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JOHN KING, USA

Libyan Dirty Tactics; Violence in Syria; Dueling Debt Plans

Aired April 15, 2011 - 19:00   ET

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


JOHN KING, HOST: Thanks Wolf and good evening everyone. Tonight Republicans use their new House majority to make a giant statement in the debate over taxes, spending and the role and reach of government passing a budget that strips funding for the Obama health care plan and slashes billions from Medicare. Plus, President Obama unaware the microphone was still on during a fundraising speech gives a remarkably candid assessment of his Republican critics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said you want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We'll play more of that tape and we'll map out how 2012 will be more different -- most different from 2008.

But up first tonight two dictators turn to brutal violence against their own people determined to stop the spread of the (INAUDIBLE). Let me take a walk over here to show you some disturbing images and we start tonight -- these images come out of Syria. Look at the pictures right here as we bring them up and we hit play right here.

Look closely at the ground here. Armed security forces using kicks, sticks, other weapons against demonstrators on the ground. These are the pictures from Syria here. We'll stop there actually to take a look over here because in Libya it is even worse tonight. This is the remnant of a cluster bomb, a nasty weapon. Moammar Gadhafi's government denies it but eyewitness reports in Misrata say the regime is using these nasty weapons, cluster bombs against its own people, helpless Libyan civilians in that besieged town of Misrata.

Now much of the world has banned the use of cluster bombs because their mayhem is indiscriminate but they are a weapon of choice it appears for a Libyan leader who seems anything but nervous about a new call from the leaders of the United States, Britain, and France for him to end the violence and step down. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen is in Tripoli with more on Gadhafi's defiance and his despicable tactics.

Fred, let's start with this confirmation of the use of cluster bombs, a particularly heinous type of weapon the Gadhafi forces are using against their own people in Misrata. You were there recently. What other dirty tactics to use the word are they using? FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, one of the main things that we saw in use is obviously just simply the use of massive amounts of heavy weapons inside the city center. That was one of the things that was really blatantly obvious. You had mortars in the city center which obviously they spray a lot of shrapnel as well.

Really the thing that I saw most when I went to the hospital is there was less gunshot wounds but a lot of shrapnel wounds and of course those are particularly devastating under the conditions that the doctors there have to work under. But you had tanks firing in the city center, artillery firing in the city center and of course one of the things that the rebels have been saying is that they say that part -- as part of these, quote-unquote "dirty tactics" they're sort of firing artillery shells into residential areas.

The residents are then coming out to sort of survey the damage and then they start firing at exactly the same place again, but there is certainly a lot of heavy weapons that are being fired inside Misrata and it's causing a lot of carnage -- John.

KING: And with more reports of it happening fresh today, what signal does that send being that it's the day after President Obama, President Sarkozy, Prime Minister Cameron released this joint statement saying that NATO will keep up the pressure and that in their view Gadhafi must go? Gadhafi does not seem to be cowering.

PLEITGEN: No, he certainly doesn't and he certainly seems to portray himself as being very defiant. Yesterday we saw those pictures of him driving through the center of Tripoli shortly after a massive airstrike and then shortly after that in the very, very late evening hours you had Gadhafi's daughter, Isha Gadhafi (ph), at a demonstration in central Tripoli. They're also saying that it is absolutely absurd to believe that Moammar Gadhafi is going to step down.

So certainly that is not going to be the case. And we've seen that the strikes that are going on by pro-Gadhafi forces in Misrata have by no means gone back or anything. They've in fact increased as far as the rebels are telling us. There are 15 people who were killed in fighting today. So certainly Gadhafi is trying to keep up the pressure himself but also the signals that we're getting from people who are close to the government, they're saying that at this point in time none of the people who are close to Gadhafi are thinking that he is going to step aside easily -- John.

KING: Fred Pleitgen tonight in Tripoli -- Fred, thank you.

If you've been watching recently most nights of late when we go to the close-up of the Libyan map we're bringing you word of opposition setbacks on the battlefield. Tonight though the rebels are claiming some progress -- we show you right here. You see al Brega -- green is the regime. The regime had al Brega yesterday. Tonight the opposition is claiming progress here saying that they have retaken the strategic oil town of Brega hoping to keep moving west -- CNN's Reza Sayah tracking the opposition from Benghazi.

KING: Reza, tonight the rebels claim to have retaken Brega. Do we view that as a credible claim? What evidence do we have?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Two things to keep in mind. First off we haven't independently verified this and oftentimes the rebels tend to inflate their claims. And second of all, we should remind our viewers that the rebels had Brega three weeks ago. Not only did they have Brega, they also had three towns to the west of Brega and in a matter of several days they've lost all those towns, the regime forces.

I think they lost about 250 miles of territory to regime forces. So it shows you how fluid, how reversible these gains are. If they have it, it's a significant get but even so there's absolutely no indication at this point that this is a rebel force that can take on a professional military like the Gadhafi forces. They're still out gunned, out matched, and they heavily rely on these NATO airstrikes to clear their way -- John.

KING: And Reza, you're in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi and there was a demonstration today to show solidarity with liberty -- with Libyans, excuse me, to the west. What was the significance of that?

SAYAH: Again we saw their determination but John you get the sense that they're getting a little impatient and frustrated with the international community. Of course it's been a month now since the international community got involved in this conflict first with U.N. Resolution 1973 and then with the no-fly zone. The rebels asking the world to help protect civilians, but all along they've maintained they want regime change.

Of course Colonel Gadhafi is still clinging to power and that's why the rebels are getting frustrated. They're getting impatient. On Thursday night of course U.S. President Barack Obama along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron came out and signaled the possibility of doing more for the rebels but it is not clear what they're going to do, what their plan is and how their plan will fit in with a mandate of U.N. Resolution 1973 that does not mention regime change.

KING: Reza Sayah for us in Benghazi -- Reza, thank you.

We know a fair amount about the violence and upheaval in Libya because of the extraordinary work of our CNN team and some fine reporting by others like that "New York Times" reporter and photographer who documented the use of cluster bombs in Misrata. Syria is much more of a mystery because its dictatorship keeps denying our request for access.

But more and more images of protests are emerging over the Internet as is more evidence of violent crackdowns by security forces and others loyal to the al Assad regime. Here is a snippet of a report from CNN's Arwa Damon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This man is seen to smile as he grinds the demonstrators back into the ground, voices calling them dogs and traitors, one beaten across the back and then kicked in the face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Arwa joins us now from Beirut and Arwa, because we have no direct access it is so hard to understand the scope of this but the images we are seeing more and more are horrifying to say the least.

DAMON: That's right, John. They most certainly are and that clip is said to have been from a mass arrest that took place in the town of (INAUDIBLE) on Tuesday. Now since that happened State TV did announce yesterday that Syrian President Bashar Assad would be releasing those who had been detained in incidents over the recent days who had not committed any sort of criminal acts against the regime.

And according to one activist who we spoke to, a Syrian cyber activist who is actual in hiding in Beirut, (INAUDIBLE), he said that 95 percent of those detained in Baida (ph) and in another area called Benyat (ph) had in fact been released but disturbingly he says that the majority of those released had in fact been tortured. Other video that was also posted to YouTube alleges to show signs of those tortured, says that those individuals seen in that video are those who had been detained and recently released.

You can see terrible bruising across the backs of most of them. There is even video of an old man whose face looks like it has been badly beaten. It's bandaged. And this of course comes as Human Rights Watch is issuing a report detailing various abuses that they say witnesses told them that were carried out by the Syrian regime. Of course CNN could not independently verify these YouTube videos, but the activists are pointing to them as evidence of the atrocities that are being carried out continuously by this regime, that they say they are trying so hard to bring down -- John.

KING: And with that being the goal, bringing down the regime, we have seen President Assad, you mentioned he promised to release at least some of the prisoners. He shook up his government and replaced the ministers. Do we see anything dramatic, fundamental in terms of reforms that are reform agenda that might satisfy those who are taking to the streets despite the fact they know they're putting their lives at risk?

DAMON: None of these measures are appeasing the opposition, these various activists who say that they want real and fundamental change and that would mean bringing down Assad's regime. They say that this cabinet shakeup, the new government that has been formed, that's basically insignificant because at the end of the day it is not the cabinet that holds the real power in Syria. It is the president.

It is the Baath Party and it is that feared secret police. And that is what these activists, this opposition really want to see changed. They want a complete and dramatic shakeup of Syria. They want economic and political reforms but more importantly they say they want real freedom and that means freedom of speech. That means freedom to be able to have free and fair elections, but most importantly activists are telling us that means freedom from the secret police.

KING: Arwa Damon there earlier from Beirut. Let's assess the stakes now and the U.S. options in both Libya and Syria with the former under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, also a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. Nic, I want to start with Syria and I want to show our viewers again some of the disturbing images we are getting out of Syria.

And as you play them and you watch closely you see these demonstrators on the ground most of them with their hands bound behind their back, security forces in uniform carrying weapons -- this guy standing by just sort of looking as if nothing is happening. They're getting kicked. They're getting hit with sticks.

They're being punched on the ground here -- the secretary of state of the United States, Hillary Clinton, today calling on the Syrian government to stop this and stop it now. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We call upon the Syrian authorities once again to refrain from any further violence against their own people. The arbitrary arrests, the detentions, the reports of torture, of prisoners must end now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: A strong statement, Nic Burns, but if you listen closely the secretary of state says once again meaning the United States has asked this before, demanded this before, and been ignored. Do we have any leverage here?

NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE: We have very little, John. The problem is, you know, we don't have the support of the Arab League to go into Syria or to be particularly tough with Syria. We don't have the support of the U.N. Security Council and the administration of course is having to pay attention to lots of other fires in the Middle East from Egypt to Yemen to Bahrain and of course the conflict in Libya.

Should the Syrian regime fall it would have huge consequences potentially positive for -- to weaken Hezbollah and Lebanon and to weaken Iran and it might expose the Iranian government to further demonstrations in its own country but this is a brutal and authoritarian government. It has routinely and savagely violated the rights of its own citizens for 40 years. Both the older President Assad and now his son Bashar Al Assad, and so, unfortunately, this is the way this government acts when people assert fundamental Democratic rights.

KING: And you mentioned the prospect if there were a new government in Syria perhaps that would have a positive effect, a supportive effect of reform as in Iran but at the moment as we take a closer look at the map in Syria where you see these orange circles that is where we know there have been demonstrations and when you see the flashing orange circles here that's where we know that at least some demonstrators have been killed and you've had significant violence.

If you look here on the map, Nic, there's an arrow pointing in because U.S. intelligence officials are telling us that they have evidence that Iran not only hopes President Assad succeeds in pushing down these demonstrators, but that they are providing assistance, perhaps even some of that gear that you see the riot police using against the demonstrators. What does it tell you that Iran is meddling in Syria?

BURNS: It tells you two things. First of all there is a very close relationship between Iran and Syria and Hezbollah and Hamas. It's a radical front in the Middle East. They're the sponsors of a lot of the terrorism that affects the United States and other countries. Second, it tells me that the Iranians are concerned.

They're concerned that the events in the Middle East for the last three months from Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain to Yemen to Libya and now to Syria may end up affecting their internal stability. Everybody remembers and John you covered it as well, but June, 2009 demonstrations after the stolen elections in Iran. The Syrians and Iranians are concerned that these demonstrators will now pick up steam and perhaps go after these governments in a fundamental way. I think the Iranians are acting out of fear more than strategy.

KING: Out of fear more than strategy you say -- I want to close this map and bring back up the Libya map because we are speaking tonight and this is the state of play essentially the opposition holds these towns in the east, al Brega in dispute tonight, the regime doing well this way, Misrata under siege. Nic Burns, we're speaking 24 hours after the president of the United States, the president of France and the prime minister of Great Britain issued a joint statement saying that NATO must stay on the job that these no-fly zones and other operations must continue in their view until Gadhafi is no longer the leader. That could be weeks. That could be months. It conceivably could be years. Is there political will within NATO to keep this going?

BURNS: Well, I think it's very clear right now that the United States, France, and the UK are in the right place. They're trying to make NATO into an effective fighting force in a difficult environment in Libya, but they're not getting much support because some of the countries involved are only willing to serve in the no-flight zone. They're not willing to undertake offensive air operations against Gadhafi's forces that are brutally assaulting the besieged city of Misrata for instance.

And so what the French, British, and Americans have to hope for is that Italy and Spain and the Netherlands are going to stand up and do more to help the NATO alliance succeed. And John, as you know, the two largest militaries in Europe apart from France and Britain, Turkey and Germany, are sitting out this conflict because they're opposed to the intervention. So it was a very troubled, very bad week for NATO. The alliance was split right open in arguments over the prosecution of this campaign.

KING: Nic Burns the former U.S. under secretary of state helping us with some insights tonight -- again, Nic, thanks so much. We'll see you soon.

BURNS: Thank you.

KING: Still ahead here the birther debate, yes it's back and it gained steam in Arizona through legislation that would require presidential candidates to prove they were born in the United States. And more of what President Obama said about the Republicans that you weren't supposed to hear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The budget passed by the House of Representatives today has zero, that would be zero chance of being enacted, yet it is an important defining document as the new Republican House majority pressures a Democratic president not only for spending cuts but for fundamental changes in government programs and in Washington's power. It would slash in the ballpark of $6 trillion in spending over the next decade.

And it would drastically change the government's role in health care by rewriting the rules for Medicare, for Medicaid, and by abolishing the new Obama national health care law by denying it any funding. The architect of the GOP plan says it restores fiscal sanity to a Capitol addicted to deficit spending.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: This is the most predictable economic crisis we've ever had in the history of this country. And yet we have a president who is unwilling to lead. We have too many politicians worried about the next election and not worried about the next generation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Pretty clear there right? Chairman Ryan doesn't think much of President Obama. And pretty clear from this audio recording from a fundraiser Thursday night guess what? The president, well he doesn't think much of Chairman Ryan either.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So when -- and when Paul Ryan says his priority is to make sure that we're, you know, I mean he's just being America's accountant and not trying to, you know, be responsible. This is the same guy who voted for two wars that were unpaid for, voted for the Bush tax cuts that were unpaid for, voted for the prescription drug bill that cost as much as my health care bill but wasn't paid for.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: All right, a little disdain on both sides there. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is here with us and our White House correspondent Dan Lothian at his post over on Pennsylvania Avenue. Dana, I want to start with you. You watched this debate today. The House Republicans obviously know they're not going to defund Obamacare. The president has made clear he will not let them at least right now when he's president rewrite Medicare and Medicaid.

Are they starting out there knowing they have to meet him in the middle or are they starting out there expecting to just have a partisan policy fight? This isn't just partisanship. There are some legitimate philosophical policy differences here. Do they see a path to compromise or are they not there yet?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) I think for the most part they realize that this is going to be just a debate, a debate that is partisan, but is philosophically different from what Democrats are doing and that's just fine with them because Republicans say that this is why they came in, to do things in the majority of the House, to do things that are different, to do things that are in their perspective bold.

Of course Democrats say, you know, this is the absolute wrong way to go and it was very interesting today, John. Not one Democrat voted for this budget. Not one. Only four defected. So it just shows you that for the most part Republicans are willing to have this fight even though it could mean taking some harpoons politically.

KING: Want to come back to those harpoons in a minute because we know what the Democrats will do in the next campaign. But Dan Lothian, you can view this as a partisan showdown between a Democratic president and a Republican House or you could view this as a pretty fascinating policy discussion if they will debate the substance. If they will debate should Medicare be, you show up at the doctor and the government pays or should Medicare be, the government gives you a voucher or a check and you have to go out and buy a policy?

Are we going do have a substance debate about, especially the health care issue, which a lot of this is about health care or are we going to have partisan finger pointing where the Democrats say you're the mean people trying to hurt elderly Americans and the Republicans say you're just liberals who want to tax and spend.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look I think there will be a little bit of both. Certainly publicly you'll hear the Democrats point the finger at Republicans, but certainly it's hoped that there will be significant policy debates behind the scenes and that they can reach some level of compromise here. Because, you know, when talking to aides here at the White House they realize that Republicans have been energized by some of the victories that they've been able to make when here in the recent weeks and so therefore they are not willing to back down. So there will have to be some level of compromise and you heard the president in his speech, talk about how Vice President Biden will be sitting down with, you know, lawmakers from both sides, both chambers to try to hammer out some kind of compromise -- BASH: But even -- but even on that Dan has got a good point that the president announced that there would be this big, huge, bipartisan discussion that starts in May. The House speaker is basically saying that this is a joke. (INAUDIBLE) I think he'll nominate a couple of people. Even the Democrats have only put two people up because they realize that it's sitting in a room with 16 people is not going to get what they want to do and especially in the time frame that the president laid out, which is a month.

KING: And so to that point the conversations led by Vice President Biden, Dan, are supposed to be about a big deficit reduction, short term and long-term debt deal to at least lay out a frame work and if they can't solve it all before the 2012 election at least make a down payment. That's one set of conversations.

The budget usually works, the House passes a budget. The Senate passes a budget. Then they start negotiating. The committees get together and negotiate and eventually the president gets involved. The criticism of President Obama has been a lot of these things he waits until the last minute. Are they going to try to do the budget any different or are they going to let Congress run its normal course?

LOTHIAN: You know that's one of the questions that someone posed to Jay Carney earlier this week and what they say is that the president has a team around him working very hard on this and the president will be engaged. Does that mean he'll be more engaged than he has been in the past? Will he do it much sooner? It is a very important point that you brought up because we've seen that on every major policy debate that the president has had over the more than two years that he's been in office is that he has allowed Democrats and Republicans to essentially hash things out and then he rolls in at the last minute and becomes very contentious but they get the deal done at the very end.

So it's unclear at this point whether or not we'll see the president sort of roll up his sleeves and jump in. He has the vice president as I pointed out doing a lot of the work early on, but perhaps the president will also jump in early as well.

KING: We already see the Democratic argument against the Republicans. They're saying this is a death sentence. They're using language like that for seniors because the Republicans want to make these dramatic changes to Medicare. The Republicans say isn't that's the kind of rhetoric we promised we weren't going to use? We were going to debate the substance of things, not use language like that.

But the fact that only four Republicans defected is a pretty bold statement by the Republican majority that we're going to go into the next election. We know what you're going to do to us. The Republicans made significant gains among elderly voters in 2010. It seems to be a statement of them at least a principle that we're going to stand our ground even if politically we get hammered.

BASH: That's absolutely what it is and I talked to several today. Talked to several of the most vulnerable Republicans, the freshmen who came in and they beat Democrats in districts where maybe historically Republicans shouldn't be representing. And they all said to me look they all voted yes and they all said look we know we're going to get pummeled. We know that what we've been reporting that the Democratic scripts are already written for the ads against them that the robo-calls are about to go out, if they haven't already gone out in -- to constituents' homes in their districts, but they say look this is something that we have to start a debate on. And we have to begin talking about it and we know that we're going to have to try to defend it.

KING: It would be great if it was actually a debate about what is in the competing proposals, the substance of how health care would be administered, how it would run under President Obama who proposes some savings and how it would run under the Ryan plan, which is a dramatic rewrite. I guess I've been here too long to expect a debate on the substance.

Dan, before I let you go what is the reaction at the White House? The president had this fundraiser last night and he gives some remarks the press is supposed to hear and then they're supposed to close the microphone off. And he goes on -- you know he didn't say anything particularly wild but it's more of a candid behind the scenes hey, here is what I think of the Republicans. Are they unhappy at the White House or do they think whatever?

LOTHIAN: They say that the president isn't bothered by it. That it was quote "miscommunication". Yes it was an event where they didn't expect that it would have been put out publicly. The press had been ushered out at that point and so the president thought he was just speaking privately to supporters, so they don't think this is a big deal and they point out that the president didn't say anything last night that contradicts his public statements.

But I tell you what. You know this is not the sort of tone that you typically hear from this president in that way and so it's kind of revealing to see how the president's public image and private image differ.

BASH: (INAUDIBLE) think this is about the trust deficit? I mean this really speaks to the fact that these people have no relationship.

KING: Well it is -- yes, it's a snapshot of how the president thinks about these guys. He has no relationship with them --

LOTHIAN: Right.

KING: -- short history of negotiating with them after the lame duck session, this short-term budget deal, but on these big, fundamental, defining questions of government spending, government power --

BASH: Right.

KING: -- I'm not so confident about that. But you know to Dan Lothian's point he didn't say they cling to God and guns or anything like that --

(LAUGHTER)

KING: So we'll call this progress today. Dan Lothian at the White House, Dana Bash, thank you.

Ahead here President Obama has been hounded by allegations he wasn't born in America. They're foolish, but today Arizona passed a bill that could make future presidential candidates show proof of citizenship before they run for office -- details on that controversial new legislation, that's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. I want to bring you up to some speed.

Some breaking news in Alabama. Just now we've confirmed reports of a tornado -- tornado on the ground near the city of Talladega, Alabama. That city, of course, south of the Talladega Motor Speedway where -- this is why we're worried -- 30,000 people are camped out right now.

Again, the worst part of the storm headed toward the town not the raceway. Our weather team keeping track of this, and we will as well. And we'll keep you posted as the night unfolds.

Tonight, though, back to politics. The clock is ticking for Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign a newly passed bill requiring all presidential candidates to prove they were born in the United States before their names would be placed on the state ballot.

The bill's author says it's about, quote, "maintaining the integrity of the Constitution" and he says -- believe it or not -- says has nothing to do with President Obama. Mark me as skeptical.

Since 14 other states are considering similar legislation, let's talk things over.

Joining us now, Attorney Orly Taitz, the leading figure in the birther movement, and, Cornell Belcher, a CNN political contributor and Democratic pollster.

Orly, I want to go to you first, just on the idea that people who want to push this legislation -- can they honestly say, can you honestly with a straight face it has nothing to do with President Obama?

ORLY TAITZ, LEADER OF THE "BIRTHER" MOVEMENT: Well, as far as legislation goes, it's something that has to be done.

KING: Why does it have to be done at the state level? There's a federal constitutional requirement to run for president. Why does any state have to worry about that?

TAITZ: Because the ballots are state ballots. Each state has its own ballots and, therefore, there has to be a provision in the state ballot whereby, one, running for office, needs to prove that he is a natural born citizen and he needs to prove it not with the piece of garbage that Obama provided during 2008 election that had nothing, but provided with certified copy of the original birth certificate -- which Obama does not have -- has to prove it with a certified copy of the original U.S. Social Security card that Obama does not have. He is sitting today in the White House with a stolen Connecticut Social Security number and so forth.

Absolutely. It has to be done by each and every state and not only by legislation, but also by the governor.

KING: I'm going to let Cornell in the conversation, but I'm going to him wait for a second. I'm going to make him for a second, because I just -- if this guy is this good then he should rule the world because he -- you know, you don't think he was born in Hawaii? I've been to Hawaii and here's the certificate of live birth. You're absolutely right. This is not a full birth certificate. There's another one apparently on file with the state of Hawaii government and yes, you can say why haven't they released the whole thing?

Here's the certificate of live birth. This is what most Americans get if they go to the agency to try to get a copy of it. Here's a copy of a newspaper article that the hospital sent out birth notices, a routine practice. Here's one published contemporaneously a day or two after his birth in Hawaii in the newspaper.

I was in Hawaii last year. We can show you video of the hospital where Barack Obama's family says he was born.

TAITZ: Yes, let me --

KING: There's the hospital there. And just down the street, the hospital sends out these birth notices. There's the hospital and the ward right there. Hospital sends out birth notices and the address they use when they sent out the birth notice happens to be this apartment building that we also visited when we were in Hawaii, which is where his mother and his grandparents were living when he was -- you say -- allegedly born in the state of Hawaii.

How -- this is the greatest Manchurian candidate conspiracy in history if they're that good.

TAITZ: OK. Let me explain to you, because what you are saying is absolutely wrong. We don't really want to defraud millions of viewers.

First of all, you showed something and I have something to show. This is an article from "Star-Advertiser" in Hawaii stating that the governor of Hawaii never found Obama's certified -- Obama's original long form birth certificate. The only thing that was shown or the governor of Hawaii has ever found was a notation in records stating that in records, there is a notation made by somebody at some point that there is a record for Obama and no one has found such a record.

Two, in regards to the birth certificate itself, do you know that the state of Hawaii has a statute, 338-17, that allows foreign born children of Hawaiian residents to get Hawaiian birth certificates? Additionally, it has a statute, 338-5, that allows one to get a birth certificate based on a statement of one relative only without any corroborating evidence from any hospital.

This is a fraudulent statement to tell the viewers that the Kapi'olani hospital created a birth certificate. Never -- there was never --

KING: I didn't say that. I said they sent the birth notice to the newspaper. I said they sent a birth notice --

TAITZ: No, no, fraudulent statement. Never happened.

KING: That's not a fraudulent statement.

TAITZ: Really? Show me. Show me a letter or any piece of documentation from the Kapi'olani Hospital stating that Barack Obama was born in this hospital. It does not exist. Nothing.

What was sent to the newspapers was an announcement, and in the state of Hawaii, if one sends a notice under the rule 338-5, meaning, a grandmother sends a form to the Health Department saying my grandson was born here, not in Kenya, not somewhere else, here, it is sufficient to issue a birth certificate based on a statement of one relative only. There was never any evidence to show that he was born in any hospital. And based on that statement of his grandmother, who could have been lying simply to get your citizenship for her grandchild born abroad, the state of Hawaii would issue a birth certificate under the rule 338-5 and would send this birth certificate, together with the hospital birth certificate notification to the Hawaiian news agency.

KING: OK. Let me -- let me Cornell -- stay with us, please. I'm sorry. But stay with us.

I just want to let Cornell into the conversation -- because when you listen to that, you can say, if you want, you can say, crazy. You can say absurd. However -- however, you're in the polling business, and a chunk and not an insignificant chunk of the American people believe this.

Let's look at our latest poll. Was Barack Obama born in the United States? Definitely yes: 46 percent. Probably yes: 26 percent. Probably no: 15 percent. Definitely no: 10 percent.

Ten percent of all Americans think their president is not born in this country.

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: And I wonder what party they --

KING: Well, you say what party. So, let's look it. Let's break it down by party.

Was Barack Obama born in the United States? Forty-three percent of Republicans say probably or definitely not. Twenty-three percent of independents say probably or definitely not. But this one jumps out and surprised me -- 11 percent of Democrats say probably or definitely not. Does the president have to do something more proactively to clean this up? Or as he said yesterday with this interview with George Stephanopoulos, you know, I don't do conspiracy theories. Is that enough?

BELCHER: No.

KING: Is that enough that in a close election, this controversy, we at CNN have done a lot of work on this and we think it's bogus, but 43 percent of Republicans, 23 percent of independents and 11 percent of Democrats have doubts.

BELCHER: Forty-three percent of Republicans is what you want to focus on, quite frankly. As someone who did polling work for the Obama campaign, it's not something that's new to me and something that sort of has a direct relationship with their inability to sort of accept Barack Obama.

The problem here is this: it is so categorically insane and you have so many sort of rational people, you know, not wanting to accept the truth. You have to ask: what is it about this president that makes them not want to accept the truth? Why are so many people vesting so much in something that is categorically --

KING: Orly, I think the question Cornell is asking, he's trying to ask it more politely. Let me ask it bluntly. If Barack Obama were white, would we be going through this?

TAITZ: Absolutely. And as a matter of fact, when President McCain ran for office, the Senate --

KING: President McCain said -- Senator McCain, excuse me, Senator McCain said, take this off the table. He is an American. I believe he is an American. Let's talk about his views on taxes. Let's talk about his views on Social Security. Let's talk about his views on national security.

TAITZ: Let me answer. When senator McCain wanted to run there was a hearing, a senatorial hearing, and it was Senate resolution 511 whereby it was decided that he was a natural born citizen. And as a matter of fact, what I believe is there is a political correctness that went haywire that allowed Barack Obama to get in the White House with a stolen Social Security number. Here, I have documents that the nation needs to see. This is --

BELCHER: Senator McCain -- here's the problem. You've dominated the time.

(CROSSTALK)

TAITZ: No, no, sir.

BELCHER: You've dominated the time. I'm going to talk. Senator McCain is a guy who wasn't born in this country and you don't have the same sort of fervor going around saying anything --

(CROSSTALK)

BELCHER: What's the variable? What is the variable here? The variable here is you've got an African-American president.

TAITZ: No. No.

BELCHER: None of this ever came up (INAUDIBLE) African-American president. That's the only variable here.

And when you have this sort of ill logic, there is nothing the president can do to sort of prove this. You have a birth certificate. You have an announcement. They reject the truth. They don't want the truth to be true. Why do they want this truth to be true in this case with this president?

KING: Let me play -- I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Hold on one second. Just one second. I will let you answer. Hold on one second.

My name is in the funny lights behind me. I get to talk just a little bit.

I want you -- this is the cynic in me, Cornell, that the White House says they don't worry about this, but every now and then, you start to hear things where I think that somebody quietly is trying to at least use a subtle message to rebut this.

Listen to this recent little -- several little snippets of the president and things around him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're all Americans. And that spirit of patriotism.

This isn't a Democratic or a Republican idea, it's patriotism.

This is what America is all about, everybody from different places, enjoying those things that bind us together.

The thing about America is that is great is that we're bold. We're tough.

We show the world that all things are possible in the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BELCHER: That's who he is. I mean, that's not new. That's going back to the very beginning of this campaign.

Look, we've got a fairly good percentage of Republicans last time around who voted for us, I mean, somebody, I think even Ike's daughter voted for us because of this idea of American exceptionalism. There were articles after articles sort of saying this president reminds us of Ronald Reagan because of his exceptionalism. TAITZ: Sir, I mean, look, this is ridiculous.

BELCHER: The ideals this guy believes that we are one and sort of patriotic. Patriotism isn't a Republican ideal. It's a Democratic ideal as well.

KING: Orly, we've been waiting.

TAITZ: Let me respond to this.

KING: Let me ask you a question. We've been waiting -- Donald Trump, the businessman who says he may run for president. We're waiting -- he's supposed to do a live event down in Florida. That's the event right there where he's supposed to come out and talk to reporters.

He has - he has risen in the polls among Republicans to second in our recent poll behind Mike Huckabee, tied with Mike Huckabee at 19 percent. He has jumped up in the polls the last few weeks because he has been beating this like a drum. Would you vote for Donald Trump for president?

TAITZ: Absolutely. And it's not only because of the Social Security issue. Not only because of the birth certificate. Barack Obama is committing Social Security fraud. The biggest crime ever committed --

KING: You're accusing the president of the United States of committing a felony.

TAITZ: Absolutely. Yes. And he's not a legitimate -- he's not legitimate president. Here is selective service certificate that can be seen on my Web site OrlyTaitzESQ.com, and it was filed with the courts.

KING: I'm going to end the conversation now. People are entitled to go to your Web site and I hope we can talk again. But I'm going to end this conversation tonight right now.

Listen, I sit in meetings for those of you at home and I'm going to pick this up and read it all.

For those at home who says, you know, you crazy jerk, why are you even going down this road? I'm going down this road because our job is not just to cover things that we know to be true. It's our job is to cover things that people are talking about in politics. And to try, to try to have rational conversations about why people believe what they believe, even if our reporting suggests what they believe is not true.

And we will continue to do that. I can assure you, we will never be perfect, but we try to do it in a respectful way.

Orly, I do thank you for coming in. Cornell, I thank you for coming in as well. We will, for better or worse, continue the conversation. And next: we'll update you on the tornado outbreak in the Deep South, including a confirmed tornado here at Talladega, Alabama.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. If you're joining us, here's the latest news you need to know right now:

A widespread tornado outbreak continues across the Deep South. The storm that spawned tornadoes near Talladega, Alabama, moved south of the city -- currently, thankfully, no reports of damage. But severe storms are just now moving into the Atlanta metro area. We are keeping an eye on it.

At least 59 tornadoes have been reported today, most in Alabama and Mississippi. These pictures from a storm chaser in Clinton, Mississippi.

All 5,700 teachers in Detroit's public schools are getting layoff notices. The school district says some will lose their jobs, but blanket notices had to go out now because of the teachers union contracts.

If you buy the new Statue of Liberty stamp -- I love this story -- look closely. They got the wrong one. A sharp eyed stamp collector noticed the facial hair features, light patch in the center of the crown -- well, they don't match the real deal, the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. But that right there is a photo of a replica in front of the Las Vegas casino.

Finally, Google executive Wael Ghonim who became one of the heroes of the Egyptian revolution tells CNN's Wolf Blitzer he remains optimistic about his country's next chapter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WAEL GHONIM, EGYPTIAN ACTIVIST: The dignity is back and we're going through a big wave of self-correction. There were definitely mistakes and issues that we are facing through all the time. But overall, I'm very optimistic and I think we are moving towards the right direction.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's check in with CNN's Hara Gorani. She's in Cairo. And, Hala, the former President Mubarak transferred to a military hospital. Does that in any way complicate, challenge the investigation?

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't know that he's been transferred yet. We know that plans were put into place, according to the general prosecutor's office for a transfer today. We haven't received confirmation that he has indeed been transferred to a military hospital. It's unclear, in fact, what military facility he will be transferred to. What we do know is that his condition right now, according to some of the doctors that we've been able to speak to and some of the hospital sources, is stable and that the interrogations and the investigation continues. Although we do hear that he is not being questioned every day because it depends, according to the source we've spoken to at the general prosecutor's office, on his health, and whether or not he's able to receive investigators in his hospital room.

We know that his wife is with him. That she is, in fact, spending the night at the hospital on one of the wings of the hospital. We understand according to sources we have been speaking to, that Suzanne Mubarak and some of the other information coming out today that it's not just her sons and husband being investigated and questioned, but she as well will be questioned within the context of this investigation into corruption allegations against the entire Mubarak family at this stage, John.

KING: Hala Gorani tonight from Cairo -- Hala, thank you.

When we come back, the president in a room raising money with his supporters. He doesn't think anyone outside is listening. Guess what? Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back. Candidates at all levels, from school committee, to president, are warned in the Internet age always assume there's a camera nearby. And always assume that microphone, see it right here, is open.

Yet, candidates at all levels, yes, including presidents, seem to stumble their way into open mike embarrassments. Unless you're a conspiracy theorist who believes the president and his staff deliberately fed out the audio from a conversation with big Democratic fundraisers last night. It was recorded by one of the hardest working reporters in the business, the CBS radio correspondent, Mark Knoller.

Nothing earth-shattering but still quite interesting. What you hear is a relaxed president criticizing Republican proposals and tactics right here, giving his side of a conversation with the Republican Speaker John Boehner.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

OBAMA: You want to repeal health care? Go at it. We'll have that debate. You're not going to be able to do that by nickel-and- diming me in the budget. You think we're stupid?

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KING: That's among the comments on that tape. A hat tip to Mr. Knoller for picking it up. Interesting. The president should know better. So, the question is whether he meant it or not. The White House says he did not. When we come back, an update on gas prices going up to $4 a gallon or more depending where you live. We'll break all that down for you, including overseas.

I'm going to take a walk over here to show you a picture because we're waiting for an event right here. This is in Florida. I know. It looks like it's in France.

But this is where Donald Trump is supposed to have a news conference with reporters in just a few minutes. Quite an ornate setting there. He's, of course, thinking about running for president. And we do know he's not media shy. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Prices vary depending where you live. But to fill the tank these days, well, is to experience some pain.

Let's take a closer look at something we covered a lot in recent months, and that would be the price of gas. Watch this play out. This is over the last three months.

This is the price of crude oil, a barrel of crude oil. Still, over $100 a barrel right there -- $3.81 now the average price for unleaded, regular unleaded, at the pump here in the United States, $3.81.

And you see, back in February, just back in February, was down here, around $3.10, somewhere in that ballpark. See I draw the line over here. That's just late February.

So, this all happened in March and into early April, we're up at $3.81. Some people think it could go higher than $4 a gallon, of course, depending on where you live -- your state gas tax, it might already be above -- might already be above $4 a gallon.

Now, OK, think of that, remember that -- $3.81, right? Three- eighty-one is average in the United States. That's pretty bad, that's pretty high, it's pretty tough.

But if you look around the world, $3.81 here. If you lived in London, you'd be paying $8.17. In Turkey, more than $10. In China, about the same as we are here. Japan, $6.77. India on average, $5.27.

In Libya, remember when gas was less than a buck a gallon, I have very vague memories, South Africa about $3.97. France, $7.51. Hugo Chavez's Venezuela which produces a lot of gas, 12 cents a gallon there; $3.81 on average for us.

We'll keep an eye on this as we continue. See you next week, Monday, right back here.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.