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President: Let's 'Avert Armageddon'; Another Top Murdoch Executive Resigns; Murdoch Regrets "Serious Wrongdoing;" U.S. Recognizing Rebels Over Gadhafi; Rating the Credit Agencies; Florida Judge Grants Anthony Motion for Protective Order; Inside Mobster 'Whitey' Bulger's Life of Crime; Planes Collide in Boston

Aired July 15, 2011 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much, T.J.

Happening now, President Obama says he's willing to think small, if he has to, to try to prevent what he calls financial Armageddon. He's opening the door to a Republican Plan B to break the stalemate over raising the debt limit.

Also, new apologies from media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He met with the family of a murdered teenager whose phone was hacked by his now defunct tabloid. There are fast-moving developments in this scandal. It's engulfing his entire news empire.

And as Casey Anthony prepares to get out of jail on Sunday, will she shun the media spotlight, will she try to capitalize on her supposed fame?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


President Obama back at the bully pulpit for the second time this week, with time running out to make sure America pays its bills. The president went before reporters today to keep pushing for a deal to raise the federal debt limit before the August 2nd deadline. After days of tough, intense bargaining with Congressional leaders, he seems to be softening his terms somewhat.

Let's go to the White House.

Our correspondent, Dan Lothian, has the very latest -- Dan.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, President Obama said that it's time for lawmakers from both parties to make some tough choices, to do things that may not be popular with their own political bases. He says he's been willing to put entitlement programs on the table. But even so, there's no deal tonight. And some Republicans are saying it's time for the president to put his own plan on the table, not make another speech.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): President Obama still thinks, the so- called big deal option is the right deal.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What is important is that even as we raise the debt ceiling, we also solve the problem of underlying debts and deficits. I'm glad that Congressional leaders don't want to default, but I think the American people expect more than that. They expect that we actually try to solve this problem and get our fiscal house in order.

LOTHIAN: But after five straight days of talks with Congressional leaders, reality appears to be lowering the president's expectations.

OBAMA: It is hard to do a big package.

LOTHIAN: With credit agencies issuing urgent warnings about the consequences of a default and Republicans on Capitol Hill talking about backup options, President Obama indicated he isn't shutting the door on their ideas.

OBAMA: If they show me a serious plan, I'm ready to move, even if it requires some tough decisions on my part.

LOTHIAN: Even if it may only raise the debt ceiling, but not tackle the deficit problem in a significant way.

OBAMA: If Washington operates as usual and can't get anything done, let's at least avert Armageddon.

LOTHIAN: That Armageddon scenario the president painted includes, he said, higher interest rates on things like credit cards or loans,, which would hit all Americans like a tax hike -- exactly what Republicans refuse to make part of any deal.

With time running out, President Obama still remains optimistic that ongoing talks will be productive.

OBAMA: I always have hope.

Don't you remember my campaign?


OBAMA: Even after -- even after being here for two-and-a-half years, I continue to have hope.


LOTHIAN: Now the president dismissed the notion that any of these talks had gotten ugly. He said it's simply not true. He also said that the American people don't care for the reality TV aspect of these negotiations. They really want solutions. And that's why he believes the big deal is best thing to not only make the markets happy, but also show Americans that Washington can get something done -- Wolf.

BLITZER: But apparently, there's no chant -- chance that House Republicans are going to vote for tax increases, even the kind of elimination of loopholes or subsidies that he wants that would justify that so-called big deal. So he's obviously scaling back his -- his ambition right now. He may -- he may get a smaller deal. But even more likely, he might get that compromise with Mitch McConnell, a temporary stop-gap measure, if you will, to avert what he calls financial Armageddon.

Is that the sense you're getting, as well?

LOTHIAN: That is certainly the sense. And as you pointed out, Republicans still pushing back on tax increases, because they believe that that's not the way to get at the revenue, that the way to do that is to improve the overall economy and job creation, but not raise taxes, even on the wealthiest Americans.

BLITZER: And the president will be in town all weekend in case there are more negotiations necessary. I suspect there will be. Dan, thanks very much.

Congress has scheduled a series of test votes next week on alternative approaches to raising the debt limit. That includes a popular conservative plan to cut and cap federal spending and to balance the budget.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), INCOMING MAJORITY LEADER: We're going to bring a bill forward next week, otherwise known as the Cut, Cap and Balance bill, to provide a balanced approach so that we can demonstrate that we are getting things under control and that the people who put us here can gain some confidence that we're going to begin to live like they do around their kitchen tables and in their businesses.


BLITZER: House Republican leaders also signaled that they're now open to a backup plan offered by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell. It would allow three short-term increases in the debt ceiling between now and the end of next year by giving lawmakers a chance to cast votes showing they disapprove.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am not prepared, at this point, to -- to pick winners or losers. Now, listen, Senator McConnell pointed out that his plan was being put on the table as a last ditch effort. We're far from the time for a last ditch effort.


BLITZER: The speaker says Republicans have offered serious proposals to resolve the debt crisis and now, he says, it's time for Democrats to get serious, as well. By the way, I'll be speaking with Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House. He's been inside the rooms for all of the negotiations. We'll get his take on what's going on. That's coming up this hour.

A new loss for Rupert Murdoch's media empire, as scandal engulfs his news outlets on two continents. We just received word a little while ago that one of Murdoch's top executives here in the United States is now resigning.

Let's bring in our national security correspondent, Susan Candiotti, in New York.

Another -- another top executive going down -- Susan, what's the latest?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. His name is Les Hinton. And he has worked for Rupert Murdoch in various capacities, Wolf, for more than 50 years. And we are told by a number of reporters who have been Tweeting when they heard about his resignation that there was an openly -- a loud gasp in the newsroom of the Dow Jones business unit that he headed up when this news -- the resignation was announced.

Les Hinton is a very important figure in Murdoch's News Corporation. In fact, he headed up the international division back in the late '90s through 2007, during a time when the hacking scandal really started to break wide open. In fact, he even testified before parliament at times, saying that he didn't think that the News Corporation was doing anything wrong and then acknowledging in uncovering that, he said only one person -- that he had eliminated a rotten element at the time and thought that the scandal was over.

But now he is saying in his resignation letter that he was ignorant of, apparently, what had been going on, the corruption scandal, and is calling this a very, very sad day for him, that he is leaving the newspaper.

But it is certainly leaving a lot of people wondering what is next or who might be next -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it comes just as the FBI and the Justice Department are opening up their own full scale investigation, or at least their initial investigation, into the News Corporation's activities here in the United States.

CANDIOTTI: That's right.

BLITZER: Susan, we'll check back with you.

Thank you.

Rupert Murdoch is offering a very public apology today for the phone hacking scandal and acknowledging what he calls "serious wrongdoing." This just days before he faces angry British lawmakers.

Our senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, has more on the Murdoch scandal in London.

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's been another day of frantic and fast-changing developments in this story. Rebekah Brooks, the embattled chief executive of News International, finally resigned, stood down. Her resignation was accepted by her boss, Rupert Murdoch.

He has now taken out full page advertisements in several newspapers apologizing for what's gone on under his leadership and in his newspapers. And perhaps most incredibly of all, Rupert Murdoch met the family of Milly Dowler, the murdered 13 -year-old girl whose phone was hacked into by one of his papers -- a tricky meeting for him, I'm sure, incredibly emotional for the Dowler family. Their solicitor, Mark Lewis, came out and spoke to the press afterward and spoke about how contrite Rupert Murdoch appeared.


MARK LEWIS, DOWLER FAMILY LAWYER: It was a private meeting that had been called for by Rupert Murdoch. And he was humbled and gave a full and sincere apology to the Dowler family.

RIVERS: All focus now is on the meeting next Tuesday, when Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks will be forced to appear here in a committee here and grilled closely politicians who want answers as to how all this illegal activity went on.

One of the people on that committee who will be interrogating Rebekah Brooks had some tough words for her.


JOHN PRESCOTT, FORMER BRITISH DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: I think it was inevitable. You know, Rebekah Brooks has given the resignation message she should have given on day one of this scandal, when Nick Davis of the U.K. "Guardian" revealed that Milly Dowler's phone had been hacked. She should have gone straightaway.


RIVERS: But the political dimensions to all this continue to evolve, as well. Downing Street has been forced to -- to put out a list of guests that the prime minister, David Cameron, welcomed to his country residence, Chequers. Among them was the now disgraced former editor of the "News of the World," a man who was hired as a -- a director of communications by Downing Street. And, also, he visited the prime minister three months after he was forced to step down from that high profile political role -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Rivers in London.

Much more on this story coming up later.

Meanwhile, Libyan rebels locked in heated battle with Moammar Gadhafi's forces get a new show of support from the Obama administration. We'll tell you what the United States did today.

And when planes collide -- what caused the fear and the damage on the runway in Boston.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The United States government today delivering a new diplomatic blow to Moammar Gadhafi's regime. The secretary State, Hillary Clinton, says the United States will now recognize Libya's main opposition group as the legitimate governing authority in the country.

CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is in Istanbul, Turkey, where the secretary is taking part in an international series of talks on the Libyan crisis.

A pretty dramatic development from the U.S. expected at some point. And it came as a little bit of a surprise to me today -- but update our viewers, Mohammed, on what's going on in Istanbul, because the future of Libya is at stake.

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Wolf. As you mentioned, it was a major diplomatic development when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at today's fourth Libya Contact Group meeting here in Istanbul, delivered a message that the United States, for the first time, was recognizing the Libyan National Transitional Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya, at least until an interim government is created.

Here's more of what Secretary of State Clinton had to say today.


HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Until an interim authority is in place, the United States will recognize the TNC as the legitimate governing authority for Libya and we will deal with it on that basis.

In contrast, the United States sees the Gadhafi regime as no longer having legitimate authority in Libya.

We still have to work through various legal issues, but we expect this step on recognition will enable the TNC to access additional sources of funding.


JAMJOOM: And, Wolf, as you mentioned, this did come as a bit of a surprise today. This announcement was expected at some point, but perhaps not today. And just to underscore that fact, we heard from people participating in the meeting that when Secretary of State Clinton made that announcement, applause broke out in the room where she was speaking.

Also good to mention the fact that in the final communique of the meeting today, all the participants basically said that Gadhafi had lost legitimacy and that right now, this Libyan National Transitional Council needed to be recognized as the legitimate governing authority and also that a cease-fire needed to be created and implemented in Libya at this time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The opposition, Mohammed, as you well know, they're certainly happy with the increased funding. They're happy with the increased political support. But there's something else they desperately need. Tell our viewers.

JAMJOOM: Well, that's right, Wolf. We ran into Mahmoud Shamam. He's spokesperson for the Libyan Transitional National Council at the conference today. And he was expressing quite a bit of frustration at the fact that even though so many hundreds of millions have been pledged in support, they have not received any of that money yet. He told us that at least $700 million to $800 million have been pledged in aid from many donor nations. They have not yet seen those funds.

He said they're in urgent need of those funds and more. He said they need as much as $3 billion U.S. right now to try to make sure that they can implement democratic reform and set up constitutional reform, a constitutional council and conferences there in Libya, to make sure these democratic institutions get created and that the political crisis there is solved as soon as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, one way of doing that, Mohammed, as you know, the United States has frozen $33 billion in Libyan assets, Gadhafi's assets here in the United States. Now that the U.S. has recognized the opposition as the legitimate governing authority of Libya, they could transfer -- start transferring some of that money to the opposition.

Is there any indication you're getting there, at this -- at this summit meeting in Istanbul that the U.S. is about to do that?

JAMJOOM: Well, Wolf, at the end of the meeting, there was hope at that possibility. The fact that the U.S. is recognizing this Libyan National Transitional Council as the legitimate governing authority there led many to believe that possibly these assets could be unfrozen, they could start being transferred to this group.

But that's not a certainty yet. And one of the things that's led to a lot of frustration among donor nations, among members, participating delegation members at these meetings, the past four meetings that have been held, is that even though there's a lot of goodwill gestures being put forward toward -- toward Libya, the fact of the matter is that money is not yet being transferred. People are wondering when this funding is going to be received by the interim authority there and how that's going to happen.

There's a lot of talk about assets being unfrozen, credit lines being established by these countries. And yet it hasn't happened yet. Money hasn't been transferred. And the rebels there say they're in desperate need of these funds as soon as possible -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're in desperate need of more arms, as well. And that money could certainly buy a lot of weapons.

Mohammed Jamjoom reporting for us in Istanbul, Turkey, where the secretary of State is participating in these talks.

I suspect that that money is going to start flowing to the rebels fairly soon. They should not anticipate any U.S. funds coming to Libya right now. But releasing some of those frozen Libyan assets, I -- I believe, is going to be happening fairly soon.

Meanwhile, a new round of deadly violence in Syria today.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that situation and some of the other stories making news here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What else is going on?


Well, a human rights group says government security forces opened fire on demonstrators today, killing 12 people and leaving dozens of others injured. Syrian state TV is reporting that armed groups fired on government forces and citizens in a Damascus neighborhood. This is the fifth month of anti-government demonstrations in Syria.

The man who shot and killed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half- brother had been working as a guard with the International Security Assistance Forces against the Taliban. A provincial council member tells CNN Sardar Mohammed received training from the ISAF and was one of the most trusted commanders for the Karzais. Mohammad was shot dead by other guards after he killed Ahmed Ahmed Wali Karzai on Tuesday.

Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, is expected to travel to Brazil for cancer treatment. Chavez says this week the next phase of his treatment could require radiation and chemotherapy. The type of cancer is that that Chavez is battling is undisclosed. The Venezuelan president says despite his illness, he is still in charge of his country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He got some initial treatment in Cuba. Now he's going to Brazil.

What's wrong with the hospitals in Venezuela, the doctors in Venezuela?

They've got some pretty good doctors there.

SYLVESTER: Yes, I think he wants, probably, the best for his money. And we certainly know he has a lot of money.

BLITZER: So he's -- it's a vote of no confidence in Venezuela, a vote of confidence in Cuba...

SYLVESTER: In Cuba and Brazil.

BLITZER: -- and Brazil. It's a little weird for a -- a nationalist leader like that Hugo Chavez.

SYLVESTER: Yes. We don't know the kind of cancer he has. So that might be a factor, too.

BLITZER: I guess when his life is at stake, he...


BLITZER: -- he's willing to go ahead and deal with that kind of situation.

Lisa, thanks very much.

Credit agencies are warning of big trouble if the U.S. government defaults on its debt.

But how seriously should their assessment be taken?

We're taking a closer look.

And Michelle Bachmann decides to break from her church.

What's behind the move?

Will it hurt or help her candidacy?


BLITZER: We heard Dan Lothian over at the White House mention that credit agencies are already warning about serious consequences if -- if the United States defaults on its debt.

But how much stock should Americans put into those agencies and the credit score they actually give the United States?

Lisa is back.

She's got more on the story for us.

What do we know?

SYLVESTER: Wolf, you know, the bottom line is that investors around the world, they put a lot of stock into what the credit ratings agencies say. And if the U.S. is downgraded from AAA to even AA, that could create shockwaves throughout the financial markets.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): The U.S. government has had a stellar AAA rating since 1917, when the ratings agencies began looking at government bonds. Only once before, in 1996, with a government shutdown looming, has the US' triple rating been under review.

But now, for the first time, there's real talk of the U.S. being downgraded. If that were to happen, it would be dire. MOHAMMED EL-ERIAN, PACIFIC INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT COMPANY: For the U.S., it will mean high unemployment. It will mean more volatile markets. And it will mean higher interest rates. And for the rest of the world, it will mean a much more unstable global economy. And the reason is very simple. Both the U.S. and the global economy is constructed and operates on the assumption that there is a AAA at the center.

SYLVESTER: Investors around the world use the ratings of the big three agencies -- Standard & Poor's, Moody's Investor Service and Fitch Ratings, to determine whether an investment is risky or a relatively safe bet. They base the ratings on the probability of default.

In 1975, the federal government officially recognized a handful of ratings companies. Through mergers, the number dwindled down to the big three.

(on camera): It's a lot like your credit score. The higher, the rating the cheaper it is for the government to borrow money. Now, Moody's says if the United States can't meet its debt obligations, it's prepared to drop the United States from a AAA to somewhere around the AA range.

On the other hand, S&P says any government, including the United States, that can't pay its debt on time could drop down from a AAA all the way down to a D.

(voice-over): And it's not just the U.S. government. Financial institutions tied to federal government are also on review for downgrade. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Home Loan Banks home loan banks and the Federal Farm Credit Banks. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the U.S. government could still afford to pay the interest to U.S. creditors, but it would only have enough cash to run about half of the government. And that would likely also have a negative impact on the rating.

JAY POWELL, BIPARTISAN POLICY CENTER: There will no way to avoid defaulting on half of our other obligations. There simply is no way. We can't sell additional debt because we're up against the debt limit. And there -- there won't be enough money to go around. It's -- think of it as -- as 100 people in a lifeboat that seats 50.


SYLVESTER: Now most financial analysts do not believe that we're going to get to that point. The assumption is that something is going to come out of Washington. So markets have been relatively tame. And, you know, they say that if you thought the collapse of Lehman Brothers, that that was something really significant, they said that this is going to be nothing in -- by comparison if that debt ceiling is not raised -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Well, they'd better do something to avoid that kind of disaster.

Thanks very much, Lisa, for that report.

Casey Anthony has some serious choices to make when she gets out of jail on Sunday. She's getting a lot of free advice about lying low and staying safe. Stand by.

And why jobless Americans might want to think twice about enlisting in the military. Stand by for that, as well.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer.

Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour.

Documents recovered from Osama bin Laden's compound revealed the Al Qaeda leader set his sights high -- on some high profile targets, including the president, of the United States.

With deep political divisions in the country, can members of Congress actually reach a grand compromise on the nation's debt?

And Los Angeles bracing for the big one -- not an earthquake, but a massive traffic jam that's being called Carmageddon.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A Florida judge today granted Casey Anthony's motion for protective order. That means Anthony won't have to be deposed in a defamation lawsuit filed against her until October.

The 25-year-old Anthony, who was found not guilty of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee, is being sued by a woman named Zenaida Fernandez. Anthony told investigators that was the name of Caylee's nanny and that the woman had taken the little girl and disappeared. Gonzalez denied knowing Anthony or her daughter.

And as Casey Anthony prepares to leave prison this Sunday, there are concerns about her safety.

Let's go to Orlando right now. CNN's David Mattingly, who covered the trial, is joining us live.

What are these concerns all about, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it was on this very day back in 2008 that Casey Anthony's mother first made those dramatic 911 calls to police, first alerting them to her missing granddaughter. So now, three years later, Casey is poised to get out of jail on Sunday, facing tremendous public anger. And public relations expert (INAUDIBLE) says there are some things that --


MATTINGLY (voice-over): She's one of the most watched and talked about people in the country. Public relations executives weigh in with a word of caution to Casey Anthony: Do not confuse infamy with fame.

GENE GRABOWSKI, LEVICK STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS: It's not fame. There's interest in you. A lot of it is negative interest.

Don't confuse that situation with celebrity. Don't think that you have to go out and do a whole lot of things right now. As a matter of fact, it's best probably to lay low.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Caylee! Caylee! Caylee!

MATTINGLY: If that's even possible. Angry words we heard outside the Orange County Courthouse are tiny in comparison to the Casey Anthony hatred expressed online. More than 770,000 people are signed on to just one of many anti-Casey pages on Facebook.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "We, the jury, find the defendant not guilty."

MATTINGLY: Acquitted in a court of law, Casey Anthony may need to begin fighting for her freedom in the court of public opinion the minute she walks out of jail.

BRIAN PIA, LUCKIE STRATEGIC PR: She doesn't need to walk out of jail smiling. She doesn't need to walk out of jail with a smirk on her face. She needs to walk out of jail looking like a mother who lost her child.

MATTINGLY: And from there, experts believe it would be time, at least temporarily, to disappear, consider the offers that come her way, and decide how best to tell her story.

MARVET BRITTO, THE BRITTO AGENCY: We're going to have to hear from Casey Anthony. We're going to have to hear a first-person account. People will be interested in what she has to say. Whether or not they accept it or not is a different story.


MATTINGLY: And to show you how high the stakes are for Casey Anthony right now regarding her safety, her civil attorney today said that just today alone, he --

BLITZER: We just lost the satellite, unfortunately. It's raining really, really bad in Orlando right now.

David Mattingly, thanks very much. We got the gist of it.

Let's go to a man now who, by all accounts, is a stone-cold killer. We're talking about the notorious mobster James "Whitey" Bulger, captured last month after 16 years on the run.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now with a preview of a CNN special report that she's been working on.

Quite a story here, Deb.


You know, James "Whitey" Bulger was arguably the undisputed king of South Boston's criminal underworld. Nothing happened without Bulger knowing about it and getting a piece of it.

He shook down bookies and loan sharks. He charged drug traffickers thousands in monthly rent to bring cocaine and marijuana into the projects. And when he thought someone was about to betray him, he allegedly got to them first. He did it all protected by rogue FBI agents in the Boston FBI Bureau. And to this day, the damage done by Whitey Bulger haunts Boston and the families of his many alleged victims.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Bulger's life of crime started early. Arrested in his teens, he was robbing banks by age 20. His shock of blonde hair earning him the name of "Whitey," a name he's said to despise.

With his rugged good looks and reckless flamboyance, Bulger imagined himself Boston's version of Hollywood gangster Jimmy Cagney. But instead of red carpets, he was headed to Alcatraz, a string of bank robberies landing Bulger 10 years in federal prison at age 25. He did his time and upon release vowed he would never ever go back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They had no hard proof.

FEYERICK: "Boston Globe" reporters Dick Lehr and Gerald O'Neal ultimately uncovered the deal he cut to make sure of that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He got out of prison in 1965, and we started doing research in 1988, and he hadn't gotten so much as a parking ticket.

FEYERICK: Whitey Bulger, fresh from prison, went to work as a mob enforcer. But Bulger wanted more. And federal investigators say he'd stop at nothing to get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then he went on a killing rampage. I think it's like a month, he killed six guys in 1972.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was ambitious in making his move.

FEYERICK: And he was making his move with this man, Steve Flemmi, a.k.a. the Rifleman. Among their alleged victims, Flemmi testified his own girlfriend, Debra Davis.

TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI ORGANIZED CRIME CHIEF: Back in those days, before DNA was in use, to identify victims, he would personally get involved in cutting off the fingers or hands of the victims and extracting their teeth.

FEYERICK: Tom Fuentes, now a CNN consultant, ran the organized crime squad for FBI headquarters.

(on camera): Give me three words that describe Whitey Bulger.

FUENTES: Stone cold killer.


FEYERICK: Now, stories of Bulger's brutality are legendary. In one case, after allegedly failing to strangle one of his victims with a boat rope, he asked whether the man would prefer a bullet to the head. And, allegedly, the man said, "Yes, please." That story comes from an eyewitness, a former mob associate who turned state's evidence.

So, while Whitey Bulger has entered a plea of not guilty to 19 murders and other charges, there's a lot of testimony already out there. It's going to be a very interesting trial, Wolf. And I hope you'll watch the special this Sunday at 8:00.

BLITZER: We certainly will, Deb. Thanks very much.

"Stone Cold Killer" airs Sunday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, part of "CNN Presents," this Sunday night.

Two planes collide. Stand by for the latest on the runway accident at Boston and how the passengers reacted.

And Rupert Murdoch's new public relations offensive. Is his big play for forgiveness enough to save his worldwide media empire?


BLITZER: Now to an accident at Boston's Logan International Airport that could have been so much worse. It happened last night when a Delta Boeing 767 hit a commuter jet on one of the airport's runways.

Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is working the story. He's joining us now with details now.

What do we know about this, Allan?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SR. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating some very sloppy maneuvering on the taxiway as two planes were preparing to take off last night at Boston's Logan Airport. A Delta connection regional jet was in front of a Delta 767. The smaller plane, operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines, turned on to a second taxiway. Shortly afterwards, the larger plane clipped the smaller plane with its wing, according to the NTSB.

Let's have a listen to the control tower talking to the pilots. You'll hear the term "RJ." That's regional jet.


DELTA 767 PILOT: We're going to have to wait here for a moment. I think we hit the RJ off of the left of our wing.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL: Did he hit you with his tail, his wing?

DELTA 767 PILOT: Absolutely he did. So we'll let you know what we are going to do. Right now we're going to hold our position.


CHERNOFF: The tail of the smaller plane suffered severe damage. There were about 300 passengers and crewmembers between the two planes. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, just a lot of shocked travelers.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our taxi increased slowly, and then we just felt a huge bump. Like, you know, it was terrifying. It's like, what happened? Everybody just said at once, "What happened?"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The tip of the wing just sheared right off, and I think the whole tail section or, like, the tail fin came off of the other plane.


CHERNOFF: The regional jet was to fly to Raleigh-Durham. The 767 was headed for Amsterdam.

Delta says it provided hotel rooms for its passengers and got them out to their destinations today.

Wolf, the NTSB will have an initial report within 10 days. A full analysis usually takes a few months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Sometimes I'm on these runways and I see the number of planes moving around. I'm surprised these kinds of accidents don't happen even more frequently.

All right, Allan. Thanks very much for that.

Just days before jumping into the Republican presidential race, Michele Bachmann quit her church. Will the move hurt or help her candidacy with Evangelical voters? Stand by.

And Mitt Romney sharpens his message against President Obama. He's now comparing the president to the former president Jimmy Carter. We'll get Donna Brazile and Alex Castellanos' take in our "Strategy Session." That's next.


BLITZER: Here in the United States, the FBI is investigating allegations that reporters working for Rupert Murdoch tried to hack into the communications of 9/11 victims. The former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani is urging the American people not to assume that Murdoch is guilty. Giuliani and Murdoch are longtime friends. Listen to this.


RUDY GIULIANI (R), FMR. NEW YORK MAYOR: Well, there is an investigation, sure. I mean, intercepting communications like that is a crime. It has to be investigated.

I think what there shouldn't be -- and we've learned recently with a bunch of criminal cases of different kinds -- don't rush to judgment. Give people a presumption of innocence. I think that just how high up it goes is a big question, and it's one we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions about.


BLITZER: Giuliani spoke to our chief political correspondent, Candy Crowley. You can see much more of the interview on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION." It airs Sunday morning, 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us, two CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile, and the Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.

And very quickly, Alex, is Rudy Giuliani going to run for president again?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't think so. I think he's doing very well in the business world, and the situation has gotten even tougher for I think a moderate Republican like Rudy Giuliani. The Tea Party, the conservatives are even more powerful. So I would say last time he had a better shot.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right. But he didn't have -- he may have had a better shot, but he didn't do very well the last time in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

Let's talk about Mitt Romney, who a lot of people think is the frontrunner right now for the Republican nomination. Certainly he scares the Democrats I think a lot more than some of the other Republican candidates.

Correct or wrong?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I don't know if he scares us, but yes, he's on our radar screen.

BLITZER: Because he's seen as more electable, if you will. He's more of a moderate, shall we say. Independents might like him more than a Michele Bachmann or a Sarah Palin or --

BRAZILE: Well, Wolf, I don't want to speak for the Democrats today. It's Friday. We could change our mind on Monday like Mitt Romney does all the time.

BLITZER: Well, let me read to you what Mitt Romney said about the current president of the United States, President Barack Obama. "Yes, Mr. President, Americans are stressed -- stressed about rising unemployment, falling home prices, and an economy that isn't working for them. Not since Jimmy Carter have we seen such failed economic policies. Who would have guessed that we would look back upon the Carter administration as the good old days?"

All right, he's really going after the president right now.

BRAZILE: Well, look, there's no question that every time the Republicans get in trouble, they have to scapegoat a Democrat. And they normally compare Democrats to a previous president, so Obama is like Carter, Clinton was like Carter. The truth of the matter is, Obama is trying to do what's right for the American people.

You know, Ronald Reagan had to raise the debt ceiling 17 times. And when he proposed to reduce our national deficit, he came up with 25 percent spending cuts and 75 percent revenue increases.

President Obama would like to put 83 percent spending cuts on the table, 17 percent revenue. Look, check the facts. I check the facts.

So the point is that we're stressed out about Romany's record, because when he was governor, Massachusetts was ranked 47 out of 50 in terms of job creation.

BLITZER: All right. Obviously, the Democrats have some arguments to make against Mitt Romney.

CASTELLANOS: Of course, we should correct the record a little bit. Reagan actually proposed 25 percent taxes and 75 percent spending cuts. But Donna is right, he couldn't trust the Democratic Congress. They gave him the exact opposite.

Romney is, I think, tying into a narrative that is catching hold out there. And that is that Barack Obama is Jimmy Carter without the accent.

First, that he's in over his head, that the job is just a bit too big for him. Like Carter, big government is going to stimulate the economy. Like Carter thought, big government would cure inflation, and it didn't. But it's more than that, it's personal.

There's a sense that Carter was this president who thought that he knew better than everyone, holier than thou. And when you look at all the commercials already running against Barack Obama, his chin is up, he's the Washington elite.

We people in Washington know better than you little people out there. And that's why this story is beginning to stick.

BRAZILE: Well, he comes to the table as the only --

BLITZER: Who is "he"?

BRAZILE: President Obama comes to the table as the only adult in the room who is willing to put everything on the table. He's not saying it's my way or the highway. And I don't know if comparing him to Jimmy Carter makes sense, but here's what I want to say about Jimmy Carter, who I know.

He's a good man, a good human being. And he's still doing what --

CASTELLANOS: And so is Obama.

BRAZILE: -- he's doing the lord's work. I know you disagree with Jimmy Carter's policies, but I think Jimmy Carter was an effective president.

BLITZER: Because the problem is that -- and you remember this. We all lived through the Jimmy Carter presidency -- inflation was high, interest rates were at double digits, 444 days of Americans held hostage in Iran, sort of advertising America's weakness.

BRAZILE: I have the record of the last eight years with George W. Bush. I have the record of Ronald Reagan's years. If we're going to start comparing apples to oranges, that's fine.

We're dealing with a debt crisis. And it's time that the grownups in the room -- those who consider themselves grownups -- I'm a grownup -- they come to the table and say, you know what? We want to put America's fiscal house in order. Everything needs to be on the table.


BLITZER: He did broker the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty at the Camp David Accords. So it's not just a negative record.

CASTELLANOS: And like Obama, he's had some accomplishments, not all of which Republicans agree with. However, at the end of the day, people thought the job was too big for him. And that's part of the narrative here, that somehow Jimmy Carter was just not up to the job, that it was -- but, you know, and it's so different, too, than Barack Obama, the campaign.

Barack Obama, the campaign, believed in the little guy and people. "We're the change we've been waiting for." "Yes, we can."

But now the narrative he's spinning from Washington is the American people can't do anything, Washington has to solve all your problems.


BRAZILE: You know, this blame game, blame President Obama for every problem this country's facing, while you basically tie his hands behind his back, that is not a fair way to assess his presidency. The best way to assess his presidency at the end of the day is, was he able to turn things around for the American people? And let me tell you something, things are going to turn around. But you've just got to stop --


BRAZILE: Come on.

BLITZER: Michele Bachmann, she is doing incredibly well in Iowa and all the Republican polls out there. But today we learned that she and her husband left her longtime church under circumstances -- I'm not sure exactly what it means.

I don't know if you've been looking into this issue, but it sort of reminds me to a certain degree -- maybe there are differences Donna can explain -- when President Obama left his church and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for very different reasons.

But tell us what's going on with Michele Bachmann and her church.

CASTELLANOS: Apparently, she's a member of an Evangelical church that doesn't think much of the Catholic Church. Of course, a lot of these Protestant churches divorce themselves at some point from Catholicism.

BLITZER: So for political reasons she left her church you think?

CASTELLANOS: Well, she did it six days before she announced. So you would think it had some political thing.

You know, Republicans are not cut a lot of slack on this. Republicans are seen by the Washington elite and the media many times as kind of unsophisticated -- and so some of these attacks actually stick to Republicans.

BLITZER: What is her church have against the Catholic Church?

CASTELLANOS: I think the church is on record, even on its Web site, as saying that the pope is the anti-Christ. Of course, we know that's not true. Bill Maher is the anti-Christ, and he's very proud of it, actually.


CASTELLANOS: But no, it's a Protestant tradition. You know --


BLITZER: You remember all the controversy that the president had with the Reverend Wright when he was running.

BRAZILE: Well, I'm still a devout, practicing Catholic, and I disagree with some of the inflammatory language that I saw on that church Web site. But that's it.

Look, Michele Bachmann has her own quotes and her own misleading statements that she needs to correct, including signing a pledge at the time that had that reference to slavery and family.

CASTELLANOS: She's handled it very well. She's distanced herself from this. BRAZILE: She handled that issue absolutely wrongly.

CASTELLANOS: And she's demonstrating great political talent so far.

BRAZILE: She should apologize for that. Well, she is talented, but she should apologize. Anyone knows that slavery was an inhumane institution.

BLITZER: She's right on that.

CASTELLANOS: And she has.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, guys. Thanks very much.

We're learning about a nightmare scenario that Osama bin Laden was hatching before he was killed. His apparent target, the president of the United States. We've got new information.

And if you're out of work right now, trying to get a quick paycheck in the U.S. military may be mission impossible.


BLITZER: In these tough financial times, you might think the U.S. military would be an obvious fallback position for Americans in need of a job. But what if you went ahead and enlisted and couldn't get a paycheck anytime soon?

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence.

What's going on here, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this is a real wake-up call, especially for people out there who have been hit hard by the unemployment in the civilian world and think that by joining the military, they're going to be getting a check from the Pentagon within a month or two.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Remember when it wasn't so hard to get a job or join the Army?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then yesterday I really didn't think I'd have to search as hard, but I'm glad I did.

LAWRENCE: These recruits trained all winter just to stay in shape for boot camp they may not get to for a year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two minutes to stretch on your own.

LAWRENCE: So if any unemployed think the military is a path to a quick paycheck --

DR. CURTIS GILROY, DEFENSE DEPT. PERSONNEL OFFICIAL: Well, unfortunately, they may be a little bit disappointed.

LAWRENCE: Dr. Curtis Gilroy is a personnel director at the Pentagon. He describes a perfect storm that has quadrupled the time it takes to join the military. Sky-high civilian unemployment makes the military look more attractive, but it also makes troops more likely to stay in.

Now factor in the services reducing their numbers to meet tighter budgets. It means some enlistees are forced to wait up to a year before they're allowed to leave for boot camp.

(on camera): How long does it take between the time someone says "I want to join" and they actually start making money?

GILROY: Well, Chris, for the typical recruit today, the waiting time is between nine and 11 months. Now, it could be longer in some instances.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): That's a far cry from four years ago, when the average Army recruit shipped off to boot camp 50 days after enlisting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

LAWRENCE: Today, only one out of every four recruits gets an enlistment bonus, and it's a fraction of what it used to be.

(on camera): So right now the average bonus is only $8,600.

GILROY: That's correct. Compare that with several years ago, where we paid about half of our new enlistees a bonus on average of over $14,000.

LAWRENCE: The military is still recruiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's more than a uniform.

LAWRENCE: But it's more selective than ever.

GILROY: We have the highest quality military that we've had in about 20 years.


LAWRENCE: And that means it's very, very tough for those who got out of the service and now want to get back in. But there are some people who still get the big bonuses and don't have to wait long. Special Forces, intel analysts, and electronic maintenance technicians, those people, Wolf, still in high demand.

BLITZER: They certainly are.

All right. Thanks very much.

Chris Lawrence, at the Pentagon.