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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Congressman Anthony Weiner; W.H.: 'Dire Consequences' of Debt Fight; Debt Ceiling Increase; Palin 'Trumps' the Media?; 'Strategy Session'
Aired June 1, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: T.J., thanks very much.
Happening now, breaking news -- Congressman Anthony -- Anthony Weiner opening up to me about the lewd photo that has put his reputation on the line. Just a little while ago, I pressed the New York Democrat to answer the questions he's been dodging for days.
Plus, Sarah Palin plays the trump card.
Is she revealing any more about her presidential ambitions after sharing pizza and talking politics with "The Donald?"
And NATO extends its bombing campaign in Libya, as Moammar Gadhafi is hit with another high level defection and a claim that his regime is in shambles.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, the breaking news this hour.
Congressman Anthony Weiner is flatly denying that he posted a lewd photo on his Twitter account. But the New York Democrat tells me he can't say for sure if the image of a man's underwear is him or not.
Weiner sat down with me just a little while ago up on Capitol Hill in his office as part of his attempt to move beyond this controversy and his testy exchange with reporters yesterday.
Here's part one of the interview.
Congressman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Thank you, Wolf.
It's my pleasure.
BLITZER: Did you send that picture to that college student in Washington state?
WEINER: I did not. She says she never got it and doesn't know me. I don't -- I certainly don't know her. This seems like it's a prank to make fun of my name. You know, when you're named Weiner, that happens a lot. I've got 45,000 some odd Twitter followers, hundreds of people that I follow. This seems like a prank that has gotten an enormous amount of attention.
BLITZER: This is the picture -- I'm sure you've seen it by now.
Is this you?
WEINER: I can tell you this. We have a firm that we've hired to -- I've seen it; it's -- I've seen it -- a firm that we've hired to get to the bottom of it.
I can tell you this, that photos can manipulated. Photos can be of one thing changed to look like something else. We're going to try to get the bottom of what happened. Maybe Jon Stewart last night had it right, unfortunately, but we're going to find out.
Look, this has turned into this kind of international whodunit. What it really is was, I think, a prank. I'm treating it like a prank and trying to get back to the work I'm trying to do. I understand you -- you want to pursue the story and we're going to try to help you the best we can.
BLITZER: Well, we just want to resolve it once and for all.
You would know if this is your underpants, for example.
WEINER: The question is this -- I appreciate you continuing to flash that at me.
Look, I've said the best I can, that we're going to try to get to the bottom of -- of what happened here. But you know, I just want to caution you -- and you understand this, you're a pro -- that photographs can be manipulated. Photographs can be taken up from one place and put in another place. Photos can be doctored. And I want to make sure that -- that -- that we know for sure what happened here.
It certainly doesn't look familiar to me, but I don't want to say with certitude to you something that I don't know to be the certain truth.
But I do know some certain truths here. I didn't send any Twitter picture. The person who, allegedly, it was sent to, this poor woman, who is, frankly, a victim in all this, didn't get it. She put out a statement saying as much. I don't know her. She doesn't know me.
It seems to me that this is what goes on in the Internet world, in the social media world of 2011, that sometimes these things happen.
Hundreds and thousands of times, just about every week, people have spam and hacking that goes on. It seems like I was a victim of that. And I don't consider that big a federal offense, but people want to pay attention to it and I guess I -- I get it. When you're named Weiner, it kind of goes with the territory. BLITZER: Have you ever taken a picture like this of yourself?
WEINER: I can tell you this, that there are -- I have photographs. I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me. I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me. I don't know what things have been manipulated and doctored. And we're going to try to find out what happened.
But the most important reason I want to find out what happened is to make sure that it doesn't happen again. Obviously, someone got access to my account. That's bad. They sent a picture that makes fun of the name Weiner. I get it. You know, touche. Dr. Moriarty, you got me.
At the time it happened, I Tweeted right away that I got the joke and I continued on with my life. And I think that -- that, frankly, that's what I would encourage everyone to do. And I don't believe that this is a big federal issue. But people are free to pursue it if they'd like.
BLITZER: But you would like to get to the bottom of it. So the questions is, have you asked Capitol Hill Police or New York Police or FBI or any law enforcement authority --
WEINER: Have I called --
BLITZER: -- to investigate?
WEINER: -- have I called the cops or the FBI because someone sent spam?
No. However, I did get a -- a firm -- a law firm who specializes in these things, who specializes in white-collar crime. I've got someone who is -- and they're going to get someone who is an Internet security expert to try to get to the bottom of how we secure my accounts.
Every day, Wolf, people have stuff like this happen. It's regrettable, but it's true every day. Every day it doesn't become a federal case. Just because it happened to Congressman Weiner on his personal account doesn't mean that the taxpayers should pay for some big investigation of this that winds up going on and on for years to find out who -- wait for it -- who sent a picture of someone in shorts on the Internet on the account of a guy named Weiner.?
I just don't think it rises to that level. I don't think it's a federal case. But I'm going to turn it over to some people who are going to give me advice on what to do next.
BLITZER: Have -- but have your lawyers suggested to you that a crime may have been committed if somebody broke into your Twitter account --
BLITZER: -- and sent this out? WEINER: That's one of the things -- it's a fair question.
BLITZER: Because you're a United States congressman.
WEINER: I know, but I'm a citizen, too. And I'm a -- and I'm a guy who's on Twitter jousting with people all the time. I follow you, by the way. An excellent Twitter feed.
I -- I have to say that it doesn't necessarily mean that because it happened to Anthony Weiner means it should become a big federal investigation. I've watched federal investigations going on for years and chew up millions and millions of dollars.
Because someone sent a picture to someone who never got even it, who says they don't even know me?
I mean, I understand people may be curious about this particular case. But at home, there are people who are watching this saying, you know what, I get spam all the time and I don't call the cops. Or, you know what, I mean, it's a -- it's a terrible thing that happened, but I lost thousands of dollars in a hacking and I couldn't get a federal investigation.
Why should Congressman Weiner get one just to find out who sent a randy picture from his -- from his Twitter feed?
BLITZER: Did you send direct messages or private messages to this woman in Washington state --
WEINER: I'm going to --
BLITZER: -- Gennette Cordova?
WEINER: I'm going to -- look, I'm not going to get into how I communicate with people on social media. I'm not going to open the door to like, did I send someone a note that said, thank you for following me, please tune in to www.anthonyweiner.com in the future. I don't want to open the door to you saying, well, what about this person, what did she say back, what did this person say.
All I can say is this. There was nothing, as she said, inappropriate. There's standard communication that people have on social media. I Tweet all the time. I've got a thousand -- 45,000 followers, more than just about any member of Congress. It's a playful, combative feed. I encourage people to go sign up @RepWeiner. And this is what happens. Sometimes people zing you back. And that's what happened in -- in this case.
BLITZER: Do you do all your own personal Tweeting or do your staff members --
WEINER: I do.
BLITZER: -- do it for you? WEINER: -- with some limited exceptions that -- we have a firm that does mass mail for us that sometimes links to it. But it's me. It's got my voice. I was Tweeting at the moment this happened --
BLITZER: I mean, does anybody else have your pass code?
WEINER: Well, that's one of the things, unfortunately, we're going to be looking into. Not that I know of. But, you know, as I Tweeted that night, I have had problems with getting access to my Facebook accounts and I've have had to change that account a few times. And perhaps. We're -- we're going to find out what happened. I don't know.
You know, I -- I -- I fear we're going to find out that perhaps our security here was not particularly good. And maybe it's going to turn out to be a worse situation than it looks right now.
Now it looks like a prank. We're treating it like a prank and we're desperately trying just to get back to business. And that's why we're sitting down with CNN today.
BLITZER: See, here's what raised some suspicion. Back on May 27th, you Tweeted this. You were about to be on "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC. You said, "Heading to 30 Rock to chat with Rachel at 9:00." And then you said, "That's 5:45 in Seattle, I think."
Now, the woman in question here --
WEINER: I had Tweeted previously --
BLITZER: -- was in Seattle.
WEINER: I know, it's a terrible coincidence and that's all it is. And, frankly, I didn't even know the girl was in Seattle from her feed.
Look, let me say this. In the past on my Twitter feed, I had done a similar joke about other cities.
BLITZER: Why Seattle?
WEINER: It was a pure, a pure coincidence. I have no idea.
You know, part of the -- the Twitter ethos is they're playful, dopey things. You know, I don't think it was 5:45 in Seattle.
It was a -- a pure coincidence. And, frankly, you know, it's questions like this are why I was a little bit testy yesterday. It's like, at what point does the line get drawn where you say, you know what, this is just ridiculous now?
You want to go back and look at my Twitter feeds and you find some time that I referenced Seattle to link it back to this -- you know, I Tweet hundreds of times and I say all kinds of things. A lot of the things I said are very combative about Republicans, very, you know, I'm a very feisty -- you know, I have a -- BLITZER: I follow you on Twitter, so I know.
WEINER: Right. And you know how feisty I am. I mean, you know how I lean into it and how -- how I take pokes at them all the time. And, you know, a much more reasonable line of questioning would be like maybe someone punked him back, you know, to get even for all of those times. That's what I thought at the time.
And yet, you know -- and the -- and I would just say, you know, this person, or anyone else who follows me, what did they do wrong here?
They've done nothing wrong. Why should they be getting reporters hounding them, why are you following Congressman Weiner?
Why should I have people showing me pictures of your followers, saying do you, you know, just -- why do you follow this person?
Well, this is Twitter. You follow people sometimes because they ask you to follow them.
Why does that person deserve to have their face splashed in "The New York Post?"
It's just -- there's a level of this, Wolf, that it's gotten a little crazy. And maybe I contributed to it by maybe not -- not being direct about it. Maybe those statements I put out on Saturday and Sunday, maybe being -- maybe being -- having a gaggle of cameras follow my wife and me taking a wife taking a walk on Monday didn't do the trick.
I came here yesterday convinced, I want to talk about the debt limit. I want to talk about health care reform.
BLITZER: Let's go through a couple things --
BLITZER: -- and then I'll let you move on --
BLITZER: -- to the debt limit, health reform --
WEINER: I appreciate it.
BLITZER: -- and all of that.
WEINER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Back on March 13th, a woman named Ginger Lee, who's a stripper, apparently, she Tweeted this. And I'll -- I'll put it up on the screen. "You know it's a good day when you wake up to a DM (a direct message) from @RepWeiner. I'm a fangirl, y'all. He's my trifecta of win."
Do you have any idea who this woman is --
WEINER: Another woman who --
BLITZER: And are you sending her direct messages?
WEINER: This is another person who I -- has gotten dragged into this for no reason other than she was following me and asked to be followed by me. She was following and asked to be followed.
It's -- I think what this is about is a fairly pro forma thing that goes out that I send out to people as I follow them. Thank you for following me. Please check in at anthonyweiner.com.
But honestly, Wolf, just take a step back and listen to where we are now.
You're now going back to my Twitter feed and other people, who aren't even me, not a congressman, somebody who didn't sign up for this, someone who said at their Tweet about a congressman. And now you're asking me to explain why they did that.
Where do you, in your mind, does this investigation or this story -- at what point does someone say, you know what, we've kind of jumped the shark here?
This has gotten a little bit crazy. I don't know who the woman is. I followed her for a moment. And then someone started Tweeting, oh my goodness, Anthony Weiner is following someone in that industry. And I immediately, not wanting to cause trouble for her or for me --
BLITZER: Did you send her a direct message?
WEINER: I -- most likely what she's referring to is, as a pro forma thing, thank you for following Congressman Anthony -- thank you for following me. Please stay tuned to anthonyweiner.com for updates on other things going on. That's probably what she's referring to.
But please, I want to ask you, does this person did -- what did she do, beyond Tweet something that she's a follower of mine?
You can probably find hundreds of people that did that. And I just would hope that you would leave these people alone. I mean, come hound me, but they didn't do anything wrong for following me on Twitter.
I mean, honestly, is that really where we've come to?
BLITZER: I guess one -- one of the questions is you deleted some photos from your Twitter account.
Why did you do that?
WEINER: I deleted it all. I had no idea what had happened that night and I was a little bit freaked out by it. I deleted everything. I --
BLITZER: And you asked some of your followers to delete photos you were --
WEINER: From my Facebook account?
BLITZER: No, from your Twitter account.
WEINER: No, I haven't. I mean, I'll tell you what happened that night. I mean, it's -- I was literally there Tweeting about hockey. You know, for those of you who follow my Twitter feed, my bloody TiVo didn't record enough time, so I missed the end of the -- of the Tampa Bay-Boston game. I'm a big hockey fan and I Tweet about hockey.
And I see this thing pop up.
I immediately delete it, OK?
I immediately delete the photo -- I thought I deleted -- I mean, I'm not a hundred percent sure. I deleted the photo and then the -- this -- this -- without any password or anything, I was able to get into the account where this photograph was hosted somehow. And I deleted that and other photographs that were in there, as well, although it was nothing very controversial in there. But I deleted everything. And I immediately Tweeted "My system has been hacked." You know, "Darn it."
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And we're going to have much more of the interview -- part two of the interview coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I asked Congressman Weiner specifically whether or not he is protecting someone and he says he is, in fact protecting someone. His answer and much more. Part two of the interview coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But there's other news we're following, including a new tornado touch down reported just a little while ago. This time, the severe weather is threatening the East Coast.
Plus, the reason stock prices took a nose dive today.
And outrage after a suicidal -- a suicidal man drowned while first responders simply watched. Wait until you hear why they didn't even try to rescue him.
BLITZER: You taxes and government salaries. Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, more than 77,000 federal workers make more money every year than the governors of the states where they work. Now that's in a new congressional research report, the figures are based on 2009 salaries, the most recent data available.
The information comes at a time when cutting budgets and the size of government are the big hot-button issues. Almost a quarter of those earning more than their governors are doctors, more than 18,000 of them, according to the report.
The second highest percentage, air traffic controllers. I guess including the ones who sleep. About 5,000 of those out earn their state governors.
There are also more than 4,000 lawyers on the list -- no surprise there, I guess -- 22 librarians, and one interior designer. Say what?
Governor salaries differ from state to state. The lowest is $70,000, that's for the governor of Maine, not a lot to do there, and the highest is in California where the governor makes more than $212,000 a year.
Colorado had the largest number of workers who make more than the governor, more than 10,000. Delaware had just the fewest, just 37.
A spokesman for the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents about 600,000 federal workers, discounted the report telling "The Washington Times" that many of these employees work in higher-paying medical fields. Also, they say that many of these workers have reached these salary levels after many years on the job.
Anyway, here's the question: Should federal employees earn more than the governors of the states where they work?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.
Meanwhile, new tornado dangers to talk about right now. Let's bring in our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.
BLITZER: Stocks take a huge hit today. We're going to tell you just how far the Dow fell and what triggered those losses.
And another key player in the Libyan government now defecting. We'll tell you why this defection has to be especially painful for Moammar Gadhafi.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM, including some unwelcome news on Wall Street.
Lisa, what is going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf.
Today, the Dow tumbled 280 points. That's the largest drop in almost a year. The Nasdaq also posted a steep 66-point loss, the worst showing in almost four months. Experts say investors are discouraged by two weaker-than-expected jobs reports and concerns over Greece's bond ratings, which was downgraded again today.
In Libya, another major defection from Moammar Gadhafi's regime, this one affecting Libya's life blood, oil. The Libyan oil minister has fled to Italy, and he tells CNN he's considering joining the opposition's transitional national council. Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem says he left Libya because Gadhafi's political structure is in shambles and the suffering of the Libyan people has become overwhelming.
And we here at CNN, we are marking a major milestone today. The network is celebrating its 31st anniversary. CNN founder Ted Turner, he began it all way back on June 1st 1980, creating the first round- the-clock, all news cable channel -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And he literally, Lisa, as all of our viewers know, changed the world because there are now 24/7 TV cable channel, satellite channels in multiple languages, dozens of languages all over the world, hundreds of these news stations.
Ted Turner was an amazing, amazing revolutionary in terms of thinking ahead, created CNN and we're grateful to him for that. I think all of our viewers are as well.
Thank you, Ted. Thanks very much.
Meanwhile, new warnings today from the White House that really bad things will happen if Congress doesn't raise the limit on the national debt soon. We're going to have a reality check.
And is Sarah Palin giving any new hints about her presidential ambitions? Stand by for some of CNN's exclusive TV interview with her after her meeting with Donald Trump.
BLITZER: There is a new urgency today in the political fight over raising the limit on the national debt. House Republican leaders met with President Obama over at the White House today, this a day after the GOP-controlled House rejected a measure to increase the debt ceiling. Republicans are insisting on government spending cuts that more than cover the cost of boosting the debt limit.
Both sides say the talks were productive, but the White House warns that there could be dire consequences if the debt ceiling isn't raised and isn't raised soon.
Out own Lisa Sylvester is back. She's looking into the possible fallout, doing a little reality check for us.
Lisa, what are you learning?
SYLVESTER: Wolf, well, you know, the U.S. government spends more than it takes in and it borrows to make up the difference. But that national credit card is now maxed out, and if Congress doesn't raise the debt limit by August 2cd the government could be in default.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): If the debt ceiling is not raised, it could have a catastrophic effect on Main Street. The Treasury Department lays out a frightening scenario. As we near the beginning of August, interest rates could increase if investors start to get spooked and it appears that the U.S. may not meet its financial obligations.
If Congress continues to not act, Social Security and Medicare checks could be stopped or delayed, and services could be cut off to military families and unemployment benefits halted. The cost of borrowing for everything from a house to college tuition could rise steeply.
One economist at the liberal Economic Policy Institute says the GOP is playing chicken with a freight train.
ANDREW FIELDHOUSE, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: They are behaving like petulant children. They are not getting their way, so they are refusing to act, but it's incredibly irresponsible and they better come to their senses well before August 2cd.
SYLVESTER: The doomsday scenario has many average folks worried.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're doomed. I'm terrified, to be honest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're losing our credit rating. So I guess next time when we need to borrow, probably nobody will give us the money to borrow.
SYLVESTER: But Republicans are holding the line, arguing the $14 trillion U.S. debt is a drag on the economy, hindering job growth. They are demanding billions of dollars in spending cuts before signing off on raising the nation's debt ceiling by another $2.4 trillion.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: The fact that if we're going to raise the debt limit, the spending cuts should exceed the increase in the debt limit. Otherwise, it will serve to cost us jobs in our country.
SYLVESTER: Republican lawmakers met with the president in what has been described as a frank discussion, but so far no deal. There are Americans who agree that binge spending needs to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think the debt should be raised anymore. I just think that we need to stop spending as much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should start paying off and figuring out ways to pay off the debt that we already have. And then figure out, you know, how can we spend this money properly so that we don't have to keep on raising the ceiling?
SYLVESTER: The U.S. government's debt ceiling has been raised repeatedly over the decades, 74 times since 1962.
(END VIDEOTAPE) SYLVESTER: Yesterday, the House took a vote. It was largely symbolic. It was a measure to raise the debt ceiling without any spending cuts attached, and it was easily defeated. Republicans using that to make the case that it's time to cut spending -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Lisa.
Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. One of the Republicans who took part in today's meeting with the president would be the majority whip, Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California.
Congressman, thanks very much for coming in.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MAJORITY WHIP: Thanks for having me. And happy anniversary to CNN.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thirty-one years. Thirty-one excellent years.
All right. Let's talk about raising the debt ceiling for a moment. When all is said and done come August, it's going to be raised. Isn't that right?
MCCARTHY: Well, it's been raised all the time before, but what has to happen here is, if you just go about raising the debt limit with no cuts anywhere else, it could be a detriment to our credit and everywhere else, because those who are buying our debt -- you know, in 1970, foreign countries only owned five percent of our public debt. Today they own 47 percent.
If the people don't think we're getting our house in order, they could downgrade. And we had that warning that they could downgrade USA. So we've got to make a fundamental change in our behavior. You can't continue to borrow 41 cents out of every dollar and think you're going to continue to prosper.
BLITZER: Did you get a commitment from the president today that between now and August, he would come up with a significant cut in spending that would enable you and your fellow Republicans to go ahead and vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling?
MCCARTHY: My actual question to the president was, look, we're beginning to build a relationship because we have not had one. And there's always -- you have got to be trusted but verified. But the American public doesn't trust anyone either.
So to the president, I said, why don't we agree in principle of a framework? First of all, the president should lay out a plan. He says he has a plan, but the CBO can't even score it because it's just a speech. But if you lay out a plan that is scored, you lay out cuts in the current year, caps where government could not continue to grow and change in the future, and then entitlement reform. The only thing the president agreed to in the end was that we did need entitlement reform when it came to the debt limit.
BLITZER: Are you encouraged by what the vice president is trying to do right now? Joe Biden is meeting with Democrats and Republicans to come up with some sort of compromise. Does that look like it's gaining some steam?
MCCARTHY: That's a start, and that's a point. But the president needs to make a case to the American people here. We can't sit back and let August 2nd come here without laying out a plan.
Now, earlier on, Geithner and the president said that there should be a clean debt limit of $2.4 trillion with no cuts or anything else. You had more than 80 Democrats join with Republicans and say no to that.
OK. So that idea is off the table.
Let's sit down and have a real discussion, but let's get rid of these accounting gimmicks. Let's be honest with the American public of how we're going to change our path and get out of this problem.
You know, we can't cut our way out of here. We have to grow the economy. Look at the Dow Jones today. There needs to be a pro-growth agenda here to actually create jobs in America to have a fundamental difference.
BLITZER: Some of your fellow Republicans, Ron Paul of Texas, for example, the Republican presidential candidate, says, you know what? You can save $100 billion tomorrow if you just bring the troops home from Afghanistan.
Now that bin Laden is dead, is that a good idea?
MCCARTHY: Well, that's a discussion that we've had. We just had a DOD vote on the floor. We'll have a discussion here about Libya as well this week.
So there's a lot of discussions on where we're going and where we're spending our money, but it doesn't just go just to military as well. It goes throughout wherever we are going.
But if we cut all of discretionary spending, our budget is roughly $3.5 trillion, then we borrow $1.5 trillion. You could cut all discretionary. That means the military, all the cabinets and everywhere else, and we would still need to borrow money.
That means that you have 10,000 people retiring every day, these baby boomers. And if you don't get a handle on it, it's going to grow each and every year. And every year they ignore the problem, it just gets worse.
BLITZER: Are you ready to cut though hundreds of billions of dollars a year in defense spending?
MCCARTHY: Well, if you look at the Republicans, when we laid out our HR1, we did cut defense. We put everything on the table.
We would be more than willing to lay out. Republicans have laid out a plan. I believe, as the president, who is asking us to raise this debt limit, he should first lay out a plan that has no accountings gimmicks, that lays out to the American public that the Congressional Budget Office could actually score it and we can start the discussion. That would be work in a good direction to have a start with.
BLITZER: Congressman McCarthy, thanks very much for coming in.
MCCARTHY: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Some people say Sarah Palin is playing a cat-and-mouse game with the news media, and she may have gotten some pointers from Donald Trump. Stand by.
And some Republicans who want to draft Chris Christie for the presidential race may now be thinking twice. Why a chopper ride is casting a cloud over the very popular New Jersey government.
BLITZER: Sarah Palin is pressing on with her tour of America's historic sites, even as she keeps the nation and the media guessing about her future role in U.S. politics. The would-be presidential contender saw the Statue of Liberty today, less than 24 hours after meeting with another giant figure in New York. We're talking about Donald Trump.
CNN's Jim Acosta is here in THE SITUATION ROOM and he's following Palin's -- shall we call it mystery tour?
What is the latest?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the question is not whether Sarah Palin is playing a game of cat and mouse. The question is, who is the cat and who is the mouse? Is the media chasing Palin or is Palin chasing the limelight?
SARAH PALIN (R), FMR. VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Hi there. How are you?
ACOSTA (voice-over): Sarah Palin is going rogue again. Her latest maverick move, a pizza summit with on-again/off-again contender --
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: I'd love her to run.
ACOSTA: -- Donald Trump.
PALIN: (INAUDIBLE) specific candidates and potential candidates, kind of just what our perception was of each of these folks.
ACOSTA: This week Palin tossed out the conventional candidate's playbook. No carefully-choreographed events with the media. Instead, it's been a game of cat and mouse.
PALIN: The cat and mouse game?
ACOSTA: Palin insists she isn't playing any games, but her staff has kept most of the national media in the dark about her political action committee's bus tour. Reporters, including CNN's Peter Hamby, have had to tail her from one stop to the next.
PETER HAMBY, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Most reporters have no clue where she's going to stop. So there were some reporters just chasing the bus down the highway yesterday to see where she would pull over.
ACOSTA (on camera): Literally chasing down the highway?
HAMBY: Literally. Literally.
ACOSTA (voice-over): At one of her stops in Gettysburg, she said expect the unexpected if she runs for the White House.
PALIN: Oh, it would definitely be unconventional and nontraditional, yes, knowing us.
ACOSTA: The former Alaska governor tried conventional back in 2008 and it didn't work. She not only clashed with the press, aides to her running mate, John McCain, complained she was playing by her own rules. Now a paid contributor at Fox News, Palin told the channel, "The lamestream media," as she's called them, "will just have to keep up."
PALIN: The media can figure out where we're going if they do their investigative work, or they are going to keep kind of, as you put it, going crazy trying to figure out what we're doing here.
ACOSTA: At times the chase has gotten tense, with one photographer getting jostled at a stop in Baltimore. But Palin has paused to answer a handful of questions such as what she would do about the economy. In the chaos swirling around Palin, this reporter protectively carried his own camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any big ideas you'd like to see out there?
PALIN: The big ideas are for big tax cuts in order for the job creators to be able to keep more of what they are earning and producing, and reinvesting in their businesses.
ACOSTA: A few moments later she was off once again. Her younger daughter Piper pushing her along to keep things moving, a sign that team Palin has steeled itself for 2012.
PALIN: Our family has been tested over the last three years in personal and political ways.
ACOSTA: After this week on the bus, Palin told reporters she is heading home for a break before getting back on the trail, as she put it. The next stops are expected to include early voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina. But Palin says don't read that too much, adding that they are no different than any other state on the map.
But, of course, we'll be there watching to see if it is special.
BLITZER: Yes, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. They happen to be the first three states that have Republican presidential contests.
ACOSTA: Right. There's a pattern here.
BLITZER: So I have to assume, though -- and you've been checking into this -- that she's quietly told the authorities, the executives at Fox News that she isn't going to run. Otherwise, they would sever the relationship with her like they did with Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, because she seems to be dabbling in this, and Fox has been very consistent. They said, you know what? If you're thinking of running for president, you're not going to be a Fox News contributor on the payroll.
ACOSTA: That's right. But it is safe to say that Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were not the stars for Fox News, that Sarah Palin is. So perhaps the rules are a little bit different from Fox News for Sarah Palin.
We do understand from looking at reports today out of Fox News that she is still on their payroll as of this moment. But as she goes to New Hampshire, which she's expected to do tomorrow, as Mitt Romney is announcing he's running for president, and going to Iowa and South Carolina, that is going to put more pressure on Fox to decide what to do with Sarah Palin once and for all -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Because when Mike Huckabee said he wasn't going to run, even earlier Fox kept him on, as opposed to Santorum or Newt Gingrich.
ACOSTA: That's right.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much for that. Stay on top of that story for us.
This programming note. CNN's New Hampshire presidential debate is less than two week away. Join us Monday night, June 13th, as the Republican hopefuls square off on the issues. This, only on CNN.
One additional note, our own Peter Hamby caught up with Sarah Palin. The interview with Sarah Palin in the next hour, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now to the latest political controversy on Capitol Hill. Did Congressman Anthony Weiner send a lewd photo to a college student in Washington State? I put that question directly to the New York Democrat. You're going to find out what he said, how the controversy could affect the lawmaker's career. Is he still going to run for mayor of New York?
And later, we'll tell you about NATO's new strategy in Libya and what some are calling the mission's unspoken goals.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session."
Joining us now, our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and our CNN.com contributor, David Frum, with FrumForum.com, former speechwriter for President Bush.
You saw my interview. We're going to have part two of the interview coming up. He speaks about his wife in the interview with Congressman Anthony Weiner.
What do you think?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, Wolf, I've been trying to size up the situation, because I follow both. I follow Representative Weiner. I follow Andrew Breitbart. And, you know, I watch who I follow.
I've never seen anything outrageous from Congressman Weiner. Look, he's a smart guy, he's a terrific politician, he's passionate.
This is crazy. I hope we get down to the bottom of it, because Anthony Weiner is one of the few Democrats who can go out there on the House floor every day and really articulate what Democrats stand for. So I'm very disgruntled about this whole situation.
BLITZER: Yes. He offers an explanation and you'll see it in part two of the interview in the next hour in which he says, "You know what? I was trying to protect my wife."
DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: Some day in management and communication school they're going to teach Tylenol, the example of how to handle a crisis, and Anthony Weiner, the example of how not to do it.
He could have said one of two things -- you know as much as I do, it's a police matter, I'm outraged --
BLITZER: But he hasn't asked the police to look into it.
FRUM: Or, alternatively, ,he could have said, you know what? I did do it. I feel like a jerk. I'm really sorry. Because it was such an intrinsically trivial story.
BLITZER: But could that be a career ender, if he would have said, you know what, I sent that photo?
FRUM: It would not have been. I doubt it would have been a career ender. I very much doubt it. But anyway, what he's doing now, this is going to be a career ender.
BLITZER: Is there a double standard? If a Republican would have been accused of these kinds of things, would that have been a career ender? FRUM: You know, I don't know that there's a double standard. I think there's a random standard.
It's like there's this great chopping machine in Washington. Sometimes people walk through it miraculously unscathed, and other people just have bad luck and they get ripped to pieces.
I mean, Larry Craig didn't discover that he was exempt because he was a Republican, nor do Democrats always get away with it. But part of it is handling it intelligently, and this has been handled extremely unintelligently.
BLITZER: What advice would you have given him on day one once this lewd photo emerged?
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, he should have put out a timeline, because there's so many what I call back-and-forth between him and Andrew Breitbart. So, for me, looking at all of the e-mails over the last couple of days, and the timeline, something really doesn't add up.
Like I say, I'm trying to size up the situation by looking at back and forth, back and forth. And right now it's just a (INAUDIBLE) contest between Congressman Weiner and Andrew Breitbart.
BLITZER: Did he convince you today in the interview that I did with him that he didn't send that photo?
BRAZILE: There was so much in that interview that troubled me.
BLITZER: Like what?
BRAZILE: The porn person.
BLITZER: The stripper.
BRAZILE: The stripper. Well, OK.
BLITZER: There's a difference.
BRAZILE: OK, Wolf. Don't make me -- I might interview you. I don't know the difference.
But, Wolf, I was troubled by even some of his answers. I really think that he just should have put out one statement and said, look, we are looking into this, we have the proper authorities. And he should have just shut it down.
Right now it's a four-day story. It should have been a 24-hour story. If this was a prankster, we should have just gotten to the bottom of it. But right now he still has a lot of explaining to do.
BLITZER: Because he does acknowledge he did send a direct message on Twitter to this stripper.
FRUM: Or just admit the whole thing candidly and laugh it off. But what happens is, when you tell complicated stories, it is inevitable that the more complicated it is, the more -- I missed the whole thing when it happened over the weekend. I hadn't been paying attention.
BLITZER: It was Memorial Day Weekend.
FRUM: Yes. And then, Tuesday, you discover everyone is consumed with this thing. And at first this seems like an unbelievably childish and unimportant story.
BRAZILE: But is it true? See, we don't know if it's true, because it could be a prank. Somebody could have hacked his account, Wolf.
Someone could have tried to set him up. We have a lot of left- wing, right-wing games going on. And after what happened with Shirley Sherrod last year, and people doctoring videos, I don't know. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I try to give everybody the benefit of the doubt.
BLITZER: I think he himself acknowledges that yesterday, the little exchange he had with Dana Bash and Ted Barrett, our congressional producer, hurt him badly.
FRUM: This is -- if the story is as Donna said, and I think most people hope, this would be a very easy thing to explain. I was hacked. I don't know very much about it. It's a police matter.
BLITZER: But he's not referring to the police because he says he doesn't want to make a federal case out of it. The police have more important things to do than try to find someone who may have hacked his Twitter account.
FRUM: Well, let them decide that.
BLITZER: But if a congressman asks the police to get involved, it puts a lot of pressure on the police to get involved.
FRUM: If the police think it's not important, they have ways of going slow. But if I were --
BLITZER: Should he bring in law enforcement?
BRAZILE: I think so. Look, I mean, he is a member of Congress. His reputation is at stake. But more importantly, Wolf, we don't know what's really behind someone trying to go after Representative Weiner. And with all of the threats that have gone on now with members of Congress, why not?
BLITZER: All right. We're going to have part two of the interview coming up fairly soon, including when he talks personally about his wife, who is a lovely lady. All of us know her.
BRAZILE: And a great public servant. BLITZER: She works for the secretary of state. That, part two of the interview, coming up.
Guys, thanks very much.
The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, known for being a serious budget hawk, now being accused of abusing taxpayer dollars. We're going to tell you what he did that's gotten him into such hot trouble right now.
And later, emergency crews let a man drown in California. We're going to tell why they didn't even attempt a rescue.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Iowa Republicans are getting another shot at trying to persuade New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, to run for president. He's now slated to visit the leadoff caucus state next month, but Christie's image as a rising political star may be somewhat tarnished a day after he apparently used a state helicopter for personal business.
CNN's Mary Snow is looking into the story for us.
So what's going on here, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as everyone knows, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has become a darling of the Republican Party, gaining a reputation as taking a tough stance on government spending by making deep budget cuts. So his use of a state helicopter yesterday to go to his son's baseball game is drawing fire from state Democrats accusing him of hypocrisy. Some are also demanding that he reimburse the cost of the chopper.
Now, Governor Christie was photographed arriving at the game Tuesday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. When he left, he headed back to the governor's mansion, where he was scheduled to meet at 6:30 last night with Republicans from Iowa who are trying to convince him to run for president.
Now, the governor didn't have a public schedule today. We weren't able to ask him directly about the use of the helicopter.
But his press office released a statement saying, "It is a means of transportation that's occasionally used as the schedule demands. This has historically been the case in prior administrations as well, and we continue to be judicious in limiting its use."
Now, there have been issues, Wolf, with past governors in New Jersey who come under fire, both Democrats and Republicans, over the use of state choppers. Not a unique situation. But given the mix of the potential presidential politics, this helicopter trip is gaining a lot of attention, and it probably will not go away anytime soon.
BLITZER: Do we know, Mary, how much it costs?
SNOW: State police put the cost at roughly $2,500 an hour. These are brand-new helicopters. This one was a month old.
They say that one hour of flying time had been logged yesterday. Now, the state police also did put out a statement saying that the ride didn't cost taxpayers additional money, saying that it was used as training for state police on this new aircraft. And as far as how often he has used these choppers, police count 35 trips made by the governor since he took office in 2010.
BLITZER: Watching every penny over there.
All right. Thanks very much for that.
Mary Snow, reporting.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: Just wait around long enough. They find a way to do disappoint. Don't they?
CAFFERTY: I mean, you don't take a state helicopter to a little league baseball game.
The question this hour is: Should federal employees earn more than the governors of the states where they work? There are 77 thousand federal employees who do.
Stella in New York, "I'm a federal employee. Proud of it. I worked my butt off and my heart out for the soldiers and organizations I service. Some weeks I put in 60, 70 hours."
"I guess you think we are just rolling in money as long and as hard as we work. Well, how is less than $50,000 a year sound to you? Remember, there are thousands of federal employees like myself across the country. I don't see any governors around my pay scale. Do you?"
Ted writes, "This is just another bogus comparison to make federal salaries look out of step. Why are we comparing governors to doctors or engineers in the first place?"
"It's hardly unusual for people in these professions to earn less than $150,000, especially if they are working in a large metropolitan area. If anything, all this shows is that governors are massively underpaid for the amount of responsibility they have."
Cy in Virginia writes, "So if you are a computer genius designing software for the government, you should work for well below your free market value because voters don't want to feel like they are overpaying hack politicians? It sounds like socialism to me."
Marilyn in Ohio says, "More than likely, yes. They do all the grunt work. You know, just like the underpaid administrative assistants of the big shot executives."
Bryan in Colorado, "Who cares? I have a college degree, 20 years experience, and make less than the uneducated data entry personnel working in a government union. I apply every time a position becomes available and have been told several times I'm overqualified. We need to be more concerned about unemployed, private sector non-union workers."
And Ash in Oregon writes, "Should ball players earn more than doctors, CEOs more than U.S. presidents, hard-bitten CNN newsmen more than teachers? Sure. Why the heck not? The list of things that actually make sense in this world is far shorter than the list of things that don't" -- Wolf.