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THE SITUATION ROOM

Iraq Helps Iran Bust World Sanctions; Ryan Faces Split Among Fellow Catholics; Congressman Slammed for Remark; Rosie O'Donnell Suffers Heart Attack; Handcuffed Man Shoots Himself; Director Plunges to Death; Zapping Rocks on Mars

Aired August 20, 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, betrayal in the Middle East. The U.S. lost thousands of lives, spent hundreds of billions of dollars to free Iraq from a dictator. Why is Baghdad now playing a key role in busting the nuclear sanctions on Iran?

A Republican congressman and a contender for a vulnerable Senate seat sparking outrage with shocking comments about rape. The Republicans scramble to distance themselves, but Democrats are in no hurry to see him drop out of the race.

And a major Hollywood director best known for action films like "Top Gun" leaps to his death from a California bridge. New questions about what may have led Tony Scott to suicide.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The United States paid a very painful price in blood and spent vast amounts of money to break the dictator's home on Iraq. Now, just months after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, Baghdad's new government is apparently betraying that sacrifice by helping Iran break the international sanctions imposed at its nuclear program.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, has been looking into this story for us. It is pretty shocking to a lot of us who cover the war in Iraq and know the sacrifices that American men and women had to endure in order to achieve that goal.

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that is true, but you know, Iran is one of Iraq's largest trading partners. There are a lot of goods go back and forth, and there's some smuggling. So, experts are telling CNN the U.S. really shouldn't be surprised if there's some financial transactions, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Iran's economy is supposed to be in a strangle hold from international sanctions. The U.S. officials say Tehran still has access to the international banking system, thanks to Iraq, the same country the U.S. paid in lives and treasure to free from Saddam Hussein. $722.5 billion for the war, and now training Iraqi troops, almost $60.5 billion for reconstruction, another billion dollars for the biggest U.S. embassy in the world, almost 4,500 members killed, 30,000 injured.

Betrayed between Iraq and Iran is nothing new. Some of it is legal. But the U.S. wants the government and Prime Minister Nouri Al- Maliki to stop the sanctions busting. The treasury department's David Cohen tells CNN "We will pursue and/or actively pursuing efforts to prevent Iran from invading U.S. or international financial sanctions in Iraq or anywhere else."

The state department says the U.S. has been clear and forthright with Iraq in discussing Iran's attempts to circumvent sanctions. And Iraqi officials have cooperated.

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: When we found issues of compliance on the Iraqi side with our sanctions regime as we did in the case of the Elaf Bank, which is a private bank. We've raised them with Iraqi officials and tried to work through the issues so that we can close those loopholes.

DOUGHERTY: One expert on Iraq says the U.S. shouldn't be surprised. Iraq isn't about to fight with Iran just because the U.S. is.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: The Iraqi government has been stiffing us for so long on such a wide range of issues that to be surprised that banking and currency restrictions are among them, I think, is to be naive both about the nature of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship and the interest of the current government (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY (on-camera): So, Wolf, what he's saying is, in other words, getting rid of Saddam Hussein didn't automatically mean getting an Iraqi government that sees everything the way the United States sees it.

BLITZER: Certainly not -- certainly it's disappointing, though, to U.S. officials that the government of Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad seems to be so cozying up to the regime in Tehran of Ahmadinejad. We're going to discuss this with David Ignatius (ph) in a moment. Jill Dougherty, thanks very, very much.

Meanwhile, campaigning in New Hampshire today, the Republican running mates unleashed a sharp assault on the Obama administration's policy toward Iran. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. PAUL RYAN, (R) VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Perhaps, the greatest threat in the world today is an Iran with nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons capabilities. This is an existential threat to Israel, and it's a threat to our own national security. And we need to be firm in our resolve in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability in standing up for our allies in the region so that we do not have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

(APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I just -- I agree.

(LAUGHTER)

ROMNEY: But let me add just a couple of things. When the president of the United States speaks, he speaks to really four audiences. One, of course is the American people. And that's, of course, the group that's important to him politically, to have their support, to help win their support for the coming elections and so forth.

Number two, when he speaks, he's speaking to our allies around the world. And if they sense any weakness on the part of the American president and his commitment to our friends, they begin looking around to see where they can get support elsewhere to protect their own interests. He's also speaking in a way that's heard by our foes around the world or those that are contrary to some of our interests.

And if the president speaks in a way again that shows weakness, that emboldens them. And they decide to take action which furthers their interest and causes the retreat of our interests and the retreat of the interest of our friends around the world. And finally, when he speaks, he's heard loud and clear by our servicemen and women in the United States.

And if I'm president of the United States, I will never say anything to earn support in that first group, the American public, that in any way harms our interest with regards to our friends and allies that emboldens our enemies or in any way detracts for the commitment of our men and women in uniform.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: And like Paul, I would say that you have to treat your friends like friends. And if you have a disagreement, like you do now and then in your family, you hash that out in private. The president throwing BB Netanyahu under the bus was totally unacceptable. Him negotiating for Israel, our friend, totally unacceptable, in my view.

And with regards to Iran, I gave a speech, I don't know, five years ago now, to (INAUDIBLE) conference in Tel Aviv and laid out seven things, I think, had to be done in order to be able to keep Iran from pursuing their nuclear folly, and it is taken forever for any of those to begin (ph) to be done. We're now just getting around at tough sanctions in Iran. Should have been done ages ago.

We should make it very clear that we're going to put in place crippling sanctions. And by the way, when Ahmadinejad said this last week about Israel, I won't even repeat it, the awful, offensive, obnoxious things he said about Israel should lead to him being indicted onto the genocide convention. His people being treated like the pariah they are. His diplomats --

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: And we should always make sure they recognize it to the United States of America, Iran becoming nuclear is unacceptable, and we have options on the table, but they're not just on the table. They're in our hand. We will not all then to become a nuclear threat to us or our friends.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right. Let's bring in someone who's been a long time observer of the Middle East and the U.S intelligence community, the "Washington Post" columnist, David Ignatius is here in the SITUATION ROOM. David, thanks for coming in. The bottom line, he says, the U.S. will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.

The Obama administration says the same thing. Other than the rhetoric of, you know, BB Netanyahu under the bus, do you see a fundamental difference between the Obama administration strategy right now towards stopping Iran from building a bomb and the Romney position, if you will?

DAVID IGNATIUS, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think the positions on paper are very close. The president in his speech to APAC several months ago used language that he has not used before in saying the U.S. will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The difference, I think, is the extent to which President Obama's promises are believed in Israel.

And Mitt Romney, the Republican likely nominee's promises are believed, and I think Mitt Romney has seen by BB Netanyahu and others in Israel as being more serious in his commitment to go to war necessary to stop Iran, but the positions on paper are the same.

BLITZER: You've seen all these reports in the Israeli media that there could be an Israeli strike before the U.S. election on November 6th. Do you buy that or is that simply psychological pressure on the Obama administration and others?

IGNATIUS: The honest answer is that nobody outside a tiny circle in Israel, maybe nobody other than Prime Minister Netanyahu really knows the answer. Certainly, we've been seeing a kind of saber (ph) rattling warning of a possible Israeli military strike that's more serious than I remember. We had the distribution of gas masks to Israelis in the last few days.

We had the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, saying that he opposed the policy of Prime Minister Netanyahu, the possibility that Netanyahu might strike. So, there are warning signs that this is serious, but again, we don't know in the end what Israel's decision will be.

BLITZER: Let's get to what Jill Dougherty was reporting at the top of the hour, that the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is really warming up dramatically with Ahmadinejad and even helping Ahmadinejad break some of those U.S.-imposed economic sanctions that are designed to stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb. What's going on between Nouri al-Maliki and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

IGNATIUS: What's going on is that Nouri al-Maliki for years, in my judgment, has been leaning towards Tehran. This is a Shiite-led government that wants close relationships with Iran. And in the crunch, as usually cited with Iran, the U.S. treasury has finally done something serious about it in sanctioning a big Iraqi bank, Islamic bank, which according to the treasury has been secretly aiding Iran and evading sanctions by running financial transactions.

But Maliki's government has been leaning towards Tehran. The mystery to me is why the Obama administration has done so little about it up until now.

BLITZER: Well, should the U.S. start imposing sanctions, economic sanctions on Nouri al-Maliki's government?

IGNATIUS: Well, I think we're (INAUDIBLE). We are now sanctioning an Iraqi bank. And I'm told that that bank's ties are so close to the Maliki government that transactions that were initiated after these sanctions were issued may end up causing problems for al- Maliki's government.

So, you know, the U.S. moving. I think we're waiting for a serious Iraqi response, but there's no question that the Iraqis are helping Iran in this period when Iran is isolated.

BLITZER: What's shocking to me is that Nouri al-Maliki and his governmetn in Baghdad seems much more interested in having an excellent relationship with their next door neighbor, Iran, than an excellent relationship with the United States, which obviously put them in power and got rid of Saddam Hussein.

IGNATIUS: It's not surprising that they should want good relations with their neighbor, Iran. Iraq and Iran fought a bloody war that killed too many, tens, hundreds of thousands of people. What's surprising is that the U.S. has been with Iran, the backer of this Iraqi prime minister as he moved ever closer towards the Iranian positions.

I mean, how strange? The U.S. and Iran enemies on so many issues are aligned (ph) and backing this government. And perhaps, with this new sanctions, the U.S. is moving a little bit away from that, and I think it's overdue.

BLITZER: It's so embarrassing. The U.S. spent a billion dollars building an embassy compound in Baghdad, which is quickly going to be pretty empty if the Iraqi is now their way. They want the Americans, including American diplomats, contractors, not just military, they want them out of there.

IGNATIUS: The Iranians do not want close ties between the U.S. and Iraq. And for Americans who watched us spend a trillion dollars, all those lives that were lost, it's painful to see this. And it's good to see the U.S. treasury speak out against this example of sanctions busting behavior by an Iraq institution.

BLITZER: Good point, David. Thanks for coming in.

You're going to hear President Obama lashing out after Republican congressman's shocking comments about, quote, "legitimate rape." The incident may already be having a huge political impact.

And the comedian, Rosie O'Donnell, announces she's had a heart attack. What she did that may have saved her life and her advice that just might save yours?

And the autopsy report is just out on the young man who Memphis police say shot himself in the head while handcuffed in a patrol car. Will the medical examiner's report support this police recreation? Standby.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Three people are in critical condition after a shooting at a Wal-Mart parking lot. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on, Lisa.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this all happened in Cedar Park, Texas. Police say several people left the nearby party and gathered to fight outside that Wal-Mart. An 18-year-old man allegedly opened fire. Four people were shot. CNN affiliate, KVUE, reports one was treated and released. The others remain hospitalized.

And if an airline's baggage fee has overtaken you by surprise, well, you may find some comfort in this next story. The transportation department is fining Orbitz $50,000 for failing to display baggage fees clearly and prominently. The DOT ordered the online ticket agenct to stop all violations of the expanded airline passenger protection rule.

And if you drive a 1994 Honda Accord, well, keep a close eye on it. For the fourth year in a row, it tops the national insurance crime bureau's list as the most stolen car in America. Older cars are stolen more often now. Smart keys and tracking systems make it harder to snatch newer models.

Other favorite targets include the 1991 Toyota Camry, the 1994 Nissan Sentra, and the 2006 Ford F-series pickup truck. So, keep that in mind. There are a lot of people who drive those cars. I know they're very popular models. So, keep close eye on good car, folks.

BLITZER: We certainly will. All right. Lisa, thank you.

Rosie O'Donnell says she's happy to be alive. The comedian just revealed a health scare she had last week. She's hoping all women will learn from it.

And the Curiosity rover blasts a Martian rock. What scientists are learning from the images that are now coming back?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Republicans who take a tough stand on various social issues are drawing scrutiny on this day. Vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan, is finding a split among some fellow Catholics. Lisa Sylvester taking a closer look at this part of the story for us. Lisa, what's going on.

SYLVESTER: Wolf, you know, Paul Ryan is catholic. He opposes abortion and he opposes same-sex marriage. So, you may think that the catholic community is rallying strongly behind Mitt Romney's running mate, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): The nuns on the bus, they traveled 2,700 mile this summer. Reeling against Congressman Paul Ryan's budget proposal that they say would slash social programs and hurt the poor.

SISTER SIMONE CAMPBELL, "NUNS ON THE BUS": Congressman Ryan claiming the Catholicism mantle really set our teeth on the edge. And probably, we wouldn't be on the road if he hadn't have done that.

SYLVESTER: The nuns were not alone. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops I this letter in April also went on record, opposing the Ryan budget plan. But Ryan argued in a speech at Georgetown University this spring that a tight fiscal policy isn't keeping with catholic teachings. He argues that when government gets out of the way, local communities and individuals fill the gap.

RYAN: I don't believe that the preferential option for the poor means a preferential option for big government.

SYLVESTER: But now that Ryan has been named as Mitt Romney's running mate, there's been a fresh round of outcry from Catholics who oppose deep slashes in nutrition programs and other safety net programs. Michael Sean Winters is an author and catholic journalist.

MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER: The church cares about the unborn, the undocumented, and the unemployed. If you're an "un" in our society, if you're somebody society doesn't take care of, the Catholic Church cares about you especially.

SYLVESTER: But the story is not so simple, because while Ryan may alienate some social justice Catholics, he does appeal to the so- called family values anti-abortion Catholics. They took issue with President Obama's healthcare plan requirement to offer birth control benefits to employees of religious institutions.

And as CNN/ORC August poll shows that in Ryan's home state of Wisconsin, 52 percent of Catholics support Mitt Romney, 43 percent back President Obama. Some say it may all come down to the catholic vote.

How important is the catholic swing voter? WINTERS: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, hugely large catholic populations. Catholics will decide the election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (on-camera): And the Ryan debate is highlighting a divide among American Catholics. You know, we like to talk about the catholic vote, but it is not a monolithic group. You have progressives. You can call them the Joe Biden Catholics. And then you have some of the more conservative Catholics now lining up behind Paul Ryan. And the question is, which group will have the largest turnout in November? -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It will be a critically, critically important turnout among Catholics in those states just mentioned in your report to be sure. Lots of Catholics down there. And they don't necessarily agree on all of this? It is not a monolithic vote to be sure. Lisa, thank you very, very much.

Meanwhile, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri is apologizing profusely today for his truly stunning comment that, quote, "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy. But the Missouri Republican has staunched abortion foe (ph). He has certainly sparked fury across the political spectrum. Listen to President Obama today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The views expressed were offensive. Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we're talking about doesn't make sense to the American people. And certainly doesn't make sense to me.

So, what I think these comments do underscore is why we shouldn't have a bunch of politicians, a majority of whom are men, making healthcare decisions on behalf of women. And, so, although, these particular comments have led Governor Romney and other Republicans to distance themselves, I think, the underlying notion that we should be making decisions on behalf of women for their healthcare decisions or qualifying forcible rape versus non-forcible rape.

I think those are broader issues, and that is a significant difference in approach between me and the other party. But I don't think that they would agree with the senator from Missour, in terms of his statement, which was way out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Many Republicans from the top of the ticket down also voice their outrage, but Todd Akin may have hurt his party's chances to capture a rather vulnerable Senate seat, mainly the one he's running for in his home state of Missouri. CNNs Kate Bolduan is here in the SITUATION ROOM. She's been looking at the fall out of what's going on. It's pretty enormous.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty enormous, and it's pretty astounding. The pressure really appears to be mounting among Republicans for Congressman Akin to drop out of the Senate race. It was surprising just how quickly his fellow Republicans piled on. But so far, Akin is standing firm that he's sticking with it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Fellow Republicans couldn't run away fast enough from Congressman Todd Akin's remarks. Mitt Romney called them insulting, inexcusable, and frankly, wrong. Senator John Cornyn, the man in charge of getting Republicans elected to the Senate, condemned them as indefensible and suggested Akin should carefully consider what is best for him, his family, the Republican Party.

And a source tells CNN the GOP campaign arms said it wouldn't give Akin campaign money if he stayed in the race. So, here's what started it all. Akin, a social conservative, was asked about his opposition to abortion, even in the case of rape.

REP. TODD AKIN, (R) MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE: First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare. If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

BOLDUAN: Akin, a six-term congressman did apologize here to radio host, Mike Huckabee.

AKIN: I used the wrong words in a wrong way. What I said was ill-conceived and it was wrong.

BOLDUAN: Akin also said he wasn't going anywhere.

AKIN: I'm not a quitter. And, my belief is we're going to take this thing forward. And by the grace of God, we're going to -- to win this race.

BOLDUAN: But no surprise, Democrats wasted no time jumping on the controversy. His opponent, Senator Claire McCaskill on MSNBC.

VOICE OF SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI: I hope this is one of those gut check moments, and they realize this is not somebody we want speaking for us and our values on the floor of the United States Senate.

BOLDUAN: Akin won the Missouri Republican Senate primary just a few weeks ago, and in several recent polls, he had a small lead over McCaskill, the incumbent Democrat. Many analysts viewed this race among the top possible Republican victories as they aim to retake the Senate majority.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: This is the best Republican opportunity for taking over a seat that an incumbent Democrat was running for re-election. This is really a top Republican opportunity.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BOLDUAN (on-camera): Akin has left many wondering if he has caused Senate Republicans their best chance to overtake Senate Democrats in terms of the majority. And remember, Republicans need a net gain of just four Senate seats if President Obama is re-elected, three seats if Romney wins the presidential race.

In terms of presidential fallout, this is, at very least, another distraction for the GOP ticket. A ticket that already faces, Wolf, you know, an uphill battle winning support of female voters.

BLITZER: The last thing Romney-Ryan needs right now, this embarrassment from this Republican Senate candidate in Missouri. They don't want to talk about this. They want to talk about other issues, but this is coming up. Now, there's a deadline, 5:00 p.m. tomorrow, Missourie time, if he drops out, no penalties for the Republicans.

BOLDUAN: The cleanest way for him to pull his name off of the ballot, the cleanest way then also for the Republican Party in Missouri to put someone else on the ballot. Will that happen? We'll be watching, because it seems the pressure is mounting. But right now, he's to confirm (ph).

BLITZER: Yes. They always stick --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: But when Romney and the Senate Republican leadership and others, including outside analysts, they're squeezing him to get out of the race --

BOLDUAN: Yes, they're not saying it outright, but they're strongly suggesting it.

BLITZER: Yes -- yes, well we'll see at 5:00 tomorrow. That's the deadline. Then it will be up to the Republican Party to decide a candidate to challenge Claire McCaskill.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Don't go too far away. Thank you. Todd Akin (ph) and Paul Ryan cosponsored an anti-abortion bill in Congress. Now as Akin (ph) tries to survive this controversy over his remarks on rape, will the vice presidential candidate see any political ramifications himself? We're going to talk about that and more with our senior political analyst David Gergen. He is standing by.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Back now to the truly shocking comment about rape by the Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin (ph) and the tidal wave of political fallout that's resulted. Joining me now, the CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. David thanks very much for coming in. You and I been through these -- watched these things unfold for a long time. Is it almost certain, very likely, what do you think that this congressman will step down before the 5:00 p.m. Missouri deadline tomorrow and drop out of the Senate race? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Almost certain, Wolf. The kind of pressure is building up on him is irresistible in politics. After all they pulled the plug on his money. How can he run anyway? But beyond that it's not only the Senate seat that's now in question and control of the Senate that possibly is in play, but yes this is a pivotal state for Mitt Romney. He's been building up a small lead, about a six-point lead right now in Missouri. But that could easily reverse itself if Akin remains on the ticket, so I would imagine Akin was, you know won a very tight three-way race out there. He was seen as the weakest of the candidates against McCaskill. I think he'll drop.

BLITZER: I just got an e-mail from the Tea Party Express. They want him to drop out of this race.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: It's not just the Romneys, if you will, and the Mitch McConnells and others. It's Tea Party Express now saying he would do the wise thing for the party and for the nation to drop out of this race. But he is saying repeatedly in these radio interviews today he's not going to do so. No one -- if he wants to hold on, he can hold on even though he won't get any money and he'll probably bring the Republicans to defeat in Missouri.

GERGEN: Well we've seen in the past. You remember in 2010 there were these wild card candidates that the Republicans nominated in two or three states that you know self emulated and lost seats that the Republicans really thought they could pick up and this is -- we're replaying that right now and I would imagine -- I don't know Mr. Akin. I'm sure he's a fine person. But he is a member of Congress and I would think there would be the pressure that will come from his peers in Congress now is going to be intense and he just can't -- I just don't see how he can keep going.

BLITZER: Until now, until he became the vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan opposed abortion including all the exceptions for incest and rape, except for the life of the mother. So that's -- he now agrees with Mitt Romney who does say there should be exceptions to abortion for incest, rape and life of the mother. So it does revive notions of Paul Ryan's very strong anti-abortion position.

GERGEN: I think that's right, Wolf and I'm glad you raise that point because the difference between Ryan and Romney are not important. What it does is it brings attention to and if Akin stays on it's going to be bring continuing attention to Ryan's position on abortion, which is not in the mainstream of a lot of -- some of the people they want to get to vote for this ticket. I think the Romney position is much more in the mainstream, at least -- well it's hard to say what the mainstream (INAUDIBLE). But nonetheless, I do think to have the focus on Ryan in this way is not healthy. This is a day they want to be talking about jobs.

BLITZER: Yes.

GERGEN: They don't want to be talking about this. They want to get the attention back to the economy and how they're going to fix it and how their budget plan, they argue, is going to bring more growth.

BLITZER: We'll see if this Republican congressman in Missouri can withstand that pressure or if he drops out by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. We'll be watching very, very closely --

GERGEN: Wolf, I think your comment about the Tea Party was really significant.

BLITZER: Yes --

GERGEN: When you lose the Tea Party too -- yes, once that goes I just -- it just doesn't -- there's no big support out there for him.

BLITZER: Yes, it's quickly, quickly deteriorating. David thanks very much.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Like so many women, she ignored the symptoms. Now the comedian Rosie O'Donnell has a warning after what happened to her last week. That's coming up next and a successful Hollywood film director plunges to his death in an apparent suicide. What investigators know about Tony Scott's final moments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Comedian Rosie O'Donnell is recovering from a heart attack she suffered last week. She revealed what happened in a poem on her website. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now. Elizabeth, O'Donnell points out how she misunderstood a lot of her symptoms. What do we know about what happened?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. O'Donnell says that when she felt the symptoms, she didn't call 911. She started Googling, which is not what you should do, so let's back up and talk about what happened to her.

Rosie O'Donnell says that on Tuesday of last week she was walking through a parking lot near her home in New York and she heard someone screaming out and it was she said an enormous woman in a car who was having trouble getting out. So she went to help her, and it sounded like she really exerted herself, and then a few hours later, O'Donnell says that she was in pain. So I'm going to read a bit of this poem that you referred to.

She said "I had an ache in my chest. Both my arms were sore. I became nauseous. My skin was very clammy. I was very, very hot, and I threw up." She then Googled -- I think she had a clue what was going on because she then Googled the signs of a heart attack for women. She then took an aspirin, which was a smart thing to do. But what wasn't smart was that she did not call 911.

She did get herself to the hospital. The next day she went to see a cardiologist and Wolf, they found that one of her arteries was 99 percent blocked. Apparently she'd had a heart attack and they gave her a stint -- Wolf. BLITZER: So that was that. If she would have gone to the hospital right away what would have been the difference? And what should women learn from all of this?

COHEN: You know it's interesting in this case she was -- she was -- it turned out just by luck, as she said, by a miracle it was OK. You know she ended up being fine, but you know many people would have died -- I hate to put it that bluntly -- in that day. I mean you can die after having a heart attack, obviously. And there was that wait of approximately a day.

The sign for women can be different. The first sign -- the most common sign is what men feel, which is pain in the chest, pressure on the chest. But women are more likely to feel nauseous, to feel light headed, to feel clammy. And those are all signs that Rosie O'Donnell is begging women to pay attention to.

BLITZER: We're happy she's OK right now. Close call indeed. Elizabeth, thanks very much.

Meanwhile, stunning revelations that Republican congressmen on a trip to Israel were scolded after one of them went skinning dipping in the Sea of Galilee. And the autopsy report is just out on that young man who Memphis police say shot himself in the head while handcuffed in a patrol car. Will the medical examiner support the police recreation?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There is a new development in a controversial shooting death last month in Arkansas. Although Travis Carter (ph) was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser, the crime lab says he shot himself. George Howell is joining us. He has got details. George, what does the autopsy report now say?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I want to read this line directly from the report that says from the medical examiner, "at the time of the discharge, the muzzle of the gun was placed against the right temporal scalp. The shooting ruled a suicide." And again, Wolf, this goes right along with what investigators have said that somehow he was somehow able to -- flexible enough to use the weapon and fire it in this manner. But many in the community they believe that somehow police officers were involved in it. You'll remember that police officers at the time they released two suspects but they kept Carter. But still, when you hear from some of the witnesses, people who saw this happen, they back up what police had to say. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they let two of the guys go.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And they killed one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did they do with him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They put -- I think they put him in the backseat of a police car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

JAMIE ANDERSON, WITNESS: And then about 10 or 15 minutes after that, we heard a loud pop. I'm like what is going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You heard a pop?

ANDERSON: It sounded like a gun going off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So where were the police officers when you heard this?

ANDERSON: They were standing on the outside of the car talking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How far away from the car were they when you heard it?

ANDERSON: They weren't too far from their car.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOWELL: So Wolf, that's Jamie Anderson hearing from her indicating that these officers were not near the backseat. In fact they were away from the police car when that fatal shot happened.

BLITZER: So we have a banner there that says lab handcuffed man shot himself. That's not what the laboratory report is saying. They're saying that the gun was placed up to his head. But they haven't concluded that he actually committed suicide, have they?

HOWELL: Well indeed. They are directly calling this -- they're directly calling it suicide.

BLITZER: They are?

HOWELL: And when you look back at that reenactment and they show how a person can be so flexible as to fire a weapon in that manner, that's what the officers are saying. That's what this report is saying. But many in the community they question it. They're skeptical. They believe that African-American suspects in Jonesboro (ph) are treated differently than white suspects, so you hear people in the community skeptical about this report and you can imagine, Wolf that some people may continue to protest.

BLITZER: And is there any explanation why this individual may have wanted to commit suicide?

HOWELL: No indication at this point. We do know that he was being held at the time because of a warrant out of Mississippi. So you know you can ask the question, was it a matter of not wanting to go to jail? No one knows and there's also a question, Wolf, of how he had that weapon. You'll remember that officers, they searched him twice before putting him in that car. They found a baggy of marijuana, did not find the weapon. And again this is the weapon that was used, a stolen weapon that he used apparently here to shoot himself.

BLITZER: Interesting, very fascinating stuff. I'm sure that this is not the end of the story by any means. George, thanks very much.

The film director Tony Scott known for his action hits like "Top Gun" plunged to his death from a bridge in southern California yesterday. Authorities today are treating it as a suicide. Our entertainment correspondent Kareen Wynter is with us from Los Angeles. Kareen what are you learning?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Los Angeles County coroners say there was in fact a suicide note left behind but the big question here is why this acclaimed director would want to take his life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER (voice-over): Tony Scott spent his career as a blockbuster movie director. Now, his death is tragically playing out in dramatic Hollywood fashion. Scott was seen jumping from the Vincent Thomas Bridge (ph) in San Pedro, California, on Sunday afternoon. A 911-call from a passerby alerted authorities and Los Angeles Port police recovered Scott's body from the water afterwards.

The Los Angeles County corner's office is conducting an autopsy. A spokesman says a suicide note was discovered in Scott's office and contact information for friends and family was found in his car left parked near the bridge. Scott's death sent shock waves through Hollywood. Film critic Roger Ebert (ph) tweeted "the death of Tony Scott is shocking and saddening. He was an inspired craftsman."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel the need the need for speed.

WYNTER: The 68-year-old native of England struck box office gold in 1986 as the director of "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise. Scott followed that with the Eddie Murphy action movie "Beverly Hills Cop II".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's nothing I can't do with a race car.

(SOUNDS)

WYNTER: In 1990, Scott directed Tom Cruise once again in "Days of Thunder". The film's co-star Nicole Kidman released a statement on Scott's death saying quote "I'm so, so sad. I loved Tony and he was always so good to me. He will be deeply missed by so many of us that knew him."

It was on the set of "Days of Thunder" that Scott met his wife actress Donna Wilson (ph) with whom he had twin sons. Scott's older brother Ridley Scott (ph), also an accomplished director, the two joined forces to form their own production company in 1995. A spokesman for the family released a brief statement simply asking for privacy at this time. Scott's apparent suicide has raised the question why. The corner's office says it is aware of reports he may have been dealing with an incurable illness, but until its investigation is complete, what motivated Scott to end his life remains a mystery. Scott had several ongoing film and television projects in the works and leaves a legacy of entertaining moviegoers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WYNTER: And you know, Wolf, one of those projects that Scott was actually working on right before his death was doing a remake of the 1980's hit "Top Gun" starring Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise, by the way, released a statement today referring to Scott as "a creative visionary whose mark on film is immeasurable" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly was. Kareen, thanks very much. In our next hour, we're tracking the multiple wildfires raging out of control out in the west. And target practice on Mars. The Curiosity rover uses its laser to prepare for future experiments. That's just ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Scientists are thrilled by the images they're seeing from Mars. The Curiosity rover used its laser in what NASA is calling target practice for future experiments. CNN's John Zarrella is in Miami. He is tracking the mobile lab's movement. So tell us about this laser blasting as it's called, John.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, you know it's the first time that they tried it and it's exactly what it was, target practice to see how this camcan (ph) as they call it worked. And at the top of the mast on Curiosity is where the laser sits. And you know, it shoots out up to about 30 feet. And I have a little rock here as an example.

Now, if I were to put just a tiny mark, the size of a pen mark, that's actually bigger than the mark that the laser leaves. But what it does, it shoots out 1,000 watts of power. It vaporizes the tiny part of the rock, the plasma that's emitted an image of that is then taken by a telescope and through that the scientists are able to look at what the rock is composed of, get an idea to kind of -- is it iron, is there carbon in it, the things that they're looking for that would reflect that there were water in that part of Mars or perhaps one of the building blocks of life.

Then if they so choose, they could take the rover up there and take a better look at it if they wanted to. And they dubbed the name of that rock coronation rock. I guess that's because the first time a laser has been used to zap a rock or anything else for that matter on another world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Another world indeed. Very, very cool. As you know, John, CNN has released a new poll that included questions about the Mars rover, life on Mars. What did the survey tell us?

ZARRELLA: You know I think it tells us that there's a pretty good percentage of us out there are at least space geeks sometimes, 72 percent of the people said in the survey that they thought that landing the Curiosity on Mars was a major achievement for NASA. They were also asked if they thought there was life on Mars, 62 percent of the 1,000 adults that were asked in this survey said no, they didn't think there was life on Mars.

I think the question was probably a little bit too broad. Because we're certainly not going to see people like us up there waving back, but microbial life there is a possibility that one time in its past, its distant past when Mars was much wetter, much more like earth that a possibility that microbial life did get started on Mars -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Who knows? Thanks very much, John Zarrella.