Return to Transcripts main page


Blizzard Leaves Havoc In Its Wake; Manhunt For Christopher Dorner Continues; Panetta Proposes One Percent Increase In Armed Forces' Pay for 2014

Aired February 9, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in the SITUATION ROOM. We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world.

Stand by for a hard look at what President Obama needs to say in his state of the union address this coming week.

But first, the winter wallop in the northeast. Let's go straight to the CNN center in Atlanta.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Thanks, Wolf. I'm Brianna Keilar at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta, in for Don Lemon. In just a minute, the latest on the L.A. manhunt for a suspected cop killer.

But first, yes, the story we've been covering all day, the blizzard in the northeast. And we go to Ashleigh Banfield in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Ashleigh, how are things there?

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, as the day turned into night, the temperatures are plummeting. And what started as a big snowfall story has become a snow on the ground story. The plows are still out all over this state and all over the northeast. Trying to keep up with the mess that was left behind. This gas station behind me, it is dead. It is empty. Not because they're out of gas, they're out of employees. No one could get here to reopen it. Not only that, but the actual gas pumps just started getting too cold and wouldn't work.

And above this gas station is i-95 and it is chuck a block like a parking lot. The problem is, even though the travel ban was lifted at 4:00 in Connecticut today, the governor said, please, please, don't travel, we're still in emergency mode. We still need plows to get out. We still need those utility crews to get out and restore power to tens of thousands of people. Trouble is, no one's listening. And it is a mess up there and they are stuck.

Here's the other issue. Six people is our count at this point have died as a result of this storm, so it is very serious. One of those in Massachusetts, where our Jason Carroll is standing by with what can only be described, Jason, as one of the more tragic stories of this storm. JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's terrible, when you hear about the details of what happened. Early this afternoon in a Boston neighborhood, actually not far from here, where we are in south Boston, it all began early this afternoon when a father and his 12-year-old son, Ashleigh, headed out like so many people did today, on a street much like this one, to clear out their car.

Basically what happened is the father cleared out the passenger side of the car. The young boy got cold so he decided to sit inside the car to get warm. And he had been inside the car, Ashleigh, for maybe, I don't know, 10, maybe 15 minutes at the most. And he became overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning. Because unbeknownst to the father, the tailpipe of the car was clogged with snow. That's because a plow had come by the street. The snow, as you know in so many instances, ended up on top of the car. The car's tailpipe clogged with snow. The boy overcome.

At one point, a firefighter who just happened to live in the neighborhood, Octavius Row (ph), heard screams and he came outside of this house to see what was going on. He saw that the father was in distress. He was trying to help him. He looked over in the other side and saw that a nurse, a 25-year-old woman who also just happened to live in the neighborhood, was giving the young boy CPR. Unfortunately, the young boy could not be saved.

I want you to listen to what happened when Octavius Row (ph), that firefighter, came upon the scene.


OCTAVIUS ROW (ph), FIREFIGHTER: When they did bring him out, it was a look I'd seen before and it didn't look good unfortunately, but, again, Boston EMS is very good. They got -- I'm sure they got him to the facility that he need to be to regain consciousness.


CARROLL: And unfortunately, the boy did not regain consciousness. He was declared dead at the hospital a short time later. This story really shaking the city in many ways. The mayor weighing in. The governor weighing in. Here's what the mayor said about it.

He said, the news of this tragic accident is a sad reminder that the danger of the storm is not over. Our hearts go out to that family and their friends who are learning of this tremendously sad accident.

And once again, Ashleigh, as many people in Boston go out to dig out their cars, this is another thing they should be reminded of. The storm has passed but in some situations the danger is still very much here -- Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: And the emergency, Jason, you could not be more right. Carbon monoxide poisoning in your case. In other cases, it could be the extreme cold. People are without power. I can tell you, the temperature right now where I'm standing is 24 degrees. But with the wind chill, it is eight.

And in one place in Connecticut, in the very least, it's going down to minus 10 tonight. Those are lethal temperatures if you get stuck. Look at, over my shoulder over there. All those cars of that car dealership are buried almost flush with their doors. If you go off the road and you end up like that in a very, very high snowdrift because the snow is still drifting in these heavy winds, you could have a lethal night. If it's going down that low and people can't get to you because the roads aren't plowed, we are not out the woods yet.

I'm going to give it back to you, Brianna Keilar. I know there's a lot of other news happening as well outside of these states that have been so affected.

KEILAR: That's right, Ashleigh. Thank you so much. We will be checking back in with you.

But, let's bring in CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

So Chad, right now most of the blizzard warnings have been canceled or they're going to expire soon. Is this over? Are we finished with this?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: We're finished with the storm itself. There's still snow out in Cape Cod and up into Massachusetts, and also at Nova Scotia and the Atlantic Canada and the Maritimes.

But other than that, this isn't going to go away for weeks. This snow will freeze and thaw and freeze and thaw. The sun will come out, make you snow blind at times. You need to get out there at times and get fresh washer fluid in the car as well because that stuff is going to fly in your face from the cars in front of you for just weeks on end. But you have to make sure that you get the "cold OK" stuff. Don't get the stuff that's going to freeze at 20. You got to make sure it doesn't freeze till maybe zero degrees out there.

Yonkers had 23 inches of snow. It is still there. It's not melting anytime soon. Even during the day, temperatures are going to make a run out it, 40. But at night, because there's so much snow on the ground, it kind like an instantly blanket, will make the temperatures go down to 10 easy.

Look at Milford, Connecticut, 30 inches of snow. So, that may not go away until March. And when you plow it in big piles, I lived in Buffalo a long time, you can still sled in July because the piles they make at the shopping centers are still there all the way to the middle of summer.

Up in New York, there is a winter there, 30.9. Stone Brook, Islip, and Paramus, New Jersey, at 14. Yes, it's gone. The snow is finally moving away. Still a little bit of snow there (INAUDIBLE) and also here in the parts of the Cape. But, other than that, we are done -- Brianna.

KEILAR: And I'm wondering when it gets really cold tonight, are we going -- obviously the snow will remain as snow but it's going to completely melt and we're going to see that snow that it kind of melts like snow but you walk on it and it cracks when you step on it. And that's what we are going to be dealing with the next few days, right?

MYERS: Sure. And then, the sun will melt it some during the day, right. And then, it's going make a puddle. But then, it obviously is going down to 10 or something like that at night. That puddle's going to freeze. So what wasn't a puddle there on Monday will now be an ice chunk on Tuesday because it was a freeze thaw cycle. That's going to go on for weeks.

KEILAR: All right, Chad Myers, you will be watching this for a few days.

MYERS: I will.

KEILAR: OK. Thank you for that.

Meanwhile, the manhunt for a suspected cop killer is focused right now in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles. That's where CNN's Casey Wian is. He's in L.A. with the latest on the search -- Casey.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, this manhunt has expanded basically from the U.S./Mexico border just south of San Diego, to Las Vegas. As you mentioned, there's an active manhunt going on in the community of Big Bear, but there's also investigations going on in other places all over southern California.

CNN has obtained exclusively this surveillance video from the alley of a business, an auto parts store in National City, which is just south of San Diego. This surveillance video was taken on Monday morning, 9:00 in the morning, and it shows Christopher Dorner and his pickup truck in the alley behind this business, throwing items into a dumpster behind the business. Here's what the business's owner had to say about what happened on Monday.


MAJID YAHAI, OWNER, PLATIUM AUTO SPORTS: When I came in, opened the shop, and business as usual, one of the employees went to throw the trash. After he came back, he came back with a clip like a magazine full of bullets, a belt, a military belt and a helmet. And he brought it to me and say where did you find it? He said, I found it in the back of the dumpster.


CARROLL: Now, what's really chilling about this situation is that that business owner's business is right across the street from a police station. He walked across the street, reported what he had found. Really ironic to know a man who has professed to have a vendetta against police was just across the street from a police station hours after a double homicide -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Casey Wian in L.A.

Thanks, Casey.

And Wolf Blitzer is in the SITUATION ROOM right after a quick break.


BLITZER: President Obama is about to return to one of the biggest stages a president gets. He gives his state of the union address on Tuesday. It's a new chance to sell Congress and the nation on his goals for a second term. Every word, every gesture, will be analyzed. But of course he knows the drill. He's done this before. Let's take a closer look at some memorable moments from his last three addresses.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have finished a difficult year. We have come through a difficult decade. A new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don't quit. I don't quit.

We will move forward together or not at all. For the challenges we face are bigger than a party, bigger than politics.

With or without this congress, I will keep taking actions that help the economy grow. But I can do a whole lot more with your help. Because when we act together, there's nothing the United States of America can't achieve.



BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent Dan Lothian.

Dan, how might the tone of the president's speech this time be different, shall we say, than four years ago?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president will go into this state of the union with a more realistic view of the way Washington works. Remember, four years ago, the president talked a lot about breaking the gridlock here in Washington, of Republicans and Democrats working together. But many Americans believe that Washington is more divided than ever and the president acknowledged some of that speaking to fellow Democrats earlier this week, where he said that things have been frustrating, it won't always be smooth. The president is even acknowledging that some Democrats at times may even be, quote, "mad at him," but he still believes, and this is the tone we will hear, that he can get things done. And there's this optimism that despite all these challenges he can make significant progress other the next four years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What about the specific themes? He spoke in generally much more grandiose outlines in his inaugural address. I assume the president will highlight some speck issues in his state of the union address.

LOTHIAN: He will, Wolf. He'll drill down. We'll hear him talk about the fiscal challenges. But in particular, aides say that the president will spend quite a bit of time talking about jobs and job creation. As you know, there's been a lot of criticism from Republicans that despite the four years that the president tried to create more jobs, unemployment is still high at 7.9 percent so the president will talk about what he hopes to accomplish in terms of helping small businesses in order to create jobs.

You'll hear him also touch on education. Something that the president believes is the foundation for economic success in the future, laying out some specifics there. But perhaps some of the biggest themes that the president will touch on, combating gun violence and also immigration reform. Those are things that the president has said that he will highlight during his state of the union. We've heard over the last couple of weeks the president putting some flesh on the bones. But, we expect more specifics on those two issues. Two things that the president says are top priorities in his second term.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian, watching all of this unfold over at the White House.

Dan, thanks.

The state of the union is a huge test of a president's communication skills. But let's face it, it's also the words, the hard work of speechwriters that potentially could make a lot of difference.

Take a look at the way some past presidents pulled it off. Some of them better than others.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If anyone expects just a proud recitation of the accomplishments of my administration, I say let's leave that to history. We're not finished yet.

GEORGE H. W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If anyone tells you that America's best days are behind her, they're looking the wrong way.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The era of big government is over. But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Once again, we are called to defend the safety of our people. And the hopes of all mankind, and we accept this responsibility.


BLITZER: With us now, former presidential speechwriters and both CNN contributors, David Frum and Paul Begala.

Guy, Thanks very much.

How difficult is the state of the union, David I will start with you, leading off the second term?

DAVID FRUM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Wolf, it is especially challenging because of the second term jinx. Everybody will be conscious that things can go very wrong in the second term. It's difficult think to write anyway. This is written differently from any other speeches. It's written in modules, pieces that are then pulled together. And so, the unity of thought comes at the end, not at the beginning.

BLITZER: You agree with that?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. Although, the fifth year of a president's term, the first year of a second term, rather, that's the best year. It's likely - I mean, the very first year most presidents get a lot --

BLITZER: Right after the re-election?

BEGALA: He's been re-elected. There's a great scene in "Lincoln" where Daniel Day-Lewis playing president Lincoln says, I am the president of the United States, clothed in immense power.

FRUM: And he finds out the truth.

BEGALA: Right, but he has to finagle, in the case of Lincoln, almost bribe. This president is going to be at the height of his power, and I think at the height of his skill. He knows what he's doing. He's comfortable in the room. I can't wait. I think it's going to be a terrific opportunity.

He has got have to one of two ways. President Clinton in his first year of his second term had specific but achievable things. Children's health initiative. He did. Balancing the budget, which he did. Chemical weapons treaty which the senate did ratify that year.

President Bush, through much deeper. He got said a lot of things, but mostly said, let's fundamentally challenge Social Security. He was unable to get that. So, this president in the inaugural address certainly was more in the Bush model. This will upset, my friends in the White House. But, he was throwing very, very deep in the inaugural.

FRUM: This president is engaged in some very canny tactics. He is launching a lot of ideas, especially on guns, for example, where he must know he probably can't get it.

BLITZER: Can get something, not necessarily everything.

FRUM: Probably very little through Congress.

BLITZER: Background checks? FRUM: I would doubt it. I think what he think he's doing is he thinks it doesn't matter because what I'm doing is elbowing my opponents to the marches. They may be able to win here in Congress. I will win on TV because the American people are for these things even if Congress is not. And the more Congress opposes me, the more marginal they look. And you can see, I think something similar going on with immigration and other initiatives where he is much trying to discredit opponents as to advance an idea.

BLITZER: Because in the second term, he doesn't have to worry about getting re-elected. He's looking at his historic legacy, right?

BEGALA: Yes, and he can play a longer game. If one day, America adopts a Social Security system along the way President Bush proposed, they'll look back and say Bush started this, right? If we, I think they are very unlikely to get the gun safety laws the president's asking for. But this will build toward that. I don't even think it's simply political. I think he's playing a long game for history and for policy.

FRUM: Here's the most shocking thing. The word that was missing from his inaugural is jobs. This is the biggest problem in the country. We have a new survey from Rutgers that shows one in three American households was touched by job loss in the past four years. It remains true that almost 13 million people are without work now. Be even more if we counted those who have given up looking. What is the message for them.

BLITZER: "The Washington Post" says this state of the union address of the president Tuesday night is the most important of his entire presidency. Do you buy that?

BEGALA: So far, yes. I mean, obviously, his first address to a joint session right after he was first elected is not technically a state of the union address. But yes, he has been ratified. He has been given a mandate. And yet the Republicans still control the House of Representatives. And he has to deal with it. This is again, President Clinton said to them, they sent me back and they sent you back. They put us all in the same boat. They told us to row.

Now, here's the direction I want to go in. So, he has to I think understand their legitimacy. You know, Democrats may not like it but the Republican legitimately run the House of the Representatives. The Democrats are legitimately run the Senate and the White House. They have to find a way to row together.

BLITZER: Easier said than done.

BEGALA: And the president has to lead that.

FRUM: But I think he is not going to try to lead in the way of -- he's not going to really expect cooperation. He is being tactical. He's trying to elbow opponents aside. He's trying to -- he's in a much stronger place than President Clinton was after 1996. He has a bigger margin. He has the Senate, which president Clinton did not have. He is going to try to do this with muscle and without cooperation.

BLITZER: We'll be watching senator Marco Rubio deliver the Republican response to the president as well.

BEGALA: And the only criticism I've heard of senator Rubio is he flying too high too soon? Well, that's a high class problem. He's an enormous talent. Maybe the Republicans are rushing him forward too fast. But they've got to do something. He's as good as they've got.

Again, I think what he ought to do is just listen to it honestly. Not prepare a speech. Bring a notepad and just listen to it honestly and get feedback.

FRUM: That's not going to happen.

BEGALA: Why not though. You're going to do that. You're not going to have prepared news coverage.

BLITZER: The president of the United States speech is going to be very well prepared, teleprompter, every word.

BEGALA: Rubio's is a tiny response to a major address.

FRUM: Rubio gave the best speech at the 2012 Republican convention and he didn't wing it. Politicians, this whole attack on teleprompter, I think is the silliest thing. If you're doing anything important, you prepare and you practice. If you are giving a state of the union, you prepare and you practice. And if you're responding to the state of the union, you prepare and you practice.

BEGALA: Come on, he's a speechwriter, speaking.

FRUM: You're a speechwriter too.

BEGALA: I know. Maybe I should revise and extend my remarks.

BLITZER: Paul Begala, thanks very much. David Frum.

We'll all be watching Tuesday night. Our special coverage begins right after the SITUATION ROOM, 7:0 p.m. eastern.

The men and women who put their lives on the line for the United States are now seeing their paychecks under attack. We're going to show you what the troops are facing.


BLITZER: The game of political poker is under way here in Washington with the nation's troops caught in the middle. Defense secretary Leon Panetta is sounding a dire warning about limiting military pay increases which effectively decreases troop's salaries.

Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr's got the details.

Barbara, what's going on? BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, here in Washington, nothing can be more sensitive than pay for America's armed forces, but the troops are looking at being caught right in the middle of it all.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir.

STARR (voice-over): The troops usually are happy to see defense secretary Panetta, smiles and handshakes all around. But days before he leaves office, Panetta has bad news. He's proposing less money in their paycheck next year.

Panetta, a savvy Washington operative in budget politics, is leaving it to Congress to figure out how not to cut pay and keep thousands of defense employees on the job.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will furlough as many as 800,000 DOD civilians around the country for up to 22 days. They could face a 20 percent cut in their salary. Don't think that's going to impact on our economy?

STARR: But, the recommendation to slow the military pay raise will put troops in the middle of that political fight between Congress and the president over spending.

REP. BUCK MCKEON (R), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: He should be looking out for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, that he senses into harm's way.

STARR: Panetta is proposing just a one percent increase in troop pay for 2014. According to internal Pentagon calculations, it should have been at least 1.7 percent, which was the increase this year. It may not be a huge deduction, but it's badly needed cash for strapped military families.

For junior enlisted service member with two years in uniform, the basic pay is about $18,000 a year. Meaning about $130 less pay than planned. Money many families need for gas and groceries.

One official familiar with the plan says quote, "it is a pay cut, no matter how it's explained." Panetta in his last major speech did not hold back his concern about Congress failing to reach a deal on spending.

PANETTA: This is not a game. This is reality. These steps would seriously damage the fragile American economy and they would degrade our ability to respond to crisis precisely at a time of rising instability across the globe.

STARR: The military warns the army, Navy and air force will all see cuts in training and readiness.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STARR: Now, when it comes to the military paycheck, what the Pentagon is saying is this latest problem with military pay is because Congress, they say, is still funding a number of old, outdated, unneeded weapons. That the Pentagon doesn't even want in the inventory anymore. And if that doesn't get fixed, you have to cut the pay, otherwise, another 10,000 troops might have to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Big, big story over there. We'll watch it together with you.

Barbara, thanks very much. Lots at stake for the U.S. military.

The former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf sits down with me only a few weeks before returning back to Pakistan where he's now a wanted man.


BLITZER: I had a feeling of dread when I recently sat down with former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf here in Washington. The conversation was eerily similar to one I had with former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto five years ago shortly before she was assassinated.


BLITZER (voice-over): The former Pakistani president, once a close ally of the United States, now is a wanted man in his homeland. But he tells me he's ready to risk imprisonment and even his life to return to the country he fled nearly four years ago.

(On camera): Are you going back to Pakistan?



MUSHARRAF: Because I think Pakistan needs me. Because I think one can contribute towards -- I can contribute towards stabilizing the problems in Pakistan.

BLITZER (voice-over): Musharraf became president in June 2001 just before 9/11. He allied himself with President George W. Bush in the war against terror. But the support of the U.S. couldn't protect him from growing opposition at home. He resigned in 2008, facing the threat of impeachment. He refused to answer charges leveled against him and fled to London.

(On camera): There's a warrant out for your arrest if you come back to Pakistan.

MUSHARRAF: The arrest warrant is not because I have been found guilty of anything. The arrest warrant is because I haven't appeared in court. I didn't go because I know that there was judicial -- there could have been judicial activity there -- activism and polarization of cases against me and then there was a threat, also. Now that I've seen what is happening in Pakistan, I believe I have to take the risk to go back and in that I have to fight the cases in the courts.

BLITZER (voice-over): There were all sorts of charges pending against the nearly 70-year-old Musharraf, including illegally detaining judges and even their families. The crackdown led to huge protest by lawyers who clashed with police. It was the first organized resistance against emergency rule imposed by Musharraf before he fell from power.

(On camera): In my opinion, as someone who has studied Pakistan, has been to Pakistan, the case scenario, if you go back, you'll be arrested. The worst case scenario is that threat will materialize and someone will kill you.

How worried are you about that?

MUSHARRAF: Well, both -- you are correct on both counts. But if I get arrested, that doesn't mean that I'll be remaining in jail for the rest of my life. Because there are cases against me are all trumped up and politicized cases. In legal terms, they have no feet to stand by so therefore I am going to fight them in the courts and I'm reasonably sure that we'll win the cases because there are no cases actually against me.

BLITZER: Do you want to go to jail in Pakistan? Is that -- is it worth it to go back, to go -- to wind up and spend at least a few years in a prison?

MUSHARRAF: I don't think -- I don't think that will happen. I would -- I don't think so.

BLITZER: But the other option is even worse. They will kill you. Someone will kill you in Pakistan. And you must be scared to go back. You haven't been back in there in, what, three or four years?

MUSHARRAF: Again, we are taking a doomsday scenario. We are taking the worst. I don't think this worst will happen. Now as far as somebody trying to kill me, yes, indeed, I have to take security measures, which I will. And although I can say that there isn't 100 percent guarantee of security, but we'll try to maximum security I'll take and I hope that such an extreme outcome will not take place.

BLITZER (voice-over): I reminded Musharraf that I had an eerily similar conversation with former Prime Minister Benazir Bhuto in 2007 in Washington before she returned to Pakistan after nine years in self-imposed exile. She was assassinated, just like her father before her. She told me she knew her life was on the line.


BLITZER: Your family has a history, unfortunately a tragic history, of assassination.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: I know the past has been tragic, but I'm an optimist by nature. I put my faith in the people of Pakistan. I put my faith in God. I feel that what I am doing is for a good cause, for a right cause to save Pakistan from extremists and militants, and to build regional security. I know the dangers are there, but I'm prepared to take those risks.


BLITZER: Before Bhutto left the United States, she forwarded a letter to me and asked that I keep it confidential.

(On camera): She said, don't report this, unless something happens to me. And the day she was assassinated, I went on CNN and I read the note that she left behind. I'm going to read it to you right now.

"Nothing will -- God willing -- happen. Just wanted you to know if it does, in addition to the names in my letter to Musharraf of October 16th, I would hold Musharraf responsible. I have been made to feel insecure by his minions. And there is no way what is happening in terms of stopping me from taking private cars or using tinted windows or giving jammers or police mobiles to cover all sides could happen without it."

You're familiar with that note that she left behind, blaming you, in effect, for her assassination. And I'd like you to respond to that. Because you're about to do what she did.

MUSHARRAF: Well, yes. But I'm not going to blame anyone. I think this is very unfair to blame the president of a country who provide security for her, but however I know that total security was provided to her.

BLITZER: So you feel confident that you gave her the security she needed?

MUSHARRAF: Yes. BLITZER: And you were the president?


BLITZER: And as she said you could have ordered more security. And you're saying that's not possible?

MUSHARRAF: Again, no, obviously, I wasn't -- I wasn't as sort of a president who was without any influence and without any word, like some presidents in the past. I had my standing, obviously.

BLITZER: Of course.

MUSHARRAF: But officially, legally, constitutionally, the president has no authority running the government. It's the prime minister who runs the government with his ministers and the interior minister.

BLITZER: What guarantee do you have you will have adequate security, from the government of Pakistan if you go back to run for election? MUSHARRAF: They are supposed to provide a certain blue book that they call, and where these things are laid down. They have to provide security to an ex-president or ex-prime minister. But, of course, as I said, the quality of their security may be wanting. One doesn't expect top-rate security as in developed countries.


BLITZER: Musharraf says he will fly back to Pakistan in March.

It was the last time she spoke to her daughter alive. Up next, you're going to see how that deadly Colorado movie theater massacre dramatically changed one mother's life.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She said, "I can't wait for you to get here, I need my momma." I wrote back that "I need my baby girl." And that was the last thing we said to one another.



BLITZER: It's the last text her daughter sent to her before being gunned down in that horrific Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre. Quoting now, "Get some sleep, mom. I'm really excited for you to come visit. Need my mama."

Those words have turned one gun-owning mother into a strong gun control activist. Lisa Sylvester's here in THE SITUATION ROOM with details of this heart-wrenching story.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, there are a lot of different voices in this gun debate that we will be hearing from. But this is the story of one mother. She's not opposed to people owning guns. In fact, she grew up with guns. But she knows what gun violence can do to forever devastate a family.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): Sandy Phillips of San Antonio, Texas was 10 years old when she received her first gun as a present from parents who were avid hunters.

PHILLIPS: So, I have a lot of respect for weapons. I also have a lot of respect for life. And sometimes, those two do not go well together.

SYLVESTER: July 20th of last year, her 24-year-old daughter, Jessica Dowey (ph), died, shot twice in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.

PHILLIPS: I got a phone call from the young man that was with her, Brent, telling me that there had been a random shooting and I asked him if he was OK and he said, I think I've been shot twice. I said, where's Jesse? And he said, I'm sorry. And at that point, I guess, I was screaming, from what my husband has told me.

And I was screaming, please tell me she's not dead. And then my daughter was also taken out of the theater by two policemen that came across her body and she was still breathing. She was dying, but she was still breathing. And they picked her up and put her in the back of a cruiser with an Officer Blue who held her as she was dying.

SYLVESTER: The shooting happened on a Friday. Phillips was scheduled to visit her daughter the following Tuesday. Jessica had just moved to Aurora. Right before the movie started, Jessica sent her mom these text messages that she shares with us.

PHILLIPS: The last thing she said to me was, I need my momma. She texted that at the theater. She said, I can't wait for you to get here. I need my momma. And I wrote back, I need my baby girl. And that was the last thing we said to one another.

SYLVESTER: Now Sandy Phillips, who is still a gun owner and has been a member of the NRA, has become a strong voice for gun control.

James Holmes allegedly bought I think four guns and thousands of --

PHILLIPS: Six thousand rounds of ammunition on the internet, and yet, you and I have to go through a screening every time we get on a plane. Does that make sense?

SYLVESTER: Phillips wants to see anyone buying a gun undergo a background check and she wants assault weapons to be banned.

There are people who will say, we have a Second Amendment. This is the constitution, United States constitution, and that right is protected in the U.S. constitution.

PHILLIPS: The Second Amendment says that we are entitled to bear arms. It doesn't say what kind of arms, number one. Number two, it was written a long time ago when the only weapon that we had was a musket.

SYLVESTER: Sandy Phillips and Jessica were very close. It was hard for Phillips to let her daughter leave the nest, but she cheered on Jessica on her pursuit as an aspiring sports journalist. It's the little things now that Phillips misses the most.

PHILLIPS: Text messages that came throughout the day. The tweets that she was famous for, little sass, crass, and class, as she put it. She was that feisty, lively, outgoing, loving, funny girl, and I miss everything about her. Everything.


SYLVESTER: Phillips has been working with the Brady campaign to prevent gun violence, and she supports President Obama's gun control proposals. The NRA in a statement on the Obama administration's proposal said, quote, "Throughout its history, the National Rifle Association has led efforts to promote safety and responsible gun ownership. Keeping our children and society safe remains our top priority. The NRA will continue to focus can on keeping our children safe and securing our schools, fixing our broken mental health system, and prosecuting violent criminals to the fullest extent of the law."

But you can just tell in that story the tremendous amount of pain that Sandy Phillips and really the whole family and all the victims have been going through.

BLITZER: Our heart goes out to that family. It's so, so sad. Multiply it by so many cases, and you get an appreciation of what's going on.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And that's what people say. This is just one story, one family. You think about all the other families that have been touched by gun violence through the years, Wolf.

BLITZER: So sad. Lisa, thank you.

A CNN exclusive. We go inside Syria to talk to some of Bashar al Assad regime's most loyal supporters who happen to be Christians.


BLITZER: You have heard a lot about the opposition fighting the embattled Syrian regime. Now, we're taking you into one town armed with strong supporters of that regime. And those supporters are Christians. CNN's Frederik Pleitgen got a rare exclusive look inside.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A checkpoint in the predominantly Christian town, Saidnaya, but this isn't a government outpost. It's manned by a local Christian militia loyal to the Assad regime. None of the men would speak to us on camera, afraid they'll become targets from the opposition.

The militia has several checkpoints throughout the town of Saidnaya, but they also have several hundred men under arms who patrol streets here to make sure that no militants infiltrate this fairly safe area.

Housam Azar organizes the group. Driving through Saidnaya's streets. he tells me he can't imagine Syria without Bashar al-Assad.

"I don't know why, but we love the president very much," he says. "We love him a lot. Sure, there are some mistakes but we love the president a lot."

Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's population. So far, most of them have not joined the uprising against the Assad regime, wary of Islamist militants within the ranks of the opposition. There are 44 churches in Saidnaya. The town is a center of pilgrimage for Christians from around the world.

But standing on a hilltop, Housam points to nearby towns he says have opposition fighters, some of them radical Islamists who have fired mortars at Saidnaya town and even kidnapped people from here. "We will not leave, he says. Syria's our country and Saidnaya is our town. We will not leave even if it's destroyed, if it's bombed every day, and a thousand people die. It's our land, and we will not leave it."

And, so, the Christian militia members man their checkpoints and patrol the streets, fearful the opposition might try to oust them from their homeland, should they prevail.

As the Muslim call to prayer rings over the many church tops of this town where Christians and Muslims live side by side, many here worry, the conflict in Syria might put an abrupt end to a calm that has lasted for generations.

Fred Pleitgen, CNN, Saidnaya, Syria.


BLITZER: To see more of Fred's extraordinary reporting from inside Syria, you can go to

The folks who make the famous board game Monopoly literally have a game changer in the works. Our Jeanne Moos found out what it is.


BLITZER: Here is a look at this week's "Hot Shots." In Wisconsin, artists compete in the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition

In Italy, men and women gather in Venice's main plaza to celebrate carnival.

In Illinois, two newborn calfs enjoy their first snow.

Send in your photos to or through Instagram using the hashtag #cnnireport.

Just about all of us have played Monopoly over the years, but there's now a game changer that is on the way. One of these iconic tokens is going away. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us which one and what is replacing it.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): There's nothing ironic about the end of the iron. No more iron landing on Park Place. No more iron passing go and collecting $200. Makers of Monopoly are sending the iron to jail and replacing it with this.

(on camera): The iron has been replaced by a cat.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's very tragic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She irons a lot.

MOOS: It's the toymaker Hasbro's latest has-been. Among the eight Monopoly tokens, the iron had the least support in an online vote. One guy even mistook it for...


MOOS: Among the replacement choices, the cat got the most votes. But what do you expect with a Facebook face off? The Web is cat crazy. So the cat played the iron off.

Posted one supporter, "No, no, no, no. You keep the ugly, stupid boot and the stupid wheelbarrow, but you get rid of the iron? The awesome, mini, totally functional iron? Screw you, Hasbro."

(on camera): I don't know about the totally functional part. Is that steam?

(voice-over): At least the iron got along with the other tokens, but will the scotty dog coexist with the cat?

This was all a big promotion stunt for Monopoly, who even made the announcement on "The Today Show" with a larger-than-life-sized cat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have it right here on the set. Nice.

MOOS: Hasbro gave the public five choices: guitar, robot, helicopter, ring, cat.

(on camera): But not everyone was content with those five choices. Thus was born hash tag #betterMonopolytokens.

(voice-over): Among the suggestions: Twinkie, Predator drone, AR- 15. Space monkey, IKEA monkey, Chris Christie eating a donut, and naturally, Donald Trump's hair. But instead of running your fingers through that...

(on camera): Would you like to touch the iron?


MOOS (voice-over): Hasbro's using the new versus old token to try and pump up sales of Monopoly, but watch out, kitty. That iron is steamed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: The iron, not very nice.

Remember, you can always follow me and what is going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. You can always tweet me @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show, by the way, @CNNsitroom.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. The news continues next on CNN.