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THE SITUATION ROOM
Failed Launch Raises Nuclear Fears; Why North Korea Rocket Launch Failed; Tornadoes in Oklahoma; Protests Test Fragile Syria Ceasefire; Reuters: Convicted Pan-Am Bomber Hospitalized; Interview with Rep. Keith Ellison; Mitt Romney's Tax Returns; Newark Mayor Rescues Woman; Trayvon Martin Murder Trial; Pressing Buttons
Aired April 13, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BLITZER: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, North Korea's embarrassing failure launch could unleash new danger in the region.
This hour, will a nuclear test or a military muscle flex be next?
Critics are comparing Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida to Senator Joe McCarthy, after he claimed that about 80 House Democrats are actual members of the Communist Party. I'll talk to one of Congressman West's targets, Congressman Keith Ellison, about this modern day red scare.
And the mayor of Newark, New Jersey rushing into a burning building while a security guard tried to hold him back. Cory Booker explains what he was thinking when he risked his life to save a neighbor.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The United Nations is calling North Korea's attempted rocket launch "deplorable and destabilizing," even though it broke apart and fell into the sea. And now, U.N. officials are warning the communist regime not to try to save face by ordering a provocative nuclear test.
CNN's Stan Grant is getting rare access inside North Korea -- Stan?
STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it started with a day of so much hope. This was the crowning achievement, the day they put a satellite into orbit. It all went terribly wrong. But that will not deter this nation. They're going to press ahead with more, instead, that we're turning failure into triumph.
GRANT (voice-over): From disaster to glory in a day. In North Korea, history is what you make it. As it always is here, this is about the power of images and the worship of their leaders. Two massive statues of the founder of the country, Kim Il-sung, and his son, Kim Jong-il. Watching over the third generation of this dynasty, the newly crowned supreme leader, Kim Jong Un.
(on camera): Well, after the abject failure of the rocket launch, this is how North Korea is responding, with this scene of triumph. These massive statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
When you are ruled by a personality cult, you can almost pretend the rocket launch never happened.
(voice-over): But this is how the day started. Here was North Korea's initial response to its rocket failure -- an empty chair. Behind it, a screen that was supposed to carry images of the launch. The world's media invited in for what Pyongyang hoped would be a propaganda coup. Instead, officials forced to sit in silence to a barrage of questions.
Suddenly, everyone was manning the phones -- a scramble to find out exactly what was going on.
(on camera): No warning at all. This really came very much as a flash to us.
(voice-over): Hours ticking by and not a word.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do we go?
Where are we going?
GRANT: And then a government minder announced we'd be taken to a high security, secret location.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
GRANT: This is what greeted us -- two huge figures draped in sheets, a sea of people stretched as far as they could see, generals in all their finery, chests full of medals. This gathering, supposed to be a celebration of the launch and a chance to pay homage to the dear leader, a man they still grieve for after his sudden death last December.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The greater leader (INAUDIBLE) to Kim Jong-il was the most respected leaders in the world to our people. But he passed away last year. So it was really, really careful to our people.
GRANT: This young man had heard about the rocket launch, but not that it had failed.
(on camera): How does that make you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A failure?
GRANT: A failure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A failure. I think it is not a problem, because the failure is the mother of success. I think we can -- we can achieve the success in the future. Definitely. I -- I -- I am sure. And I believe our scientists and our parties and our governments. I believe we will be very (INAUDIBLE).
GRANT (voice-over): The world may see this as a day of humiliation, but nothing will stop the celebration for the 100th anniversary of the birth of the father of this country, Kim Il-sung. These God-like figures reach for the skies the rocket failed to find.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
GRANT: And while North Korea is being criticized by the rest of the world, humiliated, even, in the eyes of the world, this is the centenary of the birth of the founding father, Kim Il-sung. The celebration is going to continue. They're used to being isolated from the rest of the world.
What is important to these people is self-reliance and power that underpins the legitimacy of this regime -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Stan Grant reporting for us from Pyongyang in North Korea.
The U.S. military, meanwhile, is on alert right now for signs that North Korea is moving forward with a potential nuclear test after that failed rocket launch.
Let's get to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.
She's watching what's going on.
There are new details -- what are you learning, Barbara, about the launch, why it failed, first of all?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, our sources are saying that this rocket actually flew for just about 81 seconds. Some precise detail here now emerging, that the first stage apparently did achieve some sort of separation, if you will, and it fell into the sea, breaking apart, perhaps, as it did. The second stage breaking into three pieces, we are told.
Why is this so significant?
It tells us the specificity with which the U.S. monitored this launch. They may only have 81 seconds of data, but basically, it's 81 seconds that tell them, they believe, an awful lot about what might have happened, or at least how the rocket flew.
And as you say, now, even though they consider this a rocket launch failure here at the Pentagon, watching North Korea around the clock to see what comes next -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What do they think?
Do they have any hard evidence that there could be a nuclear underground test? STARR: Well, they're watching that, because there are some initial indications of some digging of a tunnel at the site where the North Koreans had the previous underground test. And the concern is now that the regime, under this new leadership, is going to be so concerned about the failure of the rocket test, they're going to want to regroup and get moving on this nuclear test as fast as they can.
So they're going to be watching it here, to -- at that site -- to see if there's any new movement there and if preparations for possible nuclear tests accelerate, if they're speeded up.
One of the key indicators they're looking for now, the new leader, Kim Jong Un, who will he affiliate himself with?
Who talked him into letting the world's press in and letting this embarrassment happen?
And how will everyone in the North Korean leadership now regroup and try and see how they move ahead?
BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: I want to go right to CNN's Chad Myers at the CNN Extreme Weather Center -- Chad, tornados in Oklahoma.
What's going on?
CHAD MYERS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: We know that a tornado is on the ground currently in Norman, Oklahoma.
That's where the University of Oklahoma is located. This has now moved across the Canadian River and into Norman. This is the only picture that I have. And unfortunately, Wolf, the tornado, it's in here. It is now what's called wrapped in rain. There's rain all the way around this tornado.
But before the rain went all the way around the tornado, spotters did see -- and we saw here at CNN, the tornado on the ground. And then it was obscured by the rain so it's very (AUDIO GAP) toward the east, you need to be taking cover now. This storm is moving to the east, maybe northeast, at about 25 miles per hour. So rather slowly. But the storm is on the ground with power flashes here.
We have a couple of other pictures here from WDT. This is an office building in Oklahoma City proper, south of there, into Norman. Hard to see with some reflection going on here, but the tornado was headed right to that location.
To give you a quick look at the radar, it was the same storm that has moved up here over from Chickasha. And it's moved right up I-144, the Turner Turnpike. And then moving off -- now it has turned a little bit to the right. When storms turn to the right, that indicates that they do have a tornado with them, they are rotating enough that the actual -- it actually turns into a curve ball.
This storm did turn into a curve ball. Norman, Oklahoma and points to the east from here, you are under a tornado warning, with a confirmed tornado, at least about two minutes ago, on the ground -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Do they expect more of this severe weather?
It's going to get worse, isn't it?
MYERS: It -- it is. We've had some information from the severe Prediction Center out of that area. They said that even though the storm may be rotating in and out now, going up and down, that these storms will get severe as the afternoon and evening progresses. So we will definitely get more tornados on the ground. When you have one, even if it's a small tornado -- and it looked like a small tornado to me. But in a populated area, that can certainly do an awful lot of damage and hurt a lot of people. So you have to be very careful when you get storms like this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chad, like you, when I think of Norman, Oklahoma, I think of a major university there.
BLITZER: What do we know?
MYERS: That is absolutely where it is. It went across the Canadian River, across Highway 9. It was right along Lindsay for a while, which is a major east-west road right through Norman and just south of the city of downtown Norman. So this would have crossed right through the university.
Let's go back to this shot. I'll see if I can find it. Here we go again. Here's the KWTV shot. Still can't find the tornado. We should be able to see something in here, like this, on the ground. Can't see it because it is raining. Something you do not want to do is go out and look for this tornado. You will not see it until it's on top of you.
Stay inside. Get to the lowest level of your home or apartment. Knock on the neighbor downstairs and say, hey, I'm on the third floor, can I borrow your first floor apartment for a little while, because you need to be down. You need to be as low as you can be. The third floors are always torn up. The second floors are damaged. But the first floor will still be there. That's where you want to be in a tornado, on the lowest level, away from windows -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Not only, yes, as I say, not only in the lowest levels, away from windows, if there's a bathroom, you get into that bathtub...
MYERS: You've got it.
BLITZER: You close the doors. And that's, presumably, the safest place, right?
MYERS: That -- that's exactly right. And this has now been -- it's not myth. It's literally a legend of tornado safety. If you can get into a steel tub, lay down, cover yourself up, that tub actually almost acts like a -- like a child safety seat, keeping things from banging into you, because it's a solid steel structure. You're in the tub and you're protected from things flying around because of -- anything can -- walls can come in. Things can -- but if you're protected in that little structure, which is the tub, you will be protected much more than, let's say, just out sitting on the couch.
BLITZER: When we think about the -- the campus there in Norman, is this tornado heading toward that campus, Chad, or is already on the campus?
MYERS: It's already on the campus. It's already there. This was on the ground probably around eight minutes ago, just to the west of the Canadian River. It moved over the highway. It moved over the interstate and into Norman proper. And now, I -- I can't tell, Wolf, because I don't have a Doppler radar right here in front of me. But I don't know whether it's still on the ground or not.
And because the -- this KWTV is, all they're seeing is a wall of rain, we can't tell whether the tornado is there or not.
The tornado warning is still in effect. You need to definitely still be taking cover in Norman and points to the east, northeast of Norman, Oklahoma at this hour.
There will be more tornados on the ground tonight. We'll keep you advised.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Chad, for that.
Let's hope those students, faculty, administrators at the University of Oklahoma in Norman are OK.
BLITZER: We'll check back with you. I know you're getting more information.
Chad, thank you.
Other news we're following, including Cuba's Raul Castro. He's not welcome among his fellow Latin American leaders right now. Why -- we're taking a closer look at why he was snubbed, how it could help President Obama during this political election year.
And Republican Congressman Allen West of Florida is accusing dozens of House Democrats of being members of the Communist Party. One of those Democrats, Keith Ellison, he's standing by to join us. He's getting ready to fire right back.
And the mayor who saved a neighbor from a burning building says he's no hero.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY NEWS 12, NEW JERSEY) MAYOR COREY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: I did not feel bravery, I felt terror. I was -- it was a very scary moment, because I couldn't find her. It looked like I couldn't get back through where I came from and I couldn't breathe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Obama is on his way to Colombia right now for a summit with Latin-American leaders. Some touchy subjects certainly around the agenda, but the president has been spared from potential embarrassment, a close encounter with a rather unfriendly neighbor. Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is on the scene for us in Cartagena.
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Long before Latin-American leaders jetted into Cartagena, a beautiful resort city on Colombia's northern coast, controversy was already brewing over the one person who wasn't invited, and in fact, was asked to stay home, Cuba's president, Raul Castro.
TED PICCONE, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: This is a point of contention because there's a lot of disagreement about the U.S. policy toward Cuba. Cuba does not have a democratically elected government, and therefore, does not meet the criteria.
LOTHIAN: Even so, behind the scenes, there was intense diplomacy as Ecuadors let this president, Rafael Correa, stoke the fires to get Castro included in the summit of the Americas, but that would have certainly caused problems for President Obama, especially in an election year. Imagine a handshake caught on camera.
Aware of the potential fallout, Colombia's foreign minister was dispatched to Cuba, followed by Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, to persuade Castro to stay put. End of story, right? Not exactly. Ecuador's president tried to get others to join a boycott, found no takers, so he pulled out of the Summit by himself.
Brookings Institution's Latin America expert, Ted Piccone, says some leaders in the region are frustrated with what they view as a leftover cold war attitude in the U.S. toward Cuba, and they want changes.
PICCONE: My concern is that if it's fixed at the cost of the banning of democratic rules of the group, then that would be too high a price to pay.
LOTHIAN: But Castro's inclusion isn't the only issue. The high price being paid in the drug war across Latin-America is fuelling another debate.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Beyond our borders, these cartels and traffickers pose an extraordinary threat to our central American neighbors. LOTHIAN: And some of those neighbors who think the war on drugs is failing are suggesting decriminalization as a possible solution. But on a recent trip to Mexico, a country that has been ravaged by drug- related violence, Vice President Joe Biden rejected that idea saying there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.
National Security Counsel spokesman, Tommy Vietor, told CNN it's likely the issue will come out, and we welcome the discussion, however, our policy is different.
LOTHIAN (on-camera): White House aides point out that there is no consensus on this issue, and that there is no magic bullet. As for Cuba, President Obama will continue to insist that government needs to make progress on Democracy and needs to improve its human rights record.
Now, a short time ago, I did have a chance to interview the president of Colombia, President Santos. I asked him if he thought it was time to embrace Cuba into the summit of the Americas. Here's how he answered that question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. JUAN MANUEL SANTOS, COLOMBIA: I think so. I think that by embracing Cuba when would be in a better position to press for reforms and more Democracy and more freedom in Cuba.
LOTHIAN: Will you press President Obama on that issue?
SANTOS: Well, I know that he's in a difficult position at this time. He has elections, and there's a tremendous importance on this issue. It's a very sensitive issue in states like Florida. I understand his reluctance to discuss this at this moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LOTHIAN: Again, the position of the Obama administration, no changes in that policy until Cuba makes changes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pretty blunt comments from the president of Colombia there with you. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian. We'll be checking back with you during the summit of the Americas.
Meanwhile, big news here for the celebrity power couple known as Brangelina. Just ahead, the surprised announcement that's now the talk of Hollywood.
And we'll also have the latest on the crash involving a motorcycle in President Obama's motorcade in Florida earlier in the day. We're going to tell you what happened. Stay with us. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Mass protests testing right now the fragile ceasefire just implemented in Syria. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's the latest, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, opposition activists, apparently, are trying to see whether the embattled Syrian regime sticks to a provision in the peace plan, allowing peaceful demonstrations. Despite the rallies, at least seven people were reportedly killed in a new round of shelling just today.
The U.N. Security Council could vote on a draft resolution allowing up to 30 international observers on impeded access inside the besiege country.
And the man charged in the Pan-Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland has been hospitalized in deteriorating health according to Reuters. Abdelbasset al-Megrahi who is said to be suffering from terminal prostate cancer has been living in Libya since his controversial 2009 release by Britain on the assumption that he had just months to live.
CNNs Nic Robertson visited al-Megrahi's home exclusively back in August and was told by his family then that he was near death.
President Obama's motorcade suffered a brief mishap during his Tampa, Florida visit today when local officers assisting the secret service hit a large speed bump, causing one to be thrown from his motorcycle. The deputy has road rash and a possible dislocated shoulder, but he is expected to make a full recovery. The motorcade continued on to its destination without stopping or that accident.
And this is the story everyone's talking about. It is official. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie better known as Brangelina, they are finally tying the knot. The Hollywood powerful couple has been together since 2005. They have six children together, three biological, three adopted. A Pitt rep tells CNN the kids, they are very excited, and Brad Pitt actually designed the ring, himself.
No word yet, though, on a wedding day. Everybody was going to want to know what's the dress. What's the dress going to look like? What's the ring? Everybody wants to have all these questions answered, wolf.
BLITZER: Important questions. Congratulations to the couple, though. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
It's certainly an outrageous comment even for a congressman known to say some rather outrageous things. We're going to talk about Republican congressman, Allen West's, claim that dozens of members of the House of Representatives are members of the communist party.
And could George Zimmerman be released from jail next week on bail? We're taking a closer look at what's ahead in the Trayvon Martin shooting case.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Right now, political flame throwing in Congress is being likened to the late senator, Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin, who led a Communist witch hunt back in the 1950s. Republican congressman, Allen West of Florida, offering a very McCarthy-like view of some Democrats this week. Listen to how he answered a question at a town hall meeting in Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What percentage of the American legislature do you think are card carrying Marxists or international (INAUDIBLE)
REP. ALLEN WEST, (R) FLORIDA: I believe there's about 78 to 81 members of Democratic Party that are members of the Communist Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, let's talk about one of those so-called members of the Communist Party. Congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota is joining us right now.
You're a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus as it's called. How many members, by the way, in that caucus are there?
REP. KEITH ELLISON, D-MINNESOTA: We have about 72 members and I'm the co-chair along with Raul Grijalva, and very proud to be that.
BLITZER: Well you know Allen West suggests that the members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus like you are really members of the Communist Party and I want to give you a chance to respond to Congressman West.
ELLISON: Well, this is a lie. It's not true and most importantly it's a massive distraction from the real issues and that's really why the gentleman from Florida makes these kinds of allegations because he doesn't want to talk about the fact that he stood against Medicare, Social Security, things the Progressive Caucus stands for. The Progressive Caucus -- when our budget that we just had pulled together, we brought (ph) in low jobs, which is what America really needs, where he just wants to cut taxes to cut the highest earning corporations and high income individuals, so we do have a very different way of looking at the world. But when we put money into jobs, education, dealing with foreclosure, he believes these thins are communistic, which is an absurdity because most Americans feel that this is exactly what we should be doing, protecting Social Security, getting jobs back going. These are things that he stands opposed to.
BLITZER: Now we checked with Congressman West to see if he was backing away, revising, altering in any way his comments that he said. He's not doing that. We invited him by the way to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He declined our invitation. We'd welcome him if he wants to come in and join us next week, but he is doubling down on these comments and issuing a fund raising appeal based on them.
And I'll read you a line or two from what he's saying to his supporters. He's saying "The Progressive Caucus advocates for state control over industries, redistribution of wealth, reduced individual economic freedom and the destruction of free markets. Members of this Caucus lavished praise on Fidel Castro following a 2009 visit to Cuba. They have introduced a constitutional amendment to redistribute wealth." All right, you want to go through those points, those statements point by point. Congressman, you're smiling, but he's very serious about this.
ELLISON: Well he's very serious about trying to guilt people of their money based on lies. He might -- he's very serious about trying to take advantage of the naive, but the truth is the Progressive Caucus, like I said, what we stand for is posted in our budget, which is on my Web site, KeithEllison.org. You can go there and see it for yourself. We stand for (INAUDIBLE) jobs in the budget, spending money on education workforce development. We stand in favor of civil and human rights for all. Yes, we believe you ought to be serving in the military without regard to your sexual preference. That's our -- we believe that. We believe in civil rights for everybody. We believe in the American dream that all people ought to be able to work hard and do well in this country.
BLITZER: Well let go through these points --
ELLISON: We support small business.
BLITZER: Let me go through these points --
BLITZER: You give me a yes or no quickly and tell me if you --
ELLISON: You got it.
BLITZER: Do you advocate state control over industries?
BLITZER: Do you advocate redistribution of wealth?
ELLISON: Well, we advocate fair taxation.
BLITZER: So that would be a yes on that one. Do you advocate reduced individual economic freedom?
BLITZER: Do you advocate the destruction of free markets?
ELLISON: Absolutely no.
BLITZER: And I sort of feel like the late Senator Joe McCarthy (ph) if I were to ask you paraphrase --
ELLISON: Are you now or have you ever been --
BLITZER: -- have you now or ever been a member of the Communist Party, Keith Ellison? ELLISON: Absolutely not.
BLITZER: You know of any member --
ELLISON: This is absurd, ridiculous --
BLITZER: Do you know of any member --
BLITZER: -- of the Congressional Progressive Caucus that's been a member, a card carrying member of the Communist Party?
ELLISON: No, sir.
BLITZER: The only thing I saw in his statement that does have an element of fact and some of it does have an element of fact that some members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus did go to Cuba and did praise Fidel Castro. Were you on that delegation?
ELLISON: No, I wasn't and to tell you the truth, Wolf, I wasn't even aware of that, so it certainly wasn't a caucus event, but you know what? I mean -- I mean that's a big so what. I mean this is an issue that Americans are disputing and debating all over this country about what the proper role and relationship the United States should have with Cuba. You don't have to -- you shouldn't be subject to divisive name calling because you have an opinion on that, a difference from Allen West, but you know it wasn't a caucus effort and if some members went that's fine. I'm sure some members have gone to Cuba who are not members of the Progressive Caucus, some of whom might be Republicans. Is he calling them Cubans -- I mean call them Communists as well?
BLITZER: Yes -- no, and by the way, I should point out, when I was asking those questions, I was being a bit sarcastic.
BLITZER: I don't believe you or any members are members of the Congressional Black Caucus --
ELLISON: I know.
BLITZER: -- are members of the Communist, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I should say, are members of the Communist Party obviously.
BLITZER: I don't know really know what Congressman West is up to. He does have a distinguished military career and he's got a lot going for him and you know even like Sarah Palin says he should be at the top of the list of Mitt Romney's potential vice presidential running mate. Nike Haley (ph), the governor of South Carolina, has suggested something similar, so he's not just someone way out there. He's -- well as you well know, he's very popular among --
ELLISON: He is way out there --
BLITZER: He's very popular among the Tea Party activists out there and personally that's why I was so surprised that he would say flatly that there are 78 to 81 members of the House of Representatives who are members of the Communist Party. That's the only point I was saying. He's got some other ideas that are acceptable, but certainly not this.
ELLISON: Well, Wolf, I would urge you to research deeper. I mean this gentleman is far outside the main stream of American political thought. I mean he has taken a number of extreme positions. He -- for example, he attacked Debbie Wassermann Schultz because she called on him to support Medicare and Medicaid and he said she was not a lady because of it. I mean he is outside the mainstream and I hope the people in his district are paying close attention. And the fact is the Progressive Caucus we're for the "Buffett Rule". We are for investing in America, infrastructure (INAUDIBLE), things that really will help this country and I hope people check out what he is saying because he will be revealed to be the one on the extreme end and we in the Progressive Caucus will be shown to be offering what the American people really want.
BLITZER: And as I say, we invited Congress West to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He declined, but he has an invitation to join us whenever he wants. Congressman Keith Ellison thanks very much for coming in.
ELLISON: Thanks Wolf --
BLITZER: New information just coming into CNN about Mitt Romney's tax returns. We're going to have details what his campaign has just released.
Also, Newark's mayor morphs into a superhero. He's risking his life to save a neighbor from a terrifying blaze.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As the last one was coming out I was going up the stairs and she's screaming that her daughter is still in the building.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get to the presidential race. This just coming in from the Romney campaign, new information about Mitt Romney's tax returns. Our senior correspondent Joe Johns has been looking into it. I have as well. What do you see here?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well it's pretty simple the basis of it. A lot of people have to file extensions every year simply because they haven't been able to finish their taxes from one thing or another --
BLITZER: But he can't meet the April 15th -- JOHNS: Right.
BLITZER: -- or in this particular case a little bit later deadline.
BLITZER: Because he's got information coming in, so he files an extension.
JOHNS: Right. Yes and perhaps also it has something to do with the presidential campaign, too. He's been very, very busy, hasn't been able to pay full time and attention. We'll find out all of those facts. But what we do know here is that he's basically estimating his total tax liability for tax year 2011 at $3,226,623. So that is what we know and obviously, Mitt Romney's tax returns are extremely complicated. I just went through them this week and it's literally 200 pages long for 2010. It's a huge document. Yes, right --
BLITZER: Most of the investments and capital gains --
BLITZER: -- interest and he pays his quarterly estimated income tax and they did file this quarter $887,000, if you multiply that by four that's why he says the 2001 payments will be 3.4 million. Now assuming as in previous years that's about 15 percent of his gross income --
BLITZER: -- which is basically 14, 15 percent. That once again, brings him up to, what, 20 million annual income --
BLITZER: -- something along those lines, which is what he's been making in recent years from his investments. He doesn't get a salary or anything like that.
JOHNS: Right, right, so and obviously, the question is how does this change from year to year and how different is it from past years. That is something we don't know until he actually files a full return --
JOHNS: So a lot of Americans going through this even Mitt Romney the presumptive nominee.
BLITZER: Yes and we know that he was speaking today, delivering a speech, a major speech. I watched it before the NRA -- you were covering that as well.
JOHNS: Absolutely, so let's just take a look at the piece, a very interesting speech, a lot of really red meat, if you will, from Mitt Romney to the National Rifle Association. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
JOHNS (voice-over): As far as the Romney campaign is concerned, this speech to the National Rifle Association in St. Louis marks the unofficial launch of his push to the general election and what better place to start than by cleaning up the questions about Romney's commitment to gun rights. He says there's a clear choice between himself and the president.
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If we're going to safeguard our Second Amendment it's time to elect a president who will defend the rights President Obama ignores or minimizes.
JOHNS: Actually, of course this is mostly about opposition to gun control. The NRA sees President Obama, the Supreme Court justices he's named and his attorney general, Eric Holder as poised to scale back gun rights. Romney said Holder has to go.
ROMNEY: I applaud the NRA leadership for being among the first and most vocal in calling upon Attorney General Holder to resign or get fired.
JOHNS: It's all red meat to the NRA.
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We know if President Obama gets a second term, America as we know it will be on its way to being lost forever. This is an all-in election for all of our freedoms, all of our values, and all of means every single one of us, all in to defend freedom.
JOHNS: The administration denies it's trying to roll back gun rights, but for the record, and this is the curious part, Mitt Romney hasn't always been all in for the NRA himself. In a debate with the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy, Romney supported gun control.
ROMNEY: In my view, people who use guns in the condition of crimes should have tough, mandatory sentences for them.
JOHNS: And as Massachusetts governor, he also signed an assault weapons ban. Since then though he's pretty much moved consistently towards rights of gun owners, which might create a little awkwardness for the NRA, except for the fact Romney is just about their only choice now. Former Congressman Bob Barr, a member of the NRA Board says there's nothing wrong with Romney coming around to the NRA way of thinking.
BOB BARR (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: I think that he has had an epiphany, shall we say, during this primary process. I think that's been one of the benefits that having to fight the primary battles that he has and continues to have to do to have to justify and explain his position on the Second Amendment and on firearms issues, has caused him to rethink perhaps some of his positions that he took as governor.
(END VIDEOTAPE) JOHNS: While NRA Republicans like Bob Barr are willing to give Romney a break on his past positions that wasn't the case with some Democrats who flatly accused him of flip-flopping on gun rights. All of this of course will play into whether Romney assuming he's the nominee will be able to tap into the support of millions of NRA members this fall and other like minded owners of firearms who haven't actually signed up with the group -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Lots going on as usual, thanks very much, Joe Johns reporting for us.
The very popular mayor of Newark, New Jersey certainly knows he's lucky to be alive right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel a sense of gratitude today to God that I'm here and still feeling kind of like I had my proverbial come to Jesus moment in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Stand by to hear more from the mayor, Cory Booker, about his death defying race into a burning building.
BLITZER: The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, risked his life to save a neighbor from a burning building. Mary Snow is just back from Newark, New Jersey. Mary, tell our viewers what happened.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, Mayor Cory Booker is brushing off any talk about being a hero, but his story is getting a lot of attention after some frightening moments that he's now calling his come to Jesus moment.
SNOW (voice-over): Newark Mayor Cory Booker had just arrived home Thursday night when he saw his next-door neighbor's house in flames. His security detail arriving before him had already gone in and rescued three people.
MAYOR CORY BOOKER, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY: As the last one was coming out I was going up the stairs and she's screaming that her daughter is still in the building and so at that point me and another detective ascended the stairs. Something exploded and he did the right thing. He said I've got to get you out of here.
SNOW: That detective is Alex Rodriguez (ph). He is 5'8" tall, several inches shorter than Booker and he says roughly 100 pounds lighter.
(on camera): So you grabbed him by his belt?
DET. ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY POLICE: By his belt and I would yank him back every time he tried to move forward and we got into a little exchange of words.
BOOKER: I was very angry because you know there is no way I am going to leave the house when a person is screaming for help. I mean that's just ridiculous. But his job, he is trained to get me out of harm's way no matter what.
SNOW (voice-over): Booker pushed past the detective into the burning kitchen, but through the flames he couldn't locate 47-year-old Zena Hodge (ph). She finally yelled out from a side room.
(on camera): Did you think you were going to make it out?
BOOKER: There really was a moment there and that's why I feel (INAUDIBLE). I want to hug everybody today, because I didn't -- when I couldn't find her and I couldn't breathe and I didn't think -- and I saw the fire just having engulfed the kitchen, I thought that was it and I sort of had my proverbial, come to Jesus moment because at that point I'm praying, thinking, hoping and it was almost when I heard her voice start speaking to me, it enabled me to find her -- I just didn't think. I grabbed her and ran.
SNOW (voice-over): Booker says embers fell on them as they made their way out of the burning house with both of them collapsing on the sidewalk. Hodge (ph) remains hospitalized while Booker escaped with minor injuries.
(on camera): What did she say to you?
BOOKER: She was just very disoriented so I'm not sure why, but they got her into an ambulance. Her mother gave me a hug I will never forget for getting her out. So you know it just -- at that point, I felt this sense of gratitude. I mean to go moments from thinking you are dead to kissing the Newark pavement it was honestly I felt like I was delivered from the fires of hell. I mean and that's why I am saying -- people are saying oh you are so courageous. The reality is I didn't feel any courage. I felt fear and I have never been so almost convinced that this was it. It was time to hope that I was going up and not down.
SNOW: And the woman who was saved remains in serious condition. Booker and three detectives were treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation last night where Booker sent out a tweet about his condition. Today, he is getting some funny tweets back. One, for instance, reads, "in the state of New Jersey, dialing 911 will connect you directly to Cory Booker's cell phone." He is trending right now, Wolf, and a lot of people are weighing in on this.
BLITZER: Very impressed, he is a hero in my book. And I want to thank him on behalf of all of our viewers for what he did, Mary. Thanks very much.
A potential bombshell in the Trayvon Martin murder case, the judge now saying she is considering disqualifying herself from the trial. David Mattingly is standing by at the scene for us. What happened here, David?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this case is barely getting started and already we may be seeing a change in the cast of characters, Circuit Judge Jessica Recksiedler (ph) turns out that she was given this trial just by luck of the draw here in Seminole County, but it turns out she is married to an attorney who works for the law firm of Mark Nejame. You know Mark Nejame is contributing to CNN in our coverage of this trial. He was also a criminal defense attorney who was approached by the George Zimmerman family when they were seeking representation for Zimmerman.
Because of that tenuous connection, it's possible she may be asked to step down by one of the sides here and she says that she wants that formal request made so she can make a decision on this before next Friday because that's the next big day on the judicial calendar for George Zimmerman. That's his bond hearing. That's the day he could eventually or possible get out of jail here. And it's going to be up to the prosecution. It is their burden to argue to the judge, whoever that might be at the time that he needs to stay in jail while this works its way through the court. But it should be interesting, as we might hear some evidence that we have not heard yet before, so everyone looking forward to Friday wondering who is going to be on the bench that day when Zimmerman asks for bond -- Wolf.
BLITZER: One week from today, we will see what happens. David will be on the scene for us I'm sure as well. Thank you.
It is a button unlike any other. You won't believe what happens when you push it. Stand by.
BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hotshots". In Germany, an artist smashes champagne at the unveiling of his sculpture. In India a parade of martial arts skills are shown in celebration of spring. In London a crane moves a statue of the Mongol (ph) leader Gangues Kahn (ph) and in Australia, a two-week-old antelope stays close to his mom -- look at that -- "Hotshots" coming in from around the world.
It is a button unlike any other, and if you push it, you could be in for a surprise. CNN's Jeanne Moos has more.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Whether it is the self- destruct button or the abort button, there is something irresistible about pressing buttons, especially if you are not sure what they do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Remember the little red button.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push the little red button.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you may want to put on a seat belt.
MOOS: But those are movies. What happens in real life when residents of a quiet town in Belgium are offered a button to push?
MOOS: It only took a couple of minutes for someone to push it.
MOOS: Now, most of these folks are stunt people, except for the onlookers and those pushing the button.
MARC WELLENS, PARTNER, DUVAL GUILLAUMA: People are too flabbergasted to really to react or to run away or to intervene.
MOOS: What it is --
MOOS: -- is a viral ad. CNN's sister network, TNT, which is being introduced in Belgium.
MOOS: Speaking of shootings, how many times did they shoot this? Is it one continuous performance?
WELLENS: We did it like 11 times. So there are actually 11 people pushing the button and from the best reaction, of course, we made the compilation.
MOOS: The ad agency Duval Guillaune (ph) got permission from the town to set up its hidden cameras. When a real person pushed the button the director yelled action.
(on camera): These days, buttons are a staple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was easy.
MOOS (voice-over): Easy enough for a dog --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
MOOS: -- to learn to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
MOOS: Even the secretary of state gave a reset button to Russia's foreign minister to signify resetting U.S./Russian relations.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We will do it together. OK --
MOOS: Maybe you would like a button for more drama in your town.
MOOS: Don't get carried away. The closest you are probably going to get to a button that produces excitement is watching a quiz show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something a burglar would not want to see when he breaks into a house?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rod.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naked grandma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Naked -- huh --
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to see that either.
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.