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Sanford Police Chief Steps Aside; New Line of Attack for Romney's Opponents; Biden for President in 2016?; Keeping Enough Troops In Afghanistan; Obama Launches Direct Attack On Romney; Trayvon Martin's Parents to Speak Soon; Did Martin Shooter Use Racial Slur?; Apache Helicopter Crash-Lands; 900,000 Child Safety Locks Recalled; Resume, References and Facebook Login

Aired March 22, 2012 - 16:00   ET




BILL LEE, SANFORD POLICE CHIEF: It is apparent that my involvement in the matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position as police chief for the city of Sanford.


BLITZER: Breaking news we're following. The police in Sanford, Florida, stepping aside amid the growing outrage over the shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Also this hour, a campaign uproar gives Mitt Romney's rivals a new line of attack and sent sales of the Etch A Sketch soaring.

Plus, employers asking job applicants for their Facebook passwords, shocking, but likely legal.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Let's get right to the breaking news this hour in Sanford, Florida.

Just moments ago, the chief of police there announced he's temporarily stepping aside, a move forced by the controversy over his handling of the Trayvon Martin shooting death. Martin is the unarmed black teenager killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer who has not been charged.

CNN's George Howell is on the scene for us.

George, update our viewers on the very latest.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the city manager here in Sanford has long said he would not fire the police chief, Bill Lee. He would wait until federal investigators looked over this case and looked into his department to determine whether to fire the police chief.

But today we are hearing the police chief will step down temporarily and Scott O'Connor will step in as interim chief. Let's listen to just a little bit more about what the police chief had to say as he decided to step down temporarily. Let's take a listen.


LEE: My role as leader of this agency has become a distraction from the investigation.

While I stand by the Sanford Police Department, its personnel, and the investigation that was conducted in regards to the Trayvon Martin case, it is apparent that my involvement in this matter is overshadowing the process. Therefore, I have come to the decision that I must temporarily remove myself from the position as police chief for the city of Sanford. I do this in the hopes of restoring some semblance of calm to the city which has been in turmoil for several weeks.


HOWELL: That announcement came as a big surprise today. A lot of things happening fast and happening now in advance of this big rally today at 7:00, thousands of people here in Sanford.

I want to bring two people in just to get your reaction to this announcement that the police chief will step down temporarily.

Your name, please.


HOWELL: And what do you think about this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's just a travesty for him to step down temporarily. There are further probes that need to take place and find out what's really going on. It's just adding insult to injury.

HOWELL: So not enough for you.


HOWELL: Your name, please?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Corey.

HOWELL: Corey, what are your thoughts about this announcement?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's sort of like he is. I think it's a travesty as well, and I just think he should just be permanently fired, not no -- just suspension, because suspension lasts a couple of days or weeks, but I think he just needs to be fired. HOWELL: Gentlemen, thank you both for your time.

This is the headlining news that will lead this event. Again, this rally, thousands of people will be here just after 7:00 for a rally led by Al Sharpton here in Sanford after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

BLITZER: All right. I take it, though, George, later this hour the parents of Trayvon are going to be meeting with Justice Department officials who have come in from Washington, from the U.S. attorney's office and they subsequently will be having a little news conference. What can you tell us about that?

HOWELL: Wolf, in fact, we know that they are meeting right now.

Sabrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are meeting right now with members of the Department of Justice. We also know that members of the DOJ, they are at the police department and they have started the process of going through the investigation and looking at all of the evidence to determine why police did not have probable cause and to determine whether they made the right call on this, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stay in close touch with you. George, thanks very much.

I want to bring in our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin, right now. She contributes to "In Session" on our sister network truTV.

What do you make of this surprising development, the suspension, if you will, the temporary suspension of the police chief?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think, Wolf, that this was certainly long in the coming, especially once we got the vote of no confidence from the Sanford City commission just a few days ago. So I think many people were expecting him to either be fired or to step down.

I do think people will be uncomfortable with the wording that he used, with the wording of temporarily removing himself because again if he's stepping down to sort of not become this distraction, then I don't think that gives people the closure, I don't think that gives people the certainty that they were looking for.

BLITZER: What about this upcoming meeting? We will be standing by to get the parents' reaction, meeting with Justice Department officials. Explain to our viewers, Sunny, what this is all about.

HOWELL: That's right.

My understanding after speaking with the Martin family attorneys, Wolf, is that they would be meeting with the Justice Department to go over the potential steps that the Justice Department would be taking in this case. At this point, I'm hearing that they may not be taking over the investigation, but rather running a civil rights investigation in tandem with the ongoing investigation in Florida. And so we will know more of course after the meeting that's supposed to end at 4:00, 4:00 or 4:30.

But my understanding is that they are here to explain to the family their efforts and also perhaps to explain that a civil rights case may be very difficult to prove in a case like this and so they may be managing the family's expectations as to the Justice Department's civil rights probe.

BLITZER: We will have live coverage of that news conference later this hour. Sunny, stand by. I want to get back to you as well. We will hear from the parents of Trayvon Martin. Stand by for that.

Let's move on to some other news we're following, including major political news,. That Etch A Sketch issue is now a must-have prop, I would say, for Mitt Romney's presidential rivals in the Republican race for the White House. They're hammering away at him for the second day in a row seizing on an offhand analogy by a top Romney aide.

Our senior correspondent, Joe Johns, is in New Orleans ahead of Saturday's Louisiana primary.

What are you seeing there, Joe? Set the scene.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the latest polls out of Louisiana suggest that for one thing, Mitt Romney is not leading. Rick Santorum apparently is doing pretty well. He seems to be getting some traction.

Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, seems to be falling off, but probably the big driver of the day, as you mentioned, is that metaphor for the Romney campaign that just went absolutely rival.


JOHNS (voice-over): It was child's play on the campaign trail for the second straight day. A Mitt Romney adviser's errant comment made on CNN's "starting point" suggesting his campaign could reset like an Etch A Sketch toy gave Romney's opponents all the license they needed to ridicule the front-runner.

Rick Santorum speaking in Texas seemingly flirting with political heresy, suggesting that Republicans might be better off keeping the Democrat currently in the White House than electing a Republican who changes his stripes.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You win by giving people a choice. You win by giving people the opportunity to see a different vision for our country, not someone who will just be a little different than the person in there. If they're going to be a little different we might as well stay with what we have, instead of taking a risk of what may be the Etch A Sketch candidate for the future.

JOHNS: The toy has become a real mischief-maker. A Santorum adviser, Alice Stewart, was seen handing them out at a Romney event in Maryland. Not to be outdone the Newt Gingrich campaign actually put up an Etch A Sketch Web site asserting that the candidate could morph into different political positions.

And when Gingrich arrived at an event in Houma, Louisiana, people in the audience were holding Etch A Sketches. The candidate had one, too.

NEWT GINGRICH (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you're serious about changing Washington, D.C., you can't use an Etch A Sketch.


GINGRICH: You can't have a child's toy for president.

JOHNS: Romney had tried to put the issue to rest Wednesday night by issuing a brief statement asserting that should he get the nomination his campaign will change, but not the candidate.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The issues I'm running on will be exactly the same. I'm running as a conservative Republican.

JOHNS: The question is whether the issue will blow over. Many think it will.

CRYSTAL S. WRIGHT, BLOGGER: We were all tweeting about it. It's funny. It's unfortunate, but I do think it will go by the wayside. Next week, we're going to be talking about something else.

JOHNS: What many don't want is for the Etch A Sketch episode to upstage campaign plans to focus on President Obama's health care legislation, which comes up next week before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Santorum is working hard to link Romney's plan in Massachusetts to Obama's federal law. The president himself weighed in today, essentially suggesting Santorum is right.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We designed a program that actually previously had support of Republicans including the person who may end up being the Republican standard-bearer and is now pretending like he came up with something different.


JOHNS: The big winner so far at least is actually Etch A Sketch. Their thinly traded stock is up a bit. Eric Fehrnstrom, the Romney aide who started all of this, sent out a humorous tweet earlier today suggesting as a stock tip he is going to essentially mention Mr. Potato Head next -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Very funny. Thanks very much for that.

By the way, as Joe just said, Ohio Art, that's the maker of Etch A Sketch, has to be loving all of this uproar. Not only the stock price. Sales have soared more than 3,000 percent on, where the toy is now number one on the so-called movers and shakers list.

Love the Etch A Sketch. Let's get some more now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's here watching what is going on.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: A little old school, that Etch A Sketch.

BLITZER: I guess it's smart strategy for both Gingrich and Santorum to jump on the Etch A Sketch issue.

BORGER: It has a perfection all its own, Wolf, right? It is just too easy a metaphor because what the Etch A Sketch is it embodies all the problems that conservatives have with Mitt Romney, which is that you can draw a picture and then if you need to change you just shake it up and appeal to the next group.

And conservatives have always been skeptical about Mitt Romney because he's changed positions on issues like abortion, for example. He's moved to the right on immigration. And this just helps Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich to punctuate that point, which, by the way, they have been making throughout the campaign. So just too perfect.

BLITZER: That he's a flip-flopper, especially when it comes to health care. And Santorum today in Louisiana ahead of Saturday's primary in Louisiana, he's really going after Romney again on health care.

BORGER: Right. I think it's going to become the central point of his campaign.

BLITZER: Of Santorum's campaign.

BORGER: Of Santorum's campaign because he's can say, as he's been saying all along, look, there isn't much of a difference between President Obama and Mitt Romney when it comes to health care reform, which is so important to those Tea Party voters.

Take a listen to what Rick Santorum said today on that.


SANTORUM: Health care is now the central issue in this race and he is uniquely disqualified to take on President Obama on this issue.

We cannot have a candidate who is -- who forfeits the issue of government control of your life and health to Barack Obama and takes what is an overpowering, positive theme for a Republican presidential candidate and turn it into a negative that will be used against that candidate. He is the wrong candidate at the wrong time.


BORGER: And what's central about this, of course, is that the Supreme Court arguments on health care reform are coming up on Monday. So it's no surprise that Santorum has picked this moment to really start emphasizing it, because it is going to be front and center.

BLITZER: You see a little change in the way Romney's campaigning as well.

BORGER: Well, you do. Remember how Romney campaigned at the beginning of this campaign, which was he ran against Barack Obama and didn't pay much attention to his opponents?

I think he's going back to that, Wolf. He's treating Rick Santorum as more of an annoyance than an opponent. Listen to what he said today.


ROMNEY: This president promised to cut the deficit in half. He's doubled it. He told us he'd get back to work and hold unemployment below 8 percent, hasn't been below 8 percent in 37 straight months. And he said he'd cut taxes for middle-income taxpayers. That hasn't happened either. This man is out of ideas and he's out of excuses and in 2012 we will make sure we get him out of office.


BORGER: So while Mitt Romney continues to talk about Barack Obama, the campaign and its surrogates are still talking about Rick Santorum more and more as the spoiler.

There was a campaign memo that came out today, Wolf, and it was quite tough. It said that Santorum is -- quote -- "becoming the most valuable player on President Obama's team," that is if he continues to drag this out. So they're calling him a spoiler. Get ready to hear a lot more of that, Santorum as obstructionist.

BLITZER: Romney wants everyone to believe he's now the presumptive nominee on the Republican side.

BORGER: Although he won't say it himself. Right?

BLITZER: He won't say it, but that's what he wants everybody to believe. Thanks, Gloria.

BORGER: Exactly.

BLITZER: We're also following the breaking news, the Sanford, Florida, police chief stepping aside amid the outrage over the Trayvon Martin investigation. We are standing by for a live news conference. Martin's parents will be speaking and they're meeting with Justice Department officials from Washington right now.

And imagine you're in a job interview and your prospective new boss asks for your Facebook password. This is already happening. Here's the question. Is it legal?


BLITZER: We are awaiting the parents of Trayvon Martin to come out. They're meeting with Justice Department officials from Washington right now. We'll hear what they have to say. Also get their reaction to the decision by the Sanford Florida police chief to step aside temporarily.

Stand by. We'll go there live once they emerge.

In the meantime, let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, around here, it is never too early to start looking ahead to the next election. President Joe Biden, you may or may not think that has a ring to it, but that may be what the vice president has on his mind for 2016.

According to "Politico", the often unpredictable and entertaining Mr. Biden who's already been down this road twice before is quietly assembling a team of advisers which includes a top Clinton- era operative. So one might wonder if Biden thinks the third time could be the charm for him.

Close friends say right now, of course, he's focused on helping President Obama try to win a second term. He's already popping up on the campaign trail and depending on what's on his mind on a given day, he is arguably the most interesting one out there. After that, though, friends think and think that he thinks a potential White House run could be on the table.

Not everybody thinks it's such a great idea. After all, he'd be 73. He's been known to put his foot in his mouth on occasion, sometimes on no occasion. Of course, there's also Hillary Clinton, a much bigger star in the Democratic Party, she came very close in 2008 to beating Obama for the nomination. There were even talks that shield replace Biden on the ticket as the president's running mate.

There are also some younger up and comers who can potentially breathe new life into the party and may want to give it a go. "Politico" suggests that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley are a couple of names that might be in the hat.

Never mind all that, I hope Biden jumps in. It will be the most refreshing thing to happen in presidential politics since -- well, since Obama ran.

Here's the question, would you vote for Joe Biden in 2016?

Go to, post a comment on my blog. Go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Can you imagine if Biden in 2016 were running against the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton? That would be quite a fight there.

CAFFERTY: It would be a great show. We'd have fun a lot with that.

BLITZER: There would be high interest, I would say, in that campaign.


BLITZER: That's four years down the road. We've got plenty of time to think about it.

CAFFERTY: I'll be old by then.

BLITZER: You'll be doing "The Cafferty File" every single day, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We're standing by to hear live from the parents of Trayvon Martin. They've been meeting with Justice Department officials down in Sanford, Florida, about the case and the man who killed their son, a teenager, unarmed. We're going live to Florida in a few minutes.

We're looking at live pictures of the microphones there. That's where the parents will be speaking and answering reporters' questions at the same time.

Also, the elderly are facing a new danger that comes after a stay in the hospital. We've got new information, and information you need to know.

Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Take a look at these live pictures. You see folks getting ready for a rally later tonight in Sanford, Florida. They're rallying because they're outraged over the shooting death of a young black teenager in Sanford, Florida. The parents of that teenager are getting ready to emerge from a meeting with Justice Department officials speak to reporters.

Stand by. There's breaking news happening, including the suspension -- at least temporarily -- of the police chief in Sanford over this investigation. We'll get there in a moment.

Other news we're following right now, including a lot of violence, unfortunately, raging once again as Syria again. At least 70 more people were killed according to opposition activists.

Mary Snow is monitoring that, also some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, heavy shelling continued just a day after the United Nations Security Council called on the Syrian government to stop its bloody crackdown. Opposition groups say 12 children and four women were among the dozens killed. The government continues to blame what it calls armed terrorist groups today, saying they committed, quote, "a new massacre in" Homs (INAUDIBLE) of anti-government sentiment.

There's an update to a story we recently brought you of a U.S. marine under scrutiny after saying he would not obey orders from President Obama and calling him a quote, "domestic enemy". Now, Sergeant Gary Stein says he is facing possible discharge. He's accused of conduct, endangering good order and discipline, and violating the policy, limiting the political activities of service members.

A new study highlights another reason why older Americans should avoid being hospitalized. Researchers found the rate of cognitive decline among people who are 65 and older is twice as fast after a hospital stay than what those same patients showed before. The rate of decline was three times faster on longtime memory tests after just one hospitalization.

And a bit of good news on the unemployment front. The number of people filing for their first unemployment benefits dropped to a four- year low last week. About 348,000 people filed initial jobless claims, similar to the number of new claims Americans filed back in 2005 and 2006. The number of people filing for their second week or more of benefits also dipped -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Encouraging news, at least on the jobs front. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Mary. We're standing by for that news conference by the parents of the slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

Sanford police chief has just stepped aside. You saw it live here on CNN. We're following the breaking news.

Stay with us.


BLITZER: The top American commander in Afghanistan says he wants to keep a steady number of U.S. troops in the country into next year.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us. He's go details.

A very important story, a lot of commotion right now as far as keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

What's the very latest from the commander, Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, this could potentially affect thousands of American troops and their families. The U.S. commander is indicating that after the last of the surge troops come home by the end of the summer, he would like to see the rest of the remaining American troops stay in Afghanistan at least through the end of the year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) LAWRENCE (voice-over): By the end of summer, 68,000 American troops will still be fighting in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials say it's too early to tell how quickly they'll come home, but the top U.S. commander has revealed he'd like to keep most, if not all of them in the fight next year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your opinion at this particular juncture?

GENERAL JOHN ALLEN, ISAF COMMANDER: My opinion is that we will need significant combat power in 2013, sir.


ALLEN: Sixty eight thousand is a good going in number, sir, but I owe the president some analysis on that.

LAWRENCE: General John Allen clearly wasn't comfortable giving specific numbers before having a strategic conversation with the White House, but Senator John McCain pushed Allen to give his opinion.

In a statement to CNN, a Pentagon spokesman said there is absolutely no daylight between General Allen and the commander in chief about the need to assess the state of the insurgency in the fall before making any decisions about future force levels.

Senators also questioned military leaders on the possible transfer of five Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Qatar. Some Republicans have accused the Obama administration of cutting a deal with terrorists.

SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: I am really offended that there would be some conversation about releasing five of the meanest, nastiest killers in the world to the Taliban as a show of good faith.

LAWRENCE: The five detainees would be swapped for a captured westerner and open the way for peace talks for the Taliban, but a U.S. official confirms that transfer is on hold temporarily until the defense secretary receives certain assurances detainees won't be able to leave Qatar.

JAMES MILLER, UNDER SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: We are in absolute agreement that these assurances might be in place before anything can go forward.


LAWRENCE: And I am also told that it's likely that some sort of deal will be worked out once they iron out those differences, but, Wolf, the big debate could come in the fall to see if General Allen does get to take those 68,000 troops into the next fighting season in the spring.

BLITZER: All right, Chris. Thanks very much. Chris Lawrence reporting.

Let's discuss what's going on in our strategy session. Joining us right now our CNN contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, he's a senior strategist for the Democratic fundraising group, "Priorities USA" and "Priorities USA Action." Those are the Super PAC.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I have a dog in this fight.

BLITZER: You are very pro-Obama.


BLITZER: No doubt about that.

BEGALA: Proudly pro-Obama.

BLITZER: Did you see those stories about Vice President Biden now getting an A team supposedly ready to run for president in 2016.

BEGALA: I did. It sounded like Jack Cafferty was going pay his filing fee.

BLITZER: What do you think?

BEGALA: I think it's a little premature. Come on, the 2012 election is going to be fascinating. I think it's a toss-up. I'm obviously pro-Obama, but this could easily go to Republicans. I don't think anybody is looking forward to 2016. Joe Biden is a great guy. He's been a terrific vice president and he would be a formidable candidate, but it's so far into the future.

BLITZER: If he ran and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016 that would be pretty cool.

BEGALA: That would be great. Pop your popcorn, but it is so far away. You wouldn't be -- if you planted your corn today --

BLITZER: It seems like 2008 was just yesterday. Four years, you know, it goes quickly.

BEGALA: We are getting so far ahead of ourselves.

BLITZER: Let's talk about what we just heard from Chris Lawrence of Afghanistan right now. There's a lot of pressure especially from the Democratic base to get those troops out of Afghanistan and a lot earlier than the schedule.

Right now, President Obama wants them there for another three years until the end of 2014, at least 68,000 troops, $2 billion a week, $100 billion a year. Is this money well spent?

BEGALA: Well, look, I think this president plays a long game. He doesn't seem particularly tactical and that's good. Back when he was running. He was just senator Obama with very little foreign policy experience as critics said.

He said he would wind down the war in Iraq, which he did and he would boost up the war in Afghanistan, which he did. He said he would send drones into Pakistan to kill Bin Laden, which he did. So he's been good to his words.

BLITZER: Given what's happening in Afghanistan on the ground in Pakistan for that matter, maybe it's time to reassess that strategy.

BEGALA: I know that the American people have reassessed, right? Popular opinion has turned pretty strongly and continuing our engagement in Afghanistan.

I don't see any signs that this president is running his national security operation by the poll, though. He runs a very long ranged security strategy. I think it's a good thing, I could not imagine him looking at polls about something like this.

BLITZER: Let's talk about healthcare for a moment because the president said something interesting and it was playing once again, and defending his health care mandates and not two years into that new health care law as the Republicans call it, Obama care, if you will. Play the clip because I want to discuss one point about it. Listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We designed a program that actually previously had support of Republicans, including the person who may end up being a Republican standard bearer and is now pretending like he came up with something different.


BLITZER: So if, in fact, Romney is the Republican nominee, does that, Santorum says neutralize the health care debate going into the fall?

BEGALA: Certainly, handicaps the Republicans' ability to do it. I think Rick Santorum is exactly right. Senator Santorum is always against the individual mandate, but it was an idea that came to the Republican Party.

Mitt Romney got it from Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich got it from the Heritage Foundation, which is a very conservative foundation think tank in Washington.

BLITZER: Are you saying President Obama got it from Mitt Romney?

BEGALA: Sure, obviously. Certainly, absolutely. I think, the president, which was saying in that interview. Here's the problem that Romney will have. Not only does he lose the ability to attack the individual mandate, which is politically unpopular.

Because he wants to repeal the whole law the president will be able to attack him to say you want insurance companies to deny coverage because of a pre-existing condition or to charge more to women or to continue a whole lot of policies that are true by the insurance reforms. If Romney is there healthcare is a plus for President Obama.

BLITZER: I will make the point, though, that going into this November election, if in fact, Romney and a lot of people think he is the presumptive nominee. Do you think --

BEGALA: I do. I think he's very likely. Almost certain.

BLITZER: At some point the president will have to name names in effect, and he's not going have to say there's some other guy and he'll do what Joe Biden has done this week, specifically say Romney, your experience in '96 when President Clinton was running for election.

He wants to take the high road, have a rose garden strategy. I wrote about this in my blog post today. At what point does he really get in there and start talking about Romney shall we say?

BEGALA: Well, look, this is why God made Super PACs like the one -- not God, probably Satan made these Super PACs or had the vice president. This president can hang back longer. President Clinton, if you recall, you weren't even born.

BLITZER: I was the senior White House correspondent --

BEGALA: He attacked Bob Dole and he named him and gave him a new name. We call him Dole Gingrich because Bob Dole frankly is a war hero and highly respected guy. Newt Gingrich was very unpopular. He was the House leader and the Clinton camp linked them together.

BLITZER: You called them Dole Gingrich. I don't remember Bill Clinton calling him -- he was not the president of the United States and he takes the high road as President Obama will do this time.

BEGALA: I suspect so.

BLITZER: That's why he has guys like you.

BEGALA: I promise you, this word of honor, you will see attack ads from my group going after Mitt Romney on his record. He's a fine man. Actually he's a wonderful man, but terrible record and that's where I think the fight will be.

And I think the Super PAC I advise can name names. The vice president can name names. I like the president staying above the fray a little.

BLITZER: I should tell our viewers. Nancy Pfotenhauer, the Republican strategist who worked for John McCain four years ago as you well remember, she's supposed to be here with you. Unfortunately, she had to cancel at the last minute.

BEGALA: She's a better guest than I am.

BLITZER: Very smart lady and very lovely lady.

BEGALA: I like Nancy.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. We have a lot more on our top story coming up. The outrage over the death of Trayvon Martin. We are standing by to hear directly from his parents. Also, just two is the man who shot and killed the teenager? At the top of the hour, we'll go live to his hometown right outside of Washington, D.C. in nearby Northern Virginia. Were there any warning signs at all?


BLITZER: Looking at live pictures from Sanford, Florida. A lot of angry people over the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year- old boy who was walking through a gated community, was shot and killed by a community watchman, if you will.

Sanford Police Department Chief Bill Lee announced just a little while ago, he's stepping aside at least temporarily. The parents have been meeting with Justice Department officials and they're getting ready to come to a news conference and look at their reaction to the suspension of the police chief.

We'll also hear what they had to say about their meeting with the Justice Department which is now looking into potential civil rights violations. We're staying on top of this story that's causing a lot of outrage all across Florida, indeed, all across the United States.

There are very serious questions about whether the confessed shooter in this case, George Zimmerman used a racial slur in his deadly confrontation with Trayvon Martin. CNN's national correspondent Gary Tuchman has this part of the story.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is Edit Room 31 at CNN Center in Atlanta. This is one of the most sophisticated audio edit suites in the broadcast news business.

And right here is Rick Ciara, he's our audio design specialist. He's one of the best audio experts in the business. Rick, if you can, I haven't listened to this portion of the 911 tape at all. I want to hear it raw, if you can play 10 seconds before and listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which entrance is that he's heading towards?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The back entrance.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): You may not have heard the moment in question because it was so quick.

(on camera): How long does that portion last that everyone is talking about?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A second, 18 frames.

TUCHMAN: That's about 1.6 seconds.


TUCHMAN: So let's listen to it ten times in a row if we can.

(voice-over): What we're listening for is racial slur followed by the "f" word. Some say they hear it, others say they don't.

(on camera): It's certainly a lot clearer when we listen to it this way.


TUCHMAN: Is there anything else we can do to the audio to make it clearer?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I did boosting at 2.2 kilohertz and 4.6 kilohertz.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): What Rick has done is lower the base.

(on camera): So why is it that you want to get rid of the low end of the audio, the base of the audio?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, to minimize the noise.

TUCHMAN: That takes away the noise and allows us to hear the voice more clearly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct. I'll boost it up a little more there. We'll give it a shot here.

TUCHMAN: That does sound a little clearer to me. Sounds like this allegation would be accurate, but I wouldn't swear to it in court. That's what it sounds like to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Very difficult to really pinpoint what he's saying.

TUCHMAN: Rick, can we just play that second word, what we think the second word is and see if it sounds any different.

It certainly sounds like that word to me, but you can't be sure. Sounds more like the word using it with the "F" word before that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Only George Zimmerman knows if he used the slur, but he's not talking. So the phone call, like so much of his case, remains a mystery. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


BLITZER: Let's bring on our legal analyst, Sunny Hostin once again. She contributes to "In Session" on our sister network TruTV. What do you make of this whole investigation whether or not a racial slur is actually heard on that 911 tape?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly is significant if the Justice Department Civil Rights Division has to prove that this was a hate crime because they would have to prove what was in George Zimmerman's mind.

If he indeed uttered that racial slur that would certainly make a civil rights case a bit easier for the Justice Department. It would be very, very difficult absent some sort of history of racial animus or something besides what we have so far to show a hate crime or to prove a hate crime.

BLITZER: It's a pretty high hurdle that they have to go over, right?

HOSTIN: That's right. And many people at the Justice Department have said that in a way of trying to, I think manage expectations because it's one of the highest hurdles in our legal system. You would have to prove intent in a hate crime, very, very difficult.

We know in New Jersey in the Dharun Ravi case it did meet that hurdle, but again, very difficult to prove hate crimes under our federal law, and that's why I think so many people are honing in on this 911 call and whether or not that is a racial slur.

I want you to stand by, Sunny, because we'll be hearing directly from the parents and they met with Justice Department officials. They're on their way to the news conference where you see those folks right now.

We have live coverage and I want to discuss it with you afterwards as well. Sunny, stand by.

Meanwhile, other news, a job interview questions that caught people off guard. What would you say if your perspective boss ask for your Facebook password.

Plus, a child's safety concern prompting a giant recall.


BLITZER: Jack's back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is would you vote for Joe Biden for president in 2016? There's word out there that he might be considering his third run for the office.

Mark in New Hampshire writes, "Yes, Biden is showing a career- long proclivity for working across the aisle and compromising on a whole range of issues. Besides with reducing wasteful government spending a major priority, widening all the door frames in the White House for Chris Christie would be an undue burden on the American taxpayer."

Mike in Texas, "Let's see, told the Irish prime minister God rest her soul when referring to his very much alive mother, told the wheelchair bound senator to stand up, said jobs was a three-letter word and said FDR was president in 1929 and appeared on TV that same year, and admitted Hillary Clinton was a better pick for VP. I would vote for Joe Biden to be political comedian of the century. He would win in the landslide."

James writes, "As a Democrat, I would have to say I would if he were the only option. However, I would be relieved if he'd step down in favor of an Obama-Clinton ticket, which is what I wanted in the first place. Frankly, I'm tired of his gaffes."

Ann in Pennsylvania, "I wanted to vote for Joe Biden in 2008. I voted for Obama because Biden was on the ticket. Biden for all his gaffes is a rock solid hard-working American patriot and an example of old school politics with integrity. He's principled and what you see is what you get."

Paul in Oregon says Joe Biden is to President Obama what Ed McMahon was to Johnny Carson, the best second banana in the business, a willing spirit, a supportive shoulder and the comic reliever. I'd have a beer with Joe and I'd play a round of golf for Joe, but not in one million years would I vote for Joe for president."

Mark in New Jersey says, "Much more likely I would vote for Joe than any of the button paid for tools of big corporations, congenital liars, Taliban Christians or any of the other assorted nut cases that ride around in the Republican clown car."

Carol in Massachusetts, "Wow! Are we already so done with this year's election that we're speculating on an even more boring race in 2016? Who would run against him? Bob Dole?"

If you want to read more about this, go to my blog or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I love our viewers. Terrific. All right, thanks very much.

A video from the frontlines of Afghanistan is going viral online. Mary Snow is monitoring that and the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Mary, what's in the video?

SNOW: Take a look at this, Wolf, moments after flying low over a building and climbing back into the sky, you can see this Apache helicopter crash land into the snow with several people standing nearby.

No one on the ground was injured and both crew members survived. Military official suspect it's footage of the February incident in Afghanistan. U.S. Army is investigating possible causes including pilot error and mechanical problems.

Closer to home here, if you have a young child in your house you may want to take another look at your child's safety locks. About 900,000 cabinet locks are being recalled because young kids can open them. The recall is safety first brand, push and snap cabinet locks. There have been 140 reports of children as young as 9 months old being able to get into the cabinets with the locks on them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I have to give the children credit. I have trouble opening up those locks sometime myself. Good for those 900 kids. Thanks, Mary. A growing number of potential employers are asking applicants the same question that's sparking controversy. Now lawmakers are taking action.

We're taking a closer look at the man who says he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense. You're going to hear his plans for his life when he was 17 years old.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hotshots." In Belgium, a man and child pay their respects at the funeral service for seven children killed in a bus crash in Switzerland.

In France, workers for a steel company protest a partial shutdown fearing permanent layoffs. In India, a girl uses a pot to carry water to her home. In Romania, baby goats play in a courtyard. "Hotshots," pictures come in from around the world.

When you go for to interview for a new job your potential employer isn't allowed to ask you about your age, your race or religion, but what about asking for your Facebook log in? Some are doing just that.

Mary Snow is taking a closer look at this story. Mary, what are you finding out?

SNOW: Wolf, this is generating a lot of interest after reports came to light of some employers vetting job applicants by asking for their passwords to access their Facebook pages. Now two states are currently considering legislation and now there's word of a potential federal bill.


SNOW (voice-over): Imagine being on a job interview and an employer asking you for your Facebook log in and password. That's what Robert Collins says happened to him at the Maryland Apartment of Corrections.

After taking a leave of absence, he says he had to go through another betting process in 2010 and was stunned when his employer asked for his Facebook password. Collins says he complied because he feared for his job.

ROBERT COLLINS, JOB APPLICANT: I'm, like, so what exactly are you doing? What are you looking for? Well, I'm looking through your messages and through your wall and through your pictures and through your posts to make sure that, you know, you're not flashing any gang signs or involvement in illegal activity. I was just mortified. I just thought that that just crossed the line.

SNOW: Collins has since left that job, but his complaint to the ACLU prompted change. Maryland's Department of Corrections' new policy states candidates will not be asked to share their login and/or password information. But job applicants to Maryland's Corrections Department are asked to login to Facebook voluntarily as an interviewer looks over their shoulder. The department argues that kind of screening is useful for public safety and law enforcement jobs, CNN legal contributor, Paul Callan.

(on camera): Is this legal?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: As shocking as it is that employers would ask you for this very, very personal thing, a Facebook password, in most states it's absolutely legal.

SNOW (voice-over): It's unclear just how many employers are asking job applicants for passwords. It's Facebook's policy to prohibit anyone from soliciting the login information or accessing an account belonging to someone else.

But lawmakers in Maryland are considering a bill to make it illegal for an employer to ask for password. In a right to privacy in the work place act is on the table in Illinois after state lawmaker received complaints from constituents.

L.A. SHAWN FORD (D), ILLINOIS STATE HOUSE: You have individuals that are afraid to speak and say that the employers are asking for their password and their user name for fear of losing their job or for fear of not being hired.


SNOW: And now Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal wants a federal bill that would ban employers from asking for passwords on social media sites. He told "Politico," he will draft a bill that he expects to be ready in the near future. --Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary. Thank you.