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Alec Baldwin for New York Mayor?; New Crisis for Newt Gingrich

Aired June 9, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, as the Obama administration reworks America's counterterrorism strategy, the U.S. steps up its secret airstrikes in Yemen and may have killed a key al Qaeda commander there.

An Oval Office meeting for an African leader who is accused of financing a lavish lifestyle with his country's oil riches. Why did the president of the United States sit down with someone linked to corruption and human rights abuses?

And Congressman Anthony Weiner's sex scandal may have ended any chance of him becoming mayor of New York. But another Democrat may be waiting in the wings. Is the actor Alec Baldwin ready to move from "30 Rock" to City Hall?

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world -- breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos all straight ahead.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A major new crisis for Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. His campaign manager and other senior advisers suddenly resigned today. One of those aides saying they realize the direction of the campaign they sought was -- quote -- "incompatible" with Gingrich's vision.

A statement on Gingrich's campaign Facebook page says -- and I'm quoting now -- "I am, I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring."

But now yet another major blow. Get this. Gingrich's campaign co-chairman, the former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue from his home state, has just announced he's jumping to the Pawlenty campaign, Tim Pawlenty for president.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here working the story for us.

He stumbled right out of the gate on several issues and then, all of a sudden, he goes on a two-week cruise to the Mediterranean on vacation with his wife, Callista.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Remember, Wolf, on the first day of this campaign, whenever that was, because it had a couple of starts, you and I had a discussion here. And the main question was whether Newt Gingrich had to the discipline to run for president of the United States.

And I think that is the same question that the people at the very top levels of his campaign were asking themselves before they finally decided to leave. In talking to a variety of sources, I think this was clearly an issue of money. They weren't raising the kind of money they needed.

The first reporting is at the end of June. You know, we all look at these campaigns to see how viable they are, to see what they have got in the bank. It was a question of strategy. How was Newt Gingrich going to run this campaign? They believed he wasn't spending enough time in Iowa. They didn't like the fact that he was away on this two-week vacation when they needed him to be out there raising the kind of money that they need.

And also he made these huge mistakes, the first of which was calling the Ryan budget...

BLITZER: Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee.

BORGER: Right -- right-wing social engineering.

Now, that's the touchstone for every Republican candidate now. And he distanced himself from it. So, in the end, these people are professionals. They wanted to run a professional campaign that they could be proud of. I think their problem was that they didn't have a candidate who agreed with them on the vision of what this campaign ought to be.

BLITZER: He says he will be on in Los Angeles Sunday night at a Republican Jewish Coalition event.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: And he will be in our own CNN debate Monday night with the other Republican presidential contenders.


BLITZER: So, he says he's not going anywhere.

BORGER: Right. he says he's not going anywhere. He's going to continue running this campaign.

I think one of the chief campaign advisers who remains, quite frankly is his wife, Callista. And I'm told by two sources that there has always been some tension in the campaign about who's running the campaign. Was it Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich themselves, or was it the campaign team?

And the campaign team felt, look, we're the professionals here. We're the ones who have to go out there and raise money and sell you. And they felt that their candidate, quite frankly, wasn't doing enough.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to stay on top of this story.

Thanks very much, Gloria, for that.


BLITZER: And, as I said, an early test for the Republican field takes place this coming Monday when CNN hosts the New Hampshire presidential debate. Join us as the GOP develop hopeful gathers to size one another up and debate the serious issues.

The New Hampshire Republican presidential debate, Monday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Other news we're following right now: As the bullets fly and the bombs explode in Libya, there was an extraordinary gathering of world powers today to try to rally financial and moral support for the rebels. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her counterparts met in the Middle East. They left no doubt where they stand.

Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Abu Dhabi.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Far from the Libyan battlefield, the diplomatic chorus grows, its aim quite simply to build international momentum for a rebel victory.

Almost three months into Libya's civil war, some 30 governments are signed up to the Libyan Contact Group.

(on camera): The group photo here is more than just symbolic. This conference is almost as much about size as it is about substance. Many officials here talk about the importance of the growing international unity that Gadhafi must go.

(voice-over): Heading the agenda, funds to keep the rebel Transitional National Council, the TNC, afloat -- Italy offering over $500 million in cash for day-to-day expenses, France $250 million, Kuwait $150 million. Officials stress the money not for weapons, and it will be accounted for.

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The last thing we want is to put the TNC in a position where the money flows, but they are not -- they don't have the systems in place to actually put it to good use. We think that they do now, and we're working to assist them.

ROBERTSON: But on the battlefield, weapons are what the rebels want most, outgunned by Gadhafi, improvising to topple the dictator.

(on camera): So this is homemade from a tank?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Assalamu alaikum.

ROBERTSON: Assalamu alaikum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a tank Gadhafi used to use. The tank is gone. We're using the top of it, just the (INAUDIBLE)

ROBERTSON: So, homemade weapons, but you're using this against his regular tanks.


ROBERTSON: I mean, he has much bigger and better weapons than you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes. We're just now putting in a test. We're trying to test it for at least two weeks. This is still -- the car is still holding when we will -- made....

ROBERTSON: You made more?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, because we got about 60 of those.

ROBERTSON (voice-over): Enabling rebel fighters to take more territory, put pressure on Gadhafi's supply lines to the capital, the privately spoken needs on the margins of the conference, the mood optimistic, but the war of attrition against Gadhafi is steadily being won.

KEVIN RUDD, AUSTRALIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: We're firmly of the view that we are now at a period where the momentum is against the regime. We have two challenges right now, to keep people alive until this crisis concludes and to be fully prepared from the next day, which is how do you produce sufficient support and structure for an interim government to perform its functions once Gadhafi goes?

ROBERTSON: Turkey, the African Union, new and important additions to the conference, both have distanced themselves from Gadhafi, with Turkey pledging $100 million for the rebels too, the numbers here, testament to his increasing isolation, but the need for this meeting testament to his intransigence.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


BLITZER: And Nic Robertson is joining us now from Abu Dhabi.

Nic, in your conversations there, have you seen any daylight, any differences between the U.S. position on the one hand and other members of this Libyan Contact Group on the other hand? Are they all basically on the same page, at least publicly, or are there some serious differences?

ROBERTSON: I think on the -- publicly, they're certainly on the same page. And whatever daylight there has been between positions is being narrowed. We have seen sort of the Italians and the French and the British come out earliest and then the Spanish to sort of recognition the Transitional National Council, the rebel leadership at the moment. And the United States really seems to be on board with that as well now.

We have heard behind the scenes from the Emirati foreign minister that still they're working hard to unfreeze these Libyan assets belonging to Moammar Gadhafi to get the money from those frozen assets into the hands of the rebels, so that they can be used and used responsibly.

There seems to be some differences of opinion behind the scenes on how that's going to get done. But it does seem that everyone is recognizing that Moammar Gadhafi could be out of power in the not-too- distant future. And that's really sort of focusing everyone's minds on what happens next, a transition, when the rebels come in.

So, right now, I would say that it doesn't appear, certainly in the public face of the contact group, to be big differences, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene for us in Abu Dhabi -- Nic, thanks very much.

And here's a question I would ask the outgoing CIA Director Leon Panetta during his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearings to be next secretary of defense.

I would ask him this question: Director Panetta, U.S. taxpayers so far have spent $1 billion to pay for the NATO military operation in Libya. At the same time, the U.S. has frozen about $33 billion of Libyan assets here in the United States. Would you support keeping a running tab on what U.S. taxpayers are spending to liberate Libya and then deduct that amount from the frozen Libyan assets?

That's the question. But based on what other Obama administration officials have told me in recent weeks, Panetta's answer probably would be a very polite no. These other officials have raised questions about international law and whether using any of those frozen Libyan funds would be legal, even though the money of course is designed to save Libyan lives and free the country from Gadhafi's rule.

The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, by the way, told me recently he would support the idea. Other members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, also have told me they agree it makes sense, especially at a time when the U.S. is under enormous pressure to cut spending at home.

So, if the Obama administration were to support, though, the Libyan frozen assets idea, it would probably raise questions down the road about potentially trying to recoup money from oil-rich Iraq to pay for U.S. military operations there. And that in part is why I suspect Panetta's answer, if he were asked that question at these hearings -- and, so far, he has not -- why I suspect his answer would be no. You can read my thoughts, by the way, on our new blog,

Secret U.S. airstrikes in Yemen, is a key al Qaeda commander among the casualties? We're getting new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

And how Congressman Anthony Weiner's scandal could prove a political opportunity for the actor Alec Baldwin.

Plus, Donald Trump blasting congressional Republicans and making a dire prediction.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: The Democrats are laughing at the stupidity of the Republicans and this Ryan plan. The Republicans are going to lose control of the House.



BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, our growing national debt and the political games that are being played around raising the debt ceiling are creating what's undoubtedly the most serious crisis facing the United States right now.

And yet President Obama remains pretty much above the fray on this matter. Today, he was hosting the president of the West Central African nation of Gabon at the Oval Office. Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden was holding a meeting with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on the debt ceiling.

The U.S. technically hit the debt ceiling back in April. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the government can continue to pay its bills and get by for a few weeks until the beginning of August. In the meantime, Republican lawmakers say they will not vote to raise the debt ceiling unless steep, meaningful cuts are agreed to in spending.

The Biden-led meeting is part of the debt-ceiling working group the president requested the vice president head up earlier this spring. So far, both sides have agreed to about $200 billion in spending cuts, but that's a drop in the bucket compared to what some conservatives want. Today, the group was set to discuss taxes and entitlements. Good luck on that. Expect the talks to continue, and expect them to get ugly.

This all comes on the same day that the Fitch Rating Service said it would assign a junk rating to all U.S. Treasury securities if the federal government misses its debt payments by August 15.

But President Obama was busy hosting the president of Gabon. Here's the question: Should President Obama become personally involved in negotiations over the nation's debt crisis?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thank you.

The U.S. is stepping up its airstrikes in Yemen right now, and an American official says a key commander of al Qaeda's Arabian branch in Yemen may have been killed in recent days. The renewed air campaign against Islamic insurgents follows a lull caused by months of political chaos.

Let's bring in our CNN national security contributor, Fran Townsend. She serves on the CIA and Homeland Security external advisory boards.

Fran, the U.S. is engaged militarily right now in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya. And now Yemen, it's getting engaged in militarily in a significant way. Is this good?


In many respects, these are not -- where we are now, particularly in places like Libya and Yemen, were not sort of American choosing, but America has interest in the chaos it's devolving into.

Here's the problem. In these places, particularly in Libya, Yemen, but it's also true in Afghanistan and Iraq, if there is chaos, if the governments aren't strong enough to sort of create an environment where there's security and governance, the bad guys come in.

You have al Qaeda elements in each of those countries that will then insert themselves. And so it's really important that we try to encourage sort of the opposition in Libya and in Yemen to either take control and move those governments that are currently there, but very fragile, aside.

BLITZER: Because what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is right now different than in Pakistan or, to a certain degree -- it's not CIA drones. This is the U.S. military in Yemen engaging in strikes designed to find al Qaeda operatives and kill them.

TOWNSEND: Well, Wolf, that's certainly the report by Mark Mazzetti in "The New York Times," that it's -- but I will tell you, in my experience, I have seen the drones used, as they are used in the Pakistani tribal areas, and, as you know, Wolf, the drones -- a drone program would be used under the covert authority of the CIA. It would be a covert action.


BLITZER: But there are drones that are used by the CIA. There are also drones that are used by the Defense Department. TOWNSEND: That's right. But those are used -- the ones by the Defense Department, Wolf, are used in more theaters.

The incredible thing about the bin Laden raid was here was ground forces that were basically, as they would say in military terms, chopped. They were given command over to the CIA. And that's been the experience. Where you're going after terrorist targets, and those targets are identified by an intelligence operation, and you want to take action, but you want it to be ultimately deniable, you use covert action authorities.

And, frankly, the administration has used that quite effectively. I have not -- understand what Mark Mazzetti's report is in "The New York Times." I have not talked to anybody who's yet confirmed that this is an actual U.S. military mission.

Of course, we're using U.S. military assets. You only have two choices. It's either an act of war or you're doing it with the permission of the existing government there, in this case Saleh, who, as we know, is now in Saudi Arabia, because he was injured in a missile attack.

BLITZER: Yes. In the past, he's given that kind of permission, according to a lot of sources.

Let's talk about President Obama and what you're hearing now, that he's coming up with what's described as a new counterterrorism strategy. What does that mean?

TOWNSEND: Well, Wolf, during the Bush administration, President Bush had a national security strategy and a counterterrorism strategy.

President Obama has been in office two-and-a-half years. We have seen lots of operations like the bin Laden raid. We have seen lots of drone activity. We have seen speeches from the president and speeches from his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

But there hasn't been a strategy published that articulates the policy framework and the strategic objectives of this president in the war on terror. And, so, it's now, I think -- in the wake of the bin Laden raid, I think the country will be very interested to understand, as he approaches conflicts around the world, as he looks at threats like those from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, what is his strategic vision and framework against which he looks at those threats and decides to take action?

So, it should be very interesting. I understand it's cleared the interagency process. The Cabinet secretaries have cleared on it. And they're now preparing it for a public rollout.

BLITZER: And maybe the president himself will make a major address on this? Is that what you're hearing?

TOWNSEND: Absolutely. In the first instance, that's what they do. They will prepare it. They will ask his immediate staff if that's what he wants to do. And then they will prepare a venue and a speech for him to do just that.

BLITZER: Good idea to do it as we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 as well.

TOWNSEND: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Fran, thanks very much, doing some good reporting for us, as well as some good analysis.

An African leader accused of corruption and rights abuses meeting with President Obama -- we have details of a controversial Oval Office meeting today. Stand by.


BLITZER: Listen to this. Donald Trump, as you all know, he announced he's not running for president of the United States, but is that decision final?

He released a new video today that suggests he could get back in the race. Listen.


TRUMP: Many people have been asking, when I was doing so well, and in fact leading in the polls, why didn't I decide to run for president?

The fact is that numerous things happened. Number one, the Republican Party. Paul Ryan's plan, the timing of this plan was so bad. I happen to think the concept was bad also. It almost seems as though the Republicans have a death wish. When they tamper with Medicare, which happens to be a good program, but there's lots of fraud and waste, which we should take care of -- but when they tamper with Medicare, they have a death wish.

This is not going to happen. And, frankly, I would protect Medicare. It's not going to happen. You can't win an election if you're going to be playing games with Medicare. Fix it. Make it better.

but The Democrats are laughing at the stupidity of the Republicans and this Ryan plan. The Republicans are going to lose control of the House. It is unbelievable, what he did.

So, I look at the kinds of things that are happening, and, on top of that, NBC is calling me on an hourly basis offering me all sorts of money to continue with "The Apprentice," which has been a tremendous hit show for NBC and, frankly, for me.

And at one point, I just said, you know what? I think it's time to take the money.

I am watching very carefully. If the wrong person is nominated, you watch what happens with Donald Trump and what he does.


BLITZER: I have known Donald Trump for a long time. Here's some advice.

He's a billionaire.

You can afford better audio video equipment on your YouTube presentation there. The shot looks OK. I know it's in your office. I have been in your office. But that audio, it sounds so tinny and hollow and cheap. You're a billionaire. Get better audio for your YouTube, some friendly advise from one television guy to another television guy in Donald Trump.

A lot of Democrats want him to quit, but Congressman Anthony Weiner is digging in his heels. Now a stunning new poll may show why he is not so eager to resign.

Plus, the sex scandal may have ended any chance Anthony Weiner had of becoming mayor of New York, but another Democrat may be waiting in the wings, the actor Alec Baldwin. Is he ready to move from "30 Rock" to City Hall?

And the case of a young mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, it's a dramatic development, a turn of events in the trial that's gripping much of the United States.


BLITZER: We're learning new information about the possible future of Congressman Anthony Weiner in the wake of his online sex scandal.

Our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is joining us from Capitol Hill with more.

Dana, Republicans, and now many Democrats, at least privately, some openly, are saying he must go. What is the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that Anthony Weiner is saying, you know, he is not going to go, that he's not going to resign from Congress.

That's despite the fact that there is increasing public and private pressure on Anthony Weiner, and also some of his colleagues continuing to distance themselves from him by publicly making clear that they are returning some of the campaign tasks that he gave to their campaign.

So I'm told, Wolf, in a private conversation that Weiner had with a fellow Democrat from New York he said he's not resigning, and in part, he said it was because his wife wants him to stay in Congress. And a source that's familiar with that conversation said that Weiner was very, quote, dug in about staying.

But, you know, that doesn't change the fact that we still are hearing privately that many of his colleagues are frustrated. And, you know, remember, he has not been here in Washington, nor have any of his colleagues. He hasn't had to deal with them face to face. That is going to change, if he does stay, next week when everybody comes back to the House. And Jim Clyburn, who was a member of the Democratic leadership, has said today that -- that when he does come back, that caucus, that Democratic Caucus will have something to say about it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, there's a brand-new poll that's just coming out in New York this hour that shows, surprisingly, a lot of support for him.

BASH: This is going to bolster Congressman Weiner's determination to stay in Congress. There's no doubt about it. Check this out: as you said, brand-new poll this hour from the Marist poll. Do you think Anthony Weiner should stay in Congress or not? Fifty-six percent say -- excuse me, should he resign? Fifty-six say he should not resign, and 33 say that he should. That is a big majority. And this was taken just yesterday, and it was taken just with people in his Ninth District of New York.

Second question, about Anthony Weiner's judgment, personal judgment. Forty-six percent say that this was a lapse in personal judgment. Only 10 percent say it was a lapse in professional judgment, and 29 percent say that they're not confident in either. So that also, the fact that people are saying that it's more personal than professional, again, is going to probably make Anthony Weiner more, in the words of that source I talked to, dug in about not wanting to leave, because his very constituents are saying, according to this poll, they don't think he should.

BLITZER: He's a six-term congressman from this district, so there's obviously some built-in good will toward this Congressman, despite all of these enormous problems right now. Thanks very much, Dana, up on the Hill.

The Congressman Weiner scandal may be an opportunity for a celebrity with a possible political aspiration. We're talking about the actor, Alec Baldwin, is seen as a potential candidate for New York City mayor. Our own Mary Snow is in New York. She's working this part of the story for us.

Mary, what's going on here?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is on the table but considered a long shot. You know, Alec Baldwin has been politically active for a long time, and it's no secret he's been interested in seeking office.


SNOW (voice-over): He plays an un-PC conservative TV executive.

ALEC BALDWIN, ACTOR: I really resent the congresswoman's accusations. I have long been an advocate for diversity; it's made this nation great. The Chinese built the railroads. The Irish built and then filled the jails. TINA FEY, ACTRESS: A guy named Juan built my armoire.

SNOW: In real life, Alec Baldwin is a long-time Democrat who may be considering moving from "30 Rock" to city hall. A spokesman for the actor says he wouldn't rule out Baldwin making a run for New York City mayor in 2013, and there's an opening in the Democratic field.

Up until last week, Congressman Anthony Weiner was seen as the leading contender, but chances of him becoming mayor are now slim to none. Baldwin's been eyeing opening for a while. Just two years ago, he told "Playboy" magazine, "People misstep. Unfortunately, an opportunity for me may mean bad things for someone else. I don't wish that."

"New York" magazine was writing about Baldwin the potential candidate as far back as 1997. Just this January on CNN Eliot Spitzer asked him if he was interested in running for political office.

BALDWIN: So the answer is yes, it's something that I'm very, very interested in, because, you know, people would say to me all the time, "Why would you want to do that?" And sometimes I don't want to do it because to leave what I'm doing now would be extremely painful, because...

SNOW: Baldwin's contract with "30 Rock," though, runs out in 2012. But could he really be a mayor? CNN contributor John Avlon points to celebrities turned politicians like Jesse Ventura, Al Franken and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just the fact he has high name I.D., he's associated with New York. If he were to show he was serious and really take the time to learn the issues and you get him in a Democratic primary, he could get enough percentage to make a runoff, and he could even make a credible run as an independent. So yes, no one should count this one out.


SNOW: Now, Alec Baldwin is currently filming a movie in Florida but has taken to his Twitter account. He writes it's a long way until November of 2013. He also weighed in on Anthony Weiner, writing that he should not resign -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much. Mary Snow reporting.

A mother accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter breaking down in court as graphic evidence is shown. Dramatic developments today in the Casey Anthony trial. We'll update you on what happened.

And a controversial Oval Office meeting between President Obama and an African leader accused of massive corruption.

Plus, the Chicago businessman accused of playing a part in the Mumbai terror attacks. A verdict is now in.


BLITZER: We now have a verdict in an important terror trial. A Chicago businessman accused of playing a role in the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008. Let's go to Chicago. Ted Rowlands is standing by. What happened, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Tahawwur Rana, Wolf, was facing charges from two separate allegations. One was that Mumbai terror attack in India and the jury in this case came back with a not guilty verdict on that. They did come back with two guilty verdicts stemming from what the government basically alleged is a terror plot that never fulfilled itself.

They blamed, or they said that Rana, along with an associate, had made plans to bomb a newspaper in Copenhagen, Denmark. This newspaper had published images of -- cartoon images that these folks were very -- of the Prophet Mohammad that these two were so upset about they were going to blow up or do something at this newspaper. And the jury here in Chicago did buy the government's argument on that one.

But the reason this got so much play was this allegation that they had something to do with the Mumbai terror attacks. And the jury here in Chicago said no, in their opinion, there wasn't enough to prove the government's case. So a loss, one would say, for the federal government here in Chicago on the Mumbai side of it, which really got all the attention.

BLITZER: On the Mumbai part of it, did any evidence emerge in the course of the trial, suggesting that Pakistan, the government of Pakistan, high officials there had a role in the Mumbai terror attack in India?

ROWLANDS: It did. The government's star witness in this case took the stand and said that, while he was going over to India, taking photographs and video of different locations, including the hotels that were hit in the Mumbai attacks, that he was reporting to a member of the ISI -- the ISI, which is a part of the Pakistani government, and he said that he had a direct report to it.

Now, one thing to keep in mind is a lot of courtroom observers didn't believe the veracity of this witness and, in the end, the jurors came back but not (UNINTELLIGIBLE) connection. So while there was a lot of worldwide interest in this trial, because there was a speculation that there would be details and actual proof that the Pakistani government had something to do with the Mumbai attacks, it really didn't come out in court to the degree that a lot of people anticipated.

The one witness said he did have a direct report inside the ISI, but in the end, the jury didn't believe it. And a lot of courtroom observers didn't believe him when he was on the stand, as well. So the jury, I guess, is still out on that, if you will.

BLITZER: Yes, all right, Ted. Thanks very much. Ted reporting from Chicago. It's a tragic case that has many Americans transfixed, and today was an especially dramatic day in the trial of Casey Anthony, accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee. Our national correspondent, Gary Tuchman, is covering the trial for us in Orlando, Florida.

A lot of our viewers may not necessarily have been following all the latest twists in this -- in this case. What -- what -- give us a little background. What's going on?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, this case has been in the news for three years, but it wasn't until last month when they had opening statements in the trial in the courthouse behind me and the defense put out its theory that people really all over this country and the world, for that matter, started paying attention.

Casey Anthony is accused of killing Caylee Anthony, suffocating her because she wanted to live her own life, and she was a party girl. And she wanted to have fun. That's what the prosecution says.

The defense, though, just three weeks ago -- no one knew about this; this was a secret for three years -- says what really happened is that Caylee Anthony accidentally drowned in a pool at Casey Anthony's house. And Casey Anthony, because there was so much tumult in her family, she says she was molested by her father.

Her father totally denies that, but because of this molestation, Casey Anthony says this family kept secrets. And she made the decision to keep this a secret for three years, that her daughter accidentally drowned and not tell anybody. So that's the defense theory in the case, and that's why it's getting so much attention. And we're now in the third week of this trial.

BLITZER: So what happened today, Gary?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Today was a very emotional and trying and difficult day, because today was the day that the prosecution showed photographs of the body of this poor little girl, this 2-year-old girl found in the woods near Casey Anthony's house.

And what they showed -- the pictures were very graphic, so we're not going to show you pictures, but they were the skull of the little girl. And they showed important evidence on these pictures of the skull, important evidence, huge pieces of duct tape that were still attached to her nose and her mouth area.

What they are saying is that Casey Anthony suffocated her little girl with this duct tape and then dumped her body in the woods. They say the duct tape was on so tight, the medical examiner, that the lower jaw was still attached to the skull. He says the lower jaw usually gets taken off the skull after months of a body lying there. It's the first time he's ever seen a lower jaw still attached to the skull, because the tape was attached, it was on so hard that it was not only keeping the lower jaw on, but it was actually keeping some of her hair on her head. But the defense is saying that this was a staged scene, that somebody else, the person who found the body, was actually the person who put the tape on. For what reasons we don't know. But what this defense is doing, if they're -- if what they're saying is not true, they're maligning a lot of people. They're maligning the person who found the body.

And they're also maligning the father of Casey Anthony. They say he's a molester. He went on the stand, denies he molested his daughter, denies that his little girl drowned, but he's still -- he and his wife are still supporting their daughter. Because it's their daughter, and they don't want her to go the death penalty.

But after we saw all these photos, Wolf, it was very emotionally difficult for us to see and watch these photos. I didn't even want to look at the screen. I knew I had to, because it was my job. It was very difficult.

But Casey Anthony, she wasn't sobbing. It wasn't clear she was crying. But she certainly looked very upset during all the proceedings. And then they had a break, and they were supposed to have two more hours of court. And the judge came back, and he made an announcement. Listen.


BELVIN PERRY, JUDGE: Ms. Anthony is ill. We are recessing for the day. Neither the state nor the defense has any comments concerning her illness, nor do they want to be interviewed. I would ask that you preserve their privacy as they leave the courthouse today. OK, this court will be in recess until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.


TUCHMAN: I thought it was interesting, Wolf, that this judge who deals in, you know, laws and has to be very careful, alleged guilty, not guilty, says she was ill categorically. I don't know if she was ill categorically. I will say she's allegedly ill, because she's had a lot of credibility problems. And we don't even know if there will be court tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Don't know how sick she is or if she, indeed, is sick -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Gary, we'll check back with you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

And to our viewers, you can get a lot more details on today's dramatic developments in the Casey Anthony trial tonight on "AC 360," 10 p.m. Eastern, 7 Pacific, only here on CNN.

It was an Oval Office meeting that the White House was not exactly eager to tell us about or show us what was going on. We'll tell you what we're talking about when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Controversial African leader made an official visit to President Obama over at the White House today. It's an Oval Office meeting the White House was not eager to publicize. Let's find out what's going on. Our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar, has been looking into this story for us. What do we know, Brianna?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, TV cameras not allowed into this meeting, although the White House is insistent that nothing should be read into that.

Now, of course, for a small African nation like Gabon, meeting with President Obama is a really big deal. But the reason this raises questions is because, for some time now, the government of Gabon has been considered quite corrupt, though some would argue an important ally right now for the U.S.


KEILAR (voice-over): On Thursday, President Obama welcomed Gabon's president, Ali Bongo Ondimba, into the Oval Office for a visit. The White House allowed still photographers to capture the moment but would not let TV cameras in as they often do.

Bongo is a controversial figure. His family has ruled Gabon for decades, at times with an iron fist and is accused of illegally financing a lavish lifestyle with the country's oil riches, while many in Gabon go hungry.

The most recent State Department report on Gabon, released in April shows some improvement in human rights but says corruption was still a problem: "Authorities reportedly routinely monitored private telephone conversations, personal mail and the movement of citizens, and many crimes in Gabon went unprosecuted."

White House spokesman Jay Carney rebuffed questions about whether the meeting was appropriate.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that it's a little naive to believe that -- that the president of the United States should not meet with leaders who don't, you know, meet all the standards that we would have for perfect governance. OK? This is an important relationship.

KEILAR: Gabon holds the rotating presidency on the United Nations Security Council, a key vote as the U.S. looks for international support in dealing with Iran and Libya.

And the White House says Gabon has undertaken reforms, reforms touted by President Bongo earlier this week when he addressed the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

PRESIDENT ALI BONGO ONDIMBA, GABON: To be conscious of our challenges. You still encourage and support those -- those of us who genuinely respect democratic principles and the rule of law.

KEILAR: But Gabon does not, says Melvin Ayogu, an expert on the region from the Brookings Institute. Asked if Bongo has implemented democratic reforms, here's what he says.

MELVIN AYOGU, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE: Not any substantive measure at all, because it's probably not in the best interests of the incumbent to reform what -- reform for what? What are you going to do to -- to him? You know, if the U.S. does not buy Gabon's oil, China will probably buy it.


KEILAR: But it's interesting, Wolf, because Ayogu also cautions from being too surprised by this visit between President Bongo and President Obama, pointing out that there are many countries with far worse records than Gabon that the U.S. has relations with.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar over at the White House. So it's a sensitive story. Brianna, thanks very much. Good report.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour: "Should President Obama become personally involved in negotiations over the nation's debt crisis?" Which is getting worser and worser.

Jason in New York writes, "Yes, he should. This is the No. 1 issue facing Americans right now, and as such it deserves attention from America's No. 1 leader. President Obama needs to let us know that he feels our pain, a la Bill Clinton. Even though he inherited this mess, he needs to show Americans that he will personally see us through it."

Terry in Virginia writes, "No, thank you. I remember when he finally became engaged in the health-care debate, and we lost the public option. No telling what he'd give up in order to claim he accomplished solving the debt crisis. Scary stuff."

David in Las Vegas, "I think not. Economics is not the president's area of expertise. He's much better at talking about debt than doing anything about it."

Richard in Pennsylvania, "Obama has no background in economics, so his involvement would be a further hindrance. He is a tax-and- spend Democrat, so we know where he stands. He wants bigger government, more spending of money we don't have. His insane Obama health-care plan and no view for the future of this country. Reducing spending is a foreign concept to him."

Dana writes, "No. I think he ought to stay out of it. Let Biden earn his living."

Donald in New Mexico: "The House leaders always declare anything the president says or does DOA. When he tries to mediate, he's meddling. When he gives Congress time to act, they say he's not helping. I think the president is between a rock and a hard place. The demands for more and more from the Republicans make me think they only have their own special interests and agenda. They would rather see America in recession than do anything that might make our president successful."

Jerry in Georgia writes, "Golly gee. I thought it was part of the job description. He's either the leader of this nation, or he's not. He clearly demonstrates on a very consistent basis that he is detached from the job of being a leader, but he adores being an influential persona. Perhaps we're better off that he's not in the negotiations."

You want to read more on this, go to my blog: Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Are you getting a lot of mail on this, a lot of e-mail?

CAFFERTY: It's -- you know, it's not as sexy a topic as Congressman Weiner, but it's -- you know, people are becoming increasingly aware of the gravity of this situation. And August the 15th is not that far away. And we've got rating agencies threatening to do all kinds of bad things to the nation's debt. I mean, it's -- it's a serious problem. It's not as exciting as some of the other stuff, but it's very serious. Very important.

BLITZER: But you're saying not as sexy, necessarily, as some of these other stories?

CAFFERTY: Well, yes. I don't know that the Weiner thing is sexy. It's more disgusting than sexy.

BLITZER: I think you're right.

CAFFERTY: But yes, there is a differentiation.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Thanks very much.

Remember for our North American viewers "JOHN KING USA" begins at the top of the hour. But up next, CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us when a Weiner is really a whiner.


REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: I'm not resigning, no.



BLITZER: When it comes to material for CNN's Jeanne Moos, the Anthony Weiner scandal is the gift that keeps on giving.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You know the scandal has peaked when the Weiner puns start to shrivel, though every day there's a little something new to keep the story alive.

The scandal has been physically painful for comedian Jon Stewart, who was making margaritas during a spoof of the Weiner press conference when he broke some glass.


MOOS: The show went on.


MOOS: By the next night...


MOOS: ... Stewart was showing off his stitches.

STEWART: Here's what happened there. That's...

MOOS: The psychic cuts suffered by Anthony Weiner were self- inflicted.

(on camera) It's bad news for the congressman when liberals are the ones whining about Weiner, begging him directly.

ED SCHULTZ, HOST, "THE ED SHOW": Please resign. Please. Please do it. It's bigger than you.

JOY BEHAR, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW: Get out now, Anthony. Out.

WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": You've got to go, Anthony! Bye-bye!

MOOS (voice-over): We said hello to a bunch of guys with Anthony's same name, though unrelated to him. And in almost every case...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. This is Anthony Whiner.

MOOS (on camera): Anthony Weiner?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Weiner. Pronounced the correct way.

MOOS (voice-over): And spelled W-E-I-N-E-R, just like the congressman.

(on camera) Now, this kind of wiener is spelled W-I-E-N-E-R.

(voice-over) The point is that, if Anthony Weiner pronounced his name like the rest of the "whiners," the whole scandal would have lost much of its pun-laced appeal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's E-I, it's "whiner," you say it like that. If it's I-E, it's wiener. So I'm clearly a whiner, not a wiener.

MOOS (on camera): And what does that make Anthony, the other Anthony? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For what he did and being a Democrat, he's definitely a wiener.

MOOS: Stephen Colbert was whining about how his show came up in text messages Weiner exchanged with one woman.

STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE COLBERT REPORT': Who claims she told Weiner, quote, "I was so psyched to see you on Colbert. You were so funny."

To which he says, "You watch it naked?" Oh. Oh, my God.

MOOS: But while Colbert was squirting sanitizer and spraying Lysol, Barbara Walters didn't sound so grossed out. After the totally nude close-up of Weiner's alleged privates circulated online, Barbara noted that Weiner didn't deny it was him.

ELISABETH HASSELBECK, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Then it must be a flattering photo back to my original point.

BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST, ABC'S "THE VIEW": Let me tell you something. It is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But even if he did deny it...

MOOS: Who knew the host of "The View" would enjoy this view?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers "WORLD REPORT" is next. In North America "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.