Return to Transcripts main page


Donald Trump for President?; Former Pakistani President in Hospital

Aired April 12, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: He was due to face prosecutors investigating corruption charges, but, suddenly, Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak is in the hospital. Stand by. We have got new information.

Want to also take a look at the billions and billions of dollars in a key U.S. ally and freezing intelligence cooperation with the United States. What could that mean? What could that mean in the fight against terrorism? We have got new information on that front as well.

And should Donald Trump seek the GOP nomination for president? Our brand-new CNN poll shows what Republicans think and how he would stack up against other potential candidates.

Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak has been hospitalized with what Egyptians state television is calling a heart attack. Mubarak's illness comes just two months after he was forced out of office and just two days after the country's chief prosecutor summoned him for questioning on corruption charges.

Let's go straight to Cairo. CNN's Ivan Watson is standing by with the latest.

Ivan, dramatic developments, a lot of skepticism about what's happening with President Mubarak. What do you know?

IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think it is fair to put it that way.

Many Egyptians you will talk to surprised at the timing of this hospitalization coming just two days after the chief prosecutor said that he was requesting that Hosni Mubarak, the former ruler of this country for nearly 30 years, and his two sons come in for questioning.

And now suddenly he's hospitalized in Sharm el-Sheikh, that Red Sea resort where he has been pretty much living for the past two months, since he was forced out of power by street protests here in Cairo.

We are getting an awful lot of contradictory reports about just how serious his health status is right now, whether or not he suffered -- actually suffered a heart attack, whether or not this happened while he was being questioned. The latest we have seen from Egyptian state television, a banner coming across the screen saying that he was being questioned along with his two sons in the hospital itself.

And this is just one of the amazing changes that we have seen in the most populous country in the Arab world since this revolution began on January 25. A lot of Egyptians very much want to see the men who ruled this country brought to justice for what they say was rampant corruption and the deaths of hundreds of activists during those 18 days of protests in January and February.

And what we have seen which has been really incredible on Egyptian news and in the newspapers every day, another one of Mubarak's men, be it his former prime minister, his former housing minister, tourism minister, brought in for questioning, and then actually arrested for periods of up to 15 days, placed behind bars. These once powerful men have fallen so far just in the last couple of weeks -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It is really amazing when you think of some of these individuals for those of us who have followed Egypt over the years, some of them not only millionaires, but billionaires, the most powerful business types in Egypt under arrest right now.

Who would have thought only a few months ago that was even possible. Yet, that's happening. So the argument is that, if they are arrested, what about Mubarak? And some are now saying maybe he's faking his illness, so he won't be arrested. Is that the charge you are hearing in Cairo, Ivan?

WATSON: It is the first thing any Egyptian you will talk to will say. It is very convenient that he is not feeling right now.

But we don't know the exact status. This man is in his 80s. He has suffered from other health problems in the past. And it is interesting to see how the investigation into his alleged wealth and more importantly into his son's alleged wealth, his eldest son, Gamal Mubarak, a former investment banker.

You talk to businessmen here in Egypt, they say that the ruling -- the former ruling family used a lot of nearly mafia-type tactics to muscle their way into profitable countries here. It prompted prominent businessmen to try to stay under the radar to make sure that they had a lower turn around than they could have had to make sure that members of the ruling family didn't try to take their wealth.

I actually talked to one corporate lawyer who is part of a committee of volunteers that have joined to try to track down assets that they claimed the Mubaraks have overseas hidden through a complex network of shell companies in tax havens overseas. Of course, Hosni Mubarak broke nearly two months of silence on Sunday. He released an audio statement denying any foreign accounts or properties whatsoever -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Egypt, what a story that is. Ivan, thanks very much.

In a sign that little may have clanged in Egypt since Hosni Mubarak's ouster, though, an Egyptian military court has now sentenced an activist blogger to three years in prison for being critical of the Egyptian army.

Maikel Nabil, seen here in some file video from his YouTube channel, was sentenced without the presence of any defense attorneys. Listen to the reaction from Nabil's brother.


MARK NABIL, BROTHER OF JAILED BLOGGER (through translator): I'm upset. After the army took control of the country, it spoke about giving us democracy and freedom of opinions. Where is the freedom of speech? My brother has been jailed since March 28 for an article he wrote. He wrote an article, so reply to him with an article. Reply to him, but don't jail him for three years.


BLITZER: The State Department says it is deeply concerned and disappointed at the sentencing and says this is not the kind of progress the United States is looking for in Egypt.

Meanwhile, tensions are running high with another U.S. ally, Pakistan, which has received massive amounts of American aid, billions and billions of dollars over the years. It has now apparently frozen its cooperation with U.S. intelligence.

Long criticized for not doing enough to fight criticism, Pakistan has complaints of its own, a U.S. drone strike which killed civilians and the recent case of a CIA contractor who fatally shot two Pakistanis, all this as the U.S. gets ready to start pulling troops out of Afghanistan.

Let's turn to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence. He is working the story for us, where the stakes obviously are enormous.

What are you hearing at the Pentagon, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there are a lot of high-level talks going on right now to try on restore full cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies.

In fact, one official told me that basically there was -- the relationship between the U.S. in Pakistan really dominated a very blunt discussion yesterday, when CIA Director Leon Panetta met with the head of Pakistan's intelligence agency right here in Washington.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Rocky relations between the U.S. and Pakistan could have huge consequences on targeting terrorists and even exiting Afghanistan. LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: One of the most complicated relationships that I have seen in a long time in this town.

LAWRENCE: By CNN's count, the U.S. conducted 111 drone strikes last year, targeting terrorist safe havens. So far this year, there have only been 18 and none in nearly a month.

MARK TONER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We have been through a difficult period.

LAWRENCE: The State Department confirms the U.S. is now talking to Pakistan about just how many of the 300 U.S. special forces will stay in the country as military trainers.

TONER: We want to work closely. We want to keep that program alive. We think it is important.

LAWRENCE: What has caused the recent friction? A U.S. drone strike that killed more than 40 people, Pakistan publishing the name of the CIA station chief, and CIA operative Raymond Davis shooting two men and getting arrested, which seemed to blow the lid off the level of U.S. involvement in Pakistan.

NICK PATON WALSH, ITN REPORTER: Well, one senior Pakistani intelligence official told me this is really about a breach of trust.

LAWRENCE: But correspondent Nick Paton Walsh's sources say Pakistan told U.S. officials they want to know more about what 40 other covert American agents are doing in Pakistan.

WALSH: One said to me, look, this is the Americans functioning behind our backs. We feel offended. We almost feel they think we are stupid and we're not going to notice these guys.

LAWRENCE: But one expert says there is a bigger picture here, President Obama's promise to start bringing some troops home from Afghanistan this summer and wind down the war by 2014.

REVA BHALLA, STRATFOR GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE: This is mainly about Pakistan trying to shape the U.S. end game in Afghanistan.

LAWRENCE: STRATFOR's Reva Bhalla says Pakistani officials know the U.S. needs their intelligence, so them laying down demands is their way of telling U.S. officials Pakistan can help fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan.

BHALLA: They are basically speaking with confidence, because they know that the United States is going to be extremely reliant on them as they try to withdraw.


LAWRENCE: In fact, one Pentagon official says there has been no interruption in military-to-military operations. And we know that Pakistan has not demanded that the U.S. end all of its drone strikes.

In fact, one Pakistani source is telling us, look, we want to get back to working with the U.S. The stakes are just too high -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon, thanks very much. We will have more on this, some other issues coming up later this hour.

Tom Ricks, Fran Townsend, they're both standing by.

Jack Cafferty is standing by right now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: One of the requirements for becoming a citizen of the United States is you have to pass a written civics test.

It's got questions like, What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress? Who is the commander in chief? What is the highest court in the United States? Pretty easy stuff, right?

Well last month, "Newsweek" magazine gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. citizenship test, see if they could pass if they had to, or if they didn't have to. Well, 38 percent failed. Questions like why we fought the Cold War, 73 percent got it wrong. Defining the Bill of Rights tripped up 44 percent -- 29 percent couldn't name our current vice president. And 6 percent weren't sure when we celebrate Independence Day.

But it's not just civics and American history that many Americans aren't getting. There is a general disconnect between what many voters think and what actually goes on in Washington. According to a CNN poll, most Americans think the government spends a lot more money on programs like foreign aid and public broadcasting than it actually does.

Many Americans support cutting those programs, even though they amount to very little of the overall budget. But when it comes to entitlements, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the ones that really cost the big bucks, well, most Americans don't want those touched.

In a column for, contributor L.Z. Granderson says that too many ignorant voters in this country could be to blame for too many incompetent men and women in Congress. Granderson suggests weeding out -- quote -- "some of the ignorant by making people who want to vote first pass a test" -- unquote. He suggests the same citizenship test that immigrants have to pass.

So, here's the question: Should a basic citizenship test be part of a voter registration process?

Go to Post a comment on my blog.

Didn't they try that with the blacks in the South back once upon a time?

BLITZER: Yes. And it was not constitutional.

CAFFERTY: It is not constitutional. BLITZER: It didn't exactly work out that well.

CAFFERTY: No, the courts threw it out, said you can't do that.


CAFFERTY: But there you go.

BLITZER: Good question, though, Jack. Thank you.

New developments following an alleged massacre at a camp for Iranian dissidents in Iraq. There is a new move under from the Iraqi government. Stand by.

And an American is now being detained by North Korea. We are learning new details of what is going on.


BLITZER: Americans are facing some serious belt-tightening. The last-minute deal that kept the government running involves $38.5 billion in budget cuts for the balance of this fiscal year. That's just for the balance of this year, the fiscal year, 2011. And it is just the start of a bigger spending battle that's about to begin.

Meantime, the U.S. spent more than $100 billion the past year alone in Afghanistan. And the plan now is for U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan at least for another three years.

What is going on over here? Are taxpayers throwing good money after bad in Afghanistan?

Joining me now, two guests, the veteran military correspondent and author Tom Ricks. He's with the Center for a New American Security. And CNN national security contributor Fran Townsend, she's a member of the External Advisory Boards for both the Homeland Security Department and the CIA.

Thanks to both of you for coming in.

Two billion dollars a week, Tom, the United States is spending in Afghanistan. Is that money well spent?

TOM RICKS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No. But the problem is you are there and you're trying to get out. The question is, how do you get out? What kind of an endgame in both Afghanistan and Iraq? But we are finding it in both cases much harder to get out than we did to get in.

BLITZER: Well, the president says -- and I'm going to bring Fran in, in a moment -- that the U.S. will stay in Afghanistan at least until the end of 2014. We're talking hundreds of billions of dollars more.

Is there a guarantee that all this money that is being spent, all the lives that are being lost in the end Afghanistan is going to be productive, a democracy, it is going to be worth all of that?

RICKS: No, it's probably not. The best we can hope is to kind of decouple it from Pakistan, the problem child of South Asia, couple it more to Central Asia, to Turkey, steer it away a little bit. But, no, it is not going to be anything that resembles a country we like or anything.

BLITZER: Because at a time of such enormous budget cuts here at home on so many vital domestic projects, people are saying why spend another $100 billion this year in Afghanistan?

Let's talk a little bit about the U.S./Pakistani relationship, Fran. How important is this decision by Pakistan now basically to go ahead and tell the U.S. intelligence community, go away?

FRANCES TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, Wolf, this is devastating if it is true.

I suspect what you're going to see this is an immediate-term threat. But the Pakistani government understands they need the U.S. intelligence relationship as well, because as we have seen, al Qaeda elements and radicals inside Pakistan are much a threat to the stability of Pakistan. But let's remember, from our perspective, we can't succeed in Afghanistan.

And I agree with Tom. You are not talking about succeeding in the sense of a U.S.-style democracy. But we can't succeed in Afghanistan without solving the problem in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And so we need that relationship, too.

BLITZER: The U.S. can't even find bin Laden or any of his henchmen either in Afghanistan or Pakistan along the border, where they are approaching 10 years now since 9/11.

Tom, you are very concerned about what's happening in Saudi Arabia right now. It's sort of under the radar. But what's your concern?

RICKS: My concern is that yesterday when I filled up my gas tank in my Toyota Highlander, it cost me $71.38. That's before any turmoil in Saudi Arabia.

It reminds me of about five, six weeks ago. People were saying, funny, Syria hasn't had much demonstrations, hasn't had much uproar. Why not? These were the experts. I think we're kind of with Saudi Arabia where we were with Pakistan about -- I mean, where we were with Syria about eight weeks ago, which is I suspect more is going on in Saudi Arabia than we know.

I think Saudi Arabia so far has not experienced this Arab spring. I hope they actually have slow and gradual change. I worry that if they don't, we are going to see oil prices go skyrocketing, and $71 is not going to seem like such a bad price for a full gas tank.

BLITZER: Because you talk about U.S. interests in that part of the world, Fran, Libya may be one thing. Even Egypt may be another thing. But Saudi Arabia, that's a huge deal when you are talking about oil and what that means not just for the U.S. but for Western Europe, all of the U.S. allies.

TOWNSEND: That's true, Wolf. But we haven't seen any indication. There haven't been the protests. There hasn't been the violence. There have been none of the sort of indicia that we have seen in these other country , including Syria that -- we have not seen that in Saudi Arabia.

And while I think it would have a tremendous impact on oil prices if we did, I don't think that we are going to see that and we haven't. It is just not -- it is very antithetical to their culture there for this to be a bug public showing of displeasure.

BLITZER: Tom, what about Iraq right now? Because that's a pretty fragile situation as well. We are not paying a whole lot of attention to what's happening in the north with the Kurds, in the south with the Shiites or the Sunnis. But what are you sensing?

RICKS: I think we will be paying a lot more attention to Iraq as the deadline for the U.S. withdrawal approaches at the end of this year.

But what you will see in the next several months is a lot of jockeying for the endgame. This is a problem for us. We have never really figured out how to get out of these countries once we are in, either Afghanistan or Iraq. And I think the worry in Iraq especially is going to be, in the north, the Kurdish-Arab skirmishing will intensify.

In the south, I think you will see Iran asserting more power over the south, and maybe even jostling with the Sadrists a lot from Muqtada al-Sadr's group for control. If the Americans absolutely leave, and I think they probably will have to leave before they are invited back in, we may see a period of extreme instability in Iraq that again will add to turmoil in the entire region.

BLITZER: And just think about the lives lost, the billions, trillions spent in Iraq since 2003, all for what? We will see soon enough.

Guys, thanks very much, depressing information, I must say.

The nuclear disaster in Japan, speaking of depressing, it's reaching the highest crisis levels right now -- details of a troubling announcement by the Japanese government.

Plus, what went wrong for these would-be jewel thieves? Stand by.



BLITZER: Just days after a bloody confrontation, the Iraqi government in Baghdad is planning a drastic move against the camp which houses Iranian exiles, opponents of the regime in Tehran. What is going on?

And Should Donald Trump seek the GOP nomination for president? Our brand-new CNN poll shows what Republicans think and how he would stack up against other potential GOP candidates.

And the world's largest passenger jet clips a small regional airliner on the ground in New York. We have the extraordinary images. We have the full story of what happened.


BLITZER: Iraq plans to close a camp housing exiled Iranian dissidents, dissidents who oppose the regime in Tehran. That word comes just days after nearly three dozen Iranians were reportedly killed there in a confrontation with Iraqi security forces.

Brian Todd has been working this story, had an initial report on it the other day. There is more information coming in and it is raising all sorts of questions, not only about the Iraqi government in Baghdad, the government of Nouri al-Maliki, but the U.S. government as well.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. That's right, more questions and also some new pictures, Wolf, pictures that we have to warn viewers about that could be some graphic images for some viewers.

You know, what happened at this camp still a big point of contention between those dissidents and the Iraqi government. The move to shut the camp down comes as the Iranian dissidents release video they say is of victims of Friday's incident, video which, again, we should warn you could be disturbing to some viewers.


TODD (voice-over): A grisly new video set to classical music purporting to show victims of a massacre at a camp for Iranian dissidents, a camp inside Iraq.

The Iraqi government now says it will shut down Camp Ashraf by the end of the year. It has been there 25 years as a place to shelter Iranians who have long opposed the regime back home.

The last straw, early Friday, a deadly confrontation between Iraqi forces and the Iranians who live there.

ALI SAFAVI, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE OF IRAN: The Iraqi government is responsible for the massacre of these unarmed, defenseless residents.

TODD: The dissidents, known as the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, posted videos online of what appear to be Iraqi troops shooting at crowds and at least one case of a military vehicle ramming into a man.

CNN could not confirm that the videos, which are edited, were filmed at the camp. We also can't verify the authenticity of this video provided to us by the Mujahedeen of two bodies they say are victims. The dissidents claim 34 people were killed. The Iraqi government says only three died and says the dissidents provoked the fight.

A CNN team visited this camp after the incident but was prevented from speaking with the dissidents. Now with the plan to close Camp Ashraf, the 3,500 people who live there are on edge.

(on camera) The people's Mujahedeen is concerned that, once the Iraqi government shuts down that camp, they'll expel the people inside it to Iran, which for many of them might mean execution.

(voice-over) In a phone interview with CNN, Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. said that won't happen.

SAMIR SUMAIDAIE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: No. There is no intention on the part of the Iraqi government to send any of the residents of Camp Ashraf back to Iran against their will.

TODD: But the dissidents have long made this claim against the Iraqi government, which has recently had a much-improved relationship with Iran.

ALI SAFAVI, NATIONAL COUNCIL OF RESISTANCE OF IRAN: The Iraqi government is doing the bidding of Tehran and wants to massacre these Iranians who are a thorn in the mullahs' side.

TODD: The Iraqi government denies that. I asked analyst Ray Takei about it. What, if any involvement, does the Iranian government have with respect to the dealings on that camp?

SAFAVI: I don't think Iranians operationally directly involved in that particular camp. However, Iranian government has insisted that these individuals represent a threat to it and they should be expelled.


TODD: The Iranian, Iraqi and the American governments all formally consider the People's Mujahedeen to be a terrorist group because of its targeting of Iranian officials in the past. A State Department report also says the Mujahedeen helped Saddam Hussein crush a Shia rebellion in southern Iraq in 1991, which is a key reason why the current Iraqi government has such a grievance with those people in that camp.

The Mujahedeen denies ever doing that with Saddam Hussein, Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the latest on this other aspect that there were U.S. military personnel at Camp Ashraf, and they suddenly left just before the Iraqi military moved in?

TODD: The Iranian dissidents are sticking to their claim that an American military unit was there just in the hours before this incident occurred. And they claim that they were ordered to leave by their commander in Baghdad, despite objections from an American commander who was on the ground there. We contacted U.S. forces in Iraq over this again today. And they say a spokesman for the Iraqi -- the U.S. forces in Iraq says that is completely untrue. He says there was an American unit there the day before the attack doing routine checks as they often do in that camp. He says the commander made no requests to stay in the camp. He says they had no indication of what was going to happen the next day.

BLITZER: I know you'll stay on top of this story for us. Thanks very much, Brian Todd.

As Muammar Gadhafi's forces hammered besieged rebels, Britain's foreign secretary and the French foreign minister both are calling for NATO to get more aggressive in Libya.

Meantime, Libya's former foreign minister and intelligence chief who recently defected to Britain has suddenly left the U.K. Let's go live to CNN's Fred Pleitgen. He's in Tripoli working the story for us. Moussa Koussa, where is he? Where is he going? What happened?


Well, Moussa Koussa is on the move to Qatar where tomorrow, of course, the Libya contact group is going to be meeting. That, of course, includes all the member nations that are part of a no-fly zone that are enforcing the U.N. resolution as well as the rebels.

And one thing that many believe will happen is that Moussa Koussa is going to try and sort of feel out whether or not he could be part of Libya in politics after Muammar Gadhafi if, in fact, the Libyan leader steps down. And what role Moussa Koussa could play in a future Libya.

Now, there's a lot of question marks there, Wolf. First of all, a lot of rebels say that this is a man who had blood on his hands. After all, for a very long time, he was the intelligence chief under Muammar Gadhafi, very close to Gadhafi. Three are many people here who claim that he is part and even ordered atrocities here in this country.

Nevertheless, this is a very, very important step seeing that this is someone who is so very high up in the Gadhafi government to now say that he wants to be part of this new state and sort of feel this out at this conference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that update.

By the way, Thursday, I'll be interviewing the emir of Qatar. He'll be here in Washington for talks with President Obama. My interview with the emir of Qatar, a key player in all of this, that's coming up Thursday right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

So what do Republicans think about Donald Trump running for their presidential nomination? Our latest poll coming up.

And President Obama's sister is speaking out about Donald Trump and the birther controversy. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A boost for Donald Trump's ambitions as he weighs a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination next year. Our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin is here with the results of a brand-new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll just out today.

What does the poll show?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It shows, Wolf, that Donald Trump is moving on up in the Republican presidential pack. The poll has Donald Trump tied with former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee, who usually sits alone at the top of these surveys.

Here it is. Nineteen percent of Republicans say that they'd support Donald Trump for president. Another 19 percent say that they'd back Huckabee, followed by 12 percent for Sarah Palin and 11 percent for former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney, who just yesterday announced that he's officially starting an exploratory committee.

Now, it's important to keep in mind Trump is rising fast. He's up nine points since we last polled on this question a month ago.

But when you ask the question a different way, when you ask would you like to see Donald Trump run for president, 43 percent of Republicans say no. That's a much higher negative than, for example, you see with Huckabee or Romney, whose negatives is in the 20s.

Now, some people do discount these kinds of surveys because they aren't measuring only likely voters, only people who are going to vote. So some say it's a popularity contest.

One thing we can say with certainty, what really has gone up since Donald has been talking presidential politics, ratings for his NBC show, "Celebrity Apprentice." It gained about 800,000 viewers after the Donald started talking about pursuing the presidency. That has dropped a bit but, Wolf, it's clear that political attention has been good business for his ratings.

BLITZER: Beyond the polls, he's generating a lot of controversy on other matters, as well.

YELLIN: That's true. A number of controversies he's kicked up. But the newest twist, Donald Trump told "The Wall Street Journal" that he might run even if he doesn't get the Republican nomination. He said, quote, "The concern among Republicans is if I don't win the Republican primary, will I run as an independent? And I think the answer is probably yes."

So the reason Republicans might be concerned, remember back in 1992, Ross Perot ran that year as an independent. Plenty of Republicans speculated that Perot drew voters away from then-candidate George H.W. Bush and allowed Bill Clinton to win. Perot that year got 19 percent of the vote. Bush lost to Clinton by just six percentage points.

So could Trump be a spoiler if he ran as an independent? Wolf, who knows, but there is a huge gulf between talking about running for office and actually filling out all the paperwork, which would include filling out all his financial disclosure forms. That would be a lot to reveal for a businessman like Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll see if he does that. But certainly he says he's going to do it after the season of "Celebrity Apprentice" is over. So we should know by mid-June, late June, something like that.

YELLIN: Sometime in June. Yes.

BLITZER: And it would be a nightmare for the Republicans if he ran as a third-party independent, because he would take votes away from whoever is the GOP nominee.

YELLIN: Votes, attention, fund-raising money. It would make it quite a scene.

BLITZER: It would almost certainly guarantee, presumably, Obama's re-election. That's the fear that Republicans would have.

YELLIN: That's the fear. That's exactly -- exactly.

BLITZER: Donald Trump says he doesn't like to lose. He only wants to win. That's why he might think of running as an independent.

YELLIN: He does say that.

BLITZER: We'll see what Donald Trump is going to do. Thanks very much.

Trump, by the way, is among a small but vocal minority of Americans who continue to question whether President Obama was born in the United States despite definitive evidence that he was born in the United States. Now the president's sister is speaking out about the so-called birther controversy and Donald Trump. She spoke with CNN's Piers Morgan.


PIERS MORGAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's this whole, I think, ridiculous debate about whether he was born in America. What do you think about that?

MAYA SOETORO-NG, PRESIDENT OBAMA'S HALF-SISTER: I think it's unfortunate. He was born in Hawaii. There is a tremendous amount of proof that has already been presented. The then-Republican governor and head of the Department of, you know, Health in Hawaii even attested to the fact that the birth certificate that they inspected was, in fact, valid. It's in the newspapers on the day of his birth.

So -- I think that it is time for people to put that to bed. Put it to rest completely. And focus on what they can do to help, to build. I love that part of his inaugural speech, that we are measured by the things that we build rather than what we tear down or endeavor to destroy.

MORGAN: What do you think of Donald Trump banging on about this every day at the moment?

SOETORO-NG: Well, I think it's a shame. And -- I think that my brother should definitely be president for a second term. And that's really all I have to say about it.


BLITZER: There wasn't much more that they said, if anything else, about Donald Trump, the whole birther issue. They did speak a lot about her own relationship with the president in the United States. Fascinating, fascinating details. I didn't know some of this stuff. I think you'll be -- you'll want to see it. Nine p.m. Eastern tonight. Piers' interview comes up, "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Good interview from Piers.

A jumbo jet collides with a regional jet full of passengers at New York's Kennedy Airport. This is an incredible accident that was all caught on videotape.

And Japan's nuclear crisis is now on par with the Chernobyl disaster. We'll have the latest on what's going on in Japan. That's coming up on "JOHN KING USA" right at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: If you haven't seen it yet, you've got to see this remarkable video showing the world's largest passenger plane, an Airbus A-380 clipping a regional jet on the ground in New York's Kennedy Airport. CNN's Kate Bolduan is here with more on the video, more on the story.

How did all this happen, Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question, and they're still trying to figure that out. But it is truly amazing video. And first off, I should say fortunately none of the more than 550 people involved here was injured. Very good news. But you can be sure nerves were quite rattled after this very unscheduled stop at JFK Airport caught on tape.


BOLDUAN (voice-over): You could call it aviation's David versus Goliath.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air France 7 Super, runway 228, turn left on Alpha hold short (ph) Echo.

BOLDUAN: A massive Air France jet taxiing to take off Monday night suddenly clips a much smaller regional jet taxiing to its gate at JFK Airport, spinning it 45 degrees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roving (ph) emergency truck to find (ph). We have been hit by Air France.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is all (ph) emergency equipment responding to call 3-2. A taxi went Alpha and Mike (ph).

BOLDUAN: Con Air Flight 6293 had just arrived from Boston. Air France Flight 7 was en route to Paris. CNN's Jim Bittermann was on board that flight. He describes feeling a slight rumble.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via phone): It felt to me like, you know, maybe they hit a rough patch of pavement or something like that. But the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) stopped the plane.

BOLDUAN: But for passengers on the regional jet, a Delta connection flight, it was much more dramatic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then there was this big bang from one side of the plane. I think it was the tail of the big Air France jet hit the back of us or something.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, the engine of the Air France jet hit the tail above and pushed it around and pushed our front end around the other way.

BOLDUAN: The Airbus A-380 is known as the world's largest commercial aircraft, according to the National Transportation Safety Board now investigating what happened. The Airbus was carrying 510 passengers and crew at the time. The regional jet, 66 passengers and crew.

The Airbus is large enough the entire length of the smaller jet can fit on one wing of the aircraft.

Mark Weiss, a former commercial pilot with 20 years experience, says visibility could have been an issue.

MARK WEISS, THE SPECTRUM GROUP: Even if you turn your head all the way do the side, you can't see your wing tip. It's too far back to see. And then you don't want to take your eyes off of where you're going.

BOLDUAN: Regardless, Weiss says it's clear that something went wrong.

WEISS: Somebody screwed up royally. As a pilot, one of the most dangerous times, despite what passengers may think, but the most dangerous time, and one of the most critical times is taxiing an aircraft on the ground.

BOLDUAN: The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. And investigators have requested the cockpit voice recorders as well as flight data recorders from both aircraft.

They will also be reviewing air traffic control tapes to figure out really what went wrong and also who is at fault, which is very much not clear at this point. Even though you see the big jet hitting the little -- clipping the littler jet, not clear who's at fault right now.

BLITZER: Somebody wasn't where they were supposed to be.

BOLDUAN: Clearly. That is clear.

BLITZER: Let's find out what happened. Fortunately, as you say, all 550 people are OK.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail answering this question: Should a basic citizenship test be part of the voter registration process? Stand by for Jack's "Cafferty File."

Plus, President Obama's major speech tomorrow on cutting the deficit. You can get a preview tonight on "JOHN KING USA." That's coming up at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: Some new and significant information from a Republican presidential candidate. Lisa, what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is just hot off the presses so to speak, Wolf. Tim Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, he is making it official. He is -- he has announced that he is running for president. He made that announcement on the Piers Morgan show during a taping. We will have that show later on this evening.

But it's interesting, Wolf, that he said this, the polling numbers that just came out today puts him at only 2 percent of prospective GOP voters. Compare that to Donald Trump, who has 19 percent. Clearly, you can see Pawlenty trying to get ahead here, trying to pick up some momentum. So we'll have to see. But a very interesting development, Wolf.

And one of the things that he said, I have a quote here that we can share with our viewers. He says, "Our trajectory is kind of a tortoise-and-a-hare strategy." That's what he told Piers Morgan. And so we'll have to definitely stay tuned and watch "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT," Wolf.

BLITZER: You can follow Piers on Twitter. And he just tweeted that -- that Tim's told him, Tim Pawlenty told him, "I'm running for president." That's a direct quote; @PiersMorgan just tweeted that on Twitter. We'll stand by. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" airs 9 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Let's go to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Should a basic citizenship test be part of the voter registration process?"

Mar writes from Tampa, Florida, "No, it's hard enough to get people out to vote now. If you require they pass a test in order to vote, then turn out would be even more dismal."

Lauren in Chicago writes, "No, we must suffer fools gladly. Remember that these types of tests were endemic to the South, used to prevent blacks from voting. It may be good citizenship to know how our government functions, but you can't legislate that."

Greg in Arkansas writes, "The test would be a good idea for voters if and only if all candidates were required to pass a more stringent test to demonstrate their understanding of the job they expect us to elect them to."

Eve in Texas writes, "Why require something that will be struck down by the courts? I'd like to see proof of citizenship."

Mike in Maine: "A test is a bad idea for obvious reasons. Instead, we need to teach the next generation that it's their civic duty to vote only after they've taken the time to learn something about whom and what they are voting for. If everybody did that now, do you really think we'd be stuck with the crowd we currently have in Washington, D.C.?"

Cheryl in South Carolina: "What an intriguing question. It's tempting, in order to eliminate low-information voters, but it would add a layer of bureaucracy, and after all, Americans have a right to be dumb or to believe in whatever foolishness they choose to."

David says, "I'm a high school U.S. history teacher. I found this test online. I decided to give it to my students, and after they took it and scored pretty well, I gave it to the other teachers and the administrators of my school. The students did better than the teachers. But I'm not in support of weeding out those less informed, because it goes against the right to vote given to all American citizens."

Pete in Georgia says, "What are you trying to do, Jack? Give the Democrats a heart attack?"

You want to read more on the subject, go to the blog: -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you.

It was a nightmare: stuck in an elevator. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us what happened. That's next.


BLITZER: So what do you do when you get 28 people stuck in a New York City elevator? We put CNN's Jeanne Moos on the story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When those doors close, do you sometimes wonder what you would do if they didn't reopen? Would you kick and slap them? Would you beat on them and bang against them, scream for help into the intercom and push some more? Now imagine there were 28 of you, coughing uncomfortably, trying to kill time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, what's your favorite song?


MOOS: No, this wasn't some Manhattan skyscraper. It was underground at the 181st Street subway station, a station so deep they need elevators. Elevators with a reputation for breaking down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We tried to talk, but we were very scared.

MOOS: And very hot. The video was shot by Isabel Demarco, an Italian who came to town two weeks ago to study English. It was the English of a fireman she heard about an hour after getting stuck.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, listen, I'm going to come in with you guys.

MOOS: Dangling legs more welcome than a shapely Rockette's, a voice comforting a little girl whose face we've obscured. She'd had a panic attack.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sweetie, it's all right. It's OK. We're here. You'll be OK. Five more minutes, you and your mom will be the first to leave. Anybody else, I need the young and the old.

MOOS (on camera): Being stuck for an hour and a half is bad, but it's nothing compared to the guy who spent almost two days stuck in an elevator with nothing to eat but a pack of Rolaids and no water.

(voice-over) Thirty-four-year-old Nicholas White was working late at his Manhattan office when he took the elevator up from a smoking break and got stuck. It was 11 p.m. on a Friday night. He wasn't rescued until 4 p.m. Sunday. He reportedly got a six-figure settlement from the building, and David Letterman parodied his video.

But at least elevators don't discriminate. Even pop stars like the Jonas Brothers get stuck in them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like my worst nightmare.

MOOS: They got trapped after a concert. It took more than half an hour to get them out.

But sometimes the call of nature comes before the rescuers. Nicholas White pried open the doors and relieved himself down the elevator shaft. As for the little girl...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got to pee! On the roof.

MOOS: Despite her dance of desperation.


MOOS: Oh, yes, she could and did, but whatever you do, learn from Letterman. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Helps if you press a button, idiot.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I wouldn't wish that on anybody. All right. Thanks very much, Jeanne.

That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.