Return to Transcripts main page


Dow Drops; Interview With Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill; Catch of a Lifetime: Baby Rescued; Pentagon v. Kerry Over Syria; Pope John Paul II One Step Closer to Sainthood; Backlash at Debunked Gay 'Conversion' Group

Aired June 20, 2013 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, Wall Street's worst day of the year. Why fear is taking hold in the markets and shrinking your investments before your very eyes.

Plus a government contractor may have bungled the NSA leaker's background check. Stand by for an alarming look at security clearances gone wrong, some even faked.

And the unexpected death of the actor who brought Tony Soprano to life. New details on the passing of James Gandolfini.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The bell rang and hearts sank. It may not have been Black Thursday on Wall Street, but it was bad. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 350 points. It was the worst one-day loss this year. And it comes 24 hours after another nosedive. The Dow has erased more than 500 over the past few days. Analysts suggest the reason is that the Fed chairman raised fears that the Central Bank is preparing to pull back its stimulus policies.

Two guests join us now. Felicia Taylor covers the market and business for CNN, and Diane Swonk is chief economist of Mesirow Financial.

Felicia, explain why investors are this spooked.

FELICIA TAYLOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the conversation has begun.

And that's what really has people, investors and traders, debating exactly when that stimulus is going to be pulled back. But you have to keep in mind that we're talking about a pullback here. This is going to be a slow exiting of the marketplace. And truly the marketplace has been propped up by this non-fundamental reason, which is the stimulus from the Federal Reserve.

The problem now is that people are debating when it's going to happen. Could it happen as soon as September? There was one headline that crossed that was obviously very negative, a Bloomberg economic survey that said more and more economists do think it could be September. That's not what the Federal Reserve said. They say they're looking at whether or not the economic data is there for them to begin tapering back.

It might happen at the end of the year. It could happen in 2014. But the discussion has begun and that's what has most investors a little bit on tenterhooks as to when it is going to happen.

TAPPER: Diane, should we be expecting any sort of long-term trend here or decline, or do you think this is just a blip?


And I think even Ben Bernanke said it was sort of puzzling, the market's reaction so far to the idea that the Fed would taper, because tapering is actually not the same thing as an exit or an end or a tightening of monetary policy. Actually what they're doing is just slowing down the pace at which they're giving us stimulus in the U.S. economy.

It's kind of like when the Fed used to actually have an interest rate lever. They could go 1 percent and then maybe cut another half- percent. This is a move like from 1 percent to half-percent cuts. And it's that degradation policy, the calibration policy that is making it difficult for people to understand, so I think it's kind of like watching the sausage being made, too much information and too much uncertainty.

That said, this is a Fed that's also given us an insurance policy that if the economy were to falter, they would then increase again if they had to their purchases of large-scale assets purchases of Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

TAPPER: Diane, what do you make of these trends, gold prices going down and interest rates rising? What do you make of that?

SWONK: Well, I think again they go in contrast to what people would think.

We do have inflation is decelerating. And the gold buy had been one where people were trying to protect themselves somehow by buying gold, like my grandmother did I guess when she sewed it into her clothes coming over on Ellis Island. But I think this is an idea that inflation would somehow pick up and the Fed was printing money. The Fed is still printing money; the Fed is still stimulating the U.S. economy.

But I think people are realizing it's not happening with a lot of inflation against the backdrop of what is still a very weak global economy. The interest rate backup, this is as if the market has decided the Fed is going to raise rates tomorrow. And actually what the Fed has said, they're willing to leave the punchbowl out there and not raise rates, most of them don't think, until 2015.

That's a long time. That might even leave a few people tipsy at the end of the day.

TAPPER: Felicia, what's the mood on the floor? How are traders taking this all in?

TAYLOR: Well, that's a very good question, because the truth is there was no panic on the floor of the trading -- the trading floor today. And I have talked to a lot of traders out there. And actually one trader told me that for him every order he got today, it was a buy order.

So there isn't a panicked sell-off. This is just repricing risk into the marketplace. They know that this is coming. Of course there's going to be a little bit of a pullback on this. But this isn't like this is a huge slide. It could have been a lot worse.

TAPPER: Diane Swonk, Felicia Taylor, thank you so much.

Facebook stock was among the losers today, despite the unveiling of a new video feature for its popular Instagram app. Users can share 15- second videos, similar to Twitter's Vine app, which features six- second video sharing.

And Yahoo! now says its high-profile purchase of Tumblr is complete. Yahoo! played $1.1 billion for the popular micro-blogging service.

The NSA leaker controversy has raised a lot of questions about the process of getting top-secret clearance. We learned today that the private firm that conducted Edward Snowden's background check is under criminal investigation. The allegations go far beyond any problems with Snowden's vetting.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence has been digging on this story -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, today's congressional hearing produced a stunning admission about this company, USIS, based right here in Virginia. A government watchdog told Senator Jon Tester this contractor may not have done a thorough investigation on Edward Snowden.


SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Are there any concerns that Mr. Snowden's investigation by USIS may not have been carried out in an appropriate or thorough manner?

PATRICK MCFARLAND, INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT: Yes, we do believe that there may be some problems.

LAWRENCE (voice-over): The company in question is now under criminal investigation for repeatedly failing to conduct quality background checks.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Do you believe you're catching most of the fraud, Mr. McFarland, or do you believe there's more?

MCFARLAND: No, I believe there may be considerably more.

LAWRENCE: Alarming when you consider at least 18 employees have been convicted of falsifying background checks. In one case, a record searcher faked 1,600 credit checks that she never actually completed. Even worse, this woman's own background check to get her job had been faked by another investigator, someone convicted in a separate case. The inspector general calls it:

MCFARLAND: A clear threat to national security.

JOHN HAMRE, CSIS: The background investigation process is broken.

Former Defense Department official John Hamre filled out a standard government form to renew his top-secret clearance. What shocked him was the investigator spent hours asking the most basic questions.

HAMRE: Is your wife really Julie? Did you really go to school at Augustana College? Did you really live at this address? They simply read the form to me and I simply said it was true.

LAWRENCE: Hamre says with the personal information available online, a computer could do the same background check for $100.

HAMRE: And instead we're spending $4,000 to have people conduct rather -- conduct investigations that aren't revealing anything.


LAWRENCE: And one of the revelations at today's hearing was that this is a billion-dollar-a-year program that's never been audited. Hamre says about 90 percent of the work could be done by computers. And with the savings you could really take the people and send them out to do some real digging and investigating and make some of these background checks a lot more thorough -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Chris, thank you.

We heard from Senator Claire McCaskill in Chris' report. She will join us next to talk more about bungled background checks and her private chat with Hillary Clinton.

Up next, 400 families may have been exposed to tuberculosis after an outbreak at a single high school. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is standing by.

And the final hours of actor James Gandolfini. We're live in Rome, where "The Sopranos" star died at the young age of 51.


TAPPER: More now on the possible problems with the NSA leaker's background check. Senator Claire McCaskill disclosed today that the private firm that vetted Edward Snowden is under criminal investigation.

Senator McCaskill joins us now.

Senator, thanks so much for being here.

First off, if these private contractors do such a bad job of vetting individuals as they apparently did with Edward Snowden, why should the American public feel comfortable that they have access to all this personal data about us?

MCCASKILL: Well, that's one of the things we tried to cover in the hearing today. I think many people in Congress have not spent enough time oversight on this particular function of government, and that is security clearances.

When are we requiring them? How are we getting them? Who is paying for it? And what kind of metrics are we using the make sure they're being successful? Really, this is a big black hole in terms of oversight and we're just beginning to scratch the surface on improvements that we're going to have to look at to make sure this is a system Americans can trust.

TAPPER: "The Guardian" newspaper, which has broken so many of these stories with documents provided by Edward Snowden, has some new documents out there about FISA policies. That's the secret foreign intelligence surveillance court. I don't expect you have had time to read it.

It just came out a few minutes ago. But according to these documents, "The Guardian" says that the NSA is able to retain and make use of what they call inadvertently acquired domestic communications, information that they weren't trying to get, but they got, and they're allowed to keep it, this is according to the document itself, if these communications contain -- quote -- "usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, the information is encrypted or they're believed to contain any information relevant to cyber-security."

The judgment of "The Guardian" newspaper is that that sounds like it contradicts what we have heard from some many members of the Obama administration, including the president, in terms of their not collecting calls and e-mails from Americans unless they get a warrant.

Are you at all concerned, if not with this specific aspect of it, with any of these aspects we have heard about these surveillance programs?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think it's like the background checks, Jake. We have got to be doing oversight.

But there's a rub here. To the extent that all of this becomes very transparent, some of it becomes very ineffective in getting the bad guys. So we have got to find the right balance. Can we provide enough oversight and transparency to the American people that they're confident that no one is prying into their personal lives, that no one is invading them or violating their rights without a warrant and at the same time maintain a program that can effectively break up terrorist plots?

And that's what we're struggling with right now. I mean, I'm not -- I think "The Guardian" has an agenda. I respect the fact that "The Guardian" is putting this information out there and that it's been leaked. I get that's the role of journalism. But at the same time, there's been an awful lot of distortions around the facts of this information that's come to light and an awful lot of context that's been missing.

TAPPER: Well, you said today that in some ways the NSA is collecting less data than Amazon and Facebook. What did you mean by that?

MCCASKILL: Well, I think people need to realize what big data is doing in our lives.

People don't realize the Internet is free because we have allowed behavioral marketing on the Internet, which means while Amazon may not be reading your e-mail and figuring out who you're going to go play golf with or that you're skipping work to play golf, they don't care about any of that, but they may find the word golf in an e-mail and then target you for advertising about golf.

And that's what's going on in the Internet right now. And I don't -- we have got to work on that, also. There's an awful lot of data that's being collected to market things to people in America and clearly we now know there's a lot of data being collected in order to try and stop a needle in a haystack, which is the kind of lone wolf terrorist plots that are out there right now. That's exactly what Boston was.

TAPPER: Senator McCaskill, before you go, I do want to ask you about some of the comments you have made about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and how you are firmly behind her if she chooses to run for president.

She called you after you made that statement publicly. What can you tell us about that conversation?

MCCASKILL: Not a thing.


TAPPER: Well, why are you -- then let me ask you this. Why are you picking a horse already when there are a lot of Democrats out there, let's say Vice President Biden, Governor O'Malley, Governor Cuomo, a whole bunch of individuals who might be excited about getting the support of a swing state senator like yourself?

MCCASKILL: Listen, this is not complicated. Hillary Clinton is the strongest, the most qualified and an extraordinary candidate for president, if she decides to run.

And what I'm trying to do is encourage her to run. I think she would be the strongest nominee for our party and I think she would be an outstanding president. So it's just that simple. I believe in her. I was for President Obama last time. It was a difficult choice. They were two good leaders. And I'm excited to be able to work on her behalf now and hopefully see her take her place behind the desk in the Oval Office.

TAPPER: All right, Senator Claire McCaskill, thank you so much.

MCCASKILL: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, will an autopsy shed light on the shocking death of actor James Gandolfini? We will get the latest live from Rome.

Plus, the daughter of a baseball legend made an amazing catch and saved a baby's life. Stick around.


TAPPER: Switching gears now to the unexpected death of actor James Gandolfini.

People all over the world are remembering "The Sopranos" star as a terrific actor and a nice guy. He was only 51 years old. Italian officials are moving forward with an autopsy in Rome, where Gandolfini died last night while on vacation.

CNN senior international correspondent Dan Rivers joins us live from Rome.

Dan, what do we know about the autopsy?

DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're beginning to piece together the final hours of James Gandolfini.

He was staying at this five-star hotel in central Rome. Last night, the ambulances and emergency doctors were called after he collapsed from a suspected heart attack some time after 10:00. They attempted CPR here at the hotel and then in the ambulance as they rushed him to hospital.

But by the time he arrived at hospital at 10:40 Thursday night, he was pronounced dead. Sadly now, we are waiting for the results of an autopsy. They're obliged to carry out an autopsy in cases like this. There's no suspicion at the moment that this is anything other than natural causes. But we have now also confirmed that he was traveling with his 13-year-old son and his sister.

They were here for a film festival in Sicily.

TAPPER: That's so sad. What's been the reaction in Italy to Gandolfini's death? I know his father was from there, his mother grew up there. He, himself, spent some time there as a child. How are the Italians taking the death of this American?

RIVERS: Well, there's obviously a huge amount of upset among the people that follow "The Sopranos."

I think it's fair to say "The Sopranos" is not kind of blockbuster TV series that it is in the U.S. and in the U.K. But, nevertheless, it has got a cult following here and people -- some people do well know the series here.

But the film festival in Sicily that he was due to speak at has put out a statement talking about how very sorry they are. In fact, they're now saying that the whole festival will be dedicated to his memory. Equally, the U.S. Embassy has put out a similar statement talking about the great sadness on learning the news of his untimely death. He was only 51 years old. TAPPER: All right, thank you so much.

Still ahead, a new T.B. outbreak among students, could it spread? Dr. Sanjay Gupta will put it into perspective for us.

Plus, the Pentagon vs. Secretary of State John Kerry -- Kerry's bold plan that got shot down.

And find out why Wolf is front and center in an Italian newspaper.


TAPPER: Happening now: a possible breakthrough in treating leukemia -- Dr. Sanjay Gupta on the benefits of a new experimental drug.

A group that tried to help gay Christians become straight has closed its doors. We have new reaction to the admission that the therapy did not work.

And when a baby fell from a second-story fire escape, the daughter of a sports legend came to the rescue. She's showing CNN exactly how it happened.

Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jake Tapper. And you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

A tuberculosis scare is unfolding just outside Washington at a high school in Fairfax County, Virginia. Three cases of T.B. are confirmed and hundreds of students and staff may have been exposed.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The three patients were in the active phase. They were -- when they were presented for care, they were ill with T.B. infection. They had T.B. pneumonia and were sick, coughing and ill and through a variety of diagnostic ways were then identified as having an active T.B. infection.


TAPPER: CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now live with more.

Sanjay, how common is T.B.?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in this country, it's not that common. It's something that we hear more about in developing countries.

But there's still some 10,000 or so cases roughly a year that do occur. We often hear about them when there's some sort of scare like this or there's a cluster of cases. And I should point out, Jake, to your question, the number -- sort of the number of cases overall has gone down over the last couple of years as well.

But the concern here, as you can guess, is that this is a very contagious disease. It's a bacterial disease that can potentially spread from person to person and it can cause significant lung problems, and you have to screen people who may have been exposed. So, for example, in a suburb not too far from where I am now, Atlanta, they had to screen some 100 people not that long ago because of a possible exposure to someone who had active T.B.

There's active T.B. and there is what is known as latent T.B., which is somebody who had been exposed in the past, had the disease in the past, but is not currently contagious. And that's an important distinction, because you have got to separate who has active disease and who has evidence of disease, but is not contagious.

TAPPER: And what should people listening at home do to make sure that they don't get it? There is an immunization for it?

GUPTA: Yes. Well, there's no particular -- there's different treatments for it if someone gets exposed.

The main thing is, if someone -- if you worry that you have been exposed somehow or you fall into a category of people who was around somebody who potentially they know had an exposure, actually has active disease, then definitely see your doctor. You get tested and basically find out if you in fact have the bacterial infection as well.

You don't want to sort of treat this what we call empirically, meaning without any evidence of disease. But if you have it, after a known exposure, then obviously you get treatment and try and get it early.

TAPPER: Switching gears to another medical story that is making news, Sanjay, we're hearing about a possible medical breakthrough, this time for treatment in people with leukemia, a blood cancer. What can you tell us about this drug?

GUPTA: There is a -- people know the term leukemia. There are several different kinds of leukemia.

We're talking about one of the worst ones out there, Jake, something known as CLL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia. It's tough to treat. This is something that typically occurs in elderly people. They can get chemotherapy, but the chemotherapy has significant side effects.

And if you look at survival rates right now, even with treatment, it's about 5 percent to 10 percent at around two years. This is a new medication called ibrutinib.

And what is amazing, first of all, it is a pill, not a chemotherapy injection. It has seemingly very few side effects. Again, we're talking about early clinical trials here. But here is the most staggering part. At about 24 months, again, two years or so, the survival rate appears to be about 83 percent.

So, those stats, a lower side effect medication, exponentially higher survival rates, this is why now it is being fast-tracked. They want to say, you know what? We have got our data. We want to fast-track this thing and make it available to as many people as possible. It's a whole new class of cancer drug, Jake. We don't have drugs that work quite the way this one does in a very targeted way. So I will tell you, within the cancer community and the medical community as a whole there's a lot of enthusiasm about this.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Former Yankee manager Joe Torre has seen some catches in his day, but probably nothing quite like the one his daughter just made. She caught and saved a baby who fell more than two stories from a New York building.

CNN's Alina Cho talked to Cristina Torre.

Alina, is she as stunned by this as the rest of us are?


ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She most certainly is, Jake. She's the unlikeliest of celebrities.

And I have to tell you, unlike her father, Cristina Torre is not at all used to being in the limelight. In fact, she says she's the quiet one in the family. But she's going to have to get used to it, because it's part of what comes with being a hometown hero.



CHO (voice-over): This is how much Cristina Torre's life has changed in just 24 hours.

(on camera): You were sitting right there?

CRISTINA TORRE, CAUGHT BABY: Yes. Sitting right there.

CHO (voice-over): The daughter of legendary Yankees manager Joe Torre made the catch of her life when a baby, who literally fell out of the sky, landed right in her arms.

(on camera): So show me what you did.

TORRE: To see what the situation was, and I came over here. I saw the baby kind of straddling the pole, the railing up there. And he was holding on, and I started talking to him as I'm talking to 911 and saying, "Please stay up there. Please."

CHO (voice-over): The baby, just a year old, was dangling precariously from the fire escape more than two stories up after pushing aside a piece of cardboard covering a hole in the window.

(on camera): You're talking to the baby.


CHO: And you're positioning yourself?

TORRE: I'm positioning myself. I'm a teacher. Intuitively I just do what needs to be done.

CHO (voice-over): It's a good thing, because in a matter of minutes the baby fell, and Torre was there to catch him.

TORRE: But he did land right in my arms. And...

CHO (on camera): How did he...

TORRE: It was light as a father actually. I think...

CHO: On his back?

TORRE: On his back. I was cradling him on his back. He was crying.

CHO (voice-over): With a cut on his mouth but safe and now out of the hospital.

The baby's parents, who were said to be sleeping at the time, are charged with four counts each of reckless endangerment.

So what does the daughter of a baseball legend have to say about making such an amazing play? Her dad says...

(on camera): "She's always had great hands"?

TORRE: I do think I got the hand-eye coordination from my dad.

CHO: The shop owners here are calling it the miracle on the corner.

TORRE: Well, I'm just glad I was in the right place at the right time and could help.


CHO: And she's not sporty at all, Jake. You know, we spent a good part of the afternoon with Cristina Torre in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. That's where this happened. And time after time we saw perfect strangers coming up to her hugging, kissing her, saying, "God bless you. Thank you for saving that baby."

And as for the parents, we should tell you they were arraigned today and released until the next court hearing. The baby, we are happy to report, is out of the hospital and now in protective custody along with his three siblings -- Jake.

TAPPER: Just an unbelievable story.

CHO: It is. You can't make it up.

TAPPER: There was an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" where Bill Buckner caught a baby. But no one -- I never thought anything like that would ever actually happen. It's incredible.

CHO: No. She said she was a teacher and it was her instinct to save the child, and she just wasn't thinking, and it happened.

TAPPER: Thank God for her.

Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's take a quick look at some of the other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM with CNN's Mary Snow -- Mary.


A jury of six women will decide the fate of George Zimmerman. He's the Florida Neighborhood Watch guard accused of second-degree murder in last year's shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. Five of the jurors are white; one is Hispanic and black. Opening statements will be on Monday.

Tonight is game seven of the NBA finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. Everyone is wondering who will show up, the hot Heat or the one that fizzles. To a great extent, that depends on one player. CNN's Rachel Nichols spoke with him. Take a listen.


RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: With about a minute to go in game six, security guards come out, they start putting that yellow tape around the floor. They get ready to wheel that trophy in and give it to the Spurs.

LEBRON JAMES, MIAMI HEAT: We felt like they was basically burying us alive, throwing dirt on us before it was over. But at the end of the day, there's still more game to play. Let's finish this game and see what happens.

NICHOLS: Right. And we have to talk about the headband, of course. I have one here for you. I don't know if you recognize this. This is your old friend. You usually keep this guy next to you at all times. You wear him.

JAMES: He's a little mad at me right now. Haven't talked to him in a few hours. I haven't not played with it in so long.

NICHOLS: Dwyane Wade said, "I'm going to try to see if I'm going to talk him into not wearing it in game seven." Can you give me the exclusive here?

JAMES: I don't know. I don't know. It's a very tough decision. I've got to decide if I'm going to wear it or not wear it. But I think I will. He's been a part of this journey, the ups and downs of my career so far.

NICHOLS: No man left behind.

JAMES: No man left behind.

NICHOLS: How much of a game seven is about "X's" and "O's," and how much is about heart? JAMES: I think it's all heart. At the end of the day, "X's" and "O's," coaching staff are going to put you in position to succeed, but you've got to go out and do it. And I think it's about heart and determination at this point and this team is going to rip it (ph).

NICHOLS: And to reunite you with your friend.

JAMES: Yes, sorry buddy. Still love you.


SNOW: We'll be watching.

And our very own Wolf Blitzer is being honored with the Urbino Press Award which Italy gives to a distinguished American journalist. Today, hundreds of people were on hand to watch the ceremony, which includes a procession through the town of Urbino. Past recipients include David Ignatius and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman. Wolf gave a speech about his career and, of course, world events.

This is an award very well deserved. Congratulations, Wolf.

And Jake, I wish we were there for that.

TAPPER: I hope -- I want to play the whole speech. Maybe we can just play the whole speech. We'll do that later in the broadcast maybe.

SNOW: Yes. That's coming up.

TAPPER: Mary, thank you so much.

Coming up, Secretary of State John Kerry floats an idea for Syria, and he has it shot down by a top Pentagon general. Voices reportedly raised at a White House meeting. We'll get all the details next.


TAPPER: The Obama administration is moving forward with its new plan to provide military help to the Syrian rebels. The president is not yet offering any specifics. There apparently has been some heated debate within the administration about how to respond to chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime. That put the Pentagon and Secretary of State John Kerry at odds.

We're joined now by Jeffrey Goldberg, a columnist for "Bloomberg View," and a national correspondent for "The Atlantic." Let's talk about your reporting. John Kerry suggests air strikes against Assad targets, and the Pentagon is dead set against it. Take us into that meeting.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG, NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE ATLANTIC": Right. Well, see, last Wednesday, the principals -- the secretary of defense, chief of joint chiefs, the secretary of state -- got together to talk about what is the American response going to be to the confirmation that Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. And there are many options. There's a no-fly zone that's on the table. There are air strikes against air bases that are on the table, obviously supporting the rebels with small arms.

John Kerry is adamant, is sort of the leading hawk now in the administration for more action, and he proposed in this meeting that the administration consider air strikes on these Syrian air bases from which these planes are being launched.

And General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs, who is a pretty mild-mannered guy, was fairly adamant in this meeting that, you know, no, the Pentagon does not support this idea. He is the chief military adviser to the president. He happens to know also that the president is very hesitant, as we know, about getting further involved in Syria.

And he said, "Absolutely no way. This is not a small thing that you're suggesting. It would require hundreds of sorties just to suppress the integrated air defense systems before you could even start bombing.

And then the big question, of course, is the question that has to do very much to do with our recent history in Iraq and Afghanistan. The big question is, OK, you have an entrance strategy. You know how to start the war, but where is this thing going to go? You know, how are we going to -- how are we going to get out of this? And the president himself, obviously, has talked about the dangers of the slippery slope.

TAPPER: Right. Now it surprises me that Kerry would be a leading hawk in the administration just because in general, although he did vote for the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, generally he is one who talks about diplomacy before military...

GOLDBERG: But this is what's so interesting about this, that he sees military strikes -- and he has a very good argument. He sees military strikes as an aid to diplomacy. In other words, he wants to get all of the parties to the table in Geneva. They want to have this peace conference.

He knows that the Assad regime right now is winning on the battlefield. The Assad regime has no -- no reason to go to peace talks when it feels as if it's winning. So in other words, in order to give the Assad regime the incentive to go to peace talks, the rebels have to do better than they're doing. That's what the small arms is about in some way.

And of course, Kerry and other people in the administration believe that another way to help the rebel cause is to use some air strikes against Assad military targets. So he sees this as an aid to diplomacy.

TAPPER: And quickly, Jeffrey, where do you think the conversation goes from here?

GOLDBERG: That's the $64,000 question. You know, the ultimate truth of the moment is that the president himself, who makes the final decision obviously, is extremely hesitant to even go down the slope of providing small arms to the rebels.

So I don't foresee in the near term, barring an enormous chemical weapons attack or some other catastrophe that we can't yet envision, I don't see us moving toward air strikes very quickly. I certainly don't see us moving toward a no-fly zone.

TAPPER: All right, Jeffrey Goldberg from "Bloomberg View" and "The Atlantic." Thanks so much for being here.

GOLDBERG: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up, it's believed to be a miracle, again. Now Pope John Paul II is another step closer to sainthood.


TAPPER: He was one of the most popular popes in modern history. And now there's word coming out of the Vatican that John Paul II is one critical step closer to sainthood.

CNN's Brian Todd is here with details.

Brian, what can you tell me?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We know this is likely going to happen soon. You know, Pope John Paul II did have a knack for capturing the world's attention. He was essentially the first rock star in the papacy. So to many Vatican watchers, it is no surprise that he is fast-tracked for sainthood.


TODD (voice-over): At his funeral, thousands chanted "Santos Subito," "Sainthood Now," a tribute to John Paul II, maybe the most popular pope in the modern history of the Catholic Church. It's now eight years later, and it's about as close to sainthood now as you can get.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: For an institution that typically thinks in terms of centuries, this is remarkably quick.

TODD: CNN Vatican analyst John Allen says, according to Vatican insiders who spoke unofficially, a second miracle had been performed by John Paul posthumously, a miracle that will likely make him a saint.

ALLEN: In this case, the Vatican is saying that there is a report of a miraculous healing of a woman in Costa Rica.

TODD: Allen says, according to the reports, the woman recovered from a severe brain injury. Church protocol says it takes two miracles performed after death to make someone a saint. John Paul's first, curing a nun who reportedly had Parkinson's, led to his beatification, the final step before sainthood.

If a second miracle then happens...

PATRICK KELLY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JOHN PAUL II SHRINE: And a team of doctors first examine the miracle, then secondly, the team of theologians look at the miracles. And then they discuss amongst themselves the legitimacy and all the facts surrounding the miracles.

TODD: John Allen says that's already happened. Then a body of cardinals has to approve sainthood. And finally the pope signs off on it. The record for the fastest canonization in modern times: Jose Maria Escriva, founder of the conservative order of Opus Dei, made a saint 27 years after his death. John Paul could shatter that.

(on camera): But there are critics who say "not so fast" on canonization. They say, despite being so beloved, John Paul II didn't live up to expectations at a crucial moment in the church's history, a moment of shame that church leadership is still dealing with.

(voice-over): A crippling sex abuse scandal, involving thousands of victims, with several church leaders accused of cover-ups.

ALLEN: The wrath against John Paul in terms of the sex abuse scandals is basically that this stuff metastasized during his papacy, and he didn't respond adequately to it.

TODD: I put that to the archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

(on camera): What do you say to those people?

CARDINAL DONALD WUERL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON, D.C.: His ministry was so clearly a ministry of concern for everyone. Now, when you're presiding over a worldwide church with over a billion members, surely there are going to be things that happen over which you don't have a lot of control or maybe no control.


TODD: Cardinal Wuerl and others say the measure of a saint is not the list of accomplishments versus setbacks but actually how holy the person was. John Allen says at this point it is very likely that Pope Francis will approve the sainthood of John Paul II -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Brian, what do we know about the time able when this would happen?

TODD: John Allen says this could come as early as October of this year; if it comes late, next year. Either way he obliterates the record for the fastest canonization. It's incredible. He's that popular, and this is going to happen.

TAPPER: A beloved figure at the Vatican. Thank you so much, Brian Todd.

Also at the Vatican the thrill of a lifetime for a 17-year-old with Down Syndrome. He and his father were speaking with Pope Francis after yesterday's general audience, when the pontiff invited him to sit in the Popemobile. The young man was all smiles as he took a seat and was swung around by the pope himself who let the teen spend a while onboard.

There's angry reaction today to the new apology from a group that claimed it could help gay Christians become straight. CNN's Nick Valencia has an update on the stunning end to a 37-year mission that failed.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It billed itself as the largest evangelical ministry for what it called "freedom from homosexuality through Christ." And now it says it's closing its doors.

For decades, Exodus International endorsed the controversial convergent therapy or the idea that homosexuality is a disorder that could be cured. Some who have gone through the debunked, now defunct, reparative therapy say it's psychologically harmful in a special on Oprah Winfrey's cable network tonight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No matter how many times I pleaded with God to take this away from me, I couldn't do it on my own.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are responsible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The organization needs to shut down. Shut down. Don't tweak it. Don't try to improve it. Shut it down.

VALENCIA: The shift by Exodus comes as a surprise to many. As recently as 2007 Alan Chambers, the organization's president, seemed to support the therapy.

ALAN CHAMBERS, PRESIDENT, EXODUS INTERNATIONAL: For someone to simply think that going from gay to straight is like flipping a light switch, that's something that we want to correct at every turn.

VALENCIA: Today's apology on Oprah's network coincides with the ministry's annual conference and was in advance of the ministry's appearance on Oprah's OWN network, where it will apologize to some of its members for undue judgment.

At one time the ministry's president, Alan Chambers, announced he was gay. Now with a wife and children, Chambers in a statement addresses the irony and offers an apology. "It is strange to be someone who has both been hurt by the church's treatment of the LGBT community and also to be someone who must apologize for being part of the very system of ignorance that perpetuated that hurt," he said.

Exodus says the decision was to appeal to a new generation of Christians who want change. But Andrew Comiskey, former director of an Exodus ministry, believes chambers is pandering to the change in church culture.

ANDREW COMISKEY, FORMER DIRECTOR OF AN EXODUS MINISTRY: I think it's not only confusing. I think it's wrong in light of the origins of Exodus and what its original mission was. And so he's basically taking Exodus in a whole other direction and in light of his own vision of what it now is supposed to be.


VALENCIA: Jake, Exodus International may be closing its doors, but the ministry's president says he plan on opening a new ministry called Reduced Fear, and it will aim at being more welcoming -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Valencia, thank you so much.

In just a minute, Jeanne Moos takes us to some of Tony Soprano's old stomping grounds to show us how folks are paying tribute to the actor who played him.


TAPPER: Tony Soprano was not the only character that actor James Gandolfini played, but in New York and New Jersey today, people are saying good-bye to both of them. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since his passing, Tony Soprano has a table reserved at Holston's in Bloomfield, New Jersey, where he was last seen eating onion rings as "The Sopranos" series went forever to black.

Now reporters are sitting at the reserved table...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For now it's shut down.

MOOS: ... reporting on something much more final than a finale.

JAMES GANDOLFINI, ACTOR: But don't worry. I'm going to hell when I die.

MOOS: How could a character with so much anger be so beloved? A son who abused his mother when she's just had a stroke.

GANDOLFINI: I'm going to have a nice, long, happy life which is more than I can say for you.

MOOS: A guy who got so annoyed at his table mate that he even abused the ketchup. A character who got into our heads while having his examined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When is the last time you had a prostate exam?

GANDOLFINI: Hey, I don't even let anybody wave their finger in my face.

MOOS: And in real life?

JAMES LIPTON, "INSIDE THE ACTOR'S STUDIO": Have you ever had any personal experience with psychoanalysis? GANDOLFINI: I don't think when I started the series I did.

MOOS (on camera): In the New York tabloids it was Tony who died. James Gandolfini's real name got second billing.

(voice-over): And all Gandolfini had to do to get a laugh was act like Tony when Tina Fey interrupted him on "Saturday Night Live."

TINA FEY, FORMER CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you.

GANDOLFINI: Use your head.

FEY: That is the scariest man I have ever been attracted to.

MOOS: The real man was said to be sweet rather than sour.

LIPTON: What is your favorite word?


MOOS: Cartoonist Mark Murphy wrote this epitaph: "Here lies Tony Soprano, murder, thief, extortionist, drug abuser, liar, arsonist. He was loved and will be missed."

I've been missing "The Sopranos'" show open. So let's make one last trip with Tony through the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey. Things have changed. Tony would definitely have switched from toll tickets to EZ- pass. The Twin Towers are long gone. And now so is a towering act.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


TAPPER: Gandolfini's co-star, Edie Falco, said this today about her onscreen marriage. Quote, "The love between Tony and Carmella was one of the greatest I've ever known."

Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. Just tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom or tweet me, @JakeTapper, all one word.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.


EDIE FALCO, ACTRESS: What looks good tonight?


FALCO: He just called. He's on his way. She is coming separately. She had to go to the doctor to switch birth control.