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THE SITUATION ROOM
Source: Rep. Christopher Lee Resigning; Ship To Search For Downed Jet
Aired February 9, 2011 - 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 you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a CNN exclusive interview with a Google executive, now a leader of the historic uprising in Egypt. He says he's ready to die for change. You're going to hear his message to Egypt's leaders and to the world.
Also, controversial and intrigue swirling around Egypt's newly installed vice president. Details of his critical role and questionable past.
And House Republican leaders blind sided when they failed to pass a key vote on the Patriot Act. We're going inside the political drama with our senior political analyst, David Gergen and Gloria Borger.
Breaking news, political headlines, and Jeanne Moos all straight head. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
He's the unlikely hero of the Egypt uprising, and his story's captured the world's attention. Now, he's free after more than a week in detention. We're talking about the Google marketing executive, Wael Ghonim. He has become the face of the revolt against President Hosni Mubarak, and he's speaking exclusively to CNN. Let's go to CNNs Ivan Watson. He's in Cairo. He's joining us now. We had a chance to sit down with this Google executive earlier in the day. Tell our viewers, Ivan, how that went.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wael Ghonim, at first glance, does not seem likely a likely revolutionary. He walks the streets carrying a laptop, but people, Wolf, were running up to him embracing him. Strangers stopping their cars in the street to kiss him, yelling out his name. Why? Because he's believed to be one of the organizers of the first seminal protest on January 25th which kicked off this popular uprising that just seems to be growing.
He spent more than ten days in prison, in solitary confinement, blindfolded the whole time. He came out to a roaring crowd in Tahrir Square when he was released on Monday. He now says that now is no longer the time to negotiate with the Egyptian government. Why? Because it simply has too much blood on his hands. More than 300 people killed in more than two weeks of protests according to Human Right Watch. Take a listen to what he had to say to us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WAEL GHONIM, PROTESTER/GOOGLE EXECUTIVE: If you want to free a society, just give them internet access because people are going to, you know, -- the young crowds are going to all go out and see and hear the unbiased media. See the truth about, you know, other nations and their own nation, and they're going to be able to communicate and collaborate together.
WATSON: Was this an internet revolution?
GHONIM: It is, definitely. Definitely. This is the internet revolution. I'll call it revolution 2.0. I just posted this on Twitter yesterday. This no longer the time to negotiate, unfortunately. We went on the street on 25th, and we wanted to negotiate. We wanted to talk to our government. We were, you know, knocking the door.
They decided to negotiate with us at night with the rubber bullets, with the police sticks, with, you know, water hoses, with tear gas, and with arresting about 500 people of us. Thanks, you know, we got the message. Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Now, Wolf, this man says that the people who first started organizing these protests had nothing to do with the Muslim brotherhood. He says they were hit, young people using Twitter, using Facebook, social networking. He says one of his heroes is Mark Zuckerberg and Gandhi. He said they used passive resistance in the beginning. He says, now, he is ready to die for this cause, trying to make Egypt a democracy, a better country.
And as evidence, he showed me a letter of attorney he had notarized this morning handing over all his assets to his wife in case he comes in harm's way in the days and weeks ahead -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan, does it look like the protesters against Mubarak are gaining momentum in advance of Friday, the day of prayer, when we're expecting huge demonstrations once again?
WATSON: There are definitely signs that this is growing, Wolf. For instance, this morning, I was outside the gates of parliament. Overnight, a group of protesters moved from Tahrir Square, the square we've all seen again and again, and they moved many blocks from there and started another sit-in in front of the gates of the ministry of health. They spent the night there.
They're still occupying the streets. They say they are adapting their tactics, and they will continue to ratchet up the pressure against the Egyptian government until it agrees to their demands -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ivan Watson on the scene for us in Cairo, thanks very much.
We'll get back to the story in Egypt in just a moment, but we're getting some new information into the SITUATION ROOM right now about a Republican congressman and an alleged scandal involving craigslist. Let's go straight to our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. She's working the story for us. All right. Dana, what do we know?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We know that that alleged scandal seems to have led to a resignation, Wolf. Congressman Christopher Lee of New York, we were told by Republican source with knowledge of his decision, has resigned his seat, resigned his seat here in Congress because of what seems to be allegations that he tried to -- he's a married congressman tried to meet women on a dating website here in Washington.
Now, this is something that was first reported by the website called Gawker, which is essentially gossip column here in Washington, but it had allegedly some e-mails that went back and forth on craigslist between, again, the married congressman, Christopher Lee, and this woman who he tried -- who he met on a site called women for men. He apparently, again, allegedly, according to this report, said that he was a 39-year-old lobbyist and single.
He is a 46-year-old married congressman with a son. We're still waiting for statement from his office, but we do know from another Republican source, Wolf, that he has informed the House Speaker John Boehner that he has resigned his seat.
BLITZER: So far, Dana, we don't have an official statement from Congressman Lee, represents a district in Western New York, not far from Buffalo. And we don't have a statement from the Speaker John Boehner yet, is that right?
BASH: Correct. We haven't formal statement from neither, but we do have from Republican source who I talked to who knows of this decision that he has resigned. And again, we know also from a source familiar with John Boehner's office that he has informed the speaker of his decision.
BLITZER: All right.
BASH: And just to be clear, we don't have confirmation, full confirmation that is because of this report, but every arrow points to that reason, Wolf.
BLITZER: And he was just elected. He's a freshman from upstate New York, right?
BASH: He was just re-elected. He was elected in 2008. He was just re-elected. And so, he is a relatively new member of Congress, and he is somebody who actually given his district where he is from, you're very familiar with it, up in upstate New York, Wolf. He's certainly a member of the new Republican majority or was, but he is somebody who is known as quite moderate.
BLITZER: He's married with children, right?
BASH: He's married with one son. He's married with one son, and according to these alleged exchanges on craigslist, he had told this woman who he was trying to pick up, effectively, that he did have a son, but that he was single. The other thing I should tell you about this, and I don't have to tell you because you're looking at it on the screen, he also sent a photograph of himself, allegedly, to this woman, and that photograph, as you see, has him without his shirt on.
BLITZER: Pretty embarrassing stuff. All right. Dana, we'll stay in close touch with you. Dana breaking the news here in the SITUATION ROOM, our senior congressional correspondent.
Let's get back to the uprising in Egypt right now. It certainly is a fast moving story. We have correspondents bringing in new information literally almost every single minute. Let's get the latest now from our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, our state correspondent, Jill Dougherty, and our pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.
First question, Chris to you, the Pentagon is especially concerned, I guess, about the confidence that they might have or might not necessarily have in the Egyptian military which is so critical in this whole Egypt security situation right now.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. You know, you're talking about the reports that, perhaps, elements of the Egyptian military may have detained or abused journalists and others there. Well, a defense official told me here just this afternoon, quote, "We never publicly backed them," referring to the Egyptian military, saying what the Pentagon said was they felt that the Egyptian military had acted professionally up to this point and they still believe that.
But now what we're seeing is sort of a separation between the Egyptian military as a whole and what the Pentagon is referring to as a element, saying they have seen the report that elements of the Egyptian military may have been involved in some of this detaining and abusing some of the people there in Cairo, but they feel like, as a whole, the institution of the military has still shown re-strength. Also, the word I'm getting here is that any attempt to stop or restrict that billion dollars of aid that the U.S. is giving, military aid to Egypt, the Pentagon seems to be saying, please think carefully about that.
They feel it is highly important at this point not to jump to a rash decision, talking about the communication lines that have been opened because of that aid and the relationship between the two militaries, but, that line of communication may have gone a bit cold after a flurry of calls between Secretary Gates and Chairman Mike Mullen with their Egyptian counterparts last week. In the last few days, no calls between U.S. and Egyptian counterparts.
BLITZER: Because only yesterday, Robert Gates, the defense secretary, he was effusive in his phrase for the Egyptian military saying it was behaving in -- and I believe he said an exemplary fashion right now. So, what I hear you saying, Chris, right now is that, yes, the Egyptian military as a whole deserves praise, but there are elements within the Egyptian military that are now harassing journalists and human rights workers and others, is that right?
LAWRENCE: That's right. They are trying to now split the difference between looking at the Egyptian military as a hole and singling out what maybe certain elements within that military for condemnation.
BLITZER: Dan Lothian at the White House, is the president, is the White House satisfied with the intelligence they have received to date?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, the White House says that the president has gotten relevant, timely, and accurate information. An official here at the White House today I spoke with said that after Tunisia happened, that they were well aware that these protests could spread across the region.
I also asked when the president first was informed of this threat, and this official said, quote, "The short answer is before it ever happened." And yes, there is a lot of finger pointing going on especially up on Capitol Hill. Questions being raised about whether or not the president had the full view of this potential threat, the uprising, the White House believing that they did have good information.
BLITZER: Jill, as far as angry U.S. statements, angry Egyptian statements, how far apart is the Obama administration from the Egyptian government right now?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, they're not really on the same page. In fact, in a way, they're not even reading the same book. I mean, the best example is the most recent one with the vice president, Vice President Biden, and he was saying that the Egyptians really have to stop the arrests of journalists and human rights group. That they have to be more open to different political groups joining the talks, and that they have to end the emergency law.
And now, just today, there's going to be an interview with Margaret Warner of PBS with the foreign minister, Abu el-Gheit, from Egypt, and he's saying we can't lift the emergency law. We've got prisoners who escaped from jail on the streets. And we've been getting very confusing messages coming out of this administration for the first four or five days of all of these actions on the street.
And then finally, what they're trying to do is impose a solution. So, they're not on the same page. In fact, it's really Washington's dilemma, trying to show that they don't want to try to dictate anything.
BLITZER: All right. Guys, thanks very much. We're going to get back to the Egypt story in a few moments. Standby, though.
All right. Let's get some more now on the apparent resignation of Congressman Christopher Lee of New York. He's a Republican. Dana Bash is on Capitol Hill. You broke the story, Dana. Tell us what has just happened. BASH: Well, what has just happened is we now have an official statement from Congressman Chris Lee, a Republican of New York, confirming what we reported, that he has resigned, and I'll read it to you. It's very short. He says, "It's been a tremendous honor to serve the people of Western New York. I regret the harm that my actions have caused. My family, my staff, and my constituents, I deeply and sincerely apologize to them all. I've made a profound mistakes, and I promise to work as hard as I can to seek their forgiveness."
He goes on to say that the challenges we faced in Western New York and across the country are too serious for me to allow this distraction to continue. So, I'm announcing that I've resigned my seat in Congress effective immediately. And on that note, Wolf, the House clerk on the floor of the House just a few moments ago actually read the resignation of Chris Lee saying that he is resigned effective immediately.
So, as of now, there is one less member of Congress, 434 members of Congress because of this resignation and to just recap why -- let me just actually play that for you, Wolf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) before the House the power in communication.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The honorable, the speaker House of Representatives, sir, I hereby give notice of my resignation from the United States House of Representatives, effective 5:00 p.m., eastern standard time, Wednesday February 9th, 2011. Attached is the letter I submitted to Governor Andrew Cuomo, signed sincerely, Christopher J. Lee, member of Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: So, that was just a few minutes ago. And just to recap what we're talking about here, Wolf, this is a very fast moving story. The reason, apparently, Chris Lee decided to resign is because of a report in what's called the Gawker, a D.C. website that reported that he, a married man with one son, was on this website, a dating website, trolling for women, and there was an e-mail exchange on craigslist which is where he going back and forth saying that he is not married. That he is single.
That he is 39 years old. That he is a lobbyist instead of a member of Congress. He's 46. And, of course, allegedly, emphasize allegedly sent the photograph that you see on the screen right now to this woman who he was communicating with on that website, Wolf.
BLITZER: And the shirtless picture of him that we've been showing our viewers from the Gawker website, have we confirmed that is him? That it wasn't photoshop or anything? That that was actually the picture he sent out looking for women?
BASH: That's a very good question. The answer is we have not confirmed that because his office throughout the afternoon, as this has become -- has gotten out there, has been very careful not to confirm anything. This is the first word along with his resignation that we've gotten from anybody in his office of any indication that this is actually true. We're going to try to certainly find that out, but they're not denying that is accurate, but they're certainly not confirming it.
BLITZER: Standby, Dana. I want to bring in our senior political analyst, David Gergen and Gloria Borger to weigh in. I guess, folks out there, David, should not necessarily be surprised. Another alleged sex scandal, if you will, on Capitol Hill. There's a long history there.
DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You can't count them on two hands, Wolf, over the last few years. What's interesting about this is that, you know, he just took power. And power as a way of corrupting (INAUDIBLE) long time ago. It can corrupt. It can -- may go to your head too easily, and this is a guy just -- he clearly couldn't handle it.
GLORIA BORGER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, what's interesting to me, Wolf, is how quickly he's resigning. And it's, you know, it's clear to me, Republicans have just taken over the House. Republicans still, remember 2006, when they had their sex scandal with Mark Foley and many believed it cost them a lot of seats in those elections, in the midterm elections, and I guarantee you, although I don't know this, but I guarantee you that the moment that the newly minted Speaker Boehner heard about this, he wanted to end it, immediately. And that's why we're probably seeing it happen, you know, just in mock time here because they don't want to let this drag on. Get it over with.
BLITZER: David, so it sounds like -- that makes a lot of sense what Gloria is saying. The Speaker Boehner says, you know what, this is the last thing we need right now, this kind of scandal involving a Republican from New York State. You know, it's over. And he says in a statement, "I have made profound mistakes." He doesn't elaborate what those mistakes are, but they are, as he himself says, profound.
GERGEN: Well, I think Gloria is right about that. And by resigning quickly, you can potentially make it a two or three-day story instead of, you know, dragging it out day after day, and everybody polling over what's out there in the internet. And the Republicans had paid a price in this in the past. You remember the 2006, they paid a price at the polls for this kind of sort of thing (ph). But the other thing, Wolf, is this is just the moment as I think you suggest it.
When they're trying to get traction in the House of Representatives, when they're trying to show as a new majority in the House that they can govern responsibly, and this just comes right in the midst of other stories, disarray on some of the voting such as the Patriot Act, as you know.
BASH: And wolf, just a sort of (INAUDIBLE) here on that issue and just on kind of obviously what a surprise is this and how people are caught flatfooted. I can tell you, frankly, just from body language in going over to his office today that there was certainly a lot of stunned people who came here to work for a member of Congress who they believed in, and, you know, they were very stone faced and try to be poker face, but it was clear that they were in shock, understandably.
I just asked the question to somebody who's close to now former congressman that you asked me, Wolf, is this photograph actually real? And the response was, "I don't have any idea." So, that just kind of gives you a little bit of a sense behind the curtain of what's going on here. Apparently, the humanity that even the people around him, obviously, didn't have a clue what was going on.
BORGER: But if you're a leader in the House right now, Republican leader, like John Boehner, you don't really care about explanations. You want this done because you're going to have to deal with a lot of issues starting with the budget coming up on Monday. And you've already got a lot of problems within your own ranks. This is not one more you want to deal with.
BLITZER: Yes. I just want to be precise. We have no idea whether there was ever any sex involved or anything like that. The only thing we have is this photograph from craigslist that we're not even a 100 percent sure hasn't been doctored or anything. It shows the Craigslist congressman with a quote "I'm a very fit, fun classy guy. 6'0", 190 pounds, blond, blue. But we have no idea if anything beyond posing for a picture like that may have occurred. But I'm sure we'll know the details early soon. Go ahead, David.
GERGEN: One thing we do know, Wolf, is -- yes. What we do know is he's Schwarzenegger.
BLITZER: Well, yes. We're not going to discuss that. All right. Guys, thanks very, very much. Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's got the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: As the drama in Egypt continues to unfold, there are growing questions about what role the Muslim brotherhood should play if any. That group has a bit of a split image. Some see it as a hostile Islamic group that includes dangerous fundamentalists, and others say, it's merely another opposition group in Egypt that should play a role in whatever comes next in that country. The Muslim brotherhood has been banned in Egypt for decades, but it still has a following.
It's the largest and most organized opposition movement, and in fact, in the 2005 parliamentary elections, its candidates running as independents managed to win 20 percent of the seats. The Muslim brotherhood has been part of recent meetings about political reform in Egypt. Its leaders insist they're not seeking power saying they want to participate but not dominate. The group also says it reject a religious state, but not everybody believes them, and for good reason.
Critics point to proclamations of violence and connect the Muslim brotherhood to terrorist groups like Hamas. They say the brotherhood doesn't believe in equality between Muslims and Christians or between men and women. The Jerusalem post reports on a 1995 book called "Jihad is the Way," written by a former head of the Muslim brotherhood in Egypt.
That book details the group's goal of a global Islamic conquest. It suggests jihad is not only meant to fend off enemies but to establish an Islamic state, strengthen the religion, and spread it around the world. Easy to understand why some aren't so trusting of the Muslim brotherhood.
Here's the question, in what role should the Muslim brotherhood play in Egypt's future? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: We're also learning much more about the Egyptian vice president, the new one, the critical role he's been playing as these country teeters on the brink. We're going to have details of his controversial and intriguing past.
BLITZER: Get back to Egypt a few moments, but Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now, including a deadly attack in Iraq. What happened there, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Iraqi police suspect the terror group al Qaeda in Iraq is behind three coordinated bombings that killed at least seven people in the northern town of Kirkuk. The blast targeted two police patrols and a building used by British (ph) security forces. 68 people were wounded.
CNN affiliate, KIRO, reports a high-tech exploration ships to leave Seattle, Washington tonight on a mission to find the wreckage of Air France Flight 447. That was a jet, you may recall, it was headed to brazil with 228 passengers aboard when it disappeared over the Atlantic ocean nearly two years ago. Fifty bodies were recovered, but the plane and its flight data recorders were never found. The ship is expected to arrive at the crash zone in about 40 days.
And the U.S. postal service's warning that it may have to default on some of its financial obligations this year after suffering a $329 million quarterly loss. The financially self-supporting agency has been hit hard by a major decrease in mail volume while its reserves have been strained by retiree health care costs. The post master general says defaults will be unavoidable if Congress doesn't change a law requiring the agency to contribute billions to retiree benefits every year.
And a spokesman for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords says the Arizona Democrat is regaining part of her ability to speak. Giffords, you may recall, she's recovering from a brain surgery after she was shot in the head by a gunman last month in Tucson. Six people were killed in that shooting. A spokesman for Giffords wouldn't reveal details on what exactly the congresswoman said other than to say, Wolf, that she apparently ask for toast.
This is such a great story. And everybody is really cheering in, hoping for a full recovery here. So, the fact that she's actually starting to speak, it's very good news. We don't know to what extent at this point.
BLITZER: It's going to be a long process, but let's hope for the best that she's going to be back to normal, we hope, sooner rather than later. Thanks very much.
The complicated past of Egypt's vice president. We're going to tell you why Omar Suleiman is both trusted and feared. We're going back to Cairo. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story, the uprising in Egypt. Before it began, a few people outside the country had ever heard of Omar Suleiman, but now, the newly installed vice president is playing a key role in the crisis, and he's stirring lots of controversy. We asked CNNs Brian Todd to take a closer look at this man in the world spotlight right now. What do we know about Omar Suleiman?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, he is known as a behind- the-scenes operator and the real power behind the throne in Egypt. Now, Omar Suleiman is front and center, and given his past, some of his recent comments on the crisis have raised concerns among Egypt's allies.
TODD (voice-over): He's either sending dangerous messages or being taken out of context. He's either an incurable strong man like his friend, Hosni Mubarak, or a valuable steward for his country through this crisis. It could be all of the above. And either way, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman seems to become more important by the minute. That's why so many officials outside Egypt listen so carefully to his comments.
Take this criticism from the White House.
ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the vice president -- Vice President Suleiman made some particularly unhelpful comments about Egypt not being ready for democracy.
Suleiman said this to ABC News when asked if he believes in democracy.
OMAR SULEIMAN, VICE PRESIDENT OF EGYPT: For sure everybody give the democracy.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, ABC NEWS: But do you not...
SULEIMAN: But when you will do that. When we would -- when the people here would have the culture of democracy.
TODD: But an Egyptian official tells CNN Suleiman is being misinterpreted. He said in another interview Suleiman told journalists that if the crisis escalates and a coup is attempted, unfortunately, Egypt doesn't have the civic or Democratic culture to counter that.
(on camera) This Egyptian official also told us Suleiman was misquoted as saying the government couldn't tolerate the protests much longer. That was interpreted as a threat to crack down further. The official says what Suleiman meant was that the country as a whole couldn't take much more of this, because schools and businesses are shut down.
But given Suleiman's past, it's not hard to see how his words could be taken as ominous signals.
(voice-over) Omar Suleiman's roots are in the Egyptian military, but he made his reputation as head of the intelligence service, which is widely feared among the Egyptians for infiltration and torture.
Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins says, despite his concessions to the protesters, Suleiman's every bit as much of a dictator as Mubarak.
(on camera) Has he had a hand in the atrocities during this crisis and in the past?
FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: Look, his past, here's a man who's the head of intelligence. And for the dirty tricks of the regime, for the unsavory deeds of the regime, the head of intelligence is doing it all. I mean, this is the man at the center of all this.
TODD (voice-over): But Ajami and other analysts say there's a flip side to Omar Suleiman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He'd been the main Egyptian negotiator trying to work out between Hamas and the -- the Palestinian national authority some rapprochement. He has certainly been the one who's worked with the Israelis and others, including the United States, over issues of terrorism.
TODD: So the solid picture we're getting of Omar Suleiman from U.S. and Egyptian officials and analysts, that he may not be the best person to lead Egypt through this crisis, but there may not be many better alternatives.
One State Department official told me no one thinks he's a nice guy, but some key leaders from the U.S. and its allies are comfortable with him because of their past dealings with him, and he is trusted by a large segment of the Egyptian people. Feared, but trusted for now, Wolf.
BLITZER: Is he positioning himself, though, to replace Mubarak as president.
TODD: Well, he said recently, and an Egyptian official told me today, no way that they're prohibited from the constitution -- by the constitution from doing that. But U.S. officials and others are concerned that maybe over the next several months until elections are held that he and his cronies may find some clever way to position themselves to take power under the guise of some pluralistic democracy, but the democracy in name only. They're very concerned about that.
Seven months is a long time to bide your time in Egypt.
BLITZER: But there's a history, as you know, when Anwar Sadat was vice president when Nasr died, and he became the president. And then Mubarak was vice president when Sadat was assassinated. He became president. So there's speculation now that -- that Suleiman is the vice president and after Mubarak, he might want to be president.
TODD: They find a way historically.
BLITZER: Yes, that's the history in Egypt. All right. Thanks very much.
If you look closely at the huge crowds that have been gathering in Cairo's Tahrir Square, you'll notice something unusual. Children are taking part in the protest. CNN's Fred Pleitgen talked to some of them.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the demonstrations on Cairo's Liberation Square get into swing, 11-year- old Yousef Saeed and his brothers and cousins are often right in the thick of things. They know all the chants by hearts. After all, they've been here for most of the time the protests have been raging.
YOUSEF SAEED, YOUNG PROTESTOR (through translator): When I wake up, I pray. Then I attend morning exercises before breakfast. Then I come to the tent and wait a little bit before joining the protests.
PLEITGEN: The family stays in this tent right on Liberation Square. Yousef and his siblings say they witnessed much of the violence that occurred here as pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters clashed. Rocks and Molotov cocktails were hurled back and forth, and Egyptian soldiers fired in the air to try and separate the opposing sides.
SAEED (through translator): I wore a hard hat on my head for protection from rocks. When I saw them throwing rocks, I stayed on the side of the road until they finished. Then I came over here.
BILAL FATHI, YOUNG PROTESTOR (through translator): I was there during the violence. The pro-Mubarak protesters were standing alongside of us. And all of a sudden they started throwing rocks and taking a corner of the square. Later we saw some entering the square with camels and horses. They acted like nuts.
PLEITGEN (on camera): Parents have been bringing their kids here ever since demonstrations kicked off more than two weeks ago. But it's really been the kind (ph) after things became less violent. That more and more children have showed up here. Some are actively participating in the demonstration.
(voice-over) On Wednesday we even saw what was, by all accounts, the first all-children demonstration. Chanting many of the anti- Mubarak slogans the grown-ups used, the young ones tell us they know what they're fighting for.
SAEED (through translator): We want the whole regime to end, because they are not making our lives any easier.
ISLAM FATHI, YOUNG PROTESTOR (through translator): When I finish college, I want to be able to find a job. When I speak with a policeman, I want him to respect me as a citizen. I do not want police brutality.
PLEITGEN: Parents and older relatives of the youngest protestors tell us they want their children to experience what many believe is history in the making.
MOHAMMED MOSTAFA, YOUSEF'S UNCLE: It's the birth of freedom. I'm proud, because I would like them to live in honor, witnessing this event will engrave in them love for this nation, loyalty, freedom and respecting change. I want them to be free.
PLEITGEN: Eleven-year-old Yousef says he doesn't mind the hardships of living in a tent. He says he believes his family is doing it for his future.
Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Cairo, Egypt.
BLITZER: We're going to have much more on Egypt coming up. Also other news, including the president's daughters. They are not on Facebook. The first lady wants to keep it that way. Lisa will be back with that story.
BLITZER: She's really one of the biggest guns in the Democratic political arsenal, and we're likely to see more of the first lady, Michelle Obama, as the next race for the White House ramps up. Let's bring back Lisa Sylvester. She's got some details, because the first lady is speaking out.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Michelle Obama has largely stayed away from the political issues, really leaving that her husband, but she has been vocal on causes like education, military families, healthy living. And it has all helped shape her role as a first lady. Not a Hillary Clinton, but not a Laura Bush either.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): Michelle Obama has created her own mold as first lady, punting on issues like Egypt but out in front, fighting childhood obesity. As mom in chief, she even occasionally gives America the inside scoop on her family, telling us, for example, that her husband kicked his smoking habit and does not dye his hair.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: I think that if he had known he would have been president, he would have started dying his hair, like, a few years ago. SYLVESTER: And her girls aren't on Facebook.
OBAMA: I'm not a big fan of young kids having -- having Facebook, so, I -- you know, it's not something they need.
SYLVESTER: The first lady is making the media rounds: a sit-down lunch with print reporters, an appearance on "Regis and Kelly," and a live interview with "The Today Show" to mark the one-year anniversary of her Let's Move campaign to encourage physical fitness for kids.
But it's also an opportunity for the administration to showcase the first lady and to show a White House empathizing with everyday Americans and asking them to be patient.
OBAMA: If you look at the accomplishments over this year, he has kept every single promise that he's made. It doesn't always feel good when you're down and out. But I think we're on the right path.
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: In many ways she does what the president sometimes is unable to do. And that's sort of humanize who he is. And that's very important to, you know, any White House, in particular, any, you know, president who's being seen in one dimension as the leader of the country, for voters to see who he is outside of that role.
SYLVESTER: Her popularity with Americans reached a high point in the spring of 2009, with 64 percent of people viewing her very positively or somewhat positively, according to a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll. Her approval ratings have since dipped to 52 percent in December of last year.
Still, with the 2012 elections on the horizon, she is expected to be a huge magnet on the campaign trail.
BROWN: She's viewed as one of the most, you know, the biggest get for a lot of -- a lot of Democrats. Would absolutely love to have her come in, welcome her in. I think it's just a matter of who -- who is going to get her time, which she, you know, is very, very strict about. And so I think that's the -- that's the question.
SYLVESTER: Now Michelle Obama was asked about the menu for the Super Bowl party at the White House. They had pizza. They had buffalo wings, all while she's out promoting healthy eating.
But she said it's about balance, making some changes in small ways, like adding fruits and vegetables. And if you have a day like the Super Bowl, well then, go ahead, indulge. Then get back to healthy eating the next day.
BLITZER: I admire that.
SYLVESTER: Yes. It's all -- all good advice.
BLITZER: Exercise, healthy eating, all good. Especially for young people. Thanks very much.
A major, major obstacle in Korean peace talks. We have new details coming up.
Plus the latest on the resignation of the New York congressman, Chris Lee. He quit in a scandal. A sex-related scandal, we should say. We'll have more on that coming up at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA."
BLITZER: Critical talks between North and South Korea collapsed today. North Korea's delegation of walking away from the negotiating table after the two sides failed to agree on terms for higher-level military discussions.
An issue that sent tensions soaring in December when the then-New Mexico governor, Bill Richardson, went on a mission to North Korea. I went along. It was an extraordinary opportunity to go inside one of the most secretive nations in the world.
BLITZER (voice-over): Sunday morning, December 19. As two Koreas stand on the brink of war, the United National Security Council is getting ready to meet in emergency session in New York.
(on camera) Those nights in North Korea I wasn't sleeping well and especially that Sunday morning when I woke up. I did not have a good night's sleep. I was restless, because I was really worried. I really feared that this crisis could escalate into an all-out war.
(voice-over) But even in the depth of crisis there are lighthearted moments.
(on camera): My name is Wolf. When I see the North Korean girls' ice hockey team jogging outside the national ice rink, I can't help but join them with my handheld camera shooting away.
For Governor Richardson, the much more serious business of meeting with Major General Pak Rim Soo (ph), the commander of the North Korean forces at the DMZ. His job is to ensure the armistice, in place since 1953, holds.
We're politely asked to wait outside.
The meeting breaks up. The general is not backing down. He warns that if the South Koreans go ahead with their exercise, the North will retaliate.
GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (R), NEW MEXICO: It was a tough, sobering meeting on a situation that's extremely tense.
BLITZER: At this point I'm getting very anxious, worried we'll be stranded in North Korea. But even an international crisis of this magnitude is not enough to this change the North Koreans' program of sightseeing for us. Today's trip takes us into the countryside.
(on camera) Thank you very much. Thank you..
(voice-over) The visit is well-choreographed. Our guides take us to a little cottage, where we meet an elderly woman and her grandson. Inside, a picture of the great and dear leaders, whom, we're told, had visited this farm.
The next day Richardson will meet with North Korea's vice president. He'll again make his case for restraint. But time is moving slowly. On that Sunday night, we're afraid his efforts will be too late. The clock is ticking toward the start of the South Korean live fire exercise.
BLITZER: All this week we're showing you some parts of this journey. Please be sure to tune in this Saturday, 6 p.m. Eastern, for the full one-hour documentary, "Six Days in North Korea." This Saturday, 6 p.m. Eastern.
What role should the Muslim Brotherhood play in Egypt's new government? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail coming up.
And later, Spider-Man's not necessarily so great. The reviews on the Great White Way. Stay with us.
BLITZER: These are pictures of Tahrir Square in Cairo. The crowds huge right now. They're not leaving. They want President Mubarak out.
Let's check back with jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Your question this hour is: "What role should the Muslim Brotherhood play in Egypt's future?"
Richard in Kansas: "I suspect the Muslim Brotherhood will play much the same role in their political system that the Christian right plays in ours. All countries have their share of religious extremists who would like to impose their beliefs on everyone else. We can only pray -- yes, pray -- that there are enough sensible well-balanced people engaged in the process to keep the zealots at bay."
Joe in Houston: "People in other countries, reading U.S. journalists' accounts of the Tea Party movement could draw the same conclusions that you detail here. Some say it's a bunch of gun-toting rednecks bent on destroying the country, while others say that its aim is to save the very same republic. It's none of their business how they conduct their politics, and it's none of our business how Egypt conducts theirs."
Joe in Maryland writes, "None. My hope for Egypt is that moderate intellectuals will grab the reins of the country and direct Egypt into a solid, successful and peaceful existence."
Harold in Alaska: "Probably about the same as our own fundamentalist groups here. A gadfly to progress from out of the past."
Carolyn says, "The Brotherhood should play their role as advertised: an Islamic voice for reason and moderation in the Middle East. Can you think of a better way to sock it to the west than to actually honor their campaign promises?"
Ken in California writes, "I don't know, but I can see how religious groups play a role in our country. It seems we're always jumping politically through hoops over gay marriage or abortion. It clouds or downright blinds us emotionally in choosing our leaders. One wonders how that will play out in our future."
And Bob in Quebec writes, "They ought to play any role the Egyptian people think they should play. It's none of our business."
Well, yes it is. It's our business for the purpose of this whole segment here.
You want to read more on future of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you. See you tomorrow.
An Egyptian activist who's being hailed as a hero of the uprising is speaking to CNN only days after being released by Egyptian authorities. We'll have more on the exclusive interview coming up right at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING USA." Stand by for that.
But up next, the venomous reviews of the most expensive show to hit Broadway.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some "Hot Shots."
In Bangalore, India, air force jets fly over the crowd at the opening ceremony of an air show.
In London a woman arranges the seating plan for the Orange British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House.
In Cairo an anti-government protester runs underneath an Egyptian flag outside the Egyptian parliament building.
And in Afghanistan, check it out. A dog belonging to the U.S. Marines 1st Battalion stands beside a caged bird.
"Hot Shots," pictures worth a thousand words.
"Spider-Man" is the most expensive show to hit Broadway. But many critics are calling the $65 million production a colossal waste of money. CNN's Jeanne Moos has their "Most Unusual" reviews. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look out, "Spider- Man," the musical. You've been bitten by that venomous, poisonous species: theater critics.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (via phone): This was such a mess.
MOOS: "The Washington Post" said, "No superpowers needed to sniff out this stinker. Shrill, insipid mess, a musical aimed squarely at a Cub Scout demographic."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I really thought it was great. I loved it.
MOOS: But in the press, "Spider-Man" was spider-panned. The "Los Angeles Times" said, "Incoherence isn't much fun to sit through."
"New York Times" chief theater critic Ben Brantley called it a...
BEN BRANTLEY, CHIEF THEATER CRITIC, "NEW YORK TIMES" (via phone): Gelatinous blog of a concept.
MOOS: These verbal wounds follow all of the actual injuries. Four so far, including the stuntman who got cheered as they carried him off to the hospital.
"The New Yorker" put a hospital ward full of Spider-Men on its cover. The keyboard cat played "Spider-Man" off the stage.
The $65 million production is said to be Broadway's most expensive show ever, and critics are asking where did all the money go?
BRANTLEY: Even "Mary Poppins" across the street, you know, it has flying people, and they look like they're flying. Here it's just people strapped into harnesses as if it were a second-tier carnival ride.
MOOS: Its full title is "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
(on camera) But "Spider-Man's" producers would like to turn off the critics. Spokesmen for the show released a statement saying, "This pile-on by the critics is a huge disappointment."
(voice-over) "The show is still in previews. Changes are still being made, and any review that runs before the show is frozen is totally invalid."
But reviewers say the show has pushed back its official opening for months.
(on camera) To "Spider-Man's" defense comes a very prominent fan, a guy who's no stranger to theatrical productions, usually his own.
(voice-over) Here's Glenn beck's review.
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR/RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: "Spider-Man" is the eighth wonder of the world.
MOOS: What leaves the audience in wonder is when a glitch occurs in the aerial razzle-dazzle, the actors have taken to improvising as they're left dangling.
BENTLEY: Saying, "You better watch out, Spidey, you know, they're known to drop people on the audience." The applause was thunderous after that. We were all part of this shared experience of "Spider-Man," the disaster.
MOOS: Who are you calling a disaster, puny mortal?
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.