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THE SITUATION ROOM
Michele Bachman Leaving Congress; "The IRS Was Engaged in a Witch Hunt;" Official: Proof Fox Reporter Notified of Probe; Mormon Mom Accused Of Drug Smuggling; Rape Investigation Outrage; Chris Christie Candid on Future and Weight Loss; Wrong Miss University Canada Crowned
Aired May 29, 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 HOST: Happening now, a Tea Party darling -- outspoken and controversial, now won't seek reelection. We're taking a closer look at the surprising reasons behind Michele Bachmann's announcement.
A new tornado threat in the Midwest. Severe weather possible right now, literally, at any moment. We have storm chasers on the ground.
And Governor Chris Christie opening up. The New Jersey governor talking candidly about his political future and his weight loss surgery.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
She rode the Tea Party ascension like a wave, becoming one of the most visible, vocal and controversial members of Congress. And she became a household name with a presidential campaign that wilted under the national spotlight.
But now, a surprise announcement from Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. She's decided to leave Congress.
Our Brian Todd is taking a closer look.
He's joining us now with more.
What do we know -- Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's hard to imagine it right now, but in spite of her reputation for gaffes, Michele Bachmann was, for a brief moment, the leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.
With this announcement today, she's once again exhibiting a knack for drawing attention.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MICHELE BACHMANN, (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I fully anticipate the mainstream liberal media to put a detrimental spin on my decision not to seek a fifth term.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD (voice-over): A surprise announcement from a leading light of Tea Party conservatives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BACHMANN: And I will continue to do everything that I can to advance our conservative constitutional principles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Michele Bachmann will complete her current term and said neither an investigation into her 2012 campaign finances nor fear of facing re-election pushed her out.
In recent election cycles, she certainly had a knack for making headlines.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM JUNE 12, 2011)
BACHMANN: I just want to make an announcement here for you, John, on CNN tonight. I filed, today, my paperwork.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: And she electrified the grassroots on the right, hitting a high mark when she won the Republican presidential straw poll in Ames, Iowa in the summer of 2011.
But that campaign surge was short-lived, tripped up, in part, by a reputation for unscripted remarks, like this widely disputed comment about the HPV vaccine on NBC.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "TODAY," SEPTEMBER 14, 2011, COURTESY NBC)
BACHMANN: Her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: She kept fact checkers occupied and they often caught her firing off inaccurate statements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "ANDERSON COOPER 360," NOVEMBER 3, 2010)
BACHMANN: The president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MARCH 16, 2013)
BACHMANN: We are also the ones who are paying for someone to walk the president's dog.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: When CNN's Dana Bash tried to verify that last one...
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: -- bring up the other thing...
BACHMANN: You want to talk about dog handlers and there's four Americans killed?
BASH: But Congresswoman, you're...
BACHMANN: That's (INAUDIBLE).
BASH: -- but you're the one who brought it up.
TODD: She also came under fire for her strong opinions about homosexuality and ObamaCare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM MARCH 21, 2013)
BACHMANN: Let's repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM NOVEMBER 6, 2004, COURTESY DUMPBACHMAN.COM)
BACHMANN: If you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair and personal enslavement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Bachmann drew sympathy when "Newsweek" magazine put an unflattering snapshot of her on the cover.
"Saturday Night Live" also made her a favorite target.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE," JANUARY 7, 2012, COURTESY NBC)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I hope you enjoy a future that will be littered with death panels, re-education camps and forced immunizations, all ending in an Iranian nuclear bomb that will bring about the rapture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But for her supporters, Michele Bachmann is a visionary who stood against regulation, big government and debt spending, and was anti-abortion, pro-family and a defender of liberty. RYAN LIZZA, "THE NEW YORKER": She made the Tea Party case in a way that really excited the grassroots, I mean, similar to the way Sarah Palin did or Herman Cain. She made the case against Obama better than anyone else, according to a lot of the Tea Party folks.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Some early handicapping for Michele Bachmann after she leaves office?
Well, there's speculation that she could become a cable news commentator, as other former candidates, like Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, have done. But interestingly, so far in 2013, she has not been booked once on the Sunday talk shows -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, what's the status of the investigation into her 2012 presidential campaign?
TODD: Well, she is under investigation by an independent Congressional panel and other entities. Most of this has to do with questionable transfers of funds. Bachmann's attorney insists she's done nothing wrong and that they're cooperating with these investigations.
BLITZER: She will stay in Congress, though, to finish up her term...
BLITZER: -- which ends at the end of next year. So she's going to be around, at least in Washington, for a year-and-a-half.
All right, Brian, we're going to have more on this story coming up later.
Conservative groups who say they were targeted by the IRS are taking the agency and some top Obama administration officials to court. They're seeking vindication and money for what they say was unconstitutional conduct.
Our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is working the story for us.
What are you learning -- Dana?
BASH: Well, Wolf, the attorney representing these groups insists that the idea this was the work of rogue IRS agents is not believable. He wants top officials found guilty of wrongdoing. And he wants 10 clients he has who still have gotten no word from the IRS to have their cases resolved.
We talked to one of those today.
BASH (voice-over): Dianne Belsom applied for tax-exempt status for her Tea Party group three years ago. Still no decision from the IRS.
DIANNE BELSOM, LAURENS COUNTY TEA PARTY: At this point in time, we have not been approved.
BASH: In a Skype interview from her South Carolina home, Belsom described excessive IRS questions she called inappropriate.
(on camera): Do you honestly believe, based on the kinds of questions that you were getting from the IRS, that you were targeted for your political views?
BELSOM: Oh, absolutely.
BASH (voice-over): Belsom's Laurens County Tea Party group is one of 25 organizations that today filed suit against the federal government, accusing federal officials of violating Tea Party groups' Constitutional right to free speech and the IRS' own policy against discrimination based on a political point of view.
Attorney Jay Sekulow's American Center for Law and Justice is representing them.
JAY SEKULOW, AMERICAN CENTER FOR LAW AND JUSTICE: Unfortunately, the IRS primarily was engaged in a witch hunt about who the members were and what the positions of those members were and what the position of the organizations happened to be on various issues, none of which the IRS was entitled to.
BASH: CNN reported earlier this month that some of Sekulow's clients received lengthy IRS questionnaires asking for mountains of information, including names of donees, recipients and grantees, some bearing the signature of now former Tax-Exempt Division chief, Lois Lerner. Lerner's former boss has insisted that doesn't mean she's guilty of anything.
STEVE MILLER, ACTING IRS COMMISSIONER: Her signature is on 70,000 applications, so let's not personalize this one to Ms. Lerner.
BASH: But this lawsuit is personal, singling out top IRS and Obama officials for wrongdoing.
SEKULOW: These were the decision makers, the people that were in charge of the offices or the divisions that we've sued. And the idea here that you're just going to blame the line agents I found to be offensive from the beginning of this.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Now Sekulow says he is hoping to win damages for clients who had to pay for accountants and attorneys to help answer those lengthy IRS questionnaires.
Now, Wolf, up next week, Congress is going to be back in town. They are going to have yet another IRS hearing. And this time, they're going to call representatives from these Tea Party groups who say they were targeted. And they want to really use this forum, public forum, to allow them to formally share their experience.
These committees are going to be talking to the IRS officials and these Tea Party groups and they're going to be talking to them privately and in public for a very long time. I'm told this investigation is going to go on for months.
BLITZER: Yes, I suspect it will. And we'll be learning a lot more in the course of the next few months.
All right, Dana, thank you.
Let's turn to another story we're following right now. A new twist in another huge controversy embroiling the Obama administration right now, the government's seizure of reporters' phone records to track unclassified leaks -- classified leaks, I should say.
We're getting important new information about whether or not Fox News' parent company, the News Corporation, was notified about the investigation into one of its reporters, James Rosen.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is over at the White House.
He's getting new information.
What's the latest?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, the Justice Department has been working to lower the temperature, lower the heat in this James Rosen matter. One thing that the Justice Department did confirm is that Attorney General Eric Holder will be meeting with bureau chiefs for the various news organizations here in Washington over the coming days to talk about some of these issues.
And then something else that came up earlier this afternoon. The Justice Department is telling us here at CNN, Wolf, that it showed Fox News notification, according to the Justice Department, of this James Rosen investigation nearly three years ago.
To back that up, earlier this afternoon, our justice and law enforcement producer, Carol Cratty, was shown, by a law enforcement official, documents indicating as much, that this notification to the parent company of Fox News, News Corporation, happened three years ago.
And I also want to show you the statement that the Justice Department is passing along to us, Wolf. Here it is.
It says, quote, "Consistent with the department policies and procedures, the government provided notification of the subpoenas," they're saying, for phone records and other pieces of information, "nearly three years ago by certified mail, fax and e-mail."
We should go on to say that, Wolf, we have been in contact with the man, who was the general counsel at News Corporation during this time in question. And that man has told CNN he has no recollection of receiving that notification from the Justice Department.
But we should also point out Justice Department officials do caution that this does not take away from the fact that the attorney general, Eric Holder, remains concerned about these investigations -- these federal investigations into the activity of journalists here in Washington.
But we should also point out Republicans say they are concerned about what Eric Holder has been saying in all of this. They are concerned that he has not been telling the truth and are pointing to a hearing that occurred just a couple weeks ago up on Capitol Hill. They're raising questions about whether or not Holder may have perjured himself in sworn testimony at that hearing.
And we'll be talking about more of that in the next hour -- Wolf.
BLITZER: This story continues, obviously, as well.
Jim Acosta, thanks.
And as Jim said, we'll have a lot more on what's going on. We'll have more developments in our next hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Up next, she's an American mother of seven. She's a Mormon.
She's in jail in Mexico, accused of smuggling drugs. Her very, very anxious family is speaking out. And now the mom is speaking out exclusively to CNN, as well.
Plus, Senator John McCain talking exclusively, also, to CNN's Anderson Cooper about his secret trip inside Syria.
BLITZER: She's accused of drug smuggling, but it might be hard to find a more unlikely suspect than this Mormon mother of seven from Arizona, who is sitting right now in a Mexican jail, as her nightmare ordeal unfolds.
CNN's Casey Wian is joining us now from Goodyear, Arizona -- Casey, what's the latest in this case?
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've got to tell you, Wolf, the family of Yanira Maldonado here in Arizona is on edge, increasingly tense, as the fate of this Mormon mother of seven remains in the hands of a Mexican judge.
WIAN (voice-over): Yanira Maldonado's family hoped she would be released at a court hearing in Nogales, Mexico Tuesday. But the Mormon mother of seven, accused of smuggling marijuana, will remain in a Mexican jail for at least another day. The family insists she has no involvement in drugs and is being framed.
ANNA SOTO, YANIRA'S DAUGHTER: Whoever was the cause of this, that's who I am angry at, the people that put my mom in prison without having evidence.
WIAN: Maldonado was arrested last week after Mexican authorities said they found 12 pounds of marijuana under the seat of a commercial bus she was riding home in from a funeral with her husband, Gary. Gary Maldonado said he was asked to pay a $5,000 bribe for his wife's freedom, but as he tried to raise the money, she was shipped off to jail. The family says it is encouraged by the evidence presented in court, so far.
This case is not unusual in Mexico where there has been a struggle to modernize its notoriously corrupt judicial system says Mexico expert, George Grayson.
GEORGE GRAYSON, COLLEGE OF WILLIAM & MARY: The judicial system there is even more corrupt than the police, and when you're brought into a judicial proceeding, you don't get to face your accuser. You don't have an automatic right to a lawyer. You may be held before you're brought to trial for some weeks and it's a closed proceeding.
WIAN: In this case, the judge has the power to hold Maldonado in prison up to four months before trial. That would likely only bring more pressure from U.S. authorities. The office of Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona says, Senator Flake has been in contact with the family as well as officials in Mexico and the U.S. regarding the case. He will continue to monitor the situation.
WIAN (on-camera): That situation is resuming today in a Mexican courtroom where expected to testify members of the Mexican military who apprehended Yanira Maldonado last week. The family remaining very hopeful that the situation could be resolved by the end of this week, Wolf.
BLITZER: We'll have a lot more in this story in (ph) our next hour, including my interview with her eldest daughter who's very, very concerned, obviously. Thanks very much, Casey, for that report.
Other news we're following, Senator John McCain now talking about his historic trip to Syria for the first time, speaking exclusively to CNN. Senator McCain made a surprise visit Monday, briefly crossing in from neighboring Turkey to meet with rebel commanders making him the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since civil war broke out more than two years ago.
McCain says the rebels don't understand why the United States won't do more to help them topple the al Assad regime. Listen to what he told Anderson Cooper.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Has been there, you know, shaking these people's hands, looking them in the eye, being on Syrian soil, has it changed or intensified your feelings in any way?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: It's intensified because when you look at the faces of these people and hear their stories, so many of them have lost family members, so many of them have lost friends. This is a pretty bloody business that they've been in, and of course, it's been as you might imagine, identified -- intensified because these are human beings that are trying to achieve the same thing that we have shed American blood and treasure for for well over 200 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You can see Anderson's entire exclusive interview with Senator McCain later tonight at "AC 360," 8:00 p.m. eastern only here on CNN.
When we come back, a Red Cross building targeted, yes, targeted in a deadly Afghanistan blast. We're going to have the latest on that.
Plus, a wedding that began along a lake ends with the entire wedding party in it. You're going to want to see what happens. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Authorities are searching for answers in a former NFL player's mysterious death. Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories here in the SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what happened?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, searchers found the body of Cullen Finnerty not far from a boat he left near Michigan River. He had been missing since Sunday, and according to authorities, called his family to say he was nervous, but they aren't sure why. Investigators have found no evidence of foul play. An autopsy is expected today.
Finnerty was a college football star who later went on to play briefly for the Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos.
Two attackers and a security guard were killed in a massive assault on a Red Cross building in Afghanistan and a gun battle between police and militant. A parliament official says it started with one attacker blowing himself up and others storming the building. Seven people were rescued and one international Red Cross staffer is said to be slightly injured.
Take a look at this. This is unbelievable surveillance video of raging Illinois floodwaters breaking through the doors of a college campus building and dismantling computer desks from their foundations. Carl Sandburg College has closed its main campus indefinitely.
And, when one couple planned to have their wedding along with a popular Atlanta Area Lake, it probably didn't plan on it ending up in it. So, that's exactly what happened when the entire wedding party posed for a picture on the deck and it suddenly flipped over, plunging all 27 of them in, including the bride. Fortunately, everyone was OK and they all seemed to get a good laugh out of it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They may have gotten a good laugh, but I'm sure they weren't pretty happy about that. (LAUGHTER)
BLITZER: All right. At least they're OK. Thank you, Mary, for that.
When we come back, we're going to be joined by the newest members of our CNN family. Two powerhouse forces in the world of politics, they're bringing their insight right here into the SITUATION ROOM.
Plus, very candid talk from Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor opens up about his political future and his weight loss surgery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER (voice-over): Happening now, a Tea Party icon calls it quits in Congress, won't seek re-election next year. Ahead, what Michele Bachmann's surprise announcement could mean for the future of the movement?
Plus, the Midwest bracing for another round of what could be vicious tornadoes. Our Chad Myers is live with a storm chaser right in the middle of it all. He's standing by.
And a slimmer, trimmer governor, Chris Christie opening up to "People" magazine about his state, his Lap Band surgery, and what could be a very bright political future.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Out of the blue, a surprise announcement today by Michele Bachmann, the Tea Party darling and former presidential candidate says she's leaving Congress after this term.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, (R) MINNESOTA: Be assured, my decision was not in any way influenced by any concerns about my being re-elected to Congress. And rest assured, this decision was not impacted in any way by the recent inquiries into the activities of my former presidential campaign or my former presidential staff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about this with our brand new CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Stephanie Cutter, the Republican strategist, Kevin Madden, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here as well. First of all to our newest contributors, welcome to CNN. We'll talk a little bit about that shortly.
Kevin, why do you think Michele Bachmann is saying this? What are the factors right now that made her decide it's time to announce she won't seek re-election? KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, look, Wolf, I believe she genuinely -- she's genuinely being honest when she says that, you know, it's time to move on. There's different ways to serve. There are different ways to serve in a policy capacity and different ways to serve in a political capacity.
When she said that the investigations and some of the pressures that she's feeling from re-election had nothing to do with her not running, that means they had a lot to do with her not running. I mean, the pressures that these candidates go -- we shouldn't dismiss it as something that's, you know, not normal.
I mean, the pressures that these candidates undergo of the need to raise money, the constant pressure to campaign, the constant pressure that they have from adversaries, you know, that's something that does take its toll on a lot of folks. There's a very human element to that. So, I do think it had a big factor in her stepping down. But also, I do think what was most important about her announcement, which was that she still thinks she can play a role.
And I think that we haven't heard the last from Michele Bachmann. It may not be as an elected official, but I think that she still does have a future in the movement.
BLITZER: My own sense, Stephanie -- my own sense is that in part, she's following what i call the Sarah Palin playbook. At least she's not quitting in the middle of her tenure. She's going to finish her tenure -- her term as a member of Congress, but remember, Sarah Palin, she quit as governor of Alaska.
She's made millions if not tens of millions of dollars in all sorts of ways since then and I suspect that Michele Bachmann has a pretty significant future ahead of her in similar kinds of areas.
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, that may be true. And you know, good for her. I give her credit for trying to do that. But I think Kevin is right. That if you're putting in a video where you're announcing your resignation that you're not doing it because you may have done something wrong, then you probably did something wrong.
Let's remember just a couple weeks ago, she was launching her first campaign ads. So there were some realities she was facing. She was going to face a tough re-election. She doesn't have the stature in the Tea Party she used to have. There are others that are taking her place -- Senator Cruz and -- you know, you can speak to this more than I can. Senator Paul. You know, I think that they are a much more focused and deliberative and thoughtful in their communications to the Tea Party than Michele Bachmann was. This was actually not a great day for Democrats when Michele Bachmann is resigning.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: She won last time around by less than 5,000 votes. Mitt Romney, your guy, won that district by what, 15 points or so. The person who ran against her last time is going to run against her this time had she decided to run again. She had a problem there. She is facing ethics investigations in the House, which by the way go away if she leaves Congress. She has other investigations she is facing. I think the lady doth protest too much.
CUTTER: The lady doth protest too much, and if she wants to make those millions of dollars Sarah Palin did, if those investigations continued or if she lost her primary, they all get wiped away.
KEVIN MADDEN, FORMER ROMNEY CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I would just clarify, I don't think this is an admission of guilt as much as an admission that there is -- that this has been a burden weighing on her tremendously.
BORGER: And we've seen a lot less of her.
BORGER: We have seen a lot less of her in Congress where she used to be much more visible. Suddenly Dana Bash has to chase her down a hallway, if you'll recall. So that's been difficult.
MADDEN: One thing you'll remember about Michele Bachmann's career, she was always, routinely underestimated. I also think that she oftentimes exceeded a lot of expectations people had for her because she was a very gritty, determined person who did have a very, very good connection with a lot of the base of the party. I think that was something that did carry her. There were a lot of people who would have written her off after a year or two. She's been in Congress now eight years.
CUTTER: But I think that if Republicans are looking towards presidential elections, having Michele Bachmann as part of that process is completely not helpful to you.
BORGER: Right. But I also think we should point out that being an ex- presidential candidate doesn't always work well for you in your political career. Look at someone like Dennis Kucinich or Chris Dodd. It doesn't always take you to the next level politically.
MADDEN: I don't know -- sometimes there is no down side to running for president because you have a national profile you never had before. Now there is a lot of scrutiny that comes with that national profile, but you still have a national profile where a lot of members of Congress are still struggling.
CUTTER: And she has an audience. She has the Tea Party --
BLITZER: I suspect we certainly aren't hearing the last from Michele Bachmann. She is going to be on the lecture circuit. She's going to make a ton of money that way. She'll probably become an analyst on some news network or whatever. She is going to be around even after she leaves Congress. I wouldn't rule out necessarily her running for other office. Whether she succeeds, that's another matter.
But Kevin, let me pick your brain quickly on Eric Holder. You served in the Justice Department during the Bush administration. If you were giving the Obama administration some advice right now, how would you handle this whole Eric Holder issue that has come up given these controversies that are out there? MADDEN: Well, look, one of the big problems right now is that there seems to have been a canyon between the White House and the Department of Justice about some of the most available, ready information that you need in order to combat some of the questions that many folks have about what went on with the DoJ investigation, whether it was AP or whether it was with James Rosen.
Those are things right now that have to be bridged. I think the White House -- a lot of folks will say well the White House and DoJ, they have to be separate. Look, that is still the president's attorney general. The information flow that goes between those two buildings, between those two offices, it has to be clamped down a bit. They have to do a better job of sharing that information. That way they can answer what by their nature are very political questions right now and a lot of questions related to oversight. They have to do a better job of getting a command and control structure in place between the White House and DoJ on that.
BLITZER: Look, Stephanie, to you, the president obviously strongly standing by Eric Holder, but a lot of people think Holder is bringing the president, the administration down right now. What do you think?
CUTTER: Well, I think that if the president took action every time a House Republican criticized a member of his cabinet, we'd have a pretty empty government. So, no. I don't think he is bringing the president down. I think for average Americans, they're not really paying attention to this and they're wondering, you know, why shouldn't the Department of Justice investigate, you know, intelligence leaks about some of our most pressing national security issues?
Let's also remember that it was Republicans who requested this investigation in the first place. So the hypocrisy is pretty widespread.
BORGER: Yes. But the question of press freedom goes directly to the question of everybody's freedom in this country. That's a connection that people are going to start to make. I would argue that it's not just a press issue that people don't care about but that eventually, they'll understand how important a free press is. And having a secret subpoena takes it a step further where members of the press can't say, wait a minute. Why does it have to be so broad? Why can't you narrow it? Why don't we have an opportunity to fight this?
It's a bit chilling, and I honestly believe it is something if Eric Holder had to do all over again -- I don't know for sure -- but I bet he might reconsider.
BLITZER: All right, hold on, guys. Hold on, guys. Because we're out of time. I want to just make sure that everybody knows we're warmly, warmly welcoming Stephanie Cutter, Kevin Madden, to CNN. You guys are going to be around; you're going to help us better appreciate what is going on. You both understand politics really, really well. I just want to introduce you once again, both of you to our viewers out there. They remember you from the Obama campaign. From the Mitt Romney campaign. Now you're both here as CNN contributors. We're happy about that.
CUTTER: Thank you, Wolf.
MADDEN: Good to be with you. Thanks.
BLITZER: All right. And Gloria, of course.
MADDEN: Gloria is clapping.
BORGER: I'm applauding.
MADDEN: She can't do a standing ovation because of where she is sitting right now, but she would if she could.
CUTTER: Sitting ovation.
BORGER: We're in the Sit Room.
CUTTER: Right. Appropriate.
BLITZER: Good place to be. All right, thanks, guys.
Just ahead, weather conditions ripe for disaster right now. A huge swath of the Midwest is facing the threat of devastating tornadoes. We're going there live.
And the New Jersey governor Chris Christie opening up about a possible White House bid and the drastic action he took to try to lose some weight.
BLITZER: The National Weather Service has just issued tornado watches from Texas to Nebraska tonight. Our meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers is chasing all the bad weather for us with a storm chaser. Chad is joining us now. What is the latest, Chad?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on the phone): Wolf, we're seeing all the flags across Texas, Kansas, even through parts of Oklahoma are stretched straight out, pointing from south to north. Wind blowing here 40, 50 miles per hour, and the air is just muggy. Not a bad hair day because of the wind but because of so much humidity in the air. Now, this humidity is going to be pushed up into the sky, and thunderstorms are going to develop and continue to develop all night long.
Here is the problem now. We're starting to get dark. Not quite yet. We still have a few hours. But these storms may go until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That is when some of the storms are the most dangerous because the warnings are not as fast as they could be. Spotters can't see the storms as well, and you might be asleep. Tonight is the night to make sure that NOAA weather radio is working properly, Wolf.
BLITZER: It could be literally any minute, it could be a few hours, but we anticipate some severe weather, right? MYERS: We do. In fact, I'll just step out into the wind and sort of away from the building. We have a line of weather moving into the Oklahoma City metro area. So far no tornadoes with that. But there are tornadoes here in the Texas panhandle, not that far from Wheeler, Texas. We'll watch those from a distant location. But if you are in Oklahoma City expect gusty winds, lots of lightning, hail, and maybe even a small spin up.
This is not a backseat tornado kind of day, not an EF-4, EF-5 type of tornado day. But still when your house is already half damaged or you have shingles missing already, any more damage obviously would be very quick to occur with a storm that could even be a hundred to 120 miles per hour, Wolf.
BLITZER: We will stay obviously very, very close touch with you, Chad. Be careful over there. Chad Myers on the scene for us as we await some really, really extreme weather on the way.
Other news we're following right now, really shocking story. Serial rapists on the loose even though police have their DNA. In many, many cases, the evidence has never even been looked at, sitting forgotten for decades in storage facilities. CNN's Randi Kaye has more.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In June, 1984, Carol Bart endured the most terrifying experience of her life. She was only 24.
(on camera): Did you think you were going to die?
CAROL BART, RAPE SURVIVOR: I did think I was going to die that night. I believed he was going to kill me.
KAYE: It was around 1:30 in the morning. Carol was returning home from a night out with friends. She was just feet from her door here in this Dallas apartment complex when a man grabbed her and forced her back into her car. He then pulled the car around beside a Dumpster, and spent the next three-and-a-half hours raping her.
BART: If I screamed or cried, he threatened me that he would kill me.
KAYE: When it was over, Carol drove herself to the hospital where doctors took swabs from her skin, hairs and fibers from her clothes. All part of what's called a rape kit. It was humiliating, but Carol endured it because she thought the material collected would help police catch her attacker. More than two decades later, Carol's rapist still hadn't been identified.
But a routine call in 2008 to check in on the case revealed something shocking. Carol's attacker was still on the loose because police had not exhausted every lead. He was still out there because the most crucial piece of evidence, that rape kit, had never been processed.
(on camera): How did you feel about the fact that your kit had been sitting on the shelf for so many years?
BART: They had just let them stack up and stack up and stack up. And that's just unacceptable.
KAYE: You heard right. Carol wasn't the only one. Years earlier, Dallas police sergeant Patrick Welsh discovered a huge backlog of rape kits and started a sexual assault cold case program.
How critical would you say the rape kits are in helping you solve these cases?
SGT. PATRICK WELSH, DALLAS POLICE: They're vital to our investigations. No question about that.
KAYE: Sergeant Welsh turned to the team here at the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences. He asked them to test every single untested swab sitting in their freezer. There were thousands of them dating back to 1970. Not a single one had ever been processed.
(voice-over): The sergeant says decades ago law enforcement just didn't have the tools to solve these cases. DNA technology wasn't available to them until the 1990s.
WELCH: We solved well over 80 cases from the -- from the early '80s and -- early '90s.
KAYE (on camera): From the rape kits.
WELSH: From the rape kits. Yes.
KAYE (voice-over): And Carol's case was one of them. Just four months, four months after Carol's kit was located and analyzed, the man who raped her was identified. But adding insult to injury, Joseph Houston couldn't be charged in Carol's case because the statute of limitations had run out. It turns out after Carol's rape he kidnapped another woman and exposed himself to a child.
Carol believes if her rape kit had been analyzed years ago her attacker might have been picked up and others wouldn't have been harmed.
Lavinia Masters' case had been cold, too. She had been raped at 13 back in 1985.
LAVINIA MASTERS, RAPE SURVIVOR: I woke up with a knife to my throat and someone spreading my legs apart ripping my underwear from me.
KAYE: Her rape kit sat on a shelf for 21 years until Lavinia called Sergeant Welsh.
(On camera): After 21 years they first had to unearth your kit. How frustrating was that?
MASTERS: I felt that I was on the shelf and I was forgotten about.
KAYE (voice-over): A few months later Sergeant Welsh got a hit. He showed Lavinia a photo of the man who'd raped her all those years ago.
MASTERS: I was like oh, my god, that is him. That is him. It was just amazing to me to see what DNA could do and how it changed my life.
KAYE: Too many years had passed for Lavinia to bring charges and it turns out the man was already in prison for raping two other women at knife point. He was up for parole but his parole was denied after a DNA match was finally made in Lavinia's case. But this isn't just a Texas problem. It's estimated as many as 400,000 rape kits are sitting untested nationwide. Four hundred thousand. Detroit has just started testing their backlog of 11,000 kits. And of the 300 they've tested, they've gotten 119 hits. And of those, 29 have been I.D.'d as serial rapists.
It's all beyond frustrating for Carol Bart.
CAROL BART, RAPE SURVIVOR: I could understand one city maybe being negligent but a nation being negligent with rape kits? I don't understand it. This is a felony crime.
KAYE: A felony crime that still has police playing catch up.
Randi Kaye, CNN, Dallas.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's really shocking, shocking story. I spoke about this with CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin. She told me that about 20 states have no statute of limitations on rape but in more than half the country time is running out for rape victims to see justice done.
I thank Randi for that excellent report.
Coming up his political profile is bigger than ever while his physical profile is shrinking. The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie opening up about both.
Plus, details of an embarrassing beauty pageant blunder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Denise Garrido.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, he lives up to his reputation for straight talk. In a candid and revealing new interview with "People" magazine, speaking openly about his state, his weight, and his political future.
BLITZER (voice-over): Chris Christie may have a slimmer profile these days, but he's having a very high-profile week. First, he toured the partially rebuilt Jersey Shore and rekindled his unlikely bromance with President Obama. BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me first of all say thank you to Governor Christie for that introduction and the great work he's done here.
BLITZER: And now he's talking exclusively to "People" magazine about his state, his political future and his weight loss after lap band surgery. He says he's lost and regained weight before, so he says, quote, "I'm leery of victory laps. But this seems, at least for the first 13 weeks, to be getting at the root of the problem, which is that I was hungry all the time."
Christie went on to say, "I'm not nearly as interested in food as I used to be. But it hasn't all of a sudden made me a huge vegetable fan."
The governor insists he had the weight loss surgery for personal, not political reasons. He isn't giving any new hints about whether he'll run for president in 2016. But he suggests he's following the advice his mom used to give him. "Do the job you have now well and your future will take care of itself."
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I am not going to let anything or anyone get in between me and the completion of the mission to restore and recover our great state.
BLITZER: Lately, Christie's job has focused a lot on recovery efforts after Superstorm Sandy. He says, "I couldn't get my head around how much damage there was."
As the rebuilding continues, the governor is leading the PR campaign for his state. In an on-camera chat with "People" he says reality TV shows don't do justice to New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: This is not what New Jersey is really like. And what I say to people is, you know, watch what they've seen in the last seven months on the news shows about the way the people from New Jersey have responded to this storm and how they've helped each other. They lifted each other up. They've worked hard to help rebuild the state. Those are the real people.
BLITZER: There's much more, by the way, in Chris Christie's fascinating exclusive interview, you'll find it only in our corporate cousin, "People" magazine.
Just ahead at the top of the hour, a killer virus just recently discovered in humans takes its toll on the Middle East. Could the United States be next? I'll speak with a leading expert.
Plus, a dream come true gone horribly wrong. You're going to find out why this now former Miss Universe Canada no longer has her crown.
BLITZER: It was a dream come true gone horribly wrong. A woman crowned Miss Universe Canada only to have the prestigious title revoked all because of a very embarrassing mix-up.
Here's CNN's John Berman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Miss Universe Canada 2013 is Denise Garrido.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Most beauty queens expect their reigns to last for a year.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Congratulations to our new Miss Universe Canada 2013.
BERMAN: But Denise Garrido's run as Miss Universe Canada lasted exactly one day. After stunning the audience during the competition, Garrido thought her childhood dreams had finally come true when she beat out 57 other women for the crown. But less than 24 hours later, the pageant's organizers realized a terrible mistake in the results. They made a typo which meant the first runner-up, Riza Santos, had actually won. And Denise Garrido placed fourth.
The pageant stripped Garrido of her title and apologized in a statement saying, "We would like to offer our sincere apology to Denise Garrido for this human error discovery while validating the results. We have no doubt she will continue to succeed in her endeavors and we wish her well."
Riza Santos, who had thought she had come so close only to place second, is now celebrating her new title. Santos won't have this same moment of glory, but will receive her crown in a private ceremony this weekend. Meanwhile, Garrido who is 26, is too old to compete again but she said she'd love to come back next year, this time as a judge.
John Berman, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: Both women, by the way, appeared together on CNN's "STARTING POINT" this morning and there don't appear to be any hard feelings on either side.