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Sweeping Change in Immigration Policy; Reporter Angers President in Rose Garden; Lawmakers Barred For Lack Of "Maturity"; Russian Weapons on the Way to Syria; Classified War on Terror Info Released

Aired June 15, 2012 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, many Republicans are slamming the president's decision to stop deporting some young illegal immigrants, accusing him of granting amnesty.

But Mitt Romney's response is a lot more cautious.

Was President Obama's rival thrown off message?

Plus, a reporter is under fire for seemingly heckling the president during his immigration announcement.

Was he doing his job, pushing a political agenda or simply being rude?

We're going to discuss the uproar over this.

And the Air Force says it's closer to solving a mystery on board F-22 fighter jets -- pilots suffering from breathing problems, even blacking out in-flight.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Critics say President Obama's decision to stop deporting many young illegal immigrants is all about politics and the November election. The president says it's all about fairness, but his announcement already seems to be jolting the campaign, and, to a certain degree, his rival, Mitt Romney.

Listen to President Obama explain this major change in policy.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Effective immediately, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people. Over the next few months, eligible individuals who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be able to request temporary relief from deportation proceedings and apply for work authorization. Now, let's be clear, this is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix. This is a temporary stopgap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is -- it is the right thing to do.


BLITZER: Many Republicans quickly attacked the president's decision. But it took Mitt Romney a little bit longer to respond publicly.

Our senior political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is traveling with Romney in New Hampshire right now.

He finally did, after a few hours, make a statement.


A senior Romney adviser told me earlier this afternoon they look at the president's move on immigration as an attempt by the White House to pivot away from a bad couple of weeks on the economy. And it's a change in immigration policy that Romney did not totally reject.


ACOSTA (voice-over): As he embarked on a carefully crafted bus tour through six battleground states, Mitt Romney found when it comes to driving the day's agenda, sometimes it's the man sitting in the White House who's behind the wheel.

OBAMA: It makes no sense to expel talented young people who, for all intents and purposes, are Americans.

ACOSTA: The president's move to halt the deportations of young illegal immigrants appeared to catch the Romney campaign by surprise. At both stops in New Hampshire, the GOP contender did not respond to questions from reporters about the change in White House policy.

But just before he hopped on his bus to Pennsylvania, Romney weighed in.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and -- and should be solved on -- on a long-term basis so that they know what their future would be in this country. I think the action that the president took today makes it more difficult to reach that long-term solution.

ACOSTA: Throughout the GOP primary season, Romney adopted a hard-line stance on illegal immigration. He once said the undocumented should self-deport themselves back to their countries of origin. And he vowed he would not sign the Dream Act, a bill designed to offer young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

ROMNEY: The question is, if I were elected and Congress were to pass the Dream Act, would I veto it? And the answer is yes.

ACOSTA: But after polls showed the Republican contender far behind the president among Latinos, Romney advocated a GOP version of the Dream Act at a Florida fundraiser in April, saying: "We're going to be able to get Hispanic voters.

We're going to overcome the issue of immigration."

Romney then said he would consider a bill from Florida senator, Marco Rubio, a potential vice presidential running mate who's drafting such a proposal, noting it does not provide a path to citizenship.

ROMNEY: The Senator's proposal does not create that new category, but instead provides visas for those that -- that come into the country that are -- that came in as young people with -- with their families.

ACOSTA: Before the president's immigration detour, Democrats were already trying to throw Romney's bus tour off message. The DNC launched its own rival bus tour and dubbed it "Romney Economics: The Middle Class Under the Bus," while the liberal group,, sent out a car with a dog strapped to the roof to tail the GOP contender.

Romney still worked in his digs on the president's performance on the economy.

ROMNEY: He promised four more years, four more years of the same -- four more very long years.



ACOSTA: The other big political takeaway from the day, Wolf, is that Mitt Romney said earlier this afternoon that he's taking his cues on this White House change on immigration from Marco Rubio, who has a noticeably softer stance on the immigration issue and a softer stance than much of the Republican Party -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He certainly does. And I -- I suspect that Romney feels very comfortable with Rubio and Rubio's position, as opposed to some of the more hard-line views among other Republicans.

Jim Acosta in New Hampshire.

Thank you.

One Obama administration official tells CNN this policy could affect 800,000 young illegal immigrants in the United States. Many of them, on this day, they are celebrating right now.

One undocumented student in Los Angeles shared her joy with us only moments before the president's announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATHERINE TAVARAS, UNDOCUMENTED STUDENT: I just want to cry. I'm just so happy that -- it's not just me, but all my Dreamers. They are now having the opportunity to get permits to work legally, you know, that we won't be deported. Because we wake up every morning. We go outside on the streets then we're like, oh my God, what if I get in trouble and then I get deported?

I don't want to leave my family. I don't want to be separated from the people that I love, because we grew up here. We have our families here and friend -- and our friends here. And now that Obama has said this, we are really happy and enjoying this -- this new, because we know that we're not going to be deported and we're going to have the opportunity to work inside, in this country.


BLITZER: And you can certainly bet that President Obama is hoping many Latinos share that young woman's sentiment and joy and will decide to vote for him in November.

Let's bring our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

To a certain degree, this might box in Romney, and Rubio, for that matter.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, yes. Exactly. If that wasn't the sole purpose of what the president did today, it certainly is a clear byproduct.

I mean this is -- this presidential race is going to be about Hispanic voters, in many ways, in those battleground states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and a state like Florida, maybe even Arizona. So it's very important now.

But as you can see from what Jim Acosta was saying, the Romney and Rubio responses today were very subdued. There were lots of Republicans out there saying that this is amnesty, that it's unconstitutional, holding Congressional hearings on it.

But you didn't hear that from Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio. What you heard was this is a short-term solution. And it's clear they've got to walk a fine line now, letting Hispanic voters know, in a way, that they hear what they're saying about the children of illegal immigrants, they want to figure out a way to get around this.

So it was interesting that Mitt Romney did not come out there and attack the president on this.


BORGER: It was -- it was very subdued in tone.

BLITZER: And Romney was even more subdued than Marco Rubio, for that matter.

BORGER: Right. BLITZER: Rubio did, at one point, at the end of his statement, say : "By again ignoring "The Constitution" and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balance and responsible long-term one."

So he -- you know, he was playing with that.

BORGER: But -- but it wasn't in Romney's interests to come out and bash the president today on this.

BLITZER: No, he didn't do that.

BORGER: And he did -- he did not do that.


But is there a downside...

BORGER: Well...

BLITZER: -- for the president in making this shift?

BORGER: You know, obviously, it helps with Hispanic voters. That goes without saying. The president is already ahead with Hispanic voters.

But in talking to Republican pollsters today, including some who have done some focus groups, what's interesting is the -- the change in the way voters view Barack Obama from 2008 is that now they believe he's just another politician, Wolf. And they didn't see him that way in 2008.

And this could play into the notion that he's another politician. The timing of this is political. And so, if he's seen as just another pol, that doesn't help him...

BLITZER: In other words...

BORGER: -- with Independent voters.

BLITZER: If it's seen as strictly a political decision...


BLITZER: -- as opposed to a profile in courage type decision...

BORGER: And -- and that could...

BLITZER: -- then it could potentially hurt him.

BORGER: And that could hurt him with Independents.

BLITZER: Where does the public stand on all of this?

BORGER: Well, the public is with President Obama on this. The public is very, very strong on enforcement, but they're very willing to give the children of illegal immigrants a break.

Take a look at this poll that was done in early May by "The National Journal." The question was asked, "How should the United States handle all illegal immigrants in the U.S. who have broken no other laws?"

And you see, "Allow some to stay in the U.S. if they've lived here for many years," 44 percent. And that is basically what the president was saying today, if you don't have a criminal record, you're the children of illegal immigrants, you participate in a positive way in this society, we're not going to give you a path to citizenship, but we are going to allow you to work here.

So he's consolidating the people who are already with him by (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: We're going to be seeing the political fallout for a long time on this decision.

BORGER: We will.

BLITZER: Thanks...

BORGER: We will.

BLITZER: Thanks, Gloria.

This was clearly a big announcement for the president. And right in the middle of it all, he got angry and a bit rattled. The reason -- a reporter in the Rose Garden interrupted the president, shouting questions, seeming -- seeming to heckle him.

Listen to this.



OBAMA: It is the right thing to do.

MUNRO: (INAUDIBLE) foreigners over American workers.

OBAMA: Excuse me, sir. The -- it's not time for questions, sir.


OBAMA: Not while I'm speaking. And the answer to your question, sir -- and the next time I'd prefer you let me finish my statements before you ask that question -- is this is the right thing to do for the American people. Maybe...


OBAMA: -- I -- I didn't -- I didn't ask for an argument. I'm answering your question.

MUNRO: Is it right (INAUDIBLE)? OBAMA: It is right thing to do...

MUNRO: -- workers?

OBAMA: -- for the American people. And here's why.



BLITZER: That reporter was Neil Munro, the White House correspondent for the conservative online news outlet, "The Daily Caller."

Let's bring in our own Howard Kurtz, the host of CNN's "RELIABLE SOURCES."

He's also the Washington bureau chief for "Newsweek" and "The Daily Beast."

What did you think of that?

Was that reporter, Neil Munro, off base?

Should he -- was it -- you know, what did you think?

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let's not mince words. This was a monumental act of rudeness act by Neil Munro. And let's not be distracted by the alibi that we have to be aggressive in questioning the president.

Yes, reporters should shout questions at presidents when they've finished a statement, when they're working a rope line, when they're walking to the helicopter, not while the president of the United States is addressing not just the reporters in the Rose Garden, but the American people via television.

BLITZER: The White House issued a statement saying: "The incident won't diminish the president's commitment to pursuing immigration policies that reflect our values, laws and history as a nation of immigrants."

Munro issued his own statement saying, "I timed the question believing the president was closing his remarks because, naturally, I have no intention of interrupting the president of United States. I know he rarely takes questions before walking away from the podium."

Do you buy that?

KURTZ: I don't buy it at all. Here's why that's baloney.

First of all, he interrupted the president the first time in mid- sentence.

Second of all, he kept talking while -- while the president said excuse me, I'm not taking questions right now.

And when -- and when the president then circled back and said, "I'm answering your question," he spoke again.

This was a stunt designed to draw attention to "The Daily Caller." And Neil Munro happens to be a guy who's written critically of immigration reform. So, clearly, there was a partisan agenda here.

And it just came off -- and, again, I'm all for aggressive journalism, but this wasn't journalism, this was rudeness.

BLITZER: Because I -- I've been in the Rose Garden many times.

KURTZ: Have you ever seen that happen?

BLITZER: No. I -- I -- I -- I know that as soon as the president stops...

KURTZ: Oh, sure.

BLITZER: -- and he ends what he's saying, you know, he'll -- he'll either walk away or take a question. And whether Sam Donaldson, in the older days, or Bill Plante, even nowadays, or other White House reporters shout questions -- and I shouted questions many times. I always waited for a president to finish his statement. I never interrupted him in the middle of a statement.

KURTZ: It's not that far -- excuse me for interrupting.

It's not that difficult to figure out when a president is done making his statement.

And I'm not saying that you have to play by the rules, even though the White House said they were not taking questions. Once in a while, a president will turn back and answer a shouted question.

But to do it and to keep talking while the president clearly did not want to be interrupted, that just struck me as somebody who went there to create a moment.

And since we're talking about it here, I guess he did.

BLITZER: Yes. I remember one incident -- and I have the clip. I'll play it, because it really generated angry reaction from Bill Clinton, as president of the United States, when Bret Hume, who was working for ABC, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had just been announced as a Supreme Court nominee.

The president finished. Brit waited appropriately for the president to finish. But then he asked this. And listen to the -- listen to how irritated Bill Clinton got.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP from June 14, 1993)

BRIT HUME, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, the withdrawal of the Guinier nomination, sir, and your apparent focus on Judge Breyer and your turn, late it seems, to Judge Ginsburg, may have created an impression, perhaps unfair, of a certain zigzag quality in the decision-making process here. I wonder, sir, if you could kind of walk us through it and perhaps disabuse of any notion that we might have along those lines.

Thank you.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have long since given up the thought that I could disabuse some of turning any substantive decision in anything but political process. How you could ask a question like that after the statement she just made is beyond me.



BLITZER: All right. He then walked away. He was irritated. But Brit waited. The president called on him, actually. It wasn't as if he was interrupting the president in the middle of that announcement.

KURTZ: I remember well that day in 1993. And Bill Clinton stalked off.

But Brit was recognized and he asked a question -- a perfectly legitimate question, perfectly politely. Bill Clinton just didn't like the question...

BLITZER: Right. He hated it.

KURTZ: And he chose that -- he hated it, it was pretty clear, and chose that moment to walk out. So I wouldn't equate that incident in any way with what Neil Munro did today with President Obama.

BLITZER: The only equating was that Obama was clearly angry, Clinton was clearly angry. But these two reporters acted very, very differently.

KURTZ: I would agree with that. And the president -- this president get it -- let it get under his skin. And he was certainly not expecting to be interrupted. And it took him off his game just a little bit.

BLITZER: Now, they haven't apologized, "The Daily Caller," Tucker Carlson, Neil Munro. They've explained what -- what he was trying to do.

Should they issue a formal apology to the president?

KURTZ: I think that would be warranted, because Tucker Carlson, our one time colleague here at CNN, he's doubling down. He's defending his guy.

I get that.

But the fact is, they were wrong. And to defend it and try to cast it as an example of aggressive journalism seems to me to just not own up to the basic fact that anybody could see on that TV screen, which was he interrupted the president in a -- in a -- in a very rude fashion.

BLITZER: See you Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern here on CNN, "RELIABLE SOURCES."

KURTZ: We'll be talking about this as well.

BLITZER: I'm sure you will. Thank you.

Two Michigan lawmakers barred from speaking on the state House floor for using words that don't usually come up in political debate.

And as the violence in Syria keeps getting worse, U.S. officials believe they have more proof that Russia is aiding the regime's brutal crackdown.

And practice time is over. A famous daredevil about to perform the stunt of a lifetime 200 feet above Niagara Falls.


BLITZER: Now to a controversy in Michigan where two female lawmakers have been barred from speaking on the House floor because of an improper level of, quote, "maturity and civility." Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's been working the story. What's this all about, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, I spoke to someone who's covered Michigan politics for decades. And he says, this is really unprecedented. The Republican-controlled House did not allow two female Democrats to speak on the House floor one day after a heated abortion debate. Those democrats are asking today, what did they do wrong?


SNOW (voice-over): Republicans in Michigan are calling this a temper tantrum.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question before the House Senate absent of amendment (INAUDIBLE). Members may vote at their desk. The amendment is not adopted. Are there further amendments?

SNOW: She was drowned out, but vasectomy was the last word she said. She was pushing for an amendment to regulate vasectomies as part of her opposition to a bill restricting abortions. Lisa Brown, another Democrat, was barred from speaking after saying this.

REP. LISA BROWN, (D) MICHIGAN: And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members, I do ask that you respect the decorum of the House.

SNOW: Brown also made references to her Jewish religion.

BROWN: The state of pregnancy does not matter wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or death of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother.

SNOW: The Democratic lawmaker says she still hasn't been told by the Republican leadership why she couldn't speak on the House floor Thursday.

BROWN: I've been making guesses. I didn't know if it was my, you know, references to my religious beliefs. I didn't know if it was using the word vagina. I just -- without telling me anything, I'm only left to guess.

SNOW: The Republican leadership says religion was not the reason. That the ban is about keeping decorum.

REP. LISA LYONS, (R) MICHIGAN: This is not about women. This is not about policy. This is not about the use of two anatomically and medically correct terms. This is about acting professional in the House floor. And this is about making sure that we maintain a level of decorum.

SNOW: Republican representative, Lisa Lyons, says, she took offense to using the phrase no means no. And this is how she interpreted it.

LYONS: As she finished her statement, compared support part of the bill to rape. And that is when she was gaveled down, and that is what our floor leader and speaker pro tem objected to.

BROWN: I think that they're looking for an excuse to punish me when I didn't do anything wrong. To me, this is a war on women. It's silencing our voices and saying we want control of our bodies.


SNOW (on-camera): Now, a spokesman from Michigan's House Republican leader says the ban was only in effect for Thursday. It was the last day of session before a month-long break. But clearly, the reaction it has sparked has turned this into a much bigger political fight that isn't going to go away after one day -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow with that report. Thank you.

We also have an update on that JetBlue pilot who had a mid-flight meltdown. Passengers say he ranted incoherently, but that doesn't mean he's not fit to appear in court. Standby for an update.

And the leader of the free world pops in for a surprise lunch, but then sticks the restaurant with his bill. The awkward situation facing one barbecue joint right here in Washington.


BLITZER: We have an update on that infamous JetBlue pilot. Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on here, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, a judge has ruled Clayton Osborn, the JetBlue pilot who had a strange mid-air meltdown, is fit to stand trial. She says Osborn is, quote, "mentally competent and understands the proceedings against him."

A March 27th flight from JFK International to Las Vegas was diverted when the pilot allegedly ranted incoherently about Iraq, Iran, and a bomb being onboard.

And the state department says it's, quote, "extremely concerned" about the health of Alan Gross, the American prisoner being held in Cuba. A spokesman says Gross can't even walk in his cell anymore. Gross was arrested in 2009 for bringing communications equipment into Cuba.

Cuba's ministry of foreign affairs says Gross is being treated properly, eating healthy meals, and his conditions are just typical of someone his age.

And the White House made a surprise stop for barbecue in Washington, but left the restaurant a surprise when lunch finished on Wednesday, an unpaid tab. President Obama visited with service members and local barbers, but amidst all of the hubbub, the White House forgot to pay the $55 tab before leaving, though.

Fortunately, they all settled it up a little later in the day. And that lunch, Wolf, was actually to honor a group of dads. And, we're going to have more on that story coming up a little bit in this hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure they left a nice tip, too.

SYLVESTER: I'm sure they did.

BLITZER: Looking forward to your report. Thanks, Lisa.

More Russian military help may be on the way to Syria as the violence intensifies. Could Russian troops be next?

And F-22 fighter pilots here in the United States blacking out in flight. The U.S. air force says it's closer to figuring out why.


BLITZER: Syrian activists tell CNN that 20 children are being held as human shields right now abducted by pro-government forces from an embattled neighborhood in Homs, Syria.

At least 36 people were killed in escalating violence across Syria today. And we're learning that more military help for the Bashar al- Assad regime's deadly crackdown may be on the way from Russia.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's got some new information.

What are you learning, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've seen the angry statements between Moscow and Washington all week long about those Russian attack helicopters supposedly going to Syria, and the Russians saying they don't want to see any outside intervention in Syria. So what on earth is a Russian military cargo ship doing on its way to that country?


STARR (voice-over): The U.S. is tracking this Russian military cargo ship as it makes its way to Syria carrying weapons, ammunition and troops. Defense officials tell CNN that U.S. intelligence believes the Russians are sending the ship and a small number of troops to help fortify its naval base as the situation in Syria continues to spiral out of control.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: We have been concerned about escalating violence and about the lack of a ceasefire and about the potential for civil war.

STARR: CNN has learned that classified U.S. imagery shows the Nicolai Filchenkov began loading in the port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea on June 7th and is headed for the Syrian Port of Tartus where the Russians have a naval facility. The port is vital for Russian naval access to the entire Middle East.

U.S. officials say under maritime rules, Russia should declare what the ship is carrying when it enters the Mediterranean. It's not yet known how many troops are on board and whether they are merely helping transport the weapons or will in fact stay in Syria.

For now the U.S. believes the Russians just want to defend their facilities. But it's not clear how much of a threat the Russians really are facing from opposition attacks. The area's not seen a lot of fighting. U.S. officials are worried there could be other plans for the troops and the military gear.

It comes as U.S. and U.N. officials continue to worry the violence will break into all-out civil war. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told CNN Thursday the suicide bombing that damaged a Shiite mosque in Damascus is a dangerous escalation.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Which, of course, gives us pause that have been in Iraq and seen how these issues become sectarian and then they become civil wars, and then they become very difficult to resolve.


STARR: NBC News was the first to report that Russian ship was on its way to Syria. We've learned that inside the administration now there are extended discussions about this sectarian violence that has broken out and whether this is all headed to become a much more tragic and violent situation than we even saw in Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara, thank you. Thanks very much.

There's classified information about the war on terror that has just been declassified.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin has been looking into this new information for us. So what are you learning?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. This is a new move by the White House and they're offering up a little more information about the war on terror in both Yemen and Somalia. What's different is now they're formerly declassifying the fact that the U.S. is engaged in military operations against al Qaeda in those two countries.

Now you might say Secretary Panetta has acknowledged action in Yemen before. And the White House has confirmed the killing of a top al Qaeda target Anwar al-Awlaki. But what's different here is the actual formal de-classification as part of a semi-annual report to Congress. And that is a meaningful step in a government this big. And more classified material is so important.

BLITZER: As you know there are formal investigations into all these national security leaks of so-called classified information. Does this impact any of this?

YELLIN: And one always wonders when something comes out on a Friday. So the interesting -- the timing given these leaks investigation is interesting. It probably does not impact that investigation. There's nothing in this report that describes the methods the U.S. uses to go after terrorists. It's not detailed in that way.

But, you know, critics say the White House has been talking up their war on terror to look tough in an election year. And this could give them more ammunition to make that claim. On the other hand, the administration did vow transparency. So they could make the case that they're revealing what they feel they can.

In a statement to CNN, Wolf, the administration said, a senior administration official said, they declassified only what they felt would not compromise U.S. national security interests.

BLITZER: Jessica, thank you.

F-22 pilots are having breathing problems in flight 10 times more often than pilots in other jets. And the U.S. Air Force now scrambling to try to solve a dangerous problem.

And we'll tell you why China is offering a rare apology.


BLITZER: We're getting new information about a very dangerous problem with one of America's top fighter jets. Pilots flying the F-22 Raptor are far more likely to suffer breathing problems and actually get sick than on board other U.S. Air Force jets.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, has more on this investigation -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been talking to our sources. And we're either getting very close to cracking this mystery or about to open up a completely new part of the investigation.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Imagine you can't breathe or blacking out 10 miles off the ground going twice the speed of sound. It's happened to pilots of the F-22 10 times as often as any other jet. But the Air Force believes it is closer to solving the mystery of why.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the G-vest.

LAWRENCE: CNN has learned that Air Force investigators found pressure vests filling with air when they shouldn't. It's supposed to expand and contract to fight the effects of severe G-forces. But sources say it may restrict pilots' breathing and cause hypoxia.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER, AIR NATIONAL GUARD PILOT: Because everybody has different symptoms. For me actually I start find everything pretty funny.

LAWRENCE: Congressman Adam Kinzinger is also a military pilot in the National Guard. He experienced hypoxia during training simulations, says it gets worse from there to where he couldn't solve a simple math problem or make judgment calls.

KINZINGER: It's the beginning stages of passing out and ultimately dying.

LAWRENCE: Kinzinger has been pushing the Air Force to figure it out. Some experts have doubts about blaming the vests since pilots flying at low altitude and F-22 maintenance workers have complained about hypoxia, too.

PIERRE SPREY, FORMER MILITARY AVIATION DESIGNER: It can't really be an oxygen problem if people on the ground are having very similar symptoms and also pilots below 15,000 feet.

LAWRENCE: Pierre Sprey is a former aviation designer who helped build the F-16 and A-10. He says the one thing that sets the F-22 apart is its special stealth capability.

SPREY: They admitted that stealth coatings were toxic, they would have to ground the B-2, the F-22, the F-35. You're talking about things that affect more than half of the Air Force's procurement budget.


LAWRENCE: Air Force officials say they have found nothing toxic or at least for pilots in that stealth coating. They also say in the 14,000 flights since last summer only 11 pilots have reported hypoxia and none in the last few months -- Wolf.

BLITZER: How do they explain the ground crews, though, getting sick?

LAWRENCE: Good question. I was speaking with a Defense official who told me one line of thinking, they can't be sure, but one line of thinking is that maybe it's mental. In other words, he's saying perhaps some of the ground crews and pilots flying at low altitude heard about the problems with hypoxia and then when they were feeling sort of funny one day came to actually believe that they, too, were suffering from it.

BLITZER: I think I'm beginning to suffer a little bit just hearing about it. Thanks very much, Chris Lawrence, for that.

All right. Detective babies -- defective, I should say, baby strollers cause at least three children to have their fingertips amputated. We're going to find out what's being done to put an end to this truly frightening problem.

And a daredevil from a famous family of performers taking his talents to a whole new level. He's going to be walking over Niagara Falls on a tight rope.


BLITZER: Chinese authorities are apologizing to a woman who was forced to have a late-term abortion.

Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Chinese officials are admitting that a 22-year-old was illegally detained and coerced to have the procedure in the seventh month of her pregnancy. It happened because the woman's husband couldn't afford a $6300 fee for a birth permit for their second child. He says his wife was traumatized in the hospital. On China's equivalent of Twitter, the case was among the top trending topics. Three officials involved in the incident have since been suspended.

And a very scary incident for a member of Congress today. Pennsylvania Representative Robert Brady's wife says men in masks tried to break into their home. She was alone at the time when she heard a knock at the door. That's when she saw three men in surgical masks and hooded sweatshirts in the yard. One of those men tried to open the rear sliding door. The phone and cable lines were also cut. Luckily nobody was hurt. Police are investigating the incident.

And 52 years after his spy plane was down over the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, the Air Force is awarding France's Gary Powers a Posthumous silver star. His family accepted the award for Powers who died in 1977.

He was jailed in the Soviet Union for two years. And he was threatened with death and deprived of sleep and food. But he still refused to reveal confidential information. He returned to the U.S. in 1962 in a spy swap. His children say the medal finally sets the record straight on what he endured.

And a popular stroller is being recalled after three children have their fingertips amputated from its hinges. Two adults also reported smashing their fingers in the stroller, which is made by Cole Craft. Approximately 36,000 defective strollers were sold in the United States and Canada in the last six years. That's according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

And the legal battle between actors Kevin Costner and Steven Baldwin has been settled. And a jury is siding with Costner. Baldwin alleged Kevin Costner fooled him into selling stock in a company that made oil spill clean-up machines the same week BP placed a $52 million order for the technology. Baldwin says it cost him millions, but jury obviously disagrees -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jury gets the final word in that one. Lisa, thank you.

A daredevil is about to take the family tradition to new heights. Two hundred feet above Niagara Falls. Nik Wallenda of the famous Flying Wallendas has been practicing this terrifying tightrope walk. And tonight he does it for real.

He spoke with CNN's national correspondent, Jason Carroll, about the stunt of a lifetime.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An ominous sight, raging water rumbling over Niagara Falls' crest line dropping 180 feet. Imagine walking across the falls on a high wire. Sound like a nightmare?

NIK WALLENDA, HIGH WIRE WALKER: Yesterday I trained with about 52- mile-an-hour winds.

CARROLL: Just the opposite for Nik Wallenda.

WALLENDA: It's been a dream of mine for a long time. And I'm one of those that always tries to over achieve. I want to do -- I want to do more. I want to do bigger things. I want to do exciting things.

CARROLL: Call it exciting. Call it crazy. Wallenda will attempt to cross Niagara Falls on a steel rope two inches in diameter. No bigger than a tennis ball. The walk, more than 1500 feet long, 200 feet above the falls.

(On camera): Clearly you don't have a fear of heights.

WALLENDA: I don't. I respect heights. You know, it's not a fear. I could be -- fear is debilitating. It makes it to where it's almost impossible. You overreact and that will cause you to fall.

CARROLL (voice-over): Wallenda had a near fall on his last high-wire walk across Baltimore's Inner Harbor. He was able to steady himself due to years of practice. He comes from seven generations of Flying Wallendas, a name given for their daredevil antics. Over the decades, the family has seen successes and tragedies. In 1978, Wallenda's great grandfather attempted a walk between two hotel towers in Puerto Rico. He slipped and fell to his death. WALLENDA: He is definitely my inspiration behind most of what I do. And I do this for him, out of respect for him. So absolutely, I think about him and I'll think about him as I'm crossing over the falls for sure.

CARROLL: Wallenda, like his forbearers, has always walked without a harness. But not this time. His sponsors are requiring he wear one for the Niagara walk.

(On camera): Why don't you want to wear the harness? I mean you're talking to someone that does not walk a wire so --

WALLENDA: Well, you know, I think it's more about personal goal than anything. And my personal goal is to do it without a harness.

CARROLL (voice-over): Both his father and uncle support that goal.

(On camera): I think a lot of people are going to find that hard to understand. And you say that because he's not used to, what, training with a harness?

TERRY TROFFER, NIK WALLENDA'S FATHER: He has never worn a harness in all of those years.

MIKE TROFFER, NIK WALLENDA'S UNCLE: It's a bit personal for me in that I am the guy designing this thing now so that it will get over the wire.

CARROLL (voice-over): Wallenda's practice on this day without a harness goes well. He said a prayer mid walk, and says he will do more of that crossing the falls.

WALLENDA: I know that there's angels around me and I know there's a lot of people in this audience and viewers that will be watching that night. They'll be lifting me up in their prayers. Thanks.

CARROLL: Jason Carroll, CNN, Niagara Falls, New York.


BLITZER: Someone who grew up in Buffalo, New York, has been to Niagara Falls many, many times, I wish him only the best. I'll be praying for him as well, I'll be anxious to watch this stunt.

As we approach Father's Day, President Obama sits down to lunch with four model dads here in Washington. It's all part of a program called Fatherhood Buzz. We spoke with two of those dads.


BLITZER: A look at this hour's "Hot Shots." Check them out.

In Tunisia, citizens paused for Friday prayers outside a mosque. In Scotland, residents take part in an age-old traditional festival. In Greece, business is slow for this bar and many others in that nation's capital. And in England, flags from around the world adorn London streets in anticipation of the 2012 Olympic Games.

"Hot Shots." Pictures coming in from around the world.

Just about a month after President Obama came out in support of same- sex marriage, he has been hosting a reception over at the White House today in honor of Gay Pride Month. He told gays and lesbians that after decades of inaction, they have the reason and the right to push forcefully for equality.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now we know we've got more to do. Americans may feel more comfortable bringing their partners to the office barbeque, but we're still waiting for a fully inclusive unemployment, nondiscrimination act. Congress needs to pass that legislation so there's no American ever fired simply for being gay or transgender.

Americans may be able to serve openly in the military, but many are still growing up alone and afraid, picked on, pushed around for being different, and that's why my administration has worked to raise awareness about bullying.


BLITZER: The president marking Gay Pride Month over at the White House.

Sunday is Father's Day. And this week, President Obama made a surprise lunch stop to a restaurant here in Washington where he ate barbecue with four fathers, two service members and two D.C. area barbers.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has the story of two of the men the president honored for being great dads.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Checker board is a friendly game.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Learn something about checkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Person moves out of turn or tries to cheat, good old dad will catch it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They come to play checkers. If they need a haircut, they come to me.

SYLVESTER (voice-over): Mason's Barbershop. You can learn a lot in these walls.

ROBBIE MASON, BARBER: The barbershop is the foundation of the neighborhood.

SYLVESTER: This is Nurney Mason.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have been here 51 years. Man with a plan.

SYLVESTER: And his son Robbie.

R. MASON: It starts right here. You have to take reach one, teach one. And that's what you got to do. My dad, he has been a role model all my life. He is my best friend. And he has always told me to be a man, you must see a man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First thing I tell the young folks, you have two ears and one mouth. Listen twice as much as you talk. If they sit and listen, they'll learn something. Simple as that.

SYLVESTER: For Mason, his business is all about cutting hair, but his job, raising four daughters and two sons.

R. MASON: He has always been there from day one. He's never been an absent dad from all the way up until right now.

SYLVESTER: This barbershop is part of a new White House initiative called Fatherhood Buzz. A way to reach to dads through barbershops and encourage them to spend more time with their children.

R. MASON: We go fishing together, we play checkers together. We have even been on trips to play checkers, and we spend time as buddies. And I won't make a major move in my life without talking to him.

SYLVESTER: Mason and his fellow barber, the man known around here as Big O, were honored at a barbeque lunch with the president. Only four dads in the whole country were chosen.

OTIS "BIG O" GAMBLE, BARBER: To sit and have lunch with the president of the United States, shake his hand and take some pictures, you don't get that every day.

I think my secret is not a secret to me, it is to treat them right, you know, treat all your kids right, try to give them what they ask for, let them know that you love them.

SYLVESTER: Advice passed down from one generation to the next.

R. MASON: Make sure that you're in their life every step of the way. Even if you can't do save the whole world, save the little world around you.

SYLVESTER: Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Good advice. Thanks very much, Lisa, for doing that report.

And to all of the fathers out there, happy Father's Day weekend.

Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.