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THE SITUATION ROOM
What Next for Egypt?; Where Will NSA Leaker Go?; Interview with Egyptian Ambassador to United States Mohamed Tawfik; State Media: Morsy Under Investigation; U.S. Aid to Egypt on the Line; Lawsuit Sparked by No-Fly List Troubles; Technical Difficulties Abound in Zimmerman Trial
Aired July 4, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: President Obama speaking over at the White House. What, if anything, will he say about the crisis in Egypt? That country has a new interim president, largely unknown to Washington, even to many Egyptians. We're investigating.
Plus, my candid interview coming up with the Egyptian ambassador to the United States. He joins us live this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama now speaking at the White House on this Fourth of July celebration.
Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And now, 237 years later, this improbable experiment in democracy, the United States of America, stands as the greatest nation on Earth.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
And what makes us great is not our size or our wealth, but our values and our ideals and the fact that we're willing to fight for them. A land of liberty and opportunity; a global defender of peace and freedom; a beacon of hope for people everywhere who cherish those ideals.
And we have also earned it -- you have earned it -- because as part of a long line of folks who are willing to fight for those ideals, we've been able to not only preserve and make more perfect this union, but also try to spread that light elsewhere. You, the fighting men and women of the United States, and those who came before you, you've played a special role. You defended our nation at home and abroad. You fought for our nation's beliefs, to make the world a better and safer place. People in scattered corners of the world live in peace today are free to write their own futures, because of you.
And we've got all of you here today. We've got Army.
We've got Navy.
We've got Air Force.
We've got Marines.
We've got Coast Guard.
And we've got National Guard.
That's all right, National Guard, we love you, too.
And up here with me are incredibly capable and brave men and women from each service branch. And we salute you, one and all. We salute our soldiers, like Specialist Heidi Olson, who, when she was wounded by an IED in Afghanistan, gave lifesaving treatment to another injured soldier, and then another. She had to be ordered to stop and get treatment for herself when the medevac aircraft arrived. And for her courage she was awarded a Bronze Star.
Give her a big round of applause.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
We salute our sailors, like Petty Officer Joe Marcinkowski, who serves wounded warriors at Walter Reed, coordinating their care and supporting their families throughout their recoveries.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Thank you, Joe.
We salute our airmen, like Staff Sergeant Adam Ybarra, who helped save nine lives in 11 combat search and mission rescues in Afghanistan in 2012. Give Adam a big round of applause.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
We salute our Marines, like Corporal Amber Fifer, who was shot five times in an attack in Helmand Province, and has stayed on to serve as a Marine Corps drill instructor.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) And we salute our Coasties, including Petty Officer Randy Haba, who was one of the first responders to rescue the crew of a ship off the coast of North Carolina when Hurricane Sandy struck and saved the lives of five mariners.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
So every day, men and women like them -- and like all of you -- are carrying forward the ideals that inspired that American Dream 237 years ago. Defending our nation and our freedoms with strength and with sacrifice is your daily charge. And it's the charge of all of us -- the charge of all who serve worldwide, including our troops that are still in harm's way, and their families back home. They serve, too. And so we think of them, we pray for them.
And on behalf of all Americans, I want to say thank you and wish you all a very, very happy Fourth of July. You've earned it. So, God bless you. God bless your families. God bless the United States of America.
And with that, let me turn it back over to the Marine Band.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
BLITZER: The president of the United States addressing folks at the White House, indeed addressing all over the country on this July 4 holiday. We will continue to monitor what is going on over there. We know he spent much of today focusing in on the crisis in Egypt, although he didn't mention anything about Egypt in his public speech just now.
It is just after midnight in Egypt, this is the end of the first full day of the post-Mohammed Morsy era, and the country is facing a very uncertain future following the coup that ousted its first democratically elected leader.
Before the speech that you just saw the president deliver, he met with members of his top national security team in the White House Situation Room, some of whom have been talking to Egyptian officials as the U.S. cautiously tries to adjust to the new reality in Egypt.
Meanwhile, the head of Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court was sworn in as the interim president of Egypt. We will take a closer look at Adly Mansour later this hour.
We also have reporters covering all angles of the crisis in Egypt. They are reporting from Cairo and beyond as we bring you the latest on this fast-moving story with enormous ramifications for the region and the world.
Our senior international correspondent, Ivan Watson, begins our coverage this hour from Cairo.
Ivan, what is the very latest there?
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it is shortly after midnight here and the crowds of people celebrating the overthrow of the first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsy, they are thronging in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a second straight night, firing fireworks.
This is the beginning of the Egyptian weekend, Thursday night. That may be contributing to some of the festivities. Meanwhile, a new interim president has been sworn in. He was the former top judge in the land. And the Muslim Brotherhood, the supporters of Mohammed Morsy, they are, of course, denouncing the ouster of their elected president.
And they're accusing the military of trying to dismantle the Muslim Brotherhood.
WATSON (voice-over): There is a new boss in town, the Egyptian military, back on the streets of Cairo, forming a ring of steel around the protest camp of the Muslim Brotherhood in the north of the city.
Supporters of the deposed President Mohammed Morsy have gathered here, determined to defend the man who until his overthrow Wednesday night was the first democratically elected president of Egypt.
(on camera): The crowd here has been chanting down with military rule and repeating another warning to the defense minister of Egypt. They're staying here until the end.
(voice-over): The Brothers say they are the target of a military coup.
GEHAD EL-HADDAD, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: In the beginning, it was a military coup. Now it seems to be turning into much more than a military coup. Throughout the past night, there has been very, very questionable attempts by the military to dismantle the Brotherhood.
WATSON: Opponents have moved swiftly against Muslim Brotherhood leaders and media. The Brotherhood's headquarters is an empty burned- out shell torched by an angry mob.
On Wednesday night, security forces raided pro-Brotherhood TV stations, shutting down at least three TV channels and arresting some of their employees. As for the former president...
(on camera): What is the situation right now of Mohammed Morsy himself?
EL-HADDAD: We have not spoken with him. We have no direct lines of communication. As far as we know, he was detained at the presidential palace and then taken to the presidential guard -- Republican Guard headquarters and then afterwards, last night, closer to the palace time, about 5:00 a.m., he was moved to the Ministry of Defense and separated from his presidential team.
WATSON (voice-over): As the Egyptian army made its show of force Wednesday night, some soldiers made an unusual display of their religiosity. Most of the Egyptians we talk to seem to welcome them.
(on camera): Its is a coup?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Until now, I have no idea. But it's what the people want and what the people want is what will happen. We are the only source of legitimacy in this country.
WATSON: At the Muslim Brotherhood camp, however, crowd is defiant. The protesters yell traitors at the military helicopters that circle overhead and stand guard at their makeshift gate.
What was the party in power is now forced to take shelter behind feeble barricades.
WATSON: Wolf, Muslim Brotherhood are vowing to fight back using legal means. They're also calling for marches on Friday, the Muslim holy day of the week, marches for what they call legitimacy. They say they will only use force, violence if they are attacked -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Right now it looks like the state-run media, whether "Al- Ahram" or state-run television, they're fully on board with what the Egyptian military did, is that right?
WATSON: It does seem that there has been a real shift in the media. And we have been seeing statements now coming out and huge displays coming from the military that have been really striking today, Air Force jets from the Egyptian military flying maneuvers in the air, a giant airborne valentine to the Egyptian people as these jets made with their contrails and their vapor trails a huge heart in the sky. Also, the colors of the Egyptian flag.
And I saw people down on the ground cheering, of course. There is a huge love affair right now between far-odd sections of the Egyptian society and the Egyptian military in the wake of this move. A lot of disputes over whether or not this was truly a military coup. It does appear to have been a coup when you look at the significant crackdown on the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their media outlets. But it does seem to be a coup that has substantial popular support -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Certainly does. All right, thanks very much for that, Ivan Watson, and that crowd behind you getting enormous once again at Tahrir Square, even though it is after midnight now in Cairo.
Up next, what was it? Was what happened in Egypt a coup or not? This is a very, very sensitive subject, a lot of debate going on. But we will show you why the distinction is so important.
And we will also talk about all the rapid developments unfolding right now. The Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Tawfik, he is standing by to join us live this hour right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: The dictionary Merriam-Webster defines coup, the word coup as a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics, especially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.
But President Obama seems to be going out of his way not the use the word coup. His top administration officials also avoiding the word coup as far as any discussion of Egypt is concerned.
Our chief Washington And the officials are concerned. Jake Tapper takes a closer look at why.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the protesters roared in Tahrir Square in Egypt, President Obama and his top national security advisers were hunkered down in the Situation Room of the White House, trying to game out an incredibly volatile and complicated situation, the vanilla statements coming from the State Department podium notwithstanding.
JENNIFER PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESWOMAN: We are monitoring it very closely and continue to believe that, of course, the Egyptian people deserve a peaceful political solution to the current crisis.
TAPPER: Hours after Egypt President Mohammed Morsy was removed from power by the military, President Obama released a carefully worded statement. And what he did not say might have mattered most. He avoided using the word coup.
He didn't call on the Egyptian military to restore power to the democratically elected civilian, but rather to a democratically elected civilian government, in other words, not necessarily President Mohammed Morsy's government.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They are new government that is trying to find its way.
TAPPER: The president has yet to appear before the cameras or comment publicly on this Middle East maelstrom, but back in September the president highlighted the rocky relationship with the Morsy government in an interview with Telemundo.
OBAMA: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.
TAPPER: The thinking of the president now, according to a knowledgeable source, is that while the administration is not explicitly supporting the removal of Morsy from power, they hope they can push the military in a new direction. If the president had used the word coup, there might be legal ramifications, the legal requirement to eliminate U.S. aid, as General Martin Dempsey explained to CNN's Candy Crowley just before Morsy was deposed.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: If this were to be seen as a coup, then it would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.
TAPPER: Currently, the U.S. gives $1.5 billion to Egypt annually, mostly in military aid. In his statement, the president said he directed a review of the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the government of Egypt. Could that aid disappear? He never says. He just raises the subject and then leaves it there.
And that may be the point, to push the Egyptian military to hold new elections as soon as possible, a process that should include, the president said, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood.
FOUAD AJAMI, HOOVER INSTITUTION: A coup by any other name is a coup.
TAPPER: So while what happened in Egypt fits the military definition of a coup, don't expect to hear that four-letter word from President Obama, or at least not yet.
(on camera): And, Wolf, all of this hedging by the administration may not matter much to the anti-Morsy crowds in the streets. They viewed the relationship between the White House and the Morsy's government as far too cozy, which is why anti-America and anti-Obama signs popped up at protests over there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Seems both sides there in that conflict over there that is unfolding in the streets of Cairo are not very happy with the U.S. policies.
All right, thanks very much, Jake Tapper.
Up next, he is Egypt's new interim president, but he's a mystery to many both inside and outside the country. Brian Todd is standing by with a closer look.
And more countries refuse asylum to the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, but one country could actually offer him citizenship.
BLITZER: I will speak shortly with the new -- with the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Tawfik. He is standing by, a lot to discuss with him as this crisis continues in Egypt.
But right now, we want to take a look at Egypt's new interim president, Adly Mansour. He was sworn in today. He just recently became head of the country's Supreme Constitutional Court. But to many people inside and outside of Egypt, he is something of a mystery.
CNN's Brian Todd has been taking a closer look at the new president, Mansour.
Brian, tell us what you're learning about this new president.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, from what we're learning, Adly Mansour may not be quite ready for the world he has just been thrown into. He has been ensconced in Egypt's judicial system for about 20 years. He's never held a political post and he may be too nice a guy for this job.
ADLY MANSOUR, INTERIM EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I would like to congratulate our armed forces.
TODD (voice-over): Not exactly the words of a man who will shake things up. And that may be precisely why Egypt's military picked Adly Mansour to be the country's interim president during this frightening and uncertain time.
(on camera): Does your friend have a job you would want?
NATHAN BROWN, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Absolutely not. Short term, I think this is going to be a headache.
TODD (voice-over): Nathan Brown, a professor at George Washington University, has known Adly Mansour for about 20 years. Brown and other analysts say Mansour is a figurehead, a safe choice for the powerful Egyptian military.
The air of mystery about him may also serve the military's purposes. Born in Cairo, a married father of three who when to law school in Egypt and also studied in Paris, Mansour cut his professional teeth inside Egypt's judicial system. He spent the last 20 years in the Supreme Constitutional Court, was elevated to chief justice only in recent days. In that sheltered world, it is nearly impossible to assess a judge's political leanings.
BROWN: Unlike our Supreme Court, they Egyptian Constitutional Court issue judgments as an entire body. So we don't know how individual justices voted.
TODD: But Brown says Mansour doesn't even like to talk politics.
BROWN: Very, very pleasant, a man who is always smiling, congenial and so forth and so on, and very, very reserved.
TODD (on camera): Is he a lamb getting thrown in with the lions? Could he just be eaten alive in this situation?
BROWN: Well, in a sense, yes, but nobody is asking anything more of him than the. Nobody is asking him to do anything more than sort of stand at the helm and kind of put his seal of approval on what is negotiated elsewhere.
TODD (voice-over): Still, Brown says, Mansour will have to maintain an even keel inside one of the world's most cutthroat political machines, and he has got a tough set of challenges, to sign off on possible new rules for another election, with the constitution suspended, decree what Egypt's basic law is, and to be a strong symbol who can unify his fractured country.
(on camera): Unifying the country, that is something that right now people would see as impossible. Can he do it with his personality?
BROWN: No, I don't think he can do it. The Muslim Brotherhood right now feels that it's been cheated out of its democratically won office, so there is no way that he can reach out to the Brotherhood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But Brown says Mansour can set the tone, he can lessen the acid rhetoric, he can try to offer the Muslim Brotherhood a legitimate path in Egypt's political future. And Brown says that Mansour has already tried to do that, Wolf.
BLITZER: But it will be very hard with Mohammed Morsy, other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood now in prison, if you will, or at least under house arrest.
TODD: That's right. And Nathan Brown says that will be really one of the toughest parts here, because of the fact that Morsy and some of the key Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been put under house arrest and are being held. Getting them back into the political community is going to be hard.
And that may where Adly Mansour fills his most critical role, being the mediator between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, with that report, thanks very much. We learned something about this new interim president of Egypt.
Coming up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, he is standing by to join us live. We have lots to discuss. One question I'm going to ask him right away, has he spoken with the new president of Egypt who was just sworn in?
Plus, surprising developments in the case of a girl who disappeared six years ago.
BLITZER: Happening now: A country's turmoil leads a military crackdown, an elected leader's overthrow, and we're seeing reports of mass arrests. Egypt's ambassador to the United States is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're about to speak.
Also, developments in a tiny country offer new hope for the U.S. leaker, Edward Snowden.
Plus, technical difficulties cause a rare lighthearted moment in a deadly serious trial.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A day of fast-moving developments in Egypt, where state-run news agencies are reporting that the deposed president, Mohammed Morsy, is now under investigation along with dozens of members of his Muslim Brotherhood party. They reportedly have been barred from leaving the country. And party members have been arrested by security forces. CNN senior correspondent Ben Wedeman is in Cairo for us. He's been watching all of this unfold.
What is the latest, Ben, that you're seeing?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what we're seeing is that Cairo on a Thursday night is celebrating more than usual, Tahrir Square once again jam-packed, the celebrations continuing.
Of course, the city is bracing for the possibility of trouble tomorrow. The Muslim Brotherhood supporters will be holding demonstrations and marches in the city. We have already heard of clashes in Sharqiya province, which is in the Delta, where according to some media reports as many as two people have been killed.
There were some scuffles outside Cairo's university as well, Wolf, between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood. But, by and large, when you go around Cairo, it is surprisingly normal for just one day after what some people call a coup, what some people call a revolution, I'm calling a coup-olution -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Coup-olution, all right. Ben Wedeman on the scene for us, we will check back with you.
Fortunately, the violence has not really grown. It's relatively quiet right now. Let's hope it stays like that.
Let's get some more right now with Egypt's ambassador to the United States, Mohamed Tawfik. He's joining us here THE SITUATION ROOM.
Mr. Ambassador, you're very, very happy about what happened, aren't you?
MOHAMED TAWFIK, EGYPTIAN AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: I think the Egyptian people have proved that they are -- have awareness, they have will and that they will carry out the will peacefully.
BLITZER: Because you served under President Morsy. What was the problem with him?
TAWFIK: I think President Morsy was not able to be the president for all Egyptians. He basically addressed his own group. He was unable to convince Egyptians that he was linked for their good. And in the end, the vast majority of the population could not continue under his rule.
BLITZER: But he was democratically elected.
TAWFIK: That's true, and at first, we all had very high hopes. We wished success for President Morsy. Unfortunately, he was unable to forget his past as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He continued to operate in exactly the same way. He did not open up to the different parts, the different groups in Egypt. He only looked at his own constituency, at his own clique. BLITZER: But the military took this extra-constitutional step and removed him from power. I know you don't believe this was a coup. But a lot of other people say this seems to be a coup. Why do you believe this was not a coup?
TAWFIK: Well, let's look at the facts. You had very large numbers of people demonstrating against Morsy. You had close to 15, maybe more than 15 million people in the streets and squares.
And then, the president at the time, he had a choice. He could have said, "I hear you, and I'm going to talk with you. And I'm going to do what you want."
But instead, what he did, he started mobilizing his own people. And together with the other Muslim Brotherhood leaderships, what happened was they were actually inciting their people, inciting their supporters, to violence. So Egypt, as a country, was facing a very serious situation.
BLITZER: Will Morsy remain under arrest? Will his supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood remain under arrest? Will their news media, the Muslim Brotherhood news media organizations, will they are silenced? Their leaders under arrest? What's going on?
TAWFIK: First of all, regarding putting people under arrest, that's a legal issue. We have been very unhappy with President Morsy's neglect of legal matters. He has not been adhering to orders by the courts. And now we want to go back to good legal practice.
BLITZER: You're the ambassador to the United States. And you're in touch with U.S. officials here in Washington all the time. You saw the president's statement that was released last night. And in that statement, he said, "I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically-elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters."
But there have been a lot of arrests since this statement was released.
TAWFIK: Not a single arrest will be made in an arbitrary way. This will be in accordance to the law. People who are suspected of having committed a crime will be dealt with, with -- correctly and with due process.
BLITZER; What's the crime that President Morsy committed?
TAWFIK: I don't know. This is something that we're going to have to see.
BLITZER: What about the other Muslim Brotherhood leaders? Have -- are they suspected of committing crimes?
TAWFIK: Well, we have to wait and see. I'm sure that, in due time, the public prosecution will give us all the details. Right now, what we have seen, what we have seen in the past few days is clear-cut incitement to violence.
BLITZER: Have you been in touch -- have you been speaking to U.S. officials here in Washington over the past 24 hours?
TAWFIK: Yes, I have.
BLITZER: And what's the message that they say to you?
TAWFIK: The message they say is what they've been saying all along. They support Egypt's democracy. They support -- they want to see Egypt succeed as a democratic state. And that's exactly what we feel the Egyptian people as a whole feel. And so we are going to work towards that objective.
BLITZER: We know what the public statement that the president released last night, but in private are they saying anything at all critical to you about what has happened with the Egyptian military and what it has done?
TAWFIK: Well, the Egyptian military hasn't -- hasn't done anything.
BLITZER: But what has the White House or the State Department or the Defense Department -- I know you have good relations with all of them. Have they said -- have they raised any concerns, direct concerns in the conversations with you?
TAWFIK: The issues that we discussed are how to make Egypt succeed. And I think we all agree on that. We want to have a true democracy in Egypt. The time for exclusion is over. We want an exclusive system, democratic system that respects human rights, that respects minorities, that respects women. And that's why the Egyptian people had a revolution.
BLITZER: As you know, I went to Cairo in early January of this year to interview President Morsy, and we did a long interview. And he told me flatly in that interview he was invited to come to Washington to meet with the president of the United States. And he would be here, he said -- this is early January, by the end of March. Obviously, that never happened. What happened? What was the problem?
TAWFIK: Well, I don't know. As far as I know I was not aware that President Morsy had been invited to come to Washington on a specific date.
BLITZER: There were no specific dates, he told me. But he was convinced he would be here in Washington. He said, "We'll have dinner. We'll get together." He would be here in Washington by the end of March.
Here's my speculation, and you tell me if you think it's -- it's on base or not. In the -- after that, all of a sudden, this whole uproar developed about what he had said a few years earlier when he was the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, when he said that Jews were descendants of pigs and apes. You remember that?
TAWFIK: Of course. BLITZER: And the videotape came out, and he really didn't back away. And you know, it was obvious he had said that Jews were the descendants of pigs and apes. And White House officials, State Department officials, they were not allowed -- they were not about to invite someone to Washington who was refusing to walk away from comments like that. You're familiar with that whole uproar?
TAWFIK: Of course, I am. I mean, this is exactly what I was saying. President Morsy did not manage to get away from his Muslim Brotherhood past. He remained part of the Muslim Brotherhood. And he remained dedicated to the Muslim Brotherhood, and was unable to perform his duties as president of all Egyptians.
BLITZER: Here's the question: Did officials in Washington say to you, "He's not coming because he's not rejecting those comments about Jews being descendants of pigs and apes?"
TAWFIK: This is not the type of language you use in diplomacy, usually.
BLITZER: I know it's not the type. It's awful language, obviously, but did they ever raise that issue with you, officials in the State Department?
TAWFIK: Oh, yes, absolutely.
BLITZER: What did they say?
TAWFIK: Everybody, basically.
BLITZER: What did they say?
TAWFIK: Basically, they had serious concerns with that.
BLITZER: And they said, basically, that Morsy is not coming to Washington, as a result of that?
TAWFIK: No, as I said before. There had been no date set for Morsy to come to Washington. There had been hopes.
BLITZER: There was a lot of talk of that, in fact...
TAWFIK: And speculation.
BLITZER: ... in the interview that I did, there was a long -- we spent more than an hour or two together. He kept talking about, he'll be here by the end of March. It never happened. And that's what people were saying to me: It never happened in part because of those comments that he didn't back away from.
All right, so what's going to happen next, in your opinion? Because let's look ahead. Egypt and the United States have a critically important relationship. The president, in his comments yesterday, he did raise the issue of U.S. law. That could be -- if they determined this was a coup they might be suspending a billion and a half dollars in largely military aid to Egypt. What is your -- what is your position here on that?
TAWFIK: Well, I think there's a broad agreement in Egypt between the different political parties; between the religious leaders. Everybody agrees on the road map ahead.
First of all, we have to start working towards presidential and parliamentary elections. This is what we wanted all along.
We also have to work on national reconciliation. We don't want to exclude anyone. We don't want to repeat the mistakes made by the Morsy government. We want Egyptians to feel that they have a stake in the success of Egypt. And once we do that, we are going to go on the right track, and we're going to achieve our people's aspirations.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Egypt. This is a critically important issue. Egypt, the largest of all of the Arab countries, important in the region, important worldwide. Certainly, this U.S.-Egyptian connection is critically, critically important. But hopefully it will turn out OK. Thanks so much for joining us.
TAWFIK: Thank you very much, and happy Fourth of July.
BLITZER: Thank you, very much, Mr. Ambassador. We really appreciate it.
Up next, massive military aid to Egypt. About a billion and a half dollars a year. We're taking a closer look at this crisis and what impact it could have on the U.S.-Egyptian military to military connection.
Also, horror stories emerging now from that so-called no-fly list. Innocent American citizens locked away, sometimes for days.
BLITZER: The crisis in Egypt puts close ties and more than a billion and a half dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt on the line. And most of that aid, military assistance. Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is here to take a closer look.
What do you see? What are you finding out, Chris?
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the relationship between the U.S. and Egyptian militaries may be the strongest part of any ties between the two countries.
We've learned that top Pentagon officials have made several calls to their Egyptian counterparts over the past week, asking them to protect Americans in Egypt, stay away from violence and letting them know that the U.S. does not want to take sides in this crisis.
LAWRENCE (voice-over): The army that overthrew Egypt's first democratically-elected government was largely built and trained by the United States. It's estimated the U.S. bought 80 percent of Egypt's weapons, including another 100 Abrams tanks just this year. The Pentagon helped to train Egyptian troops in joint exercises like these.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE; And then maybe we can transition to a blocking mission.
LAWRENCE: So far this year, the U.S. has sold 12 F-16's to Egypt. Another eight are scheduled for delivery.
In the last 30 years, the U.S. has sent more foreign aid to Egypt than any country, except Israel. That money bought the U.S. Navy free passage through the Suez Canal and personal relationships with Egyptian military officials.
Top Pentagon officials have had at least four talks in the past week with Egyptian counterparts, letting them know they are not taking sides in this crisis.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: But there will be consequences if it -- if it is badly handled.
LAWRENCE: In an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley, General Martin Dempsey warned that, if Egypt's military were to remove the civilian government, billions of dollars of U.S. aid was at stake.
DEMPSEY: If this were to be seen as a coup, then it would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.
LAWRENCE: U.S. military officials tell CNN they could still talk with their Egyptian counterparts, and Dempsey was only referring to aid with an actual dollar value attached to it.
Just two months after Secretary of State John Kerry signed off on $1.5 billion in aid, the Obama administration is scrambling to figure out if it may have to cut it off.
JEN PSAKI, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: It's premature to suggest that. We have taken steps; we're thinking about taking steps.
LAWRENCE: Well, whatever happens it likely will not affect the 400 American soldiers who are deploying to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula this summer. They are going there as observers in part of the peace- keeping force to keep the peace along the border with Israel. And because they're part of an independent international group, it's not directly tied to U.S. aid, Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting point. Thanks very much, Chris Lawrence over at the Pentagon.
Coming up, there's now new hope, we're told, for the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, thanks to a lawmaker in a tiny country.
Plus, the story of a man who spent more than a week locked up with roaches, all because of his name.
BLITZER: Today France and Italy joined the list of countries that won't take in the U.S. leaker Edward Snowden. Those are the countries in red you see on this map. The countries in yellow are the ones still considering Snowden's request for asylum.
However, he may have another chance right now with Iceland. He's apparently officially applied for Icelandic citizenship, and a lawmaker there has introduced a bill to grant him that citizenship. The bill's fate, though, appears uncertain right now.
The U.S. government's secret no-fly list is the target of a new lawsuit filed on behalf of people who found out the hard way they have the same name as someone on the list. As CNN's Rene Marsh shows us, the hard way only begins to describe the nightmares they've been going through just because of their names.
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here's the controversy. If you're a traveler, you may not know you're on the no-fly list, and there's no official way to find out. And because of that, the ACLU is suing on behalf of Americans who can't fly and the U.S. government won't tell them why.
MARSH (voice-over): Abe Mashal, a husband, father and former U.S. Marine, says he's no terrorist, but he was stopped at Chicago's Midway Airport in 2010.
ABE MASHAL, NO-FLY LIST CRITIC: I was surrounded by around 30 TSA and Chicago police, and she told me that I was on the no-fly list and the FBI was on their way to the airport to speak with me.
MARSH: Questioned for hours, then released, he was never allowed to board his flight to Washington.
Another American citizen, 29-year-old medical student Rehan Motiwala, says he got stranded overseas when he was kept from flying and detained in a roach-infested detention center in Thailand for more than a week. Officials there detained him after he refused FBI questioning without an attorney.
In late June he was allowed to fly home. In both cases the men say they don't know why they weren't allowed to fly. The government won't talk about specific cases, but the FBI's Web site says if watch lists weren't secret, "terrorist organizations would be able to circumvent the purpose of the terrorist watch list by determining in advance which of their members are likely to be questioned or detained."
Even after the fact, Mashal still has not officially been informed he's on the no-fly list. He was told that by an airline employee.
MASHAL: Being a former United States Marine, you know, being on a list like this just is completely crazy. NUSRAT CHOUDHURY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: The government's position here is truly outrageous. It's saying it can put Americans on a blacklist of suspected terrorists that bans them from flying and that, when they ask the government for the explanation they need to correct the errors or the misunderstandings that led to that deprivation, that they can respond with letters that say nothing.
MARSH: Letters that say they can't confirm or deny an individual is blacklisted from flying, but acknowledging they've reviewed the case and made corrections where necessary.
The American Civil Liberties Union has taken the issue to federal court, suing on behalf of 13 Americans, four of them veterans who say their names are on the no-fly list.
CHOUDHURY: We're not asking the government to send a letter to a known terrorist in Afghanistan saying, "Listen, we've put you on the no-fly list." What we're saying is that when Americans have already been denied boarding on planes, they be given an explanation.
MARSH: A U.S. counterterrorism official tells CNN as of October 2012 there were 20,000 people on the no-fly list. Fewer than 400 are U.S. citizens.
As for Mashal, he says he hasn't flown in three years, missing a wedding, a graduation and a funeral.
MARSH: Well, neither man knows whether they remain on the no-fly list. Really, the only way to find out is to buy a ticket and try to board.
Meantime, Mashal says that the FBI offered him a way off of the list by becoming an undercover informant. We reached out to the FBI. No comment about that allegation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story. All right. Thanks very much, Rene. Good work. Rene Marsh reporting.
Let's take a look at some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
South Africa's government today denied reports that Nelson Mandela is in a so-called vegetative state. The statement says the former president remains in critical, but stable condition. However, court papers released today but filed more than a week ago say the Mandela family was advised to take him off of life support rather than prolong his suffering.
There are surprising developments right now in the mysterious disappearance of a British girl during a family vacation in Portugal back in 2007. British police say they believe there's a possibility Madeleine McCann is still alive, and they've identified 38 people of interest, as they describe them, they want to question.
The George Zimmerman trial is taking the day off, but our Jeanne Moos is not. Her take on the trial's technical troubles, that's next.
BLITZER: The George Zimmerman trial picks up tomorrow morning, 9 a.m. Eastern, when the prosecution is expected to begin wrapping up its case by calling a family member of Trayvon Martin, possibly his mother, to the stand. We'll have live coverage.
The attorneys in the George Zimmerman trial may know the law, but as CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us, when it comes to computers, let's say they're technically challenged.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you solemnly swear...
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Someone should plead guilty to a technical fiasco. It started with one ping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you remember...
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUND)
MOOS: And ended with a cascade...
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
MOOS: ... that left even the witness laughing.
One of George Zimmerman's former professors was testifying via Skype from Colorado when apparent pranksters started calling in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just -- the...
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it coming across?
MARK O'MARA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.
Could you repeat the question?
MOOS: The Skype names of the callers kept popping up on the screen.
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
O'MARA: Start again, please.
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR/CORRESPONDENT: And I'm only laughing because I've had this happen to me before.
MOOS: Not in the middle of a blockbuster, nationally-televised trial. T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Look at that screen there.
MOOS: They kept trying to decline the calls, but it was like playing whack a mole. Then came a classic understatement from Zimmerman's defense attorney.
O'MARA: There's now a really good chance that we're being toyed with.
MOOS: You think?
(on camera): Apparently, whoever set up the Skype wasn't aware, and neither was I until about ten minutes ago, that Skype has a "do not disturb" mode that would have prevented this.
(voice-over): Twitter accounts surfaced with names matching those that interrupted the trial. One Salman apologized saying, "I am so sorry for that. I didn't know he was on the TV." While a second Salman called the first one fake: "It wasn't you, bro."
The judge got cross.
JUDGE DEBRA NELSON, PRESIDING OVER TRIAL: Turn down the volume and hang up the phone.
HOLMES: OK. That didn't work.
MOOS: And when they finally gave up on Skype and switched to an old- fashioned speaker phone, even that was a challenge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
MOOS: Order in the court. Order up some tech support so we can at least see the witness.
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
BANFIELD: Even you're laughing. I can see all those people calling.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, it's ridiculous.
MOOS: ... New York.
(COMPUTER PINGING SOUNDS)
BLITZER: Ridiculous, an excellent, excellent word to describe that.
That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Please have a very happy and safe Fourth of July celebration later tonight. The news continues next on CNN.