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President Obama Announces Defense and CIA Nominees; Colorado Theater Shooting Suspect in Court; Gun Owners Fear New Restrictions; GOP Fires Warning Shot Over Hagel; Detecting Normal Radiation in Capital; Dreamliner Catches Fire at Airport; Prince Charles Opens Up; Worries About a Son in War Zone; Toyota Unveils Self-Driving Technologies; Blood Pressure Meds and Alzheimer's

Aired January 7, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama nominates Chuck Hagel to run the Pentagon, calling him a leader our troops deserve. But Hagel's critics call him profoundly wrong on national security.

Also, we have new details about a horrifying night in Colorado. A police officer cries as he describes a theater floor slippery with blood.

Plus, a first look at proposed regulations that have would-be gun owners racing right now to buy guns.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with President Obama setting the stage for a new fight here in Washington, this time over the national security team for his second term. The president's nominating the former Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican, for defense secretary, and his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to direct the CIA.

At least one critic calls the Hagel nomination an in-your-face pick.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Brianna Keilar. She's working the story for us.

The president was effusive in his praise for Hagel.


And President Obama said that Hagel, a Republican -- quote -- "represents a bipartisan tradition that we need more of in Washington." But, of course, Republicans on the hill are panning this pick. And some Democrats as well have some concerns. Critics charge that Hagel's support of Israel has been lacking, and that he has not been tough enough on Iran. They point to his comments once describing AIPAC, the leading pro-Israel lobby, as the Jewish lobby and also to his lack support for unilateral sanctions against Iran.

But here at the White House, they're pointing to his support for sanctions from the U.S. as well as its allies, together, forming sanctions against Iran. This is something that President Obama referenced today in the East Room.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He understands that America stands strongest when we stand with allies and with friends. As a successful businessman, he also knows that, even as we make tough fiscal choices, we have to do so wisely, guided by our strategy, and keep our military the strongest fighting force the world has ever known. Maybe most importantly, Chuck knows that war is not an abstraction. He understands that sending young Americans to fight and bleed in the dirt and mud, that's something we only do when it's absolutely necessary.


KEILAR: The president stressed Hagel's experience as an enlisted soldier in Vietnam. In fact, Hagel would be the first secretary of defense to have been an enlisted man.

And talking to sources here, Wolf, even though there are a number of concerns, and this will most likely be the most contentious of President Obama's new nominations, the sense is that President Obama feels that Hagel has very good answers to the questions that he will be asked and during his confirmation process, he will be able to win over some more support, Democratic support.

Some senators have voiced their support already for Hagel, for instance, Senator Leahy, Wolf. But there are some who have still reserved their support, saying they have concerns that need to be answered during the process.

BLITZER: There's no doubt that the president refused to back down in the face of the criticism that had been building over the past few weeks. Listen to what Senator Hagel himself said today in the White House.


CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Mr. President, I'm grateful for this opportunity to serve this country again, and especially its men and women in uniform and their families.

These are people who give so much to this nation every day, with such dignity and selflessness. This is particularly important at a time as we complete our mission in Afghanistan and support the troops and military families who have sacrificed so much over more than a decade of war.

I'm also grateful for an opportunity to help continue to strengthen our country and strengthen our country's alliances and advance global freedom, decency and humanity, as we help build a better world for all mankind.


BLITZER: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, says he hopes to start confirmation hearings fairly soon.

Brianna, the president picked a much less controversial person to lead the CIA, although there are a few issues there as well.

KEILAR: There are a few issues.

John Brennan, of course, his longtime top terrorism adviser. And you could see today, Wolf, just the familiarity, the rapport these two men have, and certainly that came into consideration as President Obama picked him.

Remember, back in 2008, and I know you know this, Brennan withdrew his name from consideration for the same role as CIA director, amid questions that it was actually liberals raising about his involvement in enhanced interrogation tactics during the Bush administration.

Since then, Brennan has very much distanced himself from those practices. He's been a top adviser to President Obama as he has banned torture. So those concerns may not play as much of a factor. But do expect him to be asked some very tough questions about the drone program, which has in full swing very much under his direction.

That's something, of course, that a number of Democrats as well as human rights activists have concerns about, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you.

During our next hour, we will hear from a top Republican senator who has already announced he will vote against confirming Chuck Hagel for defense secretary. I asked Senator John Cornyn of Texas why he isn't waiting for Hagel's confirmation hearings before making up his mind.


SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R), TEXAS: I consider him to be an honorable man with a distinguished record of service, but also at the same time profoundly wrong on some of the biggest national security threats confronting the United States today. He's a good man, but this is a wrong job for him because he's certainly outside of the national security mainstream.


BLITZER: You're going to see my interview with Senator Cornyn during our 5:00 p.m. Eastern hour. That's our next hour. We will get specific about why Senator Cornyn thinks Hagel's the wrong man for the job.

But let's dig a little bit deeper right now with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. Why do you think -- I know you're speaking to a lot of folks, Gloria -- the president held firm, refused to be kowtowed, refused to give up on Senator Hagel?


As you know, we have been reporting that Senator Hagel was his top choice since sort of early/mid-December and I don't think that really wavered even in the face of all this criticism that has come out. First of all, the president obviously believes that he's qualified. He's a decorated war veteran. In the Congress, he served on the Foreign Relations and on the Intelligence committees.

He's co-chair of the president's intelligence advisory board. I think the president and Chuck Hagel formed a bond over their mutual opposition to the war in Iraq. As you know, Hagel opposed the surge in Iraq. I should also add, he opposed the surge in Afghanistan, which the president himself authored.

But there's one other reason that I think the president looked to Chuck Hagel. And that is that he believes that Hagel will not necessarily just accept the advice of the generals and say that's it. He believes he will not be intimidated by the generals, that he can stand up to the generals. And in the statement we heard the president say today, he made it very clear that Hagel is, as he put it, geared towards the guy at the bottom who is doing the fighting and the dying.

And I think that's important to the president. We learned it when he went through his Afghanistan review. He talked to the generals. He did in the end what some of them wanted. But it was very important to him that he kind of divorce himself and make up his own mind. I think he thinks Chuck Hagel will be able to do that as they start to downsize the Pentagon.

BLITZER: All right, Chuck Hagel may be a Republican, and there are plenty of Republicans who say they're not going to vote for him, not necessarily vote for him, but aren't happy with this nomination, but there are some Democrats as well who aren't very enthusiastic.

BORGER: There are some Democrats and it's mostly because the reasons Brianna stated earlier, particularly the question of Iran sanctions and whether he is pro-Israel enough. I spoke with a senior Democrat aide in the Senate today who said to me that right now there are at least 10 Democrats in the Senate who he called either undecided or concerned about the Hagel nomination.

That doesn't mean that they're going to vote no. But it means they're going to ask some very tough questions. Now, I have also been told that Hagel has been privately working the Hill with Republicans and those Democrats who have questions about him. And today, in an interview with a Lincoln, Nebraska, newspaper, hometown interview, first interview, Hagel himself said that his record will demonstrate what he called an unequivocal and total support for Israel.

But you can be sure that is going to be front and center in this fighting.

BLITZER: I think John Brennan's going to have a much easier ride through the Senate Intelligence Committee and through the Senate.

BORGER: Yes. He is going to have an easier fight. But there are questions about it.

I mean, John McCain, who was tortured himself when he was a POW, has raised real questions about Brennan's role in the Bush administration supporting enhanced interrogation. So, today, he put out a statement saying he wanted to know -- quote -- "what role he played in the so- called enhanced interrogation programs while serving at the CIA during the last administration.

I would also point out, Wolf, that John McCain is on the same side as the liberal civil rights group the ACLU in this. They are raising the same kinds of questions, even though in the past, Brennan has said that he opposes these enhanced interrogation techniques.

BLITZER: We will watch these confirmation hearings every step of the way.

BORGER: Should be interesting, both of them.

BLITZER: Low-flying helicopters have people in some of the country's biggest cities asking questions. The answers have to do with preparations for a possible terrorist attack using radioactive dirty bombs.

Plus, before we get to that, we have some new details emerging about the Colorado theater shootings, including the suspect's strange behavior once he was caught.


BLITZER: It's been nearly six months since the Colorado theater shootings, but only today we're getting some gruesome details of what police found at the scene.

CNN's Ed Lavandera was in the suburban Denver courtroom as prosecutors began revealing the evidence against the alleged gunman, James Holmes.

Ed's joining us now.

Ed, tell us what you heard.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is really the first time since the July shootings that we have heard from -- firsthand from the officers that made the arrest of James Holmes just moments after the shooting that killed 12 people here in Aurora, Colorado.

Those officers described seeing James Holmes just standing by his car in this frantic situation, chaotic, with the victims screaming and yelling for help, and James Holmes just standing there, decked out in protective gear, a helmet and a gas mask.

And at first, the officers said they thought he was a SWAT officer. It wasn't until they approached him and got closer that they realized that this was perhaps the suspect that they indeed were looking for. One of the officers described him as just staring there -- standing there distantly staring off into space, and seemed to be out of it.

At the same time, the officer also said he understood everything that was going on, never really spoke to any of the officers. But it was the testimony the officers gave where they described first walking into theater number nine where the shooting took place that offered the most emotion from what we heard today, several officers unable to just simply describe what they saw.

And they described the gruesome carnage inside that theater, one of the officers describing making four trips in his own police car, taking victims to -- rushing victims to the hospital himself, and then described the amount of blood that was left inside of his car as he made that final trip to the hospital, the fourth time, taking six people in all -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed, what's the defense strategy that's emerging from James Holmes' attorneys?

LAVANDERA: Well, you know, we're kind of reading through the tea leaves at this point, Wolf, because there's a strict gag order in place. So, we -- you know, the defense attorneys are unable to speak with reporters about what their strategy is. But in the cross examination they've asked these police officer witnesses, there's been a great deal of attention paid to James Holmes' demeanor, and what he looked like, how he acted, and that sort of thing.

Clearly, there are a lot of people around here who suggest they're going for some sort of mental health defense here down the road. But they still haven't entered a plea so we don't know exactly what they're going to do. But the indication seemed that they're headed down that way.

BLITZER: You've also seen some of the victims and their families in the courtroom today. How are they dealing, Ed?

LAVANDERA: You know, it's interesting, there were several overflow rooms where victims and family members, survivors, can watch all of this testimony if they choose to. You know, this courtroom is very crowded. A great deal of attention, of people who want to see what is going on throughout these proceedings.

But I was struck by one moment that I witnessed just outside of the courtroom. The father of one of the victims, a survivor in the shooting, the officer, Jason Oviatt, who was the first officer that handcuffed James Holmes right outside the theater after one of the sessions here this morning, the gentleman came by and gave the officer a hug and thanked him for everything that he had done that night.

So, I think that kind of speaks volumes to the emotion and just how gut-wrenching all of this is for many who are watching and listen to this and will be throughout this week.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera in the scene for us -- thank you.

The Colorado theater shootings and last month's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, prompted President Obama to set up a task force on gun violence.

Our crime and justice correspondent Joe Johns has been getting some details about the ideas that are under consideration, also getting some reaction from gun owners out there. What are you seeing?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, America has a love/hate relationship with guns. It's on full display right now. Background checks for sales of firearms have hit a record pace in anticipation of new gun control proposals under development at the White House.


JOHNS (voice-over): People are racing to buy the weapons they fear they one day might not be able to get.

DELAINO CAMERON, OWNER, C&D GUNS: We probably are seeing, I would say, at least a 50 percent increase in sales. Our assault rifles, AR's, AK's, have all doubled in sales.

JOHNS: Meanwhile, over at the White House, the administration is looking to a working group of experts led by Vice President Biden, to come up with better ideas to reduce crimes committed with guns.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have a much more holistic view of how to deal with violence on our streets, in our country.

JOHNS (on camera): Officials who were inside the first working group meeting describe it as a brainstorming session that went far beyond talk of renewing the so-called assault weapons ban that was enacted during the Clinton administration. The officials said they talked about banning high-capacity magazines, improving mental health checks for people who are purchasing weapons, bolstering the federal background check system for gun purchasers, including closing the loophole that allows many purchasers at gun shows to avoid background checks altogether.

Also, a national gun registry and improving tracking of ammunition sales.

Dan Gross, who is president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, has had conversations with the White House.

DAN GROSS, PRES., BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: I would be fairly confident that the task force is, based on what the president's been saying, that alone, that the task force is committed to exploring more broad solutions than just an assault weapons ban.

JOHNS (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, some of the ideas go even further. The Democratic senators from New York want tough new gun trafficking laws.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: We have thousands of laws but effectively none of them are focused on preventing someone from Virginia from driving up to New York City, parking their car in a parking lot and selling illegal firearms out of the back of his truck to criminals.

JOHNS: But the question is whether advocates of gun rights on the Hill and the voters who sent them to Congress will stand for it.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: I don't think the federal government has any business having a list of law abiding citizens who choose to exercise their right to keep and bear arms.

JOHNS: And the top Republican in the Senate points out that Congress already has a full agenda to last well into the New Year.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Clearly, we'll not be addressing that issue early because spending and debt are going to dominate the first three months.

JOHNS: But there seems to be a middle ground. There are some gun owners who say certain people should not have guns.

CAMERON: I'm all for trying to weed out the individuals that shouldn't have them that make the rest of us look bad. And I'm definitely for that. But in the same sense, I don't think we should just, you know, ban everybody from owning a specific type of firearm.


JOHNS: It's important to say also what we're reporting here is basically a wish list from some of the stakeholders in the gun control debate. A law enforcement official I talked to said he was not aware of any specific proposals the group had actually agreed on. The whole point was to get something on paper that the vice president could deliver to Mr. Obama in advance of the State of the Union address, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what that State of the Union Address contains, specifics. That's what people want to know.

Thanks very much, Joe, for that.

Hillary Clinton's team at the State Department had a special plan for her return today and they weren't going to miss an opportunity to tease her about her health.


BLITZER: With the New Year, the Palestinian Authority is changing its name.

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

So, what's going on?


Well, from now on, the Palestinian Authority wants to be known as the State of Palestine. The government's new agency called the rebranding a, quote, "unique new move to the path of national independence." It also reflects the upgrade in its status at the United Nations to nonmember observer state. Passports and other documents will now show the new name.

And Hillary Clinton is back at work at the State Department. Clinton has been out since suffering a concussion which led to a blood clot in her head. Her team gave her some appropriate gifts for her last days on the job, including a helmet and a football jersey with the number 112. That's the number of countries she has visited as secretary of state. And she will serve as the nation's top diplomat until her likely successor John Kerry is confirmed by the Senate.

And two of college football's most legendary teams will fight for the championship tonight. Notre dame plays Alabama in Miami. Fewer than four hours from now. The Fighting Irish, they are gunning for their 12th title. But it is actually their first in 24 years. Crimson Tide has won 14 titles including two of the last three.

So do you have a favorite there, Wolf?

BLITZER: No, but I'm looking forward to an excellent, excellent football game.

SYLVESTER: I know. It sounds like an excellent matchup but may the best team win. I don't have a dog in that fight either.

BLITZER: Sad about the Redskins.

SYLVESTER: Yes, very sad. Yes.

BLITZER: You did have a favorite, Lisa.

SYLVESTER: I know, I know, I think there were a lot of long faces in our house yesterday afternoon.


Thank you.

Chuck Hagel, he served for about dozen years in the United States Senate. So if President Obama thought that that would guarantee him an easy confirmation through the Senate, he may have made a strategic error. Is it going to be rough?

Why the Republican is getting the once over from some fellow Republicans. That's coming up.


BLITZER: Chuck Hagel spent about a dozen years on Capitol Hill as a Republican senator, but you might not necessarily know that from the criticism that's been lobbed his way from some other former colleagues, especially some Republicans.

CNN's Jim Acosta is joining us from Capitol Hill with more on this rather unique part of the story.

What's going on here, Jim? JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Chuck Hagel may be a former senator, but it's not clear how much deference he's going to get on Capitol Hill from issues like Israel and gay rights, Hagel will have to walk through a political minefield in order to get confirmed.


ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House is already playing defense when it comes to Chuck Hagel, a former two-term GOP senator from Nebraska. President Obama's pick for secretary of defense is running into resistance inside the Republican Party.

Indiana Senator Dan Coates who was once on the short list for secretary of defense himself said Hagel is in for a fight.

(on camera): Have you made up your mind one way or the other on this?

SEN. DAN COATES (R), INDIANA: I want to give Chuck Hagel, a former colleague, the opportunity to come and go face-to-face, to answer these questions, these allegations -- what I think are some serious questions that do not perhaps qualify him for this position.

ACOSTA (voice-over): One big battle to come, a comment Hagel made in 2006 about pro-Israeli groups and their influence on Capitol Hill, when he said, "The Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here." Hagel has since apologized for the comment.

But that hasn't stopped the criticism. The head of the Anti- Defamation League released a statement saying he hopes Hagel will clarify and explain his comments about the Jewish lobby that were hurtful to many in the Jewish community.

Hagel made the remark to Aaron David Miller, a Middle East analyst, who says the comment is being twisted.

AARON DAVID MILLER, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Those comments have been hijacked in an effort to make a case frankly that, in my judgment, isn't well-deserved.

ACOSTA: Still, some Republican senators say Hagel's comments fit a pattern.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Chuck Hagel, if confirmed to be secretary of defense, would be the most antagonistic secretary of defense toward the state of Israel in our nation's history.

ACOSTA: Some in the White House believe that GOP ill will stems from the Bush years, when Hagel aligned himself with then-Senator Barack Obama as a critic of the Iraq war.

THEN-SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I don't know how many United States senators believe we have a coherent strategy in Iraq. I don't think we've ever had a coherent strategy.

ACOSTA: Noting Hagel's two Purple Hearts from Vietnam, a senior administration official brushed off the GOP criticism, saying, "It's one thing to posture on a talk show, it's another thing to look a two- term senator in the eye and say I'm going to vote against you because you turned against the war in Iraq."

But there are other political land mines looming.

Gay rights groups are slamming Hagel for once opposing the nomination of a U.S. ambassador because he was homosexual and neo conservatives point to Hagel's stance against unilateral sanctions on Iran. In principle, Hagel only supports multilateral sanctions.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I think it will be a lot of tough questions of Senator Hagel, but he'll be treated fairly by Republicans in the Senate.


ACOSTA: Now, this afternoon, John McCain also released a statement on Chuck Hagel's nomination, saying, he has serious concerns heading into these confirmation hearings.

But I have to tell you, Wolf, this White House official I talked to earlier today indicated that the administration seems to be ready for a fight, that official was noting how many Republican senators were praising Chuck Hagel when he left the Senate several years ago.

It just goes to show you, even though Hagel spent many years up here on Capitol Hill, he may not have as many friends as he might think and that might be the price for being a maverick so many years -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jim Acosta on Capitol Hill, getting ready for those confirmation hearings. Everyone is going to be busy watching those. Thank you.

Let's get to our "Strategy Session" right now. Dig a little deeper with our CNN political analyst, the Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher and our CNN contributor, the former Bush White House press secretary, Ari Fleischer.

Eric Cantor, the majority leader in the House, the Republican, he said this in a statement. He said, there has been wide spread and bipartisan opposition to this potential nomination and the president's willingness to move forward despite these concerns only reinforces the signal that he agrees with Hagel's extreme positions.

Cornell, does that -- is that what the president's decision state?

CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is sort of a head scratcher because this is a guy who Republicans once supported. I think Senator Hagel's crime here in Washington is that he dared not walk lock step in with his party in a partisan way.

If you look at why they're attacking Senator Hagel, it's because he did have different views and different opinions and he wasn't afraid to talk about different views and opinions. This is sort of encapsulates why Washington isn't working. You know, Hagel is a guy who Colin Powell says he's a bold and independent thinker. He didn't walk lock step with the partisans in his party and now they're attacking him for it.

BLITZER: It didn't take Colin Powell, the former secretary of state in the Bush administration, the retired general, to issue a statement, Ari in which he said this among other things.

He said, Chuck displays his courage in many ways. You can count on him to analyze a difficult situation and take a position that reflects his best judgment. I believe that more than ever we need that kind of independent and bold leader who thinks in and out of the box.

That's General Colin Powell. What do you say?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm for thinking in and out of the box, but I'm not for thinking outside the mainstream and the mainstream of both parties when it comes to foreign policy. That's where Chuck Hagel is.

One the core issues as defense secretary has to deal with probably over the next 12 months to 24 months tops is Iran. Secretary Hagel's had a history of being soft on Iran, hard on Israel, soft on Iran. And I think that's why you're seeing substantive opposition to Chuck Hagel.

Not on the basis of his party or whether he really is a Republican anymore or not. I think that's immaterial. It's about the substantive issues where he is really -- it's hard to find anybody in American politics who has a record like Chuck Hagel, which is why it was so surprising the president has picked him. You have to wonder if this signals a change in direction from the president on down.

BLITZER: When Chuck Hagel, Ari, says he supports multilateral sanctions against Iran to try to stop it from building a nuclear bomb, he thinks unilateral U.N. sanctions wouldn't make much of a difference because they could skirt around those unilateral sanctions. What's wrong with that kind of advice?

FLEISCHER: Well, why did he put a hold on sanctions in 2008? If he thought unilateral was wrong, could just oppose it. He actually put a hold on sanctions at the very end of 2008. Not 2001 when he voted against sanctions but 2008 when it was more international.

He's also said military force is not an option against Iran. That's music to Iran's ears especially coming from the defense secretary. That's what I mean, Wolf. It's outside the mainstream of where virtually everybody in the senate is.

If the president had wanted to make a different appointment to defense, Republicans would have gone along. They're not blocking John Kerry while they have other issues they disagree with, with John Kerry. It's just Chuck Hagel. Because, again, so far outside that bipartisan foreign policy mainstream.

BLITZER: All right, Cornell, what does this say about the president, that he refused to back down?

BELCHER: Well, it says that the president -- he's leading. I mean, this certainly -- Chuck Hagel is someone who fits the sort of description of what the president wants to see more of in Washington, just reaching across the aisle, you know, touching Republicans.

You know, reaching across the aisle and saying, you know what, you don't have to play this partisan political game all the time. Here is someone who has been a Republican senator from a red state who agrees with me on some issues but disagrees with me on other issues.

But we can work together. He's someone who has my confidence. Again, like Colin Powell said so a bold independent thinker. Another thing, here's it is guy who can be the first enlisted man who can ever be secretary here. Here's someone who gets the troops.

I think when the president looked at what the troops are going through now, no one's going to fight harder for those troops than Hagel will because he gets it, he understands the sacrifices they've made.

BLITZER: You tweeted this earlier, Ari, I'll read it to viewers. You tweeted Hagel fits potus definition of bipartisanship. Stick two fingers in the eye of your opponent, not just one. Explain what you meant.

FLEISCHER: Yes, because if he had picked Joe Lieberman, if he had picked Jon Kyl, it would have been a bipartisan appointment, for example. John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, didn't oppose either one of them. They went along. That was bipartisanship.

He deliberately didn't make a nomination that would be bipartisan. He made a nomination that would be a taunt. And that's what Chuck Hagel is. It's because of the policy issues I mentioned. And Cornell's wrong if he says this is bipartisanship.

Remember, Chuck Hagel didn't even endorse the Republican who ran in the Nebraska seat. He endorsed a Democrat over that Republican. Usually in a nomination hearing, the Republican from your state sits at your side. He opposed her. The policy issue is the one that's at heart.

BLITZER: You know, Cornell, if the president would have backed down following the whole Susan Rice controversy, whether she should be Hillary Clinton's successor at the State Department, she withdrew her name, as our viewers remember. John Kerry is the nominee. If he would have caved on this one, he would have looked incredibly weak, I think, don't you agree?

BELCHER: Well, two things. One, I don't think he caved on Susan Rice. She was never nominated. And Susan Rice actually took herself out of the running for that. But -- so I don't think it's caving in on this. I've got to go back to something to point to Ari.

Look, he was a Republican, a sitting Republican senator. If that's not bipartisan, I mean, I don't know what is. I have to, again, go back to what Chuck Hagel's real crime is here. And that is not playing the politics, the political ways of Washington, which means you have to walk in lock step with your party. And if you walk outside of that, you'll be punished for it.

I think that's what you're seeing right now. And the Republicans attack on Chuck Hagel especially when he went the opposite direction on his party with the war in Iraq. And guess what, he was right.

BLITZER: This is a debate on --

FLEISCHER: It's hard to find --

BLITZER: Hold on, Ari, because we're going to have you back, but unfortunately, got to leave it at that note right now. Ari will be back later. Cornell, thanks to you as well.

This debate obviously is going to intensify as the confirmation process gets going. We have a close-up look at something nobody in the U.S. wants to face. You're going to see what's being done now to prepare for a terrorist attack using a radioactive dirty bomb.


BLITZER: It's odd to thing about cities with their own radiation, but here in Washington, D.C. he government is trying to find out what's normal so they can figure out what's not normal in the event of a real terror attack. Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us. What are they trying to do, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the government is doing this with a specially equipped low-flying helicopter that detects gamma radiation. It's that detection that helps them with all this. It is startling people because of how low it flies. But that's better than being startled by a terrorist with a dirty bomb later.


TODD (voice-over): It's a head turner flying so low over the city that your first instinct is something's wrong. But it's part of a plan to safeguard Washington from a nuclear or dirty bomb attack.

JOSEPH KROL, NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: If sometime in the future you have a reason to be looking for something radio logical, it's very necessary to have the original background.

TODD: Specially equipped helicopters flown by the National Security Administration, partnering with the Department of Homeland Security, are looking for naturally occurring radiation.

(on camera): The helicopter flies in a back and forth pattern like a lawn mower sometimes as low as 50 feet off the ground. The idea is to create a map of the normal radiation levels of the city.

Then when there's a specific threat a nuclear or dirty bomb attack, the government can look at the map, see what's normal, and then see what may be an anomaly. (voice-over): The choppers would be sent up again to check out the possible anomaly.

KROL: If we got some indication that something was different from the background, then we start narrowing it down with our investigation on foot and in the vehicle.

TODD: As for what's normal radiation, Homeland Security expert, Randy Larsen says there's a lot of that in a city.

COL. RANDALL LARSEN (RETIRED), WMD CENTER: The asphalt in this road right here puts out game that radiation. Large buildings like this put out a certain amount of radiation. Even here we are, McPherson Square, Washington, D.C., the monument, solid granite there. That puts out radiation. That's what we want to see what it looks like on a daily basis.

TODD: It's gamma-admitting radiation, Larsen says Cobalt 60 and Cesium 137 that's used at industrial and construction sites, in hospitals for medical treatment and testing. And can also be used in a dirty bomb.

This helicopter is equipped with crystal-based gamma radiation sensing technology, two pilots, a scientist and a technician on board. In case of an active threat, they may get an urgent call to scan a certain part of a city.

KROL: We maintain a full array of deployable teams that can deploy during the day within two hours across the United States.

TODD: Larsen says it's critical that the government do this kind of testing because cities are especially vulnerable to dirty bombs.

LARSEN: This is a terrorist attack that we think is one of the more likely ones for them to do.


TODD: These flyovers cover about 70 square miles of the Washington, D.C. area and will go through this week. They started them on December 27th.

BLITZER: They've done this in other cities as well?

TODD: That's right. This government agency, the NNSA has done these flyover tests in New York to San Francisco Bay area and in Baltimore. This is actually at least the second time they've done it over Washington, D.C. They did it earlier, five years ago. So they're just updating it right now.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thanks very much. Interesting and important stuff.

The Boeing Dreamliner hasn't been in the air for very long. In fact, the first delivery of one was fewer than 16 months ago. That's why a fire in a battery compartment of one plane is now so troubling. CNN's Renee Marsh is here working this story. Renee, what happened?

RENEE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this plane had just landed in Boston from Tokyo around 10:00 this morning. Passengers deplaned and the next set of passengers were ready to board when a mechanic inspecting the aircraft smelled smoke and called firefighters.

They found heavy smoke in the cabin and a fire in the underbelly of the aircraft. Now the flames were in a small electronics bay where batteries for an auxiliary power unit are kept. One of the batteries exploded. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire with a special flame retardant.

Firefighter suffered skin irritation. No passengers were hurt. The return flight to Tokyo was canceled. We should also tell you the NTSB, the FAA, as well as Boeing and the airlines, they are all investigating the cause.

BLITZER: I take it here too, this isn't the first time the Dreamliner has had a problem.

MARSH: You're absolutely right. In 2010, there was an emergency landing after a fire broke out in a different part of another 787 that was being tested. Also, an engine failed in South Carolina other the summer and in September, more engine problems, another aircraft, and just last month, Wolf, a 787 diverted to New Orleans due to mechanical problems.

But because the investigation is still under way, Boeing is saying it is just too early to tell if there's a common factor between today's fire and all of the previous incidents. However, we spoke to some experts and they tell us problems with new jetliners, that is not at all unusual.

They say today's problem is serious. It needs to be addressed. But they add that planes are safe and problems like this, they get investigated and then they solve them.

BLITZER: I'm ready to go up in one of those Dreamliners. It's exciting plane.

MARSH: We should get a flight together.

BLITZER: You want to go?


BLITZER: All right, Renee, thanks. If you're confident, I'm confident. You've done the work, the reporting. Thank you.

MARSH: Sure.

BLITZER: Over the weekend, I was in Egypt, where I had a chance to speak exclusively with the country's new president. You're going to hear him tell me he's coming to the United States, when he's coming. He wants to meet with President Obama soon. And among other things, he tells me he's going to once again ask the president of the United States to release a man convicted in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center the so-called blind sheikh. Stand by. We're going to have parts of the interview coming up.

Also ahead, Prince Charles opens up about having a son in Afghanistan, as well as the world where some day his grandchild will be king.


BLITZER: Prince Charles has never had a reputation for being especially warm, which is why his latest interview has drawn so much attention and interest in the U.K. Our Max Foster is joining us with more on what Charles said that so many people are finding noteworthy. What did he say?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ROYAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he's a man that's known for his opinions, Wolf, he does express his opinions to government. Some people have a problem with that. But he's not the monarchy yet so he kind of gets away with it.

One area he has credibility is on the environment. Many years ago before it was a mainstream subject, he was championing protecting the rain forest and wildlife. He was talking about that today on British TV and he made a few comments.

He says since he found out he's going to become a grandfather, the Duchess of Cambridge is obviously pregnant, his opinions about conservation have actually become much stronger.


PRINCE CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: Have gone on for years about importance of thinking, about the long term, in relation to environmental damage, climate change, everything else. Because we don't really in a sense airline world want to hand on an increasingly dysfunctional world to our grandchildren.

And I don't want to be confronted by my future grandchild say, why didn't you do something. So clearly, now that there's a -- we'll have a grandchild, obviously, it makes it even more obvious, you know, to try and make sure we have them, leave them something that isn't a totally poisoned --


FOSTER: This is something, Wolf, he spoke about in the past. He thinks it's the greatest threat posed to the world at the moment. I think his opinions now stronger.

BLITZER: He's getting a little bit more emotional in public as he gets older. What does he say about his son Harry serving in Afghanistan?

FOSTER: Prince Harry is in Afghanistan, flying Apache helicopters, very successfully, I'm told. He's obviously been missed by the family. You would miss your friends and family who are away at war of course. So we spoke a bit about that today. It was one of the questions he was asked.


PRINCE CHARLES: Yes, of course you do, because if you are a parent or, you know, relation or loved one and the person is away like that in these incredibly dangerous and challenge things. I know you worry all the time. Certainly every night I worry. Because, you know, he loves doing what he's doing. He's brilliant at it.


FOSTER: There you are. As you say, it's an emotional side of Prince Charles we haven't really seen before.

BLITZER: He's getting a little bit more sentimental. That's all right. Thanks very much, Max, for that.

Banks are going to shell out $8.5 billion over alleged foreclosure abuses. Lisa Sylvester's back. She's monitoring that, some of the other top stories. What's happening here?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the deal was brokered by the Federal Reserve and involves ten banks including some of the biggest like Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

The deal would offer billions of dollars in direct payments to borrowers along with more than $5 billion and other assistance such as loan modifications. Four banks aren't included in this deal, but hope to reach another settlement with the fed.

And the Supreme Court won't step in to block funding of stem cell research on embryos. Scientists sued the National Institutes of Health saying the use of embryonic stem cells is a moral issue because it destroys potential life, but supporters of the funding say it helps to research how the cells can be used to fight a range of illnesses.

Toyota is revealing its details into research of cars that could drive themselves. The research could eventually help drivers prevent crashes and eventually take over steering for a driver.

Toyota says it is not working towards building a full self-driving car. Google is working on developing a car that can drive itself. That certainly seems to be a trend here, where the cars can park themselves, cars can drive themselves.

BLITZER: Not happening for me. I want to be in control or at least somebody I trust.

SYLVESTER: That's right.

BLITZER: Not nobody. Thanks very much.

So if you take certain kinds of medicine to control your blood pressure, a new medical study says you also may be helping yourself avoid Alzheimer's disease. We have the details that's next.


BLITZER: A medication commonly prescribed for high blood pressure may also protect against Alzheimer's disease and dementia. We're talking about beta blockers. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us now. Elizabeth, what did doctors find in this new study?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a fascinating study. Doctors autopsied hundreds of men. They found the ones who were on beta blockers, very common blood pressure medications, had fewer signs of Alzheimer's in their brains, fewer lesions, less atrophy.

They think it might possibly be because it's good for the brain to have lower blood pressure. It sort of takes some of the stress off the brain. Maybe that's why they had those findings.

BLITZER: So explain exactly what a beta blocker is. Does it mean people should routinely be taking beta blockers if they suspect they could come down with dementia or Alzheimer's down the road?

COHEN: Right, beta blockers block the effect of adrenaline, which is what helps bring your blood pressure down. We asked doctors said absolutely not, you should not be on a beta blocker unless you need it for high blood pressure or some other medical problem.

If you don't need the beta blocker, it might cause your more medical problems then you started out with. Now, if you do have high blood pressure, you can ask your doctor, I'd like to start on a beta blocker, let's use that drug first, because maybe it will help protect against Alzheimer's.

BLITZER: Let's say somebody has a history in their family of Alzheimer's or dementia, but they don't have any problems with their blood pressure. What do they do in a situation like that?

COHEN: Right, the doctors we talked to said even in that situation you should not be taking beta blocker because it might bring your blood pressure down too much and you might end up fainting. You really don't want to take a beta blocker unless you need it.

Again, if you do have high blood pressure, there are several different medications you can take. You might want to ask your doctor, can we try a beta blocker first because maybe it will help against Alzheimer's.

I should note though that one study, particularly this kind of study, doesn't necessarily mean these findings are true. Doctors would want to do more work before this could say definitively beta blockers help protect against Alzheimer's.

BLITZER: That's good advice indeed. Elizabeth, thanks very much for that report.

COHEN: Thanks.