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THE SITUATION ROOM
D-Day Nears in Oil Spill; Rising Threat of New Korean War; Deadly Violence Erupts in Jamaica; President on Sports Figures & Politics
Aired May 24, 2010 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks, very much, guys.
Happening now, countdown to D-Day in the Gulf of Mexico. We're only hours away from learning if the best hope for plugging the leak will work of if this disaster will become even more catastrophic.
Also, new military moves are set as tensions between and South Korea threaten to explode. This hour, how the U.S. is getting involved in a conflict over a sunken ship, historic hatred and nuclear fears.
And the growing danger in a popular vacation destination for Americans. We're talking about Jamaica. A new state of emergency in effect right now because of drug gang violence.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now we're on the brink of the most critical moment in the massive Gulf oil spill since the rig explosion over a month ago. The latest attempt to stop the leak, the so-called "top kill," is set to begin Wednesday morning. The procedure could literally be life and death for the Gulf Coast environment and the economy. If it fails, it's possible that the leak may not be plugged for months.
And many, many more gallons of crude gushed into the water today. Obama administration officials and senators, meanwhile, toured the spill zone once again today. There are huge questions about whether it's time for BP executives to be pushed aside and for the president to take full charge of responding to this disaster.
Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.
He's working the story for us.
the Coast Guard commandant, Thad Allen, spoke out on this. We're going to be speaking with him later here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But this is a critical moment now -- Dan.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is a critical moment, Wolf. And this comes after a weekend where there were suggestions that perhaps the administration was looking to push BP aside and to take control of the situation here. Thad Allen, as you pointed out, he is the coordinator for the federal government in terms of trying to stop the leak and also the coordination in the cleanup. And he said comments that the government might be thinking about stepping in were simply a metaphor -- that the government has its coordination efforts, that BP is still there, the responsibility party, to execute on the ground.
But those questions continued today. They persisted, following up time and time again as to whether or not there would be a point where the government would say BP needs to step aside.
Well, Thad Allen answered with a question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. THAD ALLEN, U.S. Coast Guard COMMANDANT: To push BP out of the way would raise the question to replace them with what?
I'm working without a net and without a lawyer. But the federal on scene coordinator has the legal authority to direct the responsible parties. So I'm sure there's a legal rationale to do it. I'm not sure there's a cause for action or a justification to consider it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Now, Admiral Allen says that they have spoken with other oil company executives and that they believe what BP is currently doing is the right course to follow and that right now, even if the federal government did step in, they wouldn't have the logistics. They don't have those remote vehicles to go down 5,000 feet and to get the job done.
So they are -- right now. They are happy with the coordination. But still here at the White House, Wolf, and throughout the administration, frustration that they still can't get that leak clogged.
BLITZER: Do officials at the White House, Dan, believe that BP has been up front from the beginning?
LOTHIAN: Well, Thad Allen said that, yes, that they were told from the very beginning that here are the different steps that we have to take, from some of the early steps, trying to throw rubber into that pipe to clog it all the way through drilling relief wells, which would not happen until August. So they believe that they've been getting all of the right information laid out from the very beginning.
But where he said -- he did point out that BP needs to tighten up. And that is when it comes to responding to the cleanup effort, whether it's on shore or cleaning up oil that's out there in the water, he says that they need to tighten up. He said he spoke to the BP's CEO over the weekend about that.
But still, Wolf, a lot of frustration here that so much is being done, but still, no one can come up with a sure shot solution to stop the oil from flowing. BLITZER: All right, Dan.
Dan Lothian is over at the White House.
No matter how the Obama administration's role in fighting the spill evolves, the president already is taking a hit because of it.
Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here with some brand new poll numbers.
What are we seeing -- Gloria?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, when you look at the poll numbers, Wolf, you can see what a huge political problem this is becoming for the administration. Take a look at this. Our poll shows that a whopping 84 percent of the public think that this spill is really going to impact their lives. Wolf, they're worried about it environmentally. They're worried about their food.
And I spoke with a couple of Democratic strategists today who said, look, this is an administration that needs to take charge of it.
What they don't have is what we call in the military, they said, unity of command.
And so let's take a look at the president's own numbers on this. When we asked the public, how is the president handling it, 51 percent disapprove, 46 percent approve. Of course, that's better than BP. BP gets a 76 percent disapproval rating.
BLITZER: But whatever...
BORGER: No surprise with how they're handling it.
BLITZER: -- is happening right now is clearly going to impact the president's policies on offshore oil drilling.
BORGER: And it really depends, Wolf, on how the president handles it, because our polls show that the American public is very deeply conflicted about this. Because you ask people, should we continue drilling?
Fifty-seven percent say yes, 41 percent oppose it.
But then when you ask whether the federal government can prevent another calamity such as we see, 37 percent -- only 37 percent have faith in the government and 62 percent say no.
So they're ambivalent because people understand that we have to do something as an alternative to depending on oil in the Middle East. But they're worried that if we continue to drill offshore, we have to get control of it.
I will say, Wolf, that this also presents a political opportunity for President Obama, who's got energy policy that's pending. If he can say, I'm going to make sure that these regulations work, we're going to find out what went on here and what went wrong and then we're going to have an energy policy that takes this into account, the American public would say, OK, he's taking charge of this problem and he's assuming responsibility. But so far, they're not seeing it.
BLITZER: He's got, as I said, a lot of other problems right now -- crises on his plate. This is a huge one, there's no doubt about that. But he's got tensions in North -- between North and South Korea.
BLITZER: He's got the economic situation and the lack of jobs. This is a crisis situation across the board.
BORGER: Across the board. And -- and this particular situation, Wolf, now, as we see the oil, people will be seeing it every single day. They're going to see it in how it affects their food and how it affects their environment. And, you know, that's something the White House truly understands right now.
BLITZER: The political guys at the White House...
BLITZER: -- are going to look at these numbers very, very closely.
BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much.
We can't emphasize enough how important this week is in the saga of the Gulf oil spill. That "top kill" procedure is now planned for early Wednesday morning. It could, in fact, be a critical turning point, for better or for worse.
Brian Todd is here and he's got some more explanation of how this could play out.
What are you seeing -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you couldn't have said it better. This week absolutely crucial. BP now gearing up for what could be the last best hope for capping this leak. And they've put out a new diagram to show us how they're going to do it.
You've heard this phrase over the last few days. They call it the "top kill" option. Essentially, they're going to be pumping heavy drilling fluid down through these pipes in here, going through these valves here into the blowout preventer to try to essentially seal the well there with heavy drilling mud followed by cement into these pipes here and over here. There's another animation that they issued a couple of days ago that will help us here kind of illustrate how the cement and mud will be going in.
You see it here going into the blowout preventer, as the animation turns around. First, that heavy -- heavy drilling oil. It's not really mud, it's oil, but it's as consistent as mud, going into the pipes, followed by this cement. They say that that hopefully -- hopefully, starting Wednesday, will be able to cap this well.
Now, the "top kill" will be attempted at dawn on Wednesday. And BP officials have said that from that point, it would be about 10 hours until we know whether it's working or not. BP's CEO, Tony Hayward, spoke to reporters about the "top kill" option just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: A third option is the "top kill." And we will be, in all likelihood, in a position to execute that in the middle of the week. It has never been done in 5,000 feet of water. If it was on land, we would have a very high confidence of success. But because it's in 5,000 feet of water, we need to be realistic about the issues operating in a mile of water. We rate the probability of success somewhere between 60 and 70 percent.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Sixty and 70 percent. Now, if that "top kill" option doesn't work, BP officials say they're going to try to fit a second, smaller containment dome over the ruptured pipe. If that doesn't work, they have other options, like that so-called jump shot, Wolf, that we've talked about. They're going to inject kind of traces of -- of tire and golf ball matter into the blowout preventer, again, similar to the -- to the "top kill," to try to plug it up there.
But, again, they are -- they are testing out things. This is one big option this week.
BLITZER: Yes, it's unprecedented, the depth.
TODD: That's right.
BLITZER: They've done these things before, but never at 5,000 feet below the water's surface.
TODD: Five thousand feet. And that's why a lot of these submersibles have not worked to try to plug these areas. They've not even operated in this depth.
BLITZER: In the meantime, there's a debate going on whether they should immediately create these berms, if you will, 15, 20 miles offshore, to prevent the oil from getting closer.
TODD: Governor Jindal wants to do that. He has tried to do that, getting federal permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. They've gotten permits for smaller sand booms in some areas like Pelican Island and Elmer's Island to plus smaller gaps. But they need larger sand booms. They haven't gotten the permits yet. The Army Corps of Engineers tells us they're trying to get them to them as soon as possible. They're exploring the environmental impact. BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this part of the story coming up later in THE SITUATION ROOM, including my interview with the commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen. Stand by for that.
Brian, thank you.
The U.S. military is joining with South Korea right now in a move that could make tensions with North Korea even worse. Up next, you'll see exactly what the allies are planning and how it might work.
And Jamaican police storm the stronghold of a drug lord -- how one powerful man can cause such chaos.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The threat of all-out war between the Koreas ratcheting higher right now. The Pentagon saying the U.S. and South Korea will, in fact, conduct new military exercises together in response to the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March. North Korea has denied any responsibility. But an international team of investigators concluded last week that the ship was, in fact, sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, who is working the story for us -- talk about these exercises -- military exercises, which often are pointed and have a strong message intended that are about to be conducted between the U.S. And South Korea.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: The message is being sent, Wolf.
Will the North Koreans hear it?
The exercises are, indeed, very focused. One set of exercises will focus on antisubmarine warfare -- operating under the ocean's surface, hunting bad guys, all related to this torpedo attack that sunk the South Korean ship.
The other exercise will be about maritime surveillance -- tracking North Korean shipping all around the Pacific Rim. The North Koreans are very savvy at sending their ships out with suspicious cargo, possibly carrying weapons of mass destruction. What we have learned in the last several hours, in fact, the U.S. Navy tracked a North Korean ship just a few weeks ago all the way to Burma, where it even unloaded suspicious cargo.
So these exercises all demonstrated that sending that message.
Will North Korea hear it. Will it change its behavior?
Very unlikely -- Wolf. BLITZER: I've -- I visited the DMZ that separates North and South Korea. As you know, there are a million North Korean troops only within miles of that DMZ. There are 30,000 U.S. Troops just below it, plus hundreds of thousands of South Korean troops.
One miscalculation could spark all-out war.
STARR: You know, this is really the bottom line. And that's what nobody wants that. On the Korean Peninsula, there is no room for miscalculation. The distances are very close. Troops are on hair trigger alert most of the time. Nobody wants to see war there. It would catastrophic.
All of this is about sending a message. All of this is about getting the allies, like China, in the region, to help send a message and to try and convince North Korea not to do this again. But they have engaged in many provocations over the years. Nobody is really betting they're going to quit.
BLITZER: Yes. As you say, even under the best of circumstances, it's always very tense along the DMZ.
BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, Barbara.
I want to remind our viewers how the Koreas reached this point in their volatile history. The Korean War was the first significant armed conflict of the cold war, pitting the communist North, supported by China and the Soviet Union, against the South, backed by the United States and the UN. It began back in 1950, when North Korea invaded the South. It ended in 1953 and not with a peace agreement, with a truce that restored the border between the two countries and created a buffer zone between them, where thousands of U.S. troops still patrol.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY UNIVERSAL NEWSREEL, JULY 27, 1953)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The signing of the truce took place at Pyongyang, the first step on the long and still torturous road to the ultimate solution of peace and a unified Korea. Signing for the United Nations was American General William Harrison. For the Reds, North Korea's Nam Il. But the hopes kindled this day faded as the year ran out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Over a half a century later, hopes for reunification are dim. Nuclear-armed North Korea pulled out of the armistice agreement last year. The two Koreas are still technically at war -- now threatening to explode into a full-fledged conflict. This is a tense moment, indeed.
Let's go back to Barbara Starr.
She's over at our Magic Wall with CNN's Tom Foreman -- walk this out for us a little bit, Tom. Map out the situation along the Korean buffer zone, the DMZ.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. This is China over here, which you were meaning just a moment ago -- always a very important player that you have to pay attention to in that region. And this is where the trouble began, right out here in this little island. This is where that ship was put down. And it was put down in water that actually is quite shallow. So the belief is that this torpedo may have been released from below by a sub from the North Koreans.
However, important to note, this is the DMZ here. The DMZ also extends into the water. And just as it moves around on land, out here, it slides around. So the actual sinking took place about six miles south, in South Korean waters -- Barbara, that's why this is such a big deal.
STARR: Well, it is. You know, think of it this way. This is essentially the DMZ extended out into the water. The U.S. Navy does not sail here. But this -- generally. But this is very rich fishing territory. There's a lot of blue crab and other fish harvesting going on in this region. So it's very busy waters. And clearly a provocation by the North Koreans to try and destabilize the situation. You see just how close everything is, how quickly it could all go bad.
FOREMAN: Let's talk about that. Wolf mentioned the power of the units here. I'm going to bring that up for a minute. I want you to talk about the power up here and the proximity to Seoul right down here.
STARR: Well, look, this is why it would be so catastrophic if, heaven forbid, war were to break out. The North Koreans -- more than a million under arms, not terribly well-equipped, not terribly well- trained. You know, they suffer a lot of poverty in their military...
FOREMAN: In my cases, they just take all sorts of citizens and say you're military.
STARR: You're -- you're in.
But nonetheless, how quickly could they get to Seoul?
How quickly could they really cause havoc in this region?
FOREMAN: Because, you know, the South Korean soldiers, who are better trained, look far less numerous.
STARR: Right. I mean, look, any way you cut it, this would be disastrous.
US troops, however, in the last several years, have moved much further south, away from the DMZ -- about 27,000 or so U.S. troops. The U.S. military strategy is to let the South Koreans deal with it initially. The U.S. has warships off the coast, has long-range bombers to the east in Guam. There would be U.S. naval power, U.S. firepower. Everyone hopes it doesn't come to that. FOREMAN: And the North Koreans have what -- what we might describe as cunning treachery to a degree. Along the border here, for example, we've marked them here -- four different secret tunnels that were found from North Korea into South Korea that are among the ones that have been discovered here.
How much does it play into this equation, the notion that North Korea, particularly under the -- the not so well Kim Jong-Il, is simply unpredictable?
STARR: Well, that's -- that's really it. In fact, nobody really knows whether he ordered this torpedo attack or not. The suspicion is that he did, because nobody in the North Korean military would do anything without his approval.
He is not well. He is concerned about succession. There is concern that if he dies, that the regime will implode. And nobody can predict what happens after that. That is the ultimate uncertainty. That's why it's in everyone's interests, from South Korea to China to the United States, to send the message, but not let this situation get out of hand.
FOREMAN: So what happens over here, Barbara?
This is where it began, again. This is the initial sinking of the ship over here. And they had months of problems -- I guess really years of problems over here, where there is a clash in the military exercises. Quickly, what happens with this exercise?
STARR: The exercises will go on, as we said. The message will be sent. We'll see if North Koreans are listening.
FOREMAN: All right, Barbara Starr -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom, thanks very much.
Bomb suspect, thanks to you, as well.
Surprising new allegations about the company behind that West Virginia mine disaster.
Did Massey Energy send warnings to their workers when inspectors were approaching?
We have new details.
And the GOP wants to know what you think the political priorities of the country should be. They have a new Web site for you to weigh in. CNN is the only network to get a sneak peek.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stores in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What do you have -- Lisa? SYLVESTER: Hi, Wolf.
Well, existing home sales are on the rise. And a new report says it's thanks, in part, to homebuyers taking advantage of a tax credit that expired at the end of last month. The National Association of Realtors says sales jumped 7.6 percent in April -- the best showing in five months. But it's not clear whether those numbers will hold up in the months ahead.
Massey Energy, the company behind the country's worst mining disaster in 40 years, had a policy of sending code alerts when inspectors arrived on the premises. That's according to one father, the father of one of the 29 miners killed in last month's accident. Gary Corliss was one of a series of victims' relatives and co-workers to testify before Congress today. Massey defends its safety record despite growing criticism.
And the federal government is urging you to buckle up the next time you get in the car. The Transportation Department says that although 80 per -- 84 percent of the motorists do use their seatbelts, approximately 45 million people do not. The agency's Click It or Ticket campaign, launched today, and runs through early June. An average of 38 unbelted people die each day in motor vehicle crashes.
And the husband of the late actress, Brittany Murphy, has died. Thirty-nine--year-old screenwriter, Simon Monjack, was found dead yesterday in the Los Angeles home he shared with Murphy and her mother. Police say there are no signs of foul play and it is believed that he died of natural causes. The coroners office will now take over the investigation. Brittany Murphy died at the age of 32 in December.
So very fast -- very -- two young people dying of natural causes. She died, apparently of pneumonia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Very sad, indeed.
All right, thanks, Lisa.
We're going to get back to you shortly.
If you ever wished you could tell a political party what to do, guess what?
The GOP is now unveiling a Web site for you to do exactly that.
Will it help the Republicans reclaim Congress?
Stand by for our TV exclusive.
And Democrat Joe Sestak says the offer -- he says he received an offer that he refused from the White House just before going on to defeat Senator Arlen Specter in the primary.
What exactly was going on and what should happen now?
David Gergen is here.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the mothers of those three jailed hikers in Iran just back from an emotionally charged reunion with their kids. Now, they're sharing dramatic details of the trip, including the surprising news of a potential wedding.
And the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, now under fire for accepting money in exchange for access to her ex-husband, Prince Andrew. A tabloid sting caught all of this on tape. We'll have the latest reaction coming in from the U.K.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
House Republicans are a day away from unveiling their 2010 agenda -- their -- their blueprint for trying to reclaim control of Congress in November. The party also is rolling out an interactive Web site to let voters weigh in on their political priorities.
CNN is the only television network to get a sneak peek. Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is here with this TV exclusive. All right. We're anxious to hear what the Republicans have in mind.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Republicans know, like everybody else that the tea party movement is growing because they see that Washington just doesn't get it. So, what Republicans are trying to do are come up with new ways to show that they're listening, and they're trying to harness that anger at Washington. So, tomorrow, House Republicans will unveil a website that they called americaisspeakingout.com. You see part of it behind me there. It's a new interactive site which they say will form the basis for their agenda for this election year, a new kind of contract for America. It's author, Congressman Kevin McCarthy gave me a sneak peek in his office today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA: When a person does come to the site, they log in to it, and then they have all the different topics to go and talk about. What you'll do is you can submit an idea, you can vote on an idea, you can post a response, and every time you do something, you earn a badge. You earn rewards to encourage greater input
BASH: So, this is a new town hall mechanism? MCCARTHY: This is a new town hall mechanism never used before. To me, it's revolutionary because it allows the individual to have greater control and say. For too long, people think nobody in Washington listens to them. This starts listening across the country and let them provide the idea but also debate the idea.
BASH: So, you have American prosperity, fiscal accountability --
MCCARTHY: And each one has different topics. All of them have another. If you want to talk energy, you want to talk health care, you want to talk education.
BASH: That's all up here.
MCCARTHY: They're all right there. Let's say I want to talk long term debt. Go in here. Stop spending so much. I get a vote, up or down.
BASH: Who's going to vote down on that?
MCCARTHY: We don't predetermine and say this. This is an American and the top vote gets it. This is about having a real discussion and solve the problem. Say you like this idea and you put your idea or you like what someone is saying. You can go here and take you directly to your Facebook page. You could put in here. Now, you expanded out to your 5,000 friends on Facebook, too.
BASH: What you ultimately get from this discussion you will distill and create what ultimately be your modern day contract with America or commitment to America, and it will be your promise if Republicans whether win a majority.
MCCARTHY: What we'll do is we will submit these bills and will introduce them now. We will work to pass the bill. If we don't, we'll continue to work on it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, that's what the commitment to America is going to be, the House Republicans version of what they say they will do if they would win the majority. The congressman was very careful to say with that with this new website that they're going to unveil is going to do is going to provide them ideas for legislation. Careful to say that it's not going to be a campaign tool. Why Wolf? Because this is all done with your money and my money. It's taxpayer money.
This website is not being done with campaign money. So, they're saying that all of the ideas that they gain here, they'll get them together. They'll do town halls, teletown halls, and ultimately, In august, they'll use the ideas to put together their new contract.
BLITZER: So, somebody called the contract is being called a commitment this time.
BASH: They're calling it a commitment to America. They say that might change based on the information they get on this website, but that one I'm not going to see until the poll --.
BLITZER: We'll watch it with you, Dana. Thanks very much.
Let's get to sine controversies right now within the Democratic Party involving two big U.S. Senate races. Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is here watching this. First of all, David, the Connecticut race, the attorney general, Richard Blumenthal now apologizing giving a statement for the Hartford Courant. Let me read it to you. "At times, when I sought to honor veterans, I have not been as clear or precise as I should have been about my service in the Marine Corps reserves. I have made mistakes and I am sorry. I truly regret offending anyone. How much trouble do you think he is really in, David?
DAVID GERGEN, DIRECTOR, HARVARD CENTER FOR PUBLIC LEADERSHIP: I think, though, he had a race, it was a sure thing, and it's now turned into uncertain. Likely to win? Wolf, the Democrats had an internal poll today showing that he's still up him 15. There's another poll that came out last week that showing his big lead had shrunk to three. So, we don't quite know, but I think it has put a cloud over the race. I think his apology which came late will definitely help.
BLITZER: The other race in Pennsylvania, the now Democratic candidate, Joe Sestak, he says he was offered a job. Let me play that clip from "Meet the Press" yesterday. He was questioned by David Gregory.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes or no, stay for the question, were you offered a job and what was the job?
REP. JOE SESTAK, (D) PENNSYLVANIA SENATE CANDIDATE: I was offered the job and I answered that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said no, you wouldn't take the job. Was it the Secretary of Navy, Joe?
SESTAK: Anything that goes beyond that is others for others to talk about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: David, explain why this is a big deal. A lot of people are offered jobs, and they may not necessarily accept those jobs, but why is this so sensitive?
GERGEN: It's sensitive because we have an administration that has pledged transparency and accountability, and suddenly, they want to hide this, I don't know why. And we also have, you know, in a situation where the administration seemingly wanted to take somebody out of play who was challenging their favorite candidate, Arlen Spector and they dangled the job in front of him, so I think there's a natural curiosity what was the job and did they intend to fire somebody. There may be a third party here. You know, what was the job you would be offering just probably somebody in that seat right now. Secretary of the Navy, hey, look, are you going to fire somebody? So, this one seems to be a no brainer. Just tell us what it was. Tell the circumstances and let's move on.
BLITZER: The White House keeps saying there nothing improper or nothing illegal happened. Although, some Republicans are suggesting maybe this could be almost like a bribe, get out of the race with Arlen Spector, the Democratic senator, former Republican senator from Pennsylvania, and we'll offer you a nice job and so the question of legality comes forward.
GERGEN: I'm sure it wasn't illegal. And as you say, Wolf, you know, jobs are offered all the time in Washington. This is no big deal. The big deal is come because they're playing cat and mouse with it. You keep on, you know, deflecting any questions. This is a simple one. Just tell us what happened and let's move on. After all, Mr. Sestak has a distinguished record. He was a navy admiral, and he shouldn't have this kind of clout left over and let him go ahead and run. By the way, he's in a race he could definitely win.
BLITZER: Well, Pennsylvania is going to be close. I think Connecticut is going to be close as well. We'll watch it all.
GERGEN: Everything has gotten jumbled, hasn't; it Wolf? This is getting to be a much more interesting year.
BLITZER: Yes. I just read your column, by the way, at cnn.com on how the administration is dealing with the oil spill in the Gulf. I want our viewers to go to cnn.com and read David's column. It's a scathing review of how the administration is handling this oil spill. This is someone who speaks with a lot of authority and experience for president. He worked for four presidents in the White House. Stand by and read that.
If you've ever taken a trip to Jamaica or planning one again, you're going to want to hear the latest on the explosion of drug violence there and the kingpin. Who's behind it all? We're watching the story.
And does President Obama think sports figures should weigh in on politics? We have the preview of his interview with our sister network, with TNT. It will air with Marv Albert during the NBA championship series.
BLITZER: Our Dana is back. She got some news coming into the SITUATION ROOM. What are you learning, Dana?
BASH: This is about the repeal of don't ask don't tell which obviously has been hotly debated. There were two meetings today at the White House and on Capitol Hill. And what's going on, Wolf, is that there have been discussions about a compromise that Democrat is want to do this repeal hope could get them over the finish line. And here's what's going on, the democrat, Joe Lieberman, who's taking the lead on this in the Senate and Patrick Murphy, a veteran in the House, they hope that they have formed language that will allow them to push forward as soon as this week on legislation to repeal don't ask don't tell.
But here is the catch, what they hope that they would craft is legislation that would say it would not go into effect until a military review is complete in December. Not just that, but in order to get why they hope will be the Pentagon and White House on board, it would also say that it also wouldn't go into effect until the president, the chairman of the joint chief's of staff, and the secretary of defense certify that this would not hurt military readiness and effectiveness of the military. And I was told by democratic sources on Capitol Hill that the White House actually came to them today with this compromise language and that they say the Pentagon officials who are involved in the talks today are okay with this, and perhaps, Secretary Gates is even okay with this.
Now, at the Pentagon, they've been very careful not to say much at all because you know the Secretary of Defense has been very clear. He said that there's a smart way to do this and a stupid way to do this. He said that on CNN. So, I'll tell you that Jeff Morel, Pentagon spokesman, is being very careful publicly. He always said is that given that Congress insists on addressing this issue this week, we're trying to gain a better understanding of the legislative proposals they will be considering, but privately, I'm told by sources on Capitol Hill that they hope to actually have a public statement supporting this compromise language as soon as today or tomorrow from the Secretary of Defense.
BLITZER: You see for those who want to get rid of don't ask, don't tell, which prevents gays from serving openly in the United States military, a lot of active that say you got to pass this legislation this year before the November election. There's going to be a lot more Republicans, a lot more conservatives in the House and Senate next year. And if you wait until this review process is over, it's not enough for the president and the joint chief's of staff and the Secretary of Defense to say we're repealing it. Congress must act. It would be easier for Congress to act before the November election rather than after the November election. So, they want it done now.
BASH: Exactly. But even now, even before the election, Democratic leaders say they still don't necessarily have the votes. And the reason they don't think they have the votes is because the Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been so reluctant for Congress to move forward before that military review is done in December. So, that's why the Democratic leaders who are pushing this in Congress hope that if they do get the support of Robert Gates, this will help them get the votes. We're talking about committee vote potentially on Thursday in the Senate and perhaps a full vote in the House on Thursday as well.
BLITZER: We'll watch it with you, Dana. Thanks very much, a very, very important story.
A state of emergency in Jamaica right now. Violence and fire bombings, it's all to support a long suspected drug lord. Who is he? Why does the U.S. want him? Stay with us here in the SITUATION ROOM."
BLITZER: Deadly violence erupting right now in the part of the world. The many Americans regardless of very popular tourist attraction. We're talking about Jamaica of all places. Jeanne Meserve is following this situation, very valuable situation. What is going on?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's a virtual war going on right now in the streets of Kingston pinning the military and police against some residents who want to prevent the extradition of an alleged drug dealer to the U.S.
MESERVE (voice-over): Gunshots, fire, barricades on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica. A Jamaican reporter says the violence is intensifying and spreading.
VOICE OF KIRK ABRAHAMS, RADIO JAMAICA: There are reports of heavy gunfire in Western Kingston. In fact, we heard some of the loud explosion in section of the Kingston. Some of it spreading toward the upper end of Kingston where the activities are really intensifying right now.
MESERVE: Two policemen have been killed, six wounded, fighting gangs trying to prevent the capture and extradition to the U.S. of Christopher Dudus Coke on drug and firearms trafficking charges. A former drug enforcement agency officials says Coke deserves to be classified as one of the world's most dangerous narcotics kingpins.
MICHAEL BRAUN, SPECTRE GROUP INTERNATIONAL: He is the head of an organization, a cartel or syndicate that has a global impact and also has a direct impact on the United States.
MESERVE: But in the poor neighborhoods of Kingston, Dudus Coke is a hero, sometimes compared to Robin Hood and even Jesus.
LARRY BIRNS, COUNCIL ON HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS: Jamaica is probably tipping into being a narcotics state. It's become too big a problem for the United States to handle in the tried and true ways of the past.
MESERVE (on-camera): With no indication, the violence is subsiding. Jamaican Prime Mister, Bruce Golding, has declared a state of emergency in parts of Kingston. U.S. Citizens have been advised to stay away from the city, and the U.S. embassy there will curtail services when if re-opens tomorrow after holiday, Wolf.
BLITZER: We wish all the folks in Jamaica only our best. A lot of viewers there, they're sending me a lot of e-mails and tweets and good luck to everyone in Jamaica to deal with this. Thanks very much, Dana, for that.
AMERICA'S NATIONAL DEFENSE SYSTEM DEPENDS on rare minerals but almost all of them come from China. We're going to take you to a mine right here in the United States that's trying to change that. That's coming up.
And later, their kids are still captive in Iran. Now, three American mothers talk about their emotional visit with their children.
BLITZER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is in Beijing right now for a series of high-level talks on a host of contentious issues confronting the United States and China. Trade is certainly one of them. And as our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, found out, America's National Security is very dependent right now on China.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buried in mines like these, a rare earth elements that power America's National Defense System. Special elements like neodymium and samarium help the Abrahams Navigate (ph) and power some navy ships. They make up night vision goggles and radar systems.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Now, let's assume you're not in the market for tanks or lasers. What about cameras? Computer hard drives? That iPhone you can't live without? They all use rare earth elements. Same with the electric batteries and motors in those hybrid cars like the Prius.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): But none of it runs without China which controls 97 percent of the world supply.
REP. MIKE COFFMAN, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: That's tremendous leverage over the United States. That's -- this is not the position that we want to be in.
LAWRENCE: Especially now that China is drastically cutting how much it exports. One U.S. government report found element shortages have already delayed some weapons production. That's why Congressman Mike Coffman introduced legislation directly the Pentagon to come up with an alternative supply.
COFFMAN: And so the fact that we're reliant upon a country that is not an ally to the United States puts us in a very vulnerable position.
LAWRENCE: But one of the biggest mines outside China is right in Southern California.
So how much rare earth does the United States have?
JIM SIMS, MOLYCORP SPOKESMAN: We have about anywhere from between 10 and 15 percent of the entire globe supply.
LAWRENCE: Jim Sims works for MolyCorp which bought the American mine after it shut down 12 years ago.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Back in the 1990s, China flooded the marketplace with product, drove down prices to the point where pretty much put all of its competitors out of business.
SIMS: The former premiere of China said that the Middle East has oil, but China has rare earth. So, they understood early on the strategic value of developing their rare earth supply.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): Now, the California mine is coming back to life and has applied for government loan guarantee.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we're able to secure it, it will help us get up and running faster.
LAWRENCE: But critics say the government, meaning you, taxpayer, would have to subsidize way too much of the cost, just to make the American mine competitive.
ANDREW LUBIN, METAL TRADER: You can't have a mine that's opened domestically and has 20 or 30 percent higher price than the rest of the world market. That doesn't help us, at all.
LAWRENCE: Andrew Lubin imports is a metal trader who imports minerals from China. He says, yes, China has cut back on exports, because they're using more of their own elements. Lubin says American mine owners are using the threat of a Chinese bogeyman to pressure the U.S. government into removing environmental restrictions.
LUBIN: The people were using national security as a reason to scare some of the pollution problems away.
LAWRENCE (on-camera): Others say while the U.S. should at the very least come up with some sort of strategic reserve. Now, right now, the Pentagon is trying to figure out how this shortage of rare earth elements could impact national security. And, Wolf, when that report comes out later this year, we may have a much better idea of just how big this problem is.
BLITZER: This is sensitive and very important issue. I'm glad you're all over it. Thanks, Chris. Thanks very much.
A new take on the controversy over that Arizona immigration crackdown. President Obama now weighing in on whether sports figures should take a stand.
And new details on how Sarah Ferguson allegedly tried to sell access to her ex-husband, Britain's Prince Andrew. Stand by for that story as well.
And the incriminating video. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Here's a look at some hot shots coming in from our friends over at the associated press.
In Beijing, a young girl runs past a fountain outside a shopping mall.
And at Austin (ph), London, a woman admires a life size sculpture of a female Indian elephant.
Heart City (ph), Utah, snow falls on a tulip during a late spring snowstorm.
And in Ft. Wayne, Louisiana, a 5-year-old, Regina Brooks blows bubbles at the Annual Bubble Festival. Hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words.
The basketball fan and chief is gearing up for a big finish to the NBA season and he's defending the right of sports figures to weigh in on politics. President Obama spoke with TNT's Marv Albert for a pre-game interview that airs tomorrow. He was asked about the Phoenix Suns taking a stand against Arizona's controversial new immigration law. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that just because somebody is a sports figure or you've got a sports team doesn't mean that you're not part of the community, and you're not part of our democracy. I think it's terrific that the Suns who obviously feel very strongly about their community recognize that a big part of their community felt threatened by this new law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president's interview, by the way, airs in its entirety on our sister network, TNT, tomorrow night during the 8 p.m. eastern hour. TNT, it's a good station.
To our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, BP gets ready for a critical attempt at plugging the oil leak in the Gulf, but government officials threaten to push the oil giant out of the way even as Louisiana's governor is fighting his own battle with the feds. We have new information for you this hour.
They're back from Iran, but without their children. The mothers of those jailed American hikers returned with some happy news. I'll share it with our Mary Snow, even though, the kids are still in jail.
And the Duchess of York, better known as Fergie, caught on tape pedaling access to her former husband, Britain's Prince Andrew. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.