? On this issue, you disagree with them?

FIORINA: I do. And I believe what we need to be doing is demanding that the federal government do its job, instead of changing the subject, trying to talk about legislation. We need to demand and hold the government accountable for doing its job.

BLITZER: All right.

FIORINA: Secure the border. Get a temporary-worker program that works.

BLITZER: Let's talk about drilling, offshore oil drilling.

A lot of people are shaken by what has happened in the Gulf of Mexico.

FIORINA: I know. I know.

BLITZER: How worried are you that that could happen off the coast of California, where there's plenty of offshore oil drilling right now?

FIORINA: Well, first, it is obviously a very troublesome situation.

And while I support offshore drilling if it can be done in an environmentally safe way -- and most of the time, it is -- certainly, technology has come a long way -- an accident like this shakes people to the core, no question.

I believe it should be up to the voters of each state. Interestingly, in the last five years, the voters of California have come to favor, by a majority, offshore drilling.

BLITZER: But that was before this incident.

FIORINA: That's right. And I think people will take a very hard look at what happened here and how this kind of accident should be prevented.

BLITZER: Should there be a moratorium on new offshore oil drilling off the coast of California pending this investigation?

FIORINA: I don't think so. But I do think that we ought to use the power of all the available science and industry knowledge to say, what went wrong here, and how can we make sure it never happens again?

BLITZER: But the drilling that's taking place right now, should continue, it should not be frozen or suspended, pending this investigation?

FIORINA: No. I do not believe so.

BLITZER: You have confidence. So, you're one of those, like Sarah Palin, drill, baby, drill?

FIORINA: No, I wouldn't say, drill, baby, drill.

But I would say is, I believe that the United States of America needs to take advantage of every source of domestic energy we have. We ought to take advantage of oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear, and, yes, sun and wind, and all the rest of it. But if we are serious about growing our economy and lessening our dependence on foreign oil, then offshore drilling has to be part of that equation.

And I would hope that people wouldn't use this tragedy, it's both an economic tragedy and an environmental tragedy, to politicize the notion and say, "See, see, it can't be done safely." The truth is, it is being done safely in many places.

BLITZER: As we speak today, the new numbers the first quarter of this year, positive economic growth, more than 3 percent. This is the third consecutive quarter of economic growth.

As you know, the economists always say two consecutive quarters of economic growth, the recession is over.

Does President Obama deserve credit for turning the economy around?

FIORINA: Well, you see, I don't think this is an economy that is uniformly robust. I think what you're seeing is recovery with big businesses in particular. But what you're not seeing is a recovery with small businesses. And that's extremely concerning, because it is small businesses that create most of the new jobs.

BLITZER: Better now than a year ago.

FIORINA: Oh, there's no question it's better than a year ago.

BLITZER: So, does President Obama deserve some credit for that?

FIORINA: I don't think the stimulus package had one thing to do with the economic recovery. I think what we're seeing is a typical cyclical return to growth as big companies restock their inventories.

But when I look at California, where we have destroyed jobs, where we have eight counties with unemployment above 20 percent, 25 counties with unemployment above 15 percent, unemployment rates that are increasing, not decreasing, since President Obama took office -- what I see is the test case of what happens when you have bigger government, higher taxes, and thicker regulations, you destroy jobs, and we're destroying small businesses.

BLITZER: All those people that were unemployed, the recession obviously continues --

FIORINA: That's right.

BLITZER: -- no matter what the economists are saying about economic growth. FIORINA: That's right.

BLITZER: We know you've been suffering from breast cancer. You look great. How do you feel?

FIORINA: Well, I feel great, because I have beaten breast cancer like so many other survivors. I'm one of the lucky ones, I'm very grateful.

You know, there are blessings in all tough passages and there have been blessings in this passage. I have met many, many inspiring people. My faith is stronger. My family is stronger, and honestly after chemotherapy, a political race doesn't seem that scary.

BLITZER: Good for you. We wish you only -- only -- the best. Thanks very much for coming in.

FIORINA: Thank you. Thanks.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: More signs that the U.S. economy may be bouncing back. We have more on the government's releasing some positive growth numbers for the third straight quarter. But where are the jobs? We're going to hash all of this out with CNN's John King. He's standing by.

And, later, one candidate, two big races. Can he go from the winner's circle at Churchill Downs to a primary win next month?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The federal government says the economy grew for the third straight quarter but at a much slower pace than the previous quarter. What does it all mean? The gross domestic product rose at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year. That's down from 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

Let's talk about it with John King. He's the host of "JOHN KING, USA."

You know, I guess it's still a lot better than the negative growth that occurred for so long.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING, USA": So fascinating to watch the president today, because you know inside he wants to come out and say, finally, the economy's going in the right direction. But he also knows -- he knows from political history and from his recent travels out to the Midwest that so many places have 9 percent, 10 percent, some places 12 percent unemployment. And so, those good numbers don't mean anything to the millions of Americans who are wondering how they're going to pay for dinner.

And so, the president understands the political consequence. Yes, he wants to sound upbeat, Wolf, but he can't sound too upbeat because he'll be seen out of touch to the people who are unemployed.

And, politically, we know, the economy drives politics. And if you back in history, at this point in 1994, the unemployment rate is 6.5 percent, it's worse now. GDP, 4 percent, a little better, that the president announced today.

BLITZER: GDP growth.

KING: GDP growth, plus 4 percent. And, of course, Bill Clinton lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats. So, if you match up Barack Obama now, Bill Clinton then, the Obama White House knows these numbers, while they're getting better, still spell a huge problem.

BLITZER: And I suspect, as far as voters are concerned, if the stock market goes up to 11,000, which is where it's at right now, that doesn't necessarily translate into votes even though it's reassuring that Wall Street is doing better, the economy is doing better. But, as far as 10 percent unemployment, that's not very good.

KING: It's that unemployment number which is always the lagging indicator because businesses sell their inventories before they start hiring new workers. Wall Street going up helps the president to a degree. Middle-class voters, upper middle-class voters, people with 401(k)s, they start to see those numbers come back, that helps their psychology.

But somebody who's unemployed, living in place where housing values have dropped to the floor, where foreclosures are still up, where a lot of these big congressional races are this year, where manufacturing jobs are still hard to find, telling them that the GDP is growing means nothing to them, because they look around the community and they say, "Maybe you think that way in Washington, where is it here?

BLITZER: So, if this turns out to be what they call a "jobless recovery," the Republicans will score major victories come November.

KING: The House Republican Leader John Boehner said today, he thinks there are 100 seats in play. Usually, there are 45, maybe up to 70 seats in play. Now, many think that's a bit of a big number that he's being overly optimistic or he's trying to get Republican donors to send in some money. But there are a lot more seats in play in part because of the economy and the psychology of the economy.

Even as those numbers get better, Wolf, there was a Pew Survey out yesterday, 88 percent of Americans rate the economy as fair or poor. So, despite Wall Street having a great first quarter, despite the president being able to say today the economy is finally growing again, most Americans just don't feel it or they don't trust it yet. And if they continue to be that down on the economy, you can bet Democrats will get hammered.

BLITZER: John is going to have a lot more coming up at the top of the hour, "JOHN KING, USA."

KING: Thank you. BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Arizona takes off the gloves with its new immigration law, and border crossings from Mexico diminish -- at least for now. But there are still those who would do anything to get into the United States -- anything. Their measures are becoming creative and extreme.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is prompting some dramatic reaction from the Pentagon.

Let's go to Lisa Sylvester.

You're getting word that the defense secretary is moving.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, indeed. In fact, we have just gotten word that Defense Secretary Gates has, in fact, approved Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's request to mobilize 6,000 National Guard troops under -- he does have this authority.

What this essentially means is that for the next 90 days, the DOD will be picking up the expenses for that oil spill cleanup. Gates -- the reasoning was -- he said that President Obama has declared that this is an event of national significance, that it's impacting a number of states, and so that it does meet this federal requirement.

But Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in a quote, he said, "This will be at our expense, but we do expect to be reimbursed." Ultimately, it will be BP who will have to pick up the tab.

In other news, a jury in Knoxville has convicted a former University of Tennessee student of two counts connected to the 2008 hacking of Sarah Palin's e-mail account. 22-year-old David Kernell was found guilty of obstruction of justice and unauthorized to access to a computer. He was acquitted of wire fraud. The jury failed to reach a verdict on an identity theft charge. Prosecutors claimed Kernell was trying to damage Palin's vice presidential campaign and he could face 20 years in prison.

The man who found and sold a prototype of an apple iPhone reportedly says he regrets not trying harder to return it to its owner. In a statement released to "Wired" magazine, 21-year-old Brian Hogan of Redwood, California, says he believes he was paid for letting tech site Gizmodo.com review the phone exclusively and believe there was nothing wrong with sharing it with the press. Investigators say they are considering the possibility of criminal charges.

Bret Michaels' sister says his brother isn't out of the woods yet, but he is getting better every day. The rock singer turned reality star has been in intensive care since last Friday for a brain hemorrhage. Michaels' sister told an Omaha, Nebraska-based radio show that she talked to him and that he, quote, "sounds like Bret." Michaels was lead singer for the '80s rock band Poison and he recently appeared on "Celebrity Apprentice" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

Arizona's controversial new immigration law is putting a spotlight on people who sneak into the United States from Mexico. Tighter security has cut the number of illegal crossings, but it's also forcing some would-be immigrants to take very extreme measures.

CNN's Ted Rowland has details -- Ted.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're in Tijuana, Mexico, right along the U.S./Mexican border, and this gate over here is where they bring people that have been caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally. The other side, you see the U.S. border patrol, on this side, you see the Mexican Federales. These gentlemen are being brought from the U.S. back to Mexico.

Bottom line is: it is a lot more difficult to get across the U.S./Mexican border into the U.S. illegally than it used to be.

(voice-over): After spending a few hours in the U.S. illegally, 21-year-old Roberto Hernandez is back in Mexico. He says he was caught with a group of others in the hills east of San Diego by Border Patrol agents.

Every day, there's a steady flow of people coming through this gate back to Mexico. Antonio Romero says after nine years of living in California, he's going to live in Mexico City because, while it used to be much easier to get across illegally, now, he says it's too difficult.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe later. Not for now. Maybe next year.

ROWLANDS: Roberto Hernandez says he paid smugglers about $2,000 to get him across. It took him a year to save the money. He says he doesn't plan on trying to cross again.

Sammy Anderson has been with the Border Patrol for 21 years. He says dollars spent on fences, cameras, and more agents is paying off. People can't just climb over or crawl under the fence or make a run for it over the border crossings like they used to in the past.

SAMMY ANDERSON, BORDER PATROL: The days of running around and catching what you can are gone.

ROWLANDS: But people are still trying to get across every day, and some have come up with some creative and sometimes dangerous ways to do it.

(SPEAKING SPANISH)

ROWLANDS: Hiding inside vehicles is one way, huddled in the trunk or in hidden compartments. Some of the spots people have crammed into are hard to believe: laying in dashboards, sewn into car seats, even under the hood. Last month a detector dog alerted agents to this Mercedes side panel. Police say a woman was found inside passed out with a four- inch burn on her leg. Last summer, the auto X-ray discovered a man and his 15-year-old boy inside this makeshift gas tank compartment, both suffering chemical burns.

Over the years, people have been caught inside rolls of carpet, in hollowed-out washing machines. This little girl was even stuffed inside a pinata.

(on camera): Social workers here in Mexico say most of the people that do take those drastic steps that risk their lives do so because they're desperate to get back to the U.S., because they have family there -- Wolf.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: What a story. Good work. Thanks very much for that. Amazing.

New skirmishes in the battle over abortion. The hot-button issue is getting hotter as states are considering some new restrictions.

Plus, what this candidate and his horse have in common.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We moved in the lead in the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, really?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. All the momentum is on our side. We're moving like the horse, barreling down the stretch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Almost two dozen states are now taking up legislation that would place new restrictions on abortion. Some of the more controversial bills are already triggering legal challenges and could set up a major showdown that reaches the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lisa's back. She's working this story for us.

Lisa, what's this one all about?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, we are definitely seeing an uptick on new abortion legislation on the state level. And you might ask: well, why now?

Well, some of it is in direct response to the recently passed health care law. And we're also seeing new bills introduced in states where Republicans have picked up seats in the legislature or where the governorship has changed hands, and it's all making abortion a red hot issue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Lisa Billy is an Oklahoma state representative and mother of three. Billy introduced legislation that would require any woman seeking an abortion to hear a detailed description of the fetus, including the size, and whether there's a heartbeat or not. Doctors would also be required to provide women with a copy of the ultrasound -- although patients would be under no obligation to watch it.

LISA BILLY (R), OKLAHOMA STATE HOUSE: The purpose is to give her the choice, to give her the information prior to making a life- altering decision. If she chooses -- after seeing the ultrasound -- to not go through with the abortion, that would be her choice. But my goal is to make sure she has all information in her hands as she moves forward with her decision.

SYLVESTER: Oklahoma's Democratic Governor Brad Henry vetoed the bill, calling it flawed, and noting that it contains no exceptions for women who find themselves victims of rape or incest. But the Oklahoma House and Senate voted to override the governor's veto, prompting a lawsuit by the Center for Reproductive Rights.

It's just one in a number of abortion-related measures that states have either passed or currently debating. Twenty-two states are now weighing legislation that would increase waiting periods for abortions. Eighteen states have bills that expand the use of ultrasounds. Nine states have introduced legislation that would prohibit abortion coverage under the new federal health care exchange system.

Another new law that's receiving a lot of attention: in Nebraska -- the state now prohibits women from getting an abortion after the 20th week, based on beliefs that that's when a fetus can feel pain. That's different for most other states that ban abortion after the 22nd week, when doctors say the fetus could live outside the womb.

ELIZABETH NASH, GUTTMACHER INSTITUTE: There is an effort to chip away at abortion rights. And, certainly, this Nebraska law is taking a whole new approach to how they view abortion -- so it could establish, you know, a new court case.

SYLVESTER: Elizabeth Nash is with the Guttmacher Institute which tracks international laws affecting reproductive rights. She believes the Nebraska law is just one case that could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court, testing boundaries of Roe versus Wade.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: The 1973 case set federal regulations on abortions, but the dynamics on the high court have changed since then. U.S. Supreme Court is now leaning a little more conservative. Anti- abortion groups are hoping that if these new laws are tested and that they reach the high court, that they will find a more receptive audience -- Wolf. BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

The Kentucky Derby now less than a day away, and the state's attorney general is shaking hands and making the rounds. Is he pumped about a horse -- his horse that is -- being a contender or getting in some campaigning on the side for the Senate primary?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JACK CONWAY (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: This is about the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is not a partisan event. The Kentucky Derby is beyond politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: When we come back, Jack Conway's two big races.

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Here's look at some "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the "Associated Press."

In Nepal, communist party supporters chant slogans ahead of a mass protest against the government.

In Afghanistan, a boy sits on a building that was damaged during civil war.

In China, fireworks explode during the opening ceremony of the 2010 World Expo.

And in Romania -- look at this -- two dogs greet each other during an animal rights protest against the killing of stray dogs.

"Hot Shots" -- pictures worth a thousand words.

Tomorrow is derby day in Kentucky. But for one horse owner, there are two big races: there's a run for the roses tomorrow and the first hurdle in his run for the Senate in a few more weeks.

Here's CNN's Mary Snow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CONWAY: Stay behind us. We got a race on Saturday and then another big one here in three weeks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're about Saturday right now.

(LAUGHTER)

CONWAY: Yes. Don't forget about May 18th. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

(LAUGHTER)

CONWAY: Good to see you.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jack Conway is in the race of his life right now -- two of them, in fact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's the race going for you? How are you thinking?

CONWAY: Are you talking about the horse race or talking about --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, either one. What do you feel about each one?

SNOW: Conway, Kentucky's attorney general, is three weeks away from the state's Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim Bunning. But he's only hours away from watching his horse, Stately Victor, race in the Kentucky Derby.

CONWAY: We moved in the lead of the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, really?

CONWAY: Yes. All of the momentum is on our side. We're moving like a horse, barreling down the stretch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Great.

SNOW: And Conway, who owns the horse with his father Tom, a longtime Kentucky horseman, says he's having the time of his life.

CONWAY: It's remarkable. I own one-half of one thoroughbred. And lo and behold, he's in the Kentucky Derby. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

SNOW: When it comes to Kentucky politics, he just may be. Conway has spent the week leading up to the world's most famous horse race campaigning on the Churchill Downs backstretch, shaking hands and talking to locals in the language they understand -- horse racing.

CONWAY: How you? I'm Jack. Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I saw your running team.

CONWAY: Oh, thanks. Oh, good.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My husband has your horse.

CONWAY: Oh, good. Hopefully, you had a nice dinner that night because he went off at about 41 to one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. He had a good day.

(LAUGHTER)

SNOW: Conway's opponent, Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo, doesn't agree with all of the horsing around -- even if it has provided Conway a free media platform all week.

DAN MONGIARDO (D), KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: Ordinary Kentuckians just don't understand what it means to have a-million- dollar-horse on derby day when they're having trouble paying their mortgage. So, I'm not sure if it is a positive. Actually, it's probably a negative.

CONWAY: This is about the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby is not a partisan event. The Kentucky Derby is beyond politics.

I'll grant you that, it certainly doesn't hurt to own half of a horse running in the Kentucky derby and get to -- get to cheer him on and to take a part in these festivities and to be in this position. It doesn't hurt. We didn't plan it, I can tell you that.

SNOW: Stately Victor will go off at long odds Saturday, longer, in fact, than the Democrat Conway's own in traditionally Republican Kentucky if he makes it past the Democratic primary to the general election.

CONWAY: You've got to get a little bit of racing luck. And it's the hardest race in America to win. And there are only two major candidates in the Democratic primary and I like my chances. So, I think the derby might be a little harder race to win.

SNOW: And if Stately Victor does finish the run for the roses in the winner's circle, it could help Conway cross the finish line come November.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: And even watching the Kentucky Derby is political. As Jack Conway will be front and center, his Democratic opponent, Dan Mongiardo, says he'll be sitting in the Churchill Downs infield, seats there are less expensive and Mongiardo who's been trying to paint Conway as the silver spoon candidate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, have a great weekend. Thanks very much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Up next, "JOHN KING, USA."