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New Controversy Over Coming Spending Cuts; Kerry: Syrian Rebels Need "More Help"; Jump Starting the Motor City; Titanic to Sail Again

Aired February 27, 2013 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, days before the forced spending cuts kick in, the government is already making cuts, releasing hundreds of immigration detainees.

Is that just a scare tactic or a sign of what's to come?

Jesse Jackson breaking his silence, opening up in a very candid interview with me. That's this hour.

And a century after the Titanic sank, plans to build an exact replica of the luxury liner, but with enough lifeboats for everyone on board.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The clock is ticking toward those forced spending cuts that will rip through the federal government. But one agency has already acted, releasing hundreds of immigration detainees before the cuts actually hit. And that's already created quite an uproar.

CNN national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, has been looking into this development for us.

What are you finding out -- Jim?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, members of Congress are demanding answers from the Obama administration about this week's release of immigration detainees. And when pressed for answers, White House officials said the idea didn't come from them.


ACOSTA (voice-over): To prepare for those looming forced budget cuts, federal immigration authorities say they've released what they're describing as several hundred detainees who are in the process of being removed from the country. One of those detainees, 19-year- old Mexican immigrant, Miguel Hernandez, told CNN he was just sent on his way without any directions and without any monitoring. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So they let you free and you still don't know what to do now?

MIGUEL HERNANDEZ, RELEASED IMMIGRATION DETAINEE: Yes, I don't know what to do. I'm going to just wait and -- just wait for the mail and see what it is.

ACOSTA: The release is just the latest sign of the unintended consequences to come from the forced spending cuts that start kicking in as late as 11:59 p.m. Eastern time Friday night.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill feel blindsided.

REP. BOB GOODLATTE (R), VIRGINIA: It's a very deliberate effort on the part of many departments to try to pick high profile ways to suggest that somehow, instead of making the tough decisions about cutting spending, that they should force tax increases again on the American people.

ACOSTA: When asked whether the administration was notified ahead of time about the release, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney began reading from a prepared statement.

(on camera): Are you confident that not one of these detainees is a threat to his or her community?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This was a decision made by career officials at ICE without any input by the White House.

ACOSTA: But Homeland Security secretary, Janet Napolitano, did drop a major hint of the release when she stopped by the White House on Monday.

JANET NAPOLITANO, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: But there's only so much I can do. You know, I'm supposed to have 34,000 detention beds for immigration. I -- how do I pay for those?

ACOSTA: Immigration authorities stressed that the detainees are what that they consider low risk and noncriminal and that many, though not all of them, are being monitored.

(on camera): Is it possible that some of them might not be brought back in?

CARNEY: Well, yes, I would refer you to ICE. I don't think this is a conversation that I can help you with.

ACOSTA: An official with Immigration & Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, who asked not to be named, said some of the detainees will be on intensive supervision, such as ankle GPS monitors, while others will be on less intensive supervision, such as weekly check-ins at an ICE office.

As for Miguel Hernandez, he says he doesn't have any felonies on his record and that he's been in the U.S. since he was seven, so he hopes to stay. For him, what Washington calls sequestration may be his salvation.

HERNANDEZ: I would like to like make a life here.


ACOSTA: A government official tells CNN that immigration authorities are aware at that timing of this release looks bad. But the release also runs counter to the conventional wisdom has been building here in Washington that perhaps the effects of these cuts may not be felt right away. But the truth of the matter is, Wolf, that nobody really knows what the impacts of these cuts will be in the near future. The only thing that seems to be certain at this point is that the cuts are coming -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's true, indeed.

Jim Acosta at the White House.

Thank you.

So with the cuts looming, President Obama had a close encounter with Congressional leaders at today's unveiling of the Rosa Parks statue up on Capitol Hill. They will meet for real on Friday -- not tomorrow, but on Friday. Some are calling it D-Day for the spending cuts.

Let's discuss what's going on with our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin; our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; and our chief Washington correspondent, Jake Tapper.

We've got a lot of chiefs -- a lot of chiefs here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: All right, what's going on?

Why Friday -- Jessica?

I mean that's -- the deadline is Friday night.

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know. It seems very late, but part of the thinking for Democrats is that tomorrow, the Senate will take up and vote on a bill to avoid these spending cuts. Republicans are expected to filibuster it. And then the next day, the president can go in and say to the Republicans, hey, guys, look, do you Republicans want to be accused of blocking the one measure that could avoid these forced spending cuts or do you want to cut a deal just hours before they'll go into effect, sort of a high noon opportunity to say let's get something done?

Unlikely to work, but maybe the one last chance.

BLITZER: And, Gloria, nobody is looking good -- BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) behind this --

BLITZER: Nobody is looking good --

BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) you want to --


BLITZER: No -- nobody is looking good in this.


BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: The new ABC News/"Washington Post"

Poll, handling of the federal government, only 43 percent approve of the way the president is dealing with it, 52 percent disapprove. The GOP and Congress, much worse, 26 percent approve, 67 percent disapprove. No winners -- real winners here.

BORGER: No, there aren't. I mean if you look at those numbers, what the White House is saying is that the public is more with the White House than they are with --

BLITZER: Not by much, though.

BORGER: Not by much -- and that they are with the Republicans. And if you look at the president's numbers on how he's handling the economy, he's down five points.

So people -- it's affecting the president in one way or another, because, at some point, if these cuts go into effect -- and, again, there's been a lot of hyperbole here about what's going to happen at the stroke of midnight. Is it -- is the White House being a little Chicken Little here or is it going to -- but it's not going to help any of these people --

YELLIN: A pox on both their houses.

BORGER: -- in the eyes of the public. Exactly.


BLITZER: Yes, they understand that at the White House, and certainly up on Capitol Hill.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I think that's true. And one of the things, just to follow up on what Jessica said about the Democratic bill that's going to be introduced in the Senate is it contains a tax increase, the Buffett Rule, meaning if you make more than a million dollars, at least 30 percent of your income has to go to taxes --

BLITZER: Even if some of the income was from investment stocks, whatever? TAPPER: Exactly. So one of the talking points you'll likely hear is look what the Republicans -- well, they support all these spending cuts because they're trying to protect millionaires. That's the idea. That's the talking point.

BORGER: The same old.

TAPPER: Right. You'll -- an argument you've heard for a long, long time from this president.

In addition on Friday, as these spending cuts start to take effect, the White House, I'm surmising, is hoping that that will put added pressure on the Republicans and make them more willing to compromise.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Chris Christie for a moment, the very popular governor --


BLITZER: -- of New Jersey. He's now accepting the Obamacare, the Medicaid program, like a whole bunch of other governors, including several other Republican governors. He wasn't invited to the CPAC, the conservative political action conference that's about to take place here in Washington. And he put out a statement saying, it's not like I'm lacking for invitations to speak around the country."


BLITZER: He's got a good sense of humor.

Is this going to help him or hurt him?

BORGER: Humility. It's the classic Christie humility.

BLITZER: Assuming he wants a nationwide --

BORGER: Well, I --

BLITZER: -- venture one of these days.

BORGER: Personally -- and I know I'm going to get lots of e- mails about this -- I think whom they choose to speak at CPAC is widely overrated. I mean if you look at results of their straw polls, they haven't exactly chosen a lot of successful presidential candidates over the years. In 2006, George Allen won their straw poll, for example. And I could -- I could go on and on.

So this really tells you a lot about what's going on inside the Republican Party. It tells you a little bit less about Chris Christie, who's got a 74 percent approval rating.

YELLIN: (INAUDIBLE) his brand is iconoclast.

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: I mean that's part of who he is.

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: He bucks the trend of the party. So if he's a little bit of an outlier, that's OK for him.

TAPPER: And Medicaid is big and I -- I say -- BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: -- as a Philadelphian, I'm right -- from right across the river there -- Medicaid is big in New Jersey. And that is a state that, when it comes to how many tax dollars they send to Washington versus how many they get back, they don't have a very good return on their investment. So I think that this is -- this is easily sold, this Medicaid move --


TAPPER: -- to New Jerseyans.

YELLIN: He's got like 300,000 people with this. I mean there is the reality --

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: -- that health care costs a lot.

BLITZER: Except he's doing --

BORGER: And (INAUDIBLE) problem.

BLITZER: -- what's the right thing for the people of New Jersey.

BORGER: Well, but -- but the conservatives' problem with him was the disaster relief issue, was that there he came out defending his state, saying we need this Sandy relief money and he criticized Republicans in Congress. And this is what conservatives are upset about.


BLITZER: And they also don't like the fact that he hugged the president a week before the election --

YELLIN: There was that.


BLITZER: -- when he was facing his re-election.



BLITZER: But, quickly, let's, Jessica, tell us what's going on. The suggestion that this organization, an offshoot of the Obama for president campaign, now is telling some of its fat cat rich people, if you either give us a half a million dollars or raise a half a million dollars, you will be guaranteed four meetings with the president of the United States. That was reported in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post."

YELLIN: So this is definitely unseemly. It is not illegal. And I would expect that they are going to back off of it.

Now, what happened is that this organization, OFA, which is this outside group that helps push the president's message.

BLITZER: Organizing for America?

BORGER: Right.

YELLIN: Organizing for Action Now and it's had three different names -- is now -- they sent out a letter to some donors saying give us half a million dollars and we'll make sure that you get four meetings with the president.

Now, this is the White House, remember, that set up some new ethics rules, promised to ban lobbyists from the White House, be the most transparent in history. So this really runs counter to the president's brand as the most ethical politician in business.

Again, it's not illegal to do that. Now that this has come out in full display, I am told by sources that this will not happen. The most the president will do now is possibly go to some group meetings with some donors. Don't expect anything one-on-one.

BLITZER: Usually, these are things left unsaid normally. They don't specifically say you can buy access to the president.

BORGER: Remember Bill Clinton's coffees?


BORGER: Remember the Clinton coffees in the White House?

BLITZER: The coffees, the Lincoln Bedroom. We remember all of that.

BORGER: Yes, we remember all that. And this becomes more of a problem for this president because he was the one who came into office saying, I'm going to be completely different, I can't have lobbyists work for me, we are going to be untouched, purer than anybody else. And so while he's not raising the money, he -- people are getting a reward for giving the money.

TAPPER: And that's the problem. It's not that what he's doing is any different than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, etc.

BORGER: Right.

TAPPER: It's that the Barack Obama of 2013 is not the Barack Obama of 2007.


TAPPER: And if you haven't realized that --



TAPPER: And if you haven't realized that by now, then, you know, I'm sorry to shatter that dream.

BLITZER: All right.

YELLIN: He's not going to sleep tonight.

BORGER: We'll leave on that dream.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front.


BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

You're going to get a haircut, right?

TAPPER: I have to go get a haircut.

BLITZER: You're going to get a haircut.

TAPPER: It's very long.


BLITZER: I know you were supposed to get a haircut.


TAPPER: I'm thinking about that look you have right now.

YELLIN: Oh, really?

TAPPER: That blond --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That -- that would be (INAUDIBLE) --

TAPPER: -- with a Wolf Blitzer beard.


TAPPER: The combo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's right. That's right.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) a beard. Maybe something could happen.

ACOSTA: I couldn't do it.

BLITZER: Yes. It doesn't work.

YELLIN: We can't.

TAPPER: No, it's patchy.


All right, guys.

Thanks very much.

Up next, the secretary of State, John Kerry, says Syria's rebels need more help, but how can the United States make sure that help winds up in the right hands?

And also coming up, a deadly great white shark attack on a swimmer just off a pretty popular beach.


BLITZER: Bloody fighting rages on in Syria. The secretary of state, John Kerry, says the rebels need, quote, "more help." And United States may, repeat, may be ready to follow through with what is being described as non-lethal military equipment. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is traveling with the secretary. She's joining us now from Rome. What's the latest, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this really is John Kerry's first major diplomatic test, a meeting with the Syrian opposition here in Rome as they're clamoring for more help.


DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Secretary of state, John Kerry, has vowed not to leave the Syrian opposition dangling in the wind. And Thursday, at an international meeting in Rome, he'll had the chance to make good on that promise.

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: We want their advice on how we can accelerate the prospects of a political solution.

DOUGHERTY: Kerry is scheduled to meet with the head of the Syrian opposition coalition. On the eve of the talks, Kerry said the U.S. wants a political solution but to achieve that, it's time to change Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad's calculation.

KERRY: He needs to know that he can't shoot his way out of this. And so, we need to convince him of that. And I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that.

DOUGHERTY: The opposition almost boycotted the meeting. They want the west to give them military weapons. The Obama administration won't go that far. JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are constantly reviewing the nature of the assistance we provide to both the Syrian people in the form of humanitarian assistance and to the Syrian opposition in the form of non-lethal assistance.

DOUGHERTY: Kerry has been promising new steps.

KERRY: This moment is right for us to be considering what more we can do.

DOUGHERTY: According to administration officials, the White House is considering providing strategic military training and possibly lifting restrictions on military equipment like body armor and flak jackets that could help opposition fighters in combat.


DOUGHERTY (on-camera): And Kerry also says that the U.S. wants to help the Syrian opposition provide basic services to the Syrian people. He says that extremist groups already are doing that and they're luring vulnerable Syrians toward extremism -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jill Dougherty traveling with the secretary in Rome. Thanks very much, Jill, for that report. Safe travels.

Syria's opposition is certainly a mixed bag. Very different groups, very ideologies. The goals, at least for some of these groups, pretty different as well. Let's bring in our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon. She's joining us now from London. Arwa, you've been covering the struggle in Syria since day one.

As far as the rebels are concerned, if the U.S. were to provide them with arms, the key question is this, how do we know they would wind up in the right hands and wouldn't be used for nasty purposes, shall we say?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's really been the issue since the onset that the U.S. and some of its other allies have been struggling with, how do they, in fact, ensure that these weapons are getting into the more mainstream moderate elements of the rebel fighting force, the free Syrian army, and the reality is that in the last year, especially in the last few months, the more extremist elements of the FSA have, in fact, been gaining power.

The FSA, in of itself, does are remain fairly fractured. Some groups have been trying to organize themselves, realizing that they need to have an organizational structure in place that is going to be able to adequately deal with weapons, distribution with the distribution of any sort of aid that is coming in because they know that America and other nations want to be able to ensure that these weapons, these aid is not reaching the more extremist elements like, for example, the al-Nusra front which, yes, does have ties to al Qaeda. And in fact, amongst its field commanders, there are a fair number of Syrian veterans of the war in Iraq who, a few years ago, were members of al Qaeda and Iraq and were fighting U.S. forces. The issue, though, that Jill touched upon in her report as swell is that the longer this drags on, the longer we have a scenario where there isn't aid flowing in, the more that provides an opportunity for group like the Nusra front to step in.

Right now, they are the most credible, most powerful rebel fighting force. And in fact, when it comes to providing those basic services to the people, most people trust them more than they do other groups because of their hard-lined ideology that is going to ensure that they're not going to steal or plunder. But the bottom line is, Wolf, that this aid that is being talked about, it's not really going to be a significant game-changer when it comes to the dynamics of the battlefield in Syria.

BLITZER: From Syria, let's go to Iraq for a few moments, Arwa. I know you just came back. You spent, what, about a month in Iraq preparing for some reports to be released. Next month, the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion, the removal of Saddam Hussein. I was in Kuwait getting ready for that. You were there as well, among the first reporters into Baghdad.

I'm very worried about what's going on in Iraq right now. The regime of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki since all U.S. troops are out of Iraq seems to be getting closer and closer towards Iran right now, letting weapons go from Iran through Iraq to Syria. There's all sorts of tension between the Shiite government and the Sunnis, the Kurds in the north. They basically want their own little independent enclave. How bad is the situation?

DAMON: It's devastating, Wolf. It is incredibly depressing when one looks at all that has been sacrificed in Iraq over the last 10 years. And as you were saying, I've been going there regularly.

And I can say that during this last trip, even the Iraqis who used to be hopeful throughout all of it, throughout the worst of the violence are now telling me that they have lost hope, that they are ready to turn their back on their country at this point because of all of the various factors and realities that you just mentioned there.

We now have a nation that effectively looks more towards Iran than it does towards the west. We have a nation that is allowing weapons to cross its border, turning a blind eye, effectively to the weapons moving from Iran into the Syrian battlefield. The sectarian tensions in Iraq are threatening to boil over. The Iraqi prime minister is increasingly being compared to a Shia version of Saddam Hussein.

You have government that in its essence, that in its very formation, is so fundamentally fraud, built upon blocks that have nothing to do with nationalism or wanting to better the nation but rather blocks that are based in a sectarian nature that continue to prevent the country from really being able to move forward. Iraq has, in fact, managed to significantly increase its oil production, its oil revenue, but none of that is cycling back into the population. Things like basic services, power. It's still only being provided for around two to six hours a day.

And the Iraqi population, Wolf, having been through everything that they went through, having survived the violence, now feel as if they've emerged from this era of fierce death and destruction, but they look around themselves and they don't really see a nation that they can truly recognize.

Many of them say that they feel lost within their own country. So, Iraq's future is most certainly not stable or secure at this moment, and right now, we're also hearing from the prime minister himself, from other senior members within the Iraqi government that they're incredibly concerned about what is going to happen to Iraq should the Assad regime fall. They're very worried about violence significantly spilling over there.

They're also very worried, and this is a very realistic likelihood that the sectarian violence there could erupt once more -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to be talking a lot about this in the coming days. Arwa, you and me and a lot of other experts, this is a heartbreaking story. Ten years ago, there was such great expectation.

The U.S. went in with hundreds of thousands of troops, lost 4,500 U.S. men and women, tens of thousands came home severely crippled or injured or burned with post-traumatic stress disorder, a trillion dollars at least, in U.S. taxpayer money was spent and what emerges from all of this, obviously, is a disaster unfolding right now.

We're going to have a lot more on this story in Iraq. We haven't really paid a whole lot of attention to it since the U.S. pulled out all of its military forces, but it's a real disaster unfolding right, and Arwa will be joining us. Thanks very much, Arwa, for that report.

Coming up, it's the "Titanic" as you've never seen it before. Just ahead, you're going to find out how you might be able to get your own personal voyage back in time. A very different story right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A huge day on Wall Street today. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Tell our viewers what happened?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we always like a bit of good news. And the Dow rallied to a five-year high today, closing up about 175 points on the heels of more upbeat housing data and a second day of hopeful testimony from the Federal Reserve chairman.

Stocks, overall, have been pulling back a bit lately after a strong start to the year, but all three indexes remain up between six and seven percent.

And after a bruising confirmation battle, Chuck Hagel has taken over at the Pentagon as defense secretary. The Vietnam veteran and former GOP senator vowed always to be honest and direct with service members and civilian staffers. Senate Republicans who slammed Hagel for previous positions, including his opposition to the 2007 Iraq troop surge initially filibustered his nomination. That debate ended yesterday, and he was confirmed.

And two humans may soon get the chance to take a never before attempted journey to Mars. Plans have been announced for a project to send a couple by spacecraft on a 501-day mission that would fly pass the Red Planet. The initiative is being spearheaded by a millionaire who, in 2001, became the first space tourist apply on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station.

And, NASA is not being asked to fund this trip. That certainly seems to be a direction where we see private space travels. So, we'll see what happens with that.

BLITZER: 501 days.

SYLVESTER: I know, 501 days. That's a long time to be away.

BLITZER: Are we almost there yet?


SYLVESTER: Yes. I know, you have said that you would never do that.


SYLVESTER: That's not on your bucket list?

BLITZER: No. Not even a thought.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

A very historic moment today for the civil rights leader, Rosa Parks Statue unveiled up on Capitol Hill. When we come back, my emotional interview with someone who knew her quite well, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He's opening up about that and more. That's next.


BLITZER: From the back of the bus back in the 1950s all the way to a permanent spot up on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans alike joined together today to honor Rosa Parks as her statue was unveiled up in Statuary Hall up in the Congress.

It was an extraordinary moment in the history of the civil rights movement.


BLITZER: And the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., is joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Reverend Jackson, thanks so much for coming in.


BLITZER: Pretty emotional day, especially for you, today, up on Capitol Hill. The Rosa Parks event, Statuary Hall -- what did it mean to you?

JACKSON: Wolf, fortunate I knew her. She would campaign for us in (inaudible) campaigns. But her role as a singular figure in American history is so big. I think the -- and I was impressed with the maker of the Statue. It was Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s legislation, so it had a little --

BLITZER: Your son.

JACKSON: -- a little family touch to it.

But there's forever a commitment to see her as this kind of seamstress, with her head down, which is kind of humble. She was a freedom fighter. Rosa Parks took the literacy test three times, she passed it all three times. Senator McConnell suggested she finally passed it -- she passed it all three times.

Secondly, she got the right to vote in 1955, ten years before Selma. She meant to sit down and go to jail. She meant to challenge the '54 Supreme Court decision whether it was valid or not. So not only did we win the boycott in '55, we won the lawsuit in '56, validating the '54 Supreme Court decision. She really was a real go-getter, audacious freedom fighter.

BLITZER: And a lot of people don't know, that it was your son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., as a United States congressman, who introduced the legislation to create the statue that was unveiled today. We have a picture that we're showing our viewers -- there he is standing right behind President Bush. He signed that legislation into law.

JACKSON: That was a very proud moment. He was able to get both the Rosa Parks statue -- and a standing statue, in contrast with Arthur King's bust -- a standing statue, with her facing Jefferson Davis, the head of the Confederacy. And behind her, to her left and right, are the Confederates. So she was right into history.

He also was able to get the new visitor's hall named Emancipation Hall, and so he is very steeped in history. And so it was -- that was a proud moment as well.

BLITZER: How sad are you, as a result of what has happened -- he's pleading guilty now. He's about to go to jail.

JACKSON: Well, that could be the case. It's zero-to-five. It is a very painful moment. It's a sad chapter, perhaps not the last chapter. He has been quite contrite, accepted his responsibility. He did not lean on his sickness, his bipolar disorder, which has been considerable. He said, I face the consequences of my decisions, and I think he is standing up with dignity, fighting these odds, and made me -- I love him so much, and so very proud of him yet.

BLITZER: You're still very proud of him. Because I'm going to play a clip -- this is the U.S. attorney, in Chicago, who prosecuted. Listen to what he said. As you know, your son let a lot of people down.


UNIDENTIFIED U.S. ATTORNEY: Those contributors were people of modest means -- senior citizens, on fixed income, auto workers, teachers, plumbers. They donated their hard-earned money so that he could, through his political movement, somehow better their lives. He betrayed their trust. He spent their money, that was designed, or intended, to be used to further his elections, on items of excess.


BLITZER: You hear that powerful sound bite --

JACKSON: He said he let them down. That was his contrition toward his supporters. I don't feel any need to try to counter the argument, because that's in the legal domain. There will be a sentencing hearing June 24th. Suffice to say, I'm his father, and I have -- once I got into -- his first issue was his health. He's still battling with biploar disorder. He's now spending his time on his medical regimen and scribbling out notes how to help other people with bipolar disorder. So even as he comes unto himself, he is still serving.

Look back at the record he did achieve, and what I think he will achieve beyond this moment, I still embrace him very much.

BLITZER: So you think, if he goes to jail, if he comes out of jail, he's got a chapter two?

JACKSON: Jesse's 47 years old; he has more work to do.

BLITZER: Is it because of the biploar disease that he broke down like this?

JACKSON: You know, I do not know. I'm reluctant to put forth an argument. I could make a case if it were someone else. But this case now goes to the judge, and the federal judge must make a determination. I don't want anything I say, do, or write to have an impact on the outcome.

There are people now who are writing letters all over the nation from things he has done for them. A woman came up to me a few days ago, a United Airlines worker. On the back of her card, she wrote, Thank you, Congressman Jackson. You helped save my house -- thank you.

Someone else said, I was in Ford Heights (ph), and we didn't have drinkable water. The water was golden (ph), and we could not wash our clothes in that water. You got us a water tank. So, thank you.

These kind of letters, of course, has an impact upon what the jury finally sees the character of Jesse Jr, as it unfolds. And so, I'll let that case rest. I'll just be his loving father.

BLITZER: It's now up to one judge, who will determine if he goes to jail, and how long he spends in jail. As part of the plea bargain agreement --

JACKSON: The judge will have to weigh what the prosecutor's argument is, and what Jesse's lawyers' argument is. There are mutual arguments, and the judge will make a final decision. And so, it's not for me, at this point, to weigh in with an opinion.

BLITZER: What about your daughter-in-law?

JACKSON: Wolf, likewise, it's a family, and they both pled guilty. They both pled with contrition and a sense of sorrow. But they will keep working. They'll keep serving the people. And I appreciate that about the both of them.

BLITZER: On this day, the United States Supreme Court also has been hearing arguments that potentially could overturn the enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act. And I know how involved you and Dr. Martin Luther King were in helping set the stage for the entire civil rights movement. What do you think?

JACKSON: Let me contrast (ph). You have Rosa Parks being honored by people like Mr. Boehner, McConnell and others across the Capitol. And on the other side, on the Supreme Court, they're arguing to remove the enforcement mechanism of the Voting Rights Act. And this weekend is the forty-eighth (ph) anniversary of Selma march (ph) across the (INAUDIBLE) bridge.

It's not enough to have the right to vote. You must have the enforced right to vote. We got the right to vote in 1965, but then gerrymandering, annexation and (INAUDIBLE) undermined the impact on them to vote.

(INAUDIBLE) Wolf, it's not just a minority vote. Blacks could not vote on the South, but white women (ph) couldn't serve on juries. Eighteen- year-olds serving in Vietnam could not vote. Students on campuses could vote if they went home or voted absentee. So, giving them the right to vote on campus was a part of voting. Even bilingual voting, even getting proportionality, winner-take-all.

So we had - it took us 30 years to democratize democracy. And I think the strongest case made by our lawyers today (ph) was (INAUDIBLE) a thousand examples of attempt to undermine access to (ph) voting. We saw this last year, will this person (INAUDIBLE) really voting, can't vote on Sunday, have to have birth certificates. And so I think that evidence that we need enforcement was overwhelming today.

BLITZER: The other issue I want to raise with you, the violence that's going on. The killing, the slaughter in Chicago, your hometown right now. A lot more Americans have been killed in Chicago this past year than were killed in Afghanistan.

JACKSON: Wolf, to be sure, there are no gun (INAUDIBLE) in Chicago. But the guns are made Barrington (ph) in the suburbs and in Rock Island. And so, we have no capacity to stop the guns - if you're in Iraq and you're a general, you knew where guns were manufactured and where they were sold from, you would stop their trail. We can't stop the flow of guns coming in.

BLITZER: You have confidence in the mayor, Rahm Emanuel?

JACKSON: I think he's done a good job, but he has a limited - he cannot stop guns from coming in. He cannot stop drugs from coming. He cannot stop jobs from going out. He cannot stop banks (INAUDIBLE) poverty.

So, when the president comes to town and says let's stop the killing. Let's (INAUDIBLE) gun laws, that day (INAUDIBLE). Because unless you look at it comprehensively, you will not in fact be able to deal with a several-legged stool (ph). This is guns are in, drugs in, jobs out, home (INAUDIBLE), poverty, unemployment that equals the need for some kind of plan for economic reconstruction. We need a kind of economic reconstruction. Development banks (ph) start to begin to lift people up out of the pain of recycling their fears.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, an emotional day for you here in Washington. Thanks for coming in.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.


BLITZER: And coming up, Detroit on the brink. Will this desperately troubled city actually go bust or find a way to turn things around?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're sort of like the Rocky Balboa of cities. We're fighting, ,we're the underdog for life and glory.



BLITZER: The truck was once a symbol of America's bustling economy. Fifty years ago it was America's fifth largest city. But the Motor City clearly has stalled, losing half its population and falling to 18th place. And now Detroit is in even bigger trouble, may, may even go bankrupt. Its debt has already rated at the junk status. Last week we told you a special review team found the city in a financial emergency with no real plan to fix it. Now it's up to Michigan's governor to take what could be some very drastic measures to try to save Detroit.

Here's CNN's Poppy Harlow.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is a crisis that has been decades in the making. The rapid population decline in Detroit means far fewer people paying taxes and, of course, there's the downfall of the auto industry. The auto sector, though, got bailed out. That bailout didn't help fix the severe financial crisis here in the Motor City.


HARLOW (voice-over): Just two years ago "Forbes" called Detroit the city of hope. Today it tops the "Forbes'" list of most miserable cities in America.

TINESHA FLOWERS, DETROIT RESIDENT: You call the police now, you wonder if they are coming.

HARLOW: It's a tale of two Detroits, a city on the hook for more than $14 billion in unfunded pensions and healthcare costs for retired government workers.

JACK MARTIN, DETROIT CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER: Most of us are facing legacy costs that we can't afford. They were cut in the good old days when you could -- you know, the tax revenues were up. We didn't have overseas competition. We could sell all the cars we could make. That day is gone.

HARLOW: And get this. The "Detroit News" found nearly half of Detroit home owners didn't even pay their property taxes last year. There have been hundreds of millions in spending cuts and thousands of government layoffs in recent years but it's not enough. Now it's in the hands of Michigan's governor. Any day he could install an emergency manager in Detroit, with sweeping powers.

JOE HARRIS, FORMER DETROIT AUDITOR GENERAL: He could void all of the contracts. He or she could fire everybody, quite frankly.

HARLOW: Joe Harris was Detroit's auditor for 10 years.

(On camera): An emergency manager has a right to basically throw out or rewrite union contractors? Would likely see government job cuts? Wouldn't real people feel this?

HARRIS: It's simply -- it doesn't affect the average person. It affects the government workers. It affects the politicians but it does not --

HARLOW: Union workers?

HARRIS: Union workers. HARLOW: Those are real people.

HARRIS: You're absolutely correct.

HARLOW (voice-over): Real people like Tinesha Flowers. A mother of eight and a government worker. She fears losing her job if more cuts come but knows something has to change.

FLOWERS: At what point do someone does something that's going to make a difference? It doesn't matter if it's the emergency manager or God.

HARLOW: The rescue could also come from the private sector.

JOSH LINKNER, CEO, DETROIT VENTURE PARTNERS: It would be the story of the greatest American turnaround story in our country's history.

HARLOW: You think so?

LINKNER: Absolutely.

HARLOW (voice-over): Josh Linkner's company has invested $15 million in tax startups here.

LINKNER: People would think you're smart.

HARLOW: And he's part of a group that recently bought 15 entire buildings downtown.

LINKNER: We're sort of like the Rocky Balboa of cities. We're fighting --we're the underdog fighting for life and glory.

HARLOW: So what are Detroit's other options? There's bankruptcy which would shed debt but also cost the city millions in legal fees and bring that dreaded stigma.

HARRIS: I don't even like mentioning the B word.

HARLOW: Or what about even a federal bailout like New York City got in the '70s. But that was then.

HARRIS: I think it's pretty radical. I think it's nonsensical.

KIMME REED, DETROIT RESIDENT: I believe that if anybody needed to be bailed out, it would be the city of Detroit.


HARLOW: But good luck getting a federal bailout through Congress in this political environment. As for a bankruptcy, if that happens, it would be the single largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a story that is. Poppy in Detroit for us. Thank you. When we come back, if you loved the hit movie or any of the books, you can soon get your own chance to experience life on the "Titanic" firsthand. We'll explain. That's just ahead.


BLITZER: If the books or the hit movie weren't enough to pique your interest in the "Titanic," maybe your own firsthand trip back in time will.

CNN's Tory Dunnan is joining us now with details on the new "Titanic 2."

What's going on, Tory?

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there are already these "Titanic" memorials in place, but now there are plans for another "Titanic" to set sail in 2016.


DUNNAN (voice-over): Hollywood has cashed in on it.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO, ACTOR: I'm the king of the world.

DUNNAN: With the history of the "Titanic" speaks for itself. The luxury, the size, and the disaster. What was dubbed as unsinkable sunk. Now a new "Titanic" will sail again.

CLIVE PALMER, BLUE STAR LINE CHAIRMAN: We'll have radar, we'll have satellite navigation, and we'll have air-conditioning for everybody. Yes? But, of course, we'll utilize the designs and you'll have the same "Titanic" experience you would have had in 1912.

DUNNAN: Australian mining tycoon Clive Palmer revealed plans for "Titanic II." The route, the fashion, even the menus will all be the same on 2016's maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York. The great granddaughter of the famed unsinkable, Molly Brown, a "Titanic" survivor, sees this as a great tribute.

HELEN BENZINGER, TITANIC II CONSULTANT: And there you have Guggenheim and JJ Astor standing back and Guggenheim saying, in the smoking room, we are dressed as, you know, in our finest and we will go down as gentlemen. And I think that's one of the things that this is going to bring back is -- and maybe just for five days.

DUNNAN: The vessel sank in 1912 after hitting an iceberg. More than 1500 people died because there weren't enough lifeboats.

The looks will be mostly the same. The four smokestacks, the grand staircase, and Turkish baths. But there are differences. Engines powered by diesel instead of coal, a helicopter pad, and a higher bridge to see over the bow. And of course, enough lifeboats for everybody. Just don't call it unsinkable.

PALMER: Anything will sink if you put a hole in it, you know? I think it would be very cavalier to say something like that.

DUNNAN: The superstitious may second-guess "Titanic II," but history buffs may see this as a chance to sail back in time.


DUNNAN: And, Wolf, the company says that thousands of people have actually expressed interests in wanting to purchase some of these tickets. Some even offering up to pay, if you can believe it, $1 million. But Wolf, so far the company says they have not set those prices just yet.

BLITZER: Still got some time. Can't believe anybody would spend $1 million for that, but, you know, if you've got $1 million and you want to do it, go ahead.

Tory, thanks very much.

Just ahead, shock and horror at a popular beach after a deadly great white shark attack on a swimmer. We're going to hear from a witness.


BLITZER: Shock and horror on a popular New Zealand beach today as a massive great white shark attacked and killed a swimmer offshore. Witnesses say they saw the man call for help before being dragged under by the shark.


PIO MOISE, FISHERMAN: The shark was still checking him, and then the shark stopped attacking, and he pulled his head out, yelled out (INAUDIBLE) over to the rocks and he raised his hand up. While he was raised his hand up, the next minute, he went down. The shark pulled him down. He came up with his head underwater, and that we know he's dead.

Shocking. The first time seeing thing in real life. You know, you see in TV, you see in movies, like "Jaws" and that, but, happening in real life, man-- it's so shocking, man.


BLITZER: Authorities fired at the shark, which rolled over and disappeared. The beach and several others in the Auckland area have been closed now for the next few days as well.

Happening now, the president's surprise huddle with budget cuts looming and the clock running out. The journalist Bob Woodward on the budget face-off and his controversial claim that the president is moving the goalpost.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court case. African-American leaders argue that voting rights still need protection on the same day that a civil rights icon is honored. Rosa Parks' legacy, that's ahead. And trouble brewing. Budweiser fights allegations that its beers are watered down.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, along with Kate Bolduan, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.