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Gabby Giffords Pushes for Gun Control; Alleged Colorado Shooter in Court; Obama Looks to Fill Top-Level Jobs; Poll: Obama Won "Fiscal Cliff" Fight; "As Much Leverage" as GOP Will Get; Egypt's President Discusses Tahrir Square; Morsy Plans "Improving" Suez Canal; "Zero Dark Thirty" Premiers; Deadly Bus Crash Investigation; Lottery Winner Poisoned

Aired January 8, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: dramatic new developments in the accelerating debate on guns and gun control. Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and the NRA, they are making their voices heard in new ways.

Also, a CNN exclusive: Egypt's new president joins me to talk about Tahrir Square, among other subjects, a one-time symbol of hope that is now dirty and depressing.

Plus, a mystery that started with a winning lottery ticket and ended with a deadly poisoning.

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

We begin with this afternoon's announcement that the National Rifle Association is actually joining the White House discussion on gun violence in America. An NRA representative will meet with Vice President Joe Biden's task force this week.

Will representatives of supporting groups, the entertainment and video game industries, and gun victims, what will they be doing?

Lisa Sylvester is walking into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

You have been doing some reporting, Lisa. What is the very latest?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, leaders from both the private and public sectors are starting to offer specific proposals on gun control, all sides aware of how politically sensitive the issue has become and the leading voice today comes from someone with the political and personal experience that is sure to command attention here in Washington.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): On the two-year anniversary of the Tucson shooting and a week after a visit to Newtown, Gabby Giffords wants to send a wakeup call to Washington when it comes to gun violence.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: When it can happen to children in a classroom, it's time to say... GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (D), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Enough.

SYLVESTER: Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group that will raise money and lobby lawmakers on gun legislation, a sort of counter to the National Rifle Association.

In "USA Today," the couple wrote -- quote -- "We saw from the NRA leadership's defiant and unsympathetic response to the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre that winning even the most commonsense reforms will require a fight."

But they are trying to navigate a political balance. Kelly explains why in an interview with ABC.

MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: I have a gun. Gabby and I are both gun owners. We are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. But we have got to do something to keep the guns from getting into the wrong hands.

SYLVESTER: Gun owners are a powerful organized group the White House wants to reach as well. The working group led by Vice President Joe Biden will talk to a number of gun rights advocates Thursday.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We look forward to hearing from a variety of organizations and civic groups and others who have insights into this problem.

SYLVESTER: Both the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the two largest groups in the country, confirmed to CNN that they would attend. But until the Biden task force makes their recommendations at the end of January, there will be a policy and public relations battle with the White House getting the backing of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I think what we have got to do first is try to everything we can to help Joe Biden.

SYLVESTER: His group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, launched their own campaign demanding action on Capitol Hill.

ROXANNA GREEN, MOTHER OF MURDER VICTIM: My 9-year-old daughter was murdered in the Tucson shooting. I have one question for our political leaders. When will you find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?


SYLVESTER: Now, the dueling ads are just the beginning of what promises to be an intense few weeks of political outreach in anticipation of specifics from the White House. But already the rhetoric is heated and it's quite emotional, Wolf.

BLITZER: Any more specifics on the NRA participation in this meeting?

SYLVESTER: We are just learning that James J. Baker, who is with the group's Institute of Legislative Action, will be representing the NRA. He's been with the NRA in leadership roles off and on since the 1980s and he was also a high-level campaign volunteer to Senator John McCain during his 2008 failed bid for the presidency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very, very much. We are going to be anxious to see what the vice president's task force actually comes up with, their actual recommendation and what the president says in the State of the Union address before Congress. Thank you.

SYLVESTER: Yes. A lot of people are looking for the State of the Union on that, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. All right, Lisa, thanks very much for that report.

The Obama administration may be stepping up its push for some form of new gun control legislation. But will the president be able to rally the support of Congress, most importantly, the American public at the same time?

Let's dig a little bit deeper with our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Here's what the president, Gloria, recently said on "Meet the Press." I will play the clip.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not going to get this done unless the American people decide it's important. And so this is not going to be simply a matter of me spending political capital. One of the things that you learn, having now been in this office for four years, is the old adage of Abraham Lincoln's that with public opinion, there's nothing you can't do, and without public opinion, there's very little you can't get done in this town.

I'm going to be putting forward a package and I'm going to be putting my full weight behind it.


BLITZER: Now, remind our viewers why so many Democrats have been reluctant to even talk about gun control over these past several years.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It's almost 20 years, Wolf. It goes back to 1994.

That was the big election which Republicans took control of the Congress. And Democrats are still spooked by the fact that in a lot of red and purple districts, Wolf, they lost because of the crime bill. You remember the crime bill with Bill Clinton? Included in the crime bill was the ban on assault weapons.

And so for the last two decades, the Democrats have been very reluctant to touch this issue because they know it's going to hurt them, particularly with gun owners, who can be very intense and very motivated to come out to vote in midterm elections in particular, which we're heading into.

BLITZER: But public opinion may be evolving now. I will put up on the screen a recent poll that we took after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. Restrictions on owning guns, 13 percent say there should be no restricts. And 70 percent say there should be some restrictions. And 15 percent said make all guns illegal.

That 70 percent some restrictions, which presumably is what the president is going to be calling for, seems to suggest this is the time to do something.

BORGER: It does. You look at the aggregate numbers, if you're a politician, you say, well, that's great. OK. Let's change the gun laws.

But that's not what really counts. It's kind of like looking at the national polls in a general election, which we just went through, vs. the battleground states. What you have to pay attention to is the battleground states. And when you look at some states, you will see that the intensity of the voters, for example, in the South will come out on gun control, in the West and in the Midwest in particular.

For example, you look at Tim Johnson up for reelection, Max Baucus, Montana, Mary Landrieu, Louisiana, these are three senators, three Democrats who may have some problems on the gun control issue. Will the caucus be deferential to them or will the president say, we're going to propose this big package and you have to buy into it?

There's a lot of give and take that has to be done on the Democratic side before you even get to the Republican side. It's not good enough for them to look at those polls overall. They have to know what is going to motivate the voters to come out in the election.

BLITZER: What other calculations is the Obama administration weighing right now, whether or not to go full bore, if you will, and push for new controls?

BORGER: Look, I think this administration has made a decision. And we can see that in what is coming out of the -- Joe Biden's working group, is that they are going to wade into this. The president has made a decision.

Sometimes, you have to put your chips on the table, Wolf, got other push them all in and you're going to say, OK, this is a moment in American history that we need to take advantage of. However, what they propose and what gets passed in the Congress are two very different things.

And I think what we're going to see is a lot of horse-trading on that. There's also the rest of the president's agenda that the White House has to consider. There's some concern among Democrats, for example, that if you have a protracted fight early on, on gun control, there's a question about what that would do to immigration reform, another presidential priority.

These things have to be balanced. But there's no doubt in my mind that this White House is going to come out and propose something that's bolder than anything we have seen in decades.

BLITZER: Yes. As you point out, they have got this, they have got that, they have got a lot of stuff.

BORGER: They have a lot and they have Democrats to protect and they know that they will come under some attack for this.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Gloria.


BLITZER: We are also following this afternoon's new developments in another horrific mass shooting, last July's massacre at a Colorado movie theater.

Among the evidence made public today for the first time, a 911 recording where you hear gunshots at the rate of more than one per second. We also learned new details about how the alleged gunman booby-trapped his home.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now from the courthouse in Colorado.

Pretty dramatic day inside that courtroom today.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was, Wolf, in many ways.

We had a pretty -- what we thought was a pretty good understanding of what James Holmes had left behind in his apartment, but what we heard today was even more surprising than what anyone could have imagined.


911 OPERATOR: Shooting at Century Theaters. They are saying somebody is shooting in the auditorium.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): The first 911 call came from inside theater nine just 18 minutes after the start of "The Dark Knight Rises." The call lasted just 27 seconds, the caller's words drowned out by the sounds of constant boom, boom, boom; 30 gunshots could be heard in that one call alone.

Six minutes later, the shots have stopped. A teenage relative of 6- year-old Veronica Moser-Sullivan calls 911. In tears, the girl struggles to explain how Veronica can't breathe. The dispatcher tells her to start CPR and the girl can only respond: "I can't hear you. It's too loud. I'm sorry."

Veronica would be the youngest victim to die in the theater that night. It's an excruciating four-minute phone call and it left many watching the James Holmes preliminary hearing in tears. The family members of the some of the victims wish James Holmes would simply plead guilty.

TOM TEVES, FATHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: What I would really like to see, honestly, I would to see him throw him in a room with a toilet and nothing else, a window that he can at least see that the day is passing, and that's it, no bed, nothing, and let him just sit with his thoughts.

LAVANDERA: Even more stunning was the most descriptive explanation yet of the explosive booby-trap James Holmes left in his apartment. According to an FBI bomb technician, Holmes mixed and created the explosive chemicals himself, including explosive powders and live ammunition and homemade napalm and thermite.

He then saturated his carpet in gasoline and oil and rigged an elaborate system of containers to explode.

(on camera): James Holmes' apartment is on the top floor at the end of this red brick building and according to an FBI bomb technician who spoke with James Holmes, he says that Holmes told him that he had taken a boom box and a remote control car and placed it in a white trash bag just outside a dumpster by his apartment.

Now, inside that boom box was a C.D. that Holmes says he had made. The first 40 minutes, silent, it was timed out to then start playing really loud music. And according to that FBI bomb technician, Holmes hoped that somebody would come over to that trash bag and then see the remote control car and start playing with it, except that remote control was not triggered to move the car. It was triggered to set off a pyrotechnic device inside the apartment and that would trigger a much larger explosion.

(voice-over): According to the FBI bomb technician, James Holmes planned to have his apartment explode to distract and overwhelm first- responders and he would walk into the theater just a few miles away and start shooting.

It's the kind of elaborate diabolical plot that always seems to work for villains in a Batman movie, but in real life this part of the diabolical plan didn't work.


LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, investigators also testified today that in the month leading up to the shooting, James Holmes had purchased the four guns that he brought to the theater that night, as well as 6,300 rounds of ammunition, all of this important because what prosecutors are trying to lay out here is that this wasn't a suspect that simply snapped on the night of July 20, that this was someone who thought this out very well and planned out what he was going to do to an incredible degree -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera, an excellent report. Thanks very much.

We're looking into a surprising pattern in who is getting the top jobs for President Obama's second term, at least so far. The nation's first African-American president is drawing some criticism for, of all things, a lack of diversity.

Also ahead, a lottery winner collects his money, then suddenly dies. Now police say he was poisoned. The mystery, that's ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: President Obama still assembling the cabinet for his second term. Already some critics are wondering why the nation's first African-American president isn't more sensitive to the issue of diversity. But as our CNN White House correspondent Dan Lothian reports, some very important positions still remain open.

Let's bring in Dan right now.

I guess they are a little sensitive to this issue over at the White House, Dan?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The president has these positions opened and already the ones that he has picked there is some resistance up on Capitol Hill. Now as the president tries to solidify, figure out who he's going to pick in the remaining positions that he has open, there are questions about diversity and we are in a tough political environment.


LOTHIAN (voice-over): With key cabinet picks already announced, the Defense, State, and CIA, the focus shifts to expected vacancies at Treasury, Commerce, and EPA.

(on camera): Does he settle on these names or still sifting through some tough choices?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He will make an announcement when he makes a decision.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to leave sometime around inauguration. Sources say White House chief of staff Jack Lew is likely to be nominated to replace him, although Wall Street and some progressives have expressed concerns about his experience.

At the Commerce Department, it's believed the search is on for someone with business expertise. And with Lisa Jackson departing the Environmental Protection Agency, a replacement for her is needed, too.

It's a second-term ritual that presidential historian Douglas Brinkley says is often driven by new considerations.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY: They often pick people they wish they could have have the first round but were unable to do it because of a politics of a campaign when you're first making to the White House.

LOTHIAN: Although politics and the political climate in Washington, to be exact, is still a factor. Ambassador Susan Rice withdrew her name from consideration to replace outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, under pressure over her actions after the Benghazi attacks.

BRINKLEY: I think the political climate matters a lot now with who you pick. It shouldn't but it does.

LOTHIAN: And there's pressure under the president to consider diversity after a lineup that so far includes men.

CARNEY: The president values diversity, believes it's important, because it enhances the quality of a pool of potential nominees for positions across the administration. But the goal in the end is to find the very best individuals for these specific positions.


LOTHIAN: And Carney insisted that the president had indeed found the best in Chuck Hagel, John Brennan, and Senator Kerry, and that as the president looks to filling these other positions, finding the best is what will guide him -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The president also has an important meeting later this week, with the visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai. What's in the agenda? What do they hope to accomplish?

LOTHIAN: That's right, Wolf. They will be sitting down, meeting here at the White House, having a bilateral meeting. And already, you can see the flag of Afghanistan flying over the Blair House. That is where he will be staying while here in Washington. We're told by White House aides that they will be talking about security, political and the economic transition.

That, of course, is very key as the U.S. looks to 2014 to withdrawing from Afghanistan. They will be talking about what the U.S. footprint will look like in Afghanistan after 2014. So, they'll have their bilateral meeting and also a working lunch and then a joint press conference, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll be watching that as well. Thanks very much, Dan Lothian.

All right. This just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. New photos of a retired FBI agent who's been missing since 2007. Robert Levinson's family released the photos. You may remember, he vanished while working as a private investigator on a case in Iran. One photo shows some more detail about the location with a mirror and chains in view. The other shows Levinson holding up a sign with a grammatical error in it, suggesting the messages he is holding are coerced.

Officials believe he's being held in southwest Asia. It's unclear who is holding him. We're watching this story and watching it as more becomes available.

Details surrounding a deadly bus crash in Oregon are also emerging right now. They are raising serious questions about the safety record of the tour bus company. We're going to tell you what we're learning from government records.

And Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez will not be sworn in Thursday. We're going to have details of the government's announcement.


BLITZER: Venezuela's president will not be sworn in for a second term this Thursday. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

The latest decision?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this information, Wolf, is actually just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM and the word comes from a statement from the country's vice president. CNN also confirms the inauguration will be delayed to a later date but no word when that there be. Chavez's party is calling on supporters to gather in front of the presidential palace. Hugo Chavez has been undergoing cancer treatment for the past month in Cuba.

And the record-high temperatures and delay in Australia's monsoon season has left large areas of brush and scrub exceptionally dry. Officials say more than 130 fires are burning throughout the state of New South Wales, 40 of them are not under control. Surveillance planes are watching the landscape for smoke and flames and residents are warned to be prepared to evacuate.

And even as AIG runs ad thanking America for its bailout, the insurer is considering a lawsuit against the government. The suit claims the high interest rates and 92 percent equity stake AIG was forced to offer was unfair to shareholders. AIG's board will hear from attorneys for the suing shareholders tomorrow and our very own Ali Velshi will have a live report on this very topic at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thanks very much.

Two years after a triumphant uprising, it's a very different scene right now in Egypt. How the future looks to President Mohamed Morsy. My exclusive interview, more of it about to air.

Plus, the questions raised by "Zero Dark Thirty." It's premiering the film. Here tonight in Washington amid scrutiny on its scenes of torture.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're spending billions of dollars.



BLITZER: All right. Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us, the Democratic strategist James Carville and former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. Both CNN contributors.

Guys, thanks very much.

There's going to be another huge fight in the coming weeks over raising the nation's debt ceiling. There's going to be a battle between the president and John Boehner, the Republican leadership in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

Here's a "Washington Post" poll that just came out. Do you approve of the way budget negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff were handled? Fifty-two percent approve of the way president handled it, only 31 percent, John Boehner.

Ari, who has more political capital going into this next round?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, on a poll like that, remember, John Boehner is not known by 100 percent of the country. And so, it's not as indicative of that poll. But no question, the president has the upper hand. The president is more popular than the Congress and the president has more leverage than the Congress does.

At the end of the day, though, we are all in one nation and we all have to do something about this debt to save our children from it being such a burden. That still requires everybody to come together. But no matter how you slice it, the Republican hand is a weaker one, the president's is a stronger one.

BLITZER: Does he have any hand right now when it comes to raising the nation's debt ceiling? I'm talking about John Boehner and the Republicans giving the enormous consequences of failure to do so for the overall U.S. economy, James.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: You know, I mean, you don't know. There's a lot of talk about letting it happen and, you know, this is one of these things, I never saw it in the fiscal cliff that actually go over the cliff. On this one, I'm a little less certain and a lot of times an event has to happen to sort of wake people up to it. Ari will remember this well.

Remember, TARP first went down and the stock market lost 770 points and they came back in and it went up. I'm beginning to sense -- obviously I don't know this -- that something bad might have to happen in order to get this reconciled. It sure does like from a distance, both sides are digging in pretty hard here.

BLITZER: Boehner in "The Wall Street Journal" the other day actually said this, I'll read it to you, Ari. He said, "It wasn't until literally last week that the White House brought up replacing the sequester. They were always counting on us to bring this to the table. The sequester is as much leverage as we're going to get."

How big of a deal is this going to be? In other words, sequestration, the forced domestic and social cuts, they delayed it for two months but they'll go into effect in a couple of months unless something is done.

FLEISCHER: I think that's a pretty astute observation by the speaker. "The Sequester" is the issue that Republicans can use to their maximum advantage in order to make the decisions that need to be made, more so than the threat of default.

Default is too much of a threat. On the other hand, the problem is, if we keep raising the debt limit forever, we're acknowledging that the debt is so far out of control, there's nothing we can do about it, there's a debt without limits. "The Sequester," on the other hand, is more sensible. It allows Republicans to say, we do have a spending problem. We need to do something about spending. Let's not target only the Pentagon and hospitals and doctors, which is what "The Sequester" targets.

But let's make smarter spending cuts to affect everybody from all walks of life, including corporate world and therefore we can do something to give our children a better future with less debt on their shoulders. That's the smarter card for the Republicans to play.

BLITZER: Let me shift, James, to you, on the Chuck Hagel nomination to be the nation's next defense secretary. There's been some quiet murmuring, some complaining among Democrats, not unusual, I should say. You've heard it as well.

Why can't a Democratic president ask a Democrat to be defense secretary? They go back to the Clinton administration when President Clinton invited William Cohen, a Republican to be defense secretary.

Then the Obama administration, President Obama asked Robert Gates, a Republican to be defense secretary. Then there was Leon Panetta. He is a real Democrat, but now another Republican, Chuck Hagel. What's wrong with Democrats being defense secretary?

CARVILLE: Rright. Actually, just as an historical footnote, Leon used to be a Republican. You know, I think that there's a sort of feeling that each one of these can be justified.

I think President Clinton and Senator Cohen had a very good relationship, as does President Obama and Senator Hagel. In Gates' instance, that made a lot of sense. So much was going on that you didn't want to have an immediate change in the defense.

But that is true, that it looks like Democrats always want to appoint Republican secretaries of defense. Also if you look at the history of the independent councils, they have almost all been Republicans.

And as a Democrat I sometimes get frustrated, too. We can't find an independent council or defense secretary in our own party. I can understand the frustration, but the president is entitled to pick who he wants and he thinks Hagel is a good guy so it's good enough for me.

BLITZER: And he can pick whoever he wants, you're absolutely right. I thought there was a good candidate, at least on my short list, Jack Reed, the Democratic senator from Rhode Island. Like Hagel, a veteran himself, somebody who knows a lot about national security and military matters.

But the president decided to go with Chuck Hagel. That's his right. That's his decision. Now there will be a battle to be sure. Guys, thanks very much for coming in.

It was so recently the massive scene of change and hope and a lot of optimism, but there's been a lot of change in Egypt since the Arab spring. We're going to talk about those changes. More of my exclusive interview with the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy. We spent a lot of time together in Cairo this weekend.


BLITZER: I was in Egypt this past weekend and spoke exclusively with the new president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy. At one point, I visited Cairo's Tahrir Square. I had been there two years ago, when I was covering a visit to Egypt by the secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

At that time, everyone in the huge square was -- seemed to be full of euphoria. The Arab Spring had just toppled Hosni Mubarak and a bright future seemed possible.

Today, however, Tahrir Square is dismal, dirty and depressing. And I raised the issue with President Morsy.


BLITZER: I was at Tahrir Square today. It was pretty quiet.


BLITZER: There were a few people...

MORSY: Yes, yes, yes.

BLITZER: -- in tents. I didn't see many demonstrators...


MORSY: Yes, yes. Yes, it is. But sometimes the media is -- is regulating things, the international media. There's competition, also, and tourism in the world. These competition, tools and meetings (ph), some of it is to exaggerate the situation and to try to show as if security in Egypt is somehow wrecked, which is not correct.


MORSY: We don't have more than one kilometer square of land around Tahrir which is suffering from demonstrations, sometimes, not other times.

BLITZER: What do you think the most...

MORSY: But the rest -- the rest of Egypt and the rest of Cairo...

BLITZER: All right.

MORSY: -- is -- is quite good, so...

BLITZER: If you get this loan, this $4.8 billion loan from the IMF, that will help?

MORSY: That helps. That helps. It doesn't solve the whole problem.

BLITZER: What's the...

MORSY: But it helps.

BLITZER: -- what's the most important thing, when you come to the United States, you would like to hear from the U.S. government?

MORSY: The most important thing for me is to have real friendship between Egyptians and Americans.

BLITZER: So what does that mean?

What does that mean?

MORSY: Yes, what that means is mutual, uh, balance in the relationships, the mutual benefits.

Now, I need technology transfer. I need scientific research. I need expertise in different directions to help.

I have resources. Now, experience of the United States, as far as planning, as far as implementing, as far as producing in different directions, real production, so there is a -- a lot of things that I want to transfer from the United States to -- to Egypt.

BLITZER: So you'll -- you'll ask the president, the Congress, when you come to Washington...


BLITZER: -- you'll ask for this kind of assistance?

MORSY: Yes, of course. Yes. Also, Egypt is very important to the United States.

BLITZER: Egypt is very important to the region.

MORSY: Yes. Yes.


MORSY: And a...

BLITZER: -- as I said in our interview before...


BLITZER: -- it's the most important country in the Arab world.

MORSY: Yes, yes, it is. Yes, it is. So this -- this important country should be helped. You -- you should stand to its side, to the people's side.

BLITZER: I've heard rumors that you're thinking of expanding the Suez Canal.


BLITZER: Is that true? MORSY: No, not expanding the Suez Canal, the -- the way, improving the Suez Canal.

BLITZER: What do you -- what do you want to do with the Suez Canal?

MORSY: Yes, and I'm talking about investments in, along the Suez Canal. We have almost 200 kilometers or something between Suez and Poseidin. And this -- this can be a -- a -- an area where you can invest business from outside and from the Egyptians, also, can make real production area, industry (INAUDIBLE).

We -- we -- I want to have this area as a -- a -- a real, uh, advanced, developed area along the Suez Canal.

BLITZER: So who...


BLITZER: -- you're looking for foreign...


BLITZER: -- you're looking for foreign investments?

MORSY: Yes, we are.

BLITZER: From the U.S.?

MORSY: Yes. Yes. From...


MORSY: Yes, from the others. Yes, from China, from Russia, from a -- a -- from the Arabs, from the Egyptians, outside, also, from Europe, from -- well, you know, the -- the -- the real key entrance to Africa is Egypt.


MORSY: Logistic help to investors to Africa can start from Egypt. We have the Suez Canal. We have the seashore from the Red Sea and also the Mediterranean Sea. We have the Nile River. We -- we can go through with the people to Africa, to Sudan, to Libya, also Chad.

BLITZER: Give me a thought about the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East, because I came here right after Mubarak was gone with Hillary Clinton, the secretary of State. And I remember, we got up one morning and she, without much security, we just walked around Cairo. She walked into Tahrir Square. People were applauding her. It was a very optimistic moment right then.

It's almost two years ago, almost two. But then all of a sudden, things got gloomy.

Give me a thought about the Arab Spring. MORSY: This is natural. This is -- this is normal when you move from an era, from a dictatorship, um, absence of freedom from corruption (INAUDIBLE) big corruption to a new position, to freedom, to democracy, to a -- well, a case where you try to prevent, to stop, to block corruption.

When people are moving like this and they are in big numbers like in Egypt and they have real daily needs and they need food and shelter everywhere and they want the freedom to be completed and they worry about what they had in the past and they are afraid from going back to that, I think the -- these kind of activities, these kinds of demonstrations, this kind of trying to -- to resist, to some extent, any kind of feelings that we are probably go back to some extent, all these are -- I -- I consider this situation the normal situation and -- and the people gaining by time, experience in how to transfer their feelings into real production, real action, boots on the ground.

BLITZER: So you're optimistic...


BLITZER: -- you're optimistic?

MORSY: I'm very much optimistic.


How long is this going to take?

MORSY: Well, I would say, uh, to -- to start real stability and the development, real steps, we may take six months or a year.

BLITZER: Another year.

MORSY: But to reach what we want, I think we may take five or 10 years to reach 60, 70 percent of what we want.

BLITZER: We have to be...

MORSY: I am talking about...

BLITZER: -- we have...

MORSY: -- the economics now.

BLITZER: -- we have to be patient.

MORSY: Yes, of course. Yes. You're talking about Egypt. You're talking about tens of years of corruption. You're taking about -- you're talking about the absence of freedom completely. You're talking about fraudulent elections all the time, no democracy, no will of the people. Everything was done in -- in -- in -- away from the people.

So when you change, it takes time.

BLITZER: They even put you in jail. You -- you spent a few months in jail.

MORSY: Yes, of course. Yes.

BLITZER: How many months were you in jail?

MORSY: I was seven months or something.

BLITZER: What was that like?




MORSY: Very bad.

BLITZER: But, I mean, how -- can you give me...

MORSY: I'm not talk -- I'm talking about freedom.


MORSY: -- people are free...

BLITZER: When you're in jail, you appreciate freedom, when you're out of jail. So you appreciate freedom, having lived through that seven months?

MORSY: Do you think anyone in this world wouldn't have shared (ph) freedom?

BLITZER: Some people who have had it their whole life, they...


BLITZER: -- they take it for granted.


BLITZER: But -- but you appreciate it.

MORSY: Yes. Well, I think our grandchildren will take it for granted that we have been suffering together and then we're moving together to the new position, real freedom, democracy and good welfare.

BLITZER: As I said, we're counting on you.

MORSY: Yes, well, let's help each other.

BLITZER: Thank you.

MORSY: As much as we can.

BLITZER: Good luck.

MORSY: Thank you.


BLITZER: Well, we're going to have much more on my conversation with the Egyptian president. We go into all of the criticism that he's now getting from so many people in Egypt, including some prominent opposition leaders, Nobel Prize winner, Mohamed ElBaradei, for example.

We're going to go through all of that. You're going to hear what he's saying about the Muslim Brotherhood's grip on power in Egypt right now, what he has to say about this. Remember, he spent seven years studying in the United States at the University of Southern California.

In the next hour, by the way, more of the interview coming up on how he sees Egypt's relationship with Israel unfolding. That's coming up in our next hour.

A deadly bus crash in icy conditions. New information on the accident in Oregon shows it wasn't the first time the bus company had some safety problems.


BLITZER: The controversial movie about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is premiering here in Washington tonight. "Zero Dark Thirty" is raising serious questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee about its depiction of torture to get information.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is joining us now from right outside of the museum here in Washington where the movie will premier. Give us the background, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, within minutes of John Brennan's nomination to run the CIA, Senator John McCain was already demanding to know about what role he played in the enhanced interrogation program.

Well, tonight we're already looking into that and finding out why the timing of this movie premier couldn't be worse for the Obama administration.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Thousands of moviegoers could come away from "Zero Dark Thirty" believing that terrorist broke during brutal interrogations and gave up information that led to Osama Bin Laden.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: This film raises all these questions at an interesting time for the Obama administration.

LAWRENCE: The movie opens nationwide as John Brennan prepares for confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

BERGEN: John Brennan is the first person to be nominated head of CIA who was at the agency at the time these techniques were being used.

LAWRENCE: It derailed his potential nomination for the same job four years ago. In 2008, human rights activists attacked Brennan as a Bush administration company man. In part because of what Brennan said to CBS, that enhanced interrogation techniques produced valuable information.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The agency has used against the real hard core terrorists. It has saved lives.

LAWRENCE: Now "Zero Dark Thirty" is bringing that issue front and center before Brennan's hearings. And ironically it was the Obama administration that backed the movie, giving filmmakers incredible access to top military and CIA officials.

Although filmmakers claim it's based on firsthand accounts, the CIA has issues with the movie.

BILL HARLOW, FORMER CIA SPOKESMAN: People being beaten and chained to the ceiling and people hold around in dog collars that simply did not happen to any of the al Qaeda detainees that were in CIA custody.

LAWRENCE: Bill Harlow was at the CIA when 9/11 mastermind Khalik Sheik Mohammed and others were captured. He says unlike the film, interrogators did not question detainees during enhanced interrogation and only used the techniques in the first days or weeks of detention.

HARLOW: Once they became compliant, they never again received enhanced interrogation.

LAWRENCE: As for Brennan, Harlow says when these techniques were being used in 2002 and '03, Brennan had nothing to do with the program.


LAWRENCE: In other words, Brennan's role at the time had nothing to do with interrogation but he does support the techniques, as do other officials. They say the techniques led to breakthroughs, but not the main breakthrough, the one that led to Osama Bin Laden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Chris Lawrence over at the museum for us, thanks very much.

CNN has obtained government records in the aftermath of a deadly bus crash last week in Oregon that shows that the bus company had a history of safety violations. Renee Marsh is here in THE SITUATION ROOM, following the investigation for us. Renee, what can you tell us?

RENEE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these are the records that we received after we filing that freedom of information request. It shows that the small Canadian company was cited for 19 safety violations in two inspections. The Department of Transportation categorizes the violations as serious, but not enough to shut the company down permanently.


MARSH (voice-over): It happened at one of the worst possible places, on Interstate 84 in Oregon. A tour bus skidded on ice, smashed through a guardrail and tumbled down a steep embankment. Nine passengers were killed and 38 injured.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So many people were on the snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been a firefighter for 20 years and this is the first time I've ever seen anything like this. This actually happened to be in an area where there was only about a 100-foot area where there was a steep embankment so they were pretty unfortunate crashing exactly where they did.

MARSH: The cause of the accident is still under investigation. But what if passengers wanted to check on the bus company safety record? The Department of Transportation encourages the public to check its safe bus web site before taking trips, saying, quote, "don't risk your life by making an uninformed decision."

When we looked at the records for Mijoo Tour and Travel, the operator of the bus, we found the report card blank. The only indication of a problem is if you hover over a tiny icon. It indicates the company had a serious violation, but click on it, no details.

The company received a satisfactory rating from the DOT. CNN filed a freedom of information request to learn more. Mijoo Tour and Travel was cited 19 times in 2010 and 2011. Among the violations, failure to implement driver alcohol and drug testing programs, to investigate background of drivers and to regularly inspect emergency windows, doors, and lights.

The American Bus Association told CNN changes need to be made so consumers can easily access a company's safety records and the rating system should be more specific.


MARSH: All right, well, the DOT released this statement this afternoon saying, in part, our safety information emphasizes recent violations over those in years past to provide the public with the most timely information.

However, more than a week after the Oregon accident, it is still not reflected on the DOT web site. DOT did say that it did shut down the company for two months when they failed to pay a fine. Mijoo Tour and Travel, Wolf, have seized operations, but they did say that they hope to reopen next week.

BLITZER: It's all very worrisome.


BLITZER: Renee, thanks very much. Renee Marsh reporting. A lottery winner dies after collecting his money. At first it seemed like an ironic tragedy, but now investigators think they may have a murder mystery on their hands.


BLITZER: A lottery winner's sudden death may be more than a tragic coincidence. He may have been poisoned. Mary Snow is joining us from New York with the latest on this mystery. Explain what is going on here, Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if it hadn't been a tip from the medical examiner's office, this may never have come to light. The police are now treating it as homicide and the medical examiner is moving to exhume the body of a lottery winner in Chicago who came forward as a winner back in June.


SNOW (voice-over): It was supposed to have been the start of better times for 46-year-old Urooj Khan and his wife and daughter. He won a $1 million jackpot after buying a ticket at a 7-11 in Chicago and hoped to pay off his bills, invest in his dry cleaning business and donate money to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was speechless and just like running around and not knowing what to do, shaking hands.

SNOW: In July, just as his one-time payment of $424,000 was mailed out, Khan died suddenly. That evening, he had gone home, ate dinner, and went to bed. According to a police document obtained by the "Chicago Tribune," it reports his family heard him screaming, took him to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

At that time, Khan's death was determined to be from natural causes a few days later the medical examiner says a relative of Khan called to suggest there may be more to the story. More tests were done and Cyanide was found in his blood.

DR. STEPHEN CINA, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS MEDICAL EXAMINER: Once we found that it was qualitatively present, clearly that raises flags because it shouldn't be detected at all. Once that was in the mix, I wasn't that surprised that eventually we had a lethal level. It doesn't take all that much cyanide to kill a person.

SNOW: And now Chicago police are investigating it as a murder.

LAWRENCE KOBILINSKY, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: If you're going to try to commit the perfect murder, this is a good way to do it.

SNOW: Lawrence Kobilinsky is a professor of forensic science at John Jay College. He says cyanide is not easily detected on drug screenings and a small amount can kill a person quickly. And he said labs are only one place to find it.

KOBILINSKY: It's usually kept under lock and key. Again, if you work in the photographic industry, if you worked in a metal processing plant, or you worked in a plant with -- where they work with insecticides, those are places you would find cyanide. SNOW (on camera): So it's not all that difficult to obtain?

KOBILINSKY: It's really not that difficult. If somebody wants to get it, they can get it.


SNOW: Now the only thing the Chicago Police Department would say on record is they are investigating Khan's death as a murder and working closely with the medical examiner. As for the lottery check that had been mailed out, an official with the Illinois Lottery says records show that the check was cashed several weeks after Khan's death -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much.