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Defiant Republican Congressman Still in Senate Race; GOP Scandal in Israel

Aired August 21, 2012 - 18:00   ET



Things just got a lot more complicated for Republicans trying to put out the political firestorm sparked by the party's U.S. Senate nominee, Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri. The chorus of calls for him to quit the race over a controversial abortion remark grew even louder today, but the deadline for an easy withdrawal just passed right at the top of the hour and now it will take a court order for him to withdraw, something he vows he will not do.

CNN's senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, and our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, they are both working the story for us. A lot of late-breaking developments.

Let's start with you, Dana. What is the latest?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is that Todd Akin, who, of course, is a six-term House member, known in Congress as kind of a loner, especially among members of his own delegation in Missouri, saying that he's not going anywhere, effectively telling House Republicans, Senate Republicans and Republicans across the country to take a hike.


BASH (voice-over): Todd Akin chose one of the few friendly forums left, Mike Huckabee's radio show, to announce he's not going anywhere.

REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: We're going to continue with this race for the U.S. Senate. We have given it a lot of thought.

And the first thing we felt we had to do was we had offended some people and we tried to respond to that and let people know that we didn't mean anybody or to take in any way rape anything less than very, very seriously.

BASH: He insisted he simply misspoke and did nothing morally or ethically wrong.

AKIN: We do a lot of talking. And to get a word in the wrong place, you know, that's not a good thing to do or to hurt anybody that way. But it does seem like a little bit of an overreaction. BASH: Overreaction or not, Republicans have been stunningly swift in closing ranks to push Akin to drop out after he said this on Sunday.

AKIN: 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.

BASH: Since then, he has repeatedly apologized, even releasing this TV ad before dawn asking for forgiveness.

AKIN: Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way, and for that, I apologize.

I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault, and I pray for them. The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.

BASH: That did nothing to sway frustrated and panicked Republicans from Washington to Akin's home state of Missouri. Five Missouri Republican heavyweights with more than half-a-century of combined Senate experience joined together to call Akin's comments unacceptable, saying, "We do not believe it serves the national interest for Congressman Todd Akin to stay in this race. The issues at stake are too big and this election is simply too important. The right decision is to step aside."

From the Tea Party.

AMY KREMER, CHAIR, TEA PARTY EXPRESS: What he said is completely indefensible, and it changes the narrative of what's going on here. If he looks at the bigger picture, he will do what's best and he will step aside.

BASH: To talk show hosts.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST, "HANNITY": Personally, I think it could be harmful to the whole party, to the whole state, to the whole idea of capturing the Senate, to the whole idea of Mitt Romney doing well in a state he has to win.

BASH: What's even more telling is the most vocal advocate for Akin staying in the race is the Democrat he's trying to unseat.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Congressman Akin and I disagree on some things, but he is sincere, and I think what's startling to me is that these party bigwigs are coming down on him and saying that he needs to kick sand in the face of the Republican primary voters.


BASH: Now, Republican leaders are not taking no for an answer, especially the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell. He's now the minority leader, but really wants to be the majority leader in the Senate. He clearly believes Akin will now likely lose and cost Republicans control of the Senate. McConnell released a blunt statement reiterating his call for Akin to quit the race, saying -- quote -- "Sorry is not sufficient."

Now, Wolf, to be sure, GOP leaders didn't want the highly conservative Akin to be their candidate in the first place in this race. But the cold hard reality is Akin was elected by GOP voters in Missouri fair and square. The fact that he's impervious to this pressure, there's not much Republican leaders can do other than keep pressing him. That's about it.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, stand by for a moment. I want to bring in our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, and he's working this story for us as well.

Jim, the uproar comes at a time when Republicans would clearly like to focus in on the economy and other issues as opposed to abortion.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. This firestorm ignited by Todd Akin has the potential to spread and cause more trouble for the Republicans at their convention in Tampa next week.

And we can tell you after visiting the Obama campaign headquarters here in Chicago, Democrats are plotting some mischief of their own.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Republican Congressman Todd Akin's refusal to drop out of the Missouri Senate race has given Democrats an opening to talk about abortion when Mitt Romney would rather focus on the economy.

(on camera): Do you guys see Missouri as being more in play now because of Todd Akin?

BEN LABOLT, OBAMA CAMPAIGN PRESS SECRETARY: Well, we certainly think that the decision that Mitt Romney and the Republican Party have had about women's issues over the course of the past year sounds like something you would have heard in the 1950s.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Inside Obama reelection headquarters in Chicago, campaign aides are not only pointing to Akin's initial comments.

AKIN: If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

ACOSTA: But also Iowa Congressman Steve King's comments to TV station KMEG, which reported he questioned whether victims of statutory rape could become pregnant.

REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I just haven't heard of that being a circumstance that has been brought to me in any personal way.

ACOSTA: King released a statement saying his words were being twisted adding -- quote -- "I never said, nor do I believe a woman, including minors, cannot get pregnant from rape, statutory rape or incest. Suggesting otherwise is ridiculous, shameful, disgusting and nothing but an attempt to falsely define who I am."

Anti-abortion advocate Dr. John Willke raised the issue in this article in 1999 when he wrote that a rape can -- quote -- "radically upset a woman's possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation, and even nurturing of a pregnancy," adding, "So assault rape pregnancy is extremely rare."

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL (R), VIRGINIA: I applaud the committee's work in affirming our respect for human life. Well done.

ACOSTA: Down in Tampa, where Republicans will hold their convention next week, the party approved language in its platform that calls for abortion to be banned outright, even in cases of rape and incest.

NARRATOR: Both Romney and Ryan backed proposals to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

ACOSTA: This Obama campaign ad accuses Romney of holding the same view, but Romney aides say that is false, insisting the GOP contender does support exceptions in the case of rape, incest and the life of the mother.

Romney's running mate, Paul Ryan, steered clear of the issue at a rally in Pennsylvania, but he did talk about in his religion in going after the president.

REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Remember this other time where he was caught on video saying, people like to cling to their guns and their religion. Hey, I'm a Catholic deer hunter. I am happy to be clinging to my guns and my religion.


ACOSTA: The Obama campaign says Ryan will have some vice presidential company next week in Joe Biden.

(on camera): But isn't that a bit much to send the vice president to the challenger's convention?

LABOLT: Well, he's not attending the convention, itself. He will be holding an event in Tampa, but I think you will be hearing certainly from people who are very familiar with Mitt Romney's record and not going to let some Hollywood producer come in and try to brush over the facts next week.


ACOSTA: Now, earlier this afternoon, Mitt Romney released a statement calling on Todd Akin to exit this race out in Missouri. Wolf, you will recall yesterday Romney declined to do that. But I talked to a top Romney campaign source who told me Romney was just simply trying to give Todd Akin some time to "do the right thing" and apparently in the eyes of the Romney campaign, he didn't do it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Will Biden heading to Tampa next week during the Republican Convention, will Paul Ryan head to Charlotte the following week during the Democratic Convention?

ACOSTA: That is a very good question, Wolf.

I would wager a guess that that might be in the works given what Joe Biden's schedule is shaping up. But I had a chance to talk to some Obama campaign aides about all of this earlier today. They said not just Joe Biden will be down there in Tampa, but what they're calling a strong bench of surrogates also will be down in Tampa as well, Wolf.

BLITZER: They used to call them the truth squad. We will see what happens in Tampa next week, in Charlotte the week after that. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

We're counting down to the Republican National Convention, staring Monday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern right after THE SITUATION ROOM. I will be of course in Tampa heading up our coverage, joined by Anderson Cooper, Erin Burnett, Candy Crowley, John King, along with all of our expert political analysts for coverage you won't find anywhere else, anywhere except CNN.


BLITZER: You have probably seen the ads. The Romney campaign says the president wants to -- quote -- "end welfare as we know it," but the president says this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every single person here who's looked at it says it's patently false.


BLITZER: Still, the Republicans are doubling down at the convention. Our eye-opening fact-check, that's coming up next.

Plus, the scene of the scandal. CNN travels to the Sea of Galilee in Israel, where a GOP congressman got into trouble for late- night misbehavior, including skinny dipping.

And later, a massive train derailment, two teenage girls and the mystery surrounding their bizarre deaths.


BLITZER: The Romney campaign is hammering President Obama on welfare with another ad accusing him of stripping the work requirement from welfare reform. It's likely to be a major talking point at next week's Republican Convention in Tampa. But is it true?

CNN's Tom Foreman is here. He's checking the facts for us.

It's causing a big stir out there. What are you finding out?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know what I'm finding, Wolf? I'm finding what we're finding on both sides of this race an awful lot these days, a lot of folks playing it very fast and loose with the truth.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Join me as I sign the welfare reform bill.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Welfare reform was a big bipartisan success story in the mid-1990s. Signed by Bill Clinton, it fulfilled promises by the Democratic president and the Republican Congress to push welfare recipients to work in exchange for their benefits, to end welfare as we know it.

So the idea of another Democratic president, Barack Obama, taking the work requirement off of the table is political dynamite, right?

NARRATOR: On July 12, President Obama quietly ended the work requirement, gutting welfare reform. One of the most respected newspapers in America called it nuts.

FOREMAN: The problem is, President Obama calls this claim nuts.

OBAMA: Every single person here who's looked at it says it's patently false.

FOREMAN (on camera): So where did this come from, this notion of a giant change in welfare rules? Oddly enough, it did not originate here in Washington, but rather out in the country.

(voice-over): Several states, including some with Republican governors, asked the federal government for more flexibility in how they hand out welfare dollars. Specifically, they want to spend less time on federal paperwork and more time experimenting with what they hope will be better ways of getting people connected to jobs. So the administration has granted waivers from some of the existing rules.

OBAMA: Giving them, those states, some flexibility in how they manage their welfare rolls as long as it produced 20 percent increases in the number of people who are getting work.

FOREMAN: That might, in a small way, change precisely how work is calculated. But the essential goal of pushing welfare recipients to work remains in place.

(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN: And that is fundamentally why some Republicans are even backing away from the claims in these ads. To put it quite simply, the claims by Mitt Romney here don't work. We have found them to be false. And so have many other agencies that have looked at this matter.

Nonetheless, Wolf, it does look like, as you said, at the convention, the Republicans are going to continue pushing ahead with these claims about welfare reform, although as the president pointed out, many agencies have looked at it and said this just isn't true.

BLITZER: Yes. And when the president said yesterday that five governors, including two Republican governors, asked for this kind of flexibility, I went back and looked to see what these Republican governors did.

This is the letter that New Mexico's (sic) governor, Brian Sandoval, wrote to Washington, to the Obama administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, saying Governor Sandoval has been very supportive of the concept of collaborative efforts among Nevada's" blah, blah, blah. He wants that flexibility.

And then Utah's Republican governor, Gary Herbert, had his staff write a similar letter: "We're very interested in being of assistance in the work of providing flexibility within and among funding resources for more effective outcomes."

Both of those letters written August 1 and August 2, 2001 (sic). So, the president is right when he says the Republican governors, themselves, asked precisely for this kind of flexibility.

FOREMAN: And he's right when he says that the Romney campaign, for saying that this is gutting welfare, the work requirement, it's just not true. That's not the case.


BLITZER: I had your job at the White House when President Clinton signed this welfare reform back in the '90s. I remember it well. He got into trouble with some liberal Democrats who didn't like it at the time, including Barack Obama, who was a young legislator in Illinois, who didn't like it. But he signed it into law.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, and the fact is, with these ads, of course they're not running them unless they think they're working.

We're asking if these ads are having an impact ahead. We're standing by for some new poll numbers on the race for the White House.

Plus, we will have details of hurricane contingency plans, that's right, for the Republican National Convention.


BLITZER: Quick correction. Brian Sandoval is Nevada's Republican governor, not New Mexico's Republican governor. He's one of the Republican governors who had asked last year for the president to give some flexibility in implementing welfare reform, the welfare law. I just want to correct that.

KEILAR: Very good, Wolf. Even you make a mistake from time to time.

BLITZER: We all make mistakes.

KEILAR: Thanks, Wolf.

And a look now at some of the stories that are trending right now on The late-night TV talk show battle is heating up. Starting in January, ABC will move comedian Jimmy Kimmel up an hour to 11:35, and he will be going head to head with Jay Leno and David Letterman. And then "Nightline," which currently airs in that time slot, will move to 12:35.

British director Tony Scott's apparent suicide remains a mystery, with family and medical investigators disputing a report that he was suffering from inoperable brain cancer. The "Top Gun" and "Beverly Hills Cop 2" director jumped off a California bridge on Sunday.

And endurance swimmer Diana Nyad has ended her 60-hour attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida after severe jellyfish stings and a lightning storm put her off course. She spoke with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta by phone.


DIANA NYAD, ENDURANCE SWIMMER: I'm so proud of all the resources and all the smarts we but into this exhibition, an incredible formation of shark divers, jellyfish experts, navigation, the whole thing. And still we're in this big ocean and one little wisp of air, you know, can get you. It's just -- you know, at some point I have to come to my knees.


KEILAR: And Tropical Storm Isaac is forecast to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane near Haiti on Friday, Cuba Saturday. Isaac's track from there is uncertain, but with thousands headed for the Republican Convention in Tampa next week, there is heightened interest in its path.

So the question is, would they change the location? Would they change a day? I called someone at the convention, and I was told there is a contingency plan, but they wouldn't tell me what it was.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm going there myself to Tampa in a few days. And I hope that hurricane stays far, far away from Tampa.

KEILAR: Take your rain slicker.

BLITZER: I will take -- I will take whatever. We're standing by to hear from the vice president of the United States. You see him over there. He's in Minnesota today. He's getting ready to speak to a crowd. I want to hear what he has to say. Earlier in THE SITUATION ROOM, we heard from Paul Ryan. Now it's Joe Biden's turn to speak to the crowd there.

Stand by. We will have live coverage of that and a lot more. That's coming up.


BLITZER: The deadline has come and gone for the Missouri Republican Congressman Todd Akin to easily pull out of his Senate race, as just about every Republican leader is urging him to do in the wake of his controversial remarks about abortion and what he called -- quote -- "legitimate rape."

Now, Akin would have to go to court to get off ballot, which even Mitt Romney wants him to do, saying, and I'm quoting him now, "Today his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race." But Akin is refusing.


REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO), MISSOURI SENATE CANDIDATE (via phone): What we're seeing right now is a tremendous outpouring of support from a whole lot of just regular small people.

We believe that by taking this stand, that this is going to strengthen our country. It's going to strengthen, ultimately, the Republican Party, and I believe we can win this.


BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about this with our chief national correspondent, John King, and our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash. We're also, by the way, monitoring the vice president, Joe Biden, in Minnesota. I'm going to go there as soon as he gets into some of the meat of what he's having to say.

John, let me start with you. What do you think? It's now come and gone, the deadline, the easy deadline for him to get out. Every major Republican wants him out. He's staying in. What's the impact?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The impact is that you have a Senate race that the Republicans very much need that's in jeopardy. You have an angry Republican establishment. You had on your program earlier today Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, saying not a penny is going to go into Missouri. You've had other groups say they will not send any money in there.

So you have a man whose stubborn pride, his ego, call it what you will, saying he's staying in the race. Wolf, they have tried and tried and tried. I've talked to a good source a few moments ago, who's very prominent in the social conservative area. He says several leaders, Christian conservative leaders have also reached out to try to get more. I said, is there anybody who would listen to him? And the answer back was, no.

BLITZER: Hold your thoughts for a moment, everybody, because I want to go to Minnesota right now. The vice president is speaking. Let's listen in.

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, folks, where I come from, there's nothing gutsy about giving millionaires another tax break. There's nothing bold, there's nothing bold about cutting Medicare and education and research and development to pay for those tax cuts. And there sure in heck is nothing new about their plan.

Not only is it not new, it's not fair, it's not right, and the people who are going to pay the price for this plan, were they to win, are the working poor and the middle class. That's who's going to pay the price for their plan.

And there's overwhelming evidence that their plan will not grow the economy. Why do we know that? It didn't grow it before. It won't grow it now. Folks, we've seen this movie before. We've seen this movie before. And we know, we know how the movie ends. It ends in the great recession of 2008. That was a catastrophe. This is not hyperbole, a catastrophe for the middle class.

The middle class was eviscerated. They lost $17 billion in the value that they had in their homes, in their 401(k)s. The things that they decided, you all, coming from neighborhoods like mine, where you relied on that. That was going to help you retire, that equity in your home. It was going to help you borrow against it to send your kids to college. Look, folks, we can't go back to those days. We have to move forward.

Ladies and gentlemen, the president and I, we have a different way forward. We know the history of the journey of this country. We also know from own experience that you don't grow the economy from millionaires down. You grow it from the middle out. Ladies and gentlemen, the middle class is doing well. The poor have a way up. And the wealthy do very, very well, thank you. Everyone does well.

And folks, what this is all about, it gets down to a fundamental simple proposition. It's all about every American having an opportunity to have a decent standard of living. A good job that you can raise a family on. Where hard work is rewarded, and responsibility is accepted -- is expected.

You know, my dad used to have an expression, and I mean this sincerely, from the time I was a kid. He'd say, "Joey, a job's about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity. It's about your sense of who you are. It's about your ability to provide for your family. It's about your role in the community."

And, folks, from where I come from, people have simply been stripped. Hardworking Americans, through no fault of their own, have been stripped of their dignity, and the millions more who have jobs are living with stagnant wages and have found it increasingly more difficult to care for their families. Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of you know folks who made what I call the longest walk. The longest walk a man and woman can make is up a short flight of stairs to their child's bedroom to say, "Honey, I'm sorry, but you can't go back there. You can't go back to St. Mary's. You can't go back to Roosevelt High School. You can't go back. You can't sing in the choir, baby. Daddy lost his job. Mommy lost her job. The bank, honey, says we can't live here anymore."

My dad made that walk when I was going from fourth grade, or third grade to fourth grade. And we were living in my grandpa's house at the time. Things were a little tough in Scranton, Pennsylvania, at the time in the mid-'50s. And I remember him sitting on the bed telling me, "Honey, there's good jobs down where Uncle Frank is in Wilmington, Delaware. I'm going to be gone. I'll be gone for about a year. It's only 157 miles, but I'll try to come home every weekend."

I thought, "My God, 157 miles," speaking of Mars, I thought that was Mars. I thought that's how far away it was. But I wasn't frightened by it. I was disappointed. Because my dad had absolute confidence. Absolute confidence. He had another shot that would work.

It wasn't until I got to be in my 20s I realized my father, who was a -- who was a proud, graceful man, made an even longer walk. He made a walk into my grandfather's pantry with my mom's brothers, grown brothers, and said, "Ambrose, I need a favor. Can you take care of -- can you take care of Jean and the kids for about a year? I promise, I promise I'll pay you back."

You know people have made that walk. You know people who have had to do that. You know people as recently as this past -- this past spring who were sitting down at the kitchen table, husband and wife saying, 'How are we going to tell Mary she can't go back to university? We just -- we just don't have the money? We just can't do it."

How many people you know that are going to bed tonight that will stare at the ceiling, literally wondering whether or not they're going to be able to live in that house three months from now. Whether everything's going to be OK.

Ladies and gentlemen, too many people have been hurt. When the president and I came to office, we were determined, determined to restore the dignity and pride of the middle class. To provide them with the ability to care for their families. To be able to turn, as my dad used to say, be able to turn to your kid and say, "Honey, it's going to be OK." Whatever it is, it's going to be OK. And believe when you say it that it really is going to be OK.

Well, folks, things are beginning to change, thank God, because of the leadership of President Obama. Over 4.5 million people, today, since we've come in, have made a different walk. They've walked from a new high-tech manufacturing plant to their car in the parking lot and were able to go home and say, proudly, "I'm making a product that the whole rest of the world wants to buy again." BLITZER: All right. So the vice president of the United States is speaking to his supporters out in Minnesota. You see Senator Al Franken there sitting behind him. We're going to monitor his remarks.

But even as we listen to the vice president, I want to share with our viewers right now some new poll numbers, national poll numbers, Brianna, that are just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. This is an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll. Among registered voters, President Obama nationally 48 percent, Mitt Romney 44 percent. Quickly, John King, these are consistent with numbers, doesn't show much of a bounce right now as a result of Paul Ryan, does it?

KING: No, it doesn't show you. It shows you essentially a statistical tie, a slight advantage to the president. Which tells you the period we're going into. First the Republican convention, then the Democratic convention. Critical to both candidates in both parties. Then you move into debate season and beyond into the final stretch.

If you look deeper in this, very interesting poll. The president, the gender gap, Wolf. We talked about this Todd Akin story. We talked about the Republican platform discussion. The Democrats want to use that to keep the gender gap. Fifty-one to 41, President Obama leading Governor Romney among women.

However, among seniors, Democrats trying to make a big play on the Medicare argument. Governor Romney continues to lead there, 49 percent to 41 percent. That's not as big a lead as George W. Bush had. It's about where John McCain was. John McCain won among seniors last time. But Governor Romney needs to keep an eye on those numbers.

What these tell you, if you look deep into it, it tells you you have a very, very competitive race heading into the final stretch.

KEILAR: And this ten-point lead, Dana, that this NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll shows President Obama has with women, how does this whole debate over Todd Akin play into that? Obviously, it's not a positive for Mitt Romney.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not in the least. That's why this debate is so toxic, so terrible for Republicans. That's why they know it is so deeply. This gender gap existed before, and it is something that Democrats are hoping to drive further and further away. A wider gap. And Republicans are very, very worried about that, particularly for women in some of the key states, in some of the key areas in the key states where they have to, have to win.

KEILAR: And finally, why is he so stubborn? I mean, you cover the Hill. Why is he so stubborn?

BASH: Look, I mean, he is known to be a loner. He marches to the beat of his own drum.

And he also knows full well that the Republican leadership never, ever wanted him to get the nomination in the first place. They knew that he was going to be -- out of the field of possibilities, those on the ballot, that he was probably the least likely to win against Claire McCaskill, the most likely to put his foot in his mouth, as he did now. In fact, I was told that they went to him when he won privately and said, "Look, you're going to be out of the national spotlight. You're going to have to watch what you say," and it didn't happen.

And you know, one other interesting note: you were talking about earlier, about the fact that he -- religious leaders were asked to go to him. I was told, and this is not meant to be disrespectful, and not tongue in cheek, but somebody said, "No matter who goes to him in the Republican Party, he's not going to listen to anybody until God tells him to." He's literally a God-fearing man. And that -- it's a spiritual journey for him. And that's what he believes.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch what happens in Missouri. We're watching what's happening out in the campaign. Stand by, guys. We have a lot more news coming up, including the latest on a congressman's naked swim in the Sea of Galilee. That's still sending out ripples of controversy. We're going to take you there. We're going to the Sea of Galilee. That's where the skinny-dipping took place. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We're learning new details about the skinny-dipping scandal involving a United States congressman during an official trip to Israel. CNN's Diana Magnay shows us now where it all happened.


DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was supposed to be a fact-finding mission that brought Kevin Yoder and a group of Republican congressmen to Israel this time last year. So we've come to the town of Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee to find out what facts we can about a skinny-dipping episode one infamous night.

(voice-over) It's hot in these hills in August, so hot people even like to take their chairs into the water to cool down. Any naked bathing, though? Not around here. The Sea of Galilee is, after all, where Christians believe Jesus walked on water, fed the 5,000. Nudism, no way.

VERED GROSS-GRANOT, RESTAURANT OWNER: People respect this place because of its religious sensitivity. For the Christian, for the Jewish. No, nobody swims there naked, really. I swear.

MAGNAY: Yet, Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder admits he did just that. Our line of inquiry, based on Politico's reporting, which broke the story, has brought us to the Dex restaurant in Tiberius, where apparently, around half the group of 30 U.S. lawmakers took the plunge.

(on camera) All the indications are that this is where it happened. It's a deck that's perfect for a large group. Imagine the scene. It's late on a balmy night in August. You've had a huge meal. Possibly a little bit to drink. And the waiter suggests diving into the Sea of Galilee. He opens this gate, and really what could be more inviting?

(voice-over) Gross-Gronot, the owner, says she doesn't remember that particular group, but that a late-night swim here is par for the course.

GROSS-GRONOT: You sit back, enjoy a beautiful dinner, great lamb chops, and then you just jump to the water because it's -- it's a part of the experience.

MAGNAY: In a statement, Yoder apologized for his actions, writing, "Regrettably, I jumped into the water without a swimsuit." We asked a nearby swimmer whether he'd heard of the congressman's antics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Did he survive? Yes. That's good. Because the Sea of Galilee was much lower last year.

MAGNAY: A late-night transgression, though, Gross-Gronot thinks the reason why the story's making waves now is a lot more unsavory.

GROSS-GRONOT: Somebody's trying to use this as a weapon to hurt the Republicans, who are so devoted to us, to Israel.

MAGNAY: Israel is none too happy to be caught up in other people's politics.

(on camera) The Sea of Galilee, Wolf, obviously a very beautiful place, a very spiritual place for a lot of Christians. I only have one regret, and that is that I didn't bring my swimming costume -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Good for you, Diana Magnay at the Sea of Galilee. Thank you.

Buried under tons of coal. Up next, new details on the Maryland train derailment that killed two teenage girls.


KEILAR: Two young women in the wrong place at the wrong time killed by a train derailment that buried them under tons of coal. Let's go now to Bryan Todd, who's at the scene for us in Ellicott City, Maryland -- Bryan.

BRYAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, a very active recovery seen behind me. You can see these crews sifting through the huge mounds of coal that got dumped from this train. One of the cars right there is upside down. They're trying to get it right side up so they can bring it on the tracks behind me.

Investigators sifting through this wreckage, interviewing crew members, trying to determine the cause of this accident that resulted in the death of two young women.


TODD (voice-over): As they sift through mangled freight cars and huge loads of dumped coal, investigators offer some details but no definite cause for the derailment of this freight train that resulted in the deaths of two young women.

According to the NTSB, at just after midnight, a CSX train rolled through Ellicott City, Maryland, going 25 miles per hour. Something caused the train to jump the tracks. Then...

JIM SOUTHWORTH, NTSB: When they derailed, the cars, the hoses were separated somewhere in the train line, and that causes an emergency brake application.

TODD: Local residents heard the sound of 20 cars turning on their side.

LAUREN WARD, HEARD TRAIN CRASH: It was screeching. It was -- it didn't sound normal. And I remember thinking, that sounds like it's derailing.

TODD (on camera): Investigators say the operators of the train reported seeing nothing feeling nothing before the emergency brakes came on automatically.

Police say the two women killed, Elizabeth Nass and Rose Mayr, 19-year-old rising college juniors, were sitting on the edge of that bridge with their backs to the train just feet away as it passed.

(voice-over) When the train skipped the tracks, police say, open cars tipped over, burying the women in coal. A friend says this photo was tweeted by Rose Mayr shortly before the crash. The caption, "Levitating." And this one, possibly showing Main Street in Ellicott City from the bridge, with the caption, "Looking down on old EC." And shortly before the accident, one of the victims tweeted, "Drinking on top of the Ellicott City sign with @Rose."

Marmie Edwards, from the rail safety group Operation Lifesaver, says more than one person a day is killed in the U.S. from placing themselves too close to train tracks.

(on camera) Is this time of year particularly dangerous for this kind of thing?

MARMIE EDWARDS, OPERATION LIFESAVER: I think that whenever you come towards the end of the summer, young people may be challenged by their friends or even challenge themselves to do something different from what they've done earlier in the summer.


TODD: Again, investigators cannot say at the moment what caused this train to derail, what specifically caused it to derail, but they're going to be reviewing audio and videotapes from on board to try to make that determination -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Bryan Todd for us in Ellicott City. Thank you for that. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It's toilet paper with a twist. Here is CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Talk about a weird product rollout. Advertising on toilet paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You use it and you look at it.

MOOS (on camera): Yes.

MOOS: But not in that order. You're supposed to look at it first.

Imagine you're stuck in a stall in a restroom at a bar with nothing better to do than contemplate Underground Printing or Pita Pit.

Toilet paper ads are the brainchild of these two brothers, Jordan and Bryan Silverman. Jordan dreamed up the idea while at the University of Michigan.

JORDAN SILVERMAN, CO-FOUNDER, STAR TOILET PAPER: I found myself sitting in the bathroom of the library, bored, reading my phone and the graffiti on the walls.

MOOS: There, Star Toilet Paper was born.

BRYAN SILVERMAN, CO-FOUNDER, STAR TOILET PAPER: We have what we like to call a two-ply business model.

MOOS: The first ply is they supply it free to bars, bowling alleys, any public place. The second ply is they get advertisers to pay for the privilege of being on a roll: your ad here.

(on camera) Now advertisers pay half a cent per ad, or per impression, as the Star Toilet Paper brothers like to say.

(voice-over) It sure is a different impression from a regular ad.

B. SILVERMAN: The average advertising is seen for between 2 and 5 second seconds, but one of our advertisements is seen from between one and 10 minutes, depending on what you had for dinner the night before.

MOOS: Bryan is a finalist in "Entrepreneur" magazine's "College Entrepreneur of the year, thanks their toilet-paper paper.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's funky. It's just funky.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most times, you're at bar, using the bathroom, you're drunk. I would read that, yes.

MOOS (on camera): Would you remember the ad?


MOOS (voice-over): Lest you worry about becoming ink-stained...

B. SILVERMAN: The ink is a soybean-based ink, and because it's soybean-based, it doesn't run on your body.

MOOS: And advertisers like Smoothie King say it's too soon to know how effective toilet paper ads are.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm going to think twice about using it. It's too nice to use. It's almost like art. Art for your butt.

MOOS: They have big plans to supply their toilet paper ads to malls and stadiums.

(on camera) The Star Toilet Paper brothers are going to clean up.

(voice-over) They have plans for scanning coupons, and of course, they have a motto.

B. SILVERMAN: Don't rush. Look before you flush.

MOOS: Just be careful you don't become a human billboard.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I don't know where Jeanne finds these stories, but very smart young brothers.

KEILAR: Ingenious and gross, I say.

BLITZER: Enough. That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.