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President Obama Targets Mitt Romney; Rick Santorum Staying in Race?; Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus; Focus Shifts to November Election; Time For Romney's Rivals To Quit?; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Charged in 9/11 Attack; Investigations Visit Scene of Afghan Massacre; Jobs Report Adds to Wall Street Anxiety; Bipartisanship is Still Alive; Uproar over Female Members; Bomb Kills Top Somali Sports Officials

Aired April 4, 2012 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: Republican-appointed federal judges demanding answers in writing from the Obama administration after the president warns the U.S. Supreme Court not to overturn health care reform.

It's all about November. President Obama has started going after Mitt Romney now. Boosted by a sweep of three more primaries, Romney returns fire. Suddenly, it's becoming increasingly personal.

And Rick Santorum insists it's only halftime in the Republican presidential campaign, but will he quit if he doesn't win his home state?

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

A historic and stunning showdown is under way right now between the Obama administration and federal judges. A three-member appeals panel all Republican appointees has taken issue with the president's jawboning of the U.S. Supreme Court over the health care reform law. Now an unusual demand from those judges is putting a lot of heat on the Justice Department in Washington.

Brian Todd is following this battle for us.

Brian, what's going on?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, one seasoned court analyst just told me federal judges almost never do this kind of thing. Whether he intended to or not, an appeals court judge has publicly taken on President Obama on health care and walked into the political fire.


TODD (voice-over): A barometer of how high the political stakes are for the president and his opponents on the health care law, a public sparring match between President Obama and the courts.

On Monday, Mr. Obama says this about the Supreme Court's review of health care. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

TODD: But it's the Supreme Court's job to decide what's constitutional, what's not, and a federal appeals court judge takes offense with the president.

Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth circuit, a Reagan appointee, interrupts a Justice Department lawyer arguing a separate part of the health care law. Judge Smith says: "Surely the president is not questioning the authority of the courts to strike down laws if they think they're unconstitutional."

He uses a partisan term to challenge the lawyer.

JUDGE JERRY SMITH, FIFTH CIRCUIT: He was referring, of course, to Obamacare, to what he termed broad consensus in majorities in both houses of Congress. That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority or to the appropriateness of the concept of judicial review. And that's not a small matter.

TODD: And in a strange move, Judge Smith demands a three-paged, single-spaced letter from the Justice Department by Thursday, saying what its position is on the authority of the courts in these cases.

Attorney General Eric Holder says they will respond appropriately.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that what the president said a couple of days ago was appropriate. He indicated that we obviously respect the decisions that courts make under our system of government.

TODD: The president did later dial back from his initial remarks saying he's sure the Supreme Court will exercise its power carefully, but conservatives still don't like his tone in those first remarks.

CARRIE SEVERINO, JUDICIAL CRISIS NETWORK: The president is trying to bully the court here, threatening them that if they don't come down his way they're going to have the same thing happen in the State of the Union address in 2010. He will be calling them activists and he will be saying they're political.

TODD: The White House responds.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's the reverse of intimidation. He's simply making an observation about precedent and the fact that he expects the court to adhere to that precedent.

TODD: CNN analyst Ron Brownstein says every aspect of this is extraordinary.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think what we are seeing here is the courts and the confrontation between the administration and the courts being dragged into the overall polarization that defines so much of modern political life.


TODD: Brownstein says the courts may not have been able to avoid being drawn into the political fight here. He calls this the most significant piece of Democratic legislation since Medicare and it's an election year, the perfect political storm -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Certainly is. You are, though, getting some information, Brian, that even some conservatives are upset with this appeals court judge, aren't you?

TODD: That's right. Most won't put their names to this publicly, but conservative legal sources are privately telling us they're disappointed with this judge's order saying it looks petty.

One right-leaning attorney who opposes the health care law says -- quote -- "It was like he was giving a homework assignment to an unprepared student and it has effect of putting the judiciary on the defensive" -- end quote. This attorney said this could give rise to concerns that the courts are looking at health care from a political standpoint rather than from a constitutional standpoint and they really don't like what this judge has done.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

Let's take a closer look at this growing showdown.

Joining us, our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Jeffrey, first to you. How out of the ordinary is it that a federal appeals court judge like this one would make such a demand of the Department of Justice, a three-page single-spaced letter explaining what the president has in mind?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Totally extraordinary and totally inappropriate.

This was a judicial hissy fit, and what the president said was entirely appropriate and entirely within his rights as an American citizen to express his opinions about this law. He wasn't intimidating the Supreme Court and he couldn't intimidate the Supreme Court if he wanted to. And he was simply saying that he believes the law is constitutional.

And this judge doing this ridiculous patronizing act to the Department of Justice has simply made himself look ridiculous.

BLITZER: But, you know, a lot of conservatives including the editorial page writers of "The Wall Street Journal" are really going after the president, himself a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago.

In "The Wall Street Journal" yesterday: "President Obama is a former president of The Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, but did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury vs. Madison?" That's the case in 1803 which said that the Supreme Court can decide if Congress has passed unconstitutional laws, even if Congress passed those laws overwhelmingly.

TOOBIN: Of course, and that -- Marbury vs. Madison remains the law of the land.

Nothing Obama said conflicts with Marbury vs. Madison. Of course the Supreme Court has the right to strike down this law, but what the president was saying is he doesn't think the Supreme Court should exercise that.


BLITZER: He went a little bit further and just to be precise, I will look at the words. He said it would be unprecedented for the court to overturn the law, unelected judges. He was referring to words like that.

What would be so unprecedented about the Supreme Court right now overturning the health care reform law, given 200 years of the Supreme Court doing these kinds of things?

TOOBIN: It would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to overturn the central economic legislation of a president and a Congress.

In the 1930s, the Supreme Court did something almost this dramatic in overturning some of the New Deal. And then in 1937, they went back on this, but it is certainly extremely unprecedented for an act of this magnitude to be declared unconstitutional.

That doesn't mean that the Supreme Court can't do it. It doesn't even mean that they shouldn't do it. But the fact that it is unprecedented is simply a factual statement which the president, I think, had every right to make.

BLITZER: Jessica Yellin, you're at the White House and you're talking to White House officials all of the time. He made one statement on Monday and he seemed to backpedal a bit on Tuesday. Do officials privately acknowledge that the president may have fumbled this one?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they won't say they believe he fumbled, but it was clear that he was cleaning up at the very least his remarks on Tuesday.

The remarks he made on Monday, I know that he was prepared to be asked the question. He thought it through and he came out and said what he did on Monday after consideration. But the way he expressed it ended up being messy, at the very least, because it stirred up a hornet's nest by the way we're all responding to it. The remarks he gave on Tuesday were far more nuanced and far more delicate and sort of drew finer distinctions to allow everybody to understand more carefully what he meant. The bottom line is what he was doing on Monday was an attempt to steer the public discussion and not a deliberate attempt by the White House to try to play the refs on the court. But it has been taken as an attempt to sway the court. And that's become where this -- been taken as a sticky issue, and so we saw him refine his comments on Tuesday, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, Gloria Borger, you wrote a terrific column on entitled "Epic Failure By Washington Sets Us Adrift."

Let me read a line for our viewers and then we will talk: "This Supreme Court case is the Waterloo for political polarization because it underscores something we should have known all along. Great changes in national public policy should never be erected on slender partisan majorities."

And you're referring to the fact that health care reform law was passed basically with virtually no Republicans on board.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That was something I learned covering the Congress when Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan was in the Congress.

And just watching this whole debate, it makes you understand that every side is suspect no matter what it does, Wolf. You have the Congress being suspect with such a low approval rating and having approved health care reform in a very partisan way. In our polls, the Supreme Court is suspect.

Half of the public believes it makes political decisions. And Barack Obama is somebody who polarizes the American public one way or another, and some like the president and some don't like the president. If the law had been passed in a bipartisan way, I don't think -- sure, it might have been challenged before the court at one point or another, but I think this kind of vitriol that sets it up to be a huge, political argument and a huge part of the political discussion in the campaign would not exist.

BLITZER: We will see how the attorney general and the Justice Department responds to this federal appeals court judge tomorrow. Gloria will be filling in for John King later today, "JOHN KING, USA" at 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Gloria, we of course will be watching.

Jessica Yellin will be back. And Jeffrey Toobin, always good to have him here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.

You know who else is always good to have in THE SITUATION ROOM, Jack Cafferty. He's here right now with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Just in time for the election and courting the Hispanic vote, the Obama administration is out with yet another way to ignore the nation's immigration laws.

The Department of Homeland Security now wants to issue so-called "unlawful presence waivers."

These are meant for illegal aliens who are related to U.S. citizens.

The way the law works now, these people have to back to their native country and request a waiver of inadmissibility.

But the federal government says the proposed changes would "significantly reduce" the length of time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives, it's illegal aliens.

Critics are slamming the proposal, and they call it "stealth amnesty" and another attempt at backdoor amnesty. That is exactly what it is.

Mr. Obama promised federal immigration reform when he was running for president in 2008. That never happened.

Instead of reform, it looks more like bending of the rules for some of the estimated 12 million illegal aliens. Gee, just in time for the president's reelection campaign. Must be a coincidence.

Last year, the administration started cutting back on deportations of illegal aliens without criminal records and started reviewing all existing cases.

That resulted in a big decline in deportations even though one study shows that immigrants with criminal records don't necessarily make up a larger portion of those deported.

President Obama told Univision in February that the administration is reemphasizing its focus "on criminals and at the borders" and not on "hardworking families."

it's all designed to get enough Hispanic votes to get a second term in the White House.

Here's the question: Why does President Obama continue to refuse to enforce the nation's immigration laws?

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

BLITZER: Who would have thought we would be talking about Marbury vs. Madison in THE SITUATION ROOM right now?

CAFFERTY: Well, you would.

BLITZER: I was thinking about it all day today. I actually went back reread some of that.

CAFFERTY: Did you really?

BLITZER: I tweeted about it earlier in the day as well.

CAFFERTY: Before my time.

BLITZER: Yes, 1803. Just missed it, right? Just a few years.

CAFFERTY: Just barely. BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Rick Santorum is vowing to fight even as Mitt Romney widens his lead. Now some are wondering if Santorum wants Romney to lose to President Obama so that Santorum has a better chance in 2016. We go inside the Republican battle next. The party chairman, Reince Priebus, standing by to join us live.

At the same time, Mitt Romney is reasserting himself as the inevitable nominee. Wait until you hear how he's laying into President Obama today.

Plus, the unbelievable aftermath from the Texas tornado outbreak. We're going there live.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Rick Santorum is vowing to stay in the Republican presidential contest despite Mitt Romney's sweep of three primaries last night.

Let's go inside the battle to Republican presidential nomination with Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus.

Reince, thanks very much for coming in.

Let's get to Santorum. One of his close friends, the Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman, told "The Hill" newspaper while Santorum remains confident about winning Pennsylvania, if that confidence falters he might exit the race. In other words, if it looks like he's not going to win in Pennsylvania he might drop out before.

Here's the quote, "Santorum is a realist and he doesn't have his head in the clouds. As long as he sees a pathway to the nomination, he's going to stay in it, but he won't stay in it to prove a point."

If he does -- if it looks like he's not going to win Pennsylvania, the polls show he's not going win on April 24th, do you think he'll drop out?

REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well -- hi, Wolf, by the way. I don't know what he's going to do. I think that, number one, I think Governor Romney had a big night last night, so I think we can all agree on that. And I think, number two, Pennsylvania's going to be extremely important. I think these candidates, for whatever it's worth, have set up a narrative that if you can't win your home state that spells a pretty big problem.

So I think those are facts that we can all agree on. I'm neutral on this, but I do think the candidates, including Speaker Gingrich and others, have bought into this narrative that these guys have to win their home states. And so, I think there's some truth, I guess, in general to what's with being said, but I don't know first hand what these guys are going to do. My job is going to be obviously to rally around the nominee and defeat this president.

BLITZER: My own sense is that if he does win. Santorum does win Pennsylvania April 24th, take a look at what's happening in may. You've got Texas, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, North Carolina, West Virginia, those are all states where Santorum could do well, as you well know, in states like that.

How worried are you, as party chairman, that it could be brutal through May, that this fight could get really intense and ugly on setting the stage for a weakened eventual Republican nominee?

PRIEBUS: I'm not, Wolf. I'm not worried about it at all. I think that actually, we're getting a lot of benefits from this primary. We made over 1 million voter contacts in Wisconsin. We've got volunteers all over America, including 50,000 new volunteers in Hawaii that will be available to Linda Lingle out there, and an important U.S. Senate race.

So I don't -- I don't buy into that. I do, though, believe that momentum and delegates together matter a great deal. And the other piece of this, of course, is you need money, right? So you have to be able to show donors out there that you have a viable shot at getting to the requisite 1,144.

And so, all of these things converge. We're going to be patient here. We have been. We've been raising record amounts of money, so it's not like we're suffering here in the Republican Party. I'd say the opposite. We're being benefited from the excitement and I still think this thing is going to come to an end, Wolf, within the next month or two.

BLITZER: And you think Romney will be the nominee?

PRIEBUS: Well, we'll have to wait and see.

BLITZER: Without endorsing him, you can just give me your opinion.

PRIEBUS: Yes. I could do that, but right now I'm going to play the RNC chairman position to the book, and we're going to get behind a nominee no matter who wins and hold this president accountable to the promises that he made to the American people that he can't seem to keep.

BLITZER: Reince Priebus, thanks very much for coming in. Good luck.

PRIEBUS: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: The verbal battle between Romney and President Obama is heating up. Listen to this.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants us to reelect him so we can find out when he'll actually do. With all of the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide-and-seek campaign.


BLITZER: We're seeing Romney pivot away from his Republican rivals and toward the president in the general election. We'll have the latest details on these skirmishes.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama is ratcheting up his own re-election effort by going after Mitt Romney. But now after sweeping three more primaries last night, Romney is also pivoting. He's looking ahead to November and he's hitting hard. He's hitting right back at President Obama.

Let's turn to our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, it's all about the general election now from the Obama and Romney campaigns' perspectives. Is that right?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, sure, it seems that way. I was at Mitt Romney's speech this morning here in Washington, and gone was the fast-talking guy scrambling to appear conservative. This, Wolf, was written to sound to feel big like the speech of a party nominee. And Romney also lifted the veil a bit more to give us the outlines of his strategy against the president.


BASH (voice-over): "Politics ain't bean bag," the saying goes. Mitt Romney accused President Obama of playing a different children's game.

ROMNEY: He wants us to reelect him so we can find out what he'll actually do. With all of the challenges the nation faces, this is not the time for President Obama's hide-and-seek campaign.

Thanks for the victory in Wisconsin.

BASH: Buoyed by more primary wins that all but guarantee he'll be GOP nominee, Romney pivoted even more towards November, accusing the president of failing to improve the economy and overhaul entitlements.

ROMNEY: I'd be willing to consider the president's plan, but he doesn't have one.

BASH: He seized on that week and a half old presidential oops caught on tape telling Russia's leader he'd be more flexible after the election.

ROMNEY: That incident calls his candor into serious question.

BASH: If Romney's say anything to get elected out of touch anti-Obama theme sounds familiar, it should. It's precisely what opponents in both parties say about him.

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We have too many situations in Governor Romney's record where the Etch-a-Sketch has been pulled out.

BASH: A day earlier, the president addressed this same gathering of newspaper executives and launched his first direct hit on Romney, focusing on a house GOP budget which cuts taxes and revamps Medicare. It was blistering --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly-veiled social Darwinism.

BASH: And mocking.

OBAMA: He said that he's very supportive of this new budget. And he even called it marvelous -- which is a word you don't often hear when it comes to describing a budget.

BASH: Romney retaliated against what he called distortions and inaccuracies.

ROMNEY: The president came here yesterday and railed against arguments no one is making, and criticized policies no one is proposing. So one of his favorite strategies: setting up straw men to distract us from his record.

BASH: With all of this general election talk, it's easy to forget the Republican primary is technically still going. Romney was asked whether he thought about asking his GOP opponents to drop out.

ROMNEY: No, I haven't, but now that you bring it up --


BASH: But he did add, I hope that we're able to resolve our nomination process as soon as possible.


BASH: Romney's chief GOP rival Rick Santorum insists again today he has no plans to drop out and is focusing on a home state win in Pennsylvania. That's the next big Republican contest later this month.

And, Wolf, a Romney-backed super PAC already has television ads on the air there. Romney aides tell me that he does plan to invest time and resources in Pennsylvania to try to beat Santorum. In fact, Romney is on his way now to Philadelphia for a campaign event tonight. It's obviously not a bad investment since Pennsylvania is an electorally rich, very important state in the general election, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a good point. Whatever he spends in Pennsylvania may help him in November unless -- unless -- Dana, almost all of those ads turn out to be attack ads on Rick Santorum. If he gets rid of Santorum, that's not necessarily going to help him make his case why he's so much of a better candidate in November.

So, he has to walk that fine line.

BASH: My guess is we'll see more positive ads about Mitt Romney's record than we have in other states.

BLITZER: Yes. I think you're probably right because he's looking down the road to November and he wants to invest in it now because it can help him in November.

Thanks very much, Dana, for that.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now in our strategy session. Joining us: the CNN contributor, Democrat strategist Paul Begala, along with Republican strategist John Feehery. He's the president of Quinn Gillespie Communications.

Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

John, quickly to you, is it time for Santorum, for Ron Paul, for that matter, for Newt Gingrich to drop out?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I actually don't think so. I actually would prefer him to campaign throughout Pennsylvania for exactly the reasons that Dana pointed out. You know, this is a big state, is electorally rich state when it comes to the general election. I think it's a good time for Mitt Romney to start laying his reasons for going against Barack Obama.

And he doesn't necessarily have to run a campaign against Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, but he has to start making his case for the general election and Pennsylvania is as good a place as any to do it.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You wrote a column, Paul, on "The Daily Beast" web site, among other things, you wrote this. You said, no, Romney's problem isn't ideology, it's demography."

And all of the desperate, pathetic pandering to the right has solved the problem he never really had and created a problem, he may not be able to cure, women, Latinos, seniors. Go ahead and explain why you think what he is saying now potentially could hurt him in November.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first, thanks for reading the column and not as good as your blog on, Wolf, but I do my best. I think from the beginning, Mitt Romney has been obsessed with trying to win conservatives.

Well, guess what, he is going to win the nomination without winning conservatives. He still couldn't even get over 50 percent yesterday even in Maryland, one of the more moderate Republican states and it didn't matter.

He won almost every single delegate yesterday and so this pandering to the far right has not helped him at all for November because he's had to take extreme positions particularly in those three communities.

For women, he's come out against. He said I want to, quote, "end Planned Parenthood," get rid of Planned Parenthood and end federal support for contraception for women.

For Latinos, he said he would veto the Dream Act and he attacked even Rick Santorum for voting to confirm Justice Sotomayor to a lower level appeals court.

And for seniors now, he's embraced his bromance with Paul Ryan, the author of a budget, which the Center on Budget and Policy, a nonpartisan group said would be the gradual demise of traditional Medicare. So those three constituencies, I think he's done grievous damage with moving into the general election.

BLITZER: If he's going to lose big time among women, Latinos and seniors, and seniors vote much greater proportions than juniors shall we say, John, he's going to be in deep trouble in November.

FEEHERY: He's not going to lose seniors. I think he's going to do very well among seniors. You know, the president's Obamacare actually cut Medicare spending by $500 billion and senior citizens are polling off the charts for Republicans this time around.

He does have a problem with women voters and he does have a problem with Hispanic voters. He's going to fix that problem, but I do agree with Paul on one sense.

You know, this is one of the first Republican candidates who don't have to worry about the solid south. They're probably be going to be with him.

So he can campaign to the rest of the country especially in the northeast and the west coast, and I think that he is weakest where the Republicans are strongest and strongest where Republicans are weakest and that will help him very much so in the general election.

BLITZER: Listen to this attack on the president, Paul, that Romney said today at the meeting with the newspaper editors.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Seven months ago, I presented a detailed plan for jobs and economic growth. It included 59 different proposals that would help strengthen the economy.

Now I understand some people are amused that I have so many ideas, but I think the American people would prefer it to President Obama's grand total of zero.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right, go ahead, Paul. That's a point that I think we're going to be hearing a lot from Romney over the next several months.

BEGALA: Well, good luck with that. Seriously some free advice to Mitt Romney. You can attack the president's ideas and you can't pretend this president doesn't have ideas.

By the way, Mitt Romney doesn't have ideas as well and that's what the debate should be, right? Governor Romney, principal in his 59-point proposal is to cut taxes for rich guys like Mitt Romney and to gradually do away with med dare as we know it.

To cut student loans and to cut environmental protections and to give tax breaks to oil companies and rich people. That's the Romney plan. President Obama has a plan squarely based on the middle class. If you listened to that speech yesterday, you saw that directly.

The president believes the economy will grow if the middle class grows. Romney believes that -- he wants to double down or trickle down. So we give more money to rich guys like Romney and he'll trickle it down to the rest of us and that I don't think is where the country wants to go.

BLITZER: Let me play a few clips of what the president said yesterday before that same group of newspaper editors. John, listen to this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: We have been having the same argument with folks who keep peddling some version of trickledown economics. There is no way to get even close to $4.6 trillion in savings without dramatically reducing all kinds of tax breaks that go to middle class families.

This congressional Republican budget is something different altogether. It is a Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans and it is really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is a thinly veiled social Darwinism.


BLITZER: Thinly veiled social Darwinism, John. The Republicans may call him thinly veiled socialist, but he's coming back with that line.

FEEHERY: Yes, that's pretty rough rhetoric. I was pretty surprised he did that and for a budget that's really going to go nowhere. The Senate, as you know, has not passed a budget in three years and the Senate leader has no interest in ever passing a budget.

The fact of the matter is if you care about the deficit as most Americans should care about the deficit, the president has been AWOL on this. They been no leadership and he'd had no real plan to protect Medicare for the long term or protect Social Security for the long term.

To come up with some ideas to make sure it's there for senior citizens when I retire, which will probably be never. The fact of the matter is there is no leadership from the president on this and we need leadership and we need the president that will show leadership.

The deficits don't necessarily matter and elections, people don't care about them, but they ought to care because it is about the well-being for the country in the future.

BLITZER: John Feehery and Paul Begala, guys, thanks very much for coming into our "Strategy Session."

FEEHERY: Thank you.

BLITZER: The self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is charged by the United States military and could face the death penalty. New information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a rare bipartisan show of support as the president signs a law banning insider stock trading by members of Congress. Is this a start toward restoring some trust in government?


BLITZER: The U.S. military charges the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks. 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: Actually, a re-filing of charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks. The military initially charged Mohammed in 2008.

But President Obama stopped the case as part of his effort to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center. When that failed, the president tried to move the case to federal court in New York sparking a political firestorm. So now the case is back where it started, all five men face the death penalty if convicted.

The U.S. Army criminal investigators have wrapped up their first visit to the Afghan villages where 17 civilians were massacred allegedly by Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

The investigation had stayed away until now to avoid stoking anger in the area, but they're keeping tight-lipped about their probe declining to say what evidence was gathered and whether they will return. Bales is now being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

And job growth dipped slightly in March. The payroll processing company, ADP, says the private sector added 209,000 jobs last month. That is down from 230,000 in February.

That contributed to anxiety owe Wall Street where investors are increasingly nervous that the Federal Reserve won't renew its bond- buying program before it expires in June. The Dow, the Nasdaq and the S&P all lost ground today.

And the classic film "To Kill A Mocking Bird" is 50 years old this year. To mark the occasion, the USA Network will air a re- mastered and restored version of the racially charged drama with an introduction by President Obama.

Author, Harper Lee who won a Pulitzer Prize for the novel says she's deeply honored by the president's participation. Well, that is definitely a classic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly is a great movie, one of the great moves of all times. Getting back to that jobs report, that was a private sector --

SYLVESTER: Private sector.

BLITZER: The official number for March doesn't come in until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Friday morning. Then we'll know how many new jobs were created in March. This is just a guess.


BLITZER: A private sector guess. This isn't the official number.

SYLVESTER: Yes. As you well know, Wolf, those official numbers that comes out the first Friday of every month from the Department of Labor, the Bureau of Statistics.

So we will be waiting for those new members and that is the indicator that everyone, Wall Street, all of the investors are really hanging their hats on and waiting to see -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's the big number, not the one that came out today. I don't want our viewers not to be misled on a sensitive issue like jobs creation. It is after all, issue number one.

SYLVESTER: The economy.

BLITZER: -- in the race for the White House. Thanks very much, Lisa.

It's one of the few things Congress has been able to agree on recently and today President Obama signed it into law. What prompted this rare display of bipartisanship over at the White House?

And coming up in our next hour, airline passengers tossed around violently by turbulence. At least a dozen people are injured.


BLITZER: President Obama today signed legislation aimed at restoring Americans' faith in their public institutions. The new law bars insider stock trading by members of Congress and federal employees.

It was born in a spirit of bipartisanship, something rare in Washington lately. Let's go live to our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin once again. What's going on here, Jessica?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is indeed a rare sight these days, an unusual sight here at the White House, Democrats and Republicans coming together because they got something done.


YELLIN (voice-over): Four Democrats and four Republicans including Senator Scott Brown, a candidate, Democrats are targeting for defeat all flanked the president at this White House event.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The Stock Act makes it clear that if members of Congress use non-public information to gain an unfair advantage in the market then they're breaking the law.

YELLIN: The Stock Act was in response to the outcry over the "60 Minutes" piece on congressional insider trading. It bars members of Congress, the executive branch and federal workers from profiting off information they learn on job. If they trade more than $1,000, they have to post it online. Some ethics watchdogs say it doesn't go far enough.

JOHN WONDERLICH, POLICY DIRECTOR, SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION: There is a whole industry of people who are buying and selling congressional information and have specialized access that the rest of us don't have. And so that's a problem we'd like to see addressed if this bill doesn't address.

YELLIN: But today's bill signing addressed an entirely different issue, the optics of bipartisanship.

REPRESENTATIVE SEAN DUFFY (R), WISCONSIN: What was amazing is we had a bipartisan effort come together.

YELLIN: Republican Congressman Sean Duffy made the trip back from Wisconsin for this event. He says he'd like to see more.

DUFFY: If the president wants to see us working together, I think he has to take a lead to make sure that when we get something done with both Republicans and Democrats, he includes them in those signing ceremonies.

YELLIN: The point, when Congress passed the payroll tax cut extension with a bipartisan vote, the president signed that bill alone, same with the recent trade bills.

Both times denying Republicans a chance to show they're getting work done and the polls tell the story. Over the last year the Republican Party's unfavorables rose 10 points to 58 percent. So when they get a deal done, Republicans insist it's only right to get a victory lap like this.


YELLIN: Wolf, over the same period of time over the last year, approval and disapproval for the Democratic Party has held steady. And I have one follow-up on "60 Minutes" reporting about congressional insider trading.

They talked in that piece about Representative Spencer Bacchus, who is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Well, he acknowledged Friday that he is under investigation for possible violations of insider trading laws.

But insisted that he will be cleared and in a statement to CNN, he said, I welcome the opportunity to set the record straight. I respect the congressional ethics process and have fully abided by the rules -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And more bipartisan signing ceremonies tomorrow, what's going on, Jessica?

YELLIN: That's right. Tomorrow, you will see another one of these, bipartisan signing ceremony of the Jobs Act, and I'll save that one because I'll do a whole piece on that. It's a little more controversial.

It does intend to stimulate more small business jobs growth, but some people say it weakens some of the financial protections put in place after the financial collapse in 2008, Democrats and Republicans came together for that one, too -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We look forward to your piece tomorrow, Jessica. Thanks very much, for the do-nothing president and do-nothing Congress, they are finally doing something at least today and tomorrow. We'll see what happens down the road.

She's one of the most powerful women in the corporate world and her company, IBM is sponsoring America's most prestigious golf tournament, The Masters.

If she was a man she'd be offered membership in the Augusta National Golf Club, but the club doesn't allow women and the chairman sidestepped the issue today saying it's a private matter.

Erin Burnett is out front on this story. It's a major story going on. What are you learning?

ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": All right, well, she's a very interesting woman, first of all. She's only the 29th woman in American history to assume the CEO role at a Fortune 500 company and she did it the hard way. More than 30 years at IBM. She started as a systems engineer.

So back in the early '80s, you already have a lot of problems with women getting engineering degrees and back then it was even harder. Her predecessor, Sam Polmasano, made a very clear point when she was nominated for this job and got the job last fall, she got here because of zero social progressive policies.

No affirmative action, nothing like that, she did it by working hard. So she comes into this position. She's a private person. She doesn't like the public eye. She doesn't give interviews and all of a sudden she steps into this at Augusta National.

So it's going to be a big moment, but I have to say, Wolf, a lot of people say maybe she shouldn't have to deal with this. She didn't choose to be put in this position. IBM had the sponsorship.

She spoke at the Fortune Women's Summit last October, very eloquently about being a woman in business and what it means and the responsibility.

So she does care about this woman's issue and the record shows that. So it will be interesting to see what she will say and whether she'll step up on this.

BLITZER: It sounds like someone you should have on your show.

BURNETT: I have asked. Actually starting last fall, I was hoping she would come on when she got the job at IBM, but she's very shy and very quiet.

BLITZER: You'll have much more on this coming up.

BURNETT: Yes, we're going to have much more on it and there is a precedent even for IBM in terms of pulling sponsor ships from golf tournaments in the past because of black memberships at certain clubs. This could really be a big moment and sometimes history chooses you. You don't choose it.

BLITZER: Let's see what will happen on the golf course behind the scenes as well. Erin, thanks very much.

Sports officials are killed in a suicide explosion. We have shocking images from the moment the bomb went off. Stand by.

Jack Cafferty is asking why does President Obama continue to refuse to endorse the nation's immigration laws? Your e-mails and Jack coming up.


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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is why does President Obama continue to refuse to enforce the nation's immigration law, like the last four or five presidents before him?

Brett in Nevada writes, "President Obama's unashamedly pandering to Hispanics for their votes. This president will do anything to get re-elected including offering back door amnesty to those who have broken our laws. I wonder what's next for Obama? Nefarious deals with foreign leaders, i.e., Russia, rejection of the Keystone pipeline? Telling the Supreme Court how to judge?"

Curtis in Philadelphia writes, "I don't know, Jack, but I think the precedent was safe when Reagan, Bush 1 and Clinton, Bush 2 all enforced the immigration laws and how do you want to bet the next president either in '12 or in '16 won't enforce the laws either? The business of America's business and business needs cheap labor."

David in Washington writes, "Show me the money is the catch phrase of Washington politics. Properly taking on illegal immigration would make Obama care look like chump change. An incumbent president defined by Republicans as a spend thrift isn't about to hand them the election."

Ed in Texas, "Not sure I agree with you on this, Jack. According to a 2011 ABC News report, President Obama set a record for the number of deportations for the number of illegal immigrants, which has, quote, "drawn scorn from Hispanic-Americans," unquote.

Gary in Arizona says, "As a 35-year resident of Arizon, I would love to have the answer to that question myself. Our state implemented Senate Bill 1070 to address illegal immigration since the federal government isn't doing anything about enforcement and Obama is suing us for doing so. The guy sits in the oval office like some kind of king, but he hasn't a clue what's going on in the kingdom."

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

BLITZER: Good idea, Jack. Thanks very much.

Mile after mile of utter devastation. We're going to take you live to Texas in the aftermath of that huge tornado outbreak. You saw it unfold 24 hours ago right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also, cameras are rolling as a suicide bomber attacks a national celebration. We'll show you what happened.

Plus, turbulence so strong it injures at least a dozen passengers on one flight.


BLITZER: Top sports officials are killed in a suicide bombing. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What happened here, Lisa?

SYLVESTER: Well, Wolf, it happened in the capital city of Somalia. Listen to this.

This was a celebration of the first anniversary of Somali national television. Two top Somali sports officials taking part were killed. The country's Olympic committee chief and the head of the Somali Football Federation. Officials say a female suicide bomber carried out that attack.

And a construction accident resulted in a watery mess outside the White House today. A backhoe struck a water line creating a geyser that reached three stories high at one point before crews got it under control.

The work is part of a major project to upgrade underground utilities at the White House including water sewer and electrical line. But certainly it's not a sight you see everyday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is not. Thanks very much, Lisa.