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Cuba To Return Fugitive Couple, Abducted Kids; At Least 14 Hurt In College Stabbing Spree; Reid to Force Vote on Gun Law Debate; Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly Talk About Guns; McConnell Campaign Calls In FBI

Aired April 9, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At least 14 people hurt in a mass stabbing. Four are flown to a hospital by helicopter.

A fugitive couple and their two young sons found by CNN in Cuba. We'll trace their steps from an abduction in Florida to an international manhunt.

And relatives of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, the victims, they are here in Washington to push for gun control. They flew with President Obama aboard Air Force One. I'll speak with the sister of a slain teacher and I'll also peak this hour with the White House press, secretary, Jay Carney.

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



BLITZER: We begin, though, right now with the latest U.S. intelligence. North Korea has likely completed all launch preparations and the U.S. official says the Obama administration now thinks North Korea may test fire mobile ballistic missiles at any time without issuing the standard warning to aviation and shipping in the region. All this follows a chilling new warning from North Korea today.

This time aimed at all foreigners, they say, in South Korea. They're being urged by the North Koreans to take shelter or to evacuate to avoid what the North Koreans call all out merciless war. Japan has boosted its defenses, deploying patriot air defense missile batteries in and around Tokyo. And the top U.S. military commander in the pacific says North Korea's actions pose a clear and direct threat to America's national security.

He adds that if it comes to a fight, the United States is, quote, "ready." We'll have a SITUATION ROOM special report on the North Korean crisis right at the top of the hour. That's coming up 6:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News. BLITZER: And there is the breaking news coming in from Cuba right now where authorities say they will, in fact, return to the United States a fugitive American couple and their two young sons who've been holed up aboard a sail boat at a Cuban marina. The pair allegedly snatched the boys last week from a grandmother's home in Florida. The grandmother had custody of the two children.

CNNs Patrick Oppmann was the first to spot the fugitives in Havana at the Hemingway Marina in the Cuban capital. He's joining us now live to tell us the very latest and there are dramatic developments, Patrick. Tell us what's going on.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very dramatic developments here, and it's just learned from the foreign ministry that the Cuban government plans to return this couple and their young children to U.S. authorities. They say that they communicated this to the intersection, the American intersection here in Havana that they don't plan to allow this couple, these fugitives to seek asylum and stay here in Cuba, that they plan to returning them.

They recognize that this couple has possession of their children illegally. They've accepted the U.S.'s request that they return and they said they plan on doing that very soon, Wolf. It's the end -- appears to be the end of a long saga of this couple trying to flee from the U.S. arriving here in Cuba making the dangerous journey hoping, perhaps, they could stay as other fugitives have done in the past.

But the Cuban foreign ministry just telling CNN a few moments ago this couple will be sent back to the United States -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Normally under a situation like this, and I know this is not a normal situation. It's pretty extraordinary. When you say fairly soon, do we have any idea when they might put them on some sort of plane and fly them back to the United States, these parents and the two children?

OPPMANN: You know, it's unclear. That would be the way the Cubans have done this in the past. You know, over the last few years, there has been criminals, American criminals, people wanted to be found in Cuba, and there's people the Cuban government has recognized they're dangerous. They don't want them here and they put them on some of these charter flights back to the United States.

So, we're just learning about this. We don't know the mechanism. But it's safe to say they will be putting these people back on a boat back to the U.S. And this is really remarkable, because all day we've been hearing from both sides that the Cubans and the U.S., they will sit down, work this out together, and even American diplomats have congratulated, said that the Cuban government has really cooperated very well with U.S. diplomats' requests.

Usually not what happens here. It's a country where the cold war is still going on. Quite strong with a lot of animosity, a lot of mistrust, but apparently, today, Cubans and Americans were able to sit down and work out an agreement to return this couple and their children back to United States where, of course, American authorities await them.

BLITZER: A pretty significant potential signal from the Cuban government to the U.S., to the Obama administration that they will, in fact, cooperate and return these individuals to the United States. Patrick Oppmann has been doing an excellent job on this story for us all day.

But let's take a closer look right now at how the dramatic flight, the international manhunt got started. CNN's John Zarrella is joining us right now from Tampa. What have you learned about all of this, because it is pretty extraordinary, John, as you and I have covered U.S./Cuban relations for a long time.

The fact that the Cuban government is now getting ready to return these Americans to the United States. That's significant.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. There's no question about that, Wolf. Clearly, in recent times, there've been a little bit of a softening in the relations between the United States and Cuba. There have been dealings, you know, in the -- in recent times, where people wanted in this country, have been returned from Cuba.

So, even though the extradition treaty hasn't been completely enforced in many, many decades, there has been some action between the two governments on particular cases like this one. Now, you know, the desperate actions of Joshua Hakins (ph) actually began nearly a year ago in Louisiana. Moved here to Tampa, and now, it's ending up in Havana.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Authorities in Tampa had a tip. Joshua Hakin (ph) and his wife, Sharon, and their boys were in Cuba. They were right. CNN's Patrick Oppmann found them on their sail boat the salty at the Hemingway Marina outside Havana.

OPPMANN: Driving around and didn't see any unusual presence of security. It seemed like just a beautiful day. Lots of boats including boats from the United States, and then, we get to the last slip and sure enough I see the name there, Salty. I see the paw prints on the side.

ZARRELLA: Oppmann saw one of the boys playing on the deck. He spoke only briefly with Hakin and his wife before Cuban authorities escorted him from the dock. In Tampa, police had known they were dealing with a man who could pull this off.

LARRY MCKINNON, HILLSBOROUGH CO. SHERIFF'S SPOKESMAN: We've said all along, you know, making irrational decisions doesn't always make you unintelligent. We know he's a very intelligent individual. He's an engineer.

ZARRELLA: Last Wednesday, the family pick-up truck was found in Madeira Beach not far from St. Petersburg. Surveillance video showed Hakin and his wife, Sharon, at a dock preparing a sail boat. That same day, authorities say Hakin kidnapped his children, Chase and Cole, from the maternal grandparents' home. Patricia Howser (ph) called 911.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911, what is your emergency?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't think. My, my son-in-law just kidnapped my two grandchildren. They've been in my state custody.

ZARRELLA: It's not clear how Hakin and his wife knew where they were. Just last week, back home in Louisiana, the Hakins lost their parental rights. The saga began last year. Police in Slidell responding to a disturbance at a hotel say they found weapons and drugs in the Hakins' room. The children were there with them.

Police say the Hakins were talking strangely about a, quote, "journey to the Armageddon." The children were taken and put in foster care out of concern for their safety. According to Louisiana authorities, Hakin showed up at the foster home with a gun demanding his kids. He ran off when 911 was called.

At some point, the boys were sent to their grandparents. Now, what will Cuba do? The state department says it is in touch with Cuban officials.

PATRICK VENTRELL, ACTING DEPUTY STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We are aware of this case and the U.S. intersection is in contact with local authorities. U.S. officials are providing all appropriate assistance to the family.

ZARRELLA: An extradition treaty between the U.S. and Cuba has not been enforced in years, but in recent times, the two countries have successfully negotiated the return of wanted individuals. The FBI still lists 70 fugitives living there. The question, how will the Cuban treat the case of the Hakins.


ZARRELLA (on-camera): Well, now, we know how the Cubans are treating the case with the Hakins with that breaking news from Patrick Oppmann out of Havana, Wolf. And you know, we do not believe that Hakin had any ties to Cuba, but clearly, he must have thought that there was a chance that they would not send him back to the United States. It was, clearly, a miscalculation -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we'll see when the Cubans, in fact, do return these individuals to the United States. They say they will do it. That's the breaking news. That would be a significant gesture on the part of the Cuban government in Havana right now. John Zarella, thanks very much. Patric Oppmann, thanks to you as well.

There's other news we're following, including pandemonium on a Texas college campus today when at least 14 people were wounded in a mass stabbing incident. Four were rushed to a hospital by helicopter. It happened at Lone Star College's campus in the Houston area. A suspect is in custody.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is in the area for us. He's joining us on the phone with the latest information. What's going on, Ed? VOICE OF ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, wolf. We're on our way to the campus at Lone Star College in the town of Cyprus, Texas which is a northwestern suburb in the Houston area. And authorities tell us that they have a 21-year-old suspect in custody. He is a student at the campus. And what students described this afternoon is an incredibly frightening and scary situation that were described to us by many students and witnesses that were on the campus.

But authorities say that in this attack that they recall it coming just after 11 o'clock in the morning, central time, and the call was a male on the loose stabbing people. We've learned that since then that 14 people had been wounded in this attack. One of the witnesses described seeing a hole in the cheek of one female victim and that four of these victims were air lifted to hospitals.

And we've been told by authorities that four of those victims are in critical condition. So, we'll continue to monitor that situation throughout the updates. But as of now, the authorities say that the campus was on lockdown and the students and faculty have begun the process of leaving if they haven't left the campus completely already.

The school was closed the remainder of the day, but officials there at the university say that everything will be reopened as scheduled tomorrow -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Ed Lavandera is on the scene for us as he always is. Thanks very, very much.

We're learning more about the details of this bloody incident, how it ended. Joining us now on the phone is Steven Maida who says he helped take down the attacker. Steven, thanks very much for coming in. Tell us what happened. Where were you and what did you do and what did you see?

VOICE OF STEVEN MAIDA, WITNESSED STABBING ATTACK: Hello. At first, I was walking out of the cafe area, walking back from the book store and the cafe area. I looked to my left and I see some people running to the cafe. I just thought it was another Lone Star tour around the school, because they do it in big groups. But instead, it was -- and they were running and I heard this girl say my friend has been stabbed.

It caught my attention. And I was like -- I looked at my friend and said what did she say? And then we talked and I asked her, what happened? She goes my friend's been stabbed and that she runs away. Another girl comes out and has a stab wound in her cheek, a clear hole, and she said her friend has been stabbed and I was like where is he at? What's he look like?

She goes he's upstairs with red hair. So, I go inside and there's another person with a hole, another girl with a hole in her throat. And there's blood on the stairway. So, I run upstairs and I look. And there are people in the hallway and I run down and another kid has a stab wound in the back of his head. I asked, where is he at? What does he look like? They couldn't tell me anything. A man ran to me and pointed out the window downstairs that there he is. So, I took off downstairs running. And the security guards were running after him, but the kid was probably about a hundred yards ahead of us.

And, we passed up -- me and three other kids passed up the security guards and -- because they weren't keeping up and they started -- they seemed like they were walking but we passed them up and the kid looked behind us and saw we were coming and went into a building. We thought we lost him, but we found him going out the south doors and into the parking lot. We chased him down and tackled him and held him down (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: So, three of you tackled him down and you got -- I know you took a picture of what was going on as well. There he is right there. That's the Instagram that you took. That's the red haired individual that allegedly committed these stabbings?

MAIDA: Yes. That's who they pointed him out to. So, we went and chased and caught him and before the cops got there, we were just like -- I was like, why? Why would you do this? Why would you cut these girls? And it was extremely frustrating.

BLITZER: What did he say to you?

MAIDA: He didn't say anything, because when we tackled him -- when we brought him down, his hearing aid fell out and he was deaf so he couldn't understand what I was saying.

BLITZER: Did you notice what kind of weapon? Was this a knife? What did he have?

MAIDA: He had nothing in his hands. He gave up as soon as he was on his back and another kid was beating him up and came -- and moved -- another kid off him so he was free, but then, I rolled him over on his belly and put his hands on his back and then the cops came.

BLITZER: And then you tied up his hands with what?

MAIDA: I didn't tie him up. I just held them because (INAUDIBLE) or anything because he knew he's been caught.

BLITZER: And that was that, because we see his hands, they look like they're behind his back. He's lying down. His hands were tied up by something it looks like.

MAIDA: No. That's whenever the -- as soon as the cops got there, they took him, that's the cop's leg right there. So, they took his hands and put on -- and put them on and they cuff (ph) him. As soon as I jumped off of him, though, I took the picture.

BLITZER: And that was that. And that's the picture. We got some other video that we just got in, Steve. And this is from our affiliate, KHOU. There you see he's under arrest. You see the law enforcement escorting him as he's walking. I take it, do you know if he's a student at the university there?

MAIDA: That's what I heard, and this girl said that she knew him from class and he's a very sweet guy, but she thinks that he's been like bullied or something like that because of his hearing aid, maybe.

BLITZER: Did you say he was hearing impaired? Was he deaf? Did you have any indication, could he hear?

MAIDA: He was holding his hearing aid in his hands so he didn't lose it because he said they were expensive, but he could talk to us to tell us that he had a hearing aid.

BLITZER: He didn't give you any indication what may have allegedly motivated him to engage in a mass stabbing like this?

MAIDA: Not at all. He was facing -- his face was straight. He didn't show any kind of like remorse or crying that he was going to jail or why is he different now.

BLITZER: Yes. We see on the side of his head a significant hearing aid there. You just saw the pictures of him. So, you don't really know anything about this individual, do you, Steven?

MAIDA: I didn't know anything about anybody that was in the conflict. I just knew that girls were being stabbed in the face and that's when I couldn't like run the other way like everyone else was, so I just went upstairs.

BLITZER: Well, this individual has been arrested as we can see here and, Steven did an excellent job with his friends and colleagues to apprehend him and help law enforcement stop what was going on. Steven, thanks very much. How are you doing? You OK?

MAIDA: I'm fine. Just another day -- fine. Kind of get an adrenalin rush. So, I feel better.

BLITZER: All right. Just take it easy and thanks again for what you did. We appreciate it very much. Steven Maida helped tackle the suspect at this campus Lone Star College down near Houston, Texas. When we get more information, we'll update you on what we know on that story.

There are other important stories we're following today in the SITUATION ROOM, including relatives of the Newtown, Connecticut massacre. The victims' families, they are in Washington today, many of them, they're pushing for gun control. Some of them actually flew on Air Force One with President Obama.

You see a picture of the president there with the sister of one of the slain teachers. We'll speak with her, that's coming up.

And secret recordings reveal Senator Mitch McConnell's re- election team discussing ways of confronting a potential rival for the U.S. Senate, Ashley Judd. Now, they called in the FBI to investigate.


BLITZER: Here in Washington, it's about as personal as the push for tougher gun control can get. The families of some of the 26 people killed in the Newtown school shooting massacre, hitting Capitol Hill today to lobby members of Congress. This, after an emotional trip from Connecticut last night with President Obama aboard Air Force One.

This is an emotional photo. Take a look at it right now. It captured President Obama with his arm around Jillian Soto getting off Air Force One last night. Jillian's sister, Victoria, was one of the teachers killed in the Newtown school shooting. Jillian is joining us here in the SITUATION ROOM.

And Jillian, first of all, our deepest, deepest condolences to you and your family. I know how much you must miss your sister right now. She was, what, only 27 years old. She was a teacher at that school.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this trip. What was it like, the president of the United States? We saw him put his arm around you and he invited you to come to Washington aboard Air Force One. How did that happen?

SOTO: We were at a meeting in Hartford with more like a rally at Hartford University with President Obama and he -- there were several families that were coming down to Washington and he offered us to come on Air Force One with him to fly back to Washington. It was a great experience. It was one that most people will never be able to experience and I was so honored that I was able to experience it. But --

BLITZER: Did you know he was going to be inviting you to go on Air Force One to Washington?

SOTO: Some of the families did know that they were going to, and they believe they found out like the day beforehand. I found out about three hours before the plane was taking off that I was flying on Air Force One to Washington.

BLITZER: And so, here you were in Washington. You get here. What have you been doing?

SOTO: I've been speaking to a lot of media and talking to everybody about why I'm down here and what I'm fighting for and how I want change and talking about how I support everything that Obama is doing.

BLITZER: So, what are the major arguments that you're making, you're meeting with legislators up on Capitol Hill, right?

SOTO: Some families are meeting with the legislators on Capitol Hill and I'm doing a lot more of the press part, but there are families that are meeting with the senators and talking with them and doing some stuff with them. And then, there's some that are just speaking with media and telling what we're here for and what we're asking for.

BLITZER: You met with the vice president, too, right?

SOTO: Yes, I did.

BLITZER: And so, what was that like?

SOTO: It was very nice. We had breakfast this morning with him, and then, we were able to see his house and see everything around it and just get a nice tour and sit down and talk to him and he talked to us with deepest condolences and was telling us how sorry he is for us and what we're going through.

BLITZER: So, what's the main message you want to convey to influential people in Washington?

SOTO: That something needs to get done. Nobody else needs to go through what we're going through, what my family is going through, that this assault rifle ban needs to happen. We don't need them any longer. We don't need to have these assault rifles accessible to everybody. They need to be banned. There are several that aren't even included in the ban (ph), and you can still have them if you wanted them.

But, the ones that we're asking for need to just get banned. And, another thing I feel very strongly about is the background checks. I think every person should have a background check, and before this ever happened, I never knew that there's people you can own a gun and sell it to your neighbor and not even have to go through a -- they don't have to go through background check. I never knew that.

I thought everyone had to. And you know, that's something that has to happen. And I feel like it's common sense that everybody should, because you don't know what anyone's past is like. You don't know what they've done. You know what you know from what you see when you see them outside and you know you talk to them. You don't know if they have a criminal past. So, they should have to. Everyone should have to.

BLITZER: Tell us a little bit something you want to share about your sister.

SOTO: That she's an amazing person. She was the biggest role model I've ever had. You know, she's my older sister and she taught me everything that I know from how to dress, how to do your hair, your makeup. She's my best friend. She was the person who taught me everything that I've learned since I was one year old and we grew up together.

We've lived in the same house our whole entire life. She still lived at home with us and she was just a ball of energy and she was a rebel. She chewed gum in school when she shouldn't have and she was that teacher who would rather get on the floor and teach her kids than stand in front of a chalk board and write stuff on the chalk board. She was a cool teacher.

BLITZER: How are you coping? How is your family coping?

SOTO: We're dealing with it, I want to say. You know, it's not getting easier. I feel like it is getting harder even four months later. It's still surreal feeling for us, you know? It's hard to even believe that almost four months ago, someone walked into my sister's classroom and murdered her and five of her students and more kids in another classroom and the principal. It's hard to even wrap your arms around that this ever even happened.

But we're dealing, you know? Just taking it day by day and, you know, going to Washington and demanding something happen, speaking to everybody that we can, writing letters to senators and calling senators and telling them our story and demanding they do something about what happened.

BLITZER: Well, our deepest, deepest condolences to you, Jillian, and your entire family. Thanks so much for coming in and sharing some thoughts with us on this important day.

SOTO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much. Jillian Soto, her sister, Victoria Soto, was gunned down in Newtown, Connecticut.

Coming up here, a CNN exclusive with former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and her husband, Mark Kelly. After everything they've been through, they still have a surprising love for guns. We'll show you what's going on. Our own Dana Bash spent some time with them up in Arizona.

And former President Bill Clinton finally joins the Twitter smear (ph) with a little help from Stephen Colbert. Stick around. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: It may be spring, but here in Washington, it already feels like summer. In Colorado today, it feels like winter. Mary Snow is monitoring this little bit of crazy weather that's going on and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM as well. What's going on, Mary? It's pretty warm in New York City today, isn't it?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is. A couple days ago it was in the 30s. Right now, it is 82 degrees. Meantime, in Denver, it's being pounded with heavy snow and forcing hundreds of flights to be canceled. If that's not bizarre enough, parts of Texas and Oklahoma are facing the threat of severe thunderstorms with the possibility of tornadoes.

Dramatic video from China's CC-TV showing a man climbing a building on fire to rescue a girl rescued trapped inside. (INAUDIBLE) first yelled to see if anyone needed help, and when he heard her voice climbed back down the building to get some ropes. The girl was fastened to the rope, and with the assistance of firefighters and police was lowered to the ground safely.

And former president Bill Clinton has finally joined the Twiti- sphere. That's thanks to Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.


STEPHEN COLBERT, COMEDY CENTRAL HOST: Sir, I took the liberty of opening you a Twitter account.


COLBERT: Now, President Clinton was taken. William Jefferson Clinton was taken. But prezbillyjeff was available.


COLBERT: Would you like to break into the 21st century right now and send your first tweet? I'll type it.


COLBERT: I'll type it. 140 characters or less.

CLINTON: Just spent

COLBERT: Just...spent...

CLINTON: amazing time with Colbert.

COLBERT: Sound good?

CLINTON: Question, is he sane?


COLBERT: Is he sane?

CLINTON: He is cool.

COLBERT: Can I put an exclamation mark at the end of that, sir?


SNOW: He was allowed to put the exclamation point. Now, the account has more than 68,000 followers. @prezbillyjeff also happens to be following Stephen Colbert. Wolf?

BLITZER: One tweet so far from the former president of the United States. I assume he'll start tweeting a little bit more. He's got a lot of followers anxiously awaiting those tweets. Mary, thanks very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, a surprising love for guns despite surviving a horrific gun massacre. Gabby Giffords and her husband sit down with our own Dana Bash for an emotional interview. And has the president given up on trying to get a ban on assault rifles? I'll ask the White House press secretary Jay Carney. That's coming up as well.


BLITZER: A U.S. official tells CNN the Obama administration believes North Korea may -- repeat, may -- test fire mobile ballistic missiles literally at any time now. We're going to have a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM right at the top of the hour on this crisis with North Korea coming up at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

Meanwhile the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, says he'll force a vote this week on whether to open debate on tougher gun laws. And that puts the pressure on a lot of Republicans who have threatened a filibuster. And at this point, Democrats may be eager to cut a deal.


BLITZER: And the president's press secretary, Jay Carney, is joining us from the White House right now. Jay, it looks like you guys and others who support growing gun control are not getting very far as far as banning assault-type weapons. Have you basically given up on that part of gun control?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Absolutely not, Wolf. Every element of the legislative package that the president put forward and that he supports in Congress is something that he wants to see voted on and passed by Congress. All of this is tough. Every element is tough. Any of these provisions, whether it's the ban on military assault weapons or limiting the size of ammunition clips or instituting a universal background system are all difficult. If they weren't, they would have been done before.

He remains optimistic that there can be a bipartisan effort to take these necessary, commonsense measures to reduce gun violence. What he insists on and what you heard him say last night in Connecticut in front of the families of many Newtown victims is that senators do not block filibuster or use other procedural measures to prevent a vote, an up or down vote, on these commonsense ideas. That would be a shame. It would be shameful.

BLITZER: But as far as the assault-type weapons, limiting the number of bullets in these magazines, you don't even have a lot of -- all of the Democrats in the Senate onboard. You wouldn't presumably be able to break a filibuster when it comes to those sensitive issues.

CARNEY: Well, look. If Republicans want to filibuster legislation that is supported by a majority of the American people in every instance and supported by more than 90 percent of the American people in the instance of universal background checks, they will have a lot of explaining to do. They will have to explain why they with the 10 percent know better than the 90 percent. And that they won't even allow a vote in the particular case of universal background checks. That would be unconscionable in the president's view. When it comes to military-style assault weapons, the fact is the public supports the reinstatement of that ban. It is a commonsense solution. Nothing the president supports or is before the Congress now would in any way lead to the taking of a single firearm from a single law-abiding U.S. citizen. The president supports our Second Amendment rights.

What he insists on is that senators who oppose elements of this or if they oppose all of it, they should make that clear from the floor of the Senate. Vote no and explain why they're voting no. Do not hide behind procedural measures to deprive the American people of the right to see how they would vote and deprive the memory of the victims of Newtown or Tucson or Oak Creek or Virginia Tech the dignity of having that vote take place.

BLITZER: Well, they're saying they're not denying a vote. There would be a vote. It would just be a vote that would require 60 days in order to break a filibuster. That would be a vote.

CARNEY: (INAUDIBLE) a vote to debate. They don't want to debate on the floor because they don't want to explain why they are opposed to something that 90 percent of the American people support.

Now, Wolf, on this issue I thought you were going to ask me about because there actually has been some positive developments today when it comes to a filibuster. We've seen a number of Republican senators come out. Most recently Senator Isakson, who have said they oppose those more conservative -- I guess or, you know, senators, Republicans who have said they might filibuster this, and that is welcomed news. And we hope that more and more Republican senators will join in the simple proposition that these proposals deserve a vote. The American people deserve to know what each senator believes about these issues and how he or she stands.

BLITZER: What do you think of the latest compromise being floated as far as background checks are concerned that it would include the current loophole as far as gun shows are concerned, but private transactions would not require a background check?

CARNEY: Well, I don't want to get in between or into a situation now that is currently being negotiated. We support efforts to reach a compromise that would allow for a change in our law, to make the background check system more effective, to close those loopholes.

I think it's important to note because some of the discussion has been around this that the president himself has made clear that in his proposals to universalize our background check system, he has carved out an exemption for family member to family member transactions or a loan of a weapon, a firearm from one hunter to another. So, I wouldn't focus too specifically on those issues.

But again, I don't want to characterize or offer a judgment about something that is being negotiated between senators right now. We simply hope that progress is made and that eventually we get a vote and we get bipartisan support for something 90 percent of the American people support. It is a simple proposition, Wolf. Shouldn't we take action to make the background check system that everyone says is necessary and they support stronger? So that people who should not have weapons by law cannot obtain them by utilizing these loopholes in the system? We should close those loopholes.


BLIZTER: I also spoke with Jay Carney about North Korea extensively. We'll have that part of the interview coming up in our special report right at the top of the hour.

Up next, though here in THE SITUATION ROOM, do Democrats have the votes to take gun control to the U.S. Senate floor?

Also coming up, secret tapes reveal a senator's team discussing ways of running against Ashley Judd.


BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. The critical issue of gun control. Joining us our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

What's the very latest on this filibuster as far as the background checks are concerned?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the very latest is that we are going to see a vote on Thursday, just to begin debate. The filibuster at this point was aimed at stopping that from happening and coming from Capitol Hill it seems as though they have the 60 votes to begin debate.

And I'm also told that this is going to be a long debate, maybe three plus weeks of lots of different amendments so there is a little bit more time to get that compromise done that they want on background checks.

BLITZER: Can these Republicans -- and there were about 14 of them right now in the Senate -- go ahead with the filibuster on an issue as popular, 90 percent of the American public want background checks expanded, will they pay a political price?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the Republican brand, itself, could pay a political price, Wolf. Because as you know during the last election people thought Republicans were inflexible. Some voters particularly women thought Republicans were more extreme. So this kind of plays into that when you have nine out of 10 voters supporting some kind of gun control.

But in the short term, if you look at the Republicans up for re- election in the Senate, almost all of them come from states that Mitt Romney won, most of those pro gun states, so in the short term, of the midterm elections coming up, this isn't really going to hurt them as much as you might think. BLITZER: You sat down for an extraordinary meeting over the weekend with former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly. I know you want to share some thoughts on what life is like for them right now.

BASH: Well, obviously it's difficult but she's making remarkable progress. And when it comes to this issue of guns, they of course are now out there very much pushing to get some of these new restrictions and part of the reason why they think that they are good messengers for this is because they still very much are involved and engaged in the gun culture.


BASH (voice-over): Target practice is still a form of entertainment at Giffords' mother's house. Deep in the Arizona desert.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Watch, he's aiming for my pot.

BASH: Husband Mark Kelly using planting pots and water bottles as targets while Giffords watches from the patio with her mother cheering him on.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Excellent. Excellent.

GIFFORDS: Excellent.

BASH: And Kelly isn't shooting with just any kind of gun.

MARK KELLY, GABRIELLE GIFFORDS' HUSBAND: This is the same kind of gun Gabby was shot with, a Glock, 9 millimeter Glock, but in that case it had a magazine that held 33 rounds. This when it's full holds 17. He shot 33 rounds. Every round hits somebody we think.

BASH (on camera): How long have you had this gun?

KELLY: Well, I gave this to Gabby as a gift.

BASH: When?

KELLY: A number of years ago. She is a gun owner. You know, she's from the west.

BASH (voice-over): Still, we asked the question a lot of incredulous people seeing this scene would ask.

(On camera): Really? This guy sort of still has -- gets his kicks or recreation for him is shooting a gun after his wife was shot through the head?

KELLY: Well, Gabby used to like shooting a gun, too, occasionally. GIFFORDS: Yes, yes.


BLITZER: Really an amazing piece you've done. I know it airs later tonight "AC 360," 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

This is a fierce political war that's going on right now on this issue. Forget the assault type weapons, forget about the magazines. We're talking about expanding background checks and there is no guarantee, Gloria, this is a done deal.

BORGER: No, there isn't a guarantee at all, Wolf. But when you talk to some people about expanding background checks it seems like common sense. To others they say, OK. This is going to lead to a list that I'm going to be on some kind of a list and eventually you're going to end up confiscating my guns even if I have my guns legally. So it becomes a real constitutional issue for these people.

And again, you know, it depends where you live. If you're in a rural area, you may think more that way. If you're in an urban area, maybe not.

BLITZER: Looking forward to your report later tonight, Gloria. Thanks to you as always.

Up next, was the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell's campaign headquarters bugged? The conversations about Ashley Judd are revealed.

And is a missile launch in North Korea now really, really imminent? A special edition of our SITUATION ROOM starts at the top of the hour.


BLITZER: Senator Mitch McConnell's reelection campaign has called in the FBI after a liberal magazine obtained a recording of political aides discussing ways of attack a potential Senate rival Ashley Judd.

CNN's Jim Acosta is coming into THE SITUATION ROOM.

You've been looking into this story. What's going on?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the FBI has confirmed to CNN that it's looking into these allegations from the McConnell campaign. And when asked about the possible bugging of his campaign headquarters today, McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, called it Nixonian.


ACOSTA (voice-over): Even though he's not up for reelection for more than a year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been gearing up for a muddy Kentucky horse race. In an audio recording obtained by the liberal magazine "Mother Jones", McConnell can be heard in what sounds like a typical strategy session. Discussing his potential opponents with his campaign advisers back in February.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: I assume most of you have played the game Whac-A-Mole? This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign. When anybody sticks their head up, do them out.

ACOSTA: Later on, one strategist runs through the campaign's opposition research on actress Ashley Judd who at the time was considering a run for McConnell's seat. Judd has since announced she's out of the race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she's suffered from suicide tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the '90s.

ACOSTA: Convinced they were bugged, McConnell campaign staffers contacted the FBI, which is now looking into the matter. A campaign manager told CNN the meeting was in a private closed locked conference room, among a half dozen long-time McConnell aides, like a family meeting. The campaign insists this was no leak, more like a Watergate style break-in.

MCCONNELL: Quite a Nixonian move.

ACOSTA: Asked about the incident, McConnell blamed a liberal group called Progress Kentucky which has already smeared the senator's wife.

(On camera): What's your opinion about your campaign staff in Kentucky that your office there was bugged and was it appropriate for members of your staff to talk about Ashley Judd's bouts of depression as a potential campaign issue?

MCCONNELL: Well, as you know last month my wife's ethnicity was attacked by a left-wing group in Kentucky, and then apparently they also bugged my headquarters.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Outraged that McConnell staff would target Judd's past struggles, a spokesperson for the actress said in a statement, "This is yet another example of the politics of personal destruction that embody Mitch McConnell and are pervasive in Washington, D.C."

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: I can never anticipate what is going to push me over the edge.

ACOSTA: The McConnell campaign once had its sights set on Judd as a potential challenger, including her in a Web video. Even though the senator said back in February, he wasn't sizing up his opponents.

MCCONNELL: I'm not going to start handicapping who might be an opponent.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA: "Mother Jones" magazine says it was not involved in the recording of McConnell's campaign meeting and that the audio came from an anonymous source. A source close to the McConnell campaign said there's nothing wrong with discussing Judd's personal history, adding, quote, "Any campaign would do that." And it should also be noted that McConnell is not heard responding to that discussion of Judd's mental health in the recording -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what the FBI comes up with as part of their investigation.

Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.

My special report on North Korea, that's coming up next. Amid the breaking news we're following, U.S. officials say a missile launched by the North Koreans may be imminent.