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Ferry Crashes in New York; Vice President and Gun Violence; Healthy 17-Year-Old Athlete Dies from Flu; Ailing Chavez Fights to Stay in Power; Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Resigns

Aired January 9, 2013 - 16:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we hit the dock, everybody went flying.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All of a sudden we just hit, boom. And people were catapulting forward.


BLITZER: The search for answers as to why a packed ferry boat didn't stop in time, crashing into a dock and injuring dozens of New York City commuters.

Also, Vice President Joe Biden hears from the victims of gun violence. Still to come, the nation's biggest gun seller and the NRA.

Plus, from my visit to Egypt, the writing on the wall, the graffiti in Tahrir Square tells the very disturbing story of a revolution many fear is going wrong.

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

We begin right here in Washington with important news. Vice President Joe Biden met with victims of gun violence and gun safety advocates. They spent several hours over at the White House trying to prepare the task force for recommendations to the president. They are deeply worried public sentiment for changing the nation's gun laws is fading too quickly despite the Connecticut school massacre and other mass shootings over the past year or two.

The vice president revealed his task force on curbing gun violence is considering measures the president can take without having to wait for any congressional action.

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

What are you learning, Brianna?


I'm told by one source familiar with this meeting that there was very much a sense in this meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and advocates of gun control as well as those who have suffered gun violence themselves or lost loved ones to it that there was actually very much a sense that this is an opportunity to do something and they believe they have a bit of, I guess you could say, a mandate to do something because of poll numbers showing that public opinion has shifted in this.

The news that the vice president made today was that the White House is looking to go it alone, at least in some ways as it chooses to tackle this problem, go it alone without Congress' help and observers of this debate, as you know, have said that this is definitely a possibility, but Biden today confirmed that it's something the White House is pursing. Here's what he said.


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to make it clear that we are not going to get caught up in the notion unless we can do everything we're going to do nothing. It's critically important we act.

The president is going to act. There are executive orders, executive action that can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the Cabinet members as well as legislative action we believe is required.


KEILAR: Now, folks outside of the White House who are familiar with the possibilities that the White House may pursue say that could have to do with reporting of statistics to the federal database to make sure that people who should not be able to purchase weapons cannot, to further strengthen the database.

But the White House at this point staying very mum on specifics. Jay Carney saying he doesn't want to get ahead of this task force that is under a deadline to recommend some specific proposals to the president at the end of the month. One source familiar with the meeting, Wolf, told me that officials are still at this point mulling over ideas.

They really haven't come to conclusions about which solutions to pursue and part of that is because there are very real legal issues, both having to do with the constitutionality of what the White House can push for and also legal issues because there is mental health at stake here, mental health issues which bring up privacy issues.

So there's a lot for them to sort through. But this is a meeting that was only supposed to take only an hour, Wolf, and it went for an hour and 45 minutes.

BLITZER: Interesting. Do you have any sense, having said all that, what the White House sees as potentially most likely get through Congress?

KEILAR: Most likely get through Congress, there's a consensus and we heard this from the director of the Brady Campaign today that showing that gun show loophole, meaning that if right now you try to purchase a weapon from the owner of that gun you can do so without a background check. This is how many weapons are purchased in the U.S.

One of the people here at this meeting today, Colin Goddard, a victim at Virginia Tech shot four times in Norris Hall there he said this was a large part of the discussion.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What you can do at gun shows, buy guns without a background check, you can do that over the Internet, newspaper classified ads. So calling it the gun show loophole doesn't really show the bigger problem of the larger unchecked gun sales in this country.

Sure, the executive action, I think the president is looking at really anything he can do.


KEILAR: So that's something that the White House thinks they will have support for. President Obama has also advocated a ban on assault weapons and high-count magazines or gun clips, as some laypeople may know them.

BLITZER: OK. Brianna will watch the story for us.

We also learned today the president has decided to nominate his current White House chief of staff, the former Budget Director Jack Lew, to succeed Timothy Geithner as the next Treasury secretary.

Our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, broke the news for us here on CNN earlier in the day.

Gloria, do we expect any serious opposition to his confirmation?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there are going to be Republicans who are going to oppose him.

Senator Sessions today, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, came out and said he would not support Jack Lew.

BLITZER: Because?

BORGER: Because of his testimony before the deficit committee which said that the deficit would be reduced. He said that's evidence that Jack Lew should not be confirmed.

BLITZER: When he was the budget director.

BORGER: Exactly.

He's not an unknown quantity to congressional Republicans, particularly on these fiscal matters. He did run the Office of Management and Budget during the debt ceiling negotiations and I remember from covering those debt ceiling negotiations that Republicans didn't like him very much, Wolf. There were some of them who said to me that Jack Lew kept moving the goalposts on them.

Yes, there will be opposition. Will there be organized opposition, as there is to say Chuck Hagel, for example? No. I believe in the end Jack Lew will get confirmed. But I will tell you this, the reason the White House put off the announcement of Jack Lew until tomorrow is because of the fiscal cliff.

They didn't want it to get involved in the negotiations for the fiscal cliff. They felt that they already had a fight on their hands. They didn't want to add any fuel to the fire on that, which is why they have held off of this nomination until this week. But they do expect him to get confirmed and so do I.

BLITZER: John Kerry as secretary of state. We have got a lot of white males, shall we say, Chuck Hagel, we have pictures up there. You see Jack Lew, and Eric Holder is over at the Justice Department. He's not a white male. He's an African-American, but no women.

BORGER: Men. Men.

BLITZER: And there's another picture. I want to put up another picture of the senior staff, if you will. There you see the president. There's been murmuring there's not enough women, for example, are part of this group at the White House, the inner circle. What are the folks saying about that?

BORGER: The visual you just showed before with the four Cabinet members being men, I think the problem there, it's not an opportune visual for the White House and they will readily admit it, particularly because you're replacing Hillary Clinton as secretary of state with a man.

But Jay Carney, the spokesman, came out today and said the president understands diversity is important and of course he pointed to Janet Napolitano at Homeland Security, Kathleen Sebelius who runs HHS, the Health Department, Susan Rice at the United Nations. So there's another visual for you, Wolf, of women.

But I have been told by a few sources, as I have been looking into these Cabinet appointments, that they are really actively going after a woman to run the Commerce Department, which is another key Cabinet position. So they are on the hunt for women. Right?

BLITZER: Yes, The New York Times" did an analysis of female high- level appointees over the past three administrations and they said the Obama and Clinton administration had 43 percent, compared to the Bush administration, which had a 33 percent rate. So obviously things for women are improving.

BORGER: That's what they say. And there's another picture that ran in "The New York Times" today. I'm not sure if we have it but there's a picture -- there it is. There's a picture that ran in "The New York Times" today. And, again, another visual that the White House doesn't like, which is of all these men. But if you look really closely, Wolf, there's a leg there in front of the president's desk and that's Valerie Jarrett's leg. That's a really important leg because she's a key adviser to the president. She has his ear and she is the first among equals in many circles.

So that is a visual they didn't like, but they point out Valerie Jarrett was in that picture. Again, they also point out that 47 percent of the judges the president had gotten confirmed are women. And don't forget two Supreme Court appointments.

To me, the big question is, do they listen to the women they have? I think over the course of the last four years, we have some evidence that they do and we have some evidence that they haven't.

BLITZER: I know the president listens to Valerie Jarrett. You can argue she alone is worth four or five of those men in that picture.

BORGER: That's what bothers them, by the way.

BLITZER: She has a lot of influence in the White House. He trusts her. She's very loyal to the president and she certainly has his ear and the first lady's ear. Let's not forget the influence of the first lady herself. She's obviously an important person in that White House.

BORGER: You bet.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, thanks very much.

Across the U.S., a deadly flu outbreak has cities and towns declaring a state of emergency. This is scary stuff we're watching. The virus killed a teenage athlete who had been in perfect health.

And just when it seemed like things couldn't get any worse for Syria's refugees, winter hits.


BLITZER: A terrifying crash in New York today. At least 57 people are injured, two critically, after a ferry slammed into a dock in Lower Manhattan. More than 300 commuters were on board. One passenger says she saw people being thrown into the air. Another witness describes the aftermath as a lot of bleeding heads with white bandages.

CNN's Alison Kosik is on the scene for us.

Alison, how did this happen?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's what crime scene investigators, the Coast Guard and NTSB are trying to figure out. In fact, there's a press conference beginning in minutes given by the NTSB. Everybody trying to figure out how did this ferry carrying 326 passengers crashed? It crashed into the dock here at Pier 11 in New York City around 8:45 this morning. Not only did it send passengers flying through the air inside this boat, but it's caused a huge gash in the hull of the boat itself.

We are learning something new and interesting from the Coast Guard. It said it has a tracking device that shows that this vessel was coming in too fast, that it was coming in up to 16 miles per hour, which this Coast Guard official says is too fast when you're docking a boat. We did talk with the head of the company who says that the captain who was at the control of this vessel was in control or in command of this vessel when it did crash hitting one loading dock and then hitting a second loading dock.

This captain, by the way, has been with this company for about 10 years. A Breathalyzer was performed on the captain. It came back negative and preliminary Breathalyzers were also done on five other crew members and those also came back negative as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Alison, we do have some tape of eyewitness survivors. Let me play that and then we will discuss.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody who was standing fell forward and people that were in their seats got thrown forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically, it was, you know, 60 to 0. I don't know how fast we were going, but what happens when people come into the dock is that boat, usually it slows down a little bit, people get up to get off the boat, and that was what the problem was, was when we hit the dock, everybody went flying.

So that's why we had -- there were so many injuries. You know, people got thrown downstairs, and that was -- that's where most people got hurt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was actually sleeping. All of a sudden we just hit, boom. And people were catapulting forward.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was standing up and I went backwards and hit chairs and then people landed on top of me. It was normal approach.

REPORTER: And then what happened?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just a sudden crash.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, Alison, I guess a lot of people are saying despite the fact that 57 people are injured, two critically, given what we were seeing there, it could have been a whole lot worse.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): It could have been. But you can only imagine how terrifying this is. Think about it, Wolf, these people do this commute every day. This is an every single day thing. It came out of nowhere.

And here's what sort of adds to the injuries of these people, when a boat comes in to dock, a lot of people stand up, they are getting ready to get off the boat. And when this boat hit those docks, those people were standing and they stumbled down those stairs because this vessel is two floors. One witness telling me, one passenger telling me that when she saw was flying through the air, hit the floor everywhere. And when she woke up, she saw people lying on the floor everywhere -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a scary, scary moment indeed. Alison, thanks very much for that update.

Other news we're following: a growing deadly flu outbreak is gripping much of the country in what could be the worst flu season here in the United States in years.

In Massachusetts alone, there have been almost 20 flew-related deaths. Children are most at risk. At least 18 children have died this flu season already. In Texas, the family of a perfectly healthy 17-year- old boy is left wondering how this common treatable virus could take the life of their son.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us. Now, she spent the morning with the family.

Elizabeth, how did this happen?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was such an emotional morning. I'm in front of the church that the Schwolert family attends. You can see "love to the Max" in the back. Max was 17. That personified, his parents said, who he was. As you said, perfectly healthy.

On December 21st, he started feeling sick, a headache, a little bit tired. He had a fever, but really no big deal and he was better in about two days, and then he felt fine for a while. And then a couple days later, he started feeling bad again.

His parents took him to a local hospital in the rural area they were in and they said he's got the flu and his kidneys are failing. They said, we have to get him to a bigger hospital. They put him on a helicopter and this is what Max said to his mother as he was getting on the helicopter.


MELANIE SCHWOLERT, SON DIED FROM FLU: One of the last coherent things he said, he looked at me and tears were rolling down his face.


SCHWOLERT: He said, mom, I'm scared. I said, I know, buddy. I am, too. And then he saw me crying. He said, mom, it's going to be OK. You're going to be OK. I love you.


COHEN: Max was in the hospital for four days in intensive care. Doctors fought for his life but, unfortunately, he didn't make it. He developed a bacterial infection as a result of that flu and he died on December 29th -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yesterday -- this is such a sad story. Yesterday, Elizabeth, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, he's a real expert on the flu and other infectious diseases, he told me that maybe 40,000 people will die from the flu this year. It looks like a pretty bad season. Did they actually die from the flu or from secondary infections that they develop as a result of the flu?

COHEN: Wolf, they actually die from both. Some people die from the flu, some people like Max died from secondary bacterial infections. Either way, they died because they got the flu.

That 40,000 number, I've been hearing numbers like that from other people. Folks at the Centers for Disease Control tell me this is going to be a moderate to severe year. Usually about 36,000 people a year die from the flu. So, 40,000 sounds like it's in the ballpark.

And this strain of flu as Dr. Fauci told you yesterday is particularly severe.

BLITZER: The doctor says it's not too late. Sanjay Gupta also agrees it's not to late, Elizabeth, to go out there, if you haven't got the flu shot, it's late but you can still get one that could potentially save your life.

This is a very, very serious problem. We're going to have much more on this story coming up in our next hour as well.

Elizabeth, thank you.

Today, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first public comments since returning to work on Monday. She had been off of work for more than three weeks. First for a stomach virus which caused her to fall and suffering a concussion, which was then followed by treatment for a blood clot in her head.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: I've really missed you all. I wouldn't say that -- I know I wouldn't say that under normal circumstances.

I am thrilled to be back and I am also incredibly grateful to this fabulous team that I have here at the State Department who never missed a beat for the time that I was away and we are focused on continuing our work, finishing up everything that we can and helping Senator Kerry with his transition.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: When Secretary Clinton was asked if she's also looking forward to retirement, she replied, and I'm quoting her now, I don't know if that's the word I would use. She's not going to retire. She added she'll be stepping off the very fast track for a little while, though. She deserves a rest and we hope only the best for her.

The Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is so sick he can't attend his own inauguration. In fact, he's not even in the country. But now, a major decision by the Venezuelan supreme court may keep Chavez in power for years to come.

CNN's Paula Newton is in the capital of Caracas joining us now.

So, what did the Supreme Court decide, Paula?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The supreme court, the way they interpret the inauguration, it means Hugo Chavez doesn't have to be here for swearing in tomorrow. It starts his new term even though he's not in the country. His vice president will be at the helm. His cabinet will be in place. They will continue to make decisions from the government.

You know, Wolf, you and I can imagine that if Hugo Chavez could have crawled to his inauguration, he would have. He is that ill. And I think that's what rattled many people here in Venezuela.

He couldn't come in a wheelchair. He couldn't come in an I.V. He couldn't come with doctors and nurses at his side.

For that reason, though, the Supreme Court has made this determination that his term will start anyway. And, again, we don't know. We're in unchartered waters constitutionally and many worry what that will mean here for the political road ahead.

BLITZER: Paula, thanks very much for that report. Paula Newton on the scene for us in Caracas with an update. We'll continue to monitor that story.

A great white shark is spotted off the Florida coast but it's where it came from that may surprise you.


BLITZER: All right. This just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM: another member of President Obama's cabinet has resigned.

Gloria Borger is back in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right. So, who is it, Gloria?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: It's Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Wolf. We've been hearing whispers about this earlier in the day. She did finally send a letter to the president today and said, "After much discussion with family and close friends, I've decided to begin a new future and return to the people and places I love and that have inspired and shaped my life" and that is her family in California.

We were told earlier in the day that she had spent Christmas really thinking about what she was going to do. And it's no surprise, Wolf, that you have this kind of a turnover at the start of a new term. So, Hilda Solis -- we were talking earlier about women in the cabinet and in the administration. This is another high-profile woman who is stepping aside.

BLITZER: Yes, there was a statement that just came out from the White House praising -- the president praising his labor secretary. We have no idea yet who is on the shortlist to replace Hilda Solis?

BORGER: And there's no effective date on this I should say, Wolf. So, what this means is that she's not going to leave until the White House can kind of smooth the way for somebody else. So I wouldn't be surprised if she remained for some time until there's a replacement. As you know, they've got a whole bunch of confirmation fights they've got to deal with right now.

BLITZER: Yes. They've got Chuck Hagel. They've got John Brennan.

BORGER: They've got their hands full, yes.

BLITZER: They've got John Kerry.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: They've got Jack Lew. You reported earlier, he's going to be -- he's the nominee for treasury secretary. We expected the president to make that announcement probably tomorrow.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Right? And there may be other resignations in the cabinet in the days ahead as well.

BORGER: I think that's fair to say. I think this is a logical time and there are rumblings of other changes in the cabinet which we're pursing, and I think it's fair to say that I'm expecting another shoe or two to drop, Wolf. But I -- look, this is what happens when you get into a second term. People take stock, they decide if they are going to stay, do they stay for one year, two years, or do they decide to leave and just allow the president to make some changes at the start of a second term.

BLITZER: And the second term of the Bill Clinton administration, there were major cabinet changes, second term of the Bush administration, major cabinet changes and now, second term of Obama administration major changes as well. I'm sure there will be other changes, senior officials in the White House, less than cabinet level.

BORGER: Well, you know, we're going to see a new chief of staff. We're going to -- so there are --

BLITZER: Jack Lew, if he's confirmed --

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Any names out there for chief of staff?

BORGER: I -- you know, Dennis McDonough has been one name --

BLITZER: Deputy national security advisor.

BORGER: -- that has been raised.

So I think, yes, you're going to see -- the thing that's interesting to me, Wolf, is that we're not inside the White House. Nobody's talking about bringing people from the outside in to really change the way the White House operates. What you see is a lot of sort of shifting of jobs rather than taking people the president doesn't know and bringing them in. And this all goes back to the point that we were talking about with Chuck Hagel and Jack Lew.

The president in a second term wants a certain comfort level with the people both inside the White House and who served in his cabinet. He wants people he feels comfortable and that he can trust.

BLITZER: He's entitled to that. He's president of the United States, and to paraphrase someone else -- good to be president.

BORGER: Good to be president. That was enough.

BLITZER: Thank you. All right. Thank you.

Just under two years ago, it was a symbol of hope and now Cairo's Tahrir Square is dirty and depressing. And the graffiti tells a story you're going to want to hear. I was there over the weekend. Stand by.

And how President Obama may be helping Joe Biden get ready for 2016.


BLITZER: I'm Wolf Blitzer. Here are some of the stories we're working on for our next hour. We're going to hear live from a woman who saw others thrown through the air when their ferry hit a pier today in New York City.

Your bank may have been the target of a cyber attack by Iran and it could happen again.

Plus, the big name performers who will be singing for the president's second inauguration. Stand by. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

During the Arab spring two years ago, Cairo's Tahrir Square became the heart of Egypt's revolution. None of us will forget the images of demonstrators crowding into the square day after day risking their lives and demanding freedom and democracy.

But when I visited Egypt last weekend to interview the country's new president, I found Tahrir Square to be a much different and depressing place. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): I stood in Tahrir Square a few days ago. The symbol of the Egyptian revolution was largely deserted. It looked very different two years ago during those intense days leading up to the overthrow of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

Horses charging into the crowds, tanks and armored vehicles and snipers all over the place, hundreds of Egyptian protesters killed and then it was over. The Arab spring had come to Egypt. Those were days of high optimism.

I was in Egypt with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a few weeks after the revolution. We walked around Tahrir Square with little security. Egyptians were thrilled to see her. I remember the near euphoria when she went to the nearby U.S. Embassy to thank the American diplomats for all their hard work during their tumultuous and historic days.

(on camera): Madam secretary, what did you think of Tahrir Square? Were you moved by what you saw there?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it was very exciting and moving to go to Tahrir Square and to have some sense of what those amazing days must have been like here in Cairo and I am so looking forward to helping in any way that we can in this transformation and all the work that needs to be done.

BLITZER (voic-over): That was then. This is Egypt now. Huge concrete blocks surround all entrances to the U.S. Embassy. That graffiti reads, no Morsy, free Egypt, free Palestine. No America. Last September, anti-American protesters stormed the compound, scaling the walls and burning the American flag.

President Obama had to personally phone Egyptian President Morsy to get the Egyptian military and police finally to stop the assault and protect the American staff. Security is very tight at the embassy now.

(on camera): Come on over here. You can see -- we can walk over, you can see the barricades outside the embassy and if you take a look, right behind those barricades you can see the American flag flying on the U.S. Embassy grounds.

It's a huge complex over there. It's one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world. You can see more barricades over here. We're only, what, half a block or so from Tahrir Square. We're heading over there right now.

(voice-over): I went back to Tahrir Square with CNN's Ian Lee who is based in Cairo and covered the revolution.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About 60 yards, 70 yards, you have the American embassy this way.

BLITZER: There were folks still living in tents, but there was no traffic and few protesters.

(on camera): Ian, give me a little tour of Tahrir Square over here because we're going to walk around and we can see the tents. There are folks still here, but this is a lot different than it used to be?

LEE: This is completely different than it used to be. Right now, we have remnants of the protests that we saw before the constitutional referendum. People were really upset with President Mohamed Morsy and wanted the cancellation of the referendum.

This isn't really what -- what we're seeing right now isn't really popular amongst the people. If you go outside Tahrir Square, most people say the square should be open and functioning again, it's the heart of the city. But there are still a lot of people upset with the president and we're seeing --

BLITZER: So these folks here in these tents, these are the opposition to President Morsy?

LEE: Yes, a lot of them are the opposition but they don't make up a lot of the opposition. It ranges from poor people to wealthy people.

BLITZER: All right, so we're you can walking around Tahrir Square and obviously I remember when I was here, I guess it must have been -- that was two years ago right after Mubarak fell.

I came here with Hillary Clinton and she just walked right in and it was very upbeat. It was very confident. Everyone was pleased with what was going on. There seemed to be an unusually euphoric attitude but it's changed dramatically since then.

LEE: It really has changed. The country is deeply divided between the people who oppose him and support him. This whole euphoric stage wasn't going to last long. The people were going to be divided because there are very different groups going for power. It wasn't going to last long. We've really seen in the last month Egypt become very divided.

BLITZER (voice-over): On the walls around Tahrir Square, the graffiti tells the story of this Egyptian revolution. I took another tour Akhmed Sadik, an Egyptologist and guide here in Cairo.

(on camera): Akhmed, let's take a little stroll down all these graffiti, tell us what we're seeing over here.

AKHMED SADIK, EGYPTOLOGIST: You know, one of the key demands of the revolution was to clean up the police because the criminal activity of the police and nefarious activities are involved and here it says, police are still criminal. So they have not restructured yet and you still have massacres, some violations of human rights.

BLITZER: These are some of the people that were can killed during the revolution?

SADIK: Yes and afterwards as well then you have the president in that garb of farrows. Here you have Morsy. BLITZER: Yes, President Morsy. I see.

SADIK: And it is beneath invalid, like illegitimate.

BLITZER: So these are anti-President Morsy graffiti.

SADIK: Yes. And then you have no for the constitution of the brother. Then you have this beautiful poem by Allan Bunku. It is how hard is that wall when it tries us in the face of the sunrise. You might spend your whole -- your entire life to make a hole in that wall so that light passes for generation. But for this wall, you wouldn't have appreciated the free light.

BLITZER: And who is this?

SADIK: Those are the officers of the revolution. You know, during the revolution last year, some officers defected and they said Mubarak, we are not supporting you and they were arrested immediately.

BLITZER: Interesting.

SADIK: Here you have this gentleman who is fighting. He's painting to fight oppression while the general is attacking him.


BLITZER: We're going to have much more of my visit over the weekend to Cairo and much more of my exclusive interview with the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy coming up in the next hour.

I asked him why supposedly free and democratic Egypt, three of his most prominent critics are now being investigated for treason. You're going to want to hear what he has to say on that, the plight of Christian cops living in Egypt coming up in the next hour.

Up next, Vice President Joe Biden says they can bypass Congress, the Obama administration, and act on gun control by the president issuing executive orders. But is that a good idea? Our "Strategy Session" is next.


BLITZER: All right, just coming in, more information about the Obama cabinet during this second term. CNN has just learned that at least three more members of the cabinet have decided to stay, including the Attorney General Eric Holder, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shenseky and the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

All three of them will stay in the cabinet, but there's a lot of movement as we've been reporting, as you know. Let's discuss what's going on in our "Strategy Session." Joining us our CNN contributor, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala and our CNN contributor, David Frum, a former White House speechwriter under President George W. Bush. First of all, this is not a surprise, Paul, you worked in the White House that in a second term, you worked in the Bush White House that there are a lot of changes.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Change is good. The president ran on changes and this is a very healthy thing. I think it's noteworthy that two of the three things you mentioned, very controversial and clearly the president still has enormous confidence in them and this does sort of say, OK, back off, Republicans, these are two controversial members that I have and I have their back.

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The president seems to be going for a more high confrontational approach to the cabinet in the second term. The Chuck Hagel nomination is I think the most outspoken out there example of that. As you say, Eric Holder, this is not a president saying I want -- I'm holding out my hand. This is the president saying, talk to the hand.

BEGALA: Perhaps he saw -- I know he saw the Steven Spielberg movie "Lincoln" where the president at one point says President Lincoln says, I am the re-elected president clothed in an immense power. I kind of like that scene.

BLITZER: The elected president doesn't have to worry about getting re-elected a third time. He can do a lot.

FRUM: There's another scene that is not a movie. It's the scene of Harry Truman sitting at his desk in the White House just before he left and losing and say, poor Ike, he will come to this office, sit at this desk and say do this, do that, and nothing will happen. It won't be like the army.

Presidents have the power to persuade. The presidents need congress and the president may be feeling very inflated right now. Obviously he is, but the grind of politics and Congress is the stronger branch.

BLITZER: Let's talk about the vice president of the United States right now. He spoke out on his task force to deal with the issue of guns. Listen to what he said today.


JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The president is going to act. Executive orders, executive action can be taken. We haven't decided what that is yet, but we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action we believe is required.


BLITZER: Now, executive orders, the president just signs it. It's done. He doesn't need Congress to pass legislation. That's the positive side for a president. The down side is the next president can sign an executive order repealing that earlier executive order. Is this smart strategy on the part of the vice president? FRUM: No, it's terrible. I referenced a moment ago the inflated sense that the president has. I'm in favor of change and the way America regulates guns. When that change comes, it will come on the model of mothers -- the way mothers against drunk driving changed the way we dealt with alcohol and cars.

From outside the political system, something that does not pit Republicans against the Democrats, the more the president makes this signature issue and puts its face on it, the more he intensifies and galvanizes the opposition, which is already strong enough.

BLITZER: You're a gun owner, Paul, and let me read what you wrote in "The Daily Beast" on Friday. Among other things, you wrote, "If you can't protect your home with three shots, you're not going to be able to do it with 30. The only purpose, to a death mass killing and they must be banned."

BEGALA: They being these high capacity magazines that can hold 30 and now sometimes these drums can hold 100 rounds. They are useless for target shooting unless you're extraordinary lazy. You can reload after three or four or five shots. They're useless for hunting, I know, I'm a hunter. You never get 30 shots on an animal.

If you do, the animal is already dead. And it's useless for self- defense. So they must be banned. They were banned for a time and then that law expired, sadly, and the second amendment is set up just fine.

As a gun owner myself, I think it's imperative and I think David makes a good point about the politics of it. The more the president's name is on it, the more it will outrage the right.

At the same time, he has an obligation to protect his fellow Americans and I am for him using his executive authority which comes from Congress. It's not dictatorial. Congress passes all of these laws but then gives the president broad discretion to enact executive orders on how to enforce them. I think it's great.

BLITZER: Here's what you wrote, David, on the "Daily Beast" on Tuesday. You said, what's the debate over guns really about? It's really about guns or should be. What do you mean by that?

FRUM: The "New York Times" had one of this room for debate columns, which they invite people to go all meta, what do guns say about American society. What are the deep psychological reasons that some people are on one side and some on the other.

I think the more we focus on the practical the better we will be. There are important reasons that guns are protected by the constitution. Hunting is a treasured American folkway. People have a right, if they are responsible and can defend themselves.

This is not a debate about the place of guns in American society. But how can you without burdening legitimate gun rights unduly make society safer? BLITZER: You know, here's a little conspiratorial theory that some of us have thought of. I'll walk it by you, Paul. You tell me what you think. The president of the United States likes Joe Biden a lot. Joe Biden, I think would like to be president of the United States in 2016.

He played a key and potentially decisive role in averting the fiscal cliff, got a lot of praise for that. Now the president has asked him to do this task force on guns. Is the president beginning to take steps to boost Joe Biden to get him ready for 2016, would he like Joe Biden to succeed him?

BEGALA: Well, I mean, in the literal sense, obviously, he chosen to be the vice president. So God forbid something happens, Vice President Biden will succeed him. So in the sense, he has enormous faith, the most important faith he can have in Vice President Biden.

But I do think it's getting too far out there, too far out for your skis, Wolf. Because this president -- now, I worked for Bill Clinton who did clear the field for Al Gore and you know, Ggore won but by --

BLITZER: I was thinking of the Bill Clinton/Al Gore -- I don't think Al Gore necessarily was thankful enough to the president for doing that, but that's another story. Let me let David weigh in.

BEGALA: I don't see this president doing that, no. I don't think he's going to try to anoint Vice President Biden.

BLITZER: Iowa, New Hampshire three years.

FRUM: Your presumption is this gun task force will be a big success and I think Paul and I just both agreed it is likely not going to be a big success. So if the idea is to do a favor for Joe Biden. It's not much of a favor.

BLITZER: All right, well, that's a fair point and maybe I'm just a little bit too conspiratorial. I suspect the president would like Joe Biden to be the next president. He would probably like Joe Biden to be the next president more than Hillary Clinton.

FRUM: More than Hillary Clinton would want Biden or --

BLITZER: No, who would the president vote for, Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden? Who do you think he would vote for?

BEGALA: I haven't the slightest -- I can't read this man's mind.

FRUM: This I won't guess, but I will say it is interesting that he did not choose a younger person as his second term vice president if he does want to shape the party.

BLITZER: We'll see. Thanks very much.

It's a story that outraged many. The only man in custody for the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya is set free. Now we're learning new and very disturbing details about his family. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There are important new developments in the wake of Tunisia's decision to release one of the few known suspects in last September's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. That attack killed the United States ambassador to Libya and three other American citizens.

CNN's Brian Todd has been working this story for us. More disturbing information coming in. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There is an update, Wolf, as you know yesterday, we reported that Tunisia had released Ali Harzi, possibly the only known suspect to have been in custody in connection with the Benghazi attack.

CNN had reported that U.S. officials believe Harzi was sending descriptions of the attack on social media while it was happening and U.S. Congressman Frank Wolf told me that Harzi was present at the attack.

Now there were reports that the Tunisian court had released for lack of evidence and his lawyer denied he was involved. But now there is a video posted on the Facebook page of a group named "Ansar Al Sharia Tunisia." A video which we believe shows Ali Harzi being greeted after his release.

This is significant because "Ansar Al Sharia" is a known militant group. Now on the video there is a Jihadist song that plays throughout and at the very end you hear a voice. We translated what that person was saying.

He says, quote, "March my brother on the path of Jihad." We cannot verify the authenticity of this video, but it does appear that it does connect Ali Harzi with a known militant group in Tunisia, Wolf. Again, this is going to further outrage U.S. officials and others that he's been released.

BLITZER: We're getting new information about Ali Harzi's brother as well in.

TODD: We have that, yes. Counterterrorism sources are telling us that his brother whose name is Tarik Harzi was involved with a group, al Qaeda in Iraq. That's a picture of him. According to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Tarik Harzi was one of about 100 detainees who escaped from a prison in Takrit, Iraq last September.

He had been sentenced to death for his involvement in attacks by that group. He's still at large. He is the brother of Ali Harzi, who was released from Tunisian custody yesterday. We're connecting the dots on him and his family and militant groups and it's not a good connection if you are a U.S. official and you want answers about the Benghazi attack.

BLITZER: Not just U.S. officials, all of us want answers on that as well. Brian, thanks. Good reporting. Up next, a great white shark is spotted off the Florida coast, but where it came from may surprise you.

And in our next hour, in depth on the flu outbreak, we have the top three ways you can catch the illness. This is information you need to know right now.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's "Hot Shots." In Brazil, look at this. A factory worker puts the finishing touches on the carnival mask of a Brazilian football star.

In India, a soldier keeps watch at an outpost on the India-Pakistan border. In Germany, a giant picture of Martin Scorzaze. It's on display at the Martin Scorzaze exhibit at the Museum for Film and Television in Berlin.

And in Israel, a young boy walks by cars damaged in a pileup caused by heavy rain and flooding. "Hot Shots, pictures coming in from around the world."

A prosecutor says Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes, quote, "intended to kill them all." Lisa Sylvester's monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, police say Holmes visited the theatre taking cell phone videos of the hallways and doors two weeks before killing 12 people in a shooting rampage. He bought multiple guns over a period of months and meticulously prepared booby- traps at his home. They are all signs the attack appears to have been well planned and a judge will rule on Friday whether this case had proceed to trial.

Same-sex couples can now marry in one of the country's most prominent churches, the Washington National Cathedral. When a bishop of the church decided to allow it, the cathedral's dean made it official calling it, quote, "another historic step towards greater equality." Same-sex marriage became legal in three states this year. It was already legal in D.C.

A great white shark has been spotted near Jacksonville Beach, Florida, but thankfully not by a swimmer. A research group has been tracking the shark since September when it was tagged near Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The group contacted police when the 16-foot long shark got too close to the beach. No swimmers fortunately were nearby at the time.

And for the first time since 1996, no one will be inducted into the baseball hall of fame. No players received the minimum number of votes which is 75 percent of the baseball writers. Perhaps the most notable admissions are recent superstars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa. All three have been linked to steroids, a fact the baseball writers take very seriously -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And they should take that very seriously. Thanks very much, Lisa.