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Chuck Hagel Under Fire; Explosion in Mexico; Interview with NRA President David Keene

Aired January 31, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And we don't know where the explosion was, on what floor.

Rafael Romo is joining us from the CNN Center in Atlanta, our Latin American affairs editor.

Rafael, what else are you learning?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: One of the most important things I have heard is that Mexican authorities are saying that up to 15 people are trapped in the tower under the debris that resulted after the explosion.

We also have been looking at emergency personnel present at the scene and all of the streets around this very big tower are blocked off to traffic right now. The Mexico City authorities have mobilized emergency personnel and are currently trying to determine what was the cause of the explosion.

But the images that we're getting through our affiliates show a lot of debris around the area. They show a lot of damage, and Mexican authorities are talking about significant damage around the tower. But, again, we don't have an idea of how many people might have died, Wolf.

BLITZER: We don't know anything about casualties. We know there have been injuries. Do we know what floor this explosion occurred on, Rafael? Are you getting any information on that?

ROMO: It is too early to determine. It seems like the damage might have been not only in one single floor, but several floors of the facility. But, again, there's a number of possibilities about what might have caused this, and at this time, officials are just not sure. They're barely beginning to assess the situation and send emergency personnel to that area.

And, again, Wolf, just to reiterate, this is a tower in Mexico City, of course, the Mexican capital, that belongs to Pemex. Pemex is the state oil company in Mexico. Oil is nationalized. It belongs to the government. So this is essentially a government building where the explosion occurred.

BLITZER: And I just want to alert our viewers here in the United States and around the world, we're watching the breaking news out of Mexico City here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting.

Juan Carlos Lopez is here as well.

Rafael, stand by for a moment.

Juan Carlos, you're getting more information?

LOPEZ: It seems -- it's still fluid. Information is still coming, but it seems that the explosion might have happened in a basement in the building. That's the initial information. And that we are hearing the evacuation, obviously, that means that there is a way for people to get out of this building.

They are trying to have an expedient -- and Mexicans are prepared for these kind of events. Remember that it's a seismic city. People are well-prepared for emergencies. They are used to having drills normally to leave these buildings. And that's what -- they're going on right now. But as I said, the initial information is that it happened in the basement.

BLITZER: In the basement. So we don't know if this was a deliberately planned explosion. Or it could have been some sort of power accident. All this information is obviously very, very sketchy, Juan Carlos, that is coming in right now. We have no idea what caused this.

LOPEZ: Exactly. It's very fluid. And we're waiting. This is what we received from Pemex and what we're getting from Mexican media. That's what we're reporting right now.

But they're just waiting to confirm and see what really happened and as you said, to know if this was something that was deliberately done, or if it could be an accident, electrical explosion, something of that sort in a building with thousands of people.

BLITZER: Yes. This was, until recently, the tallest building in Mexico, at least until 2002. It was built in 1984, 51 stories, 51 floors. And, it's, obviously, a very, very well-known building, one of the landmarks in Mexico City.

Once again, it houses the administrative offices of Pemex, Mexico's largest companies, the world's fifth largest oil and gas company. So this is obviously a huge, huge complex in Mexico City. Injuries are reported after this explosion.

And Juan Carlos is hearing it was in the basement of this huge building that Pemex operates in Mexico City. The blast injured workers, prompted an evacuation. But we are told, we are told that there are people trapped inside this building as well.

We have a colleague, a journalist who's there in Mexico City.

Sol Rivera is joining us now on the phone.

Sol, what are you hearing?


Well, I'm in Mexico City. I'm very near from the blast or the building. And there is apparently one person that has been killed because of that blast. And 20 people have injuries because of this explosion, but now it happens like one hour and 15 minutes ago.

And the people, I mean, the police officer is flying a helicopter, trying to find what was the -- what was this information, this blast, because it's very complex to understand, because they don't have any -- and maybe they thought at the end, at the first time it could be a bomb, but, no, it's just like an explosion for some machine, thinks -- and is -- that information at the moment.

BLITZER: That's the latest information you're getting.

I want to be precise. Sol Rivera, explain in Spanish, because we have got Juan Carlos Lopez with us, Rafael Romo. Obviously, they both speak Spanish. Explain in Spanish, and then they will be precise and tell us what you're hearing about the cause of this explosion, where it occurred in this Pemex building in Mexico City, and what you're hearing about injuries and casualties. Go ahead, say it in Spanish, and then Rafael or Juan Carlos will translate.


BLITZER: All right. Hold on a second, Sol. I want Juan Carlos to translate.



What Sol is saying is that the information that she has is that there is at least 20 wounded, one person could be trapped, and that so far, the information that she is receiving is that this was an explosion in a machine room, in some type of part of the building, not related to any bomb or attack. That's what she is getting at the moment, that it was something related to the building, to machines in the building. Could be elevator machinery, could be power systems.

That's what she's getting. Now, I have information, Wolf, that is very interesting. I was going through the Twitter account of President Enrique Pena Nieto.


BLITZER: The new president of Mexico.

LOPEZ: The new president of Mexico.

The last message he has was 19 hours saying that Pemex is and will belong to the Mexicans. So it could be no relation, no connection to this, but it's very interesting that's the last message he had. And there was one previous to that saying that nobody should be confused, that they would not privatize Pemex or any of the Mexican natural resources. BLITZER: Juan Carlos Lopez, thank you. Sol Rivera, thanks very much. Rafael Romo, thanks to you as well.

RIVERA: Thank you.

BLITZER: We are obviously going to stay on top of this explosion at the Pemex office building in Mexico City and update our viewers as more information comes into THE SITUATION ROOM. I want to thank all of you for getting that information. As soon as we get more, we will share it with our viewers.

Let's get to some other news that's unfolding right now.

He's the man that President Obama wants to lead the Pentagon. And while former Senator Chuck Hagel has many supporters, even some of them are questioning his showing at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

He was grilled over the course of several hours, and at times he actually seemed ill-prepared, evasive. He was stumbling at times, even at one point having to clarify his own clarification.

Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is joining us now.

All right, Jessica, what's been the reaction over at the White House?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there's no doubt this could not have been the performance they were hoping for from Senator Hagel, but still officials here insist they are not worried that his confirmation might be in jeopardy.

They believe they will still have the votes. All that said, Wolf, you have to notice that this is not the type of normal treatment a former member of the U.S. Senate gets from his colleagues, typically. It was feisty, it was aggressive. At times, it was hostile, and Senator Hagel seemed to get lost in his own words.


YELLIN (voice-over): Former Senator Chuck Hagel sat alone at the witness table fielding intense, sometimes hostile questions from his former Senate colleagues, including one-time close friend John McCain.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I want to know if you were right or wrong. That's a direct question. I expect a direct answer.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY NOMINEE: Well, I'm not going to give you a yes or no answer.

YELLIN: That exchange centered on Hagel's past opposition to the Iraq surge, a surge Senator McCain championed.

In his opening remarks, Hagel tried to pivot away from controversy over his past statements. HAGEL: No one individual vote, no one individual quote, no one individual statement defines me, my beliefs, or my record.

YELLIN: He insisted he will lead, not follow at the Pentagon and around the world.

HAGEL: America must engage in the world, not retreat from the world.

YELLIN: For hours, one Republican after another accused the former two-term Nebraska senator of shading his true beliefs. Among their concerns, past statements criticizing Israel.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Do you think it's right that Israel was committing a -- quote -- "sickening slaughter," as you said on the floor of the Senate?

YELLIN: And complaining about intimidation by the pro-Israel lobby.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Name one person, in your opinion, who is intimidated by the Israel lobby in the United States Senate.

HAGEL: The use of intimidation -- I should have used influence.

YELLIN: More questions centered on this report he co-authored which supports the elimination of all nuclear weapons, even if the U.S. goes first. He said he doesn't agree with all its findings.

SEN. KELLY AYOTTE (R), NEW HAMPSHIRE: Why would you ever put your name on a report that is inherently inconsistent with what you're telling us today.

YELLIN: But the biggest flash point, Iran, where he stumbled talking about basic U.S. policy, calling Iran a -- quote -- "legitimate government." A Democrat followed up.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: But I do not see Iran or the Iranian government a legitimate government and I would like your thoughts on that.

HAGEL: What I meant to say, should have said, it's recognizable.

YELLIN: He also meant to say he supports the president's policy of prevention, meaning the U.S. will try to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. But, instead, he said:

HAGEL: I have just been handed a note that I misspoke and said I supported the president's position on containment. If I said that, it meant to say that -- obviously, his position on containment -- we don't have a position on containment.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Just to make sure your correction is clear, we do have a position on containment, which is that we do not favor containment. HAGEL: We do not favor containment. That's the president's position and that was my position.


YELLIN: Wolf, there's no question that he got bruised in the hearing today, but it would seem no disastrous remarks. And, let's be honest, getting bruised in front of the cameras is part of the game.

I covered Tim Geithner's confirmation hearing. He was beaten up and battered for his positions on not paying his own taxes, and yet he went on to become the treasury secretary with 60 votes. So one lives and learns and all that matters in the end, Wolf, is getting the votes. They believe here they have got the count, Wolf.

BLITZER: They have got the obviously the Democrats on board, at least almost all of them, I'm sure, 55 Democrats in the Senate, but if one Republican decides to filibuster, they need 60, at which point they would need five Republicans to join them. Are they confident in the White House, they will have those five Republicans to get to 60?

YELLIN: They are saying that they believe the answer is yes. At the end of the day, they think this is a former member of the U.S. Senate and the president's pick for defense secretary. He will get the man he wants, yes.

BLITZER: All right. Jessica Yellin at the White House with that, thank you very much.

Senator -- another senator in a powerful new position fighting back against some serious new allegations, among them, using prostitutes. What's going on?

And that Alabama bunker where a 5-year-old boy is being held hostage, we're now learning new details about what's going on there as well.


BLITZER: He's just taken on a powerful new position, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Kate Bolduan is here to help us pick up this story.

This is awkward.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: This is still a developing story as we speak, Wolf.

But now this senator, we're talking about New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, is finding himself fighting some very serious allegations of misconduct involving travel and prostitutes.

CNN's national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has been digging into details on this.

Jim, so, what's the latest on this really troubling story?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate and Wolf, Senator Menendez was carefully avoiding any run-ins with reporters on Capitol Hill today, and leaders on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue appear to be backing away from the senator, at least for the moment.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Here they are, back in 2010, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and his friend, political contributor, and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen in the Dominican Republic. As it turns out, the senator's trips to the Dominican Republic were of such a concern to Menendez and his staff that he reimbursed Melgen $58,000 for the cost of charter flights furnished by the doctor. That payment was made earlier this month after a complaint had been made to the Senate Ethics Committee and just weeks before Menendez was made chairman of the powerful Foreign Relations Committee.

Earlier this week, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid cautioned reporters to be wary of the story. But Reid's office now tells CNN the majority leader was unaware of the reimbursements when he issued that warning.

(on camera): Do you think he's handled this matter appropriately?

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: First of all, Bob Menendez is my friend. He's an outstanding senator. He's now the new chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. Any questions in this regard, direct to him. I don't know anything about it.

ACOSTA: The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibilities and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, first learned about the senator's trips and reported them to the FBI last year.

CREW received an e-mail from a man calling himself Peter Williams, who alleged Menendez was traveling to the Dominican Republic to meet with prostitutes. Then the conservative Web site The Daily Caller published the accusations last November, just days before the senator was up for reelection, but that timing raised flags with CREW's Melanie Sloan.

MELANIE SLOAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CITIZENS FOR RESPONSIBILITY AND ETHICS IN WASHINGTON: I think if all of the allegations together prove to be true, that would certainly suggest questions about Senator Menendez's fitness for the chairmanship and perhaps even his position in the Senate.

But I think at this point, it's important to withhold judgment, given the many questions about the source of these allegations and the timing of these allegations.

ACOSTA: Menendez is also a member of the Senate's gang of eight, working on immigration reform. When asked about the impact of the allegations on that issue, the White House had no comment.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I just don't have anything.

ACOSTA: All day long, Menendez steered clear of reporters, appearing only briefly in public on the Senate floor. The other Democratic senator from New Jersey, Frank Lautenberg, said the allegations facing Menendez are a concern.

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: All of this, if they are infractions as they are reported, it's too bad. And I don't want to be part of the external review at all. It's too -- yes, it's much too sensitive a thing to be discussed randomly. So, thank you.


ACOSTA: A Menendez spokesperson tells CNN that the senator does plan to stay on as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

That spokesperson also says that the senator has also paid for all of those flights now, reimbursed Dr. Melgen for all of those flights down to the Dominican Republic. And as for those allegations of prostitutes, the senator's office says those allegations are politically motivated and false -- Wolf and Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. He's denying the allegations. We will see how it continues. Keep us updated. Thanks so much, Jim.

ACOSTA: You bet.

BLITZER: The president of the National Rifle Association says his family is getting death threats. We're going to talk to him. That's coming up.


A shooting outside of an Atlanta middle school today. One young man was shot. His injuries, apparently, are not life-threatening. A teacher was slightly injured as the school was being evacuated. The shooter, a fellow student, is in custody.

BOLDUAN: And, in Texas, a prosecutor was gunned down outside a county courthouse east of Dallas. The assistant DA was shot several times as he got out of his car. A manhunt is still under way for the shooter and the FBI is taking part.

And, in Arizona, the body of a shooting suspect has been found, apparently after he took his own life. The man was suspected of killing one person and injuring two others at an office building in Phoenix yesterday.

And David Keene, the president of the National Rifle Association, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

David, thanks for coming in.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN: Thank you, David.


BLITZER: Another rash of shootings, including at a school in Atlanta today.

What's going on?

KEENE: Copycat kinds of things. It gets this kind of publicity...

BLITZER: You think this is it?

KEENE: -- that's the sort of thing that happens. It's unfortunate, but it's what happens.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of people want action to be taken.

I'm going to play a clip for you, because it's coming back. This is 1999, Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the NRA, said this.


WAYNE LAPIERRE, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION: We think it's reasonable to provide mandatory instant criminal background checks for every sale at every gun show -- no loopholes anyway for anyone.


BLITZER: Why was it reasonable in 1999 but from your perspective, not reasonable now?

KEENE: At that time, the NICS system, the so-called National Instant Background Check System, was being set up. And we support that system, supported it then.

The problem is that the system is not working very well. It's overcrowded. If you dump more people into it, it's going to get worse.

We've been urging that, for example, the system should be fixed so it works and...

BLITZER: If the system is fixed...

KEENE: -- that...

BLITZER: -- will you support universal background checks?

KEENE: We want universal background checks and a check at the gun show is two different things. You know, right now, under existing law, if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms wanted to require people at a gun show to go to a booth that they had and have a background check, they could do that.

When you talk about what they call a universal background check, that's very, very different. That includes all private sales. And there was a -- there was one of the witnesses before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, a police chief who urged that.

The fact of the matter is that that covers sales between a father and a son and all of these sorts of things, if you're, let's say you sell your shotgun...

BLITZER: But let's just...

KEENE: -- you buy a new one...

BLITZER: -- get back to the gun show loophole.

KEENE: Yes, that...

BLITZER: If -- if they have a system that works, would you favor background checks for every sale at a gun show?

KEENE: We'll want to see that. We want to see them get the system fixed and then we'll take a look at it.

BOLDUAN: Why just take a look at it?

Why not just try?

I mean I think you -- you've said, and it's kind of acknowledged, that it's a huge uphill battle to try to pass any kind of comprehensive, stricter...

KEENE: Right.

BOLDUAN: -- gun control legislation at this point. The assault weapons ban, that seems to be an uphill battle.

But this idea of the universal background checks --

KEENE: The...

BOLDUAN: -- closing this gun show loophole -- I know they're two different things...

KEENE: Those are very different things.

BOLDUAN: But take the example of Paul Ryan, former Republican vice presidential candidate. He has an A rating with the NRA. He was asked about closing the gun show loophole. And this is what he said to the "Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel."

Listen here.


REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WISCONSIN: What I think we should look into is someone who is not legally allowed to buy a gun going to be buying one and let's figure that out. I think we need to find out how to close these loopholes and do it in such a way that we don't infringe upon people's Second Amendment rights.


BOLDUAN: So do you agree with him?

KEENE: And that's the key. If you can prevent people who shouldn't have a gun from having one, without overly burdening in, you know, honest citizens and depriving them of their Second Amendment rights.

BOLDUAN: So there's an opportunity here on that?

KEENE: Well, we're willing to work with people on anything. I have said that before. I will talk to anybody about anything.

The fact of the matter is, though, that what we're interested in is things that will reduce crime and will reduce the possibility that there will be another one of these shootings.

And even at this hearing this week before the Senate Justice Committee, there was beginning to be a focus on the whole mental health problem.

BLITZER: Listen to Joe Johns. He's our correspondent.

KEENE: Right.

BLITZER: He did a piece here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday speaking about the influence of your organization, the NRA, the impact that it's had in the last election.

Listen to this.


JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: During the 2012 campaign, the NRA flooded the airwaves with ads targeting Senate candidates with a low NRA rating, like Tim Kaine in Virginia and Sherrod Brown in Ohio.

In fact, figures from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show the NRA spent over $4 million on Senate campaigns last year, losing seven out of eight races where they spent over $100,000.



KEENE: Because those races weren't decided on Second Amendment issues. When we have a race in which there's a candidate who's very clear on the Second Amendment and one who's opposed to it and that becomes an issue, then gun owners and believers in the Second Amendment go out and vote that issue.

BLITZER: Did you spend money in Missouri?

KEENE: We spent -- well, no, we did not spend money in...

BLITZER: In Claire McCaskill's race?

KEENE: We weren't in that race.

BLITZER: Because you didn't see a difference between the two of them?

KEENE: No, we didn't see a possibility that we were going to win.

BLITZER: Because of the comments that...

KEENE: I mean we -- you know, we're -- when we get into a political season, we're like everybody else, we look at where we can maximize our influence, where our -- where our people that we support are and where the people that we oppose are.

You know, a better example of the clout, not of the NRA, because it isn't us, it's the gun owners that look to us for leadership, was the Wisconsin recall election, with Governor Scott Walker, who was clearly a Second Amendment supporter, had been for his entire career, running against an opponent who was clearly not and hadn't been for his entire career.

And in that...

BOLDUAN: Let me ask you real quick, Gabrielle Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, the astronaut, was here in THE SITUATION ROOM yesterday and Wolf spoke with him and asked him to speak directly to the camera, to the NRA. Listen to what he said.


MARK KELLY, HUSBAND OF GABRIELLE GIFFORDS: Well, we've had many, many mass murders in this country. I mean, we've had a lot of them, especially you know, especially recently. What we saw in Newtown, in Colorado, and in Tucson, I mean, this is unacceptable. I mean, I think people understand that when somebody does a mass shooting and they use a semi-automatic weapon, an assault rifle, twice as many people are hurt and injured.


BOLDUAN: I want to get your response to that, but also in the context of, you were in the hearing room yesterday, when Gabrielle Giffords gave that very emotional opening statement. You heard her speak.

So what do you say to her and her husband? They're both gun rights owners. They both support the Second Amendment, but they've also faced this horrible tragedy, and they want to see more stricter gun laws.

KEENE: Well, I think the stricter gun laws sort of generically, is not the answer. But I will tell you, Mark testified yesterday, and pointed out that in Arizona, over 100,000 people who have been adjudicated with severe mental problems have not been added to the database, and suggested that it was possible, had that been done, this might not have happened.

You know, most of these mass shootings are people who others around them have spotted as having something wrong. I mean, in the Aurora shooting, the only person that acted on that was a gun dealer...


BOLDUAN: So are you and Mark Kelly on the same side of this issue?

KEENE: Those people need to be in the system.

BOLDUAN: Are you and Mark Kelly on the same side of this issue, do you think?

KEENE: On the question of putting the mentally ill in the system, absolutely.

BLITZER: We've got to go, but "The Daily Caller" has an interview with you, in which you are quoted as saying -- I want to just clarify this -- that there have been threats made against your son and daughter in the wake of the deadly shooting in Newtown.

KEENE: Sure, and against me and against Wayne LaPierre.

BLITZER: What kind of threats?

KEENE: Well, the -- my son has the same name as I have, and he has a Facebook page, and somebody said that he should be killed. And he and my daughter responded -- I'm not a techno guy -- technical guy, so I'm not the guy to do this, and said that, "Actually, I'm not him. I'm his son, but both my sister and I agree that he's not that bad a guy, and you probably shouldn't kill him."

And they came back and said, "Well, since we know you're his children, we ought to kill you so that he'll know what it feels like."

BLITZER: I assume you've notified local police?

KEENE: We turn that stuff over and -- but what that's an example of is not that somebody's going to kill me, because that's probably not going to happen, and if it is, there's nobody that can really control it. It's the incivility of political discourse at some levels in this country. And I don't mind.

I'll talk to -- and you've known me for years. I'll talk to anybody, whether they agree with me or disagree with me, but we ought to have a level of civility in our discussions about public policy and politics that rules that stuff out.

BLITZER: Totally. David, thanks very much for coming in. BOLDUAN: In less than 90 minutes, Anderson Cooper is asking the question, can there be a solution to America's gun problems? Be sure to watch "Guns Under Fire," an "A.C. 360" town hall special. That's coming up tonight at 8 Eastern right here on CNN.

BLITZER: The man who says he was behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax is now speaking out publicly, making a stunning declaration. You will hear him, in his own words.


BLITZER: Syria and its allies are threatening retaliation for an Israeli air strike. Kate's still here. She's got that and some of the day's other top stories -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Clearly tensions are high in Israel, and gas mask distribution has increased as Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah warn of dire consequences in response to Israel's air strike inside Syria. U.S. officials say yesterday's air strike hit a convoy and may have prevented the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Other stories we've been telling you about. The man who says he was -- he was behind the Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax is now speaking out. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo says he was in love -- he was in love with the former Notre Dame football star but eventually decided to end it. Here's part of his interview with -- on the "Dr. Phil" show.


RONAIAH TUIASOSOPO, CONFESSED HOAXER: There were -- there were many times where Manti and Lennay had broken up before, but every time that, you know, either I would try to end it or he would, or Lennay would, or he would, it was like they would break up and then something would bring them back together, whether it was something going on in his life or in Lennay's life, in this case, in my life. I wanted to end it, because after everything I had gone through, I finally realized that I just had to move on with my life.


BOLDUAN: Manti Te'o says he never met the woman he believed to be his girlfriend in person and that the relationship was carried out by e-mail and telephone.

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BLITZER: That's one way, $3,500, I guess? BOLDUAN: I guess. We'll see.

BLITZER: Go ahead. Thank you.

A 5-year-old boy being held hostage right now inside an Alabama bunker. We're getting new details of how it was built and what it's like inside.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: A hostage drama now in its third day.

BOLDUAN: A 5-year-old is being held inside a bunker by a gunman who snatched him off a school bus after killing the driver. CNN's George Howell is in Midland City, Alabama.

George, it's now into its third day, as Wolf said, which is amazing. So what is the latest?

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, you know, we were expecting a news conference tonight, an update from investigators, but that update has been canceled. In fact, all of the updates today were canceled.

So it leads us back to the last time we got information from investigators, last night, and what they said was that they believe that the young boy, the 5-year-old, is physically unharmed. And that is the good news that we've been holding onto ever since. But, still, he is being held against his will inside this bunker.

Now, one person who has actually seen this bunker is a neighbor that I spoke to just the other day, the same person who says that Dikes fired a pistol at him and his family. And he took some time today to describe to me this place where Dikes is hiding out.


HOWELL (voice-over): Jimmy Davis Jr. and his family have been neighbors to Jimmy Dikes since he moved to this area and bought property here more than a year and a half ago. And Davis says he's seen the bunker firsthand.

JIMMY DAVIS JR., NEIGHBOR: And he told me it was a storm shelter, and I've not seen it in about probably eight to nine months. Not sure what he's done to update it or anything.

HOWELL (on camera): So when you saw that bunker, I mean, what did it look like? How wide, how deep was it?

DAVIS: It was like a 15 x 15 foot, you know, wide in length and about 12 feet deep and it was lined with bricks, like the little red bricks.

HOWELL (voice-over): Davis says Dikes' travel trailer where he lives sits about 20 feet off the road on his property. Just behind the trailer is a massive steel shipping container that Davis says Dikes used as a shed. And behind that, slightly to the left, sits the underground square bunker.

DAVIS: It actually had cinder blocks going down the steps, and it was covered up with two sheets of plywood nailed together with hinges and stuff as a door to open to it.

HOWELL: Davis saw the bunker early in its development. He says it had a tarp and sand over the top. He also noticed a PVC pipe buried in the ground that went from the bunker all the way to the front gate. Dikes told Davis that he put it in so that, if he was in the bunker, he could hear people or cars approach the front gate.

(on camera): Did he ever give you any indication as to why he built this bunker?

DAVIS: Storm shelter. That's what he told me. He said, back where he lived -- I forgot where he told me he used to live -- but back where he lived, there was a bunch of tornadoes, and they would always hit close to his house. So he was preparing for it and wanted to make sure he had somewhere to get in.

HOWELL (voice-over): Davis says his relationship with Dikes quickly deteriorated, though. Just in December, he says Dikes fired a pistol at him and his family while they were in their pickup truck. The two men were due in court Wednesday, where Dikes was to face a charge of menacing.

But since allegedly kidnapping a child and killing a man, Dikes is now in much deeper, hiding out underground.

And we learned that Dikes has had other brushes with the law. One case where it was improper exhibition of a firearm. He was charged with that, but that case was administratively dismissed. Another where he was arrested for possession of marijuana, under 20 grams. And at this point, we're all waiting to see what his next move will be.

BOLDUAN: George Howell in Alabama for us this evening. Thank you so much, George.

BLITZER: We're also following breaking news here in THE SITUATION ROOM. When we come back, we have new information about deaths and injuries reported in that Mexico City explosion.


BLITZER: Let's get some more on this hour's breaking news. An explosion in Mexico City. That happened in the high-rise tower where Mexico's state-run oil company, Pemex, has offices.

BOLDUAN: Televisa, which is a CNN affiliate, is reporting five people are dead and 75 were injured in the Pemex blast. Televisa also says at least 30 people are trapped. So clearly, a continuing situation. This information comes from Mexico City's district governor.

Another CNN affiliate, KORO-TV (ph), also says people have been trapped in the building's basement -- basement because of the blast. A developing situation and we'll bring you updates as we get them.

BLITZER: Of course, we will.

Let's get back to the contentious Chuck Hagel confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill today.

Erin Burnett is "OUTFRONT" with a senator who has a big problem with Hagel. Erin, tell us about it.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: You know, a big problem, and he is Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, Wolf, fourth highest ranking Republican in the Senate. And he was there today, and I asked him, "Did Chuck Hagel say anything that would make you more comfortable?"

And he said, in his words, Chuck Hagel was weak and wobbly. And he had a whole lot more to say. We talked about this. We talked in depth about Iran. That's coming up at the top of the hour, Wolf.

Plus, in Washington state, as you may know, and maybe, you know, maybe I don't know about this, Wolf, but in Washington, they legalized pot. So they now need a person to run pot for Washington state, an expert they're hiring. We're going to talk to the candidates.

BLITZER: We're going "OUTFRONT" right at the top of the hour with Erin. All right, Erin. See you in a few minutes.

BURNETT: A new high.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

David Letterman has noticed some of the changes going on right here at CNN since the hiring of our new president, Jeff Zucker. And Letterman offered some of his own ideas on how to improve the network.



No. 10, THE SITUATION ROOM now hosted by The Situation. There you go!

No. 9, Sanjay Gupta's hilarious new sitcom, "Two Broke Guptas."

No. 8, changing the pronunciation from CNN to "seeeeeen."

No. 7, switching the part in David Gergen's comb-over.


No. 6, Wolf Blitzer, shirtless.

No. 5, no longer fact-checking stories.

No. 4, new president Jeff Zucker, zucking everything up. No. 3, lifting ban on anchors using steroids.

No. 2, Piers Morgan, deported.

No. 1 change at CNN, more coverage of goats!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From the county fair, Linda Carson, NBC 7 -- would you not eat my pants? Ahh!

LETTERMAN: There you go. That's good!


BLITZER: We're going to have much more on the goats coming up later this hour. Is that right?

BOLDUAN: That's funny.

BLITZER: A full in-depth report on goats.

BOLDUAN: If I remember, you brought up goats during our inaugural parade coverage. I might be making that up, but I think...

BLITZER: I did. You told me, there were a lot of animals in the parade.

BOLDUAN: I know. It was actually horses.

BLITZER: Horses and dogs.

BOLDUAN: David Letterman needs to be nice to David Gergen.

BLITZER: No, he's very funny.

BOLDUAN: Very funny.

BLITZER: Good publicity.

BOLDUAN: And he's harsh on you.

BLITZER: That's all right. Love David Gergen. David Gergen and David Letterman.

BOLDUAN: And David Letterman.

BLITZER: Beyonce breaking her silence on the inauguration lip- syncing controversy. Breaking into song. You're going to see it -- hear it right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Ten days since the controversy first started over whether or not Beyonce lip synced the national anthem at President Obama's inauguration. The pop artist is now breaking her silence and also breaking into song.


BEYONCE, SINGER (singing): O, say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming, whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous night o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming.

And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave, the brave.


BLITZER: Yes. Beyonce also admitted for the first time that she sang along with her pre-recorded track last Monday.


BEYONCE: I am a perfectionist. And one thing about me, I practice until my feet bleed, and I did not have time to rehearse with the orchestra. It was a live television show and a very, very important, emotional show for me. One of my proudest moments.

And due to the weather, due to the delay, due to no proper sound check, I did not feel comfortable taking a risk. It was about the president and the inauguration, and I wanted to make him and my country proud, so I decided to sing along with my pre-recorded track, which is very common in the music industry. And I'm very proud of my performance.


BLITZER: Beyonce's headlining Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show, and she spoke about what we can expect.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will you be singing live or will you sing to track? The Black-Eyed Peas sang live. They got ridiculed. Madonna sang to track. She got ridiculed. What do you do and what decision goes into making that?

BEYONCE: I will absolutely be singing live. I am well- rehearsed, and I will absolutely be singing live. This is what I was born to do, what I'm born for.


BLITZER: Don't forget, CNN's special coverage of the Super Bowl, Super Bowl XLVII. It kicks off Saturday in New Orleans, 4 p.m. Eastern here on CNN. We're breaking down the big event, what it means for the city and more, Saturday, 4 p.m. Eastern.

I love, love, love Beyonce.

BOLDUAN: Love, love, love. BLITZER: What a beautiful rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

BOLDUAN: She kind of came out there and said, "Take that. I can do it."

BLITZER: We were right there when she was lip syncing. It was a great -- great rendition that time, as well. But she is amazing.

BOLDUAN: I don't think you guys know, Wolf actually does try to sing Beyonce in the makeup room sometimes. I'm just saying. That's how much he likes her.

BLITZER: Yes. All the single ladies. All the single ladies.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for joining us. You can follow us on twitter, @WolfBlitzer, @KateBolduan.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.