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THE SITUATION ROOM
Vice President Biden on the Attack; New Developments in Secret Service Scandal; "You Do Not Speak for Us"; Campaigns Battles over Backbone; Campaigns Clash Over Foreign Policy; Man in Afghan Uniform Kills American; Newspaper Offices Attacked in Nigeria; Medal of Freedom Recipients Announced; Top General, Netanyahu Clash over Iran; No Refund for Dying Man
Aired April 26, 2012 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: troubling new allegations of more misconduct by U.S. Secret Service agents, including heavy drinking, a strip club, and escorts.
We will get details from the reporter who broke the story.
Also, Vice President Joe Biden on the attack against Mitt Romney and playing the Osama bin Laden card as the campaigns fight over who has the stronger backbone.
And House Speaker John Boehner slamming President Obama's recent trips. In his words, they're pathetic. And now Republicans are demanding an investigation into what they say are campaign appearances on the taxpayers' dime.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Secret Service prostitution scandal that exploded in Colombia may be just the tip of the iceberg. Allegations have now surfaced of similar misconduct involving heavy drinking, a strip club, escorts on a previous presidential trip, this one to El Salvador.
Reporter Chris Halsne of CNN affiliate KIRO in Seattle, he broke the story and he is joining us now with details.
Chris, what happened in El Salvador just prior to President Obama's trip there in March of last year?
CHRIS HALSNE, KIRO REPORTER: We just flew to El Salvador this last weekend to try to verify some of the information that we actually received some time ago.
We talked to a government subcontractor who worked directly with President Obama's advanced security team within the Secret Service and with Some military attaches, some experts, some canine, bomb-sniffing, snipers, to work security on President Obama's route when he was in San Salvador.
And this particular subcontractor tells us that he went with what they call a van load of Secret Service agents to a local strip club. And there he says he witnessed heavy drinking most of the night. He witnessed some of the Secret Service agents going into the VIP area to get sexual favors for cash, and ultimately he said they were working really hard to try to get the strippers back to their hotel rooms, and that in at least two circumstances, he witnessed that despite him telling them that it was a terrible idea, that that occurred.
BLITZER: The owner of the club told you it's not the first time that high-ranking American officials have visited his club, is that right?
HALSNE: You know, the owner of this club was a character right out of a movie, long hair, cigar smoking and he's an American businessman.
I won't say I was welcome into the club in the beginning when we went there to talk to his staff, but ultimately I was invited up to his office. And though he wouldn't go on camera, he talked to me and my staff at length about how he caters to American politicians and government employees. He says, in fact, one of his greatest worries was that our investigative reporting into Secret Service agents may actually harm his business because he gets so many staff members, employees and visitors from the U.S. Embassy.
He was actually very proud of that fact that Americans could come to his place and feel secure, and feel that they had some kind of privacy. He thought that was his reputation, really his bread and butter, but now he's concerned that the Secret Service operation may close that all down.
BLITZER: And you also viewed records which seemed to have added some credibility to what the subcontractor's eyewitness testimony suggested, is that right?
HALSNE: One of the things that we need to do since this subcontractor is not going to allow us to reveal his identity is not only do we back him up with employees, including the owner of the club, his story, but we also asked him to share with us some kind of proof that he had access to the Secret Service and that he worked with them.
He has billing records, some receipts. And we certainly checked out his credentials enough to know that he was in a position to both see how the Secret Service operated in San Salvador just prior to President Obama's visit, and he had clearly the opportunity to be with the larger group of Secret Service agents at this strip club.
BLITZER: Chris Halsne of our affiliate KIRO, thank you very much for that reporting. I appreciate it. We will keep in close touch with you.
HALSNE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: The Secret Service, by the way, is responding to Chris' report on KIRO. A statement from spokesman from Edwin Donovan says, and I will read it to our viewers -- "The recent investigation in Cartagena has generated several news story that contain allegations by mostly unnamed sources. Any information brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner" -- that statement from the Secret Service.
Other news we're following, President Obama himself is at the center of another controversy, this one over his travel. Republicans are blasting some of his recent trips which they say were more political than official and are demanding a full-scale investigation.
Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is working the story for us. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Brianna, what are you hearing?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Republican National Committee is calling this a misuse of taxpayer money.
They're saying in a letter to the Government Accountability Office that they want an investigation. They say: "President Obama has been passing off campaign travel as official events, thereby allowing taxpayers rather than his campaign to pay for his reelection efforts."
This week, Wolf, you will recall he went to North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, all battleground states. He was holding events to pressure Congress not to increase student loan interest rates. And the events did have all of the appearances of campaign events, especially since the target audience here was college students and President Obama is trying to shore up the youth vote.
But the White House says this was an official event and this was the president being a president and not a candidate, and he was following campaign rules.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Democrats and Republicans fully expected this would be taken care of.
And for the president to make a campaign issue out of this and then to travel to three battleground states and go to three large college campuses on taxpayers' money to try to make this a political issue is pathetic.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It is also, to me, ironic that the arguments about this come from people who know that we assiduously follow all of the rules in terms of the delineations between campaign travel and official travel, just as our predecessor did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KEILAR: So to be clear, that was Jay Carney, White House press secretary's response to these allegations from the Republican National Committee.
They say that the president is acting in his official capacity. We will deal with the John Boehner comments in just a moment, but basically the White House here, Wolf, saying that this is exactly what other candidates have done before him. And it is true to a certain degree.
I'm sure that you have heard eight years ago Democrats raising the same concerns about President Bush because there is the incumbent, this benefit they have from being able to have taxpayer-funded travel for certainly events where they're targeting some important constituencies.
BLITZER: Like you, I spent seven years covering the Bill Clinton White House, and I hear these allegations all of the time. It comes with incumbency. When you're an incumbent, you get to travel on Air Force One no matter where you're going, whether for official business or campaign purposes.
And there's a formula that's been in business basically since the Jimmy Carter administration, was revised a little bit in 2010, on how much taxpayers should be repaid for that. That's what Clinton did, both Bushes did. It's been going on for a long time.
KEILAR: That's right. It used to be that once the campaign officially kicks off, right, and the Obama campaign said that will be May 5, rules change a little bit in terms of the taxpayers being reimbursed.
And the changes that you referred to in 2010 will have to do with the fact that there's a little more equality when it comes to what President Obama's campaign will be paying compared to Mitt Romney's campaign. Before it used to be that the campaign would have to pay for the equivalent of like a first-class ticket or a commercial ticket. Now it's their chunk of what a charter aircraft would cost, which is more expensive.
BLITZER: Right, much more expensive, but still a bargain compared to what it really costs Air Force One to fly, but this debate will obviously continue for some time.
Brianna, thanks very much. Good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KEILAR: Yes, good to be here.
BLITZER: All right, good.
Syrian opposition groups say the presence of United Nations monitors has not stopped the bloodshed in that country by any means. They report more than 460 people killed since the United Nations mission started last week, including almost three dozen children. And they say Syrian forces are moving in as soon as monitors leave and targeting residents. They have spoken to them.
Opposition leaders are also calling for an emergency Security Council meeting on protecting civilians in the wake of this recent attack that Hama that triggered the collapse of an entire row of buildings killing more than 70 people.
The Syrian government says the blast was triggered by terrorists building a bomb and it puts the death toll at 16. Clearly, that entire United Nations mission has so far failed completely in Syria. We will stay on top of this story for our viewers.
The budget plan by House Republicans is under attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A program that guts programs for the poor, cuts programs for health care, cuts programs that train people so that they can get jobs, this is the kind of thing we're very concerned about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now the lawmaker who wrote that budget plan, we're talking about Congressman Paul Ryan, tries to defend it to some angry fellow Catholics. He spoke at Georgetown University here in Washington today.
Also, tough talk out there on the campaign trail. Vice President Joe Biden plays the bin Laden card for President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This guy's got a backbone like a ramrod, I know, for real. For real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Well, nothing changes, they say, nothing new under the sun.
All of a sudden, the Supreme Court is looming large in yet another presidential election. Back in the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the high court ruled the recounting of votes in Florida, remember those hanging chads, Must stop. Well, Al Gore got about 500,000 more popular votes than Bush, but the Supreme Court gave Bush the edge in Florida and he went on to win the election.
That decision effectively handed the presidency of the United States to George W. Bush. Flash ahead to 2012. Twice within the last four weeks, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases, health care and immigration, that could have huge implications for the outcome of another presidential election.
Start with Obamacare. Court watchers say the justices seem to be leaning toward rolling back part or maybe all of President Obama's hallmark legislation of his first term. The individual mandate appears to be in serious jeopardy and with it the whole law could go down.
Then, almost without missing a beat, the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments on Arizona's tough new immigration law. It's no secret the federal government under Presidents Obama, Bush -- go back as far as you want -- has made virtually no serious effort to secure our borders, particularly with Mexico. Finally being fed up, Arizona took matters into its own hands. Interestingly, it looks -- it looks like the Supreme Court might side with Arizona on this and once again, the implications could be huge.
Both rulings are expected in June just a few months before the next election of our president. Republicans will use any decision against President Obama, but if the president loses any of these cases it could become a perfect way to energize the Democratic base, including Hispanic voters.
So, here's the question: What role might the Supreme Court play in the next presidential election?
Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page.
BLITZER: What you're saying, Jack, is potentially a loss could be a political win, right?
CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. That's correct.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Jack Cafferty will be back.
A volatile mix of religion and politics at Georgetown University in Washington where the Republican budget chief, Congressman Paul Ryan, defended his controversial spending plan to fellow Catholics who also are harsh critics, at least some of them, of this proposed cut.
Congressional correspondent Kate Bolduan is joining us.
Kate, what kind of backlash is Congressman Ryan facing from at least some of these Catholics at Georgetown University?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, Chairman Ryan says his budget is based on his Catholic faith. The Catholic bishops and even some Georgetown University faculty say he's misusing Catholic teaching.
JAMES SALT, CATHOLICS UNITED: We are here to say, Paul Ryan, you do not speak for us.
BOLDUAN (voice-over): Met by protests both outside and in, House Budget Chairman Paul Ran went to Georgetown, the nation's oldest Catholic University, to respond to critics of his budget proposal.
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), BUDGET CHAIRMAN: Of course, there can be differences among faithful Catholics on this. The work I do as a Catholic-holding office conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it.
BOLDUAN: Ryan's recent comments that his Catholic faith guided him in planning the 2013 Republican budget caused an uproar among some Catholic groups, from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, to about 90 Georgetown University faculty, all criticizing the GOP budget guru for linking Catholic social teaching to a budget they say goes against it.
REV. TOM REESE, WOODSTOCK THEOLOGICAL CENTER: We think a budget document is a moral document. It should be motivated by moral values.
BOLDUAN: Father Tom Reese is one of the Georgetown faculty members speaking out.
REESE: A program that guts programs for the poor, cuts programs for health care, cuts programs that train people so that they can get jobs, this is the kind of thing we're very concerned about.
BOLDUAN: They're condemning central provisions of the Ryan plan, including dramatically changing Medicare to give seniors subsidies to purchase health insurance as well as cuts in food aid and other programs benefiting the poor, while at the same time cutting taxes for wealthier Americans. But Ryan stands firm.
RYAN: We need opportunity and upward mobility by strengthening job-training programs to help those who have fallen on hard times.
BOLDUAN: Beyond the Catholic controversy, Ryan is also defending himself and Republican principles in a contentious election year.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is a Trojan horse disguised as deficit reduction plans and it's really an attempt to impose a radical vision on our country. It is thinly veiled social Darwinism.
BOLDUAN: Ryan, considered a potential pick as Mitt Romney's running mate, dismissed the president's attack.
RYAN: Regrettably, the president is unwilling to advance credible solutions to the problem. He doesn't seem to understand that he can't promote the common good by setting class against class or group against group.
BOLDUAN: Now critics of Paul Ryan and the budget he has put forth did not seem any more persuaded as they left the speech today, Wolf. But during that speech, Ryan was asked about his vice presidential prospects, he -- not surprisingly -- deftly sidestepped that one saying only he wouldn't get into hypotheticals and that he has an important job he is content with right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Correct word: deftly.
BLITZER: Excellent word. Thanks very much for that, Kate.
Let's dig a little bit deeper with our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
I think he deserves credit for going to this Jesuit Catholic university, Georgetown University, and addressing the issues whether you agree with him or disagree with him.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I do. He gets credit for going there. I think he gets credit for putting forth a budget that takes on the issue of something like Medicare.
I mean, Wolf, earlier this week, a report of the trustees for Social Security and Medicare came out. Take a look at this. They said these are when the funds are going to be depleted. Medicare, just 12 years from now. Social Security, 21 years from now.
And as Kate points out, Paul Ryan's budget in the future for people over 55 turns Medicare into kind of a voluntary voucher program. You can stick with Medicare as it is if you like or go to this voluntary voucher program.
The Democrats say that destroys Medicare as we know it. They say they've got $400 billion worth of savings on their own budget.
So, they're talking across each other, and there's one thing we know for certain, these programs are going to broke as the baby boomers live longer and they'll start retiring, Wolf. So, we've got to do something.
BLITZER: He wants to reform the tax code totally.
BLITZER: Democrats say they want to reform the tax code. So, what's the problem is?
BORGER: Well, you know, here are the buzz words -- everyone wants to reform the tax code and lower our rates and everybody wants fairness, but what is missing from Paul Ryan's budget is that he says, OK, I want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, which are due to expire in January, but I want to close tax loopholes.
What he doesn't say in his budget is what tax loopholes would you close? So there is a certain amount of specificity there that we don't have.
President Obama, on the other hand, the Democrats say, OK, let's repeal -- let's let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. That will raise enough money for us to start going after this deficit issue.
Again, Wolf, they're talking right over each other and they're going have to settle it at some point -- maybe in the lame duck session.
BLITZER: Paul Ryan delivers a major speech on domestic economic issues here in Washington, at Georgetown University.
Yesterday, Senator Marco Rubio delivered a major national security speech at the Brookings Institute here in Washington.
Some are already suggesting they're auditioning for the vice presidential running mate slot.
BORGER: I guarantee you one thing. I guarantee you that the Romney people up in Boston were probably watching both of those speeches with a great deal of interest.
Look, both of these men are rising stars in the Republican Party. Paul Ryan is not new on the scene. Marco Rubio is.
Paul Ryan is a seven-term congressman, chairman of the budget committee. I was in Janesville, Wisconsin, with him last summer and I asked him directly and at that point people were talking about him running for president, remember, and I asked him directly whether he wanted to be vice president. Take a listen to what he said last summer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: Who knows? I mean, I didn't plan on being a congressman in the first place. I thought I was going work in the field of economics. So, I'm one of those people that just crosses bridges when I get to it. We had an open Senate seat here in Wisconsin. I decided against running for that because I thought I could make a bigger difference running as the chairman of the House Budget Committee and an impact. So --
BORGER: It doesn't like a -- sort of no way, no how.
RYAN: It's something that's out of my control, that's somebody else's decision. And right now I decide, whether it's Senate or president, I think I can make a difference for people of Wisconsin and for my kids and fellow countrymen as chairman of the House Budget Subcommittee which has a big role in all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Wolf, one way or another, he was at the center of this campaign, but that wasn't a definite no.
BLITZER: He's got a huge future ahead of him.
BORGER: He does.
BLITZER: Marco Rubio has a huge future ahead of himself. I suspect neither one has a huge future as vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney this time around --
BORGER: Maybe a little young.
BLITZER: Yes, but down the road, they're both going to do very well.
BORGER: We'll see.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Vice President Biden went after Mitt Romney today, slamming his foreign policy credentials. That's not part of the speech that has some people including the audience over there snickering. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO LCIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I promise you the president has a big stick. I promise you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A new skirmish today in the race for the White House with the Romney and Obama campaigns battling over backbone and who's stronger while surrogates were leading the fight for Mitt Romney, Vice President Joe Biden was leading the charge for Democrats and he did not mince any words.
Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us now.
Jim, what did Vice President Biden say?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Vice President Biden absolutely unloaded on Mitt Romney, raising the question of whether the presumptive GOP nominee would have taken out Osama bin Laden.
Then there's the other Biden comment that has all of Washington talking about the president's big stick.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Vice President Joe Biden brought a speech to New York that could be described as the big stick in the Big Apple, quoting Teddy Roosevelt.
BIDEN: Speak softly and carry a big stick. I promise you, the president has a big stick. I promise you.
ACOSTA: And he used that stick to beat up Mitt Romney with the bumper sticker catch phrase that the Obama campaign hopes to drive home all of the way to November.
BIDEN: Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.
ACOSTA: Biden's speech came days before the one-year anniversary of the president's decision to authorize the killing of Osama bin Laden. In a razor-sharp attack, Biden suggested Romney might have let bin Laden live.
BIDEN: We can't say for certain what Governor Romney would have done.
ACOSTA: The vice president referred to a comment Romney made in 2007 when he told the "Associated Press," it's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars trying to catch one person. Days later, Romney backed away from his remarks in a GOP debate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, we'd move heaven and earth to do it?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll move everything to get him.
ACOSTA: With Romney off fundraising, his campaign fired back, accusing the White House of showing weakness to North Korea just before the communist nation tested a long-range missile. In a column in "Foreign Policy" magazine, Romney adviser Richard Williamson writes, the U.S. is approaching a Jimmy Carter moment, adding, "This is not the kind of leadership our country needs."
On a campaign conference call, other Romney advisers said the president failed to capitalize on uprisings in Syria and Iran.
DAN SENOR, ROMNEY ADVISOR: It is President Obama's track record that has sent a message to our friends and allies who are looking to American leadership who are really left exposed and isolated.
ACOSTA: But in two separate instances, other advisers on the call mistakenly made Cold War references.
JOHN LEHMAN, ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: We're seeing the Soviets pushing into the Arctic with no response from us.
AMBASSADOR PIERRE PROSPER, ROMNEY FOREIGN POLICY ADVISER: The United States abandoned its missile defense sites in Poland and Czechoslovakia.
ACOSTA: That led to Biden's not so self-deprecating line referring to Russians as soviets.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Everybody sometimes slips. I never, do but everybody sometimes slips. Governor Romney is in a cold war mindset.
ACOSTA: The RNC answered the vice president's speech with a web video. Biden once said Mr. Obama was not ready to be president. Romney will have a chance to respond directly to Biden's comments when he gets back out in front of voters tomorrow in Ohio -- Wolf. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Acosta, good report, thanks very much.
Let's bring in our "Strategy Session" right now. Joining us the former White House deputy communications director, the Democratic strategist, Jen Psaki and CNN contributor, Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos. He's the co-founder of "Purple Strategies," a bipartisan communications firm.
Guys, thanks very much for coming in. That recent CBS News/"New York Times" poll, how's President Obama handling foreign policy, 46 percent approve, 36 percent disapprove, 18 percent unsure.
It's less than 50 percent. That's not a ringing endorsement of the president who wound up managing to kill Bin Laden.
JEN PSAKI, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, Wolf, when the president came into office, we were in two wars. Our reputation around the world was suffering. Since then we've ended the war in Iraq.
We've caught Bin Laden and Gadhafi is no longer walking around and we've really restored relationships. He's done quite a bit to improve our place around the world.
And I think that's what people will be looking at, but we're still facing challenges and that's why he needs to remain in office for another four years.
BLITZER: Is this a big issue at all you think? Assuming that there's no war or any major crisis, terrorism crisis or nuclear crisis, is foreign policy national security between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be a major issue this time around?
ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's the big assumption isn't it, Wolf? That we don't know. What we do know is that weakness invites the wolves. It's that when a weak -- United States is perceived as weak things become unstable around the world.
And we've seen the world become increasingly unstable during the presidency of Barack Obama. You know, this is the president that sat down with Medvedev and said here are my cards, and I'm in a very weak situation right now.
Take it easy on me. I'll give you what you want after the election. That's terrible poker. No one does that, and you certainly don't do that with a global competitor.
BLITZER: You have to tell your friends in the Romney campaign, you worked for them years ago. You're not working for this time. There is no more Soviet Union. There's no more Czechoslovakia. They get the language correct if they want to be responsible and authoritative.
CASTELLANOS: They do need to get the language correct and I think comedians all over the country are relieved even though Newt Gingrich has dropped out that Joe Biden is back. I think he can watch his language a little bit, too.
CASTELLANOS: But the point about the Soviet Union is that there's a historic Russian compulsion to expand and to reassemble the Soviet empire and to control those resources and basically to insulate themselves and protect their borders. This is a petrol-fuelled state --
BLITZER: But there is no Soviet Union. You know what? The vice president, Joe Biden, he got some snickers. We heard earlier in Jim Acosta's report when he spoke a big stick when he was at NYU today. And he also had this reference and it similarly caused a bunch of snickering among the students there. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: This guy's got a backbone like a rod, for real, for real. I promise you the president has a big stick. I promise you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You went in the White House a lot. You know, these words, they can have double intenders, shall we say.
PSAKI: Well, Wolf, look, I think we can all rely on the vice president to bring empathy and bring experience and also bring some humor from time to time. So I hope that's what people take it as.
I will say though that, you know, this race is between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. What we've seen about from Mitt Romney's foreign policy approach is he wants to go back and dust off the old go it alone approach.
And I think that's something that scares people across this country as well. Also he was against going into Libya and going after Gadhafi before he was for it. There's a lot we don't know and I think there will be a conversation about national security in the months ahead.
CASTELLANOS: I won't comment on Biden's words because this could be where I get banned from CNN for life. But the only person that brags about how tough they are, are usually the people who aren't.
This is a president who couldn't find his big stick when people were trying to find freedom in Syria and in Iran in the streets during the revolution there.
So this is the president that talks tough, but then sits down with Medvedev and says, you know, shows him all his cards. It's not strong leadership.
BLITZER: Look, in fairness --
CASTELLANOS: -- the stability in the world --
BLITZER: You have to give him credit for making that decision and not an easy decision to send those Navy SEALs into Abbottabad, Pakistan. CASTELLANOS: I want you to run two bites. One is what Barack Obama said after he caught and we killed Bin Laden, and what George Bush says after we caught Saddam Hussein. They're so different.
One of them is I, I, I did this and the other one is we, we, we and those brave men in the SEALs. It's just a very different approach and I think I sense some arrogance.
BLITZER: Do you want to respond to that?
PSAKI: Well, one, I have to say as Wolf mentioned that going into Pakistan and going after Osama Bin Laden was a very difficult decision for the president to make that showed leadership that showed strength and pragmatism and he went and he thanked everyone who has been a part of it.
He thanked the SEALs. He applauded every person who was a part of that team and even people in the administration long before him, so I have to --
CASTELLANOS: Watch your statements sometimes. It tells you a lot about Barack Obama.
BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more on this part of the story, by the way, in our next hour. "Time" magazine in their new cover story has a Peter Bergen article in what happened in the year since Bin Laden was killed. We'll preview that in our next hour, guys. Thanks very much.
PSAKI: Thank you.
BLITZER: She's just back from Afghanistan, but one member of Congress, Michele Bachmann has news to share with us on what's going on about a very specific controversy. My interview with Michele Bachmann is coming up in the next hour.
Also, surprising new details emerging at the trial of John Edwards as the prosecution's star witness gets grilled.
Plus an exclusive interview with the man behind girls gone wild. He says he bought a Senate internship to, quote, "have the hottest chick in the country come to Washington." What happened? We'll tell you what that congressman is doing now. That senator, I should say and why he's asking the FBI to investigate.
BLITZER: U.S. and Afghanistan authorities are investigating a disturbing incident in Afghanistan right now. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. Lisa, what do you have?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, a man wearing an Afghan Army uniform shot and killed a U.S. coalition service member near Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is unclear whether the shooter is actually an Afghan soldier or an infiltrator wearing the uniform. Coalition forces killed the shooter.
Three explosions have rocked Nigeria leaving six people dead and more than two dozen injured. One suspected attacker is also dead. The first two attacks targeted the offices of one of Nigeria's newspapers. Witnesses say attackers drove up to the building and asked to be let in and when guards approached the car, the bomb went off.
The White House has released the latest list of presidential Medal of Freedom honourees. The 13 people reflect a wide range of backgrounds. They include former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, singer Bob Dillon and novelist Toni Morrison. And they will be honored at a White House ceremony later this year -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the president of Israel, Shimon Peres is among the recipients as well. Lisa, thanks very much.
Meanwhile, Israel's top general says Iran's leaders, in his words are, quote, "very rational." He says Iran isn't even all that close to building a nuclear bomb. Why is he saying what appears to be the exact opposite of what Israel's prime minister is saying? We're going in depth.
We'll also go inside Bin Laden's final moments. You're going to hear the last five words he spoke. That's coming up in the next hour.
Also coming up, outrage is growing after an airline refused to refund the ticket to a dying man.
BLITZER: Israel's top general says Iran does not appear to be on the verge of having a nuclear weapon and he says the country is led by, quote, "very rational people."
Both of those statements seem to stand in stark contrast to what the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is saying. The prime minister went "OUTFRONT" with CNN's Erin Burnett in Jerusalem this week.
Erin's back in New York. Erin, Netanyahu and his top general, they don't seem to be on the same page, but give us your sense of what's going on in Israel.
ERIN BURNETT, HOST, CNN'S "OUTFRONT": Yes, it's very interesting. There seem to be two camps, Wolf and as you know, this is a very serious issue and one that can depend on whether there will be an Israeli strike or even possibly military conflict between Iran, Israel and perhaps the United States.
What's interesting, I talked to Benjamin Netanyahu about the Iran issue and he said several things that seemed to directly contradict his own foreign minister and defense minister.
One of them is on whether Iran is rational. You've heard recently some leaders in Israel saying, well, Iran is rational that means they wouldn't use a nuclear weapon. Here's what Benjamin Netanyahu had to say to me about that issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: I don't think you can bet on the rationality. Iran has given terror proxies to Hamas and he's given them the most advanced lethal weapons.
Whatever weapons they have they give them and they fired now, 10,000, 12,000 on Israel cities and they've been helping them to murder diplomats worldwide and to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Think of what they would did with nuclear weapons and I don't think you want to bet the peace in the Middle East and the security of the world on Iran's rational behavior.
I think it's a much safer bet to do what I, President Obama and others have said, prevent Iran from acquiring atomic bombs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Obviously, Wolf, a different point of view there and there were other ways in which he differed. He says in terms of when Israel will strike Iran it's a matter of days, not years obviously.
There have been senior Israeli officials who have said that Israel has more time than that and he also said that he will accept Iran enrich uranium not at all and not even the 3.5 percent, which is what is required for peaceful purposes.
And obviously, Ehud Barack has indicated that perhaps Iran would be able to enrich with 3.5 percent. So some real lines breaking out on the Israeli government on what they're willing to accept and that's going to be very important as these talks continue in May and the sanctions get much tougher on Iran this summer.
BLITZER: Yes, conflicting messages coming out from high officials in Israel, civilian and military. Erin, one other point in the interview, and I watched all of it on your show this week.
Some repercussions and some reaction in the Arab world specifically after the prime minister spoke to you about a two-state solution, Israel living along Palestine.
But you pressed the issue of a contiguous state for the Palestinians. I know you will be getting into more of that tonight, but what did he say?
BURNETT: It was interesting. You know, Wolf, this something as you know, U.S. presidents have tried to get him to support, not just a two-state solution. But a Palestinian state that is contiguous without Israeli lands breaking it up. He, when I used that word said yes, I support it. I don't want a Swiss cheese solution, very significant.
And we're going to talk about exactly what that means and whether he is going to live up to what could be a very big promise tonight.
BLITZER: In other words, there would have to be some connecting line between Gaza and the West Bank, is that what he's saying?
BURNETT: Well, that's the big question, is it going to be contiguous within the West Bank, which of course, has not supported up to this point and another one, would that include Gaza or not and that is the key question?
BLITZER: Erin, we'll be watching at 7:00 p.m. Eastern later tonight. Thanks as usual.
Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll have new details about how then presidential candidate John Edwards tried to hide his affair. We're looking at some shocking new evidence just in from his trial.
Also, an airline facing growing criticism for denying a refund to a dying veteran.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The supervisor said no, there's nothing we can do. Here's what we'll do for you, we'll give you a ticket in the future and that's when it really upset me because I said to him, don't you understand there is no future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jack is back with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, Wolf, is what role might the Supreme Court play in the next presidential election?
Dave in Orlando writes, "A major role, if they strike down the health care bill, it will be a serious body blow to the president. It was the only thing he accomplished, meaningless as it is."
Richard in Texas says, "If the Supreme Court overturns Obama's health care reform and his lawsuit against Arizona on illegal immigration then it will tell the world, not just the people in the United States that the president, a lawyer, is not the sharpest pencil in the box and that his side of Congress, which wrote the law isn't either. It would be a big slap in the face to the Democrats."
Ralph in Oklahoma writes, "It could be they'll reprise their year 2000 roles as Republican spoiler except this time it's not Chads hanging in the balance. It's 32 million uninsured American lives, flesh and blood and not political ideology."
Jen writes, "Big, colossal, gigantic, a Romney killer. If the Arizona immigration law is upheld, the large Hispanic community will turn out in force to vote for President Obama and if you don't get your combination plate is missing everything, but the beans."
Wylene in Texas writes, "If the Supreme Court rules against the health care bill and in favor of the Arizona immigration bill, it will be a blow to President Obama's credibility."
D.A. says, "Jack, the Supreme Court will play a major role in the next presidential election because conservatives must elect a president that will nominate future justices who follow the constitution. The decisions pending will reveal the Obama administration not only doesn't understand and follow the constitution, but tries to change it."
And Brando sums it up this way, "The fix is in 2000 all over again." If you want to read more about this subject go to the blog, cnn.com/caffertyfile or to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. The summer is going to be interesting, Wolf, when the two decisions come down.
BLITZER: I love this kind of stuff. All right, Jack, thanks very much.
The Secret Service personnel accused of visiting strip clubs and paying for sexual favors. We have new details coming in at the top of the hour.
Also, an airline refusing to issue a refund to a dying man and he's upset more than the $197 he paid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't about the money. It was about the way they treated me, and probably hundreds of other people. No compassion. No consideration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Commercial airlines aren't usually known for their customer service, but outrage is growing over one airline's refusal to issue a ticket refund. Our Mary Snow is following the story for us. Mary, what happened here?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is the story of a Florida man who said he was recently told he's losing his battle with cancer and he's now wage a very public fight with Spirit Airlines.
SNOW (voice-over): It started as a small protest outside Tampa Airport for two days and 76-year-old Jerry Meekins says he's surprised by how it's grown.
The Vietnam vet is taking aim at Spirit Airlines he says for refusing to refund a $197 ticket to Atlantic City, New Jersey to see his daughter.
Shortly after buying the ticket he says he learned the cancer he's been battling is terminal. With his immune system low he said he doesn't want to fly because of exposure to germs on the plane.
JERRY MEEKINS, VETERAN PROTESTING SPIRIT AIRLINES: It wasn't about the money. It was about the way they treated me and probably hundreds of other people. No compassion. No consideration, not even an interview to review the paperwork that I had necessary for them, showing that my cancer was terminal and hospice is already set up to take care of me.
SNOW: Meekins says he asked that his refund go to the organization "Wounded Warriors," not him. We contacted Spirit Airlines, which responded to a statement saying its fares are non-refundable.
Adding, we receive numerous requests for refunds from customers facing unexpected and extreme situations. The airline says it offers customers travel insurance and says it wouldn't be fair to make exceptions and bend policy for one customer and not all.
While we sympathize with each of these, who are we to judge if one customer is more worthy than another for an exception? But Spirit's response is being targeted online. This man writes on twitter, give the veteran his refund.
What part of spirit don't you understand? This one says I will never fly Spirit Airlines after they deny a refund ticket of someone dying.
As for Meekins, he says his two-day protest served its purchase.
MEEKINS: It's more important that spirit in the future show some compassion to people who have a similar situation, show a little compassion to people and take them on a one-on-one basis.
SNOW: Now, Wolf, Jerry Meekin says he is overwhelmed by messages of support that he's getting as well as offers from strangers to drive him to New Jersey to see his daughter or buy him train tickets.
BLITZER: We wish him only, only the best. Mary, thank you.