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Gabrielle Giffords Returns to House Floor; U.S. Government Avoids Default

Aired August 2, 2011 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now: President Obama signs a last-minute compromise deal that lets the United States pay its bills and avoid a devastating default. Lawmakers approved the measure after weeks of bitter fighting, but more battles lie ahead.

The night the United States Navy SEALs got Osama bin Laden, a riveting new report has second-by-second details on the daring operation to kill the al Qaeda leader.

And seven months after she was shot in the head, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords makes a dramatic return to the House floor. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks about her recovery.

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're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We have got some major breaking news right now.

Moody's Investor Service has just came out with an outlook on the United States government. Even though Moody's says it will retain the AAA credit ready rating for the United States, there is a negative outlook long-term. Wall Street worries meanwhile about all of this, the weak economy, took stocks on another breathtaking plunge today. The major indices were all down more than 2 percent.

Let's go to CNN's Alison Kosik in New York right now. She is watching what's going on.

All right, so Moody's came out with this report only minutes ago, Alison. And explain exactly what they are saying, because it's really significant.


Yes, they are confirming the U.S.' AAA, pristine credit rating at AAA. It is placing the U.S. credit rating though, its outlook on negative. It's pretty much -- think of it as probation. It's going to really want to see what the super committee does later in the year and it gives stipulations as to what would make it decide whether or not it would put the U.S. credit rating under review yet again.

This is pretty much buying some time. And that's good news. We also got some good news from Fitch earlier today. Fitch made a decision holding the U.S. credit rating at AAA as well even saying that it still has issues to work out, but Fitch saying this as well.

We do have our eye on what Standard & Poor's is saying, because Standard & Poor's has been the most vocal agency in this. And this really would be a big deal if one of these top credit agencies downgrades the U.S. credit rating from AAA to a notch lower.

You would be worrying about the government borrowing costs, business borrowing costs and consumer borrowing costs as well. You really want to keep an eye on this and really keep an eye on the discussions going on in Washington, because that's what these ratings agencies are going to be looking at, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do we have any idea when Standard & Poor's will issue their report? Two out of three now saying the United States will maintain its AAA rating. That's good, even though they got a negative outlook in terms of some concerns down the road, but at least the United States for now maintains that AAA rating. What about S&P?

KOSIK: It's anyone's guess at this point. This debt deal could only help things along. It's really a question of whether the cuts are enough of what S&P was looking for. S&P was looking for $4 trillion in cuts. Obviously that didn't make it. So it is still questionable as to what S&P will do.

BLITZER: All right, now let's talk about what happened on Wall Street today, the stock market going down, an eighth straight day, a very significant loss once again today, even though the president of the United States signed this debt ceiling agreement into law.

KOSIK: Yes. That's because Wall Street has really moved beyond this debt ceiling stalemate already and it sort of refocused its attention on the slow growth of this recovery. And really the focus was in the past few sessions, in the past three sessions, we have gotten three really bleak reports, Wolf.

The final one today that really set stocks into a tailspin was consumer spending. It fell for the first time in two years and this report showed that Americans are saving more. And what this shows is that they are saving more because Americans really don't know where the economy is headed.

So you add this report to yesterday's manufacturing report which showed almost no movement in manufacturing last month and then you add to it the GDP report which shows anemic growth both in the first quarter and the second quarter, that's why you see stocks tumble today, 265 points on the Dow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And now everyone will wait for the jobs report Friday morning 8:30 a.m. Eastern here in the United States.

KOSIK: Exactly. BLITZER: We will see what that report says. All right, thanks very much, Alison.

The United States narrowly averted an economic disaster today when President Obama signed into law a compromise bill raising the nation's debt ceiling. The Senate approved the deal just a dozen hours before a deadline that would have thrown the government into an unprecedented potential default.

Coming after weeks of bitter feuding, the deal lets the United States pay its bills, all of them, in exchange for more than $2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade. This is just the beginning. The president calls the compromise an important first step for ensuring that the nation lives within its means.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is here watching this story for us.

Jessica, the president came into the -- you were out there in the Rose Garden today. He came in there. He spoke. He was frustrated, though.


Clearly it's done, but he sounded frustrated that government is so gridlocked that it took weeks of battle to do something as routine as paying the nation's bills. It poses the question that how will the nation move forward and move on to something that is paramount in his mind and for Washington which is move on to this jobs agenda?

For the president, his priority is investing in things like infrastructure. Republicans, they want to cut spending further, cut entitlement programs. The priorities do not line up. How do you move forward when they have different priorities and when there is so much acrimony, that compromise is this hard? Listen to the president.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We've seen in the past few days that Washington has the ability to focus when there's a timer ticking down and when there's a looming disaster. It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs.

Because there's already a quiet crisis going on in the lives of a lot of families in a lot of communities all across the country. They're looking for work and they have been for awhile. Or they're making do with fewer hours or fewer customers, or they're just trying to make ends meet.

That ought to compel Washington to cooperate. That ought to compel Washington to compromise and it ought to compel Washington to act.

(END VIDEO CLIP) YELLIN: And keep in mind the nation's jobs report is coming out Friday, Wolf, plenty of concern that it won't be a pretty picture.

BLITZER: Yes. I am worried about it, like so many other people are worried about it. So who is taking the heat right now for what just occurred?

YELLIN: So most -- we have done this poll, CNN/ORC. And most Americans do not approve of the debt ceiling agreement.

The numbers show 44 percent of Americans approve; 52 percent disapprove. Not shocking. Spending more money is never popular by the government especially in a time when people want smaller government, but who owns it the most? We found that Republicans take most of the blame by 43 percent, so a minority, but still 43 percent for Republicans.

The president and Democrats, 34 percent of the blame, and both -- so all to blame, about 20 percent of Americans say they blame both sides. No one comes out smelling like roses. Everybody has a lot of explaining to do after this one.

BLITZER: Certainly do. What about the president? How did he do?

YELLIN: OK. So we asked that question too. He comes out, as they say these days, the least worst. Asked who do you approve of their handling of the debt ceiling negotiations, President Obama, 46 percent approve of his handling, congressional Democrats 35 percent, congressional Republicans 30 percent, pretty bad numbers for everybody. I think all parties are going to be happy to put this one, Wolf, in the rear-view mirror.

BLITZER: All right, stand by for a moment. I want Gloria Borger to walk in.

Gloria, come on in.

I want to bring you into this conversation. It sounds to me based on what we are hearing with this so-called super committee, we will be back at this conversation in November.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think so. Are you ready to set the table for Thanksgiving dinner here? Because you have a deadline of right before Thanksgiving, the 23rd. And this is a committee that not everyone is sure is actually going to come to some resolution.

Why should -- why would this committee be able to do what no other committee before has been able to do? And I'm going to answer my own question, which is the White House believes and Senator Mitch McConnell in the Senate believes and Senator Reid that with a sledgehammer hanging over them, they might actually be able to get the job done. But then we have to see, of course, what Congress does with it.

BLITZER: Yes. This committee will have important work to do.

BORGER: And that will be Christmas. OK? So, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

BLITZER: Mitch McConnell will name the three Republican senators who will be on this committee. Harry Reid will name the three Democratic senators. And Boehner and Pelosi will name the three Democrats from the House, three Republicans for the House.

McConnell spoke to our own John King just a little while ago. I want to play a little clip. Listen to this.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: My view is, my party controls one house of Congress. The Senate is a left-of-center Senate. The president is a liberal big spender.

We wanted to get as much as we could out of this Congress and this president without raising taxes. We did that. But it's just the first step. And we have set a new template. The days of getting clean debt ceilings are over. The next president, whoever that is, John, in early 2013 is likely to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. It will generate the same discussion. We will go after additional spending reduction when that request is made.


BLITZER: Yes. He is looking ahead already to 2013.

It's a win for the president, Gloria, in the sense that Boehner originally wanted this debate to be replayed out next February or March or some time like that.

BORGER: Right. Right. And so the White House says, we got that.

And they also believe that if this debate is played out again, that they will have the better side of the argument, because they believe that if the public wants balance, and they think they can take that case to the American people. If you are cutting entitlements, why not raise taxes on the wealthy? The Republicans of course think they have got the better side of the argument.

BLITZER: And the president will celebrate a little bit tomorrow. He is going to Chicago for his 50th birthday party.

YELLIN: Yes. He has not had 50 on his mind. That's not the number that has been on his mind lately. But finally he does get to think about it and he has two fund-raisers also, gets to put this one behind him and move on.

BORGER: When you're a politician, your birthday becomes an opportunity to raise money.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: And they will be raising a lot of money Chicago. I will be one of the first to say, happy birthday, Mr. President.

YELLIN: Happy birthday, Mr. President.

But not sing it?

BLITZER: No, not necessarily.

Jack Cafferty is here. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The saying is, Wolf, that when America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold. That's why the ripple effect of the debt ceiling crisis in Washington has reached far beyond our borders.

The world has been watching and worrying as Congress carried on like children the past few weeks, threatening to send the U.S. into default. A piece in The Daily Beast suggests the debate was -- quote -- "the most disturbing sign to date that a global economic system that hinges on the United States is a system waiting to crash" -- unquote.

A number of experts, growing numbers, suggest it's past time to come up with an alternative to the dollar and to U.S. treasuries in the global marketplace. One of the first signs that America's economic leadership was unraveling came with the financial meltdown in 2008. And since then the situation has only become more dire.

Russia's prime minister, Vladimir Putin, accusing the U.S. of living beyond its means -- quote -- "like a parasite" on the global economy. Putin says if there is a systemic malfunction here in the United States, it will affect everyone. And he is right about that.

So it's no surprise everyone from Saudi Arabia to China to Canada has questioned the antics in Washington surrounding the debt ceiling, and well they should. Even though President Obama has now signed the debt bill into law, raising our borrowing limit, there are still jitters in international markets that the U.S. credit rating could be downgraded. You heard one of the rating agencies putting us on a negative watch. That was reported a few minutes ago.

So for countries that hold billions or even trillions of dollars in U.S. treasuries, the news is troubling to say the least.

The question is this: Is U.S. economic leadership, which has been unquestioned for more than a century, at an end?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

If it's not, it's getting very close.

BLITZER: We are being seen around the world right now, so we will get reaction from people not only here, Jack, but around the world.

CAFFERTY: There you go.

BLITZER: All right, thank you.

Bipartisan surprise and emotion as the wounded American Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords returns to the House of Representatives.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- any time you see her, it is a beautiful thing, but to her on the floor of the House surrounded by Republicans and Democrats getting that kind of response, bringing people together as she does here at home and now nationally, what an experience and we are so proud of her.


BLITZER: But what does her appearance reveal about her recovery? I will ask our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's standing by live.

Also, extraordinary new details of that raid that killed Osama bin Laden. What happened in the final seconds when Navy SEALs burst into his room?

And a lawmaker usually loyal to President Obama votes no on the debt ceiling deal. Senator Bernie Sanders is here. He's voicing his deep frustration and anger.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: I do believe that the president should be held accountable. When you say something in a campaign and you don't do what you said you would do, I think that it's fair to raise those issues.



BLITZER: For some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the debt ceiling compromise was simply too bitter a pill to follow. And among some of his critics on the left, there is a sense President Obama caved in to the Republicans when it came to hammering out a deal.


BLITZER: And joining us now, the independent senator from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. He's independent, but he caucuses with the Democrats.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SANDERS: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Why did you decide to do what most of the Democrats didn't do? You voted against this legislation. What was wrong with it?

SANDERS: It's an extremely unfair piece of legislation.

Look, the wealthiest people in this country are becoming much richer and in many cases paying a very low effective tax rate. Corporations are making billions in profits, not paying in some cases a nickel in taxes.

And what this legislation does is does deficit reduction on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and some of the most vulnerable people in our country. It is extremely unfair.

BLITZER: But the White House makes the point that those issues that you just raised will be subject to negotiation in this new super committee that is going to be created and then there will be recommendations down the road. So the president did not really have any choice in order to avoid default. He had to accept this deal.


SANDERS: No. No. No one had to accept anything. And a better program should be negotiated.

But let us be very clear. What we are looking at is massive cuts in education, Head Start, child care, environmental protection, affordable housing, police protection, fire protection.

You name the issue, there are going to be massive cuts that will impact negatively on working people. Plus, the fact is we are going to also lose about several hundred thousand jobs. A better program -- a better piece of legislation should have been negotiated.

BLITZER: So it sounds to me like you believe the president was a poor negotiator.

SANDERS: I don't think anyone disputes -- I think everybody who understands who has studied this issue this is a huge win for right- wing Republicans.

And that is why in the House, an overwhelming number of Republicans voted for it, far more than Democrats.

BLITZER: But if he wouldn't have accepted this, aren't you concerned that the country could have gone into default? That would have raised interest rates, potentially raised unemployment.


SANDERS: No, clearly default would have been a disaster.

And it is unconscionable that for the first time in American history, the Republicans would have pushed us to the brink on this issue. As you know, under George Bush, we raised the debt ceiling seven times. And nothing like this ever happened. Under Obama, this is what they did. But having said that, I don't believe that default would have occurred. I think at the last moment, the president appropriately would have used the 14th Amendment to protect the faith and credit of our financial system.

BLITZER: Even though he had said repeatedly he didn't think that would work, even though the former President Bill Clinton recommended that he go ahead and simply declare the 14th Amendment...


SANDERS: You are right, Wolf, is saying that default would have been a disaster. I honestly believe that would not have happened.

BLITZER: If he would have declared the 14th Amendment, then it would have gone to the courts. We would have seen what was going to happen.

But in the meantime, you are right. There would not have been a default. But he didn't want to use it. He's a former constitutional professor at the University of Chicago. So I assume he looked at the law and he concluded that it wasn't a good idea.

SANDERS: But there are other lawyers who disagree.

The other point that I want to make, Wolf, is this is a fairly complicated piece of legislation. And not everybody knows what is in it. But here's the main point. First tranche, there will be $900 billion in cuts to discretionary programs. They will hurt a whole lot of people.

The second approach is $1.5 trillion that goes to a super committee. Everything is on the table for that committee, including the possibility, the possibility of major cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I'm not saying that that will happen. But everything is on the table. You have a whole lot of Republicans who want that to happen.

You have some Democrats who have been talking about cuts in Social Security. You add it all together, the wealthy and large corporations contribute zero to deficit reduction. All of the burden comes on working families, the elderly, the kids and the sick. I don't know how anybody could think that this resembles anything that is fair.

BLITZER: There a lot of disappointed progressives out there, a lot of liberals who are disappointed in the way the president handled this.

Do you think anyone is going to emerge and challenge him for the Democratic presidential nomination?

SANDERS: I have no idea.

But I do believe that the president should be held accountable. When you say something in a campaign and you don't do what you said you would do, I think that it's fair to raise those issues.

BLITZER: Do you think he will be reelected?

SANDERS: I think there is a reasonable chance that he will be reelected because I think while people are certainly not enthusiastic about President Obama, I think when they look at right-wing Republicans and their strong defense of the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations, their willingness to make devastating, devastating cuts on the need of working people, I think he may do just fine.

BLITZER: I know that a lot of his political advisers think that the liberal base of the Democratic Party really has no place else to go, that in the end, even though they are upset now, they are disappointed, they will be with him in November 2012.

SANDERS: Wolf, I got to say this. Let me say this, in all due respect.

BLITZER: Please.

SANDERS: The media keeps talking about the political games here and who wins and who loses, will he be reelected.

That's all very interesting, but you know what? Back home, the calls that I get from Vermonters are, are they going to cut my Social Security? Are they going to cut Medicare? I'm a low-income person. I'm on food stamps. Am I going to continue to get food stamps? What about the ability of my kid to go to college?

That's what ordinary people are worried about. And I think we have got to be very careful in making clear that the American people understand what is in this legislation, how many jobs are going to be lost, how many of the most vulnerable -- there people in the state of Vermont, senior citizens, who depend upon the Meals on Wheels program. They are fragile people. They get delivered meals.

I can't guarantee -- I'm going to do my best -- that that program will continue at the same funding level. There are kids right now on waiting lists to try to get into Head Start. Some of those kids may never get into Head Start. Some of the kids in Head Start right now will be cut.

So I think what we have to do is really focus on what this legislature means to ordinary people. And I think when we do, people will conclude it is grotesquely unfair.

BLITZER: Hey, Senator, thanks very much for joining us. And good luck.

SANDERS: Thank you very much, Wolf.


BLITZER: The debt compromise came at a political price. The weeks of bitter wrangling revealed just how deep the divisions are in official Washington. And Americans have already paid a financial price for all that drama approaching the default deadline.

CNN senior correspondent Allan Chernoff can explain what is going on -- Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, now that the Congress and the president have agreed on a deal to increase the debt ceiling and the bill has been signed by the president, we know that the Treasury Department is not going to default.

The very first evidence we have of that came in the auction today and yesterday for U.S. Treasury bills. After all, the U.S. raises money by auctioning off bills, notes and long-term bonds to investors. And what's been happening recently is that for those short-term bills, investors have been demanding higher interest rates.

That's because of the fear that there might possibly be a government default. So, what happened at the auction today? Well, have a look over here. For one-month Treasury bills, the U.S. had to pay extra interest of more than a million dollars. Yesterday there were two auctions, three-month Treasury bills and also six-month Treasury bills. The extra interest costs, more than $6 million, more than $11 million.

Add all of that up -- and by the way, these numbers are compared to two weeks ago. Only two weeks ago, the rates were far, far lower. So if we add these numbers all up, we get more than $18.5 million. That's the extra cost to U.S. taxpayers. And that money, that goes on to the deficit.

Yes, the deficit increases by that amount and, of course, the money comes out of the pockets of U.S. taxpayers -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan, thank you. Lots of money involved here.

Meanwhile, a remarkable recovery and a surprise appearance on the floor of the House of Representatives. But how far does Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords have to go? Our chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, is standing by live.


BLITZER: Of all the drama surrounding the debt ceiling, one of the most dramatic moments was the surprise appearance of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on the House floor. It has been seven months since she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in her Arizona district.

CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has more now on Giffords's emotional return to the House.

Thelma, how are her colleagues reacting to this dramatic scene?

THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, after the tears, they said Gabby's back.

Now, you know, one of her colleagues told me that watching a legislator cast a vote is about as exciting as watching someone use an ATM machine. But last night, they say, was an exception, one that literally took their breath away.



GUTIERREZ (voice-over): It was an unexpected moment from the floor, one that surprised even those closest to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

RON BARBER, GIFFORDS STAFFER: Oh, my. But to see her on the floor of the House, surrounded by Republicans and Democrats, getting that kind of response, bringing people together as she does here at home, now, and nationally. What an experience.

GUTIERREZ: Ron Barber, Pamela Simon and Daniel Hernandez all share a special bond with Congresswoman Giffords. Staffers who were there with her the day of the mass shootings in Tucson. Barber was shot in the leg and cheek, Simon in the chest. And Hernandez, an intern at the time, tended to Giffords' head wounds right after she was shot.

DANIEL HERNANDEZ, FORMER GIFFORDS INTERN: She's in my lap. I'm helping her. I'm looking off to my left, and I see Ron. I look ahead of me, and I see David, and I look a few feet ahead of her and I see Pam. So it was just a horrible scene all around.

GUTIERREZ: But just seven months later, this sight. Triumph. That brought tears and smiles as they watched Giffords wave to her colleagues.

PAMELA SIMON, GIFFORDS STAFF MEMBER: She'd been following it. She felt like -- that this was something that was critical to the country.

GUTIERREZ: It was the first time she had appeared on camera in front of a national audience since the shooting back in January, the first time she had returned to work.

HERNANDEZ: The fact that we have been having this really tense national discourse on the debt ceiling and then seeing her come in at the last minute and make sure her voice was heard and really taking a lot of the vitriol out at the last minute was really heartwarming.

GUTIERREZ: And in character, they say, for the blue dog Democrat.

(on camera) And in the past, she had previously voted twice against raising the debt ceiling.

BARBER: That -- that is true.


(END VIDEOTAPE) GUTIERREZ: Gabrielle Giffords's office has been inundated with calls here in Tucson, Arizona, so what's next for the congresswoman? She looked so great last night. Well, Wolf, what we were told is that it's just way too soon to venture a guess, that right now she's not declaring anything. At this point she's just focused on her recovery -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We wish her a speedy recovery. Thelma, thanks very much.

Let's get some more now on Congresswoman Giffords's recovery. We're joined by our chief medical respondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He's the host of "SANJAY GUPTA M.D."

Sanjay, it's remarkable video we all saw. From your perspective as a neurosurgeon, what did you see in that video?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, as a starting point, first of all, keep in mind this type of injury, a gunshot wound to the head, only about 3/4 of the people survive at all. And of the people who do survive, half of them, they have some sort of neurological deficit.

When you look at this video specifically, there are several things to note. This was a left-sided brain injury, which controls lots of things, including the movement on the right of the body. And Wolf, if you look at that video long enough, you'll see she's not really moving her right arm very well, although she is able to stand on the right leg with some assistance from people around her. That's the first thing.

And then also just the amount of expression in terms of speech. She is mouthing, I think, "thank you" to a lot of people, blowing kisses, as you see there. This is obviously a good sign and much improved, I think, from you know, a few months ago. But these are the types of things that you pay attention to and get an assessment of how someone's recovery is going. Very, very impressive, Wolf. I would say -- I talked to a rehab doctor in Houston, and he said he would put her in the top 1 percent of patients who were going through this type of rehabilitation.

BLITZER: You know what it means for a lawmaker to seek reelection. What that means, and it's strenuous and all of that. For your perspective, medically speaking, and based on what you saw here and what you're hearing, and you studied this case now since January, do you think she's going to be able to do that?

GUPTA: Well, her doctors think so. I asked that same questions of the doctors who cared for her in Arizona as well as the ones in Houston. They all think that she -- she could if she wanted to.

A couple of things I'll point out, Wolf. Obviously, there's lots of demands that go into that sort of job.

With regard to speech specifically, you think of speech as sort of two components. First, your ability to receive and comprehend speech, and then the second part is your ability to express yourself. You look at the spoken word, the written word or through gestures. Her ability to understand and comprehend has always seemed to be fine, intact. Even immediately after the injury, she was able to understand things. It's more the expressive, the ability to speak spontaneously, to give speeches, to not have word-finding difficulties. That can take some time to come.

And then just the physical. As you pointed out, Wolf, the strength on the right side of the body, something moving around. There's a lot of logistical demands of this job. So that's something they're still focusing on in her outpatient rehab.

But Wolf, you know, take a look at a guy like Bob Woodruff. You know, he had a left-sided brain injury, as well. You may remember a devastating one, but now you see him on television and he's able to speak. He looks great.

So she is about 7 months now into her rehab. They say 12 to 18 months is usually when you start to see maximal recovery. But you can still continue improvements even after that. She's about halfway through right now, Wolf. So I think it's a little bit early to tell, but again, her doctors, who I asked the same question to, thinks that the -- you know, they foresee it happening if she chooses to go that route.

BLITZER: Because I was impressed that she could stand up. I was certainly impressed she was waving with her left hand. She really wasn't moving her right arm at all, basically, but she clearly knew what was going on. She was smiling broadly. She was saying, "Thank you." She wasn't giving any speeches. But it's a pretty amazing recovery, and as you say, the rehab is only just beginning. She's got months and months of work ahead of her. We're going to hope that the progress she's made since January until now, Sanjay, is going to be doubled over the next seven weeks.

GUPTA: It's a very good chance. Again, she's about halfway point now. That, you know, 12- to 18-month mark. So she has -- and you can see changes in terms of overall recovery over the next several months. We'll be keeping an eye on that.

BLITZER: We will. Thanks, Sanjay Gupta. Thanks very, very much.

To our viewers, an important note: you can watch "SANJAY GUPTA M.D." every Saturday and Sunday mornings right here on CNN, 7:30 a.m. Eastern. You can also follow Sanjay as a lot of people do on Twitter: @SanjayGuptaCNN, all one word. Follow him. You'll get a lot of useful information.

The night the Navy SEALs got Osama bin Laden.


NICHOLAS SCHMIDLE, WRITER, "THE NEW YORKER": So he shoots Amal once in the calf to disable her and then proceeds to grab Amal and the other woman, wrap them in a bear hug and turned his back to the SEALs and sort of pushed them off to the side.


BLITZER: So why did a Navy get bin Laden's wives in a bear hug during that raid? Amazing new details on the mission. Brian Todd coming up.

And eight years after the Columbia disaster, a part from the space shuttle has been found in a Texas lake.

And is Old Blue Eyes back? A New Yorker construction worker channeling Frank Sinatra. Jeannie Moos has been listening.





BLITZER: A frightening radiation reading in Japan. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what's going on?


Well, officials are scrambling to find the cause of lethal levels of radiation detected today at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. It is so high, a 60-minute exposure would kill a person within weeks. The Tokyo electric power company has been struggling with an unfolding disaster at the site since the March tsunami inundated the plant, knocking out cooling systems.

And it is jail time for the man who threw a foam pie at Rupert Murdoch as he testified about the phone hacking scandal engulfing his media empire. Jonathan May-Bowles pleaded guilty last week to assaulting Murdoch as he was being questioned by British lawmakers. Today, he was sentenced to six weeks, three of which will be served in prison.

And a part from the Space Shuttle Columbia has been discovered eight years after the disaster that killed seven astronauts on board. NASA says it's a tank four feet in diameter that provided power and water to the shuttle. The part was found in an east Texas lake where drought has lowered the water level to expose it.

That's a pretty big piece there. Four feet in diameter.

BLITZER: All right. They found it. Thanks, Lisa. Thanks very much.

It was certainly the climax of a decade-long search. We're learning now riveting new details of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, including what happened in the final dramatic seconds. Stand by.


BLITZER: The night that Navy SEALs got Osama bin Laden, a gripping new report of some extraordinary second-by-second details on the daring operation to kill the al Qaeda leader. Brian Todd is here. He's been combing through this report. It's very fascinating.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. A real page-turner. This account is based on could interviews with officers were intimately familiar with the mission. We're getting new information about how the SEALs fought their way through that compound and about the critical moment when they entered Osama bin Laden's bedroom.


TODD (voice-over): Less than 18 minutes into the 38-minute raid came the crucial moment. Navy SEALs had fought their way through Osama bin Laden's compound, killed his courier, the courier's brother and bin Laden's son. They blasted through cage-like metal gates on the stairways. As a small team of SEALs reached the third floor, one of them turned to his right.

SCHMIDLE: He sees this tall individual poking his head out of the door with fist-length beard.

TODD: The SEAL, says Nicholas Schmidle, instantly sensed that was bin Laden. Schmidle's article in "The New Yorker" magazine presents nuanced, riveting new details of the bin Laden raid. He bases his reporting on sourced conversations with Special Operations officers who had intimate knowledge of the raid. Schmidle says he did not speak directly with SEALs who carried out the mission. The SEALs' identities are classified.

Some of this detail had already been reported by CNN. Schmidle writes that when the SEALs rushed down the hall and into that room, two of bin Laden's wives had placed themselves between the SEALs and bin Laden. Newly reported by Schmidle, on account of how the first SEAL into the room had to act in a split second when he encountered bin Laden's youngest wife, Amal.

SCHMIDLE: Amal is yelling hysterically and begins to approach the first SEAL. And the concern is that they're wearing suicide explosive vests. So he shoots Amal once in the calf to disable her and then proceeds to grab Amal and the other woman, wrap them in a bear hug and turned his back to the SEALs and sort of pushed them off to the side.

TODD: And he holds them there. Why does he do that?

SCHMIDLE: He holds them so that if they explode and they blow up, that he'll soak up the impact of that blast and sort of the mission can then go on behind him.

TODD: He knows he'll die in the process?

SCHMIDLE: Pretty much.

TODD (voice-over): There were no suicide vests on the women. Then a second SEAL moved into the room, according to Schmidle, raised his M-4 rifle, trained an infrared laser on Osama bin Laden's chest.

(on camera) Was there anything said at that moment?

SCHMIDLE: There was nothing said. I asked and asked and asked. I kind of wonder whether there was some sort of "Dirty Harry" moment, and there just simply wasn't. It was all split second. Shoot bin Laden once in the chest and then bin Laden begins falling back. He shoots him once above the left eye. And bin Laden falls down, and he steps up and he says on the radio, you know, "For God and country, Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo."


TODD: Geronimo, the code word for the fact that bin Laden has been sighted. Schmidle writes that that SEAL then said "Geronimo EKIA," enemy killed in action.

At that moment, back at the White House, President Obama said to no one in particular, "We got him." Schmidle says a few days later, when the president met with the SEAL team at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he spoke with the team and thanked them, but he writes that President Obama never asked exactly which SEAL fired the kill shot, and the SEALs never volunteered that information -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Two members of that team were not actually Navy SEALs, right?

TODD: That's right. One of the members was a dog names Kyro (ph) who was there to detect human scent in case they needed it to find bin Laden. Another was a Pakistani-American translator who patrolled the perimeter of the compound near the street in case passersby would come by, and some did, according to Schmidle. They came by curious as to what was going on. He told them, in Urdu presumably, "There's a security operation going on in here. Go back to your houses." And they did.

BLITZER: Good story.

TODD: But it turned out much different.

BLITZER: It's a great read in "The New Yorker." Thanks very much, Brian.

Jack Cafferty is asking, "Is U.S. economic leadership at an end?" Jack and your e-mail, that's coming up.

And in his first interview since the Senate voted to avert a default, the minority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, speaks with our own John King on "JOHN KING USA." That's coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers.

And the construction worker who sings like Sinatra, sort of. Sort of. Jeanne Moos has that.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR : The question this hour: "Is U.S. economic leadership at an end?"

Kathy writes, "Major U.S. corporations and financial institutions are U.S. in name only and have no allegiance to this country at all. They've already turned to new emerging markets around the world to take the place of U.S. consumers and U.S. manufacturing. If unchecked by the lawmakers they have purchased, they will continue to invest in other countries, suck this country dry, and then leave for greener pastures with their money safe in offshore accounts, leaving behind a third-world replica of the United States."

Jimmy writes, "No, we've had a few economic idiots advising and leading the U.S., but there's been one person for years talking about our poor economic policies, and only now is he being heard. Representative Ron Paul has been leading on these issues for many years. He's the best candidate in 2012 to lead us out of this economic disaster."

Annie in Atlanta writes, "It's been for a while. Free trade agreements anyone? We're only here to enhance profit-driven corporate greed and becoming less useful to them by the day as the people of both China and India are now creating a consumer class."

Jenna in California: "You bet, Jack. Look at how the stock market reacted to the farce of a compromise debt ceiling bill passage. The markets aren't stupid. Anyone who voted for this bill should be packing up their offices now, because they will not be re-elected."

And Larry in Texas says, "Yes, good jobs have shipped overseas, replaced with low-paying service jobs. Greed is now legal, and we're more divided as a nation than any time in our history." Well, except maybe the civil war, right, Larry? "We haven't hit bottom yet, but when we do it will be ten times worse than the Great Depression."

On that happy note, you can go to the blog and read more of this stuff: -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of people do that every single day, Jack. Thanks very, very much.

"JOHN KING USA" coming up at the top of the hour for our North American viewers. John will be anchoring live from the White House tonight. Among his guests, the Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell.

Up here next in THE SITUATION ROOM, Jeanne Moos with the crooning construction worker. He loves Neil Diamond.




BLITZER: Let's take a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."

In Russia, check it out, a ceremony in Red Square honors paratroopers.

In England, people pack a crowded beach to escape a heat wave.

In Indonesia, a man prepares food to break the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

And in Nepal, a great white pelican grooms its feathers at a zoo. Wow, nice picture.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from around the world.

A singing sensation in an unlikely location. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What does a New Yorker City construction worker have in common with Frank Sinatra?

FRANK SINATRA, SINGER (singing): Those little town blues...

GARY RUSSO, CONSTRUCTION WORKER (singing): These little town blues...

MOOS: Nothing blue about this guy, except partially his eyes.

RUSSO: I think they're bluish-green.

MOOS: But unlike Old Blue Eyes, Gary Russo's stage isn't Carnegie Hall. It's a construction site on New York's Second Avenue, where a subway line is being built.


MOOS: And these aren't backup singers.

RUSSO (singing): In old Mexico...

MOOS: They're actual sand hogs, the guys who dig the tunnel. While other guys eat during their lunch break, Gary decided to drag out a mike and sound system and sing.

RUSSO (singing): When the moon hits your eye...

MOOS: How did his buddies react?

RUSSO: They loved it from the first time. You know, tough guys, they're going, "What, are you going to sing at lunch?"

I was, like, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be just like him when I grow up. I'm not going to lie to you. This guy's a real class act.

RUSSO (singing): How can I move when I hold you...

MOOS: You can't hold these guys back.

RUSSO (singing): Sweet Caroline...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Sweet Caroline...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Sweet Caroline...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Sweet Caroline...

MOOS: The construction project hasn't been so sweet for residents. So much disruption and noise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They tell me it's going to go on for eight or nine years. I won't be here, so I don't care.

MOOS: But Gary cares.

RUSSO (singing): The world was new beneath the blue umbrella sky.

MOOS (on camera): They call you any funny nicknames or anything?

RUSSO: The Second Avenue Sinatra.

MOOS (voice-over): His brush with fame came thanks to this passerby.

DAVID FISHER, SHOT VIDEO OF RUSSO: I'm, like, "You got to be a star."

MOOS: David Fisher shot some video and put it on YouTube. The media ate it up.

RUSSO: I'm overwhelmed.

MOOS: Now passersby are singing along.


MOOS: Porter grabbed a partner. People who stumble on the noon concert seemed stunned to see a construction foreman crooning.

RUSSO (singing): Mac in town

MOOS: Until now, Gary's singing has been mostly confined to karaoke in the shower. He says he just wants to make folks smile.

(on camera) I feel like I'm with the Village People.

(voice-over) It takes a village to build a subway. Who could imagine Second Avenue Sinatra would blow into town?

RUSSO (singing): And the winter winds, they have come and gone.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...

RUSSO (singing): New York.


BLITZER: As we know, America's got talent. Thanks very much.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. For our international viewers, "WORLD REPORT" is next. I n North America, "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.