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THE SITUATION ROOM
Sarah Palin Continues Her Family Bus Tour Across U.S.; Congressman Anthony Weiner Admits to Sending Out Lewd Photos of Himself Via Twitter; U.S. Weighs Bigger Afghanistan Withdrawal; U.S. to Yemen President: Don't Go Home
Aired June 6, 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: Brooke, thanks very much. Happening now, breaking news. Congressman Anthony Weiner admits he lied and he did send a lewd photo to a woman on his Twitter account. The New York Democrat also confessing to other inappropriate communications with women. We'll talk about the political and the legal fallout from his bombshell news conference only moments ago. Stand by.
Plus, Defense Secretary Robert Gates says farewell to U.S. troops in Afghanistan and pushes back against calls from Congress to withdraw American forces faster than planned. This hour, the state of the war.
And the enormous pressure on the President. And scientists race to stop a mysterious killer. We'll take you inside the battle against the super toxic form of E. coli. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
But, we begin with the stunning breaking news. Congressman Anthony Weiner is refusing to resign even after his dramatic confession only a few moments ago that the lewd photo on his Twitter account was, in fact, sent by him, not by some hacker. The New York Democrat facing reporters after at least one other photo surfaced, appearing to show Weiner shirtless. There it is. The Congressman now admits to a number of inappropriate online relationships with women. Listen to some of Weiner's comments just a little while ago.
ANTHONY WEINER, CONGRESSMAN, NEW YORK, (D): Thank you very much for being here and good afternoon. I'd like to take this time to clear up some of the questions that have been raised over the past ten days or so and take full responsibility for my actions. At the outset I'd like to make it clear that I have made terrible mistakes, that I've hurt the people that I care about the most and I am deeply sorry.
I have not been honest with myself, my family, my constituents, my friends and supporters and the media. Last Friday night I Tweeted a photograph of myself that I intended to send as a direct message as part of a joke to a woman in Seattle. Once I realized I had posted to Twitter I panicked, I took it down and said that I had been hacked. I then continued with that story -- to stick to that story which was a hugely regrettable mistake.
This woman was unwittingly dragged into this and bears absolutely no responsibility. I am so sorry to have disrupted her life in this way. To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it. I am deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife, Huma, and our family and my constituents, my friends and supporters and staff.
In addition, over the past few years I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and occasionally on the phone with women I had met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years. For the most part these relations -- these communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.
I haven't told the truth and I've done things that I deeply regret. I brought pain to people I care about the most and the people who believed in me and for that I'm deeply sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There's his opening statement and then he took questions from reporters. Our own Mary Snow is over at the Sheraton Hotel here in Manhattan. She watched it all unfold. I -- I must say, I've seen a lot of news conferences, I've seen a lot of statements. This was stunning in terms of the acknowledgement how blatantly he lied, not only to me and to you but to all of his constituents when he said last week flatly he did not send that photo on Twitter. Now he says it was all one big lie.
MARY SNOW, REPORTER, CNN: It really was stunning, Wolf, and then when he came out and admitted that he had relationships on Twitter and Facebook and then the phone, six women over the past three years. He said most of them were before he was married but said that some of the -- the contact that he had with these women did come after his marriage.
And you mentioned earlier, Wolf, the photos that had emerged today. I asked Congressman Weiner if he saw those photos, when they were taken, who they sent -- who he sent them to. He said that he had not seen the photos today. As for why he's coming out now he said that he decided that it was time to be truthful. He said he only told his wife this morning the truth and he said he told his staff this afternoon and he said he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, telling her what he was about to say and he said she advised him to tell the truth.
And, as you saw there in the press conference there were several times when his voice started cracking, it looked like he was about to start crying every time he mentioned his wife, who he said was unhappy about this when he told her. But, he said that he is not going to resign at this point. And he stood there for a considerable amount of time fielding these questions and he only cut it off after someone entered the room who was not a reporter and started asking bogus questions, making statements and that is when it was cut off.
And, Wolf, there was one surreal element to this of course is Andrew Breitbart, who is behind biggoverment.com, the conservative blogger, who has been posting these pictures, first showed up before the press conference and started talking with the press and then left after he took the podium. As everybody was waiting for Congressman Weiner, he came back a second time during that press conference to hear what Congressman Weiner was going to say.
BLITZER: Certainly a moment where Andrew Breitbart was vindicated by all of what Weiner, himself said. Mary, stand by, I want to go to Capitol Hill right now. Kate Baldwin, our Congressional Correspondent, is up on Capitol Hill. Kate, you heard the Congressman say that the top Democrat in the House, Nancy Pelosi, said you must come clean, you must explain what's going on. You must be honest with everyone right now and, finally, he was. And, the question is, can he keep his job really when all is said and done? He says he's going to fight to try to repair his reputation. I -- I don't know if you've gotten any reaction from other colleagues or friends of his up on the Hill but it's certainly going to be a difficult chore for him.
KATE BOLDUAN, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, CNN: I -- I --he definitely is going to try to. He definitely seems to be already making the defense for why he thinks he should be able to keep his job. Of course, Wolf, we're seeking out reaction to this. I -- I would venture to -- to say that many members of Congress did not have any, if maybe just a little, heads up that this was actually going to be coming. So, we are actively seeking reaction.
You heard the Congressman starting to make his defense for why he should be keeping his job, as I said, a little while ago. He said that his Blackberry is not a government Blackberry. He said these communications, these relationships that he made were, most of them, initiated over Facebook and that a lot of this was done at his computer at home. So, you could see and he was asked about it several times of why he didn't use government resources, why he should keep his job, why, you know, an investigation shouldn't be launched into -- into how -- what he has been doing and he said that he basically indicated that he thinks he has done this on his private time and he has been, he thinks, separating his -- his public image, his public life, his public work, from this, as he calls it, a dumb and destructive mistake in what he says he is doing in his private time.
I think, really, one line that he said, Wolf, that sums up probably what a lot of people are thinking is when he said, "I don't know what I was thinking." And that's what a lot of people are probably thinking right now as we're now getting all of this information after you had asked some very pointed questions, we on Capitol Hill have been asking some very pointed, clear, as you would think, easy questions to this member of Congress and he very clearly lied up until this point, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, it's as no -- no ways around it. He certainly did. Stand by. I want to bring our Senior Political Analyst, David Gergen, and our CNN Contributor, the Democratic Strategist, Paul Begala. First, David to you, what an amazing turn of events. When I sat with him about 20 minutes the other day he seemed so convincing, he seemed to make the case, you know what, there may be photos out there but I did not send that photo on Twitter to that young college student in Washington state and now he admits that was a flat out lie. Here's the question, David, can politicians survive this kind of embarrassment?
DAVID GERGEN, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Wolf, it's hard to know, it's so bizarre, it's hard to know in how many ways he was dumb. Listen, had he come clean immediately after the first photo, even if more photos had come through, because there was no physical relationship, apparently no physical relationship according to his diversion now, I think he would have survived.
But, having lied as blatantly as he did I think he's finished. Once he came to you and told others as flat out as he did, as embarrassing -- he should -- should have come clean. Now, you and I go all the back to Watergate and we know that often the cover-up is worse than the crime.
BLITZER: It certainly is. In this particular case, a huge embarrassment. Paul Begala, you know, he says he was embarrassed by his own behavior and that's why he lied to everyone last week. Is that a good enough excuse?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST, CNN: Wolf, in a word, no. You know, it's -- it's bad enough as a personal matter. He was clearly and apparently, and he said today, lying to his wife but that is between he and his wife. He lied to you. He lied to the public. He lied to his constituents and that's an enormous problem.
I'm not entirely sure, though, that (INAUDIBLE) David that it's unsurvivable. We've seen politicians survive lies before and survive sex scandals before. So, I -- I'm not ready yet to say that he's through. But, it's awfully difficult when you've had to admit that you are a liar and Representative Weiner lied to you. He lied to other members of the media. He admitted that today but he should never have done that in the first place. He should have just come clean at the start.
BLITZER: And, it's never helpful for a politician to tell reporters, you know what, I may need some therapy to help me get through this right now and he clearly said that at the end. He, obviously has a problem, Paul.
BEGALA: Well, he does. I don't know that that's harmful politically. I mean, there's a lot of Americans who need help for various things but this -- this seems so self-destructive and destructive and damaging, perhaps, even to the women that he was sending these messages to. I don't know if they were consensual or unsolicited. He says they were consensual but, you know, it's kind of difficult to believe anything we hear anymore from Congressman Weiner and -- and I think that may be the tell-tale fact.
In other words, if this was consensual and they were all adults, then -- then, perhaps, this is survivable. But, if, instead this was more like Mark Foley, for example, who was sending messages to under-aged Congressional pages that was clearly an abuse of office by Congressman Foley and he resigned.
BLITZER: David, is there any possibility of criminal wrongdoing here? Is there any -- any -- anything that could be investigated or was this just a stupid dumb act on the part of this Congressman?
GERGEN: I think the stupid dumb act describes it well. Wolf, we don't know the facts. I would assume there would be a Congressional Ethics investigation. They'll have to determine to what extent he was using any government property, was he using a government Blackberry -- he said he was not but, given the circumstances here, obviously, everything has to be double checked in this case.
But, let me go back to Paul's point. Paul, I -- I take it you and I would agree that had he come clean to begin with I think he could have survived but surely I think you would also agree he -- many people talked of him as being the next Mayor of New York. Don't you think that dream has ended?
BEGALA: Yes, David, I do. I think you're right about that. But, he's got seventeen months before he faces his constituents back home in Brooklyn and it may well be, as he said, if they think he's doing a good job in his public service to them that they overlook this. I mean, look, we saw Senator David Vitter of Louisiana caught up in a real horrible scandal where he was on the list of the D.C. Madam and everybody thought he was through. He got reelected in a landslide. So, sometimes, with time, if your constituents, Louisiana is a conservative state, Vitter is a conservative Senator. Brooklyn is a liberal place, Congressman Weiner is a liberal guy, it may be that they overlook it because they feel like he's on their team.
WOLF: Paul, put on your hat, hold on a second, both of you, put on your hat right now and tell me what he needs to do, first Paul to you. What does he need to do to survive politically, and I ask you the question Paul because someone who helped Bill Clinton get through the whole Monica Lewinsky scandal, as all of our viewers will remember.
BEGALA: Well, first, he's got to look at -- at -- at the ways he can be removed from his job. Most importantly, the House can expel him before his constituents get a chance to vote, through the Ethics Committee process and David referred to that. I don't know the ethics rules inside and out. Others can go through them. But, I do know that a member of the House is not supposed to bring the House into ill repute or disrespect and I think this clearly does that.
So, he could have some real exposure with the Ethics Committee. We don't know all the rest of the facts. He, by golly, better be fully candid with the Ethics Committee or he will be through. And, then, he's got to get back to work. He -- he has got to actually deliver for his constituents and that's what saved Bill Clinton. People didn't approve of his affair or his lies but they really thought he was doing a good job as President.
They didn't like how his enemies were hounding him and that's what saved him. I think that Anthony Weiner is in a different position but he's got to show his folks back home that, yes, he made a terrible mistake. He has to continue to apologize but, otherwise, not talk about it and get back to work.
BLITZER: And, David, very quickly, what does he need to do to survive?
GERGEN: Go into therapy immediately, be totally candid with other members of the Democratic Delegation. I think he's probably going to need his wife at his side before this is over but he somehow got to distinguish himself from Chris Lee, the Republican member who did send an unsolicited photograph of himself and decided to resign in New York and Republicans are going to say, wait a minute, our guy resigned, why aren't you resigning? Are you Democrats really going to stand by and say this was double standard? Democrats have one standard and Republicans have another? And, he's got to find a way to distinguish that.
BLITZER: David and Paul, both of you will be continuing this conversation. We have a lot more coming up on Anthony Weiner. Stand by for that. We're also following all the day's other important news including new evidence that Syria -- Syria right now may be trying to discredit the opposition. Are we on the verge of yet a new bloodbath in Syria. Stand by. Our coverage continues right here in The Situation Room.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": We'll get back to the Anthony Weiner dramatic developments in a few moments. But Jack's here, and he's got the "Cafferty File." You sort of predicted it last week.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: See what you causes with that interview last week? This is all your fault.
BLITZER: I didn't cause this. I asked a few questions.
CAFFERTY: They were great questions, though, and squirmed and wiggled and squiggled during that television. It was very compelling television.
Speaking of compelling, her one nation tour may be making a pit stop in Arizona, but the dust that Sarah Palin has kicked up along the way. The former Alaska governor began her well-publicized family bus tour in Washington on Memorial Day on the back of a Harley Davidson.
From there it was on visit historic sites, playing cat a mouse with the press, upstaging fellow Republican Mitt Romney the day he announced he's running for president. Sarah Palin later saying she didn't mean to distract from mitt Romney's announcement by visiting New Hampshire on the same day that he announced that he was running. Sure.
She also said it was a coincidence that he ended up in New Hampshire on the same day that Mitt Romney announced that he was running. Sure. Then there was her elementary American history mistake with Paul revere while visiting Boston to warn the British soldiers that they would have a fight on their hands if they tried to take arms away from the columnists. Not exactly. It's true that everyone makes mistakes, including me. Henry David Longfellow's famous poem about Paul Revere's ride has some historical inaccuracies in it, but at least he got it right which side Revere was warning.
Palin defended herself yesterday on "Fox News Sunday," saying, quote, "I know my American history," and then gave a longwinded explanation of what she really meant. It's like every time Palin makes a mess, she runs to FOX News or they try to kick sand over it. She may not know a lot about history, but what she does seem to know about is how to draw attention to herself. And that's not necessarily a good thing for the Republicans, whether she ultimately decides to run for president or not.
Here's the question, then. Is Sarah Palin's publicity stunt helping or hurting Republican chances in 2012? Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile to comment on my blog. Sir?
BLITZER: Good question, Jack. Good to see you here in New York.
CAFFERTY: Good to see you.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the news of the moment, Congressman Anthony Weiner now admitting he lied to all of us. He says she did in fact send that lewd photo to that young college student in Washington State, sent other pictures as well. Dr. Laura Berman is joining us as well. She's the renowned sex and relationship expert.
Dr. Berman, thank you for joining us. He says he needs some therapy, he needs some help. What is going on here?
DR. LAURA BERMAN, RELATIONSHIP EXPERT (via telephone): He definitely needs some therapy and some help and he's certainly not alone. I mean, this just keeps happening again and again. Deny, deny, deny. And when you're a public figure in public office, you're going to be found out and certainly he's not only lost his wife's trust but all of ours as well.
BLITZER: Obviously he had a powerful instinct to send these photos and to get into these twitter conversations, if you will, with these young women out there. He says most of them occurred before he got married about a year ago but some took place even after he got married. Explain, as you're a sex therapist, you understand what is going on here.
BERMAN: Well, you know, I've been watching him and as I was watching his back story as the story has been unfolding, he's known for being very aggressive, for being very volatile. He clearly, even his hairline and his jawbone, he clearly is a man that has a tremendous amount of testosterone.
That's not an excuse. But if you look at these high-powered men who are highly aggressive and get into this sexual trouble, it's often going happened in hand with high levels of testosterone which means that he has an extremely high libido. Does that mean that he doesn't have to have judgment? No. But men who sort of can get -- and women for that matter, can get to a place where the libido is so high and the sense of how power they are gets extreme, they feel above consequence and the law and get intoxicated from their own sense of power, and inevitably they end up falling on their face.
I feel sorry for the wives and like all of the other wives that have gone before them, most of them have stood by stoically while they wait for all of this to sink in. And it's not going to be an easy pill for this new wife to swallow.
BALDWIN: They've barely been married a year. She's a lovely young woman going back to her days up in the Senate on Capitol Hill. If you were giving both of them advice right now and trying to save that marriage, save that relationship, what would you tell them?
BERMAN: I would tell both of them to immediately get into individual and couple's therapy. She's going to need support to separate herself from all of the noise going on around her, whether it's from his advisers or from family and really make sense of this. He's got to get to work very seriously on himself and his impulse control and would drive him to have this kind of poor judgment.
And the two of them, most importantly, need to be in therapy together, because I always tell couples that you can absolutely survive a horrible infidelity but only if you're both willing to do the work it takes to rebuild the trust and now they not only have to rebuild the trust but she's got to get over the public humiliation which is not going to be easy.
BLITZER: So would you advise them to go to their own therapist separately and then together as a couple?
BERMAN: Absolutely. She needs a separated advocate for herself and then he needs someone to help him. You know this, Wolf. Good job.
BLITZER: Dr. Berman, thank you.
BERMAN: Thank you. And tonight is my premier on the Oprah Winfrey Network, the "Dr. Laura Berman Show." I hope you'll watch.
BLITZER: What time is that?
BERMAN: It's at 9:00 p.m. central.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it. Say hi to your sister as well.
BERMAN: I will.
BLITZER: Thank you, Dr. Laura Berman, helping us appreciate what is going on here.
Did Anthony Weiner make things better or worse for him with the bombshell news conference? Much more and all the day's other news coming in. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER, (D) NEW YORK: I love my wife very much and we have no intention of splitting up over this. We have been through a great deal together and we will weather this. I love her very much and she loves me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news, a bombshell admission just moment ago from New York Congressman Anthony Weiner that he lied about sending a lewd photo to another woman. And then he says he actually tried to cover it all up. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEINER: I don't know what I was thinking. This was a destructive thing to do and I'm apologetic for doing it. It was something that I did that was just wrong and I regret it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: This is our strategy session. Joining us are CNN Political contributor Roland Martin and CNN.com contributor, the former Bush speech writer David Frum, editor of FrumForum.com. David, I'll start with you. What do you think? Can he survive this politically?
DAVID FRUM, EDITOR, FRUMFORUM.COM: That was the most bizarre press conference ever. It started with the hijacking of a conference by Andrew Breitbart who came to the microphone. I think he was there to prove that there was a lot of ways to be a narcissistic exhibitionist besides sexting.
And then Anthony Weiner just kept talking and talking and talking. He was finished and kept going. He didn't add anything, just subjected himself and the audience to this extended humiliation.
Can he survive? People survive things. It was mentioned earlier that David Vitter survived. You can -- it's up to the voters. Voters can be very tolerant. And at some level people are going to wonder, the same thing as with Chris Lee, I think, what exactly is the story here?
I mean, it's kind of weird behavior. It's a problem for the wife, but no laws seem to have been broken. It was dishonest, but I find it hard to believe that this is really the kind of story on which the fate of republics turn.
BLITZER: You know, and it's interesting, Roland. He says he never had sex, he didn't even meet any of these women, it was all done on these social networking sites, whether Twitter or Facebook or e-mail, whether he was sending a picture in some sexting, I guess, if that's what you call it.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Right. BLITZER: There were a few phone conversations that he had as well. But it doesn't look like anything illegal was done.
MARTIN: Well, first of all, we don't know what actually took place. All we know, that he is incredibly stupid with all of this.
I remember when this story first broke, I was on my Facebook page and Twitter page by saying, look, stop giving four or five stories. Give one story, tell the truth, move on.
This is always the problem. It's when you go for this cover up.
Jim Tressel is out as Ohio State's head coach right now because you know what? He kept giving different stories. And frankly, he didn't report his players getting in trouble.
It's always the cover-up. And so David said that, well, this is sort of weird. No it's not.
People out here are calling 1-800 numbers, they're into pornography. Now the whole deal is sexting.
We're seeing sexting take place in junior high, elementary schools, so there's no shock you would see it happening with adults. And I heard earlier a comment -- please, the one thing I do not want to see, I don't want to see his wife standing next to him at a news conference. I can't stand seeing that.
The man screwed up. Take it like a man, get your butt kicked, but do not subject your wife to any criticism by having her stand next to you at any kind of news conference.
BLITZER: Well, she wasn't told the complete truth, he himself says, until this morning.
And David, they've only been married for less than a year, although he says he did confront her with some of his inappropriate behavior over the course of the year.
FRUM: I find this all very hard to sum up myself, opinions about this story. You know, I know we're on TV and it's our job to have opinions about everything, including the marriages of people we've never met, but I just dig deep and I find I don't have it.
And maybe it's because I got very caught up in the Clinton scandal in the late 1990s, and I got very energized about that, as the way a lot of Republicans did. And you sort of look back on it and you think, what was that all about anyway? And what did it do? What did it accomplish?
And what happened in the end that couldn't have been done in just a very few weeks? Why did it have to take an entire year?
I mean, but that at least was at a time of national prosperity and a time of national peace. And I don't want to make any excuses for bad behavior. I'm sure -- I shouldn't say I'm sure. I have no idea. His wife may well be furious at him. That's her prerogative.
And he's maybe not the sort of person you would like to be dating your daughter or connected to a member of your family. And certainly we don't condone this kind of behavior and nobody should engage in it. And yet, I just find it hard to get energized about this at this time of economic collapse.
BLITZER: Roland --
MARTIN: Wolf --
BLITZER: Hold on. Roland, I'm getting a lot of e-mail, getting a lot of tweets from viewers out there saying we're going overboard. This is a personal matter now between Congressman Weiner and his wife, let's get on and start doing some other reporting, other news.
Is this a real story, or are we just going overboard because of the salacious nature of it?
MARTIN: OK. First of all, to typically the people who are saying that are the folks who are likely Democrats or liberals. And the last thing they want to see, us discussing this with a Democratic congressman. If it was a conservative, I guarantee you the liberals wouldn't be saying it and vice versa. So let's just go ahead and be honest about that.
But here is, I think, the fundamental issue here that I do think broadens this whole deal, David, and it comes to credibility. It comes to honesty. And that is, when Congressman Weiner is often on television, when he is talking about the policies of fellow members of Congress, things along those lines, and bills, OK, what people are watching at home, they are saying, I need to trust what the person is saying. And what happens is, your credibility now takes a hit when you lied repeatedly, and now you want to come out, and so your credibility is the question here.
And so I think that's really what the issue is.
FRUM: OK. But now we're talking about something important, because he did try to gin up a phony scandal about Clarence Thomas because Clarence Thomas' wife was doing advocacy work. And that part of the story, I think, yes, a man who did not tell the truth is a bad person to be leading the torches and the protests against a judge being married to a partner who's got political work.
I mean, Alice Batchelder is the chief judge on the 6th Circuit. Her husband is an important member, I think, of the Ohio State legislature. Nobody is suggesting that Mr. Batchelder doesn't have a right to be an important member of the Ohio State legislature.
So, yes, he should stand down from that. He should never have taken it up. But as for the marriage, I find I don't have opinions.
BLITZER: You know what? This will be an issue between the two of them, as it should be. Let's see what happens.
David, Roland, guys, thanks very much.
There is an increasingly vocal group of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans calling for a more speedy troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. We're going to tell you where that fight stands right now.
And a man who caught a police shooting on camera says he was harassed and threatened, but still managed to hold on to the controversial tape.
BLITZER: In Syria, dozens of people reportedly were killed in a northern city today, the third straight day of violence there. State television blaming attacks by armed gangs for the death of 120 security forces. Opposition groups say civilians were killed as well.
CNN can't verify reports because the government has restricted access to Syria. They will not allow international journalists into the country.
New urgency and uncertainty, meanwhile, over the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Today, the White House says President Obama hasn't decided on the size and the scope of the pullout due to begin next month. But he's under enormous pressure to bring more American troops home as soon as possible to save lives, to save money, especially now that Osama bin Laden is dead.
Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence. He's working this important story for us.
What's the latest, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the latest is that the number of troops coming home from Afghanistan in July, that announcement initially thought to only be minimum, maybe 3,000 to 4,000 would get announced. But now there's a growing pressure to make that number bigger and to bring the troops home faster.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): There's a fight about to go down that could impact every soldier and Marine fighting in Afghanistan. On one side, those that say starting next month, President Obama should bring a significant number of troops home faster. The other side arguing it's too risky.
ROBERT GATES, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Nobody wants to give up the gains that have been won at such a hard cost.
LAWRENCE: Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Afghanistan. He favors a staggered drawdown and urged officials to keep combat troops as long as possible.
GATES: I would opt to keep the shooters and take the support out first. But the numbers are such that it's going to have to be both. LAWRENCE: In 2009, President Obama sent another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. But it's not 2009. The national debt has soared. There's political pressure to make spending cuts. And it costs $1 million per man to fight in Afghanistan.
CAROLINE WADHAMS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: We are spending about $120 billion per year, $10 billion per month, and we -- there's no end in sight.
LAWRENCE: And the head of al Qaeda is dead. Some see what intelligence agents and a Special Operations team were able to accomplish as proof a smaller strategy can work.
WADHAMS: I think that the counterterrorism proponents, people who want a more reduced presence, their voices are more powerful now, they're getting more traction.
LAWRENCE: That includes Vice President Joe Biden, who opposed the surge. He lost that argument to Gates two years ago.
But look at this -- Biden is still here. And the new national security adviser, Tom Donilon, was said to be leery of the surge, too. Leon Panetta will likely replace Gates, and his time running the CIA has shown him what drones can do without huge numbers of troops. General David Petraeus will no longer be in the military when he shifts over to the CIA.
The secretary of state sided with Gates then, but on withdrawing troops, she has not tipped her hand on what she thinks now.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Because we are still gathering our best assessment.
LAWRENCE: Now, President Obama will have a video conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday. I'm sure troop withdrawals will be a part of that discussion.
Also, Gates isn't going just yet. He will be back from Afghanistan, and he said that's when the real talks will get down to the nitty- gritty of trying to decide and make recommendations to the president on this number. So he's going to get at least one more chance to weigh in -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A hundred and fifteen billion dollars this year alone, and more that $2 billion a week to keep all those troops in Afghanistan. Obviously, the financial stake is enormous right now as well. By the way -- thank you, Chris. Thanks very much.
LAWRENCE: You're welcome.
BLITZER: You can read more of my thoughts on the Afghan troop withdrawal at our new SITUATION ROOM blog, cNN.com/situationroom. Check it out. A new series of explosions across Iraq today. At least 25 people were killed, including five U.S. troops. Iraqi officials say the Americans were sleeping in trailers at their base in Baghdad when a suicide bomber struck. The attacks coincide with a deadline set for Iraqi cabinet ministers to make reforms or be fired. This violence is renewing questions about Iraqi security once almost all U.S. troops withdraw at the end of the year. About 50,000 U.S. troops are still in Iraq right now, but they are all supposed to be out by the end of the year.
It was one of the most shocking and bizarre news conferences we've seen in a while. We're talking about Congressman Anthony Weiner. We'll bring it to you at the top of the hour, extended excerpts. Stand by in case you missed it.
And the race for a cure as a super deadly toxic strain of E. coli keeps spreading.
BLITZER: Will Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, return home after recovering from two operations in Saudi Arabia? He was hit by a rebel attack over the weekend. He's in Saudi Arabia right now.
Let's bring in our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty.
Jill, the chaos in Yemen is a huge concern for the United States right now given the al Qaeda presence in that country.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Actually, the U.S. is scrambling to hold back the fallout from that conflict in Yemen.
As you said, the president is wounded, there's a caretaker vice president in charge. President Obama's top national security adviser, John Brennan, has been talking directly with him. And U.S. officials are saying the stakes couldn't be higher.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Yemen's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, lies in a hospital bed in neighboring Saudi Arabia, severely burned, U.S. officials say, hit with shrapnel in an attack on his presidential palace.
With Yemen spiraling into chaos, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issues a veiled warning to President Saleh: Don't go back.
CLINTON: We think an immediate transition is in the best interest of the Yemeni people because the instability and lack of security currently afflicting Yemen cannot be addressed until there is some process that everyone knows is going to lead to the sort of economic and political reforms that they are seeking.
DOUGHERTY: The U.S. has been working with Saudi Arabia, which bankrolls Yemen, to pressure Saleh to step down. Yemen's protests, fueled by desperation over an economy on life support, have been overtaken by tribal and political conflict. And al Qaeda's most dangerous wing is exploiting that.
CHRISTOPHER BOUCEK, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: I think the potential for things to go wrong in Yemen are severe.
DOUGHERTY: Christopher Boucek says Saleh's downfall could be imminent.
BOUCEK: I can't think that President Saleh is going back to Yemen to be president. The regime still maintains that he will return, and they say he's going to return within days, if not weeks. But there's really no option I see for how he can go back and still be president.
DOUGHERTY: Saleh has been an ally of the U.S. in its counterterrorism fight against al Qaeda. Just this past January, Secretary Clinton made a surprise visit to Yemen to meet with him. His fate, says a former State Department official, presents a real dilemma for the Obama administration.
JAMES RUBIN, FMR. STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL: As the Arab Spring has happened, and people look at the Democratic change, we've all talked about the time in which our principles, our ideal of democracy will run up against our national security interests. This is the place where that probably happens most clearly.
DOUGHERTY: Yes. And a U.S. official tells CNN that that unrest already is making it more difficult for U.S. anti-terrorism efforts in Yemen. This official says that already, al Qaeda had free reign in some areas of Yemen, and probably at this point they have even more free reign.
And the other part, Wolf, is that, especially in Yemen, their impact was collection of the information about AQAP. And the big fear right now is that flow of information could slow or even stop.
BLITZER: Obviously, a critically important story. Thanks very much, Jill.
We'll have more on the shocking news conference from New York Congressman Anthony Wiener coming up. We're going to replay his opening statement. He apologized to his wife, his family, the news media, his constituents for directly lying about sending lewd photos to women over the Internet.
BLITZER: The minority leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, is now calling for an Ethics Committee investigation into Congressman Anthony Weiner, who now says he lied to all of us. He did, in fact, send that lewd photo to a college student in Washington State.
Nancy Pelosi, just moments ago, issuing this statement: "I am deeply disappointed and saddened about this situation, for Anthony's wife Huma, his family, his staff and his constituents. I am calling for an Ethics Committee investigation to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred."
That statement from Nancy Pelosi just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM.
If you missed it, here's what he said just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: To be clear, the picture was of me and I sent it. I'm deeply sorry for the pain this has caused my wife Huma and our family, and my constituents, my friends, supporters and staff.
In addition, over the past few years I have engaged in several inappropriate conversations conducted over Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally on the phone with women I have met online. I have exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years.
For the most part, these communications took place before my marriage, though some have sadly took place after. To be clear, I have never met any of these women or had physical relationships at any time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: We're going to have more from his news conference coming up at the top of the hour, a complete analysis. Stand by for that.
Jack Cafferty is coming up right after this.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Is Sarah Palin's publicity stunt, that family vacation thing she's doing on that bus, is that helping or hurting Republicans' chances in 2012?
P.T. writes, "Definitely hurting. Her intellectually challenged comments are killing her, and at the same time they draw media attention away from the serious GOP contenders. The sickening part of all this is the news media doesn't seem to care that she's using them."
Mary writes, "I don't know if she's hurting Republicans and I don't particularly care. I just wonder if the lamestream media, as she calls them, realizes how ridiculous they look chasing after her. If they ignored her, she would come courting them soon enough."
Jim writes, "Sarah's bus tour and publicity stunt won't hurt the Republicans, but just wait until she runs for president. Sarah being on the Republican debate team will be a reminder of the risk that John McCain put this country in when he tapped her to be his vice president." Tom writes, "America is still reeling from the Bush years. We're not about to elect another moron. So her gaffes are pure distraction."
"Sunday morning, Ron Paul had an intelligent discussion with Candy Crowley. The media's still stunned from Palin thinking that Paul Revere was a British agent. So Ron Paul doesn't get coverage."
M. in Texas, "Yes, she hurt them last time, she's hurting them now more. She needs to sit down and be quiet."
Pat in Michigan, "Oh, it's hurting the Republicans. If the party can't control one spoiled rotten publicity hound and get her to school up before she runs her mouth, then what kind of an example is that to the American people? The Republican Party needs to divorce itself from their pet network and stand instead on their own two feet on policy and issues, not photo-ops and sound bites."
Michael in Alexandria, Virginia, "It only hurts if she runs and wins the nomination. Anything else will be seen by most as self-promotion, which is a reflection on her, not the Republican Party."
And Carla writes, "You'd have to be more specific, Jack. Which publicity stunt? From where I sit, the woman is a publicity stunt."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile.
It's amazing. Every time you mention this woman's name, the e-mails just fly.
BLITZER: Thousands of them.
CAFFERTY: Yes, they pour in.
BLITZER: She's got that.
CAFFERTY: She's got something.
BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.