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THE SITUATION ROOM

FBI Activity At Suspect's Home; Healing After Months of Captivity; Chris Christie's Secret Surgery

Aired May 7, 2013 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Jake, thanks very much. Happening now, an astonishing rescue, a neighbor hears screams and three young women are freed from a Cleveland home after a decade of captivity. The suspects, three middle-aged brothers. You'll hear stunned friend and neighbors described the home owner as a regular guy, but you'll also hear about some very bizarre incidents that raised suspicions.

And what comes next? I'll talk about the healing process with Elizabeth Smart who was also kidnapped as a teenager and held for nine months.

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: A truly extraordinary story unfolding in Cleveland this hour, one with the kind of ending that rarely happens. Three women, Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus, and Michele Knight, they are all alive in their family's arms right now after vanishing some ten years ago. We're getting our first look at the suspects in custody. All brothers, including former school bus driver, Ariel Castro, who owns the home where the women were held.

The FBI says they could be charged as soon as tomorrow or Thursday. Authorities say they have no prior indication anything suspicious was going on inside the home, but a few neighbors recall hearing yelling in recent years, and in one incident, a naked woman walking in the backyard. And it all started late yesterday with Amanda Berry's panicked 911 phone call just moments after a heroic neighbor helped her break free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

911 OPERATOR: Cleveland 911. Do you need --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hello police. Help me. I'm Amanda Berry.

911 OPERATOR: do you need police, fire, or ambulance?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need police.

911 OPERATOR: OK. And what's going on there? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for ten years and I'm here. I'm free now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's get straight to our Brian Todd. He's on the ground in Cleveland right now. Brian, you spoke with the neighbor who let Amanda Berry into the home where that 911 call was made. What did you hear?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a riveting account of those moments when Amanda Berry's freedom essentially first came to her when she got out of this house behind us, came across the street. We'll give you a look at the house right now. FBI agents pretty much still just all around the place. They sent in K-9 teams a short time ago. They towed away a vehicle a short time ago.

They took out the front door just a short time ago, as well. So, a lot of activities still at the house. Now, back to the neighbor. This woman's name is Altagrasia Tejeda. She was there when Amanda Berry ran across the street frantic, needing to call 911. And she described the scene to us through a translator. She doesn't speak English. She described the scene when Amanda Berry got to her front porch and explained to her what she needed. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALTAGRASIA TEJEDA, NEIGHBOR (Through translator): I was going to go inside, but then, the police car arrived and when she saw it, she went down there and asked him to help her. She told him there were no more people inside the house. That's when they broke down the door.

TODD: Tell us what Amanda Berry was like when she came here. Was she screaming? What was she dressed like? How did she speak?

TEJEDA: She was very nervous and crying a lot. My little girls came crying saying, mommy, mommy, mommy. Daddy, daddy, daddy. They were inconsolable. She was wearing a sweat shirt and a ribbon in her hair.

TODD: What was going through her mind when that happened?

TEJEDA: I sat down and put my hands on my head because I was not expecting that. How could it be that a man who used to say hello, who used to come over here? You couldn't notice anything about him. He just lived there.

TODD: What can she tell us about Mr. Castro across the street?

TEJEDA: I saw him as a typical neighbor, someone you would see and wave back at. He would come and go. Nothing unusual. He was a normal neighbor, polite, but who would just say hi with a wave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And that's a consistent account from many neighbors that he seemed very normal, that he kind of kept to himself, said hello, drew no red flags to anyone except for those, the neighbors who you mentioned, Wolf, one of whom saw a naked woman in the back yard. We also have an account from one woman who saw a child back there and didn't realize there might be a child living there.

But those were really the only red flags that neighbors raised through the decade or so that this was going on, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd on the ground there right now. We'll get back to you in a moment. Relatives of the suspects are also beginning to speak out. CNN's Martin Savidge spoke with their uncle and has that part of the story.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as you know, there are three men in custody, all brothers ages 50, 52, and 54. They're not talking but family members are. I had a very interesting conversation with their uncle, Julio Castro. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIO CASTRO, SUSPECT'S UNCLE: I haven't been able to talk to immediate family other than my phone, and their reaction is surprising. Everybody is surprised at what's happening.

SAVIDGE: What would you say to your nephews if you could talk to them? What would you want to know?

CASTRO: What can I say? Shame on you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Julio Castro says, by the way, when it was Gina DeJesus that went missing, he actually gave money to try and find her. He actually helped and went out on the streets to try to locate her. He is stunned that any of his family could have been involved in her disappearance -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Martin Savidge. CNN's Brooke Baldwin is also in Cleveland right now. She spoke to a band mate of the suspect, Ariel Castro. How did that go?

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I talked to a man by the name of Tito DeJesus. I asked, you know, when you hear the last name DeJesus, might he have been related to Gina. He said, perhaps, loosely but not that he knew of. He's been in contact with the family. Obviously, they are absolutely elated.

But what was unique about this interview is because he provides this very unique perspective because he has been inside of this home here on Seymour Avenue. He actually played many gigs with Ariel Castro. They were in a band together for a number of years, and so, he talked to me a little bit about that. Obviously, I asked him what the heck was Ariel Castro like?

So, I want to play this part of the interview in which I asked him about that and I also asked him about just a couple of years ago when he was inside this house, he had sold Ariel Castro his washer and dryer, and for minutes, he was in there walking around, perhaps, on top of these young women somewhere in this house. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TITO DEJESUS, PLAYED IN A BAND WITH ARIEL CASTRO: I've known him through music. Your average musician, you know, high spirits, always joking around, smiling, laughing. Great talent, musically. And, it was a shock to me to find out that this happened. And it was hard to believe, because I would have never thought a million years that it was him that was allegedly holding Gina, Amanda, and Michele.

BALDWIN: Hard to believe that also because these women, it sounds like might have been under your nose. You have been to this home here on Seymour Avenue. When was the most recent time you were here?

DEJESUS: I was there about two years ago when I was moving to my house from my apartment, I sold Ariel a washer and dryer and a bunch of staff at my garage, and he asked me for help to take the stuff to his house, and which I did. You know, we unloaded the stuff and went inside just for a few minutes to living room, and then, you know, then I left.

BALDWIN: Tito, tell me in those few minutes, when you were inside this home where we now know these three women and at least one young daughter lived, what did you see?

DEJESUS: I saw a normal environment. It didn't seem to be like, you know, a place women were being held against their will. Of course, mind you, I didn't go throughout the entire house. I was just like just at the beginning of the house and living room, but it seemed normal. You know, nothing out of place. Just like a normal house.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: So, that was Tito DeJesus speaking with me just a little while ago. And just to be, you know, crystal clear, Ariel Castro and his two brothers are in custody. Under law here in Ohio, there's about a 48-hour window before they need to be officially charged, and if not, they can walk away. So, we're watching for the charges to come down, Wolf, but you know, I've been here for the last couple of hours.

I watched this activity behind me, and we've seen FBI. We've seen K-9 units. I know as Brian Todd was telling you, we've seen the front door come down. We've all heard the sound from Charles Ramsey, that astute passerby who heard the screams and bashed in the door. So, clearly, investigators would love to know that the secrets of this house could tell and you know they are combing through this house right now, trying to get to the bottom of what might have happened.

BLITZER: And based on what -- you see right behind you, Brooke, are FBI and other law enforcement personnel going in and out?

BALDWIN: Yes. We've been watching them for the last couple of hours. It's been -- I would say about a dozen FBI agents. Forgive me as I'm turning around. Yes, it looks like. So, they've put up this tent and I don't know if you can see over my shoulder this green tent. They put out in the last couple of hours this table. And, we saw a number of these agents slapping on these protective suits, these white suits from head to toe like you would see in a hazmat scene.

But here, they don't know what they're walking into in this home. And so, Wolf, that's what we've seen. A lot of activity, a lot of helicopters up above. This is a huge news story, obviously, for the Cleveland area. Big, big story here on Seymour Avenue.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. All right. Brooke, thanks very much.

CNN's Poppy Harlow just spoke with the older brother of one of the women who was just found, Gina DeJesus. Here's what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICARDO DEJESUS, BROTHER OF MISSING WOMAN WHO WAS FOUND: It was in disbelief. We cried. We were shaken. We were just happy.

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM: Tell me about Gina. The younger sister, she's 10 years younger than you. She's 23 now. Tell me what about her sticks out to you most?

DEJESUS: She's like my best friend. And I miss her and I'm glad she's home.

HARLOW: Tell me about the relationship the two of you had before she disappeared.

DEJESUS: Like I just said, like a best friend. Able to talk to her, be there for her, everything else.

HARLOW: What was she like? What did she like to do most?

DEJESUS: She liked to dance a lot, crack jokes, be with the family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: When we come back not everyone in the neighborhood says things were normal at the suspect, Ariel Castro's home. Just ahead, what one person is now telling CNN about an incident apparently involving a naked woman in the backyard.

Plus, the former host of the hit TV show "America's Most Wanted," John Walsh, is here. I'll speak with him live. What he suspected for years about this case and that has turned out to be true.

And she's one of the few people who actually knows what it's like to be abducted and held in captivity. My live interview this hour with Elizabeth Smart. Stay with us. Lots going on.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: While some neighbors say they had known the suspect, Ariel Castro, for years, and that he seemed normal, others say they did notice some strange incidents at Castro's house. One spoke with CNNs Tory Dunnan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NINA SAMOYLICZ, CASTRO'S NEIGHBOR: Me and my friends and my sister were home across the street at a house, like spending the night, and we've seen a naked lady in the backyard. We like didn't know nothing about it so we said something to her. He told her to get down. We said something to him. He told her to get in the house and he ran behind the cars and got in the house. She was just walking around.

TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And naked.

SAMOYLICZ: Yes. We thought that was weird.

DUNNAN: Yes. I mean, what sort of came to your mind?

SAMOYLICZ: We thought it was funny at first, and then, we thought that was weird so we called the cops.

DUNNAN: And then what happened?

SAMOYLICZ: They thought we were playing and joking. They didn't believe us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Screams. The neighbor's courage and a 911 call, that's what it took to free three women from a decade of captivity. Joining us is now John Walsh, the former host of "America's Most Wanted," one of America's best known advocates for the missing and the exploited. John, thanks very much for coming in.

JOHN WALSH, "AMERICA'S MOST WANTED" HOST: Glad to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm going to play a clip. This is an interview you did with Larry King right here on CNN back in 2005, because I know at the time you were searching for both Amanda Berry and Gina Dejesus. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY KING, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Who are we looking for here?

WALSH: We don't know. She still hasn't been found this little girl.

KING: This is a missing girl?

WALSH: Yes. Missing 14-year-old girl.

KING: Do you presume? What do you do with stuff like this?

WALSH: Well, there's another little girl, you know, missing in that six blocks from Gina DeJesus. So, the cops say they're not related. I say they're related. I mean, come on. You got one 14- year-old girl and then another girl down the street six blocks away. They haven't found either girl, and they have no suspects.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: You were right. And apparently, the cops were wrong. What happened here?

WALSH: Well, I -- first of all, I want to say that there are two heroes here in case we don't have time to talk to it. Amanda, who never gave up trying to get out and probably motivated by this six- year-old girl that was obviously a result of a rape or sexual abuse of Amanda and Charles Ramsey. I just got to say I just talked to this man.

BLITZER: He's the neighbor who burst into that door.

WALSH: He's the guy. He doesn't have a cell phone, Wolf. So, I wanted to call him up and say to him, you're a real hero. You're the kind of guy that I always say can make a difference. And he doesn't have a cell phone. A friend answered the phone. He goes Mr. Walsh, I always was a fan of "America's Most Wanted." You're my hero. And I said no.

You made a decision today that saved the lives of three women and a six-year-old child. You are a hero. You got into it. You didn't think about the consequences. And you made a huge difference. And, it's just kind of amazing, you've got these three women within this small radius and the cops did a great job. They got the three suspects there and stopped -- but Wolf, I always thought these were related. I always --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They were telling you these were unrelated incidents. Why wouldn't they conclude that, you know, these -- the two young women were abducted within, you know, a few miles of each other if that, and they wouldn't think that that necessarily would be related?

WALSH: And you know, because Amanda Berry was first listed as a run away. And her mother, I talked to before she died, died of a broken heart, I believe, so did the relatives, that because she was a day before her 17th birthday that she was a run away and the parents said no. This girl, you know, got a ride home. Obviously --

BLITZER: The parents never believed she was a run away.

WALSH: Never. Never.

BLITZER: But why would the police believe she was a run away? Based on what?

WALSH: Based on the fact that she was 17 and she didn't show up. And everybody --

BLITZER: Did they think Gina Dejesus was a run away, too?

WALSH: No. But they didn't say that she qualified for an amber alert, Wolf. It took me three years to get the amber alert through Congress to become a national call for when a child is missing. So, a couple mistakes were made back in those days, but Gina should have been an amber alert.

The first year amber alerts were used, 117 kids were found. So, in the beginning, some mistakes were made. But those parents never gave up. And they kept these cases going. And nobody is talking about Michele Knight. I don't think anybody was ever looking for Michele Knight.

BLITZER: We don't even have a picture of her yet.

WALSH: I don't think police ever took it serious that she possibly had been abducted.

BLITZER: They just assumed she was a run away, too.

WALSH: Or that she decided that she just wanted to change her life. And I've said it for years. Ted Bundy probably killed over 30 women. Eighty percent of those women were listed as run aways. None of them run away. He was charming. He got them. He murdered them. He tortured them.

I don't think you can sign the death warrant of a person by saying she's a run away. We don't care. She's 20 years old.

BLITZER: Let's review, because I'm sure the Cleveland police are trying to do as good a job as they possibly can.

WALSH: They're doing a great job. They're doing a great job.

BLITZER: But you believe they made some major mistakes over these past ten years.

WALSH: I don't want to say they made major mistakes. It's human error because 90 percent of kids that are missing, 98 percent are run aways and they're found, etcetera. It's such a difficult call and I'm hoping. The Cleveland police have done a great job. They've got the three guys. And I hope they get justice. I hope these women get justice.

But law enforcement has got to change this attitude, Wolf, that because you're 17 years old, you're a run away, because you maybe don't quite qualify for an amber alert, we got to wait. The first four hours are crucial. And a woman like Michele Knight, everybody said no, she would never run away just because she's --

BLITZER: So, let's learn some lessons.

WALSH: Absolutely. BLITZER: Based on what we know right now, what are the two or three most important lessons law enforcement out there all over the country needs to learn from Cleveland?

WALSH: If you got three missing women within a five-mile radius and you get a call that something's going on, get that search warrant. I'm going to meet Jaycee Dugard in a minute and give her the award she so deserves as brave as she is.

BLITZER: At an event here in Washington.

WALSH: In an event here in Washington. The hope awards. How appropriate? But Philip Gorito (ph) violated his parole and police came and handcuffed him and took him to jail while Jaycee was in the backyard. They never looked in the back yard. Cops have got to take this business deadly serious when you've got three cases within a five-mile range.

And that people can make a difference. If your gut instinct is something is bad, something's gone wrong. Look at Charles. He could have thought it was a domestic abuse case. He shouldn't do it. He said, I'm a black man. It's a White woman. I could have got stabbed. But you know what he did, he bound up those steps and he helped that woman get out of there and he made a difference.

Everybody should learn from this. If you see something that makes you feel creepy, call the cops. If the cops have three missing people within an area, get a search warrant, do something, get in that house, and then, you're able to say OK. Sorry. We didn't violate your civil liberties. We checked your backyard. We checked in your house. They're not here. Sorry for being a good citizen.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Neighbors and others are saying, well, there were some suspicious things, but it didn't dawn on them that maybe anything like this could be happening. It is pretty extraordinary and pretty awful.

WALSH: But it's a great ending, Wolf. It really proves that if you never give up hope, you're going to talk to Elizabeth Smart. Everybody gave up on that case after eight months, but her parents didn't. It's going to help lots of parents of missing children. It's going to give them hope.

BLITZER: I know you went through hell back in 1981 when your little six-year-old Adam was abducted and murdered. Do you have any advice for these families right now?

WALSH: I say, you're lucky. It's wonderful. Embrace these women. They got a tough road ahead, Wolf. They need professional help like Elizabeth Smart did, like Jaycee Dugard. They don't need to go on talk shows. They don't need to go on shows like this in all due respect. They need professional help.

Those families have to get them prepared for the trial, Wolf, because these three guys are going to start making deals and saying I was fat and I had acne. They need justice. Their families need to embrace them. They need professional help. And the cops have to do their jobs and the DAs right now in prosecuting this.

BLITZER: You're going to this dinner tonight --

WALSH: I'm thrilled to give Jaycee --

BLITZER: Please pass along our best, all of our viewers.

WALSH: I will.

BLITZER: John Walsh, you and I have known each other for a long time. Thanks very much for coming in.

WALSH: Glad to do it. It's great day, Wolf. It's a wonderful day.

BLITZER: I know you're happy.

WALSH: It's a wonderful day.

BLITZER: A lot of people are.

Up next, you're going to see some friends and relatives of the rescued women. How they react with shock, tears, and overwhelming joy?

And I'll ask the former kidnap victim, Elizabeth Smart, about the healing process that these young women will now have to go through. My live interview this hour with Elizabeth Smart, that's coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We have some breaking news coming in to the SITUATION ROOM right now. We're just learning that the Colorado movie theater shooting suspect, James Holmes, will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder, and other charges in the deaths of 12 people and dozens of others injured in the July 2012 shooting earlier.

There had been reports that he might be willing to plead guilty in exchange for a plea bargain that would have avoided the death sentence, but now, that is -- he is pleading not guilty. Apparently, the prosecutor is rejecting any plea bargain with him.

Other news, family and friends of the three women found alive after a decade in custody are calling this nothing short of a miracle. Listen to what some of them are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's so surreal right now. It's just unbelievable. I don't -- I just can't even believe this after all these years. It was right down the street from my grandmother's house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm so happy she's found. I'm sorry.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How difficult has it been for you just wondering what happened after that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just very difficult. I'll never forget about it ever. I remember walking in the rain looking for her just asking around.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ten whole years and I thought about her every day and I knew she would come. I knew she would come home.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We missed you. We cried. We shed tears, but you're here. Everything is OK. Everything is going to be OK. We can't wait for you to come home. Please let us see you. We've missed you. I love you, baby.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Up next, the former kidnapping victim, Elizabeth Smart, knows what these three women who have just been rescued must be going through right now. Elizabeth Smart, she's standing by to join us live. We'll talk about the healing and the recovery process.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Happening now, a neighbor talks about seeing a girl with a baby in the suspect's house and calling police without results. He tells us the story.

Also, Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped as a teenager. She joins us this hour. We'll talk about what lies ahead for these three rescued women.

And the New Jersey governor Chris Christie reveals his astonishing weight loss secret. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

One of the rescued women from Cleveland is several years older than the others. Michele Knight disappeared back in 2002. The case quickly went cold. Lisa Sylvester is here trying to put some details together. What do we know about this very, very sad situation?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. We know so much about the other two women but not a whole lot about Michele Knight. She was reported missing back on August 23rd of 2002. And at that point had been missing for more than 24 hours. According to the police report, which we have obtained, she was 21 years old when she disappeared and she went by the nickname Shorty. She was last seen at her mother's cousin's house.

Now, this report states that she, quote, "has a mental condition and that is confused of her surroundings a lot." Last seeing blue shorts and a white T-shirt, according to the report. It also says they checked, they did their due diligence, the police officers. They checked the local hospitals. They checked the morgue. Nothing turned up. Michele's mother told "The Cleveland Plain Dealer" her daughter had become pregnant at 17 but lost custody of her child shortly before she went missing. So one theory is she simply walked away from her life. But her family was always concerned with her well being, even though it appeared she had just vanished. In subsequent years, the police tried to contact her mother. They sent something called a leads validation letter, essentially checking and asking if there were any new leads to pursue in the case. But her mother at this point had apparently moved out of the state to Florida. So the case was put on hold until new leads developed. There was absolutely no new information, that is, until yesterday, Wolf, when she was suddenly located.

BLITZER: Really happy she has been located and hope she can get her life back together with her family. Indeed. Like the other two women as well. What a heartbreaking story.

SYLVESTER: Yes. And we know her mother is on her way from Florida to Ohio, so we expect a very happy reunion. But again, you have to remember, so much time. I mean, she has been missing since 2002. The family just had no idea what happened to her. It should be a happy reunion.

BLITZER: Eleven years of her life. All right, thanks very much, Lisa. We'll be speaking with Elizabeth Smart. She knows a thing or two about what these three women are going through. This is when she was young. She was a teenager. She was abducted. She is going to be joining me live this hour.

Also coming up, we'll hear from a neighbor who saw a girl with a baby in the window of the suspect's house. He tells what happened when he called police.

And Chris Christie's astonishing weight loss secret. The New Jersey governor revealing what he's been up to.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Many Republican lawmakers remain outraged over the attack that took the life of U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, and they promise new revelations at a critically important House hearing tomorrow. Bu it was a very different story today in the Senate. Our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash is joining us with the latest details. What happened?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I just spoke with a Republican source in the House who said that at the end of the day tomorrow -- we expect it to be a pretty long hearing. He expects the American people will see that the State Department is not giving the public enough answers and that they have not held people accountable enough for what happened in Benghazi. Perhaps that is why Republicans in the Senate skipped the idea of pressing their points on the Benghazi attacks.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BASH: This confirmation hearing for Libya's next U.S. ambassador is most notable for what did not happen. No tough questions from Republicans about September's Benghazi attack that killed the last ambassador, Chris Stevens. In fact, virtually no senators in either party even showed up. Only the chairman, top Republican, and John McCain engaged the nominee.

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: Chairman, I can stop or keep going. Since no one else is here.

BASH: In an exclusive interview with CNN, nominee Deborah Jones, a well-respected career diplomat was hardly upset her confirmation hearing lacked heat.

No political questions from Republicans? Did that surprise you?

DEBORAH KAY JONES, AMBASSADOR-NOMINEE TO LIBYA: I was pleased there was focus on the substance of Libya. We have a lot of work to do there.

BASH: It will be different -- very different -- at Wednesday's House Libya hearing, featuring three State Department employees including Gregory Hicks, the second-ranking U.S. diplomat in Libya at the time of the attack. Republicans call him a whistleblower.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: He knew this was a terrorist attack and communicated that to the White House, to the State Department, to anyone who would listen before, during, and after.

BASH: Republicans are counting on Hicks to feed their central question about those infamous administration talking points about the attack: why Obama officials stripped out references to al Qaeda. Republicans have long held it was a political decision, a fear of stepping on the president's campaign message that he crippled al Qaeda.

ISSA: We want to find out who made this decision to change talking points in a way that caused the American people to be lied to.

BASH: Another Republican question: was there an administration cover up about mistakes before, during, and after the attack? And what was Hillary Clinton's role?

She was a secretary of state, but she's also somebody who might run for president next time around. Politics there?

ISSA: Not at all. This happened on her watch. We are making no allegations specific to her, but we certainly have allegations directly to her key lieutenants.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, I spoke with the committee's top Democrat on the committee just a little while ago, who said he too is interested in getting the answers on Benghazi. All the answers that they can. But he says he's been iced out of the process. In fact, he said he and other Democrats have had no access to another one of the witnesses we'll hear from tomorrow, Mark Thompson, who is a counterterrorism official. He said that and other problems, quote, "makes the work product of the committee questionable."

BLITZER: Do they have any idea, these Republicans including Darrell Issa, who cleaned up, if you will - who changed those talking points for ambassador Susan Rice to delete any references to al Qaeda or a terrorist operation, a well coordinated attack. Do they have any clue who did that?

BASH: You know, Wolf, we back a few months ago when this issue first percolated, reported that administration officials insisted it was the intelligence community that did that. The Republicans simply aren't buying that, as you know. So I think the answer, the short answer to your question is no, they don't or if they don't they're waiting to maybe reveal that at this hearing. But that is definitely one of the things Issa said he is going to continue to press because, again, he doesn't believe it was to help make sure sources and methods weren't revealed if it was for political reasons.

BLITZER: That could be explosive if that's revealed tomorrow. And we'll have live coverage. I'll be anchoring our coverage at 11:30 a.m. Eastern around these Benghazi hearings.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM: three suspects, three brothers. We're learning more about the men accused of holding these young women for a decade. That's coming up at the top of the hour.

Up next, Chris Christie reveals his weight loss secret. What led him to finally make a bold and potentially risky move?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Joining us now a very special guest, Elizabeth Smart. She was kidnapped from her home back in 2002 at the age of only 14, held captive for nine months. Her abductor Brian David Mitchell is serving a life sentence in prison.

Elizabeth, thanks very much for coming in. First of all, how are you doing right now?

ELIZABETH SMART, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: I'm doing so great. Thank you. How are you?

BLITZER: Good. I'm doing fine, too. And I know you must be very happy for these three women in Cleveland and you can identify you went through a horrible situation. What is it like, first of all, to be reunited with your family? What are the -- what do you suspect these three women in Cleveland are going through right now?

SMART: For me it was the happiest day of my life. I can't even begin to suspect what they're -- what they're going through right now but I would have to think relief, happiness, a big relief, but just excited and a chance of having your life given back to you.

BLITZER: How hard is it to readjust, to reintegrate yourself back into your family after a horrible ordeal and god knows you certainly did go through a horrible ordeal.

SMART: It's different for everyone. For me it was -- it was great because I have such a supportive family. I have such a wonderful community. I've had so much -- so many blessings in my life. For me, I felt like it came quickly and time really does heal so much.

BLITZER: It certainly does. So what advice would you have for these three women in Cleveland?

SMART: First of all, I want them to know that nothing that has happened to them will ever diminish their value and it should never hold them back from doing what they want to do. They should still follow their dreams, follow the life that they wanted to have. They should still be able to have that.

I also want them to know that they don't need to ever feel pressured into saying anything. Take as much time as they need and if they decide never to share their story that would be OK, too.

BLITZER: What do you think they should expect in the next, let's say, day or two or week or month? What are -- what are they going to be going through?

SMART: I am sure it's going to be so much of a whirl wind. There are so many legal things that have to take place. There are so many adjustments that have to be made. I mean, going back to a family. Going back to freedom. To having a real life again from heaven only knows what they went through and how they managed to survive it. Ten, 11, 12 years. It's just incredible that they are walking away from this horrendous nightmare alive and safe today.

BLITZER: When you heard that they had been rescued yesterday what went through your mind?

SMART: I am just so happy. I am -- I am thrilled. I think it's just more proof that there are more miracles out there waiting to happen, there are more children, more women and men who are waiting to be found and that no matter how old the case may seem, no matter how cold it might be there is still hope, there's still a chance that they will walk away from it, that they will be rescued, that they will be OK.

BLITZER: What helped you, Elizabeth, the most when it -- when it came to healing?

SMART: My family, my faith in God, and the support of the community and the prayers of so many that's made such a difference in my life.

BLITZER: And now obviously at some point these women, we assume, are going to have to live through a trial of these three men, these three suspects, who have now been arrested. I know that's a difficult ordeal because to a certain degree you have to relive some of those horrible days.

What's it like to have to relive that during a trial?

SMART: I certainly wouldn't live in anticipation of this trial. I -- my advice to them would be to live their life the way they want to. Continue to move forward and take one day at a time. And when that day of trial does come, just go in and say what you feel needs to be said, and that's all anyone can ask of them.

BLITZER: I'm sure you live with this every day. You never -- you never forget about this. Are there good days? Are there bad days? How are you dealing with all this?

SMART: Well, I think I'm human, I think everybody else is human. We all have good days. We all have bad days. Yes, there are some days I'm like, oh, geez, why did this happen? How am I here? But then it passes. I'm like, right, I have -- I have something I can offer because of what has happened to me, that maybe nobody else can offer. So looking back on it, yes, I probably wouldn't say, please, I would like to go through that again, but I can say that it's opened up so many doorways that never -- otherwise wouldn't have been opened up to me, that I can be grateful for.

BLITZER: You're now married with children. You can be an inspiration. Would you like to meet with these three women in Cleveland, just have a little private meeting with them and talk to them about what lies ahead for them, and potentially a great new world for them?

SMART: I certainly would be honored to speak with them. But at the same time, I, more than anybody, will respect their privacy, because I'm sure at this moment that's all probably all they want is time to regroup, time to heal, time -- just time to move on with their life. So I would never want to intrude on their personal space. But I would be honored to speak with them if they ever would like me to.

BLITZER: I may have misspoken. I know you're married, right, with no kids yet, right?

SMART: Right. Married with no kids yet.

BLITZER: All right. Well, let's hope some day you do have some kids. And I'm sure you will.

Let's talk a little bit about what you -- what you plan on doing now. What are you up to? What are you -- you're trying to help people in a situation like this.

SMART: I do a lot of speaking about prevention education. Because it is so wonderful that these women came back today. But how much more wonderful would it be if this crime had never taken place, if these families never had to suffer and go through what they went. And that's what we should be doing. So I do a lot of speaking out, about prevention, about talking to your kids, about making sure that they know that they're irreplaceable and you love them and they can -- if something were to happen to them, that -- I mean, no amount of money or fame could ever replace them. So make sure they know that. And making sure that they know that they have your permission, not only your permission, but your encouragement to do whatever it takes to be safe, to do whatever it takes to get away if someone ever crosses that line.

BLITZER: I just spoke to John Walsh, and you know him from "America's Most Wanted." And his advice to these three women right now, at least for the time being, avoid doing TV interviews. Deal with your family, deal with your friends, but don't go on television. Don't do Oprah. Don't do things like that. Do you think that's good advice to these women?

SMART: I do think that's good advice for these women right now. I think that they need time to go back, to be with their family. I think they need their privacy more than anything. So much has happened. And I know it's so intriguing to find out everything that happened, but really, I don't think we have a right to dig into the nitty-gritty details. I think it's enough for the public to know that, yes, they were kidnapped, they were held for an extremely long time, but happily they are recovered and that they should have their right to move on with their life.

And I think that by talking to media and going over and over and over the story, I don't think that helps them any.

BLITZER: You're a beautiful --

SMART: At least not in this moment. If they --

BLITZER: You're a beautiful and wonderful woman, Elizabeth. And I know you're going to be an inspiration to these three women in Cleveland. Thanks so much for sharing some thoughts with us. Good luck to you.

SMART: Well, thank you. Thank you so much.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Elizabeth Smart, joining us from Park City, in Utah, where it's raining if you heard that noise.

We're going to have much more in Cleveland coming up right at the top of the hour. But when we come back, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, reveals his weight loss secret. What led him to finally make a bold, potentially risky move. That's coming up.

Also don't forget at the top of the hour, we'll have much more on the three men suspected of holding these three women in that Cleveland house. They are all brothers. We're going to tell you new information that we are learning.

And a neighbor tells us what he -- what he and his sister saw at that house two years ago that made them call the police.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, today revealed his secret. Mary Snow has some details.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 12 weeks, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie kept his secret. But now he's talking about having weight loss surgery in February.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: The steps I've taken recently are for me, and for Mary Pat and the kids. And, you know, if asked about it, I would have never lied about it. But, you know, it's not anybody else's business but mine.

SNOW: A reporter did ask about it, and Christie went public. He says the surgery was not an easy decision.

CHRISTIE: It's pretty hard. I mean, you know, surgery is surgery. And you never want to approach that lightly. And I certainly didn't. But on the other hand, you know, I knew it was something that I felt like I need to do.

SNOW: The surgery was done shortly after a public furor about his weight which started with a joke on the David Letterman show.

CHRISTIE: I'm basically the healthiest fat guy you've ever seen in your life.

SNOW: After than appearance, a former White House physician told CNN she was concerned about Christie's ability to run for president.

DR. CONNIE MARIANO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: I worry that he may have a heart attack, he may have a stroke. It's almost like a time bomb waiting to happen.

SNOW: Christie fired back calling her a hack.

CHRISTIE: If she wants to examine me, review my medical history, I'll have a conversation with her about that. Until that time, she should shut up.

SNOW: Christie says the publicity had nothing to do with the lap band surgery that was originally set for November but got scrapped because of superstorm Sandy. Bariatric surgeon Dr. Ajay Goyal who is not involved in Christie's care says the procedure takes about 45 minutes.

DR. AJAY GOYAL, NEW JERSEY BARIATRIC CENTER: You're putting a belt, basically putting a belt on the upper part of the stomach. And -- has a balloon on it inside.

SNOW (on camera): And you feel fuller faster?

GOYAL: You feel fuller faster.

SNOW (voice-over): Christie, who turned 50 in September, says his age and his family, not his political future, played a big part in his decision. But that's not quieting speculation about a potential White House run, especially since Christie's weight did become a factor in the 2009 governor's race.

Opponent Corzine alluded to it in an unflattering ad. New Jersey pollster Patrick Murray says Governor Christie's weight isn't an issue, but he believes that will change if he runs for president.

PATRICK MURRAY, MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY POLLING INSTITUTE: With 2016 looming on the horizon, I think that gave him that just extra push for him to say, look, I don't want to give anybody a reason to think ill of me, to not consider voting for me just simply because of the way I look physically.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SNOW: But, Wolf, the governor is insisting that his career didn't play a role in his decision. And there are some questions that he wouldn't answer. He wouldn't talk about how much weight he's already lost or his target weight. And he made it very clear that this is not a topic that he wants to talk about anymore -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting, thank you.