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THE SITUATION ROOM
President Obama Meets With Vladimir Putin; Romney's Immigration Stance; Greek Vote Drives U.S. Markets; Clemens Verdict Expected Soon; Early Obama Backer Defects To GOP; Roger Clemens Not Guilty On All Counts
Aired June 18, 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 right now: eerie echoes of the Cold War, as a Russian cargo ship allegedly carries more weapons to Syria, and President Obama sits down for a face-to-face meeting with Russia's new president, Putin.
Also, Mitt Romney took a hard-line stance on immigration during the primaries. But Obama's directive on illegal immigrants now forced Romney into what some are calling an Etch A Sketch moment?
And an early backer of Barack Obama dropping a bombshell. After seconding Obama's nomination back in 2008 at the convention, former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis says he's voting for Mitt Romney this time around. He's going to tell us why.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The Cold War is long over, but a chill has settled in over U.S.- Russia relations right now. The key issue, Moscow's support for the regime for Syria, including the continued supply of weapons which may help fuel a brutal crackdown. President Obama is addressing that issue head on over at the G20 summit in Mexico.
Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, is joining us from Los Cabos right now.
Dan, what's the latest on this tension between the U.S. and Russia?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, Wolf, the two leaders met for about two hours, President Obama saying that their meeting was candid and thorough.
But I will have to tell you, you take a look at the body language, and it gives you a sense of what that meeting was like. They did not sit very close together. President Obama was leading -- leaning towards President Putin. President Putin appeared to be leaning away. You didn't see any smiles at the end of the remarks that they gave to reporters.
They had a quick handshake, sort of half of a smile, President Obama patting him very briefly on the shoulder. It was not the kind of chemistry that we saw between President Obama and former President Medvedev. Nonetheless, the two leaders did discuss a whole host of issues, but perhaps the most important one was Syria.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): The temperature of the U.S. reset with Russia is heating up with U.S. officials telling CNN Russian ships, one allegedly loaded with helicopters and munitions, could be headed to Syria. With that as a backdrop, President Obama sat down for his first face-to-face meeting with President Vladimir Putin since his reelection, differences over Syria seemingly straining the relationship.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We agreed that we need to see a cessation of the violence, that a political process has to be created to prevent civil war.
LOTHIAN: Both leaders focused on the strength of the tie between their two countries, the New START treaty, a key partner in Afghanistan, and some agreement on how to handle Iran's nuclear ambitions.
But Russia has vetoed two U.N. security sanctions on Syria and has resisted joining calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step aside.
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We have been working to get the Russians to come in line with frankly the broad international community.
LOTHIAN: U.S. officials continue to put pressure on Russia to support a Yemen-style solution in an effort to end the ongoing violence, a peaceful transition of power followed by Democratic reforms. Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, lashed out at President Putin for so far refusing to budge.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: They are harming themselves dramatically. And I don't quite understand that. The only -- and I don't pretend to be able to get into now President Putin's mind, but there is a certain nostalgia in Russia for the old Russian empire. This is their last outpost and port on the Mediterranean.
LOTHIAN: President Obama also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is playing a key role in brokering a solution to the Eurozone crisis, and with Mexican's President Felipe Calderon, who congratulated Mr. Obama's recent decision to allow some young illegal immigrants to temporarily stay in the U.S.
FELIPE CALDERON, MEXICAN PRESIDENT (through translator): This is very just. It's a humanitarian action. And it's an unprecedented action in our opinion.
LOTHIAN: Now President Obama and President Putin did pledge to work together with the international community, including the United Nations and Kofi Annan, to come up with a solution on Syria. But I can tell you, Wolf, not in prepared remarks, not in the statement was there any indication at all that Russia at this point is willing to call for President Assad to step aside.
BLITZER: Good point, Dan. Dan Lothian at the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, thanks, Dan.
You just saw him in Dan's piece. In our next hour, Senator John McCain, he will join me here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's also fired up, as you know, about the tense situation right now with Russia and the warships they're sending to Syria.
While President Obama takes the world stage in Mexico, Mitt Romney is running up the odometer on a hectic campaign swing through some crucial states.
Brian Todd is taking a closer look at the Romney campaign right now.
What are you seeing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Mitt Romney is not just barnstorming. He's taking this bus tour right to places that are into play as battleground states, six states in five days. These are states that President Obama won in 2008, but which are now either surefire battlegrounds or places that the Romney campaign believes are close enough that he can win them.
Today in Wisconsin, Romney very, very confident, saying we're going to win here. He had made a similar declaration in Pennsylvania on Saturday. Romney said President Obama -- quote -- "assumed that Wisconsin would be his," but the Republicans are buoyed by the recent win of Governor Scott Walker, who just fought off the Wisconsin state Democrats' recall attempt.
Walker was with Romney today. And he joins a list of potential V.P. nominees who have traveled with Romney on this tour. You have had people like Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who appeared with Romney in that state on Friday, former Governor Tim Pawlenty, who was with him in New Hampshire, and then with him in Pennsylvania on Saturday, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who appeared with Romney there on Sunday, and along with Scott Walker in Wisconsin today, up-and- coming Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, a favorite among fiscal conservatives and himself a potential V.P. candidate.
Ryan is from Janesville, Wisconsin, where Romney went today to an event at the Monterey Mills fabric plant. The owner of that plant introducing Romney today, looking to break some news -- take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Romney, we're in Congressman Ryan's hometown. He's right here. If you have an announcement to make...
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: To no avail, no announcement from Romney yet. Governor Romney now heading to Iowa as we speak and to Michigan tomorrow, Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, some of these states, at least it appears are starting to cause the Obama campaign some real headaches.
TODD: That's right. Pennsylvania leaning toward President Obama, but the race is tightening there. New Hampshire is considered a tossup.
And critically, in Michigan, there was a new poll released Thursday from the group Epic MRA. It shows Michigan is a dead heat, Romney with 46 percent in that particular survey, President Obama with 45 percent. The president had been ahead in the previous poll taken in April. But with Michigan carrying 16 electoral votes, that state is a huge player, Wolf, and very, very tight at the moment.
BLITZER: Certainly is. All right, thanks very much for that, Brian.
Mitt Romney may have painted himself into a corner with some hard-line campaign talk about immigration, especially now that President Obama has decided to allow some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States and get legal status for two years at a time.
So, what does Romney do now?
Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.
Gloria, you saw the exchange that Romney had yesterday on "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer. Let me play a little bit of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Would you repeal this?
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, it would be overtaken by events, if you will, by virtue of my putting in place a long-term solution with the legislation, which creates law, that relates to these individuals, such that they know what their setting is going to be.
SCHIEFFER: Would you leave this in place while you worked out a long-term solution, or would you just repeal it?
ROMNEY: We will look at that setting as we reach that. But my anticipation is I would come into office and say we need to get this done on a long-term basis, not this kind of a stopgap measure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He really didn't answer the question. Bob Schieffer tried several times.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You noticed that? Yes.
BLITZER: He really didn't answer would you repeal -- he says he would repeal Obamacare, as it's called. But he didn't go that far as this issue is reserved.
And there are a couple of things going on here. First of all, he doesn't have a direct answer about what he would do. He's trying to walk a fine line here because he doesn't want to completely alienate Latino voters. But also he doesn't want to alienate conservative voters, the folks he had to sort of win over during the primary.
So, what he saw him do in that interview with Bob Schieffer is retreat to kind of a process answer, saying, you know, that President Obama did this in the wrong way. But there's something else going on here that's quite interesting. And that is that Marco Rubio, who would like to be vice presidential nominee, was supposed to give Mitt Romney the lifeline here out of this immigration morass.
And Marco Rubio has not yet come up with a plan. And so what the White House decided to do is drive a Mack truck right through the hole. And whatever comes out now, whatever Marco Rubio comes out with is now going to be a litmus test within the Republican Party about how they approach the issue of immigration reform, because they don't have a plan right now.
BLITZER: Because during his race for the Republican nomination, he was very forceful, Romney, saying he will impose any of this, including the DREAM Act.
BORGER: And that's his real problem, of course. Take a look at Mitt Romney in a debate from January talking about the DREAM Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: And I have indicated I would veto the DREAM Act if provisions included in that act to say that people who are here illegally, if they go to school here long enough, get a degree here that they can become permanent residents.
I think that's a mistake. I think we have to follow the law and insist those that have come here illegally ultimately return home, apply, get in line with everyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: Now, Wolf, the president has not said permanent residency here.
But Mitt Romney also made it very clear at that point -- and you and I watched him during the primaries -- running to the right on the issue of immigration. So what he's got to do now is talk about process, saying that President Obama has overstepped his authority, but he is still awaiting that plan from Marco Rubio. And that could well determine whether Rubio has a shot at the vice presidential nod.
BLITZER: People would like that, although I suspect, knowing Romney as I do, he's much more cautious. He's going to go with somebody maybe a little bit not as flamboyant, shall we say.
BORGER: Very cautious.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
BLITZER: The markets just closed, lots of investors reacting to the big news out of Greece of a possible new governor. But what does it really mean for our economy?
Plus, my take on the new details surrounding President Obama's birth in Hawaii. There's a new book that's out with new details about the Honolulu birth. Stand by.
BLITZER: They just announced that there is a verdict now in the trial of Roger Clemens, the famed pitcher who has been accused of lying to Congress about steroid use.
They haven't told us what the verdict is. We expect that verdict to be coming in shortly. Of course, we will have live coverage. We will update you as soon as we know innocent or guilty or whatever. Stand by. A verdict has been reached in the Roger Clemens perjury trial.
Jack Cafferty is joining us in the meantime with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, Chris Christie says that Mitt Romney should call him when it comes to the number two spot on the ticket. The popular governor of New Jersey tells "Newsweek" magazine he's not sure how he would react if Romney asks -- asks him to be his V.P. All depends on what Romney says. Christie adds that it's possible he would say no even though he's not even sure he'll get the call to begin with.
But Mitt Romney should seriously -- pardon me -- consider Chris Christie. The ever-outspoken, down-to-earth Christie could help the aloof and seemingly removed Mitt Romney in many ways.
To begin with, voters like Christie's honesty and his bluntness. He connects with them in a way that Romney just doesn't or can't or won't. Plus, Christie could fire up the base, especially those who think Romney hasn't been a strong enough conservative vote -- there are a lot of those.
As "Newsweek" points out, Christie has succeeded in identifying and mastering the defining public policy challenge of this era, reining in the cost of government. His willingness to take on the teachers union, public sectors workers and cut government spending in New Jersey is what the rest of the country simply must do at some point.
It's just one reason why Christie might be a bold choice. It may also be one Mitt Romney is not prepared to make, that's because Christie comes with risks as well. Being outspoken isn't always what you want in the vice president. Just ask President Obama.
But if it happens, the have vice presidential debates between Christie and Joe Biden -- must-see TV. Pay TV. Huge.
Meanwhile, if Christie doesn't get tapped as Romney's number two, there is growing buzz he could be the keynote speaker at the Republican convention this summer. Once again, must see TV.
Here's the question: what would Chris Christie bring to the GOP presidential ticket?
Go to -- don't got there, go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog, or go to our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Don't go where?
CAFFERTY: You know where.
CAFFERTY: He's a big man. Christie is a big man.
BLITZER: He is a big man. Very smart guy.
CAFFERTY: He's my governor. I love him.
BLITZER: We would love to have him join us in the next few days hopefully here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've been asking.
CAFFERTY: It would give that ticket a heartbeat that it simply doesn't have right now.
BLITZER: All right. Good guy.
Thanks very much. Jack Cafferty is a good guy, too.
It was a choppy day for financial markets, but the Dow was down about 25 points. The S&P was up two points, the NASDAQ up 22. Investors react with uncertainty to yesterday's election results in Greece. And even though a pro bailout party came out on top, there could be a lot more uncertainty ahead.
Let's go live to Athens. CNN's Richard Quest is on the scene for us.
Richard, set the scene. What does all this mean?
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: (AUDIO GAP) classic horse trading. Can the winner, New Democracy, get enough support from other parties to go into a government on its own, or does it mean that there's going to be back at the presidential palace for discussions about some government, some party collective of national unity?
And that's where we stand tonight, Wolf. We know that everybody, and I mean everybody and their brother says openly there has to be a government. It has to happen in the next day or so. And everybody's got to get on with it.
But in this political jockeying at the last moment, it seems everyone wants to take it right to the last second.
BLITZER: Is there a sense there, Richard, that Greece may just be the first of several countries, potentially, that could have a huge ramification, a huge impact on international community, especially here in the United States?
QUEST: Greece has had that view for some time. But when you talk to the European officials -- in fact, if you talk to any official, if you talk to the U.S. official, the IMF, any of them, they all say the same thing, Greece is a unique case. But what they need to do is build the fire wall and contagion wall around this place, so that if the worst happens, it doesn't affect Spain or Italy or Ireland anymore. And the questions don't write.
Because frankly, yes, Wolf, what is happening here and in the other European countries is having a direct effect on investment confidence, which ultimately has an effect on the market, consumer confidence, people feel poorer. The 401(k)s go down.
You have the president of the United States calling on Europe to do things and to get things moving.
And you start to understand what global markets really mean. It's just like the proverbial woolen sweater that gets snagged on a nail. It will unravel.
BLITZER: Certainly well. All right, Richard Quest in Athens for us. Thank you.
Once again, we're awaiting the verdict in the Roger Clemens perjury trial. We're going to have it for you in a matter of minutes. The jury has just informed the court they have reached a verdict on the six counts, obstruction of justice, making false statements and perjury against the famed pitcher. We'll let you know what the verdicts are. That's coming up.
Also, American children are now using fewer antibiotics. But there's a different drug worry right now. We'll update you.
BLITZER: The new successor to the throne is Saudi Arabia. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that, and some of other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's the latest, Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, Saudi Arabia has named a new crown prince. He is 70- years-old Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz. The Saudi defense minister and half brother to King Abdullah. Salman's appointment comes after yesterday's burial of his predecessor, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz who died Saturday. The new crown prince becomes next in line to the Saudi kingdom throne.
And firefighters scramble to get a handle on a brush fire on the rugged hill east of San Diego. The so-called Old Fire began Sunday and has scorched more than 800 acres in northern Colorado. More than 1,700 personnel endure another day of dry, windy conditions, hindering efforts to gain control on the massive High Park Fire. That fire has consumed almost 60,000 acres.
And the defense has begun its side of the story in the child sex abuse trial of Jerry Sandusky. Attorneys for the former Penn State assistant football coach opened with a fellow coach who described Sandusky's good reputation in the community. Earlier in the day, the prosecutors called a prosecutor's mother who said her son came home without underwear, but she never asked why.
And a new report by the food and drug administration says U.S. kids in the United States are taking fewer antibiotics but more drugs treating ADHD. The FDA found that antibiotics remain are the most common drug for children. But overall prescription drugs fell 7 percent from 10 years ago. ADHD prescription, on the other hand, soared, almost 50 percent. Those findings are in the journal of pediatrics.
That is amazing, Wolf. ADHD prescription drugs soaring 50 percent.
BLITZER: Attention deficit.
All right. Thanks very much for. It is amazing, Lisa.
A rarity in politics. A prominent African-American congressman leading the Democratic Party. He now tells me he's planning to vote for Mitt Romney. What's going on? My interview with Archer Davis, that's coming up.
And we're awaiting a verdict in baseball legend Roger Clemens' perjury trial. As soon as we get it, we'll bring into you. Stand by.
BLITZER: We're awaiting the verdict, by the way, in the Roger Clemens perjury trial. The jury has now reached a verdict on the six counts. You're looking at the federal court in D.C. As soon as we get the verdicts on the six counts, perjury, false statements, obstruction of Congress, alleged steroid use by Roger Clemens. We'll share it with you. Stand by for that.
Meantime, politicians switch parties every now and then. But it was a shocker when the former Democratic Congressman Artur Davis recently announced he was joining the Republican Party. Why?
Davis was a very early supporter of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential bid and he actually seconded Barack Obama's nomination in stirring fashion at the convention. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am honored to second the nomination for the man whose victory tonight takes us closer to becoming what we know America can be, ladies and gentlemen. This is a cause for which we stand. An American president named Barack Obama who will lead and inspire the free world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now is Artur Davis, the former Democratic Congressman from Alabama. You served four terms as a Democrat in Congress.
You gave this beautiful speech, seconding the nomination of Barack Obama to be the Democratic presidential nominee, and now you say you're not going to vote for him the next time around. Why?
ARTUR DAVIS (R), FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well, two things. Number one, my decision to leave the Democratic Party, I don't want to suggest for one second it's simply about Barack Obama or the presidential race.
You mentioned I come from the state of Alabama. People in Alabama routinely don't vote for the Democrat for president and turn around and still stay in their party. You don't leave a party simply because of one candidate and one election.
I made a decision a few weeks ago to leave the Democratic Party and become Republican for a variety of reasons. Yes, I am going to vote for Mitt Romney.
But my disagreements with the Democratic Party aren't simply about the nominee for president, the president of the United States. It's about a range of things, the economy, education, pretty much every issue that we debate right now.
Wolf, I started out as a conservative southern Democrat. I used to be room for conservative southern Democrats in the Democratic Party. By the time I left the party, I didn't see that room there anymore.
BLIZTER: So what did the president do that has so disappointed you?
DAVIS: Again, I won't make it just about the president. I don't want to make a judgment on the president.
BLITZER: I'm sure you agonized on the decision whether or not you could vote again for this president.
DAVIS: Sure. Well, let me put it in perspective and tell you why I got behind Barack Obama. And I'd be the first to say I got behind him enthusiastically five years ago and worked as hard as I could.
BLITZER: I remember that in a speech you gave.
DAVIS: Sure, the reason I got behind him was two folds. Number one, perhaps naively, I believed that if Barack Obama got elected it would completely change race relations in this country.
Number two, I believed that the Democratic Party would change, because I believed perhaps naively and mistakenly, that Barack Obama represented the kind of center wing of the Democratic Party that I thought that Bill Clinton represented.
In fact, I told a number of friends at the time that Barack Obama pulled off the ultimate ingenious trick of running Bill Clinton against Hillary Clinton.
Well, fast forward four years later, I think the Obama administration has candidly gone too far to the left. You can raise all kinds of questions whether it's good politics or not, but obviously the election will determine that.
But I happen to think it's been too far to the left. I think he's taken the party too far to the left. And so that's the main reason.
BLITZER: Do you just feel more comfortable as a Republican?
DAVIS: Yes. Like so many other people, I didn't get what I voted for. You know, there are millions of us who voted for Barack Obama four years ago.
Gallup's approval rating last time I checked, a few days ago, had President Obama at 45 percent approval. So that means the 53 percent who voted for Obama, literally close to 10 million people have left his camp. I'm one of many, many people.
BLITZER: Did you have a close relationship with the president?
DAVIS: No. In fairness, I couldn't say that.
BLITZER: Did you ever talk to him at all?
DAVIS: I had great respect for the president. Don't want to any way suggest we had a close personal relationship, but nor do I want to suggest anything other than this.
I have great respect for the president as a person. I have great respect for the president's family. I think Barack Obama is an admirable role model for not just African-Americans, but all kinds of people in our country.
So, you know, we have a tendency to personalize all these things. Well, because I'm going to vote against Barack Obama, I hate Barack Obama. Most Americans don't and I certainly don't. These are policy disagreements.
BLITZER: Before I get to the next question, did you call him? Valerie Jarrett, any of the White House aides and say I just want to give you a heads-up? This is what I'm doing?
DAVIS: No, because I'm not important enough frankly to do that.
BLITZER: You ran for governor of Alabama. Not successfully, but that's pretty important.
DAVIS: I have a lot of respect for the administration. They have more important things to worry about like the economy. Like the rest of the world beginning to unravel. They have a lot more things to worry about than one guy who lost an election two years ago.
BLITZER: It's not every day that a prominent African-American like you says publicly I'm going to become a Republican. I'm leaving Alabama, living now in Virginia and I'm going to vote for Romney as opposed to Barack. You understand why this is so fascinating?
DAVIS: Sure. None of them are life decisions. You know, you don't leave a political party. A political party is a lot of attachment. It's a lot of relationships you build up over time.
But again, I want to put this in perspective. Roughly 10 million Americans, if I'm doing the math right, and I went to Harvard so my math could be badly wrong.
But roughly 10 million Americans who were in President Obama's camp in 2008 are no longer there. Because I used to be a politician and I was active in the campaign for a period of time, there's a little bit of attention to what I do.
There are 10 million of us who are making this move. In fact, it may be the most important voting bloc for the Romney campaign right now. The left were directly Democratic Party.
BLITZER: Not a whole lot of African-Americans.
DAVIS: Not yet. I'll be very candid with you. President Obama, no matter what polls show today, I expect to get 96 percent, 97 percent of the African-American vote. I expect that.
But I do think that after President Obama leaves the scene, win or lose, he will not on a ballot again. After he leaves the scene, I do think African-Americans are prepared to look seriously at the Republican Party, as are Latinos, if the Republican Party earns those votes.
Now, that's going to mean a comfort level talking about poverty and talking about how prosperity is the best way to combat poverty. I do agree with part of what Jeb Bush said last week.
The one part I agree with, I do think the Republican Party that has to look at Newt Gingrich's way of talking about immigration and not necessarily the arguments that were made in the primaries.
I don't think conservatives ought to be in the business of breaking up families. Conservatives shouldn't be in the business of disrespecting the fact --
BLITZER: You like what the president did last Friday?
DAVIS: Well, I don't like the way he did it. But I would tell you what, frankly, I wish Governor Romney had done. I wish Governor Romney had gotten on stage with Marco Rubio and frankly, announced the same thing a few weeks ago.
He would do it by executive order, but announce that he would go to Congress. Frankly, all President Obama did last Friday was adopt Marco Rubio's version of the Dream Act. Well, I voted for the Dream Act.
I think Marco Rubio's version of the Dream Act is a good compromise. It was the president given credit for it.
BLITZER: Artur Davis, good luck. Do we expect you running for office any time soon?
DAVIS: You know, some people have asked me to. Right now, I don't have any plans running for office. Two years ago, everybody told me I was unelectable so maybe we'll find out.
BLITZER: That would be in Alabama. Virginia may be different.
DAVIS: We will see. We will see.
BLITZER: Thanks for joining us.
DAVIS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Got a lot more coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, including some new details on President Obama's birth in Hawaii. Our "Strategy Session," standing by to discuss.
Also new video of Roger Clemens arriving at the D.C. Federal Courthouse just moments ago. A verdict in his perjury trial expected in the next few minutes. We'll share it with you when we get it.
BLITZER: Let's get right to our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN contributors, the Democratic strategist, Donna Brazile and Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of redstate.com.
You just heard Artur Davis, Donna, saying he could no longer vote for Barack Obama even though he seconded his nomination at the convention. He's going to vote for Mitt Romney. He's actually leaving the Democratic Party becoming a Republican. What do you think about this?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I think Mr. Davis is a fine man, but I hope he believes what he's saying because I sure don't believe what he's saying is accurate.
Look, the Democratic Party is a very diverse party. You can ask my home state Senator Mary Landrieu. You can ask Senator Mark Pryor from Arkansas. You can ask a number of Democrats, moderate conservatives Democrats if they have a place at the table, a seat at the table.
And they will tell you, absolutely. We are very, you know, diverse political party. So I have profound disagreements. And you know, what was interesting, Wolf, is he said that he had policy disagreements, but he didn't lay them out.
Because I was ready to explain to Mr. Davis that under President Obama, taxes are the lowest in 60 years and the discretionary spending, lowest since President Eisenhower.
So I wish he would lay out some of the disagreements so that maybe we can respond to them. But perhaps I think, Erick, he's trying to get to a speaking slot at the Republican convention. Be careful now.
BLITZER: What do you think about this? It's not every day you see a prominent African-American who was actually close to the president in a certain degree.
He seconded his nomination at the convention, a four-term Democratic congressman from Alabama. Erick, all of a sudden announced these major decisions in his life.
ERICK ERICKSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, the difference between having a Republican in the White House and a Democrat in the White House is that when there's a Republican in the White House, rarely do you see waves of Republicans becoming Democrats.
Now with two consecutive Democrats in the White House, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, we're seeing a large numbers of Democrats become Republicans. We're seeing the blue dogs go away.
What's so interesting, Wolf, is in the past 10, 15 years if you look at CNN or any of the other networks or in the newspapers, there are a whole lot more articles about the coming death of the Republican Party.
At the hands of extremism on the right or demographics than you ever see about the Democrats, who are losing in Appalachia and losing in rustbelt. I don't think this is any forbearer for what's going to happen in 2012.
But I think the death of the Republican Party the people have been talking about for a decade is now greatly exaggerated.
BLITZER: Are you worried, Donna, that more African-Americans are going to bolt from the Democratic Party and move over to the Republican Party like Artur Davis?
BRAZILE: Absolutely, Wolf. I'm worried about African-Americans, young people, minorities, and blue collar whites. I know we have to work hard to get their vote, earn their trust and support the values that they stand for, growth and prosperity on a budget that works for the middle class and others.
So I don't think we're in danger of losing it. What I'm worried about, Wolf, is the repeated lies that you hear all the time about Democrats that Republicans like to put out there. But it's not anything that comes from Democrats.
We know who we are. We know we're strong in defense. We know we are stronger defense. We keep America safe and strong. We're the party that balances the federal budget while the Republicans talk a great deal about balancing the budget. What they do is run up the tab and leave it for Democrats to pay down.
BLITZER: Same question to you, Eric. More African-Americans heading towards the Republican Party?
ERICKSON: You know, over time, yes, I think there will be. It's just a natural evolution to political parties. I've got to say, I'm kind of shocked to hear Donna talk about the Democrats balancing the budget.
When last I checked under the constitution, it's the Congress that writes the budget and there were Republicans in the Congress when we had the balanced budget.
It was both parties coming to the table and doing it. It's probably one of Artur Davis' chief conditions there is he doesn't feel like the Democrats and Republicans are willing to come to this the table. He sided with the Republicans and wished the Democrats would.
BLITZER: Erick Erickson, Donna Brazile, guys, we got to leave it right there. Thanks for joining us.
Not guilty on all six counts. Not guilty. Roger Clemens, the baseball giant, the baseball great, accused of perjury, lying to congress about steroid use. The jury, a federal jury has now come back and said he is not guilty.
Not guilty on count one, obstruction of Congress. Not guilty on count two, false statements during deposition. Not guilty on count three, false statements during deposition. Not guilty on count four, false statements during deposition. Not guilty on count five, perjury during a hearing the congressional hearing.
Count six, not guilty on perjury during the hearing as well. Not guilty all six counts. Wow, what a dramatic development. Jeffrey Toobin is our senior legal analyst.
I don't know about you, but a lot of people are probably going to be surprised. Not guilty on all six counts. The federal prosecutors failing completely? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely. Coming on the heels of the John Edwards failure in North Carolina. Not a great series of events for the Justice Department.
The key witness here was Brian McNamee, who was the trainer who testified that he injected Clemens repeatedly with steroids and claimed to have kept some old bandages and whatnot.
That proved that his credibility was totally, totally attacked by Rusty Harden, the lead defense lawyer. The jury did not believe McNamee and this is a complete and total vindication for Roger Clemens.
BLITZER: Complete. And I'm going to play two clips that were at the heart of this entire federal trial. This perjury trial against Roger Clemens. Here's what he said. He was testifying before Congress on February 13th, 2008.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told the truth about steroids and human growth hormone. I injected those drugs into the body of Roger Clemens at his direction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was not Roger Clemens. Here's Roger Clemens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let me be clear. I have never taken steroids or HGH.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, so Roger Clemens was second. Brian McNamee was first. Brian McNamee was the prosecutor's star witness right there. He said that he injected Clemens repeatedly and Roger Clemens flatly denied it.
The jury was obviously siding with Roger Clemens and finding him not guilty on all six counts. It looked like he had no credibility at all, Jeffrey, with the jury.
TOOBIN: Certainly not. You know, it's worth noting that the whole steroid controversy, whatever else happened, it has not led to very successful criminal prosecutions.
The Barry Bonds case out in San Francisco took years to come to trial. He was convicted only on very minor charges. Those charges are on appeal. He got essentially no prison sentence at all. He got little home arrest.
The Roger Clemens case, remember, this case began with a mistrial because of prosecutorial misconduct. This was a second attempt by prosecutors to convict Clemens ends with complete vindication for Clemens.
Lance Armstrong has been investigated for years. No charges ever brought. So I think whatever the world thinks about steroids, this has not led to successful criminal prosecutions in the United States, at least when it comes to the really big names involved.
BLITZER: Our Justice correspondent, Joe Johns was inside the courthouse when all of this came down. He's now joining us. Joe, tell us what it was like inside. Not guilty, all six counts, involving Roger Clemens.
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: You know, I got to tell you it's not that big of a surprise, Wolf, in a lot of ways as Jeff just mentioned. You had the mistrial that occurred earlier, now this.
Just not a good month or so for the United States government on its prosecutions. Also a couple other things that are really important to point out, Wolf, this wasn't your typical obstruction case. This was an obstruction of Congress case. This all started on Capitol Hill with that appearance in 2008. In two separate places of Roger Clemens.
Speaking first in a deposition and then later in a hearing on Capitol Hill before the Reform Committee in which he denied again and again that he had ever taken steroids, that he has taken human growth hormone.
So now we get to this the point with the steroids issue. I think Jess is absolutely right. This is the kind of thing that perhaps juries don't care about as much. And I think just common sense will tell you.
I know in talking with people out in the country and even just yesterday here in Washington, D.C. at the Yankees game when the Washington Nationals played the Yankees, this was the kind of question that people ask why is the government doing this?
Why is the government involved? Simple answer, Congress. Roger Clemens needed to be prosecuted. Now this jury here in the District of Columbia has said he's not guilty -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It's sort of a slap also. I think it's a pretty significant slap potentially. But let me tell you, ask you what you think, Joe.
George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator, he was commissioned by Major League baseball to do a study on inappropriate steroid use by baseball players. He came out with his report in December of 2007.
He alleged that Clemens used steroids, HGH in 1998, 2000, 2001. Clemens denied those allegations under oath in a deposition and at the congressional hearing.
This would further seem to vindicate Roger Clemens and not necessarily the former Senator George Mitchell's report.
JOHNS: It certainly would seem that way. You know, George Mitchell has always been very highly regarded here in Washington, D.C. He put out that report, and it set off shockwaves across baseball.
Of course, being the national past time, a lot of people in Capitol Hill, very concerned about the idea that performance enhancing drugs might be used by people playing baseball at this level.
Nonetheless, this jury speaking says quite a bit here in Washington, D.C. today. Apparently, either, could be a couple possibilities, either they just didn't believe the case or they didn't believe that Roger Clemens actually used performance enhancing drugs.
What we really want to know is what the jurors are saying once they get out of this building and that's a question we would like to pose to them.
BLITZER: You'll let us know what they say whether they found the star witness, Brain McNamee totally not believable if you will when he made these specific allegations.
Brian McNamee presumably was much more credible in the eyes of George Mitchell. All right, standby everyone. We'll take a quick break. We'll stay on top of the breaking news and all the day's important news right after this.
BLITZER: The great baseball pitcher, Roger Clemens, not guilty on all six counts, a complete vindication for Clemens. Not guilty on obstruction of Congress, making false statements, perjury.
Remember he was a Major League star. Won the Cy Young awards for "Best Pitcher" seven times, MVP American League 1986 was his part of the World Series title team '99 and 2000.
Jeffrey Toobin, give us a thought on what all these means.
TOOBIN: Well, I think one of the things is, the old saying don't make a federal case out of it. You know, steroids are a big problem in American sports. Sports may or may not be addressing it.
But whether it should be addressed in America's federal criminal courtrooms is a very different question and juries appear to be saying no. This was a fairly tenuous case. A lot of people testified before Congress. There was a lot of controversy testimony.
But it almost never leads to criminal prosecutions and perhaps that's because juries are not especially sympathetic to Congress, and they feel that lying to Congress may not be all that terrible a crime, given what goes on in Congress every day.
I'm speculating a little, but there is a history of juries not being especially not sympathetic to these cases. Steroids are a big American problem. But it appears clear, if that problem is going to be solved, it's not going to be solved in America's federal courtrooms.
BLITZER: Joe, they have microphones set up there outside the federal courthouse. We might be hearing from Roger Clemens or his lawyers or the federal prosecutors. Is that right?
JOHNS: We certainly hope so. We do know that he was inside, hugging with his family. This has certainly been a long road for them, Wolf because this is the second time he's had to go to trial on these charges.
This time it looked as though the prosecution did a little bit better because they didn't get a premature mistrial call. On the other hand, the U.S. government losing on all six counts of this indictment against Roger Clemens.
You know, I want to just sort of add to what Jeff Toobin said there. There is, you know, a policy reason for attacking the issue of steroids in America. They're not healthy for the athletes who take them.
They can make, you know, some athletes just a little bit crazy. They can -- at the end of the day, have a real problem, and hurt your body. So there's actually a reason, but the question is, how do you enforce? And that's perhaps for somebody else to ask, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let us know when he comes outside. Joe, thank you. We're also following other major news out of Afghanistan involving American service members. Details coming up.