Return to Transcripts main page


Interview With Senator Lindsey Graham; Russia Grants Snowden Asylum; Ariel Castro Sentenced

Aired August 1, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: the house of horrors. A kidnapper stunningly defends his actions, insisting he's not a monster. This hour, Ariel Castro's twisted words and life sentence.

Plus, the victim who suffered the longest bravely tells Castro she spent 11 years in hell, and she says now it's his turn. A psychologist and our legal experts, they are with us on this astounding day in court.

And the NSA leaker is granted temporary asylum in Russia, forcing President Obama to make some very, very tough choices.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

He was about to be sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years, but Ariel Castro tried to convince the judge that there was "harmony" in the house where he held three women as sex slaves. During today's hearing in Ohio, we got a very disturbing window into Castro's depraved mind and the abuse his victims endured for more than a decade. We have extensive coverage coming up this hour.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM first with more on what has unfolded, and it is a house of horrors.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. Castro was as disturbing to watch today as anyone we have seen in a high-profile crime case. Even as he was about to be slapped with a sentence of life plus 1,000 years, Castro tried to debate the judge, and he attempted to turn perceptions around and portray himself as a victim.


TODD (voice-over): Despite the 937 counts against him, Ariel Castro was defiant, almost rebellious in court, claiming he never beat or tortured the three women he held captive for a decade.

ARIEL CASTRO, DEFENDANT: I am not a monster. (OFF-MIKE) I'm just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction.

TODD: An addiction to sex, Castro said, the result, he claimed, of having been a victim himself of sex acts as a child. In one of the more breathtaking moments at his sentencing, the man who pleaded guilty to multiple counts of rape said this about his victims.

CASTRO: Most of the sex that went on in the house and practically all of it was consensual.

These allegations about being forced upon them, that is totally wrong, because there was times that they would even ask me for sex, many times.

TODD: A staggering claim balanced against photos the prosecution revealed in court, chains, ties, even a motorcycle helmet that police say was placed on at least one victim when she was sexually assaulted, a door rigged with an alarm clock to signal Castro if someone was trying to get out.

Showing a model of his home, officials said he reconfigured the house to keep the women hidden. Even with the presentation of this huge trove of evidence, Ariel Castro was still bold enough to interrupt the judge several times. This exchange was over the aggravated murder charge.


CASTRO: (OFF-MIKE) fetus. That never happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Castro, you talked with your attorneys and you made a decision to plead guilty to count one as indicted, correct?

CASTRO: (OFF-MIKE) I never killed anyone. I am not a murderer.

TODD: The only victim to appear, Michelle Knight, who said she spent -- quote -- "11 years in hell."

MICHELLE KNIGHT, VICTIM: Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. The years turned into eternity.

TODD: Knight has told police she was pregnant at least five times but was starved and punched until she eventually miscarried. DNA tests have confirmed Castro is the father of Amanda Berry young daughter. When we were in Cleveland at the time of the women's rescue, a source familiar with the investigation told CNN that when Berry went into labor, Castro ordered Michelle Knight to deliver the child.

The baby was delivered in a plastic tub or pool to contain the mess.

(on camera): And the source says once the child was born there were moments of horror and panic. The child stopped breathing, according to the source. Everyone screamed, and Ariel Castro allegedly threatened to kill Michelle Knight if the baby didn't survive. (voice-over): According to a police report, Michelle Knight said she breathed into the child's mouth to keep her alive. The evidence that the women were bound, that chains and ropes were in the home is consistent with the accounts of Fernando Colon. He was engaged to Grimilda Figueroa, Ariel Castro's ex-wife, until her death last year. Colon told me Castro would beat Figueroa mercilessly, sometimes with barbells, and.

FERNANDO COLON, FORMER FIANCE OF CASTRO'S EX-WIFE: She told me she was locked in that house, he had tinted the windows, she -- had padlocked the doors. The only times that she was able to come out was for her appointments. That was it.


TODD: In court today, Ariel Castro denied beating his ex-wife, saying she would escalate arguments and get physical with him, that he only reacted by putting hands on her. We do have to say, Fernando Colon could have motivation for accusing Ariel Castro. Colon was convicted of molesting two of Castro's children several years ago. He has long said that he is innocent.

He claims that Ariel Castro orchestrated the charges against him to deflect attention from Castro's own crimes. Colon is now planning to appeal his conviction -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And the judge, Michael Russo, he did make reference to the very chilling way that Castro enticed these three women before he kidnapped them.

TODD: He did. Judge Michael Russo mentioned that all three of the victims had previously been friends with at least two of Castro's daughters or his son. Now, we had been told by a private investigator in Cleveland, when we were there, that one of Castro's daughters would go shopping with one of the victims, Gina DeJesus, go to festivals with her, and that, apparently, appears now to be Castro's entry into this. This is how he maneuvered his way to get close to those victims.

BLITZER: A real monster, indeed. All right, Brian, thanks very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin. Jeff, let me play another clip. This is Ariel Castro actually pushing back against the judge.



CASTRO: It makes it sound like I'm trying to force myself onto them. That didn't happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, by virtue of your plea, that's what you did. You pled guilty to that, and by virtue of your plea, when you rape someone, that's what it means. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What was behind that? I mean, it was pretty strange to see right in the middle of the sentencing, he gets into an argument with the judge, after he pleaded guilty to more than 900 charges.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, I appreciate the question, but who the heck knows?

This guy is crazy, he's evil. The fact that he was as rational as he appeared, which wasn't all that rational, was somewhat surprising to me. I cannot begin to fathom what was going on in his head in trying to fight with the judge today.

BLITZER: If someone pleads guilty, can they still appeal down the road?

TOOBIN: There are an extremely narrow category of cases where guilty pleas can lead to an appeal, but one reason why the prosecution went to such elaborate lengths today to prove what went on is to make an appeal completely out of the question here. There is no doubt that Castro knew what he was pleading guilty to, understood the implications of his sentence.

So I don't have any doubt that Castro, perhaps down the line, can file an appeal, but any appeal would have zero chance of success.

BLITZER: What about...


TOOBIN: He's done. This case is over.

BLITZER: What about appealing the judge's decision that he should be barred not only from having any contact with these three women that he kidnapped and raped and held captive for more than a decade, but also with the 6-year-old daughter that he has with one of these women?

TOOBIN: Yes, lots of luck with that appeal. I mean, I just think, you know, this guy -- you know, even in the criminal justice system, where we see lots of people who do very bad things, the magnitude of the evil here is so great.

But if down the line, when this child grows up and she wants to seek out her biological father, then, perhaps, they will see each other. But the odds of a court giving him any sort of visitation or right to see her or right to hear anything about her is also zero.

BLITZER: How bizarre was this whole sentencing hearing today in the scheme of things? And you have heard and watched a lot of these kinds of hearings.

TOOBIN: Well, what was really unusual was how much evidence the prosecution put on, even before one of the victims testified. There were FBI agents. There were psychiatrists. I mean, this was almost like a mini-trial. And I think it served several purposes. In part, it was to make the proceedings completely appeal-proof, but, also, I think, to show the community just how horrendous this situation was. And in case anyone had any doubt that life plus 1,000 years was an inappropriate sentence, anyone who followed today would think that he was lucky to get away with that -- to get away with this sentence.


BLITZER: The court-appointed lawyers that were surrounding him, could they have done more to rein him in from saying some of these obnoxious statements that he made?

TOOBIN: Not that I could tell.

You know, defense lawyers are assistants to the client. And you could see at several points during this ridiculous monologue that Castro was giving, you could see his lawyers sort of trying leaning forward and trying to say, OK, wrap it up, try to wrap it up. But you know what? He's the client. He was crazy enough and evil enough to commit these crimes, so it's not really surprising that he was crazy enough to go on this sort of monologue today.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much.

Up next, Ariel Castro's life was spared. Was a plea bargain the right way to go? We're going to talk about that.

And later, we're going live to Russia, where the NSA leaker is now hiding out in a new location after getting the asylum he's been pleading for.


BLITZER: A life sentence with no possibility for parole for Ariel Castro, the man who held three women captive in his Cleveland home for more than a decade.

The plea bargain allowed him to avoid a possible death sentence.

Let's discuss what's going on with the criminal defense attorney Danny Cevallos.

Danny, if the state had gone with the death penalty, rejected any plea bargain agreement, would they have been successful?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, that is an interesting question, because they would have only proceeded on the aggravated murder charge, and the proof of causation might have been difficult.

Now, as horrific as everybody finds this case, they would have had to prove that Ariel Castro intentionally caused a death and that there was a baby to begin with. There's not even what we call a corpus.

So, proceeding on the death penalty side of the case, although they certainly could have proved it, it would have been the hardest part of their case. This may represent a good tactical move because they are saving the taxpayers a lot of money in prosecuting and in the appeals of a death sentence, and they're also achieving the effect that I think society would want to see.

For all purposes, Ariel Castro is no longer among the living. He is now gone. He will be segregated from society forever.

BLITZER: But when you say that, 23 hours a day he might be by himself in a small cell, but one hour a day, he will be allowed to go outside, see the sunshine, have a little exercise, get three square meals a day. Presumably, he will be able to watch some television, stuff like that, read books. He will have an awful life, but he will have a life in that prison.

CEVALLOS: I -- Wolf, I don't know how you classify life. I would have to say, in Ohio, I expect he will be classified as a five, the highest level of offender, and he will be put into segregation, probably, and I'm just guessing, at Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, where they class -- they house level five offenders.

And you're absolutely right. There, they're allowed some writing materials. They may be given a book or two, but in prison, a lot of the last few pages of the books are ripped right out, so those aren't even -- I mean, we're talking about maybe some books, maybe some paper, one hour a day. Is it considered too luxurious for somebody like this?

Certainly reasonable minds can differ, but life, 23 out of 24 hours a day in administrative segregation is hardly a day in the park.

BLITZER: Will members of his family be allowed to go to that prison? Under normal circumstances -- I know you don't know all the details of what's in store there in Lorain, Ohio, but let's say one of his relatives wants to come visit him. Will they be allowed to?

CEVALLOS: Yes. Whether he's in Lorain or Youngstown, wherever he is housed, there are visitation policies, which he could lose if he misbehaves, but there is visitation. It's very limited. He will be allowed. But the reality is, from what we're hearing, most of his family is not planning any trips to see him.

BLITZER: If he were sent into the general prison population, his life would be endangered. I assume everyone agrees on that, right?

CEVALLOS: Yes. Ohio prisons have -- all prisons have an obligation when an inmate complains of fear of being injured, they have to segregate him. Sometimes, people call it the hole. But the reality is, it's segregation for his own safety, and that's exactly what Ohio prisons and every other prison does.

They have a special unit for -- that includes, believe it or not, ex-cops, other people that are generally in danger of being attacked by the general prison population. It's highly unlikely that Ariel Castro will simply be released into the general population.

Likely from the outset, he will be in administrative segregation or as it's commonly called ad-seg.

BLITZER: Take us into the minds, Danny, of the defense attorneys that he had. This guy was a butcher, this guy was a monster, yet these lawyers in Cleveland, they're asked to go ahead and defend them. What's it like?


I mean, I have to tell you, in the words of Mark Geragos, court- appointed attorneys and public defenders, they are doing the lord's work. They're not being paid megabucks, believe me, and they are doing -- they really are doing their calling. And they are -- in a case like this, where this man had no chance of any kind of successful trial, they are negotiating the best possible arrangement they can.

And I have to imagine, I can only imagine their frustration. After all their hard work, Ariel Castro gets up after they, without a doubt, sat him down, took him to the horse shed and explained to him what to say and what not to say, he gets up, and the only opportunity he has to speak to the public, he makes some rambling statement accusing the women of consensual sex.

I mean, you have to have sympathy for these attorneys. They are doing, as Geragos says, the lord's work, for virtually no pay, and they are just probably frustrated at every turn by this defendant.

BLITZER: Danny Cevallos, the criminal defense attorney. Danny, thanks very much for joining us.

CEVALLOS: Thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, is Ariel Castro cunning? Is he delusional? We're going to talk about it with the psychiatrist and author Dr. Gail Saltz.


BLITZER: Happening now: inside the Cleveland kidnapper's sentencing, the glances and the tension you could only see and feel inside that courtroom.

Plus, President Obama's next move now that Russia has granted asylum to the NSA leaker. We have new information about an option on the table.

And Senator Lindsey Graham tells me what he thinks the president should now do. He's furious at Russia. He says Edward Snowden has "blood on his hands."

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today, the first woman kidnapped by Ariel Castro became the last of his three victims to see him before he was locked away for the rest of his life. When Castro walked into the court for his sentencing hearing, it was the first time he saw Michelle Knight since she escaped nearly three months ago. Knight then had to walk past Castro and stand just feet away and address him in tears.


KNIGHT: Death penalty would be so much easier. You don't deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison.

I can forgive you, but I will never forget.


BLITZER: Judge Michael Russo praised Knight for her restraint when later she had to listen to Castro say this


CASTRO: These accusations that I would come home and beat her, beat them, those are totally wrong, Your Honor, because, like I said before, I am not a violent person. I know what I did is wrong, but I'm not a violent person. I simply kept them there without them being able to leave.


BLITZER: And joining us now, a psychiatrist who evaluated Michelle Knight and the other survivors of Castro's abuse by watching video of their testimony.

Dr. Frank Ochberg is on the phone with us right now from Michigan.

Dr. Ochberg, you saw the videos of these three women. What did you learn from them?

DR. FRANK OCHBERG, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, first, how resilient, spunky, positive they were capable of being, and we saw that in court today.

I was able to shake Michelle's hand. She's really quite a heroine. But, Wolf, they suffered badly. And my role for the prosecution was to help them and the court understand that as much as we admire them and as much as they are optimistic, these wounds are deep and they're going to last a lifetime.

BLITZER: Will they be able to recover? Because I think you said that, yes, he's getting a life sentence, but to a certain degree, these three women are also getting -- will have a life sentence based on the torture he committed against them.

OCHBERG: And let's examine just what trauma does.

When you have been terrified to the extent that they were, it comes back at night, it comes back in the twilight periods when you're falling asleep and waking up. It comes back in the middle of the day. And women who have suffered this degree of assault, it's a high percentage that have post-traumatic stress and have that symptom.

But on top of it, when you have been systematically treated like an animal, you have been degraded, you have been dehumanized, it does take a while to fully recover your sense of spirit and humanity. And then they lost 10 years of their lives, 10 years at a time when you're progressing from being a girl to being a woman and knowing who you can trust.

We have all been listening to Castro's astounding, outrageous claim that he had a loving household. That wasn't a loving household. And this is the time when you learn how to be intimate, the time in your life when you learn really how to behave appropriately with a real partner.

BLITZER: When you saw the video testimony of the three young women that the FBI provided to you, give us a little sense of what it was like. What did you actually see there, especially from the two other women who we didn't see in court today?

OCHBERG: Yes, and I want to be very cautious, Wolf, about their privacy and their dignity. So, I'm reluctant to tell you details of what I saw.

I will say this. I was very impressed with the women who did the interviews. They were kind. They were patient. I got a portrait of people who were frank. I liked every one of the women and I think anyone would. Beyond that, I feel reluctant to say things about them. I'm much more enthusiastic about continuing this national conversation about what this (INAUDIBLE)

BLITZER: Well, that's a fair point.

OCHBERG: ... and also about the fact that there are many women who don't live in these extraordinary circumstances, Wolf, but they live behind closed doors in their own homes with predators in their homes. And we should be aware of that. The numbers are staggering...


OCHBERG: ... of women and boys who grow up with incest and with abuse.

BLITZER: Dr. Frank Ochberg, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate your comments.

Let's bring in Dr. Gail Saltz right now, a well-known psychiatrist and author in her own right.

And, Gail, I'm going to play another clip from Ariel Castro and then we will discuss.


CASTRO: I just hope they can find it in their hearts to forgive me, because we had a lot of harmony going on in that home. And if you have seen the YouTube video of Amanda (INAUDIBLE) that right there itself proves that that girl did not go through no torture.


BLITZER: "We had a lot of harmony going on in that home," he says.

Is he just delusional, because it's shocking to hear these kinds of comments from him.


And yet, I say, as -- for a mental health professional, it's not so shocking, because sociopaths are very manipulative and very self- centered. And I doubt this is a delusion in the sense that he doesn't sound psychotic, he doesn't sound disorganized, you know? He doesn't sound -- he doesn't have the other symptoms that go along with being really delusional.

He sounds very manipulative, like he wants to impose the truth that he wants on the women, the court, the world. You know, he is grandiose, he is narcissistic, and he simply wants to assert that that's what he wanted it to be. And, you know, this really is fitting, all fitting with, you know, extreme sociopathy.

BLITZER: And this -- what Michelle Knight, what she said in court today, that this is a guy who would actually, during all those years, 10 years, 11 years, he would go to church on Sunday, and he would have this persona. He'd pretend to be this great guy, yet do what he did to these three women. How do you explain that?

SALTZ: Well, you know, one thing that could have been going on -- obviously, I haven't examined him, but there can be a real compartmentalization. We've seen figures who, frankly, are very -- seem to be very upstanding, you know, impressive figures who are doing something that is an urge to them that's really horrendous, and you know, essentially living this secret life.

So, people are capable in their minds of compartmentalizing, using denial to say, "No, really, I'm an OK person. Really, I -- look, I go to church. I bring my daughter to church," and denying in that moment that they are behaving like a monster at other times. And it's impressive that minds are capable of doing that.

In this case, though, you know, I think it wasn't so fragmented that he, you know, because so much of the life was at home doing this, doing these atrocities, I think we're looking more at somebody who is missing, you know, a moral compass.

BLITZER: He blamed -- Gail, he blamed the abuse he said he suffered as a child. What do you make of that?

SALTZ: I think that that abuse probably fueled the sociopathy that he has, but at the end of the day, is that an excuse? No. None of these things are an excuse for perpetrating this kind of thing on a human being.

But it is true, and he's probably heard this himself, that people who have been abused often repeat abuse, terrible abuse, later.

So, on the other hand, the way he used that sentence, it sounded like he was trying to say, "This is my excuse. I'm a sick man. I can't help it." And all I could say is, if he can't help it, then he needs to be locked away forever and ever and unable to help someone. The truth is that sociopathy is not very responsive to treatment, and he is not a person that should -- you know, would be safe to have in the world.

BLITZER: Dr. Gail Saltz, the psychiatrist. Gail, thanks very much for coming in.

SALTZ: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Coming up, the NSA leaker at an undisclosed location. So, what's next after Russia's bombshell decision to grant him asylum? President Obama's considering possible consequences for Russia. We're going to talk about his next move and whether it will matter to Moscow.


BLITZER: The NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, is a free man somewhere in Russia right now, presumably at some sort of secure location, possibly still on his way to that location. We simply don't know.

The Russian government's decision to grant him temporary asylum for a year allowed him to finally leave the Moscow airport today and escape prosecution in the United States, at least for now.

CNN's Phil Black reports from Moscow.


PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What the United States took away Russia has granted: an identity document giving Edward Snowden the legal right to enter and live in Russia, one year's temporary asylum. It expires July 21, 2014.

His Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, showed off a copy after the original was delivered to Snowden in the transit zone. The lawyer said Snowden left the airport in a taxi, but he wouldn't say where he was going because of security concerns.

Somehow, Snowden managed to evade all the news cameras staking out the airport, or almost all of them. One Russian news service claims to have captured the moment Snowden left. If true, they only captured the back of his head.

WikiLeaks confirmed the news over Twitter, saying Snowden had left the building and their representative, Sarah Harrison, was still with him, as she's been ever since they left Hong Kong. Snowden then released this brief statement through WikiLeaks: "Over the past eight weeks we have seen the Obama administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end, the law is winning. I thank the Russian federation for granting me asylum in accordance with its laws and international obligations."

Little comment from the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman would only stress, Snowden's asylum application was assessed independently by Russia's federal migration service. Despite the potential impact on U.S./Russian relations, he says the Kremlin wasn't involved in the decision. Snowden's lawyer says Snowden wants to settle in Russia for the long term, that he's already studying the country's culture, history and language. He says Snowden is willing to make a public statement in the coming days.


BLACK: This is Edward Snowden's first night away from the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in almost six weeks. Where is he now? Well, his lawyer has simply been describing him as somewhere safe and secret, but he also told me a short time ago that he is staying with American citizens who live in Russia. These are not people who know Snowden personally but who reached out to him, contacted him during his stay at the airport and offered to help.

Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Phil, there will be no restrictions in Russia as far as Snowden is concerned. If he wants to make phone calls, if he wants to go on the Internet, if he wants to do television interviews, newspaper interviews, he can do all of the above?

BLACK: He can move around; he can travel across the country; he can talk to whoever he likes. That is absolutely true. And his lawyer says he expects he will do interviews; he will make public appearances; he will put forward his story.

But first of all, he wants a few days to acclimatize to his newfound freedom and just simply get used to being free of that airport, which he's come to know so well, Wolf.

BLITZER: Phil Black in Moscow for us, thank you.

There's certainly a lot of pressure on President Obama right now to make Russia's Vladimir Putin pay a price for granting Snowden asylum. Our national political correspondent Jim Acosta's taking a look at the president's options right now.

Jim, what are they?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we can tell you, President Obama did decline to answer questions from reporters about Russia's move to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden.

Still, White House officials are signaling there may be consequences, but for the moment, lawmakers from both parties say that's not good enough.


ACOSTA (voice-over): In what's increasingly becoming an international chess match, Russian officials granted temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who promptly fled Moscow's airport, a bold gesture that all but tells the White House, your move.

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step.

ACOSTA: Acknowledging the Obama administration received no advanced notice from the Russians, White House press secretary Jay Carney said U.S. officials will continue to make the case for Snowden's return. Carney hinted, big changes could be coming.

In little more than a month, President Obama is scheduled to attend the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, and just before that, a face-to-face meeting with Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will the president not go to Moscow now in September as originally planned?

CARNEY: I don't have a scheduling announcement for you today, and we are evaluating the utility of a summit.

ACOSTA: But on Capitol Hill, the statements were already flying from both parties, urging the president to get tough. Some calling for a change in venue for the G-20 summit.

"It is a slap in the face of all Americans," senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham said. "Now is the time to fundamentally rethink our relationship with Putin's Russia."

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Russia has stabbed us in the back, and each day that Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife.

ACOSTA: Snowden made his escape just as the surveillance programs he leaked were coming under intense scrutiny, from the heckling of NSA director Keith Alexander at a cyber-security conference...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't trust you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You lied to Congress!

ACOSTA: ... to complaints from some of Mr. Obama's fellow Democrats, who visited the president with other key lawmakers to air their concerns.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: This program is not effective, it has to end.

ACOSTA: White House officials brushed off the notion Mr. Obama should rethink his approach to Russia, but after his message of flexibility to Putin...

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election, I have more flexibility.

HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: We want to reset our relationship.

ACOSTA: After former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's reset button with Russian diplomats, a chill has set in on a range of issues, including Syria.

CARNEY: It is a simple fact that the so-called reset in our relations with Russia produced positive benefits for American national security and for the American people.


ACOSTA: Jay Carney was careful to say repeatedly during the briefing today that the ongoing discussions that they're having right now with the Russians will continue.

Still, the White House may not have much leverage to move the G- 20 summit that is coming up next month. That is in part because Russia currently holds the presidency of the G-20. That is why the summit is there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta's over at the White House. Thanks very much.

Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger. She's been doing some digging on the president's options.

If the president were to cancel that one-on-one meeting in Moscow the day before the G-20 summit with Putin, that would be a big deal.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think it would be a significant public snub to Vladimir Putin. And I believe, Wolf, from talking to my sources, that that is clearly on the table.

As Jim pointed out, look, canceling the G-20, moving the G-20, the president not attending the G-20 is really not much of an option. The option is, "OK, you want to have this bilateral meeting with me? Well, guess what, I may not go."

Now, there are a couple of things at work for the administration in this. First of all, in talking to some Russia experts today, they said to me, Wolf, this might actually solve a problem for them, because the meeting between Putin and Obama wasn't likely to go anywhere anyway, so why not cancel it?

And they also point out that there is some precedent for this, which is that Vladimir Putin canceled an appearance at Camp David just about a year ago. And so, this wouldn't be the first time that that had occurred in this kind of rocky relationship.

BLITZER: I would be surprised if the president does go to Moscow that day before for a one-on-one.

BORGER: I would be surprised, too. It's clearly advantageous for him to take that off his schedule.

BLITZER: There's a lot of important issues on the U.S./Russian agenda, obviously, that they have to deal with.

How successful -- and I know you've been looking into this -- has the administration been in convincing the American public that Edward Snowden is a traitor?

BORGER: Not very successful, Wolf. In fact, the public is still having a conversation with itself about it. They overwhelmingly believe -- and take a look at this poll -- they overwhelmingly believe that Snowden is a whistleblower and not a traitor. The administration would have you believe, of course, that he's a traitor.

But they're also conflicted about Snowden. A majority supports the fact that he should be charged in some way for disclosing NSA's surveillance program, but a majority of the American public also believes that there are not adequate limits on the NSA's surveillance program. So, they're having this discussion about liberty versus security, which is, of course, understandable.

And what I think you see the administration going through, as the president talks to people on Capitol Hill, is talking about lifting the veil on this surveillance program, talking about declassifying some of the things that we do and explaining to the American public why we do these certain things in certain ways and maybe changing a little bit of the program to make it a little bit more transparent.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger, good analysis. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: The Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is outraged over Snowden's asylum in Russia. He says it's a game-changer right now between the U.S. and Russia. Lindsey Graham is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. That's next.


BLITZER: A lot of lawmakers here in Washington are outraged by Russia's decision to grant asylum to the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. One senator says it should be a game-changer in Washington's relationship with Moscow.


BLITZER: As Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is joining us now.

Senator Graham, thanks very much for coming in. Lots to discuss today. U.S.-Russia relations clearly at a very sensitive moment. You issued a statement after Snowden was released from an airport, allowed to be a free man in Russian, you said, "This is a sign of Vladimir Putin's clear lack of respect for President Obama."

What should the president have done?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, I think the president called Putin and said, "I'm requesting you to deliver this man back to our legal system." The attorney general wrote a letter. Making consequences of this decision more real to Putin might have helped.

But, you know, at the end of the day, I'm disappointed but not surprised. I'm not surprised at all that Putin did this, but it's something we need to take seriously. And I wish the president had made the consequences more clear to Putin.

BLITZER: The president is supposed to go to Moscow the day before the start of the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in September. What do you think? Should the president still go, have his one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow?

GRAHAM: I would suggest not, because there's no meeting in the world like meeting the president of the United States. We're an exceptional country, and when the president sits down with another world leader, you elevate that leader just by default, if for no other reason. So I would hope the president would consider canceling this bilateral meeting with Putin, because I think it sends, really, the wrong signal about how seriously we take the Snowden episode.

BLITZER: Should the president still go to the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia?

GRAHAM: Well, Senator Schumer and I believe that we should ask for the summit to be moved. Again, when you're hosting the G-20 summit in Russia, that basically is a signal that everything is fine. Having the venue changed, I think, would be an appropriate step to take. I have a resolution for Senator Schumer to do that.

BLITZER: If Snowden is watching right now -- and we're being seen live in not only here in the United States but around the world, including in Russia -- and you look in the camera, talk to him. What would you say?

GRAHAM: You've gotten some people killed probably. No matter what your motives were, the results of your conduct has put some very brave people at risk. You've compromised our nation at a time when radical Islam is on the move. We need to find out what these guys are up to.

And you did a lot of damage to your country, and you put a lot of people who serve the country in difficult circumstances under the cover of darkness at risk, and you've got their blood on your hands.

BLITZER: Well, what evidence is there that he's put American lives at risk?

GRAHAM: Plenty.

BLITZER: Can you share some of that with us?


BLITZER: But you believe that Americans have already been killed as a result of this or will be killed?

GRAHAM: I think people have been compromised in terms of how they represent our country, the way they operate overseas has been compromised, yes. I'm very worried about sources and methods of the intelligence community being compromised. I'm very worried about the diminished ability of this program to detect terrorist attacks before they come to our shores.

Yes, there are people that have been put at risk by this young man.

BLITZER: Are they...

GRAHAM: Ask General Alexander. You don't have to ask me. Ask people who know.

BLITZER: Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the judiciary committee, he said that, if this program is not effective, it has to end, but he noted that a classified list of U.S. phone records, in his words, does not reflect dozens or even several terrorist plots, the section 2015 helped to prevent, let alone 54, as some have suggested.

In other words, he's suggesting that maybe it's not that big of a deal.

GRAHAM: Well, I think it's a very big deal. I think you'll agree with this. We know terrorists are out there trying to hurt our nation, inside and outside.

We do know that Anwar Awlaki talked to Major Hasan through the Internet, and the rest is history at Ft. Hood.

We do know that several of the recent attacks were inspired by radical Islamists overseas.

I can promise you, as I speak, there are active efforts to harm our country. And surveilling known terrorists and trying to find out who they're talking to within the rule of law is a necessary thing when it comes to stopping terrorist attacks. Boston is a good example.

If we had taken the Russian information more seriously, it would have been nice to have gone into the phone records of these guys and found out exactly who they were talking to and who they were -- what they were up to by getting a court order.

So I quite frankly disagree with Senator Leahy. We need this program more than ever, quite frankly.

BLITZER: Senator Graham, thanks very much for joining us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.


BLITZER: Coming up at the top of the hour, gay athletes speak out about the upcoming winter games in Russia, the Olympic games in Russia, where harsh new anti-gay laws are now in effect.

Straight ahead, baseball's Cal Ripken announcing a reward to find his mother's kidnapper.


BLITZER: Secretary of State John Kerry tells a Pakistani television station the U.S. is looking to end drone strikes in that country. He says it depends on a number of factors, but he says President Obama has what he calls a very real time line and adds, "We hope it's going to be very, very soon."

The strikes have strained relations between the U.S. and Pakistan.

A year after his mother was robbed and kidnapped, baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. is offering up a hefty reward to find the man who did it. Listen to this.


CAL RIPKEN JR., PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER: After -- after talking as a family with members and with members of law enforcement and friends, we decided that we would try to reignite interest in the case by putting up a $100,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the man who abducted Mom a little over a year ago.


BLITZER: Seventy-four-year-old Violet Ripken was abducted at gunpoint from her Maryland home last July. Police said the man forced her into a car, used her credit cards at rest stops. She was found the next morning in her car with her hands bound but otherwise unharmed.

You can always follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. Just tweet me, @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show, @CNNSitRoom.

That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.