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THE SITUATION ROOM
Where in the World is Edward Snowden?; IRS Targeted Liberal Groups As Well; Shocking Start To Zimmerman Murder Trial; Smithfield Foods Drops Paul Deen; Red Panda Rescued in Washington; Critical Vote on Immigration Reform
Aired June 24, 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, where in the world is the NSA leaker?
Edward Snowden has been on the move, staying a step ahead of the U.S. manhunt, as he looks for a country to give him asylum.
The George Zimmerman murder trial opens with one lawyer quoting a string of expletives and the other telling a joke -- a bizarre beginning in the case that's gripped the nation.
And celebrity chef Paula Deen takes another big hit, after admitting she used racial slurs.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The man who stunned the world by leaking secrets about NSA surveillance is now the object of a worldwide manhunt. Edward Snowden has been on the move from Hong Kong to Moscow and maybe -- maybe, we just don't know -- beyond. He may or may not have caught a flight to Cuba or he may catch the next one.
Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Tom Foreman.
So what do we know so far -- Tom?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, what we know is that there is a lot of uncertainty, as you just alluded to there. We know that somewhere out there, Edward Snowden is on the move, or at least has been on the move. Over the weekend, he was definitely in Hong Kong, where he met with some of his advisers there. They talked about possible plans. And he definitely left Hong Kong to go to Moscow over here.
How do we know that this happened?
We know that this happened because we had witnesses who told us that they saw him on the plane and the Russians confirmed that he was on this flight.
This is really the last point at which anyone has proof of where he was, in terms of anyone we know. This is more than 24 hours ago. The Russians, notably, have not said he arrived in Russia. That doesn't mean he wasn't on the plane. It could mean simply that he's still at the airport, sort of in a no man's land, neither here nor there. Think about Tom Hanks in the movie "The Terminal" -- he's not officially arrived, so he could still be there.
But this is the last point that we know where he is.
Now, this question of whether or not he's moved on to some other location, notably Cuba.
Why do we think that's possible?
Well, because Aeroflot had a flight that left at 2:55 local time, Moscow time, and will arrive in Cuba in about an hour-and-a-half from now. The reason we don't think he's on this plane, even though this had been one of the plans that had been discussed about where he would go, is because we have someone on the plane who has not seen him, who has looked around the plane and can find no sign of him having boarded. His seat on the plane is empty.
The reason he might be on the plane is that a van pulled up next to the plane before it took off. Someone got off the van and appeared to get onto the plane, some unknown person.
If he were not on that flight, what other possibilities are there?
Well, another Aeroflot flight at -- lager on in the day. And look at this. I want you to notice this number right here, because this is important. It's called Airbus 330-Q. That Q matters. We don't know exactly what it means to the Aeroflot protocols and the flight has connection to the A330-Q. But we do know -- the A330 is a type of plane. But we do know that in the past, those that have the Q on them have taken a different flight plan. The earlier flight we're talking about, that would have left Moscow and followed the curve of the Earth up like this to Cuba, which would take it through a considerable portion of U.S. and Canadian airspace. The one with the Q designation, the flight plan for those planes tends to be much more like this, so it doesn't go through any of that airspace. And there's been a lot of talk about could a plane with him on board be intercepted in any fashion in airspace.
And where it goes from there, Wolf, it becomes even more speculative. We've had all of this talk about it ultimately winding up with him going from Cuba down here to Ecuador, where Ecuador has indicated some interest in offering asylum.
But I want to go back to the basic theme here, Wolf. The theme is this. For more than 24 hours, the only thing we have really know about this man is that he left Hong Kong and he went to Moscow. And the rest of it is speculation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: A huge, huge mystery unfolding right now.
Tom, excellent work.
Thank you. With a little help from his friends, Edward Snowden seems to be staying one step ahead of his pursuers, as he seeks a friendly country willing to give him sanctuary.
CNN's Atika Shubert has the latest.
She's joining us now from London -- Atika.
ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. Well, we know that Snowden has defiantly applied for asylum in Ecuador, also approached Ireland, and according to WikiLeaks, a number of other countries, as well. And WikiLeaks has made it very clear that they are helping Snowden in his search for asylum.
SHUBERT (voice-over): Where is Edward Snowden?
The former NSA contractor who leaked U.S. secrets is playing an international game of cat and mouse with U.S. authorities. In a telephone presser, WikiLeaks' Julian Assange said Snowden was, quote, "Healthy, safe and in high spirits," but would not say where or what country he is in. But Assange made clear that WikiLeaks is helping Snowden, calling him "a persecuted whistleblower seeking asylum."
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS: This morning, the U.S. secretary of State called Edward Snowden a traitor. Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistleblower who has told the public an important truth.
SHUBERT: Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday and landed in Moscow Sunday night. This, as a source tells CNN that Snowden's passport has been revoked. According to Assange, Ecuador issued him a special travel document to seek asylum. But it is not clear if he used that document to travel.
Snowden is believed to have spent the night at the Moscow airport. He was thought to have a connecting flight to Cuba, en route to Ecuador. But the booked seat on the Aeroflot flight was empty.
Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, but that is still being considered, said Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino.
RICARDO PATINO, FOREIGN MINISTER, ECUADOR (through translator) the Ecuadoran government has been in touch, respectfully, by our diplomatic bodies, with Russia. And we have told them that we are considering the asylum request made by Mr. Snowden, so that the Russian government makes the decision they think best, according to their own laws and policies.
SHUBERT: As for Russia, officials there have said Snowden has not left the airport into Moscow streets and he may be able to stay inside the terminal indefinitely.
(END VIDEO TAPE) SHUBERT: Now, WikiLeaks has been following this process closely ever since Snowden left Hong Kong. They actually have a WikiLeaks staffer and a legal researcher, Sarah Harrison, is traveling with Snowden at this time. But Assange in that presser made it very clear even though WikiLeaks know where Snowden is, they don't want to give any details as to exact location.
BLITZER: Is WikiLeaks also confirming they're providing funding to Snowden on this adventure?
SHUBERT: What WikiLeaks has confirmed is that they have paid for his flights to his ultimate destination, which we believe to be Ecuador, although WikiLeaks doesn't want to get into the specifics of that route; and, also, that they have paid for the legal counsel in applying for asylum. So in that sense, WikiLeaks has been very up front about its support and it says no other organization or government has been involved.
BLITZER: Atika Shubert in London for us.
Thanks very much.
And, by the way, we're tracking that flight that left Moscow earlier today, en route to Havana. That's that Aeroflot Flight 150. Right now -- right now, we're told, it is somewhere over Georgia, we're told right now. You can take a look over here as we're tracking this flight somewhere over Georgia. It's supposed to land in Havana in about an hour, an hour and 20 minutes or so from now. So we'll continue to track Aeroflot Flight 150.
It appears maybe he's not on that flight. At least that seat where he had a ticket, 17-A, is empty, supposedly. But we have a reporter/photographer on that plane. We also have Patrick Oppenheim standing by live in Havana once that plane lands.
So we're all over this story for our viewers.
Secretary of State John Kerry is urging Russia to cooperate with the United States in bringing Snowden into custody. In an interview with CNN, he's warning that the NSA leaks could have deadly, deadly consequences.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: What I see is an individual who threatened this country and put Americans at risk through the acts that he took. People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before. This is a very dangerous act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's just part of what the secretary of State told our Elise Labott. You're going to see the rest of our interview in our next hour, when we have a special SITUATION ROOM report, "The NSA Leaker on the Run." We're tracking Snowden's moves tonight, at the top of the hour, 6:00 p.m. Eastern. We're devoting the full hour to this mystery.
The temporary IRS chief has issued his first report on the targeting of conservative groups. New information coming in.
Let's go to our chief Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.
What are you learning -- Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning, actually, something that was not in this report, but we're getting from our sources here on Capitol Hill. And that is, it turns out that the IRS was targeting liberal groups using the term "progressive," in addition to targeting conservative groups using the term, "Tea Party" and others.
This is a very big development with regard to the IRS controversy because, of course, we have seen hearings and investigations for months now looking into why conservative groups were targeted. And that was also explained in an inspector general report.
So a question now is why did the inspector general of the IRS not also alert the public, alert Congress, alert everybody to the fact that progressives -- liberals were also targeted?
And when I say targeted, I mean they used these terms in order to sift through applications for tax-exempt status to try to figure out what could and could not be able to get tax-exempt status based on their level of political activity.
BLITZER: Was that done by the same bunch of IRS employees in Cincinnati or elsewhere?
BASH: We don't know the answer to that. This is -- this comes to us by way of a document dump, effectively, here on Capitol Hill just a short time ago, of more than 20 what are called BOLOS, or be on the lookout memos, that were written back around the time when this all started. This one in particular, this one that we have seen, was from November of 2010, which used the term "progressive" as part of a way to give extra scrutiny, or single out, this kind of liberal group, just like that we know and we've seen that they had done for conservative groups, as well.
BLITZER: And so it's taken so long for the IRS to make this critically -- this really important revelation?
Is that what this -- I mean how does that happen -- Dana?
BASH: That's a good question. It is also perplexing.
But what I can tell you is that what -- part of the reason why we are seeing this today is because the IRS, in addition to the inspector general report, which we saw a while ago, the IRS just concluded its own internal investigation. And as part of that, I can tell you that they also found that there was no evidence of intentional wrongdoing or involvement outside the IRS. And those BOLOS I just described, those memos for IRS staffers to be on the lookout for particular words or groups, that -- those have been suspended.
And the other that is also important and it was a big part of this controversy, was that a lot of these groups waited for years to get tax-exempt status. They have put in place a mechanism for those who have been back-logged and waiting for a very long time, that that can be expedited now.
BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much.
A significant development, indeed.
Up next, a murder trial certainly is no laughing matter, so why did George Zimmerman's lawyer begin his client's defense today with a knock-knock joke?
And coming up, Rusty is the red panda and is rescued.
But how did the National Zoo, right here in the nation's capital, lose him in the first place?
BLITZER: Expletives and a knock-knock joke, all part of stunning opening statements on both sides, kicking of George Zimmerman's murder trial in the death of an African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin. CNNs Martin Savidge was in the courtroom. He's joining us now with what happened today. It was a pretty dramatic day, Martin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Wolf. I mean, this is day one, opening statements, and it begins with the prosecution dropping the F-bomb, and then you have the defense that opens up with, as you say, a joke, a joke that did not go over well at all. Let's begin with the prosecution. John Guy (ph) who got up there. He opened up.
He says good morning to the jury and then launches into this profanity-laced string, which just shocked everyone in the courtroom. The jury immediately, their neck snapped and they followed very closely what came out of his mouth next.
And what he went on to do was describe essentially how he says the state claims George Zimmerman was a man who was foul mouthed, who was a police wanna-be, who profiled the 17-year-old teen as he walked home from the store after buying candy and a soft drink and that he went after, and then confronted Trayvon Martin, and of course, that he had a weapon.
He had a gun, with one round already in the chamber, a loose cannon literally in the neighborhood. He goes on to say that the claim of self-defense by George Zimmerman was nothing more than a web of lies. And then after 30 minutes of this very precise delivery pointing often directly at George Zimmerman, he ended with this line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GUY, ASSISTANT STATE ATTORNEY: We are confident that at the end of this trial, you will know in your head, in your heart, in your stomach that George Zimmerman did not shoot Trayvon Martin because he had to. He shot him for the worst of all reasons, because he wanted to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Then, you have the completely different take. This time, it was two and a half, nearly three hours of the defense laying out its opening statement, basically saying that George Zimmerman acted in self-defense, that was it was Trayvon Martin that assaulted George Zimmerman as he was going through his own neighborhood. Listen to the dramatic difference in style. Don West now for the defense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON WEST, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN'S ATTORNEY: Trayvon Martin decided to confront George Zimmerman. That instead of going home, he had plenty of time. This is, what, 60, 70 yards. Plenty of time. It could have gone back and forth four, five times if he wanted to. But choosing not to do that, he either left and went back or just hid in the darkness to see about this guy that he thought was following him.
And turned to George Zimmerman out of the darkness and said "why are you following me?"
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: It was the length, though, of how long it took, almost three hours for the defense to make that opening statement. And again, Wolf, beginning with that joke that nobody found funny, a knock-knock joke in a murder trial just simply did not work. That is what many people walked out of the courtroom talking about today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: They certainly did. Martin, thanks very much. Let's dig a little bit deeper with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is here in the SITUATION ROOM. Let me play that knock-knock joke we're talking about.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It's already part of legal lore, this joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WEST: Knock, knock. Who's there? George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman who? All right, good. You're on the jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. So, what was he thinking? This is a murder trial. TOOBIN: Well, I think the point, to the extent there was a point was that he's trying to say you shouldn't have any preconceived notions about who George Zimmerman is. If you say George Zimmerman who, who is he? You have an open mind. That means you should be on the jury, but obviously, it was a terrible joke.
In fairness, I don't think weeks from now, when the jury is deliberating on a lot of evidence they're going to hear, they're going to be thinking about this joke, but it certainly didn't help his client's cause --
BLITZER: First impressions are important, though. There are six jurors, all women, five white woman, one Black-Hispanic woman, and first impressions can be significant in a trial that could go two to three weeks.
TOOBIN: When you are taught to be a trial lawyer, you're sometimes told, try your cases in a horseshoe. Put your most important stuff at the very beginning and at the very end and the boring, not so helpful stuff in the middle. This was the beginning. You had a chance to make an impression. Certainly, the prosecution made a more powerful, clear impression today.
BLITZER: Trayvon's parents are allowed to be in the courtroom, but Zimmerman's parents are not allowed to be in the courtroom because they might be witnesses in this trial and that's raising a little bit of, I guess, commotion out there.
TOOBIN: Correct. That's a legal concept called the rule on witnesses. And in almost every trial, if you are a witness, you are not allowed to hear the other testimony because the theory is you could line your testimony up with what the other witnesses said.
This judge has invoked the rule, and witnesses, sometimes, when you have close relatives, they wave -- they allow a little more leeway, with the parents, for example, of the defendant. There's been some testimony today about it and the judge may allow them to sit through at least some of the testimony.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. These six jurors, obviously, have a huge decision to make over the next few weeks. Thanks very much for that, Jeffrey.
Tonight, by the way, Anderson Cooper will break down today's opening statements and testimony in a one-hour special, "Self-Defense or Murder: The Gorge Zimmerman Trial." It airs tonight 10:00 p.m. eastern right here on CNN.
When we come back, the former Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, potentially, potentially headed to prison. You're going to find out why.
Plus, we're expecting a major Senate vote on immigration reform in the next few minutes. We'll have the results as soon as it happens.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Another rocky day on Wall Street. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. What happened, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, U.S. stocks managed to mostly recover from early losses today but still finished in the red. The Dow closing down almost 140 points, just about one percent amid investors' concerns about the fed easing up on the stimulus. Also credit troubles in China. Earlier in the day, all three indexes were down much more.
The Supreme Court has side stepped a major ruling on affirmative action at the University of Texas, ruling 7-1 to throw the case back to the lower courts for further review. The decision affirms the use of race in the admissions process but makes it harder for schools to implement. The university was sued by a White woman after her 2008 application was rejected in favor of others she claims were less qualified minorities.
A panel of judges sentenced former Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, to seven years in prison on charges of abusive power and having sex with an underage prostitute. Prosecutors argued Berlusconi had sex repeatedly with the dancer then intervene May of 2010 to have her release from jail. Berlusconi denies the allegations and plans to appeal.
And there is good news for Twinkies fans. Your favorite snack will be back on store shelves in less than a month. The announcement came today from one of two companies that bought the rights to Twinkies from the bankrupt Hostess brand this year. Now, expect the new box to look much like the old one with a new line calling this the, quote, "Sweetest come back in the history of ever." Countdown is on, Wolf.
BLITZER: Twinkies are back. All right. Thanks, Mary. Thanks very much.
Up next, as the NSA leaker stays a step ahead of the U.S. manhunt, there's growing political fallout for President Obama.
And also, we have more fallout for Paula Deen. A major corporation cuts its ties with the celebrity chef after she admits to using a racial slur. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Happening now, NSA leaker on the run and some Republicans pointing the finger at President Obama. Is it time for the White House said to be doing or saying more?
Plus, a potentially make or break vomit for comprehensive immigration reform, we'll have the results from a major Senate vote, it is happening in a few minutes.
And how did the national zoo, right here in Washington, D.C. manage to lose Rusty, Rusty the little red panda?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.
To our top story right now, where in the world is Edward Snowden? The NSA leaker fleeing U.S. charges and was expected to be on a flight from Moscow to Havana due to land in Cuba in the next hour. There's no indication, though, that Snowden ever boarded that plane but another Cuba flight is due to lead in a few hours. Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow yesterday and reportedly spent the night at the airport.
U.S. officials presumed Snowden is still in Russia. He's being helped by Wikileaks who says he's in a quote "safe place." Wikileaks says Snowden has applied for asylum in Iceland, Ecuador and elsewhere. Ecuador's foreign minister says his nation is now weighing the request.
As Edward Snowden stays one move ahead of U.S. authorities, the United States is calling on other nations to cooperate with the manhunt. President Obama spoke briefly on the matter today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, what we know is that we're following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that rule of law is observed. And beyond that I'll refer to the justice department that has been actively involved in the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's talk about the political fallout from all of this, our chief political analyst Georgia Borger is here, along with our CNN political contributor, the Democratic strategist Donna Brazile and the former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.
Gloria, that's all we heard from the president, specifically from the president say. Peter King, the Republican congressman from New York, he was critical of the way the president is dealing with this. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Hate to be in the middle of a crisis second guessing the president but where is he? Where is the president? Why is he not speaking with the American people? Why is he not more forceful in dealing with foreign leaders?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Peter King speaking at our show, "NEW DAY."
All right, so, what's going on here? What is the president up to? What does he needs to do?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Look. This is a crisis that's going on in real time. So, you really cannot expect the president to come and update us every ten seconds. And today, you saw the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, not specifically speak about, in fact he avoided speaking about the conversations the president is having. So, we don't know whether the president is having direct conversations with Putin or others.
What we do know is that this president has promised a general conversation about privacy and security, which I do think he needs to lead at some point. And we also know that this is an administration that is frustrated, that is infuriated and that is probably embarrassed to a certain degree about the way this has played out because they've come under some criticism from people asking questions, legal experts, saying, for example, why didn't you revoke Snowden's passport immediately? Folks in the White House say that wouldn't have made any difference but some legal experts say yes and you should have charged him sooner.
BLITZER: Ari, you worked at the White House under President Bush. Take us behind the scene a little bit as far as damage control right now. What do you suspect is going on?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think the state department is working back channels. They are working all their various contacts in both China and especially now in Russia and so are people at the national security council trying to get the message that you need to deliver him to us. This is going to harm our relations.
I think the president is right not to speak out yet and he won't make phone calls to those world leaders, or to President Putin, unless or until it's wired or agreed that the call will result in his release. The last thing you to do in a situation like this is put the president on the phone for failure.
But Wolf, let me say one thing. I, first and foremost, blame Russia and China for this. They are should have returned him to us. They are sticking their thumb in our eye and they are to blame. Now, I do think also, President Obama has shown an inclination, particularly the Russia, he called it the reset to roll over. And one thing from international relations, you need to be respected or feared and it appears President Obama is neither.
BLITZER: Are you, of 100 percent, convinced, Ari, that if it will reverse, of a Russian national security official had leaked this kind of information to Russian journalists and then wound up in the United States, the United States would return that person to Russia?
FLEISCHER: Well, I don't think you can compare the two. Russia is not a system where they're governed by a rule of law. An official in Russia leaking information like that is I think it's very likely that he'd be dead if the Russians caught him doing it and none of us would know about it.
So, I just think that's a false equivalency. We are a nation that's ruled by law and we have treaty with other nations for return of people and as Jay Carney accurately pointed out today, Russia and the United States have engaged in these types of trades before where we sent people to Russia when Russia requested it. Russia should do the same and return him to us. Donna, you know the criticism of the president is that he looks weak right now and he can't get either Russia or China to cooperate. How does he deal with that?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of, I think it's false criticism. I think it's too early, I think it's gratuitous slap at the president. We don't know of the president is working back channels. We do know that secretary Kerry was very strong, very forceful today. I though Jay Carney's comments were very tough on China saying it will set back mutual trust. So, we don't what has happened behind us. But we do know is that the president has put out a recall, that he has put out general Alexander for the NSA, he has put out other officials to go out there and keep us apprised of the situation. I hope they capture this individual. I do believe that -- I'm sure all available resources are out there. But to just hail this criticism is --
BLITZER: But if they did capture Edward Snowden, you want him arrested and tried for espionage?
BRAZILE: I believe he should be brought back to the country and tried. Absolutely.
BORGER: You know, Wolf. It's like we're back to the cold war mindset again. When the Russian spokesman was asked about this, he was kind cagey about what they knew about Snowden and whether they had been in contact with Snowden. The attorney general speaks with this counterpart in Hong Kong, seemed to have gotten assurances that things are going to go as the attorney general here wanted and that didn't happen because China clearly took the reins here. So, it seems in some odd way that the cold war is back.
BLITZER: You think the longer, Ari, this goes on the more embarrassing it is for the Obama administration?
FLEISCHER: It is because what people quickly measure is presidential influence. Why are they doing this? Why can't President Obama get them free? You know, and you get Snowden released to us? These are the things that pass right up the chain to the person at the top. And whether it's deserved or not deserved, partially deserved, that's the way it is. So the longer it goes on, the much more tricky this will be for President Obama.
BLITZER: Ari, thanks very much. And Gloria and Donna, guys, thanks to you as well.
A reminder, you're going to want to say tuned in here next hour, our entire hour, our special SITUATION ROOM, a Special Report, the NSA leaker on the run, we're tracking his moves. Tonight, 6:00 p.m. eastern right at the top of the hour, eastern, right at the top of hour.
Just ahead, a huge moment for immigration reform on the floor of the U.S. Senate happening now. We will have the results coming up.
Plus another major blow for the celebrity chef Paula Deen over her admitted use of a racial slur.
BLITZER: All right, this just coming into the SITUATION ROOM.
Take a look at this. This is delta flight 1763, something you don't see every day. According to delta airlines, this plane on a taxi to a holding area prior to departure, look at this, the right side landing gear of delta flight 1763 from Washington Reagan national airport to Minneapolis, St. Paul, actually left the pavement and made contact with airfield turf. No injuries. Passengers have been bussed back to the terminal where they're being re-accommodated on another flight as suppose to leave about 7:00 p.m. eastern. But that plane is still stuck in the grass over there on the turf at Reagan national airport. No idea what happened, why the plane left the runway and wound up on the turf. We'll found out.
Just days after celebrity chef Paula Deen was dropped by the food network over admission to having used the "n" word, another major corporation is now following suit. Smithfield foods announced today it's also cutting its ties and Deen's relationships with QVC and Wal- Mart could also be at risk.
CNN's Alina Machado is working the story for us. she is joining us now with more.
What else is going on, Alina?
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Smithfield Foods is the world's largest pork processor. We received a statement this afternoon from the company saying, in part, "Smithfield condemns the use of offensive and discriminatory language and behavior of any kind and therefore we are terminating our partnership with Deen. Smithfield is determined to be an ethical food industry leader and it is important that our values and those of our spokespeople are properly aligned."
Now Smithfield is the latest company to drop Deen after she admitted to using the N word in a deposition for an ongoing civil lawsuit. That lawsuit was filed last year by a former employee who alleges she was a victim of sexual harassment and racial discrimination while working at a Georgia restaurant Deen co-owned with her brother.
Now, as you mentioned, the Food Network announced last week it was not going to renew Deen's contract. The announcement came on the same day videos surfaced online in which Deen apologized for her remarks.
Now here's what one media relations consultant has to say about the fallout.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID JOHNSON, BRAND EXPERT: Once you're accused of being a racist, you always have that asterisk next to your name. And the other thing is now, even if she settles, what is she settling and what is she admitting? At this point she's trying to salvage a little bit of her name, some of her product lines, maybe some of her cookbooks. She knows that she'll have a base of support that will stick with her but beyond that it's going to be very marginal and she'll never be the Paula Deen she once was.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MACHADO: Now QVC, a home shopping channel, has said it is re- examining its relationship with Deen. A spokesperson or spokesman for Wal-Mart would not comment on that company's ties with Deen -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Alina, thanks very much.
Alina Machado reporting. Just ahead, the Senate holds a crucial vote which could potentially determine the future of comprehensive immigration reform.
And the NSA leaker may or may not be at a flight from Moscow to Cuba right now. He may or may not take the next flight out of Havana. We're tracking his whereabouts. All that coming up in our next hour.
BLITZER: A rare and very vulnerable red panda somehow managed to wander off the National Zoo right here in Washington, D.C. Rusty was rescued in a nearby neighborhood, but that's hardly the end of this mystery.
Brian Todd is over at the zoo with more.
Brian, what happened here?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Rusty the red panda, gave zoo officials quite a scare for several hours today. They finally caught a break when a local resident spotted him, called them and then tweeted a photo. But Rusty had gotten more than a half a mile away and into a busy neighborhood before he was finally secured.
TODD (voice-over): Captured, crated, on the way home. Rusty the red panda, not even a year old missing from Washington's National Zoo for several hours. He made his way into a busy neighborhood off zoo grounds before being captured safely.
Brandie Smith, a senior zoo curator involved in the capture, tells how a zoo team lured him into their grasp after surrounding him.
BRANDIE SMITH, SENIOR CURATOR, NATIONAL ZOO: We were able to walk up to him. We sent the keepers with which he's most familiar. So the keepers called his name. He was familiar to them. They calmed him down. We were able to approach him with a net, capture him in a net, transfer him to a crate, and then we just took him to our veterinary hospital.
TODD: Red pandas are listed as vulnerable with 10,000 of them or less in the world. Rusty was born in captivity. Could he have survived on his own? We asked Smith what dangers he faced outside the zoo.
SMITH: I think the biggest danger is if he ate any inappropriate food.
TODD: That's anything other than bamboo or any other food prepared by his keepers. For the moment, zoo officials say Rusty has no visible signs of injury or illness.
We pressed a zoo spokeswoman on another key question.
(On camera): How in the world do you lose a red panda? How did it happen?
PAMELA BAKER-MASSON, SPOKESWOMAN, NATIONAL ZOO: Well, we don't know right now. In all honesty. Complete honesty. We do not know. That habitat has housed red pandas for several years. No one has escaped from it before. The habitat is constructed to keep red pandas in and to keep people out.
TODD (voice-over): A possible clue, red pandas are called arboreal animals, natural climbers, tree dwellers.
(On camera): Could Rusty have used a tree to climb out of this exhibit behind me? Well, zoo officials say their horticultural team came here after he escaped and found no obvious route out, but they're not ruling it out as a possibility, and one possibility could be right here. You see the electric fence. The exhibit is on the other side of that fence. There is a tree up there on one side of the electric fence that kind of hangs over. That could have been one of the escape routes.
(Voice-over): Zoo officials say they'll look at surveillance cameras, do the best they can to trace Rusty's movements between 6:00 p.m. Sunday when he was last sighted and 7:30 Monday morning when they noticed him gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to look at every aspect of the exhibit. We will not let this happen again.
TODD: Even though Rusty shows no visible signs of injury or illness right now, zoo officials say they're going to keep him in their veterinary hospital for at least a few days to monitor him before they're putting him back into his exhibit with his female partner Shauna -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, have zoo officials mentioned any other possibilities other than him climbing a tree and escaping?
TODD: They said they're going to look at everything, including the possibility, Wolf, that a human being could have lured him out and maybe even taken him before maybe ditching him in a neighborhood somewhere. That's not out of the realm of possibility in a situation like this. This park is still open, even after dark. It's not hard to get in here, even though it's technically closed, you can still kind of walk in here in the later hours. So that is a possibility. They're looking at surveillance cameras and all of that.
BLITZER: Let's hope they figure it out so it doesn't happen again.
All right, Brian, thanks very much.
In our next hour, the Secretary of State John Kerry does some tough talking on the NSA leaker. It's a special hour-long report, part of our search for the NSA leaker. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Happening right now, they're wrapping up a very important Senate vote. Potentially could determine the fate of immigration reform.
Let's go live to our chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash.
What's the latest, Dana?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The latest is, as you said, the Senate is wrapping up this critical test vote. And it is a test to see just how much support, particularly on the Republican side, immigration reform has. Technically, this is a procedural measure on that deal that we reported on late last week, on implementing more border security, putting more of those measures in place into this bill before the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants can start.
So what we're looking at right now is the magic number, how many yeas it gets, because supporters are hoping that they can -- that they can push it up, even close to 70 senators. They hope that if that happens, then they will able to get momentum going into the House of Representatives, which is a lot less receptive to this big immigration reform bill.
BLITZER: The problem really isn't in the Senate as much as it is down the road in the House of Representatives, right?
BASH: Absolutely. There's no question about it. Obviously it is led by Republicans and you have many Republicans in very red districts who don't want to vote for anything that has anything to do with the path to citizenship. They're worried about it policy-wise and at they're also worried about it politically, about getting challenged from a fellow conservative.
BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thanks very much.