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JOHN KING, USA

U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Syria; Pakistan Criticized

Aired May 18, 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 late breaking developments in the case against the prominent French political figure accused of sexually assaulting a New York City hotel maid and an evacuation order tonight for the Louisiana community where we were last night. The floodwaters, yes, they are rising.

But up first tonight, two dramatic steps from the Obama administration on the world stage. Tough new sanctions on Syria from the White House directly targeting President Bashar al-Assad and his top lieutenants and from the Pentagon a strong pushback from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and colleagues within the administration and leading voices in Congress who say the Pakistani government must have had some role in harboring Osama bin Laden.

You have heard it again and again and again since that raid that led to the death of bin Laden. If the al Qaeda leader was living in that compound for perhaps as long as five years, someone high up had to be protecting him. Here's just a tiny sample.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan.

JOHN BRENNAN, WHITE HOUSE COUNTERTERRORISM ADVISER: I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think --

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- at high levels they knew -- high levels being the intelligence service. I believe they knew it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously there's been double dealing here.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Was this just benign and difference or was it indifference with a motive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But today at a Pentagon briefing with reporters Defense Secretary Gates said sure, he guessed someone in Pakistan was helping bin Laden, but essentially told those insisting senior government or top intelligence officials knew should back off.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Said I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact I have seen some evidence to the contrary. But and we have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now the timing here is very important. For starters Pakistan's prime minister is in China and U.S. officials are worried Beijing sees a strategic opportunity to take advantage of any tensions in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Plus key members of Congress are talking about slashing or at least putting tough conditions on any future U.S. aid to Pakistan now in the ballpark of $20 billion in the decade since the 9/11 attacks. Chris Lawrence is tracking this story and he's live for us in Washington tonight. And Chris, the defense secretary is very careful with his words. He was trying to send a message here.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. He is trying to walk a very, very delicate line. On one hand a lot of defense officials tell me they are very aware of the pressure on Congress and really the attitude of the American people to wonder where have all these billions gone, what have we gotten for our money.

On the other hand, they will all tell you to a man how much the United States still depends on Pakistan. I think that's why you saw Secretary Gates using those words saying the Pakistan military has been humiliated, that the U.S. military was able to go in there with impunity. That was to show yes the Pentagon gets it. They understand that.

But at the same time you heard the secretary saying this relationship is important. And you heard Admiral Mike Mullen talking about the head of Pakistan's military, General Kayani, by saying this man is not just a peer, he is a friend. Because when it comes down to it defense officials are telling me you still need to get the supplies to the troops in Afghanistan through Pakistan. If we are going to go after some of those leaders on the Pakistani side, we still need Pakistan's cooperation.

KING: And what is striking, Chris, is that you have -- you just mentioned a key point there. These guys at the Pentagon they have to deal minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day with this relationship and its ups and downs. The secretary was not only speaking a cautionary word to those in Congress though. The president himself, top officials at the White House have said we think somebody in Pakistan was involved. Someone said high involved, so it's interesting to see somebody, a cabinet secretary in the administration essentially sending a message to fellow people who serve in the administration.

LAWRENCE: Yes, exactly. I mean they're worried -- you know this mission is over. It's done with. But what they are worried about is the fact that we now know exactly how many SEALs assaulted that compound, exactly how many SEALs were in back up, ready to move in, how they assaulted the compound. We didn't know they even had stealth Blackhawk.

Now we do. What they are concerned about is the fact that now this mission is done, but if they need to undertake a similar mission to go after say a leader of the Haqqani network and other parts of Pakistan, how difficult will it be if we have now compromised not only these techniques, but the technology as well.

KING: The old saying loose lips sink ships. Chris Lawrence live for us tonight -- Chris thanks.

America's top uniformed military officer, as Chris noted, was also at that briefing. And Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a point of noting how humbling it was for Pakistan's military to have the United States launch a raid inside Pakistan's borders.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADMIRAL MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Their image has been tarnished and they care, as we all do, and they care a lot about that. They are a very proud military.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The bin Laden raid hardly the only source of tensions. U.S. drone attacks on targets inside Pakistan also have repeatedly caused friction. Stan Grant live for us in Islamabad tonight and Stan, let's start with any reaction you've been able to gather in Islamabad to a pretty dramatic statement from the defense secretary of the United States saying he has no evidence anyone high in the government was involved and in fact has seen some evidence to the contrary.

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. This appears to be a line that is developing now. Senator John Kerry said the same thing when he was here in Islamabad just the other day in his words, trying to reset this relationship. It's almost like they want to draw a line in the sand there and say look there is no evidence to link the military or the intelligence or the government to bin Laden and they want to move on now and try to right this relationship.

But at the same time these speculations persist and there are investigations underway here at the highest levels to see just what may have occurred, whether there was any collusion, even on an individual basis. But it's been interesting, John, rather than really soul search or ask hard questions here, the reflex reaction here has been to point the finger back at the United States.

To play to anti-American feelings here in Pakistan, point the finger back at the U.S. and say you are not respecting Pakistan sovereignty or our integrity or Pakistan airspace. And that's where the tensions are really going to lie particularly if drone attacks continue -- John.

KING: And let's pick up right there where you ended, Stan, on the drone attacks because they were a source of tension beforehand. And now when you have anti-American sentiment, perhaps stoked even more because of the raw anger over the bin Laden raid, what is the sense? As those drone attacks continue today as we speak, how is that flaming up?

GRANT: It's really interesting over the years you know the first drone attack happened in 2004. In the past four years since 2006, 2007, they've really increased more than 150 and they've taken out some very high value targets according to some estimates, up to 1,000 militants have been killed by these targeted attacks.

And there was a feeling amongst in Pakistan that even though they didn't publicly like it that the high-ranking officials and the military and so on were tolerating it, even privately supporting it. That did seem to shift in the last month or so. Back in March General Kayani, the head of the military here, called it intolerable and a gross infringement of human rights. The prime minister has called for them to stop.

And the reason is this. Drone strikes don't just kill terrorists. They also kill civilians and Pakistani civilians are really caught in the crossfire here, John. More than 30,000 have been killed in the past 10 years since 9-11 and that caused a lot of blowback here, a lot of concern amongst the population, but also the militants themselves who then turn around and go after the Pakistani military.

Just in the last few days there have been multiple attacks here involving up to 60 to 70 militants at any given time attacking checkpoints and just last week, there were almost 80 to 90 military recruits killed at a training center targeted by the Taliban, so you can say the military and the people caught in the crossfire and that's what's causing unease here -- John.

KING: A raw and a delicate time in U.S.-Pakistan relations. Stan Grant live for us in Islamabad -- thanks, Stan.

Let's get some perspective now from a leading congressional voice on foreign policy. Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator Corker, you're on record saying that you believe Pakistan must be quote "in cahoots or incompetent". The question being did they harbor or protect Osama bin Laden? Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen today being quite adamant saying they have found zero evidence that anybody in the Pakistani leadership knew about this. Do you trust them? Do you believe Secretary Gates?

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Well, you know, to me the issue is this. Look, the Pakistanis are very embarrassed, and at a minimum, we know that to be true. And so to me, John, the question is where do we go from here? You know, for a long time we have known that we had the Haqqani network and LET based in the FATA and Baluchistan areas. And when you travel in Afghanistan and you're in Helmand Province, you're --

(AUDIO GAP)

CORKER: -- they are incredibly frustrated because they are fighting an enemy being led that's being led in those areas of Pakistan that I was just referring to. And so they are fighting our enemy where they are not and we're giving aid to a country where they are. And so at a minimum, John, it seems to me it's time for us to really alter this relationship. Our relationship with Pakistan is very transactional, but we need to make sure that they are focused on our enemy and the FATA areas and we need to be able to work in a very different way than what we've had, the arrangement we've had in the past.

KING: But to use your term, transactional, $20 billion roughly since the 9/11 attacks have gone from the United States to Pakistan. Much of that aid goes to the military and the security apparatus. There have been many in Congress who've said it's time to either stop that aid or at least put some very tough strings on it. Listen to Secretary Gates here weighing in on that argument. He says Pakistan has already paid a high price.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GATES: If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I have already paid a price. I have been humiliated. I have been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity and I think we have to be -- I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: It's a pretty strong pushback there saying don't cut their aid. Will you cut their aid?

CORKER: Well look I am on record as saying there needs to be different strings attached. Listen, John, you know money is fungible. It can make its way into lots of different types of operations and the fact is we haven't had the kind of cooperation regardless of what happened with Osama bin Laden. We haven't had the kind of cooperation that we need.

And so you know this is an opportunity for us to change that relationship and sure, they are humiliated and sure we went in there. They didn't detect us. They say they didn't detect Osama bin Laden, but the bigger issue for us is our strategic interest and their strategic interest are not aligning as they should. And this is a time for us to sit down to get that clear and to get that clear as part of any aid that goes to Pakistan.

To me it only makes sense. We've known for a long, long time that we cannot be successful in Afghanistan as long as the people who are leading the effort against us are based in Pakistan. So let's get this relationship right. Again, it is about money. And our money does alter their behavior and the fact is as you mentioned, we've sent $20 billion there -- over $20 billion actually since 2001. Let's get it right and I think this is an opportunity to do that.

KING: As this plays out, the Pakistani government obviously is well aware of the political conversations here in the United States. The prime minister is in China right now. They have called China a weather tested, a well-tested friend and we are told by intelligent sources that China would like to see the tail of that special operations helicopter that was left, that was exploded in the bin Laden compound. The tail and the other parts of that helicopter have not yet been returned. What do you make of that?

CORKER: I don't know enough about the details of the conversation that are taking place there, but look, you know again Pakistan it's a country that hasn't acted rationally. I mean I think that's a minimum statement you can make about their activities with -- their activities other countries. And again it's now time to sit down, have a mature conversation. Let's understand what each other's goals are and make sure, by the way, they are the same.

We've had witnesses and recently informed relations. I don't know if they are accurate that believe that Pakistan actually wants to see Afghanistan not be a stable country. If that's the case, obviously we have a very different view of the world. And John, it just seems to me that now is the time regardless of push back from the Defense Department, regardless of push back from our Joint Chiefs, now is the time to have that conversation, especially when so many American lives and so much American resource is at stake.

KING: Do you think the administration is blind to this or do they just see no better option --

CORKER: No, I think -- I think that -- I happen to think that we're going to end up doing exactly what I've just laid out here not because I've laid it out. I just think it's the rational thing to do. I think there is a little push back and I think people are worried about maybe things getting a little too carried away rhetorically.

I do understand, by the way, what the politicians inside Pakistan deal with. I mean we do have drones that are flying in their sovereign space shooting and killing people in various parts of Pakistan that we believe to be extremists. I understand how that plays with politicians in their area. I understand when we had a person, one of our CIA operatives that was involved in an accident. I understand how that plays locally.

That still doesn't mean that as it relates to our overall nation's interest, their nation's interest that we should not get that -- that we should not get that aligned when we are giving so much in aid to the country of Pakistan. Again, our relationship has been transactional to -- candidly and we just need to make sure that that transactional relationship is one where our interests are aligned with their interest. Now is the time to do that, not later, right now.

KING: Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, appreciate your time tonight.

CORKER: Thank you. KING: And as it tries to ease tensions with Pakistan, the Obama administration tonight adding pressure on the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. An executive order signed by President Obama and some new steps by the Treasury Department freeze any assets President Assad and six top Assad deputies have in U.S. financial institutions. The administration says those tougher sanctions, a direct response to the violence Syrian crackdown against anti-government demonstrators.

This just in to CNN -- the Arizona congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, had surgery today. Her hospital confirms it was a cranioplasty procedure and just issued a statement saying "she is recovering well". Her doctors called a news conference for tomorrow to update her condition. Remember Congresswoman Giffords shot in January. She had to have surgery, brain surgery then and surgery now to (INAUDIBLE) part of her skull was taken off to help deal with her original injuries.

We'll stay on of that story, bring you any new developments this hour and of course coverage of that news conference tomorrow. Also coming up tonight the head of the International Monetary Fund is pushing to be released on bail by fighting -- while fighting charges he sexually assaulted a New York hotel worker.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The president tonight is putting the finishing touches on a major address on Middle East policy. At a time of dramatic upheaval in the Middle East and North Africa and with the death of Osama bin Laden the administration sees the need to better explain U.S. policy in the fast-changing region. Some are labeling this speech Cairo 2.0 because it was just two years ago President Obama traveled to Egypt with the goal of opening a new chapter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. One based on mutual interest and mutual respect. And one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: But Mr. Obama has fallen far short, far short of his goal of dramatically improving America's image in the Arab and Muslim world. Let's tale a look at some findings -- these are from the Pew Research Center. We will show you some numbers here and they are quite dramatic when you look and play them out. Just U.S. favorability in the region, you bring up these numbers here, the percentages (INAUDIBLE) top of the drop from last year. Remember the president was here a year ago.

Opinions of the United States -- negative opinions of the United States up slightly in Egypt, just slightly in Egypt from last year, down in Jordan from last year, down in Pakistan from last year. In the Palestinian territories no polling last year, so this is a comparison to three years ago, up slightly. In Turkey down as well -- that's U.S. favorability, so the president not making a lot of progress in the year since that speech in Cairo.

Let's take away these numbers and bring up different numbers here, a look at who gets more support, those who disagree with Islamic fundamentalists or those who support fundamentalists? In Egypt it's an even split. In Jordan about an even split, but we've talked about the problem in Pakistan. Look at this -- look at this -- how much more support fundamentalists get. In Pakistan, a little bit more support in the Palestinian territories. That is something to watch there.

One more quick thing to take a look at -- which extremist groups are viewed favorably? You see al Qaeda is the yellow here. Al Qaeda relatively unfavorable across the region, Hamas and Hezbollah particularly in the Palestinian territories do have some high support there. This part of the challenge the president faces. Our senior White House correspondent Ed Henry is live with the latest now on the president's goals, the president's hopes as he delivers this big speech -- Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right John, I mean, the bottom line is when you talk to the president's top aides, they say he sees a moment here now after a few months of tumult in the Mideast to try and take stock of where we are and get specific about one key area and that is what can the U.S. do specifically to try and help some of these fledgling democracies, how to nurture them and how to try to deal with the economics of the situation. Because let's remember that that's where a lot of these peaceful protests began.

Not just people in some of these countries like Egypt feeling like they had no basic human rights, but also that they didn't have a job. A lot of young people there, coming out of college with no hope for the future. And so I think we are going to get some specifics from the president tomorrow from what we are hearing about what the U.S. can do specifically. Maybe some aid money for example to try to build some of these fledging democracies up. Now the rest of it is going to be big picture,, it's interesting because aides here sort of roll their eyes when they hear these expectations you know about a big, big speech from this president, but the fact of the matter is when he tries to put together what they say he's going to do which is you know talk about Osama bin Laden's death, talk about Libya, talk about Egypt, Tunisia, et cetera, and oh yes throw in the Israeli Palestinian peace process, that's a lot to chew on -- John.

KING: It's a lot to chew on, you mentioned -- you spent a lot of time on the quote, unquote "new challenges" as I'll call them. On that old challenge you mentioned at the end, the Middle East peace process, the Israeli, Palestine process. Anything new there at a time where most people are pessimistic there is a breakthrough in sight.

HENRY: It seems like we're not going to get any major specifics. There has been a lot of talk that the president has been weighing whether or not for example to push Israel to go back to the pre-1967 Israeli-Arab war borders for Israel make a major concession there and then try to make the Palestinians concede some other points. But as you know given the reconciliation now with Hamas, on the Palestinian side the Israelis are not in a mood for compromise on issues like that, number one.

Number two, there are people inside the administration who are saying that one reason that George Mitchell left so abruptly as the president's Mideast envoy is he was someone who was pushing for a specific and private Obama peace plan of some kind. Really lay down some specifics. Now that he's gone, it seems highly unlikely the president is going to get too specific tomorrow about what the parties are supposed to do -- John.

KING: Ed Henry live at the White House for us tonight -- Ed, thanks.

Let's get some perspective now from a young activist who was in the middle of Egypt's uprising. Gigi Ibrahim is a 24-year-old blogger from Cairo. Her Twitter handle "gsquare 86" (ph). Gigi, thanks for being with us.

A simple question -- the president of the United States is going to give this dramatic speech tomorrow. It is designed to reach out to the Arab and Muslim world and to people like you in the middle of the Arab spring. Is there anything you want to hear from the president of the United States or does it not matter to you?

GIGI IBRAHIM, EGYPTIAN BLOGGER & ACTIVIST: I really don't see America's role by any means whether it's the president or not even just America, any country's role to intervene in any kind of domestic issues. And to be frank, this is the government, the policies of whether it's President Obama or any previous president that supported a dictator like Mubarak for 30 years and the aid that America -- the $1.5 billion annual aid that Egypt received mostly goes to the army.

So this is the same army that has been terrorizing us and cracking down on peaceful protesters of civilians, which is completely unacceptable. So at this point whatever President Obama will address will really be irrelevant to what the situation is in right now because we are visiting democracy from the bottom up by the people from within the people and it's for the first time in the Arab world that the United States or any foreign power doesn't have to do with anything with bringing change to this and democracy to this part of the world.

KING: Did you feel the same two years ago? This speech will be given just about two years, almost exactly two years after the president came to Cairo, came to your city and delivered his speech introducing himself to the Arab and Muslim world, promising that he hoped relations with the United States would be better and especially that young people like you would look to the United States as an example. Did you have any hope back then?

IBRAHIM: I can only speak on behalf of myself, but what I can tell you is that the sentiment that I get from the street is that America is not the model of democracy that we are striving for. We don't see that America's model of democracy is the aim for (INAUDIBLE). In fact, we -- it started long ago, 10 years ago with the second Palestinian intifadah and the U.S. invasion of Iraq that drove people to take actions in the street and against colonialism and imperialism, which America after all arguably you can say some people believe that it stands for.

KING: Do you see a consistent U.S. policy in the region?

IBRAHIM: It's very hypocritical. U.S. will support a dictator over the other if it lies with its interest or not, so the main interest in the region are oil and Israel. Words are always nice. When President Obama came into Cairo and gave his speech, some people you know saw that it's a great gesture and it's one of the first of its kind and so on, but at the same time nothing has changed (INAUDIBLE), if anything I think the situation has gotten worse.

Iraq is still -- the war in Iraq is still happening. The U.S. support to the Egyptian military who is like I said has been you know not performing it as the best since the revolution happened. So there's a lot of concerns, but at this point I get the feeling that Egyptians are not concerned about what Mr. Obama is going to say. They are concerned about justice, minimum wage, (INAUDIBLE) you know the freedom of speech, democracy, our parliamentary elections, things that affect us on a daily life and nobody whether America or other country can help us. It's our duty and our role to play in painting our future.

KING: Gigi Ibrahim, appreciate your perspective today.

Our senior analyst David Gergen is with us tonight from Salt Lake City and David, I was struck in that conversation, a 24-year-old young blogger, precisely the generation President Obama hopes to reach in the region saying reject the teachings of Jihad, embrace the United States and democracy, and wow was she so skeptical. What can the president of the United States do tomorrow to reach her?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I'm not sure he can, John. This is -- the president and his people see this as a pivotal moment when bin Laden has been killed and maybe the Middle East can make a pivot toward democracy and he can be a force for change. But he's -- unlike the Cairo speech two years ago where there was a great atmosphere of hope about what President Obama and the United States could accomplish, now there is this attitude of skepticism overseas and as you look around the Middle East over the last few months, things have gone pretty sour in a lot of different places as you well know.

And Egypt -- Egypt is sliding toward an economic crisis and its foreign policy has become less positive towards the United States, Libya and stalemate, Syria the crack down, the United States has had trouble trying to figure out how to deal with this. And then of course with the peace process, George Mitchell's resignation as envoy to that I just think underscores how more abundant the peace process seems right now. So if you look at the totality of it, this is a hard place for the president to come and look at those numbers that you just showed in that Pew poll, John.

It's -- you know the -- across much of the Middle East, favorability toward the United States is at 20 percent or lower in that Pew poll. And why does that matter so much? Why does public opinion matter? It matters because there are all these democratic movements and the rulers of these countries are having to pay a lot more attention to the attitudes on the streets. Those polls mean a lot more today than they did a year ago.

KING: And that young activist and blogger, you know she's very smart for 24 years. She says one of the reasons we don't trust the United States is because you support one country, let's say Bahrain, that is your friend and they can have a crackdown and it's OK, but then when someone else does it who doesn't align with U.S. interests, it's bad. The inconsistency, she called it hypocrisy. How does the president deal with that?

GERGEN: That's another question, John, and he's clearly going to -- he's clearly used today to set it up on -- going to be tougher on Syria. That removes some of the hypocrisy. But I don't know how he comes up with a coherent plan. Maybe he can have some principles, but you know so I think this is going to be very difficult in the near term to generate excitement in the Middle East about his policies and it's going to be equally difficult to generate enthusiasm here at home. After all tomorrow he's likely to call for more American aid for that part of the world. This is the very time we're having talks about how to slash the budget here at home. And most Americans want to hear about jobs in the United States not about creating jobs in Egypt. So it's going to be hard for him. I admire him for having the courage to go do this, but I think in the short term it's likely to be met not with a lot of applause, maybe over the long-term this speech will be seen as seminal.

KING: And heading himself into a reelection context, David --

GERGEN: Yes.

KING: -- how does the president address the fact that you heard Ed Henry, George Mitchell would like an Obama peace plan? Bill Clinton had a Clinton approach or at least a framework. This president does not get along with the Israeli prime minister. Can he afford to singularly try to say all right, Mr. Prime Minister, you don't agree with me, so here's my plan or does he have to back off again, given the domestic political context here at home?

GERGEN: Well, there reports that there is a division within the administration that the vice president and his national security adviser, Tom Donilon, and a couple of others do not want him to be very specific tomorrow. They do believe we are going into an election season. They don't want to get out there front with a plan, but that Hillary Clinton would like something more specific as did George Mitchell. It sounds to me that we are not going to have a plan.

But the president (INAUDIBLE) as you would know so well, we got a huge problem coming up at the U.N. in September over this very issue. There's going to be a lot of pressure on the United States to get more involved before September and head off some sort of unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

KING: David Gergen, as always, David, appreciate your time. We'll stay in touch.

GERGEN: Thank you.

KING: Ahead here: new evacuations in the path of the slow-moving but still devastating Mississippi River.

And next: Dominique Strauss-Kahn wants to be freed on bail. New legal developments in the case of the international financer accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The head of the International Monetary Fund could be released on bail as early as tomorrow. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as you know, is accused of sexually assaulting a hotel employee in New York City. Right now, he's in New York's Rikers Island jail complex. But he's due back in court tomorrow.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick with the latest details -- Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, you know, when the judge earlier this week denied $1 million bail package for Strauss-Kahn, his lawyer suggested electronic monitoring, something that takes time to install and set up. Well, now, sources are telling CNN a deal is in the works and it could result in Strauss-Kahn being freed on bail as early as tomorrow.

Both sides plan to be in state Supreme Court Thursday to present this deal to a judge. It's going to be a different judge this time who is going to hear the charges against him presented by the district attorney. This deal could still fall through, the defense optimistic that he could, though, be released perhaps as early as tomorrow, John.

KING: You said the defense optimistic, Deb. What's the reaction from the alleged victim and her team?

FEYERICK: Well, this is a woman, a 32-year-old from West Africa, from Guinea. She spent the entire afternoon at court to testify before the grand jury. She was laying out the details of what allegedly happened to her in the hotel room on Saturday night when Mr. Strauss-Kahn was said to have attacked her when she went to clean the room. Her lawyer, private lawyer, reacted to news of this public release.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEFFREY SHAPIRO, ATTORNEY FOR ALLEGED VICTIM: Here's a man who was on a plane on his way to France, and would have done that. But for the intervention of the police, we got him off the plane and arrested him. So, I mean, in my experience, if this man is not a flight risk, I'm not sure who is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: Now, electronic monitoring does take several days to set up and that may have been the delay. The judge initially saying that because Mr. Strauss-Kahn was basically taken into custody while he was sitting on a plane ready to go to Europe, the judge earlier said that he was a flight risk. Now that he has this surveillance or now that there's a possibility of electronic monitoring, chances are they've got a location where he'll be staying. They'll be able to monitor him and cameras are set up, special keys. It's a big operation and takes time to do.

Again, that could likely be one of the conditions of his bail, his release, John.

KING: Deb Feyerick, tracking the legal developments for us. Thanks, Deb.

Let's get some perspective from our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

And, Jeff, let's go through this. Just the other day, as Deb noted, the judge said no bail. You are going to jail.

He was taken off the plane. He was certainly a flight risk at that moment. But you are familiar with how the electronic monitoring works. Does that -- if coming into court tomorrow, if they say yes, we'll do it 24/7 -- does that make a difference?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think it very well might. This is a very tough call for the judge because the defense is going to come in and say, is there a realistic possibility that this gentleman is going to flee? It's going to be tough to say with 24- hour monitoring, with his notoriety, with his passport, you know, surrendered, it's really going to make a tough argument that he is a genuine risk of flight at that point.

But he is a foreign national. He is a very wealthy man. He was arrested on an airplane.

So, you know, there competing factors. I think the judge is going to have to struggle with this one.

KING: And so, help me, if you were working with the D.A.'s office and you had to argue against a strong, as you just said, defense case, 24/7 monitoring, they'll post this bail money, you know, you can put a cup outside of his house, if you want. What is -- what is the prosecution -- what is the state essentially saying here?

TOOBIN: The prosecution says let's treat like people in like ways. Rikers Island, which is where pretrial detainees are held in New York City is full of foreign nationals, of Mexicans, of Hondurans, of Guatemalans -- people who are not wealthy, but have the same risk, because they are not Americans. They have no roots in the community. They are a risk of flight.

Given those circumstances, given the seriousness of this crime, given the fact that he was on an airplane, that's an argument that the prosecution can definitely make in good faith and it may well win.

KING: You just heard Mr. Shapiro, who is the attorney for the alleged victim here, making his case against the releases. But in proceedings in court tomorrow, he has no standings, correct? This is between the defense and the prosecution.

TOOBIN: That's right, John. This is really a matter only in sentencing in the American legal system does the victim have a direct role. Now, the political environment of which the victim is a part often plays a role in how judges decide things. But he certainly, Mr. Shapiro will not be in court tomorrow. This is strictly a matter between the prosecution and the defense.

KING: Jeff, I want to get your thoughts on this. This caused some international outrage in France. Of course, sexual assault allegations are serious. But many in France have protested to what we call here the perp walk, marching the defendant out in public with the handcuffs.

I want you to listen to New York City police commissioner, Ray Kelly, defending that practice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COMMISSIONER RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE: Our system is adversarial. That's the basis of American justice system, that you have two adversaries and the theory is that that's how the truth comes out. So, it may be different than the Napoleonic system that used in France. But that's what we have here. It's worked pretty well for us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Worked pretty well for us, but isn't it fair to say, Jeff, there times when the New York City Police Department and other police departments can be more sensitive if they choose to be?

TOOBIN: That's true although, you know, what we call a perp walk is, in fact, how every prisoner is treated. Now, there are sometimes television cameras there and sometimes not.

But if the police arrange to take someone away from the television cameras, that is a actually departure from the normal situation. You know, you are right. In certain circumstances, the police can take someone away from the cameras.

But it is also worth pointing out that there lots of defendants who have been perp walked, who have been paraded in front of the cameras in handcuffs and then gotten acquitted. I mean, I think our juries are pretty sophisticated here and they know that simply being arrested is not equivalent to being guilty. And Manhattan juries are actually pretty famous as being tough on prosecutor. So, this is not the worst place for him to go to trial if that's what it comes to.

KING: Important points from our senior legal analyst, Jeff Toobin, and I love Commissioner Kelly's reference to Napoleonic system in France. We'll be on top of this.

TOOBIN: We may be talking about it again by the time of this case --

KING: I think we'll be all over this and we'll certainly be over this court hearing tomorrow. Thank you, Jeff.

Coming up here: Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering well, we are told, after dramatic surgery tonight. Dr. Sanjay Gupta helps us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

Let's get digger now. This hour's big breaking news: The Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had surgery and her hospital just issued a statement saying she is, quote, "recovering well" after a cranioplasty procedure.

Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is a brain surgeon. He performs this procedure. He joins us now to explain exactly what happened.

Doc, take us through why is this so important in the prognosis now.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, you know, you remember, first of all, John, we talked about this a bit at the time when Congresswoman Giffords was first treated. In order to address the issue of the swelling from this bullet injury, this is a skull here. On the left side, they remove a significant amount of bone.

Why? That gives space for the brain to actually swell. That swelling goes away, you know, within a short period of time. But at some point in the future, now, a few months later, they decided to put the bone back. This is what it looks like incidentally, that piece of bone.

In her case, the bone because of the type of injury was infected so they've actually created a sort of bone substitute. And I think we have a little bit of an animation to show this here. But they actually take this bone substitute and place it right back into that same area. And use these metal plates -- you can see there, John -- around the corners, around the edges there, to fix that back in place.

The skin is then closed again over this and the concavity that she's likely had in her head over this past period of time is gone.

So, it's hard to think of this way, John, but what you've seen described there is primarily a cosmetic procedure, to sort of give her that normal contour head back.

KING: You described as a cosmetic procedure. And God bless you because you perform it. But how risky is this particular procedure?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it's -- it involves general anesthesia, any operation they say is obviously going to have some risks because of that. But as far as brain surgery itself goes, you're really sort of on the outside here. You're not actually entering the brain. So, it's more of just putting the bone back along the outer layers of the brain.

So, you never want to describe an operation as not risky. You treat every operation sort of the same in that regard. But in the scheme of things, it's a simpler operation to perform and one that, you know, typically has very good results.

KING: And twice, we have seen the congresswoman travel from rehab in Houston to the Kennedy Space Center, first to the shuttle that was scrubbed, then for the successful launch of the Endeavour the other day. How risky is that? Someone who is essentially missing a piece of their skull to be out traveling?

GUPTA: Well, you know, if you think about it, because that skull is gone, you essentially have just underneath the skin, the outer layers of the brain. So, in and of itself, that can pose some risk if someone were to fall or be injured in some way there. Typically, patients wear a helmet for that reason in order to protect that area.

But besides that, John, there's really no additional risk. The skin is closed. There's no additional risk of infection, for example. The same thing she is probably going through in rehab, trying to negotiate stairs, dealing with new environments, new terrain. You get a lot of that when you take a trip like this as well.

So, really, probably, there are patients who are outside the hospital, without, you know, pieces of their skull all over the place. So, it's not that unusual for this to happen.

KING: We're going to hear from her doctors tomorrow, Sanjay. What is the number one question you would have to get a sense of whether her rehab would then be in good shape, whether they come out of this confident?

GUPTA: I think at some point, now, they're probably going to have to set some milestones in terms of how much longer she's going to need to be in-patient rehab when she can transition to still getting out-patient rehab. I'd love to hear some more details on precisely how she is doing and how she's progressed since over the last few weeks.

You know, this operation itself while people think of it as a milestone, it really -- it doesn't have a huge bearing in terms of her overall progress. This operation was expected to happen. It's happened now. But I think we need -- you know, would like to get more information on how she is doing and what the sort of shorter term goals are.

KING: Tonight's breaking news, successful surgery. We'll see what happens next for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Dr. Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: You got it, John.

KING: When we come back, last night if you were with us, you saw me in a Louisiana town. Well, tonight, an evacuation order issued for that town and areas near it. The latest on the flooding is just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In Louisiana, an evacuation order is in place tonight for the Louisiana community where we are last night. The floodwaters there are rising. That order to evacuate taking effect on Saturday. The floodwaters are rising there.

Further up, an evacuation in Mississippi tonight -- not just Mississippi, one of the big concerns is saving the levee. That's where CNN's David Mattingly is -- David.

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, this levee is not like one that we see typically around the Mississippi. This one wasn't built with tax dollars. It's not maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. This was put here and is being worked on right now by one family, a family that's been in business, trying to protect its business that's been on the banks here for the last hundred years. And now, this family that's been in business for five generations is fighting the flood of the century by building this wall between it and the river.

Take a look at what we see so far. See how high the water is? It's usually about 100 feet that way to the river's edge. But look at where the lumber yard is. The Jones Lumber Company here, it's down in a bowl. If this levee breaks, all of that's going to be gone.

This family's legacy at this point is clearly on the line.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEE JONES, PRES. JM. JONES LUMBER: We're trying to keep this thing going for the community, you know, and for these generations is what we're trying to do. And if we fail, we fail. You know, and if we fail we'll just say, well, we tried.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTINGLY: And they are trying. Take a look at some of the activity that we've seen today.

They've devoted every bit of resources they have here. They essentially with not been in the lumber business for over 20 days now. They have devoted every bit of their resources to building up this levee. They feel like it's high enough.

But now, they have to maintain it and make sure that it's strong enough, because as these waves continue to come in, they're having problems with the river traffic. As the tugs push the barges through here, it's creating a wake and some of those wakes actually take gouges out of the levee that they're trying so hard to maintain.

The Coast Guard has stepped in. They slowed down the river traffic. They spaced it out. But they're still keeping a very close watch. The Joneses here are not ready to give up this fight. And they know that they're in for a long one here because this water is not going down for weeks.

So, they've got some good news today. The crest is not going to be as high as it was originally predicted. And they say in this case every inch counts -- John.

KING: David Mattingly in Natchez, Mississippi, tonight -- a dramatic fight there.

And as David notes, the fight every day and the fight will not last.

Quick break. When we come back, more images from my time down in the flood zone, including tonight a warning for Louisiana officials: watch out for snakes and watch out for other animals seeking refuge from the rising waters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I spent Monday and Tuesday down in the flood zone in here. And some of the images were striking. I want to show just some of them.

During an aerial tour with Governor Bobby Jindal, this was quite astounding. This was the Morganza Spillway. Again, they've deliberately opened this spillway to steer some of the floodwaters into less populated areas, to keep the higher floodwaters from Baton Rouge, New Orleans and other more populated areas.

When you watch the floodwaters flowing out from above, they open these gates and they choose them and they're moving them along. They're sending that water, sadly, though, into some other communities, like Butte LaRose, where you saw us last night.

An evacuation order now in place in this small town. The parish president was with us last night. He said, as many as 1,000 homes in his community could ultimately be buried. This water beginning to rise, coming from the spillway.

Obviously, the number one concern, these homes and the people who own them. But as the flood plays out, officials are also issuing warnings and taking steps to protect wildlife.

We can show you some images right here. This from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. As the water rises, deer being forced from their habitat. This is one thing you see. You're also seeing warnings that there are snakes moving around in the water.

You see the deer is running here. They're just trying to get to protection. There's a lot of snakes in the water. We saw quite a few during our time in Butte LaRose last night.

Also, black bear up on the levees as the water rise. People are saying be careful about the wildlife, something to keep an eye on as the waters rise.

We will continue to do that. We'll see you back here tomorrow night. That's all for us.

"IN THE ARENA" starts right now.