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THE SITUATION ROOM
NSA Says Over 50 Terror Plots Foiled; New Look at Times Square Attack; Three Arrested for Alleged Slavery; Interview With Sen. Rand Paul; President Obama Defends NSA; Boehner Needs GOP Majority To Bring Immigration Bill To The Floor; 8th Grader's Arrested for Wearing NRA T-Shirt?; First Lady and Daughters in Ireland
Aired June 18, 2013 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jake. Happening now, chilling details of plans to blow up New York subway and stock exchange. Intelligence chief says government surveillance has foiled more than 50 plots. I'll ask Senator Rand Paul if he's buying it.
Authorities want your help as they try to crack an unsolved bombing in New York's Times Square. With have never before seen video of a suspect.
And modern-day slavery in Ohio -- federal prosecutors say the suspects used beatings, dogs and snakes against a mentally disabled woman and her child.
Wolf Blitzer is off today.
I'm Jim Acosta.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Facing public outrage over massive government surveillance, the NSA and other security agencies today took their case to the public, telling a rare open door Congressional hearing that those programs have helped foil more than 50 terror plots. Then those officials took the unusual step of detailing a handful of those threats.
Our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, is up on the Capitol -- up on Capitol Hill.
She has the details -- hi, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim.
Well, the bipartisan goal of today's hearing was to try to demystify these secret programs by giving more detail in public than ever before. But even those on this panel, who are mostly supportive, had some skeptics.
BASH (voice-over): A plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange was disrupted, the planners arrested and convicted, thanks, in part, to a secret program monitoring Internet activity abroad. That's one of two new terror plots top intelligence officials declassified in the hopes of convincing Americans unprecedented government surveillance is worth it.
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: These programs are critical to the intelligence community's ability to protect our nation and our allies' security. They assist the intelligence community efforts to connect the dots.
BASH: A hastily arranged public hearing of the House Intelligence Committee, which usually meets in private, especially when top intelligence officials testify. It speaks volumes about how important newly revealed secret programs are to the intelligence community and to lawmakers who oversee it all, trying to calm their constituents' concerns.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Does the NSA have the ability to listen to Americans' phone calls or read their e-mails under these two programs?
ALEXANDER: No, we do not have that authority.
ROGERS: Does the technology assist at the NSA to flip a switch by some analyst to listen to Americans' phone calls or read their e- mails?
BASH: In painstaking detail, at the most, law enforcement officials described safeguards to preserve civil liberties while tracking millions of phone records, numbers, dates and length of calls.
JAMES COLE, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you're looking for a needle in the haystack, you have to get the haystack first. And that's why we have the ability, under the court order, to acquire -- and the key word here is acquire -- all of that data. We don't get to use all of that data necessarily.
BASH: To really reassure the public, the bipartisan committee heads wanted to declassify many more terror plots the programs helped foil, but couldn't.
ALEXANDER: If we give all those out, we give all the secrets of how we're tracking down the terrorists as a community. And we can't do that. Too much is at risk for us and for our allies.
BASH: All they got was a new number.
ALEXANDER: Over 50 times since 9/11, so just a little over 10, where a domestic -- had a domestic nexus.
BASH: Still, proof of that, they say, is classified. And the NSA director admitted most alleged foiled terror plots were helped with foreign Internet surveillance, not by what many Americans and some lawmakers are most concerned with, collecting phone records. REP. JIM HIMES (D), CONNECTICUT: -- in the Verizon disclosures which, quite frankly, trouble me. They trouble me because of the breadth and the scope of the information collection. If a capability exists, from time to time, it will be abused.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BASH: Now, intelligence officials are going to return here to the Capitol tomorrow in order to give lawmakers more details about those 50 plus terror plots they say were foiled, at least in part, by some of these secret programs. But because that information mostly is still classified, the briefing will not be in public, which, Jim, of course, does not help the lawmakers in their quest to reassure their constituents that these programs are valid and that they should be in place.
ACOSTA: And we know you will be on top of it.
Dana Bash, thank you very much.
The popular search engine, Yahoo!, says it received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests for user data from U.S. law enforcement agencies over the last six months. Yahoo! !'s report indicates it's had more requests than Facebook, Microsoft or Apple. But like the others, Yahoo! says most of the orders concerned criminal investigations and it cannot break out the numbers of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act's requests because they are classified.
Meanwhile, investigators in New York are asking for the public's help to solve a bombing right in the very heart of New York City. The case has gone cold, but there are new clues to share.
CNN's Mary Snow joins us with the latest -- hi, Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Jim.
Well, the FBI has released new images with the aim of getting someone to talk. It says the bomber may not have acted alone, that there may have been as many as five people acting as lookouts.
SNOW (voice-over): A new push if there in an unsolved case of a possible serial bomber in New York City. The FBI is hoping a surveillance video and a $65,000 reward will nab the person responsible for setting off a bomb in 2008 outside a military recruiting station in New York's Times Square. Authorities also believe. It could be linked to similar incidents, one in 2005 at the British consulate, and another in 2007 at the Mexican consulate.
In the Times Square case, the device was set off in the middle of the night and no one was injured. What is known is that someone was seen riding on a bicycle before the device was detonated.
Carlos Fernandez is the FBI's acting special agent in charge in New York. (on camera): How powerful was that device?
CAROLS FERNANDEZ, FBI: It was -- it was, according to our forensics people and our explosive experts, it was powerful. And we're very concerned about a device like that going off in New York.
SNOW (voice-over): The FBI says the device was built using an ammunition can, black powder and a time fuse. A federal law enforcement source told CNN that bomb technicians say the Times Square bomb was stronger than the device detonated during off in the Boston Marathon in terms of destructive capability. But unlike the bombs used in Boston, it contained no shrapnel.
After the recruitment center was targeted, a possible motive emerged as being military-related. But the NYPD's Matthew Pontillo says that's just one theory.
DEPUTY CHIEF MATTHEW PONTILLO, NEW YORK POLICE: The military type ammunition can is a very, very common device. They're available in hardware stores and army/navy stores. It's essentially a steel box. And it may have just been something that was available to the person, but we really don't know for certain.
SNOW: The FBI is looking to the public for help. It's a tactic the agency used in other cases, including Whitey Bulger, when a tip led to Bulger's arrest after being on the lam for decades.
Now the FBI is turning to social media, putting up hash tags and billboards, hoping someone will come forward.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: So why is the FBI making this push now?
The agency says when the five year anniversary of this small bombing came up in this unsolved case, it decided to appeal to the public -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Mary, thank you very much.
A major milestone for the long and bloody U.S. war in Afghanistan -- NATO-led troops today handed over responsibility to security for Afghan forces. And peace talks with the Taliban are now in the works.
But President Obama warns the U.S. will continue its military campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we do believe is that any insurgent group, including the Taliban, is going to need to accept an Afghan constitution that renounces ties with Al Qaeda, ends violence and is committed to the protection of women and minorities in the country. And over the last several months I've discussed this issue frequently with President Karzai.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: To facilitate peace talks, the Gulf nation of Qatar has announced the opening of a Taliban office. An Afghan government group will travel there for talks and administration officials here in the USA, the United States, will be involved in those talks, as well, soon.
Turning now to shocking new allegations about modern-day slavery in Ohio. Authorities say a mentally disabled woman and her child were held for two years in an apartment, forced to perform manual labor and threatened with dogs and snakes to keep them compliant.
CNN crime and justice correspondent, Joe Johns, has the details -- Joe, this is just an unbelievable story.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It really is hard to bear, Jim. Modern-day slavery is something we hear about time to time overseas, but hard to believe it happened in the heartland of the United States.
Just a horrifying story in Ashland, Ohio, about an hour's drive south of Cleveland. Two men and Jordie Callahan, Jessica Hunt and Dan Brown are now accused of forced labor and witness tampering involving a cognitively disabled mother and her young child, about seven years old. Authorities say they were held against their will for two years, that the woman was forced to work, that she and her child were locked up in their room at night, that they were threatened with reptiles and dogs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP COURTESY WOIO)
ERIC SMITH, FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Suffice it to say these individuals were repeatedly exposed to subhuman living conditions, such as frequently being denied meals, access to bathroom visits. They were physically punished for toiletry accidents and they were threatened not only with weapons, but also with vicious animals, to include pit bulls and pythons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: The mother and daughter allegedly held captive in this case are identified in court papers only by the initials S.E. and "juvenile child." Police say S.E. was apparently targeted to get her government checks. Authorities say threats and abuse to the child were used as a way to control the mother. Authorities alleged the suspects told her to punish her own child and recorded video of it to be used against her in the event she ever went to authorities. They got onto this case when the mother was arrested for shoplifting and asked to be taken to jail because the people living in the apartment with her were mean to her -- Jim.
ACOSTA: A very disturbing story, Jim.
We know that CNN is staying on top of it, sending teams to that area to get more information on that. We'll be reporting that in the next several hours here on CNN. Joe Johns, thank you very much.
Senator Rand Paul is setting himself apart from other Republicans on many key issues, including government surveillance.
Could that help or hurt in a run for the White House?
I will ask him, coming up next.
ACOSTA: Back to our big story tonight, the nation's top intelligence officials on Capitol Hill, trying to reassure the American public that surveillance programs are a good thing.
But not everyone agrees, including one top Republican.
And joining us now is the Republican senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
Senator Paul, thanks very much for joining us.
Let's get right to it.
Earlier today, as you know, at this hearing, the head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, said that the surveillance programs stopped a number of attacks over the last several years. He even detailed some of those attacks.
Let's take a listen to what he had to say and then get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALEXANDER: In recent years, the information gathered from these programs provided the U.S. government with critical leads to help prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20 countries around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And Senator Paul, General Alexander, the other officials at this hearing, they said that the surveillance program stopped an attack on the New York subway system on the New York Stock Exchange and others. Do you buy what the general and the other officials were saying?
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: Well, frankly they told us four months ago they weren't collecting any data on American citizens which was an outright lie. So, I think they're at a bit of a credibility gap at this point. The other question I have and I've listened to them both in public and private hearings -- I haven't heard of a single case that couldn't have been captured or investigated with a traditional judicial warrant and looking at the phone calls of a suspect.
To my knowledge -- and I'm a bit at a disadvantage because they have all the secret knowledge and I don't have it -- but to my knowledge, none of the people captured or prevented were traced from random numbers. They were traced from a suspect. So, you have a suspect who makes phone calls. I'm all for looking at a suspect's phone calls with the judges warrant and then next person, you look at their phone calls.
My understanding is they like looking at all Americans' phone records because they think it's easier and faster. That's what I heard from them. Easier and faster, but not that they couldn't have done this with a regular traditional judicial warrant.
ACOSTA: And, senator, I just want to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding you. You just said that the head of the NSA was guilty of an outright lie. Are you saying that the general and these other officials are liars?
PAUL: What I'm saying is that the director of National Intelligence in March did directly lie to Congress, which is against the law. He said that they were not collecting any data on American citizens --
ACOSTA: You're talking about James Clapper.
PAUL: -- and it turns out they're collecting billions of data on phone calls every day. So, it was a lie. What I'm saying is that by lying to Congress, which is against the law, he severely damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence committee -- community.
ACOSTA: What should be done about that? I mean, I know that Mr. Clapper went on another work and said that his response and I know what you're talking about. You're talking about Sen. Ron Wyden's question about data collection on millions of Americans. That's when Mr. Clapper gave that response. He went on the Andrea Mitchell Program and said it was the least untruthful answer he could give.
I'm guessing here that you're saying that that's not satisfactory for you. Should the president ask for his resignation?
PAUL: I can't imagine how he can regain his credibility. When you lie, when you frankly come in front of the Senate, and a senator asked you a direct question, which by the way, he was warned off. According to Sen. Wyden's office, they called the director of National Intelligence and said, "We're going to ask you this question." So, even though he was told in advance he would get the question, he still lied in a public hearing.
I think there needs to be an open debate and Americans need to decide, are you willing to give up the data on all of your phone calls every day all the time because of your fear for terrorism or do you think, like I do, that you can catch terrorists and have the bill of rights at the same time? I frankly think you can have both.
ACOSTA: So, should Mr. Clapper resign, do you think?
PAUL: Well, you know, the president has to decide that. I don't get a choice to decide.
ACOSTA: If you were president, would you ask for his resignation? PAUL: Yes. He would not work in my administration, because the thing is is that we have to be able to trust our officials, and when you're doing this, when you have the ability to completely destroy people's lives, you have the ability to actually kill people overseas, I would think that you really have to have the utmost trust, and I think he's lost our trust by lying to us.
ACOSTA: You know, your words on this issue have been taken to task. Dick Cheney was on one of the Sunday talk shows over the weekend. He said you were wrong about all of this. Let's listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Question, is Senator Paul wrong?
DICK CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe he is. We made the decision based on 9/11 that we no longer had a law enforcement problem, that we're at war. And congress, in fact, authorized the present use military force to deal with that crisis and that puts you over in the category of being able to use all of your military assets, your intelligence assets and so forth in order to protect the country against another attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Do you take issue with the former vice president's comments, senator?
PAUL: What I would ask is who did they fire after 9/11? Not one person was fired. Do you remember the 20th hijacker? Masawi (ph) captured a month in advance? The FBI agent wrote 70 letters saying let's look at this guy's computer. In the FBI, they turned him down. He wasn't turned down. It wasn't that they couldn't get a warrant. Nobody asked for a warrant.
To me, that was really, really bad intelligence, really bad police work, and really someone should have been removed from office for that, and they should have said this is never going to happen again. Instead, they said, we need to look at the records of all the innocent American phone calls every day, and I think you need to have a respect for the bill of rights, a respect for privacy, and particularly, a respect for the Fourth Amendment.
I think you can catch terrorists and have protections of our freedom at the same time. I know of no case that a traditional warrant wouldn't have worked.
ACOSTA: You're, obviously, also laying the groundwork for a presidential run, Sen. Paul. How do you plan on capturing your party's nomination when your views on some of these issues are at odds with people like Dick Cheney and some of the hawks in your party on surveillance?
PAUL: Well, you know, there was a poll out just this week that said well over 60 percent of Republicans think the NSA's gone too far, that they think your private phone calls and your records, you should have to have a warrant. And so, I think as we have a fuller debate on these discussions, you're going to find that not only Republicans are with me on this issue, the youth are.
President Obama lost 20 points among the young voters in the last month, and the reason he did so is because they see him now as a hypocrite who's unwilling to defend the privacy of the internet. I think issues like this resonate beyond the Republican label. And I think they're going to help us become a bigger national party.
PAUL: And Republicans will find out that I will and I do say that we do everything we can to protect our country consistent with our constitution. That's what we're defending.
ACOSTA: And let me ask you about another issue that's resonating with a lot of younger voters, and that's the issue of immigration. I know that you know have said a lot of things recently indicating that you'd like to support a bill that would reform the immigration system in this country.
Earlier today, as you may know, House speaker John Boehner said that he might abide by what's called the Hastert Rule and that he may not bring the immigration bill to the floor of the House if it does not have the support of the majority of Republicans. What do you make of that? Is that a good idea?
PAUL: Yes, because I think if he encourages says that and says that and makes it happen, then we'll get a stronger immigration bill. I am for immigration reform, but I think legalization of those who are undocumented should be dependent on border security. The authors, the Gang of Eight, the senators saying, oh, no, let's just legalized people with no conditions. I say we legalize people, document them, find them a place in our country, but do it dependent upon securing the border first.
ACOSTA: And I just wanted to ask you, "The Washington Post" came out with an item today. Chris Cillizza with the fix described you as the most interesting man in the political word. I don't know if you drink sakes (ph) but you are being held up there with the most interesting man in the world.
And then, the new Republic described you as President Rand Paul, not being very subtle there. You are running for president, right?
PAUL: Well, you know, I think those were compliments, but you know, I think that I tried to be genuine and honest, and as a physician, I look at things, I see problems in our country and I want to fix them regardless of whether it's a Republican or Democrat label who's supporting them. Whether or not, what I do in the future, we're about a year from making a decision, but I do want to help the Republican Party grow and be more inclusive.
People of all races, all walks of life, with tattoos, without tattoos. I want everybody to think they have a place in our party. So, I am trying to make the party bigger.
ACOSTA: All right. Very good. Thanks very much, Sen. Rand Paul, for your time. We appreciate it.
PAUL: Thank you.
When we come back, President Obama gets candid about just how difficult the situation is in Syria. But does his honesty about what happens in the White House "situation room" really appeal to Americans? That's coming up. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
ACOSTA: Happening now --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (voice-over): President Obama pushes back hard against critics of the NSA, but should he be doing more in the wake of the surveillance leaks?
Plus, an eighth grader arrested and now possibly facing a year in prison after wearing an NRA T-shirt to school.
And, we're at the big dig for Jimmy Hoffa's body with a cop who's been searching for the mob boss for decades.
I'm Jim Acosta. Wolf Blitzer is off today, and you are in the SITUATION ROOM.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA (on-camera): He's moving from crisis to crisis, scandal to scandal. With all the president's problems, who would want this job? Turns out, there are plenty of takers.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The peace process is the best way to end the violence.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Don't let the European road trip fool you. Whether it's the war in Afghanistan he's trying to wind down or the war on Syria that divides the U.S. and Russia, these are heavy times for President Obama. In his interview with Charlie Rose, the weight of the world was palpable as he defended his record on government surveillance.
OBAMA: Some people say, well, Obama was this raving liberal before. Now, he's, you know, Dick Cheney.
ACOSTA: But look across the political landscape, and there are plenty of politicians lining up to say, give me some of that.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I recognize that there'll be some people who will try to use the fact that I've done my job against me.
ACOSTA: New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, said he won't have a decision on 2016 until 2015, which will keep everybody guessing. That may explain why after spending so much time with the president lately, Christie chose to slam Mr. Obama's recent outrage to Republicans.
CHRISTIE: All of a sudden, now, we're in January -- we're in June, rather, of 2013 and we're just talking about charm offensive and trying to get to know Congress? Your fifth year of the presidency. You know, it's getting a little bit late in the dating game to start to get to knoe somebody.
ACOSTA: Christie just returned from a big conference featuring Hillary Clinton, and while the former secretary of state hasn't yet decided whether to run, she's already landed an endorsement from Senator Claire McCaskill who's calling for donations to a pro-Clinton Super PAC saying, "I'm proud to announce that I'm ready for Hillary." Never mind that Vice President Joe Bidden is waiting in the wings, hitting the popular Democratic issue of gun control.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You will pay a price, a political price, for not, for not getting engaged in dealing with gun safety.
ACOSTA: But the Republican family also has each share of divisions.
JEB BUSH, (R) FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: I think we've got a split ballot amongst the Bush senior family.
ACOSTA: Some potential candidates are trying to generate warmth.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R) FLORIDA: At the essence of our immigration policy is compassion.
ACOSTA: While others turn up the heat.
PAUL: I say not one more penny to countries that are burning the American flag.
ACOSTA: With Sarah Palin vowing to stay relevant for the next three years, that keeps one more wild card in the mix.
SARAH PALIN, (R) FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Time's a-wastin. Things are moving really quickly. And if we don't get out there and defend this Republic, then America will be transformed into something that we do not recognize.
ACOSTA (on-camera): Time is a-wastin, so let's bring in our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN political contributor and former Romney advisor, Kevin Madden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With Sarah Palin vowing to stay relevant the next three years, that keeps one more wild card in the mix.
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Time are wasting. Things are moving quickly. If we don't get out there and defend the American public it will with transformed into something we ooh will not recognize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN ANCHOR: Time is a wasted, so let's bring in our CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN political contributor and former Romney adviser, Kevin Madden.
Something that caught my attention, guys, from the president's interview with Charlie Rose last night was this candid comment that he made about the situation in Syria. Let's listen to that and get your reaction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you haven't been in the situation room pouring through intelligence and meeting directly with our military folks and asking what are all our options and examining what are all the consequences and understanding that, for example, if you set up a no-fly zone that you may not be actually solving the problem on the ground.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And, Gloria, I mean besides the flag for the SITUATION ROOM -- it was his SITUATION ROOM, now ours, let me ask you about that. Because you have been saying he needs to get out on front on some of these issues.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: He's trying. He's starting.
ACOSTA: But it sounded a little bit like he was almost complaining, sounding kind of miserable about the job, you know, you don't understand what I'm going through.
BORGER: It's hard. It is hard to be president. So hard.
ACOSTA: What did you make of that performance?
BORGER: I think what the president is trying to do, and if you go through the whole transcript, what he was try do is sort explain to people that no option in Syria is perfect, which I think we already know, but it's never a black-and-white situation. So do you a no-fly zone, and, boom, the conflict is over or you do incremental things and, boom, the conflict is over.
You know, he said, look, there are no easy answers here. And I think that it's not bad for people to hear presidents say, look, I weigh things all the time. It's difficult. My job is difficult.
On the other hand, there can be too much of that at some point and you want them to say, this is why I've made the decision and this is how we're going to do things.
ACOSTA: And Paul, there in the White House, various officials of the White House were talking this interview all day yesterday. They were tweeting about it. I mean, did that interview come across very well to you? Would you advise the president to say those things?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Actually I would. On the NSA program I'm not really on board with him and yet I like that he was strong in support of it.
On Syria, this country does not want another war. And I can tell by watching, he's frustrated with the commentary and the kind of cheap easy pot shots that we take immediate, but also some of his friends on Capitol Hill are taking and the other party. And you know, they say he's dithering. Well, I'd rather have him dithering and be at peace than blundering into war against a country that was no threat to us which is what the last president did. So, yes, his supporters are going to like this a lot because actually, he showed some strength --.
BORGER: Except internal red line. You know, what is wrong is the red line. If he had said there's a red line, then he wouldn't be having this sort of a problem. But he did say there's a red line and Syria crossed it.
KEVIN MADDEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He's right though. There are very few food options here and I think what makes it even more challenging for the president and the whole debate, quite frankly, is that there hasn't been a sense of clarity. And I think for it to get the public's -- to get the public behind you and to get the public to understand what our goals and objectives are, there has to be a great deal of clarity to. To this point there hasn't been. And that's not partisan. I think even President Clinton has criticized President Obama for the lack of clarity in the policy.
ACOSTA: What did you make, because I want to get to 2016, because we had that despite all of this -- well, but despite all of these problems, you still have no shortage of candidates of potential candidates who would like that job.
Chris Christie this morning on MSNBC, even though he has been piling around with President Obama lately, took a shot at him, saying well, now is a good time to have a charm offensive. And Rand Paul was saying that, you know, the American people especially the young people agree with m approach on the NSA.
How do you think the Republicans are doing in terms of the president and how they're responding to his job performance right now?
MADDEN: Well, look. The first thing I took away interest the Rand Paul interview, was that he did not disagree with your premise that he was running 2016. Usually at this point they're saying, look, I'm leaving all my options open. So, I thought that was very interesting.
Bu look. I think this is not really an issue to position yourself on. This is an issue that goes to the heart and your principles. And I think that is one of the things that does standout about Rand Paul -- why people like him and he has connection ways. Because he's standing on principle rather than looking at polls and trying to position himself, what do voters between the ages of 18 and 34 in Iowa think. That's not the way to do this/
BORGER: So, that will come later, by the way, I think.
ACOSTA: Which candidate are you more afraid of? Rand Paul, or Chris Christie?
BEGALA: Or Sarah Palin, I saw you hacked her in that conference.
ACOSTA: We can't resist.
BEGALA: Run, Sarah, run. I will pay your filing fee governor.
ACOSTA: If rand Paul is not running, I don't know what running is.
BEGALA: The truth is, Rand Paul is a talented guy. He's got a lot of excitement on the far right, libertarian right and some of the far right. But Chris Christie is a governor of a very blue state. If you ask me how is he in the Democrat, he has got more talent than Rand Paul. In that, he's winning in a place where Republicans usually don't win and he could appeal to the middle which is where these things are won. Rand Paul is, even in his owned party, is an extremist.
BORGER: (INAUDIBLE) the one in the middle?
ACOSTA: And we did hear Chris Christie positioned himself that way this morning talking about how he is just trying to do his job up in New Jersey and so forth. Let's get to some of these issues right after the break.
Coming up next, is immigration reform in trouble? That and much more when we return with our panel.
Plus, why an eighth grader who came to school with an NRA shirt may face a year in prison after being arrest. We'll explain.
ACOSTA: And we are back with our political panel.
Gloria, I want to ask you because yesterday you wrote that striking column taking the president to task about whether, you know, you should out front a little bit more on this NSA issue. He went on PBS. He defended the program. Hr sais once again, if you are a U.S. person, I think was the term he used in the line very interesting, we are not listening to your phone calls or we are not looking at your e- mail. Is that enough?
BORGER: Well, you had me hearing today where he had, you know, as the head of the national security agency out there saying the same thing, he has the DNI out there saying the same thing. The justice department today, saying the same thing. I think the public is having this conversation and I think the president needs to do more to lead it. I'm not quite sure when that would be, but I still think, at some point, the president who's very good at making speeches ought to be able to talk to the American public about this. He's lost younger voters by 17 points.
ACOSTA: Yes, how scary was that poll when you saw that poll, the nosedive among younger Americans.
BEGALA: It is important. It really is.
ACOSTA: It bleeds into 2016.
BEGALA: No, it's not going to bleed into 2016. At the end of the day, what I like about it, I have been a critical about the program, the interview that he gave, he said this is passed by the Congress supervised by the courts, implemented by the executive checks and balances. I think it's good at saving lives. I'm sticking with it. That is not like the nuance, you know, professorial Obama.
BORGER: But then he said let's have a conversation. We have to balance security.
BEGALA: I think it's better practically the speech.
ACOSTA: Are you having the conversation or you just make the call?
MADDEN: No. I mean, he says he wants to have the conversation, have the conversation. I think one of the big problem up until now is that the person who's been doing the most talking for the NSA has been Edward Snowden.
BORGER: He's right.
MADDEN: So, that's the problem. The president needs --
MADDEN: And think the folks on the hill in a bipartisan manner, both Republicans and Democrats. They do believe in this program had vetted it. They believe that president should be out there making -- he should be out there taking the lead.
BORGER: And they're trying to declassify more and more information as we saw today. We learned about a couple of terror attacks that have been thwarted. But you're never going to be able to declassify enough to give people all the information they really crave on this.
MADDEN: Let me disagree with Paul for a second. I do think that this could bleed over 2016. That dissolution meant with the president, first of all, he's not going to be on the ballot then, but the idea that he's now become a status quo president, he is protecting everything that they had believe that they were fighting against before --
ACOSTA: Not so great for Hillary Clinton.
MADDEN: And it could potentially be a problem.
BEGALA: But, if you lose 17 points in 30, you don't think you can get it back in three years?
MADDEN: No, I agree. But -- you're right, but it still has to be something to worry about.
ACOSTA: And let's talk about an issue that could get it back immigration. Your former boss got in that. He was out there up on the hill talking about reporters about maybe he might abide by the old Hastert rule. I guess it is still the Hastert rule, not the old Hastert rule, but then, he might insist that there be a majority of house Republicans in supportive and racial reform, the bill coming from the senate in order to bring it to the floor. Let's play a quick clip from that if we can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Any immigration reform bill that is going to go into law ought to have a majority of both parties' support if we're really serious about making that happen. And so, I don't see any way of bringing immigration bill to the floor that doesn't have the majority support of Republicans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Isn't it true that if the speaker were to bring this bill to the floor without a majority of Republicans it would pass?
MADDEN: Well, look, John has said and he's been very consistent on this and I think he is aligned with the public on this, we've seen the CNN poll where right now the public is split on this current immigration bill. John wants to see a good bill passed, and I think the public wants to see a good bill to pass, not just any bill. So, I think, for a good bill to pass, it has to be a majority of Republicans and Democrats. I think he is aligns with the public on this.
BORGER: I think John Boehner needs to have a majority of Republicans because he wants to remain speaker of the house, and if he did not do that and challenge a man --
MADDEN: John --
BORGER: If he didn't say that today --
MADDEN: John Boehner doesn't want to be speaker for sake of being a speaker. He wants to get things done and we wants a good bill.
BEGALA: But the constitution says, the majority of the house. It doesn't say one party's minority gets to control. And this is -- it's going kill Republicans with Latinos if John Boehner kill this bill.
ACOSTA: Do you see it going down?
BEGALA: No, sir, I would much more have the accomplishments in the issues. Plenty of issues have been fired out politics. The majority of both parties believe we need this. If speaker Boehner kill this bill, bad for the country and that's the story.
ACOSTA: All right. Paul Begala, Gloria Borger, Kevin Madden, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
When we comeback, Chrysler's dramatic about face, why the automakers now giving in to government demands to recall more than two million jeeps.
Plus, could it really be OK to drink alcohol while you are pregnant? It doesn't sound like a good idea. The details of a surprising new study is coming up.
ACOSTA: Chrysler is putting it in reverse just hours before a deadline and agreeing to a government demand to recall more than two million Jeeps.
Our Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Mary, what do you have?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Jim. Well, this dramatic move ends what could have been a major dispute with federal regulators who argue that Jeeps post too big a fire risk in rear-end accidents. Chrysler maintains the government analysis is faulty and that the 1993 to 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokees and 2002 to 2007 Jeep Liberties are safe. The automaker faces liability risks in a number of wrongful death suits.
If you're pregnant, standard practice has always been don't drink. But now a new study in the British Medical Journal is suggesting otherwise. Using balance as a measure, researchers found that expectant mothers who drank between three and seven glasses of alcohol a week did not on average have children with balance issues by age 10 and some actually had better balance.
But there is no proof alcohol was responsible. Now major medical groups continue to stress that no amount of alcohol is safe for pregnant women and it's safest not to take the chance.
And check this out. Take a look. This is amazing video capturing the moment a volcano in Mexico started to erupt, spewing ashes into the sky. The volcano is just southeast of Mexico City and one of the world's most active.
Pretty incredible, Jim.
ACOSTA: Very incredible. I've flown into Mexico City and it is remarkable. Whenever you fly down there, Mary, you can see those volcanoes, you know, sometimes billowing smoke and it is always quite a sight.
Mary Snow, thanks for that.
Coming up, an eighth grader arrested and now potentially facing up to one year in prison because of his T-shirt?
Plus Michelle Obama, the first lady, and her girl having lunch with an A-list celebrity.
ACOSTA: An eighth grader who came to school wearing an NRA T-shirt is now potentially facing up to a year in prison after being arrested.
CNN's Erin McPike is joining us with the details.
Erin, what is going on here? That's just amazing.
ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, this West Virginia eighth grader Jared Marcum came to school in April wearing this NRA T-shirt and it had the words "Protect Your Rights" on it as well as a rifle. Now a teacher challenged him about whether that was appropriate. Here's what Jared has to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED MARCUM, 14-YEAR-OLD STUDENT: There's nothing wrong with it and it doesn't violate the policy in any way. And things got out of hand. Educational process is not lunch time in my opinion. And if anyone disturbed it, it was definitely the educator and not me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCPIKE: Now obviously this is a sensitive issue just months after Newtown. And it also raises First and Second Amendment questions, but that's not what's at play here. Logan County says that the real issue is that Jared was so disruptive with the teacher that they had to call the police and he was then charged with obstruction -- Jim.
ACOSTA: So they're saying, the school officials are claiming that there's more to this case than just the T-shirt. What happens next? What's -- what are you expecting?
MCPIKE: Well, Marcum -- Marcum had a court appearance today and he's scheduled to have another one next month. But the case could be settled before then. I actually spoke to Jared Marcum's attorney Ben White earlier today and he said that last night the prosecution filed a gag order. And then the prosecution and Ben White spoke and they're trying to work something out in the next 10 days or so. Now Ben White did say that Jared Marcum was disruptive, but he said he didn't deserve to be charged with obstruction. We have reached out to the prosecution and Logan County but no one has gotten back to us.
ACOSTA: There are First Amendment issues here, there are Second Amendment issues here. And something tells me this may not get sorted out right away at the local level.
MCPIKE: Probably not.
ACOSTA: We'll have to see on that. Erin McPike, thank you.
Coming up, what is a visit to Ireland without seeing Bono? That's a very good question. Details on the first lady's pub lunch with the U2 star.
In our next hour, we'll talk to a police officer who's been searching for missing union boss, Jimmy Hoffa, for decades.
ACOSTA: While President Obama was meeting with world leaders at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland today, First Lady Michelle Obama and her daughters were having some fun of their own.
CNN's Erin McLaughlin has the details.
ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Not bad when your summer vacation to Ireland includes lunch with U2 lead singer Bono. His meeting with the first lady, Sasha, and Malia was officially off camera. But some of the locals who were invited managed to tweet out pictures from inside the pub.
The Obamas' trip wasn't all about Ireland celebrities and food.
MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: With all the dancing and singing and energy, it is such a perfect representation of Ireland itself.
MCLAUGHLIN: On Monday, the first lady, her girls and hundreds of local school children were treated to a rehearsal of the world famous Riverdance in Dublin.
No secret that Ireland adores the Obamas. Crowds of thousands greeted the president and Mrs. Obama during their visit in 2011. Fond memories that Mrs. Obama says she now wants to share with her daughters.
OBAMA: When we left, we knew that our girls had to experience all of the warmth and beauty of this place for themselves.
MCLAUGHLIN: While here, the girls also had a chance to explore their Irish heritage at Trinity College.
OBAMA: It's like Hogwarts as Sasha pointed out. MCLAUGHLIN: They pored over manuscripts tracing their ancestry all the way back to the 1600s to the tiny village of Moneygall where Barack Obama's great, great, great grandfather was born.
OBAMA: That was a very powerful for me as their mother. And hopefully it will something -- be something that they cherish for the rest of their lives.
MCLAUGHLIN: The girls at times appeared bored, but to their mother, the trip offered up a powerful lesson.
OBAMA: You never forget home, right? You never forget home. And what my girls are learning is that every day their home gets bigger and bigger and bigger. It is no longer just the south side of Chicago or Washington, D.C. But it is Moneygall, it is Dublin. It is the world.
MCLAUGHLIN: The first lady, Sasha, and Malia also took a trip to Wiglow Mountain National Park which is home to some of Ireland's early history including ancient monastic ruins. They reunited with the president before traveling to Germany -- Jim.
ACOSTA: Thank you. That is all for this hour. THE SITUATION ROOM continues right now with my colleague Jake Tapper -- Jake?