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THE SITUATION ROOM
Romney Rejects Anti-Obama Ad Idea; U.S. Citizenship; Tsunami Trash; Trayvon Martin Case; Kennedy Saga; Amphibious Car
Aired May 17, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, presidential campaign fireworks over a Republican proposal to try revive a sore subject for President Obama. His controversial former pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Mitt Romney rejecting the explosive idea a little while ago, but will that put it to rest?
And, more than a million tons of tsunami debris starting to reach the North American shore. Could it be radioactive? We're looking at the potential danger.
And new details about the suicide of Robert Kennedy Jr.'s estrange wife. Their personal struggle within a legendary family known for power and tragedy.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
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BLITZER: Mitt Romney is trying to distance himself from a potentially ugly new turn in the political ad wars. At issue, a proposal by some high-profile Republicans to run provocative, anti-Obama commercials around the time of the Democratic National Convention. It's giving a lot of people flashbacks to the 2008 campaign. Let's bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin. She's got the details -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Its proposal called "The defeat of Barack Hussein Obama," was by one of the most successful and controversial ad men (ph) in the Republican Party. The statement from his company emphasizes that this proposal has never gone anywhere. It was just a plan, but it is so explosive it's making headlines anyway.
YELLIN: The proposal obtained by "The New York Times" begins "Our plan is to do exactly what John McCain would not let us do in 2008." The plan outlines a $10 million ad campaign that would show voters, quote, "Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big attention-arresting way." You might recall Reverend Wright for these memorable comments. REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, PASTOR: True, America's chickens are coming home to roost.
God bless, America. God damn America.
YELLIN: Pitch to an anti-Obama group funded by the billionaire founder of T.D. Ameritrade, it argues lasting rights messages during the Democratic convention will erode the president's likability giving Romney the winning edge.
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make it very clear, I repudiated that effort. I think it's the wrong course for a PAC or a campaign. I've been disappointed in the president's campaign to date which has focused on character assassination.
YELLIN: His comments followed an earlier statement by the Obama campaign accusing Mitt Romney of reacting tepidly in a moment that required moral leadership when he failed to denounce the proposal when he was first asked about it by reporters.
Romney has brought up the president's affiliation with Reverend Wright in the past, appearing on the Sean Hannity radio show in February, he said, "I'm not sure which is worse, the president listening to Reverend Wright or him saying that we must be a less Christian nation."
In the general election where independent voters are the key to winning, center left experts say tactics like this don't necessarily work.
LANAE ERICKSON HATALSKY, THIRD WAY: Independents are really much more concerned about the economy than they are what President Obama's pastor may or may not have said many decades ago. There's a reason the McCain campaign didn't use this tactic four years ago. They didn't think it was going to work. And the Romney campaign certainly doesn't think it's going to work now.
YELLIN (on-camera): Wolf, Senator McCain, through a spokesperson, did release a statement today. He said that McCain is very proud of the campaign he ran in 2008 when make the fame (ph) decisions again today, meaning not to use Reverend Wright.
Senator McCain's campaign manager from that time said that this proposal, just the release of it alone, will do damage to the Republican brand and to Mitt Romney's effort to run for president and will add more poison to the already poisoned political debate in this country. That's from Steve Schmitt (ph), McCain's former campaign manager, and then, one top Republican strategist, Wolf, said to me just without a name, he called this political malpractice -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens down the road, but I want to dig a little deeper, Jessica. Thanks very much. Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger is here. Romney moved very quickly to repudiate this proposal. GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Wolf, I don't think he had the choice. First of all, because the proposal was completely offensive, and from his intention to bring the race issue back front and center to its description of the sitting president of the United States as someone who sees himself as quote, "a metrosexual Black Abe Lincoln."
And there are reasons so and there are other political reasons for doing it. First of all, President Obama is well liked by 52 percent of the American public, and so, why get in this kind of an argument with somebody who's right with the public.
And secondly, any minute that Mitt Romney spends talking about something other than jobs and the economy and the president's healthcare bill, people in his campaign believe he's wasted, and so, did the Republican strategists I spoke with today. They said this is just crazy.
BLITZER: So, this is the case potentially of the Super PAC and the Super PAC didn't accept this proposal.
BORGER: That's right. That's right.
BLITZER: This potentially could have been a Super PAC, thinking it's doing the right thing to help the candidate, but actually hurting the candidate.
BORGER: Right. It could have completely undermined his campaign, Wolf. Now, I will point out, there have been these independent groups in the past, not necessarily Super PACs we've seen these in the Republican primaries, because Super PACs are relatively new development.
But if you go back and you remember this, the 2004 campaign against John Kerry, the swift boat ads which questioned John Kerry's patriotism and his war record, some would argue did have an effect on the outcome of the 2004 campaign, because what these independent groups can do is touch issues that the candidate, himself, does not want to go near.
So, they can be effective. I mean, my argument and other people argue that this ad would have really back fired against Mitt Romney.
BLITZER: The argument was that Kerry didn't respond quickly enough.
BORGER: That's right.
BLITZER: His folks didn't repudiate those ads. They just sort of let them go out there.
BORGER: That's right. And you saw what Mitt Romney did today which was say, this should not occur.
BLITZER: So, what else struck you about this whole episode that we've been thinking a lot about? BORGER: Yes. You know, I think if you're cynical about American politics and lots of people are, if you read the proposal that Jessica was quoting from today, it's going to make you feel worse. There's one line in it that really stuck with me, and it's about manipulating the American public.
It said how to inflame there questions on his character and competency that's the president while allowing themselves to still somewhat, quote, "like the man" becomes the challenge. Now, I don't want to be naive about this. Campaigns do like to stage manage things, but this takes it a step further. And one republican I spoke to today said, quote, "it's bad taste, bad judgment and bad policies."
BLITZER: Yes. Correct me if I'm wrong, the person who created this proposal is the same person who did the "I am not a witch," Christine O'Donnell ad campaign --
BORGER: That's right. That's right.
BLITZER: -- in Delaware that worked out so great for her.
BORGER: It worked out so great. And also, the same person who tried to do this with John McCain and criticize John McCain as confused and old in this proposal. So, yes, the same exact person and also did ads for, by the way, moderate, Jon Huntsman.
BLITZER: All right. Gloria, thanks very much.
BLITZER: There's new evidence of a seismic shift in the U.S. population. Minority babies outnumbered White newborns last year for the first time in this country's history. Tom Foreman has more on the news census bureau report and what it means for the nation. Tom, tell our viewers what you're seeing.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, you hit the nail on the head there. What it means? It means that we're changing. If you want to define the place where that baby was born, it might be Maverick County, Texas, that is what the census bureau says is the place in the country that has the largest minority population.
Look at almost 97 percent there, but the simple truth is we can't tell exactly where that baby came from. What we do know is what the trend is done. In 2010, it was 49.5 percent in terms of minority babies born in the country under one-year-old, over here in 2011 with the latest numbers they have just over 50 percent, which means just under 50 percent are White babies.
Now, this is an interesting trend, because it's not really a big change in the overall picture, but the way it fits into everything else is interesting. Why did it happen? Well, obviously, we've had massive immigration over the Mexican border, much of it from Mexican citizens who came here from the past 30 years that helped drive the base of people who are producing these children, who are having children here. They have a higher per-family birthrate than White citizens in this country. So, that has helped drive this up.
In fact, right now, the Pew Hispanic Center has found that immigration from Mexico into this country, particularly illegal immigration, seems to have largely stopped and the increase in the population of people of Mexican origin in this country is being driven primarily by this, by the birth of children here so under the age of one.
Now, Wolf, it's important steps (ph) in context here. Overall, this is the U.S. population still at this moment. Almost 200 million White people, 52 million Hispanic people, 44 million Black, about 18 million Asian, about eight million other categories. That goes a little bit over the world -- the country's population of 311 million because some people can claim more than one category.
So, the White population still has a substantial size difference here, size advantage if you want to look at that way, but look at this. This is the median age. The White population in these latest numbers about 42, so getting out of the child bearing years, the Hispanic population at 27 years, that's really well in the child-bearing years.
So, the simple truth is, the trend we're seeing now, Wolf, could go on for quite some time with all sort of ramifications, politically, economically in terms of healthcare, in terms of education, in terms of how our whole society is changing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much. Good assessment for our viewers.
Some are U.S. senators are steaming at one of Facebook's founders. They say they aren't going to let them get away with (INAUDIBLE) United States of America so he can avoid paying taxes.
Plus, what drove Robert Kennedy Jr.'s estranged wife to kill herself? We have the autopsy report, and it comes amid renewed talk of a Kennedy curse.
And we'll also have more on the death of the disco diva.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, this is little discouraging. Another sign that our education system is failing. Florida is lowering the passing grade on the writing portion of the standardized test. Students' 2012 scores plunged on the Florida comprehensive assessment test writing exam.
Twenty-seven percent of fourth graders scored a passing grade of 4 out of a possible 6. Last year, 81 percent of fourth graders passed. Eighth and tenth graders had similar declines in their scores. So, the state board of education decided to change the test-passing score from a 4 to 3 and presto, suddenly, the number of kids who passed was about the same as last year. Critics say manipulating test results in Florida is covering up problems in the system. It is also reignited in an ongoing debate over using standardized test scores to make important education decisions. The state education commissioner defends the decision saying it, quote, "helps to correct the process, not the results," whatever that means.
Schools and parents were told that this was coming. Florida announced last summer there would be tougher grading for the writing exam with more focus on spelling, grammar, and punctuation. In the past, those issues had been graded with, quote, "leniency," apparently.
State officials say they may not have communicated those changes well enough to school districts and the teachers. But doesn't it make you kind of wonder how Florida graded writing exams before the increased focus on things like spelling, punctuation, and grammar.
Here's the question, what does it say about U.S. education if Florida lowered the passing grade on a standardized test after the students' scores dropped? Go to CNN.com'CaffertyFile and post comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.
Certainly, if you came of age back in the mid-1970s, your disco days may have been filled with the music of Donna Summer. The pop start known as the Queen of Disco, unfortunately, she died today. She cranked out hit after hit that helped define an era.
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BLITZER: Summer's throaty voice and sexy moves made her a star with such songs you just heard, "Last Dance," Love to Love You, Baby," and "Hot Stuff." But her popularity faded as musical taste changed. One of her last big hits came in 1983. It became an anthem for a lot of working women.
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BLITZER: Great song. Donna Summer suffering from cancer. She was 63 years old. Our deepest condolences. A wonderful, wonderful entertainer.
The luxury car giant, Acura, recalling tens of thousands of cars. Just ahead, we're going to tell you which ones are affected, just how serious the problem is and more.
Plus, disturbing new signs frequent flyers could be paying more for airline tickets than other passengers. What's going on? Stand by. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: France's new socialist government now ordering mass pay cuts. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and also some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa, tell us what you have.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the 30 percent salary cuts which were decided at today's first cabinet session will affect the new French president, Francois Hollande as well as his ministers. The prime minister indicated the cuts will be a top priority at the meeting, fulfilling a campaign promise to, quote, "set an example for the rest of the country."
A senate panel has called Jamie Dimon, the head of banking giant JPMorgan Chase, to testify about the company's shocking $2 billion trading loss. The chairman of the Senate Banking Committee says the panel is exercising its due diligence. The FBI and SEC have also opened preliminary investigations.
An auto giant, Acura, is recalling more than 56,000 cars in North America because of a power steering hose that could leak over time and potentially cause a fire. The recall affects TL Sedans from modeled years 2007 and 2008. The company says no crashes, injuries, or fires related to the defect have been reported, and it will begin notifying customers by mail next month.
And if you are a frequent flyer, well, you could actually be paying more for your airline ticket than other passengers. CNN Minnesota affiliate, WCCO, uncovered a number of scenarios where Delta frequent flyers paid anywhere from 100 to more than $1,000 difference. Delta blames the issue on a computer glitch it says that has been since fixed.
The airline says it doesn't plan to notify customers, but it says, they can call with concerns. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by that story, Wolf.
BLITZER: What a computer glitch that is, especially your best customers, your most frequent flyers, and they're going to be paying more than others. That's not good at all for delta. They need to do some damage control majorly right now. Thanks very much.
Facebook goes public tomorrow, and one of its founders is trying to avoid paying taxes on his expected windfall by giving up his United States citizenship. Some senators, though, here in Washington, they're saying, not going to happen.
And it's not just the boy's club over at Facebook, we're going to meet a woman who's been a driving force behind the company's huge financial success.
BLITZER: Just a little while ago, Facebook announced the price of its initial public offering of stock setting it at $38 a share. That's the third largest IPO in U.S. history. Certainly, it will make Facebook executives even richer, including a woman who's been a driving force behind the company's financial success. CNNs Poppy Harlow tells us about it.
POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: You know the story. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in his Harvard dorm room. But do you know Sheryl Sandberg? She's his right-hand woman, and people say Facebook wouldn't be where it is today without her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Really serious geek in high school. It works out.
HARLOW (voice-over): Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, number two to founder, Mark Zuckerberg. She joined Facebook in 2008 taking it from less than 150 million users to more than 900 million today.
DAVID KIRKPATRICK, AUTHOR, "FACEBOOK EFFECT": If Sheryl hadn't been there, I don't think Facebook will be going public today so successfully. She came in and basically created the business. She had a whole month's worth of meetings trying to figure out what business Facebook was even in.
HARLOW: A Harvard grad who worked as Larry Summer's (ph) chief of staff at the U.S. treasury department, she landed next at Google where she built the company's ad business.
TIM ARMSTRONG, AOL CEO: I think Sheryl's, you know, main contribution was actually figuring out how to go from essentially zero customers in the new channel to figure out how we were going to get billions of dollars and a million customers, and she built that from scratch.
HARLOW: She's so important to Facebook, the company's public filing document say losing her could harm the company. I interviewed her the day Facebook became profitable.
SHERYL SANDBERG, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, FACEBOOK: The big announcement today is that we hit 300 million active users, and we're cash flow positive.
HARLOW: As a female who has reached close to the top of the corporate ladder, she challenged young woman to do the same during her 2011 commencement speech at Barnard.
SANDBERG: You are the promise for a more equal world. A world where men ran half our homes and women ran half our institutions would be just a much better world.
HARLOW: And for this mother of two, balance is key.
SANDBERG: I walk out of this office every day at 5:30, so I'm home for dinner with my kids at 6:00.
HARLOW: Has she changed the culture of Facebook, do you think?
CLARA SHIH, CEO HEARSAY SOCIAL, SANDBERG FRIEND: Oh, absolutely. I say that her influence has gone far beyond just Facebook. I think she's established a new way of doing things, a new culture that aspire to across all type of technology company.
HARLOW: So, she's changed Silicon Valley?
SHIH: Absolutely. And if you look at Oracle or you look at Apple, a lot of these companies have a single leader. Usually, it's always been a guy who has a singular vision. We're seeing a shift from ego driven to leadership driven.
HARLOW: People who know her say Washington could be in the cards.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told her she should run for president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Sheryl will end up in Washington and I honestly think she could some day be president and that's not a joke.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Do you have political aspirations?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have aspirations to do something that matters, and right now I don't think there's much I could do that would matter more than Facebook.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: But, Wolf, a big challenge that Sandberg is going to change is figuring out how Facebook is going to make money off an exploding number of mobile users. Ultimately Mark Zuckerberg controls the company, has more than half the voting shares, but if anyone can do it analysts tell me Sheryl Sandberg is the woman. She's the one who grew Google's ad business into the behemoth success it is today. She's proven to do just that so far at Facebook. You really when you look at this IPO, Wolf, you cannot overstate the importance of this woman -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: She's going to make $1 billion overnight as well which is not too shabby for this young woman.
BLITZER: Poppy, thanks, very, very much.
One of Facebook's founders is under fire right now accused of renouncing his United States citizenship to avoid paying taxes and some U.S. senators they are fuming. They say they're going to make him pay. Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash. Dana what's going on?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What's going on Wolf is that actually more than 1,700 Americans renounced their U.S. citizenship last year but only one was a Facebook billionaire and that means that he will not have to pay U.S. taxes and that is why some senators are using very harsh words calling him despicable. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
BASH (voice-over): In the movie "Social Network" Eduardo Saverin (ph) was a sympathetic figure betrayed by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You signed the papers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You set me up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to blame me because you are the business head of the company and you made a bad business deal with your own company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be like I'm not a part of Facebook.
BASH: But now the way these senators see it Saverin (ph) is hardly sympathetic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saverin (ph) has turned his back on the country that welcomed him and kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire. This is a great American success story gone horribly wrong.
BASH: The back story, Saverin (ph) lost his position at Facebook, but still has an estimated four percent stake in the company worth billions of dollars. Ahead of Facebook's IPO, Saverin (ph) renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of the country he's lived in since 2009, Singapore, which has no taxes on capital gains. This could save Saverin (ph) tens of millions in U.S. taxes.
SEN CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Eduardo Saverin (ph) wants to defriend the United States of America just to avoid paying taxes and we aren't going to let him get away with it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he spits in the eye of the American people. When he does this it's an insult. He should be held accountable.
BASH: Senators Chuck Schumer and Bob Casey came up with legislation to force Saverin (ph) to pay taxes on Facebook profits. It would require wealthy Americans renouncing U.S. citizenship to still pay a 30 percent capital gains tax on U.S. investments double the rate for a U.S. citizen. If they don't pay that and back income taxes they'd be barred from the U.S.
In a carefully worded statement, Saverin (ph) responded that he will pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes to the United States government. I have paid and will continue to pay any taxes due on everything I earned while a U.S. citizen. Note he says nothing about paying taxes on Facebook profits he'd make now that he's no longer a U.S. citizen. Saverin (ph) insists he only expatriated because he wants to live in Singapore. Schumer says if you think that's true he has a bridge you can buy.
SCHUMER: Anyone who believes Mr. Saverin (ph) didn't do this at least in good part for tax purposes is quite gullible. BASH: A footnote, Schumer posted a link to his new legislation, where else, on his Facebook page.
BASH: And Wolf the legislation does allow Americans who want to renounce their citizenship for clearly legitimate reasons to do so without being penalized. One example is the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Orin (ph), he was an American citizen, but in order to get his post from Israel he had to renounce his citizenship.
BLITZER: Same with Queen Rain (ph) of Jordan, she renounced her U.S. citizenship when she became the queen of Jordan, so there are other examples of people renouncing their citizenship for other reasons other than tax reasons. Dana thanks very much for that report.
Senator Chuck Schumer will be a guest, by the way, tonight on "JOHN KING USA". That's at the top of the hour for our viewers here in North America.
Stand by for breaking news in the Trayvon Martin shooting case. We're getting word from the autopsy report what was found in the teenager's system after he was shot.
And the United States may be unprepared for tons of tsunami debris about to reach America's shore. Just ahead, the dangers and the price tag.
BLITZER: The United States is just now beginning to feel the blow of that devastating earthquake and the tsunami that struck Japan more than a year ago and now the West Coast is bracing for what could be a major threat with tons of debris headed directly that way. Lisa Sylvester has details. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One and a half million tons of tsunami debris moving across the Pacific Ocean, just starting to reach the West Coast of North America. Recently this Harley Davidson motorcycle washed up on a remote Canadian island. Thousands of pieces of plastic, Styrofoam and household goods are expected to make landfall starting next year. Nick Mallos of Ocean Conservancy says the items are not radioactive, but still pose a danger to marine life.
NICK MALLOS, OCEAN CONSERVANCY: We know it harms marine mammals. We know it harms sea turtles and birds and we know it has an impact on coastal economies, so we can't predict the future in terms of exactly where this debris is going to end up, but we certainly can make sure that we prepare for it.
SYLVESTER: This animation from NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, shows the path of the debris as it moves across the northern Pacific. NOAA is the lead federal agency for the cleanup, but some U.S. senators are not happy with the progress that's been made. In a hearing NOAA's National Ocean Service acknowledged it doesn't have the budget or a plan, Alaskan Senator Mark Begich.
SEN. MARK BEGICH (D), ALASKA: Have you made a low risk, medium risk, high-risk cost analysis of what this would be? And the answer from your administration was no, which made no sense to us after a year knowing -- I don't know, tsunami did happen.
DAVID KENNEDY, NATIONAL OCEANIC & ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: I don't have an answer that's going to make you happy, that's for sure. I really don't. You know lots of priorities going on and small program and we're out there and we don't know what the scope is, don't have a clue.
SYLVESTER: David Kennedy, assistant administrator of the National Ocean Service of NOAA admits they don't have the funds to clean up remote areas. NOAA's marine debris program is facing a 25 percent cut under the Obama administration budget for next year, so the cleanup may become the problem of cash-strapped states already struggling to make ends meet.
BEGICH: To be very frank with you, it's somewhat frustrating to hear that statement because the role of the federal government in emergencies is to assist states, not just say it's your responsibility, good luck because that's not acceptable.
SYLVESTER: Now the debris is following general ocean current flows, but it has dispersed, which has made it harder to track by satellite. In March there was a Japanese ship that surfaced off the coast of Alaska. It made that 4,500 mile trip. It was not picked up by satellite. It just showed up and it was sunk by the Coast Guard, but it shows you that there may be a lot of other surprises coming up along the western coastlines --
BLITZER: They might not be good surprises either --
SYLVESTER: Yes, we don't know what's coming this way, so --
BLITZER: I know. It's a lot of unanswered questions. Thanks very much, Lisa, for that.
New information just being released now from the autopsy report in the Trayvon Martin shooting, will it help the case of the defendant George Zimmerman? Stand by. We're going through the information for you right now.
BLITZER: We're getting some breaking news on the situation involving the Trayvon Martin shooting down in Florida. CNN's Martin Savidge has been going through the new autopsy report and other information released by the court. Martin, what are you getting?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a treasure trove of documents that were released by the authorities just today. This is the same information that went to the defense earlier in the week and it's coming from the prosecutor's office. There are 67 CDs of documents. It's about 200 pages worth of material, 23 eyewitness statements, five statements coming from Sanford Police Department, photographs (INAUDIBLE) but most important would be this, and that is the medical examiner's report.
In other words, the autopsy report that was done on Trayvon Martin the day after he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman. The final diagnosis reading here, he says no surprise, that of a gun shot wound to the chest, but it was gunshot wound on the left chest, intermediate range, according to this report. That would be anywhere from three to well almost right up three feet -- that is almost right up against the body. The path of the projectile went straight from the front to the back, did exit out his body.
It did penetrate his heart. So Trayvon Martin died as a result of a gun shot wound to the heart. Other things that we found that were interesting inside the chest blood specimen that was taken they found traces of THC. THC, of course would be marijuana, so that is naturally going to get a lot of talk and then also on top of that we were talking earlier about injuries to Trayvon Martin's hands, were there any indications he could he have been in some sort of fight as George Zimmerman maintains.
There is an injury, a small one, one quarter by one quarter inch on the fourth finger of the left hand side, so it doesn't look like all his hands are bruised, but only one finger and then by the way, that you were just looking at a photograph of the actual gun that George Zimmerman used to fire the fatal shot back on February 26tht that killed Trayvon Martin, he says when he was attacked by Trayvon Martin. Of course Martin's family refutes that greatly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know you continue to go through all that information with our team over there. Martin we'll stay in close touch with you. Thanks for that information.
An autopsy report appears to confirm that the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., killed herself. The death of Mary Kennedy is yet another painful loss for a family that's been touched by tragedy generation after generation. Let's bring in CNN's Alina Cho.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey Wolf. By all accounts Mary Kennedy was deeply depressed, struggled with prescription drugs and alcohol and had a very public and very ugly falling out with her husband Robert Kennedy, Jr. It may have been simply too much for Mary Kennedy to handle.
CHO (voice-over): She was a Kennedy by marriage, but Mary Richardson Kennedy looked every bit the part, married to Robert Kennedy Jr., four children together, all under the age of 18, now without a mother. On Wednesday Mary Kennedy's body was found at her home in Bedford, New York, the official cause of death asphyxiation due to hanging. Citing two unnamed sources "The New York Times" reports Kennedy's body was hanging from the barn behind the house that she left a note and that authorities tried to revive her. A lonely death ending what was a public life, the Kennedy curse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know from a history of this family that it is very hard being a Kennedy.
CHO: Mary and Robert Kennedy married in 1994 after being introduced by her college roommate and best friend, Carrie Kennedy. Just one month before their wedding Robert's divorce from his first wife became official, Mary was already pregnant, but eventually this marriage, too, was doomed to fail. Robert Kennedy, Jr., filed for divorce from Mary in May of 2010, a divorce that was never finalized. But in the public's view that is precisely when Mary Kennedy's life began to unravel.
The next night police were called to the home for a domestic incident. Robert Kennedy said his wife was intoxicated. Two days later she was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Later that year she was arrested again for driving under the influence of prescription drugs. That charge was later dropped.
And while it was said that she never got over the separation, Robert Kennedy has been seen in the arms of another, a celebrity, actress Cheryl Hines. Mary Kennedy was 52 years old, an accomplished architect, a founder of the Food Allergy Initiative. On its Web site a tribute.
Her family released a statement saying "Our heart goes out to her children who she loved without reservation." And Robert Kennedy, "Mary inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit", but the price of being a Kennedy --
LAWRENCE LEAMER, KENNEDY BIOGRAPHER: The overwhelming celebrity, the attention, the obligations, the expectation that you're supposed to do something with your life, it is very, very hard.
CHO: A long line of tragedies for Camelot, two assassinations, Chappaquiddick (ph), JFK Jr.'s plane crash, the death of Ted Kennedy to name a few and Wolf, now this -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Alina thank you. What a tragedy, indeed a great tragedy and our heart goes out to the Kennedy family on this loss.
Let's go to Jack right now for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is what does it say about U.S. education if Florida lowered the passing grade on a standardized test after the students' scores dropped dramatically?
An educated single mom writes, "It means we are in serious trouble. As a divorced African-American mother who obtained two degrees while raising her family, I'm tired of politicians and parents blaming the teachers for what the parents ought to be doing at home. Put down the iPads and the iPhones and pick up a book. As a society, we've got to get back to real values or we are doomed." John in California writes, "Jack, it says the teachers unions, overpaid school administrators and our useless politicians all win while our kids and the rest of the country loses. The education of our people needs to be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up."
Paul writes, "When my daughter was little, my wife and I would play Scrabble with her. We never let her win. By the time she was 17, she could beat us. By lowering passing grades, Florida educators are doing what we refuse to do. They are throwing the game. The losers will be the students whose diplomas will be worthless."
Michael in Virginia writes, "Our education system is broken just like the rest of the country. Everything needs to be fixed and no one is listening. If you keep lowering the passing grade on a standardized test, pretty soon you will have a test that you cannot fail."
Bob in Ohio, "no surprise there, a southern state with lower education standards."
And James in North Carolina, "reducing standards is much easier than raising them. Below average has become the new above average. But I'm not complaining. If my wife hadn't lowered her standards, she would never have married me."
If you want to read more about this, you go to the blog CNN.com/CaffertyFile or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. That's pretty funny.
BLITZER: You know I'm not sure that education, it is so important, has the priority in our country right now that it really needs because you know we're dropping behind, as you point out, all of these other -- so many of these countries around the world.
CAFFERTY: And yet you know something like a Facebook or a Microsoft or an Apple, you know these people come along in America and develop these ideas that literally change the entire world. They don't come from a lot of the countries that have higher test scores than we do. I don't know if there's a correlation or what the answer is, but it's interesting that if you look back through history, from the Wright brothers to Thomas Edison to Henry Ford, the stuff that has changed the world for the better comes out of this country, at least it has.
BLITZER: You are absolutely right and I am very proud of that and you are. Everyone should be very proud of that and you make a great point, Jack --
BLITZER: Always worthwhile remembering that point, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Yes, I think so.
BLITZER: See you tomorrow. Thank you.
If you are tired of having to tow a boat behind your car every time you want to go fishing, guess what, you can now ditch the boat and just drive the car straight into the lake, coming up the story of the sleek-looking car that allows you to do just that.
BLITZER: It's an animal unlike any other, tearing up land and sea with amazing speed and if the price is right, it could be yours. CNN's Jeanne Moos is taking a closer look at the amphibious car better known as the Sea Lion.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a head turner on land.
MOOS: Heads really spin when you take it for a spin in water. Does it come with a guarantee that it won't sink?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
MOOS: It is called the Sea Lion and it's for sale to the right sort of buyer.
MARC WITT, CREATOR/MECHANICAL ENGINEER: He probably saw "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" as a child and he is into James Bond.
MOOS: Remember 007's submarine car with fins that popped out and a periscope that popped up.
MOOS: Though the Sea Lion doesn't fire missiles, its wheels do retract and a wing on the front goes up to deflect waves. Mechanical engineer Marc Witt spent six years designing and building it using a Mazda rotary engine.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a true racing car.
MOOS: Its claim to fame as an amphibious vehicle is its speed on land. It's engineered to go as fast as 180 miles per hour. Though in water, an outfit named Water Car (ph) says --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: World's fastest amphibious vehicles.
MOOS: A little over 60 miles per hour in the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you have to do to prepare this for the water? It's real hard. Drive it right in.
MOOS: Amphibious cars like the Gibbs Aquatic (ph) can easily pull a skier. These are consumer vehicles but the aluminum Sea Lion is purely a racer with its bubble hatch, not a car to frolic around in the water.
(on camera): It is not scary?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been scared in it, yes, I have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is not a pleasure boat. It is an engineering experimentation vehicle.
MOOS: The question is do you wear a seat belt and a life jacket?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have worn the life preserver and I've brought an oar.
MOOS (voice-over): Other amphibious vehicle makers --
MOOS: -- promote their cars as chick magnets. The Sea Lion has been magnetic in its own way. The co-owner of Fantasy Junction, the dealer selling the racer says --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Interest has been overwhelming and global.
MOOS (on camera): The sticker price, a mere 2595, that's $259,500.
(voice-over): Marc Witt says he has never encountered fish out driving, though apparently "The Spy Who Loved Me" did.
MOOS: When you are asking a buyer to sink $259,000 into a car, it better have a slightly ambiguous amphibious horn.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --
Do you need the wipers on all the time while you are in the water?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You actually do.
MOOS: New York.
BLITZER: That's it for me. Thanks for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.