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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Talks to Prevent Debt Disaster; Why President Embraced the "Gang of Six;" New Talks to Prevent Debt Disaster; Interview With DNC Chair Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Billions in U.S. Money Going to Insurgents?; Under Attack Over Phone Hacking; Accused Ft. Hood Shooter's Atty. Off Case
Aired July 20, 2011 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Brooke, thanks very much.
Happening now, President Obama meets with House Republican leaders this hour in a last minute push to prevent a national debt disaster. We'll read the fine print of a bipartisan compromise that's getting lots of attention right now.
New political fireworks over phone hacking. The British prime minister gets hammered over his connection to the "News of the World" scandal. And the FBI is now moving forward with its investigation right here in the United States.
And a war of words between two Florida lawmakers. Democratic Party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz joins me to respond to a Republican congressman's rant calling her "vile, unprofessional and despicable."
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Right now, six U.S. senators are giving new momentum to talks aiming at avoiding a financial catastrophe in the United States. Their bipartisan compromise to slash America's red ink has helped open the door to a new round of negotiations.
Only 12 days before the deadline to raise the federal debt limit, President Obama is due to meet this hour with House Speaker John Boehner and Major Leader Eric Cantor. This just a short while after he met with top Congressional Democrats over at the White House.
Our White House correspondent Dan Lothian is standing by.
But let's go to Capitol Hill.
Our congressional correspondent, Kate Bolduan, has the latest -- Kate?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf.
Well, polls show that Americans are looking for compromise to get through this debt crisis. Senators in the Gang of Six say that is exactly what they're offering here with their plan. But there are real questions if they can get enough support in time now, after months of negotiations.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): The so-called Gang of Six met once again behind closed doors Wednesday, this time to try to build momentum around their $3.7 trillion debt reduction plan.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL), DEMOCRATIC WHIP: This is the only bipartisan plan that meets the deficit reduction targets.
BOLDUAN: The proposal would include immediate budget savings of $500 billion. It also takes on politically sensitive areas, reforming the tax code to generate more than $1 trillion in new revenue and also calls for big changes to Medicare and Social Security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think, at the end of the day, what the overwhelming majority of Americans are saying fix this. And if it takes a little compromise from both.
BOLDUAN: But the plan faces a harsh reality -- tough procedural obstacles mean the proposal won't be ready ahead of the August 2nd debt ceiling deadline. And the leader of a key block of conservatives is already saying, no way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're against tax increases. We know that's going to hurt the economy. We know that's going to hurt job creation. We know that it's bad for small businesses. We're against tax increases. We're not going to go for this type of plan.
BOLDUAN: With time running out, Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who is still working on a fallback plan with Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, says he is now waiting for a signal from House GOP leaders.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: We have a plan to go forward over here. But until we hear from the House of Representatives, we really are -- all of our work here wouldn't be for naught.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BOLDUAN: Now there is also talk of folding elements of the Gang of Six plan into this so-called fallback plan that's being worked out between Senators Reid and Senators Mitch McConnell. But there -- it's not even clear at this point, Wolf, if there's enough votes for even that last ditch plan to pass the House at this point.
BLITZER: Yes. There's a lot of uncertainty.
BOLDUAN: There is.
BLITZER: Kate Bolduan, thanks very much.
Let's go to the White House right now, where correspondent Dan Lothian is standing by -- what is the president's latest stance right now, because we've seen a little shifting on delaying having a stop- gap measure to at least give this some more time after the August 2nd deadline.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they still think that this -- this Gang of Six proposal is, overall, an approach that they can accept -- And while some Republicans see the enthusiastic embrace by this White House as a strategy to overshadow "Cut, Cap and Balance," one senior administration official tells me that that's simply not the case, the only strategy here is about finding a solution that's good for the economy.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): It wasn't an outright endorsement, but President Obama could hardly contain his enthusiasm Tuesday for a deficit reduction proposal from the bipartisan Gang of Six.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The framework that they put forward is broadly consistent with what we've been working on here at the White House.
LOTHIAN: A day later, with more details in hand, White House spokesman, Jay Carney, continued to praise the proposal, even if the White House, he said, might not agree with everything in it.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: That is a significant deal. And it is worth being enthusiastic about.
LOTHIAN: But when some Republicans heard that strong endorsement, it fuelled more skepticism. Conservatives on Twitter --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And wow, you know, they -- they finally -- they came up with the debt compromise plan they all figured they would come up with. Let's take it seriously. Then the president came out and endorsed it, like, oh this is going to be a terrible plan.
LOTHIAN: And on Capitol Hill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's perceived by a lot of Republicans as being rushed out the door without an actual plan, just talking points, to undermine the conservative effort in the House with "Cut, Cap and Balance".
LOTHIAN: Some Republican aides on the Hill said the president's strong endorsement did more harm than good, because he also called the proposal consistent with his own approach and touted the revenue or tax increases.
But some Democrats aren't happy either, pushing back on the Gang of Six proposal, unwilling to accept cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are an anti-gang group. We are -- we are trying to suppress the growth of gangs. We think that it is not healthy for Washington.
LOTHIAN: Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio called it a, quote, "bad deal we must reject." And the AFL-CIO said there's no shared sacrifice here, the only sacred cows being gored are working people, the middle class, seniors and the poor.
LOTHIAN: Now, some Democrats were very careful about weighing in, saying that they still need to see some of the details before they'll decide whether or not it's something that they can embrace.
As for White House enthusiastic reaction, Jessica Yellin asked Jay Carney today if, in hindsight, they had any second thoughts about how they reacted. And he said, quote, "absolutely not" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Dan.
Thanks very much. We're going to have much more on this story coming up.
I want to check in with Jeff Cafferty, he has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: In an economy with 9.2 percent unemployment, job security is a little tough to come by. That is unless you work for the federal government.
An analysis done by "USA Today" found that job security for government employees at many federal agencies last year was more than 99 percent, and these workers are more likely to die than they are to lose their jobs due to a layoff or a firing. The federal government only fired about half of 1 percent of its work force last year. The private sector, by contrast, fires about 3 percent of its workers every year for performance issues.
Here are a few examples. At the Small Business Administration, they employ 4,000 people. Six were fired last year, there were no layoffs, 17 employees died.
Not a single federal attorney was laid off last year. We have about 35,000 of those. Just 27 were fired, 33 died.
At both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission, not a single employee was fired or laid off last year.
The "USA Today" analysis also found that nearly three out of five firings among federal workers occurred within the first two years on the job, most commonly to those who are paid the lowest.
Meanwhile, the nearly 500,000 federal employees who earn more than $100,000 a year, they had job security of more than -- write this one down -- job security of more than 99.8 percent.
Nice work if you can get it.
Here's the question: What does it mean that federal workers are more likely to die than lose their jobs?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
Disturbing new evidence that U.S. taxpayer money may -- repeat -- may be winding up in the hands of extremists and terrorists who are killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. This is a story that's just coming in.
And how much are House Democrats willing to give to raise the debt limit? I'll ask the Democratic Party Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz about possible cuts. She's walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Congresswoman, stand by.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST, CNN'S "THE SITUATION ROOM": The clock is ticking right now towards a possible default of the federal debt, and stress levels are rising here in the nation's capital. The Democratic Party Chair and the Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz certainly has a lot on her plate right now with the debt crisis, everything else, as well as a very, very strong verbal showdown with a Republican colleague of hers from Florida.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Congressman (sic), thanks very much for coming in.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL), CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, let's talk about substance first, then we'll get into this little rift --
BLITZER: -- you have with this congressman.
The "Gang of Six" is out with a plan. The president sort of warmly embracing it yesterday, even though there are cuts in Medicare for the elderly included.
Is this something you can live with?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think the really good and big news out of that "Gang of Six" proposal is that there are finally Republicans, particularly in the Senate, that recognize that default would be cataclysmic and that we need to avoid that at any cost, and we need to make sure that we have a deal that can be embraced by -- as broadly by as many members of both houses as we can.
BLITZER: If there are cuts in Medicare, Social Security, could you embrace it? SCHULTZ: Well, I haven't seen the details of the plan or know how it impacts Medicare. But I do think it's important to note that the Democrats have put all of our sacred cows on the table, that we're willing to consider items that are going to preserve the long-term Medicare and Social Security without impacting or harming seniors.
BLITZER: Because one of the proposals the president himself has embraced is what's called means testing for Medicare recipients. In other words, richer elderly people would have to pay more to get the basic Medicare treatment than middle class or poor Medicare recipients.
Is that -- is that something you can live with?
SCHULTZ: Well, I think we need -- I'm not prepared to commit to any specific proposal, but like I said, we are willing to put all of our sacred cows on the table to make sure that we can get a big solution to a big problem.
And there are a lot of things that we' placed on the table as an option. It would be wonderful if we had the Republicans cone to the table and put their sacred cows on the table as well.
BLITZER: Some of the Republicans have done it with the tax increases that are included in the "Gang of Six."
SCHULTZ: Exactly, the "Gang of Six."
BLITZER: But you just heard some of those liberal Democrats, your colleagues in the House , saying -- and Richard Trumpka from the AFL-CIO, they can't accept this "Gang of Six" proposals precisely because it deals with entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicare -- and they will never vote for it.
And so, you are the chair, you have a tough position. You've got to get the conservative Democrats, the liberal Democrats, but you're also a member of Congress. You know, what will you do if it comes down to a deal that the president wants, supporting the "Gang of Six" legislation that deals with -- and you have a lot of seniors in your district in south Florida?
SCHULTZ: I do. Making sure we protect seniors from being gravely harmed by changes to Medicare is the goal of all Democrats, including the president. And I know that long term making sure that we can get a big solution to a big problem is going to be important.
And like I said, that's why we've put everything on the table and we need the Republicans in the House to join President Obama and congressional Democrats so that we can sort out what everyone can agree on.
BLITZER: There's one other technical issue that the president seems to be open to, and certainly a lot of others are open to, I'm wondering if you're open to adjusting the cost of living increase for Social Security, Medicare, so that the seniors who are getting a regular cost of living increase, it will be reduced in the years to come, and then in five years and ten years down the road.
Is that something you could live with, a technical adjustment of the cost of living?
SCHULTZ: The important thing is that when it comes to including entitlements in any deal, there needs to be some balance. There needs to be shared sacrifice.
I think the president and congressional Democrats are looking for that balance, and we could look at those sacred cows if the Republicans are putting theirs on the table. But so far, at least on the House side, there hasn't been any inclination to do that.
BLITZER: So -- but if the Republicans were willing that, at least the Republicans are in members of the "Gang of Six," like Tom Coburn and others, if they were willing to increase taxes, you would be willing to deal with entitlement cuts?
SCHULTZ: Accomplishing a big deal with everything on the table would be possible with that shared sacrifice. I don't see how it's possible without it.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about this little fight you've had with Congressman Alan West who -- he represents a district just north of yours in south Florida; he's a Republican. You were on the House floor and you said this, and I'll play the clip of what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCHULTZ: Incredulously, the gentleman from Florida who represents thousands of Medicare beneficiaries, as do I, is supportive this plan that would increase costs for Medicare beneficiaries. Unbelievable from a member from south Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, to which he sent a letter to you and copied the Republican leadership, and it's blistering.
He says, "Look, Debbie, I understand that after I departed the House floor, you directed your floor speech comments directly towards me.
"Let me make myself perfectly clear, you want a personal fight, I am happy to oblige. You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the United States House of Representatives. If you have something to say to me, stop being a coward and say it to my face, otherwise, shut the heck up. Focus on your own Congressional district."
That's not all he says. He goes on.
"I am bringing your actions today to our majority leader and majority whip and from this time forward, understand that I shall defend myself forthright against your heinous, characterless behavior --which dates back to the disgusting protest you ordered at my campaign headquarters October 2010 in Deerfield Beach. You have proven repeatedly you are not a lady, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me.
"Steadfast and loyal, Congressman Alan B. West, F-Florida."
Wow. Have you ever been attacked publicly like that?
SCHULTZ: No, and I was surprised that he sent that to my personal e-mail, an e-mail that he didn't previously have.
But it's -- you know, it doesn't faze me. I mean, it isn't surprising he would react to the probably untold pressure he's getting from his constituents.
I mean, he and I both represent, as I pointed out in debate on the House floor, represent thousands of senior citizens who under this cut, cap and balance -- really, duck dodge and dismantle -- plan that the Republicans have proposed would face huge increases in their Medicare costs. It would end Medicare as we know it. It's the Ryan plan on steroids. And he clearly is feeling the pressure.
If he can't handle that pressure, can't handle being called out in debate on the House floor, then he probably should change his position.
And, you know, he also suggested that I focus on my own congressional district. I'll point out that I was. He's a constituent of mine, and so I was dutifully doing my job and representing my constituents and taking to task someone who I think is really taking the wrong position when it comes to the people we represent in south Florida who badly need that safety net and make sure that we're not going to dramatically increase their costs, which that cut, cap and balance plan does.
BLITZER: So you're saying he lives in your district, he doesn't live in his own district?
SCHULTZ: Yes, Congressman West is a constituent of the 20th congressional district, but represents the 22cd.
BLITZER: Now there's reports out there as of this moment that he called you and apologized.
SCHULTZ: That is absolutely untrue. I have not received an apology. I haven't received a phone call. I know he has my e-mail, I haven't got an apology on my e-mail nor on my fax machine in my district office or my congressional office in the Capitol or at the Democratic National Committee.
BLITZER: He's quoted in this roll call as having told a "Huffington Post" reporter, I just apologized.
SCHULTZ: That's simply not true. BLITZER: As of this moment, he has not called you, he has not communicated -- he has not apologized?
SCHULTZ: No, he has not.
BLITZER: If he does call you and say I'm sorry, what will you say?
SCHULTZ: Well, I would appreciate his apology, and I would hope that he would reconsider his ill-advised position on increasing benefits -- increasing costs for Medicare beneficiaries.
But I think Congressman West really needs to understand that when we're debating on the House floor, that's what we do. We engage in a back and forth. And if he can't handle that, particularly on an issue as important to our constituents as Medicare, then he probably needs to reconsider his really ill-advised position on Medicare.
BLITZER: Obviously a lot of hard feelings there with the congressman.
By the way, we invited him to come into THE SITUATION ROOM today like you, and his office told us he couldn't do it, he didn't want to do it today. But he has an open invitation to come in if he wants to come in.
SCHULTZ: But, Wolf, understand, the hard feelings are one way. I simply debated a policy issue on the House floor. He had spoken directly before me and I got a tirade in response out of the clear blue sky. It was really unfortunate.
BLITZER: I would like you to sit with me for a moment, cause Mitt Romney is speaking out in California right now. I want to go there, just listen briefly and get your reaction.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: -- $787 million that he would be able to keep unemployment below 8 percent. It has not been below 8 percent since. And for Californians, it's above 10 percent. It's two full percentage points higher than when he was elected president.
Now some years ago, just weeks after he became inaugurated, he went on "The Today Show," and he said, look, if I can't turn this economy around in three years, I'm looking at a one-term proposition. And I'm here to collect.
ROMNEY: We have to make sure we focus our attention on getting Americans back to work.
(END LIVE COVERAGE)
BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) -- now going after the president. He's arguably the front-runner right now for the Republican nomination.
You're the Democratic party chair. Is he the Republican who fears you the most?
SCHULTZ: Well, it's interesting that Mitt Romney is talking about job creation and unemployment when he was 47th in job creation in the nation as governor of Massachusetts, wasn't even able to recover the jobs lost in the 2001 recession in his state.
So coming from someone with an abysmal track record, he really shouldn't be questioning the president's record which has begun to turn this economy around. And now, each month, each quarter has created private sector jobs, millions at this point, when we were bleeding jobs before the president was inaugurated in 2009.
BLITZER: Possibly getting ready for a possibly Romney-Obama run for the White House?
SCHULTZ: I think it's really unclear. They have a collection of interesting candidates on the other side. They're going to duke it out for the next few months, and we'll see who emerges as their nominee.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
SHULTZ: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: Debbie Wasserman Shultz, is a congresswoman from south Florida, she's also the chairman for the Democratic National Committee.
A doctor for Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann is now weighing in -- only moments ago -- on those migraine headaches that we now know she suffers from. Could they put her bid for the White House at risk? Stand by.
Plus, horror in India. You're going to find out what happened after this leopard went on the attack.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. More stories we're working on for our next hour.
She's the force behind the embattled media giant Rupert Murdoch. Ahead, a closer look at the young life literally leaping to her husband's defense amidst a worsening tabloid scandal.
As the clock ticks towards a deadline toward a debt deal, some Americans are flocking to Capitol Hill with an urgent message for Congress.
And exhausted and starving, we're tracking desperate efforts to flee the worst drought to hit Somalia in half a century.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
But first, a disturbing new report now revealing -- get this -- billions and billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars missing in Afghanistan -- billions of dollars.
Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has got the details for us.
Chris, at a time of economic difficulty and they're looking to save money, all of a sudden billions are missing in Afghanistan? What's going on?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, basically, this federal audit shows that about 10 years in, the U.S. still only has limited visibility of what happens to billions of dollars once we send it to Afghanistan. That makes it not only vulnerable to fraud, but in some cases even being diverted to insurgents who are fighting American troops.
How much money are we talking about? Well, the U.S. has spent about $70 billion, sending it to reconstruction and security projects in Afghanistan. And what the audit finds is that as much as $10 million may be leaving Afghanistan, smuggled out of Afghanistan every single day.
Why is that? Because when Afghan government officials leave the country, no one is checking how much money they have with them. And the audit shows that Afghan government officials are refusing to put their money through these electronic currency counters.
Could the U.S. check it? Hard to do when U.S. officials are denied access to that part of the airport where the VIP's are getting screened. And President Hamid Karzai has now banned U.S. Treasury officials from working with the Afghan central bank.
Look, the Obama administration has now requested another $17 billion for Afghanistan reconstruction next year. But even some Democrats are now wondering, are we throwing good money after bad.
We spoke with Senator Claire McCaskill who has been tracking government waste and these contracting issues for several years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: We had palates of cash walk away in Iraq, and I was hopeful after doing a lot of oversights in Iraq that we had learned a lot of lessons from that. This report says all those lessons have not been learned, because clearly we have to be able to track the currency as it flows to contractors as it flows to subcontractors.
And the lack of cooperation in the Afghanistan banking system is not helping us with our oversight responsibility. If they're not willing to allow us to look over their shoulder as this money flows into the Afghan economy, then we ought to say to them, maybe it's time we don't let that money flow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE: One of the problems is they use what's called hawalas (ph), these are sort of informal financial institutions that operate sort of outside the law. They're not like official banks.
One of the -- when you look at the audit, they found one case in which U.S. contractor, you know, tried to send out about $3 billion, but it got tied up with his hawala who refused to disburse the money, and there's no way to get that back -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And this latest bombshell coming from the U.S. government, the special inspector general's report, and it's a shocking report. It's going to put added pressure on the Obama administration to start getting out of Afghanistan even more quickly, especially since there's no evidence the Afghan government is doing what it needs to do to prevent these millions and millions of dollars getting out every day. Some of that money, presumably, as you point out, going to terrorists and extremists who want to kill Americans. Shocking report.
LAWRENCE: Exactly, Wolf. I mean, just one more thing. I mean, when you look at it, there's an agency that tracks this. And they even said 21 leads to Afghan government officials on potential crimes. Do you want to know how many of those leads the Afghan attorney general's office followed up on? Four.
BLITZER: Yes. It's a shocking, shocking development. All right. Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon.
Let's go to one of the more shocking allegations of the phone hacking scandal rocking Rupert Murdoch's media empire. U.S. authorities are now digging deeper into those allegations that the families of 9/11 victims here in the United States may have been hacked. CNN has learned that FBI and justice department officials have agreed to meet with 9/11 families. No date as yes in set.
In Britain today, the Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to defend himself in this exploding scandal during a very contentious session of parliament. Our senior international correspondent, Dan Rivers, is in London.
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from the committee room where Rupert Murdoch was grilled to the main chamber in the House of Commons, the phone hacking story continues. There was a debate in which the Prime Minister David Cameron faced a barrage of questions about his hiring of Andy Coulson, the former editor of the "News of The World." He was taken on as a communications director at 10 Downing Street. Ed Miliband, the leader of the opposition labor party wasted no time in going for the kill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED MILIBAND, BRITISH PARLIAMENT OPPOSITION LEADER: Ten days ago, the Prime Minister said about his decision to employ Andy Coulson, I wasn't given any specific information that would lead me to change my mind. Mr. Speaker, the country has a right to expect that the Prime Minister would have made every effort to uncover the information about Mr. Coulson to protect himself and his office.
Yet, the pattern of events suggests the opposite, that the Prime Minister and those around him made every effort not to hear the facts about Mr. Coulson. In the last week, we have become aware of five opportunities for the Prime Minister or his staff to have acted on specific information that would surely have led him to change his mind about Mr. Coulson. All were declined.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: But the Prime Minister David Cameron fought back, trying to look forward insisting he was doing everything he could to get to the bottom of the phone hacking scandal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: We have agreed that the inquiry should consider not just the relationship between the press, police, and politicians but their individual conduct, too. And we've also made clear that the inquiry should look not just at the press but other media organization, including broadcasters and social media if there is any evidence that they' been involved in criminal activities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RIVERS: But no one is suggesting this is over yet. The police have increased the number of offices on this investigation from 45 to 60 because of the sheer workload they're facing. There could be more arrest in the weeks and months to follow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Dan Rivers, thanks very much. We're going to stay on top of this story as well.
Also, when we come back, a new attempt to try to deal with security at airports. Brian Todd's got new information you need to know when we come back.
BLITZER: A surprise move by the defense of the murder case of the accused Ft. Hood shooter. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf.
Well, during what was supposed to be a routine arraignment hearing, it was revealed that Major Nadal Hassan has removed his lead lawyer from the case, although, it's unclear why he was let go. Hassan said in court he made the call voluntarily. Nadal Hassan is charged with killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in Ft. Hood, Texas back in 2009. And horror in India. Take a look at this. When a leopard reportedly wandered into a slum village and attacked six people. According to reports, people were forced to climb on roof tops as officers chased the animal. The leopard was shot and killed after several attempts to tranquilize it. Unbelievable pictures there.
And American Airlines is calling the largest commercial aircraft order ever. The company announcing a plan today to replace its fleet with hundreds of newly leased planes from Boeing and Airbus. Its parent company, AMR Corp, says it's ordered 460 single-aisle jets from the two manufacturers -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very, very much.
Rupert Murdoch's wife in the spotlight after she rushed to his defense against the shaving cream attack. We're taking a closer look at this power couple fighting scandal and their May-December romance. Stand by.
And a new attempt protecting your privacy when you go through an airport body scanner. We're going to tell you about the changes that are in the works right now.
BLITZER: Airport security screeners are starting to see less of passengers as of today. The Transportation Security Administration is taking steps to do away with the most intrusive kinds of body scans. Our Brian Todd went to the airport to take a closer look into the changes that are now in the works.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the TSA says it wants to improve the passenger experience while enhancing security. So what it's come up with now is new software for its millimeter wave advanced imaging technology. Translation? Some of the old images that we've seen in the back scanner (ph) technology that saw right through your clothes and saw pretty much every phase of your body with some great detail is which were very controversial, that's going to be eliminated now.
Right now, they're going to be introducing a much more generic figure that is popping up on the screens here when people come through. They say it's going to be the same generic figure for men and women but with different algorithms that will be able to detect the differences in the bodies of men and women, but it certainly won't show up on these screens.
It's going to be very generic for both and will be able to still detect some anomalies there. TSA administrator, John Pistole, says, it's going to be able to find a nonmetallic devices that you can't find going through a scanner, walk through metal detector devices, like the Christmas day bomber had in his underwear about a year and a half ago.
Now, I asked TSA administrator John Pistole about the new features and also about the privacy concerns. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PISTOLE, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATOR: This technology cautions us the best opportunity to detect the nonmetallic devices, the bombs we saw present on Christmas Day 2009.
TODD: Has it been done -- have you installed this technology as a result of public outcry over privacy, frankly, body parts being seen too much?
PISTOLE: It's something we've been working on for quite a while, and we're now to the point where having done lab testing and field testing. We're ready to deploy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Now, one of the features of this new system is that there's not going to be any remote viewing location, no other room where TSA screeners are going to be looking at the images of the bodies here. The computer is going to do all that. The TSA says they're going to put this out in three airports just today, but they hope to have them in more than 40 airports across the United States by the end of this year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Democrats now invoking the name Ronald Reagan in the battle to raise the debt ceiling.
Plus, Republican presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann's, doctor now weighing in on her migraines. Just as one of her challengers suggests she may not be up for the job, but to become president of the United States. Our "Strategy Session" just ahead.
BLITZER: Republican Michele Bachmann is going a new length to try to prove that her migraine headaches would not be a problem if she were president. Her campaign released the letter today from one of her doctors amid growing questions about her headaches and her health. It says, let me read it to you in part.
"Your migraines occur infrequently. You have known trigger factors of which you are aware and know how to avoid. When you do have a migraine, you're able to control it well with as-needed sumatriptan and odansetron. It has not been necessary for you to take daily scheduled medications to manage this condition."
Let's bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who's a neurosurgeon. Now, what do these drugs, Sanjay do?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, sumatriptan is a pretty well known migraine medication. The theory is that when someone has a migraine but the blood vessels, some of the blood vessels in the brain, typically on one side of the head only, are sort of in spasm. And what sumatriptan does, it's sort of stabilizes those blood vessels. So, the amount of blood flow is not changing as the blood vessel is in spasm. It's something that you take when a headache is coming on. So, you take it to try and treat the headache and that's to distinguish it from something that you take to prevent headaches in the first place. This is to treat the headaches. It does have some side effects, sumatriptan. It can cause dizziness. It can cause nausea, itself, feeling sometimes that the room is spinning around you.
The other medication odansetron is basically used to control nausea and vomiting, either from the migraine headache, itself, or from, you know, the side effect to the first medication. So, they're pretty typically used in combination, Wolf.
BLITZER: So, the bottom line, could taking these drugs and migraines actually debilitate her ability if she were elected president?
GUPTA: They're commonly use drugs. And in full disclosure, I suffer from migraines myself. So, I have some personal experience of these medications. The medications, the thing about them is they do have to be taken right as the headache is coming on. The thing about these migraine headaches, I mean, if you don't treat them early and end up resorting to things like just simple Tylenol or ibuprofen, it can be pretty severe.
I mean, you know, anywhere between four hours and 72 hours of bad headache, needing to be in a darkened room, really not wanting any bright lights to shine on you, that part can be debilitating. But again, you know, tens of millions of people have this headache. They can take these medications at the start of a headache, and it works pretty well.
The other thing, and I think the doctor made reference to this in a letter that you read, Wolf, is that there's another category of medicines that you take daily to prevent the headaches in the first place. You will just take the medications every single day, headache or not, to try and prevent the migraines from ever coming on.
BLITZER: All right. Good information. Millions and millions of people suffer from these migraines, and it's always useful to get some prospective from you, Sanjay. Thanks very, very much.
GUPTA: Thanks, Wolf. You got it.
BLITZER: We're getting in a statement from Congressman Allen West off this earlier. There had been a report he apologized to Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann-Schultz for calling her vile and all sorts of other nasty things. She was on the show as you saw just a little while ago. She denied that she got any apology from Allen West. So, we went back to Allen West's office.
He had been quoted in the (INAUDIBLE) newspaper saying he apologized. A West spokesperson saying there was no apology. We're waiting on an apology from her. Allen West going on to say standing -- through a spokesman Allen West to standing by what he said. He made a statement. He's moving forward. All right. So, no apology from Allen West to Debbie Wassermann-Schultz. Let's go to our "Strategy Session." Joining us now our CNN political contributor, Roland Martin, also CNN.com contributor and former Bush speech writer, David Frum. He's the editor of the frumforum.com. I want to get to some other stuff. Have you followed what he said about Debbie Wassermann-Schultz? She's vile and awful and disgusting and all of this?
DAVID FRUM, CNN.COM CONTRIBUTOR: It seems the heat has affected all of our tempers. And they need to calm it down. I mean, it's an intense environment. It's an intense moment. The country is on the brink of, perhaps, a financial crisis. Members of Congress need to keep the attention focused on the topic and not on themselves.
BLITZER: I write about this rhetoric that's getting out of control out there on our blog today at CNN.com/situationroom, but it is really intense.
FRUM: Yes, it is intense.
BLITZER: And I want to say, we invited Allen West to come here into THE SITUATION ROOM and make his case, but he declined our invitation. At least today, he has an open invitation if he wants to come in.
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What's nuts to me is, first of all, Congressman West has made all kinds of comments in about President Barack Obama. And so, frankly, I think he needs to accept the stature of being a member of Congress and conduct himself in a different way. You can criticize. You can say that somebody is wrong, and use that kind of language is ridiculous.
And so, I would hope someone in the House or leadership that say, hey, cool it. That's not how we want any member of Congress to act, speaking to another member of Congress.
BLITZER: All right. I want to play a clip. Let's get to the debt ceiling debate, because it's going to be a huge fight in the House of Representatives. August 2nd is the deadline. And look what a lot of folks have now come up with. September 26, 1987, the then president of the United States, Ronald Reagan, who had to get the debt ceiling raised at that time, and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veteran benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket. Instability would occur in financial markets, and the federal deficit would soar.
The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility. Two things that set us apart from much of the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Democrats have found that tape, and they're circulating it. You remember those days, 1987, but, you know, that was then, this is now. And so many of these House Republicans, as you know, they love Ronald Reagan.
FRUM: Right. Look, it does bring me back to old times as a passionate Reagan supporter in those days. It reminds me of one of the reasons why people in my age cohort became republicans, because the Democrats are the party of irresponsible children who did things like this. And my pulse begins to beat, yes, that is exactly what they're doing.
And I think one of the reasons why some of us get so angry about this issue now is that the thing that made us Republicans, that made us conservatives was a commitment to things like you pay your bills, you pay the bond holders. It's not the bleeding heart that you pay the bond, in fact, quite the opposite. There are -- and not just bond holders, but everybody was a contract. This is the debate not about future spending which must be controlled. It's about past spending, and Reagan was right.
BLITZER: Are there enough Republicans in the House of Representatives to get to 218 votes to avert a debt ceiling crisis?
MARTIN: Look, Speaker Boehner had the serious probability with his own caucus. You know, what really jumps out at me is that -- all of these people, they frankly are in love with the myth of President Ronald Reagan, not the reality of President Ronald Reagan. And I would hope tea partiers and also House Republicans will step back and say wait a minute, this is our patron saint. This is what he said.
But on the flip side, you also had Senator Barack Obama who voted against the debt ceiling as well and have to come on and say he was (ph) playing politics. This is when you have Democrats and Republicans who are all acting like children, trying to hold on to the ideology, not thinking about what's best for this country.
BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much for coming in.
I just want to point out, the president's meeting right now with House Republicans over at the White House, the Republican leadership, the speaker, the majority leader. So, what's next in the efforts to avoid a huge debt crisis? And as time runs out for both sides to come to a deal, some Americans are flocking to Capitol Hill to make their voices heard. This is democracy in action. Stay with us. We're going to tell you what they're saying.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, courtesy of a study done by "USA Today,": What does it mean that federal workers are more likely to die than they are to lose their jobs?
David in Virginia, "It means we've lost accountability in our government. When private industry can boost profits despite the tepid economy by becoming more than 10 percent more efficient, it makes you wonder what would happen if we apply the same pressures to the government work force. Maybe we could save a hundred billion a year. That's a trillion dollars over a decade. Why doesn't the government think like that?"
Jack in Dunlap, Tennessee, "It is an unfortunate situation that is almost impossible to get rid of a government even if they're worthless and need to be fired. That is one reason why we are so deeply in debt."
Iris in Los Angeles, "What is it with you? Why do you keep bashing public employees? Would you prefer that we go to Republican route where every employees low paid overworked and enslaved to rich corporate masters? I'm happy to hear federal workers have such great job security. If only the rest of us did."
Bud in Virginia writes, "I'm not sure if that premises exaggerated, Jack, but it's pretty difficult firing full time government employees. However, I've seen firsthand that if a more senior level employee, GS 14 or 15, gets themselves in deep enough, they can be and will be shown the door, sometimes, under the guides of early retirement."
Chris in Florida, "It's the same thing as it means in the mob, Jack. It's a job for life."
Rick writes, "It means the federal government needs to hire a management consulting firm to weed out the dead wood, the duplication of effort, and the useless, wasteful jobs that are not needed. If they actually did that, which they won't, of course, the federal government would likely shrink by about 60 percent of its current size."
And Lauren writes, "Government's first order of business is to perpetuate itself, and it can't do that if it doesn't have a reliable workforce. So, nobody gets laid off, nobody gets fired. I need to get me one of them jobs."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile. Just like TV, right, Wolf? Job security.
BLITZER: Not exactly. All right. Jack, thank you. Thanks very much.