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THE SITUATION ROOM
Florida Sinkhole Swallows Buildings; Whitey Bulger Found Guilty; Manhunt Ends in Death; Beer And Politics; Clinton Speaks As 2016 Race Heats Up; A "Broken" Criminal Justice System; Sinkhole Swallowing Florida Resort; New York To L.A. In 46 Minutes?
Aired August 12, 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, a California kidnap victim returns home after her dramatic rescue from the Idaho wilderness. What's next for Hannah Anderson? I'll talk about that and more with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
Also, Hillary Clinton speaking live this hour amid growing buzz about another possible White House run. Is all the attention helping or hurting her prospects?
Families flee in the middle of the night as a giant sinkhole opens up just minutes from Disney World.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the word. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We're learning lots of eerie similarities right now between James DiMaggio's crime and an incident involving his own father decades ago, where we're following the aftermath of the dramatic rescue of 16-year- old Hannah Anderson.
What happened? We just heard from the dad.
CNN's Brian Todd is here. He's got some amazing details about a very eerie similarity.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Eerie is the word, Wolf, an eerie similarity we have learned of between what authorities say James DiMaggio did in this case and some behavior his own father allegedly exhibited more than 20 years ago toward a teenage girl.
TODD (voice-over): He was said to have been infatuated with 16-year- old kidnap victim Hannah Anderson. Now chilling new detail on what could have been a disturbing influence on that behavior by James DiMaggio, his own father.
CNN affiliate KFMB in San Diego interviewed a woman who says DiMaggio's father, James Everett DiMaggio, pursued her when she was a teenager. The woman, who didn't want to be identified, said this happened in the late 1980s. The senior DiMaggio, she says, had dated her mother, but broke up with the mother and told the then teenager he loved her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stuck around for me and wanted to take me away from my mom and give me a good life, a better life. He could take care of me.
TODD: She says, after she refused, James DiMaggio's father broke into her house, carrying a shotgun and handcuffs and was about to kill her, her boyfriend, and her brother.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Asked him to please not kill us. And he said, don't worry, it will be over quick. And I just remember pleading with him.
TODD: She says she asked to use the bathroom, then escaped. DiMaggio's father, she says, then ran off. Public records show that James DiMaggio's father was a defendant in a criminal case filed in 1989, but no specifics were immediately available.
I asked forensic psychiatrist Lise Van Susteren (ph) about the alleged pattern of behavior towards teenage girls by both father and son.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who have poor impulse control, people who have very bad judgment, people who have very little frustration tolerance, they may seek drugs or alcohol to calm some of their tendencies down, is very much -- those are inheritable traits.
TODD: According to this woman's account, the elder DiMaggio also used his son to get to her. The younger James DiMaggio, she says, went to school with her and one day approached her with a message from his dad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He came up to me, I think it was third period, or it was between classes, before lunch, saying his father was out and he'd be waiting for me after school.
TODD: I asked former FBI profiler Greg McCrary if that could have been a trigger for the son's alleged behavior in later years.
GREGG MCCRARY, FORMER FBI PROFILER: It certainly could be something that he found exciting or enticing or wanted to emulate perhaps later in life. And then we see him engage in a similar behavior with this attraction to a young girl and this thing just sort of played itself out again all over.
TODD: So far, CNN has not been able to reach the woman who KFMB interviewed. Another bizarre tie-in in this whole story, this past Saturday, August 10, when James DiMaggio was killed by FBI agents, is the 18th anniversary of the very day his father apparently committed suicide. That may or may not be coincidence, Wolf.
BLITZER: There's another strange coincidence anniversary date tied into all of this as well, may or may not be a coincidence.
TODD: Again, may or may not be, again, very bizarre. According to reports, August 3, this is the same day that James DiMaggio's mobile home was burned, allegedly with Hannah Anderson's mother and her younger brother inside it, that was the same day that his own mother died of cancer years earlier. Again, he's not around anymore, he can't answer some crucial questions as to some of these potential tie-ins.
BLITZER: Neither the father or the son is around anymore. All right, Brian, thanks very much.
Let's get to the victim in this story, Hannah Anderson. Her father describes it as a tremendous, horrific ordeal that she had to go through. The San Diego girl, 16 years old, was rescued in the Idaho wilderness over the weekend after law enforcement officials shot and killed her abductor, the family friend, so called, James DiMaggio, who police say killed Hannah's mother and brother before kidnapping her.
The teen only learned of their deaths after being freed. She's now back in San Diego. She's reunited with her dad, who spoke out just minutes ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT ANDERSON, FATHER OF MISSING CHILDREN: As a country, there are many missing children, and though some of them sorry. And some of them -- I'm sorry -- some of you might find the Amber Alert annoying, please pay attention, keep your eyes open. Let's bring those children home.
No one should have to go through this. Now, it's time for us to grieve and move on to the healing process. I respectively ask you to give me, all of our family, and our friends the respect and time to allow this to happen.
As for my daughter, the healing process will be slow. She has been through a tremendous, horrific ordeal. I am very proud of her and I love her very much. She is surrounded by the love of her family, friends, and community. Again, please, as a family, give us our time to heal and grieve.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's get some more now with Dr. Drew Pinsky. He's the host of HLN's "Dr. Drew On Call."
Thanks very much for coming in.
Tell us what kind of state of mind you think Hannah most likely is going through right now.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: You know, Wolf, I want to caution people. We really don't know -- when we talk about this having been a horrific ordeal for this woman, it's easy for all us to conclude that she was kidnapped, she was abducted, and perhaps she suffered some degree of perhaps a Stockholm-type syndrome, but we really don't know what she was experiencing. "The L.A. Times" in their article this morning reported that when the horseback riders that identified her found her, they heard her say, boy, we're all going to be in big trouble now, as though -- as opposed to, help me, I have been abducted, suggesting that, on some level, she was involved with this kidnapping victim either volitionally or as part of a Stockholm syndrome.
Really, when you get right down to it, the most difficult thing for her in the short term, right now, is the fact that her mother and brother are dead and she did not know that. That's going to be a heavy trauma for her. How she understands and experiences what happens to her, we're going to learn as the details emerge.
BLITZER: For our younger view who are may not be familiar with the Stockholm syndrome, Dr. Drew, explain.
PINSKY: Well, it's when people -- if you remember Patty Hearst, she begins to identify with her abductors. On some level, you begin to accept their point of view. It's really a survival mechanism that humans have adopted in order to survive these circumstances that are so horrific.
But we don't know that it's that. She may have in some level been manipulated into this by this guy where she believed she was somehow a partner with him. We don't know. So the actual ordeal she went through, we will only learn as time goes on.
BLITZER: The sheriff, Bill Gore, of San Diego County just a few moments ago, he told us that she was a victim, she was under extreme duress, a 16-year-old girl with this 40-year-old man who supposedly had been a very, very close family friend.
He also said, the sheriff, she did not know her mother and younger brother, Ethan, had been killed in that home in San Diego that burned to the ground.
PINSKY: That is the feature that's going to be the most difficult for her. Her mother and her brother are dead and she did not know that. I think that's what she is struggling with right now.
How she understands the experience she went through, it's hard to predict. It's easy to say, oh, she was abducted and she was horrified and just trying to survive. If that were the case, that's bad enough. But I have a feeling it's more complicated than something as straightforward as that.
BLITZER: What do she and her dad and other loved ones, what do they need to do now to try to deal with this ordeal?
PINSKY: As the father said, it's going to take time. There's no sort of magic potion. Imagine anyone losing a loved one. That's the first order of business.
The second order of business is trying to come to terms with having been so helpless for an extended period of time. Helplessness is highly traumatic, particularly for young people, and, again, she's going to have to learn to trust and use other people to manage these overwhelming emotions and build emotional machinery to regulate, and frankly move forward, as she will one day.
BLITZER: And just imagine a 16-year-old girl, she was very close physically to James DiMaggio, the 40-year-old man who abducted her, killed her mother, and her younger brother, when he was shot in the wilderness out in Idaho. The police, the San Diego police sheriff saying that she was physically near him when he was shot.
That must be an ordeal as well for her.
PINSKY: Absolutely. It's another level, another layer on this experience.
And again, we don't know what her perception was of her experience with this man. That may have in the moment it happened have been not just horrifying because she's in proximity of a violent death, but she may have really wanted to protect him in some way. We just don't know. She may have been relieved also. She may have also understood this was her abductor, but just being 16 near a violent death, I mean, that is enough to give somebody trouble for an extended period of time.
You add to that the death of her mother, the death of her brother, the fact that she was abducted, she had been manipulated, she had been helpless. These are things that take some time. Indeed, these kids do get through these things, but they need a lot of support, a lot of the people around them connecting with her and supporting her and then a lot of treatment.
BLITZER: Dr. Drew Pinsky is the host of HLN's "Dr. Drew On Call." Dr. Drew, thanks very much for calling in.
PINSKY: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it.
BLITZER: Coming up, verdicts in a closely watched mob trial. We're taking a closer look at what is next for James "Whitey" Bulger.
Also, disturbing jabs at President Obama and others. We have details of some mean-spirited political stunts.
BLITZER: The White House seems to be emphasizing the working part of President Obama's working vacation. This official picture showed up on the White House Flickr account today showing the president getting his daily briefing from National Security Adviser Susan Rice.
They also announced the president will make a bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania next week to promote his latest jobs initiative. A number of other prominent politicians have been bitten by the travel bug as well.
Our national political correspondent, Jim Acosta, is trying to keep track of all of this for us. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
What are you discovering?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Wolf, we should mention right now Hillary Clinton is speaking to the American Bar Association out in California, and we should point out that in that speech, she just mentioned a few moments ago that she said she's going to be delivering a series of speeches over the next several months.
During this speech today, she will be talking about voting rights, but that she is going to be talking about transparency and national security policies in an upcoming speech. So this is something that the former secretary of state, the former senator from New York and presidential candidate has just said right now is another indication, Wolf, I think that she is seriously weighing another run for the presidency.
And the only thing that is more predictable than all that fried food that people are eating at the Iowa State Fair right now are the politicians making early visits to that caucus state. Hillary Clinton may be out in California, but plenty of others are in Iowa to start gearing up for the next presidential election.
But three years out, people are asking, really? Yes, really.
ACOSTA (voice-over): They're already cropping up in Iowa. Not the corn. The contenders.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: We can defund Obamacare.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
ACOSTA: At least potential contenders like Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, one of the headliners over the weekend at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa, a key stop on these presidential proving grounds.
CRUZ: We need to abolish the IRS.
ACOSTA: Cruz even took a swipe at a possible rival.
CRUZ: Vice President Joe Biden.
CRUZ: Yes, the nice thing is you don't even need a punchline.
ACOSTA: Speaking of the vice president, an aide confirmed Biden will be the keynote speaker at another crucial Iowa event, a steak fry hosted by Senator Tom Harkin next month, a stage he shared with then Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton six years ago.
JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.
ACOSTA: While an aide says Biden is only making up for missing last year's gathering, it's a sign the veep is keeping the door open to 2016, as Washington appears to be suffering from a bout with Hillary hysteria, with pundits endlessly reading into her paid speeches, her upcoming appearance with family friend, former DNC Chairman and now Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, not to mention her lunch with the president.
JAY LENO, HOST, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO": Did you notice her measuring the drapes or anything like that?
OBAMA: Keep in mind, she's been there before.
LENO: Right. That's true. That's true.
OBAMA: She doesn't have to measure them.
ACOSTA: But former advisers to Clinton insist the chatter is way too early.
HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh, I think that Hillary Clinton would be just fine if nobody talked about her for six months. I don't think she'd feel badly about that at all.
ACOSTA: Tell that to Rick Santorum, who made a surprisingly strong 2012 bid all about Iowa. That's where he was back again over the weekend, urging his party to reach out to blue-collar workers.
RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: They didn't want to vote for President Obama, but at least he went out and talked to them. At least he went out and spoke about them. We didn't do that. We marginalized them.
ACOSTA: But he wasn't alone in handing out advice to the GOP.
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: Somebody is going to have to emerge who is really smart and really tough, because Obama should have been beaten. Hillary's going to be tougher to beat.
ACOSTA: And there are more tea leaves to read. The DNC announced today they're hiring a new communications director who worked for Hillary Clinton's '08 campaign. And next week, Vice President Biden plans to attend a fund-raiser for New Hampshire's governor.
But, Wolf, the biggest tea leaf of them all might be the one that is landing in California right now, Hillary Clinton giving the speech where she's essentially announcing she will be giving other speeches in the coming months on some pretty big issues. If she's going to be talking about national security and the tradeoff between protection and liberty, that's very interesting. That's very much in the news right now. It's going to drum up a lot of speculation that she's really taking a hard look at 2016. BLITZER: We will have much more on Hillary Clinton's speech out in California coming up this hour, including excerpts. Thanks very much, Jim Acosta.
Take a look at something that happened at the Missouri State Fair. Over the weekend, one of the rodeo clown routines featured a man with an Obama mask and a broomstick. It's just one of the political stunts making the rounds right now and causing lots of outrage.
CNN's Athena Jones reports.
ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outrage today over this, a Missouri rodeo clown mocking the president this past weekend. Notice the broom in his backside and joking that he could be stopped by a bull.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obama's going to have to just stay there. Obama, watch out for those bulls. President Obama, hey, I know I'm a clown. He's just running around and acting like one, doesn't know he is one.
JONES: The Rodeo Association later apologized and the state's Republican lieutenant governor, Peter Kinder, called the act disrespectful on Twitter, saying, "We are better than this."
The state fair has banned the clown. It's just the latest jab at the president. Others have carried clearly racial undertones. He was greeted in Orlando by a sign saying "Kenyan, Go Home." And a protester in Phoenix held a sign reading "Impeach the Half-Breed Muslin," meaning Muslim, while "The Arizona Republic" reports another shouted "He's a 47 percent Negro."
Then this continuing line of attack some believe is racially motivated, Donald Trump still questioning Obama's citizenship in an ABC interview, even though that issue has long been resolved, and the president has even provided a copy of his birth certificate.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: You don't still question that he was born in the United States, do you?
DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & CEO, TRUMP HOTELS & CASINO RESORTS: I have no idea.
JONES: Texas Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold fielded a call from a birther to impeach the president at a town hall this weekend.
CALLER: This issue hits to the belly of the beast.
JONES: The congressman responded he hears this a lot, but:
REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD (R), TEXAS: ... is already out of the barn on this on the whole birth certificate issue.
JONES: While not everyday occurrences, politicians have long been targets of anger and ridicule. Examples abound. There's the slap Hillary Internet game, the slap Sarah Palin one. And there were countless negative portrayals of President George W. Bush. So what's new?
STUART ROTHENBERG, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER, "THE ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT": But what is new, I think, is how suffocating it is, how constant. Every day, it seems, there's another bit of evidence of meanness, of vulgarity, and a personal attack.
JONES: And of course, this anger and vitriol isn't good for getting anything done on Capitol Hill.
And one side note here, Wolf, when it comes to Obama bashing. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Nevada Public Radio he hopes that Republican opposition to the president on Capitol Hill is based -- quote -- "on substance," not the fact that he is African-American.
Well, Republican Senator Tim Scott, who is the only black U.S. senator, took issue with that. He called Reid's comments offensive and said Democrats are trying to use race as a smokescreen. He wants Reid to apologize -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, we will see where we go from here. Athena, thanks very much.
We have more politics coming up this hour. As you can see, Hillary Clinton is giving a speech. She's getting an award. Is she getting too much attention? What's going on? Stand by.
And later, a super-fast technology could cut the travel time between New York and Los Angeles. Get this, New York to Los Angeles in 45 minutes.
BLITZER: Verdicts are in for one of the most closely watched mob trials in years. James "Whitey" Bulger, who spent 16 years on the run, has been convicted of racketeering and involvement in 11 murders.
CNN's Deborah Feyerick was in the courtroom in Boston when the verdicts were read. Deb is joining us now.
What was it like, Deb?
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, after five days of waiting, Wolf, everybody was holding their breath. James "Whitey" Bulger stood at attention as the verdict was read, guilty on 31 of the 32 counts, meaning that the convicted killer, crime boss, thug, thief, gangster will spend the rest of his life in prison, and probably in solitary confinement.
The U.S. attorney here made sure that this came to trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARMEN ORTIZ, U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS: I hope that the victims, the families, and many others who suffered tremendously and in some cases were actually destroyed by James Bulger's criminal actions, will take some solace in the fact that he will spend the rest of his life in prison, far away from the beaches of Santa Monica and far from the streets of South Boston. I would like to thank the jurors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Deb, the -- I guess this is -- it's over with now, right? Where do we go from here? All right, I guess we just lost connection with Deb Feyerick.
But that's it. You saw the headline. It's over with, basically. When all is said and done, James "Whitey" Bulger will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Up next, a beer and a chat with Anthony Weiner. The embattled New York City mayoral candidate sits down to take questions with BuzzFeed. You know what? We will listen in live, see what happens. Could be interesting.
And a resort only minutes away from Disney World slowly disappearing before our eyes. What happened? We're going there.
BLITZER: Happening now: One of the country's most unpredictable candidates gets set to grab a beer -- yes, a beer -- and talk politics. You know what? We will listen in live, see what happens.
Also, part of a fancy resort falls into a sinkhole.
And a new super fast way to travel. How does New York to L.A. in 45 minutes sound to you?
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Now to some beer politics and one of the most watched, most controversial contests in the country. The mayoral candidate in New York City Anthony Weiner is starting to take some questions at a BuzzFeed Brews event in New York. He's with Buzzfeed's Editor-In- Chief Ben Smith. They're actually discussing politics over beers at an event designed to stoke social media conversation. You know what? Once it gets started, we'll listen in to hear what's going on. Get some sense of this race, what's going on.
Also we're standing by. Hillary Clinton is giving a major speech out in California. There she is right there. She just wrapped up what she was saying. We're going to go back and do a little analysis. Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile, they are both standing by. Is Hillary Clinton really getting ready to run for the Democratic presidential nomination? Is this an early sign of what may be in store for the Democrats and potentially the Republicans down the road? You know what? Let's listen in a little bit to hear what she just said. HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: As you know, the Supreme Court recently struck at the heart of the voting rights act and stripped out the pre-clearance formula that made it so effective. Some take the historic success of the voting rights act as a sign that discrimination is a thing of the past and we no longer need its protections. But as Justice Ginsburg said, that is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet. You'll soon be soaked. And sure enough, in the week since the ruling, we've seen an unseemly rush by previously covered jurisdictions to enact or enforce laws that will make it harder for millions of our fellow Americans to vote.
BLITZER: The former secretary of state speaking at the American Bar Association out in California. Ana Navarro is joining us. Donna Brazile is joining us, Ana Navarro, a Republican strategist, CNN analyst and of course, Donna, a Democratic strategist and CNN analyst.
She also said, Donna, she's going to be doing in the next few weeks several more major speeches addressing national security and domestic policy issues. What does that say to you about her ambition potentially to become the first woman president of the United States?
DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I don't know if we can read anything in the tea leaves. It may be too early to handicap. Although I continue to believe that if she decides to run, she will once again be a frontrunner in 2016. But Wolf, I do believe that Secretary Clinton is filling a tremendous void with President Obama and Vice President Biden tied up with day-to-day business of running the government, et cetera.
She is out there speaking on behalf of not just Democrats, independents or Republicans on important issues of our day. So I'm delighted that she's out there. I've missed her voice on national politics, international issues, and now we get an opportunity to hear Hillary Clinton talk about important national concerns.
BLITZER: Ana, she's rested up after leaving the State Department. She had traveled hundreds of thousands of miles as the secretary of state. She's taken a break, but now she's coming back. She's getting into the ring, shall we say, once again, going out and doing these speeches and doing all sorts of other things as well. Same question to you. What does that say to you about her political ambition?
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It tells me that she's leaving her options open. I think she probably hasn't made up her own mind as to what she's going to do and she's got the luxury of time. She's a well-known name brand and let's face it. Practically every Democrat that's worth -- whose endorsement is worth something and her support is worth something. It's down on one knee asking for her hand in political marriage. She's yet to decide whether she accepts or not the proposal.
But in the meantime, she's got to keep herself relevant. She's got to keep herself in the press and let's also face it, Wolf, she's making $200,000 a pop per paid speech, and the Clintons never saw a dollar they didn't like. When she's in the press, she's more in demand. It makes sense for her politically. It makes sense for her financially. Hillary Clinton is not going to go away. She's going to be in the political scene for a long, long time.
BLITZER: Now we don't know if she's getting paid at all for the speech today at the American Bar Association out in California. Although she does do paid speeches as she herself acknowledges and her husband, the former president, does that as well. Ladies, stand by. We have more to discuss. Speaking of what's going on, Anthony Weiner in a special live interview with Buzzfeed. You know what? We're going to listen in a little bit to hear what he has to say.
Plus, compensation for victims of the Asiana Airline crash. We have details of how much the airline is offering each passenger.
BLITZER: Back now to another major story, we're covering the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, saying, I'm quoting now, "too many Americans are going to too many prisons for far too long." He's unveiled an ambitious new program to do something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We need to keep taking steps to make sure people feel safe and secure in their homes and communities. And part of that means doing something about the lives being harmed, not helped, by a criminal justice system that doesn't serve the American people as well as it should.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: For starters, federal prosecutors will no longer charge low- level non-violent drug offenders with offenses that carry very heavy mandatory minimum sentences. And joining us now, Newt Gingrich, the former speaker, and the new co-host of "CROSSFIRE," and also William Otis, adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law School and former special counsel to the first President Bush. Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming in. Newt, it's not every day that you and Senator Rand Paul are praising Eric Holder for a major decision. Why?
NEWT GINGRICH, CO-HOST, CNN'S "CROSSFIRE": Well, I have been working for years with Pat Nolan at the Prison Ministries and with right on crime. Rick Perry, the governor in Texas, is the leader in this direction back in 2007. Texas has saved $2 billion. They've closed three prisons and they have the lowest prime rate they've had in over 20 years. And I think it's because of an intelligent distinction between dangerous violent criminals and people who are engaged in nonviolent illegal activities.
BLITZER: So you're praising what the attorney general has done --
GINGRICH: It's the right direction.
BLITZER: Bill, what do you say?
PROFESSOR WILLIAM OTIS, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: I think there's good news and bad news in what the attorney general has done. Part of the bad news is that the attorney general conflates nonviolent crime with non-harmful crime. In fact, a great deal of drug dealing and drug consumption, while nonviolent, is very harmful. When a heroin addict is putting the drug in his arm, it's not violent, but it's harmful and can be lethal, same thing with other dangerous drugs like PCP and methamphetamine. So I think that part of the attorney general's view of things is short sighted.
BLITZER: Let's let Newt respond to that.
GINGRICH: Let's draw a distinction. There are a number of crimes where you want rehabilitation. There are a number of places where you want somebody who's done something stupid. But do you really want to put them into a building surrounded by hardened criminals, where you know that in some case up to 80 percent of them will go back to prison once they're let out because we've become really good as a country at taking people and educating them into how to be criminals.
BLITZER: Because of the time they spend in prison. What do you say to that?
OTIS: Over the past 40 years, we actually have a lot of information about what works in the criminal justice system and what does not. What works is prison. What does not is what we were doing in the '60s and '70s, when sentencing was lenient and we believed in rehabilitation. That gave rise to the determinant sentencing movement, which took place during the Reagan administration and the advent of mandatory minimums and binding sentencing guidelines. So in the 20 years since we've had that, crime has gone down 50 percent.
GINGRICH: As I said a while ago, when Texas began moving towards being right on crime, they, in fact, have reduced the crime rate. They've also reduced the number of prisoners. They've reduced the number of prisons. I think the governor of Georgia will tell you that it has worked in Georgia, that this kind of approach makes sense. Again, I'm not for being soft with people. I think there are a number of steps you can take from economic fines to using electronic devices to where you have to be at home all weekend, at home every night.
I do think what we have done over the last two generations -- and I was part of this. I voted for very tough penalties and I know look at situations where you're taking somebody out of the economy, breaking up their family, and putting them in a situation where they're surrounded by hardened criminals and I think it's pretty hard to argue that that has been a positive long-term result.
BLITZER: And bill, the statistic that the attorney general and many others cite is very alarming. The United States has 5 percent of the entire world's population, but 25 percent of the entire world's prisoners.
OTIS: It seems to me where the attorney general is making a mistake is focusing on the three quarters of 1 percent, which he correctly said today that are in prison, but not saying so much about the more than 99 percent of people who are not in prison.
BLITZER: But why does the United States have 25 percent of all of the world's prisoners locked up?
OTIS: Because we have become more serious about fighting crime, and as I say, we have been successful. The statistics aren't lying. It's the Department of Justice's own statistics that show the crime has fallen by 50 percent over the year on mandatory minimums.
GINGRICH: I think first of all, if it's violent crime, it makes a great deal of sense to keep people away from society. If it is not a violent crime, I think you are much better off to move towards rehabilitation, and I think the evidence, for example, you simply get people to learn how to read. You have a dramatic reduction in the likelihood that they're committing a second crime. I think for people who are not yet hardened criminals, one of our major goals should be how can we intervene so that you, in fact, get back to a life of having a family, earning a living and being in the community.
BLITZER: We've got to leave it there, unfortunately, but it's a good discussion. I'm sure the debate will continue. Thanks to both of you for coming in, Bill Otis and Newt Gingrich.
There's an interview going on right now, there you see Anthony Weiner. It's called Buzzfeed Brews. Buzzfeed's Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith is interviewing the New York City mayoral candidate, talking about his escapades, shall we say. Listen in.
BEN SMITH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, BUZZFEED: In many people's view of the law, I've done a lot worse. I mean, Eliot Spitzer committed a crime and then who have judged you. He said you shouldn't be in the race. I wonder, you know, Scott Stringer said the other day that Spitzer should have been prosecuted for what he did and I wonder if you have a view on that, on whether Eliot Spitzer should have been prosecuted.
ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK MAYORAL CANDIDATE: A view on the controller's race?
SMITH: On whether Eliot Spitzer --
WEINER: No, I'm not spending a lot of time thinking about the controller race in the city of New York.
SMITH: We're spending a lot of time thinking about you.
WEINER: I don't have any view on the controller race one way or the other.
SMITH: Someone else who is hard on you is your old roommate Jon Stewart and I wonder kind of what the state of your relationship is with him these days.
WEINER: He's a comedian.
SMITH: Come on, he's your friend.
SMITH: I'm going to start asking you -- WEINER: You can do this --
SMITH: I think this is something --
WEINER: You can do this or show videos of cats or whatever it is you do at Buzzfeed.
SMITH: We do it all.
WEINER: But I mean, Jon -- this notion that somehow I was a victim of late night comics or victim of someone else -- look, I did these things. They were embarrassing. The jokes clearly write themselves. I did it during a slow news period. People who make fun of this didn't do anything wrong. Reporters who reported it didn't do anything wrong. You can quibble about the level to which it gets discussed is a news decision after a why. I'll leave it to someone else to decide whether it's appropriate or not. A comedian would get thrown out of the comedian's union if he didn't do these jokes.
SMITH: Are you still friends?
WEINER: I haven't spoken to him in a while. Probably six months.
SMITH: Is there any media outlet you feel has behaved well?
WEINER: Well, I mean, look, there's been a chronic disconnect between what's going on out on the campaign trail and what gets reported. You see it from time to time. Rudy Kramer is out there covering the events and you can hear the gnashing of teeth from the tabloid reporters and trying to do the mental gymnastics necessary to make it a bad news day like I had a remarkable reception.
You read the AP story about the reception I got at the Dominican Day Parade, and they found me making -- they took 2,000 pictures, got one of me making a face and that became the story. I kind of get it. The fact of the matter is that for all intents and purposes, substance in politics doesn't get covered in a campaign like this. I'll give you an example.
On Thursday, I've written two books of ideas, 125 ideas in all. On Thursday, we did something where we do a big policy speech. I did one on law enforcement, stop and frisk. A long presentation at the fortune society, which is an organization that takes people that left prison, figure out a way to mainstream them.
Among my proposals were substantial ones about what you do in the post-stop and frisk era. I proposed lapel cameras for police officers. Today, as it turned out in the court decision one of the things that the judge wore.
BLITZER: So there it is. He's being interviewed by Ben Smith of Buzzfeed. You see out there the beer as well. We'll continue to monitor what's going on, Anthony Weiner, the New York City mayoral candidate. If you want to watch the rest, you can also head to our new YouTube Channel, youtube.com/cnnbuzzfeed. Coming up, a scary night for some Florida vacationers, this is what's left of a three-story resort building after a sinkhole opened up. We're going there live. Stay with us.
BLITZER: That's the sound of a sinkhole swallowing up a three-story resort building near Disney World in Florida in the middle of the night. CNN's Martin Savidge is on the scene for us in Claremont, Florida. Martin, what's the latest on this massive sinkhole?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, this is really only about 7 minutes away from Disney World, so you can understand why this is of great concern. The good news tonight is that the sinkhole appears to have stabilized. It's about 100 feet across, 15 feet deep, and the best news of all, nobody was injured.
In fact, it's even amazing that nobody was killed when you look at the dramatic footage, especially at the damage that was done to that one particular unit that is building 104. It was around 11:00 last night. So many people were in their units. They were going to bed or some were even sound asleep when it began to slide and move, as a result of that sinkhole opening up. They were able, in about 10 to 15 minutes, to get out of that building -- Wolf.
BLITZER: How many people were affected, Martin?
SAVIDGE: Yes, they had -- it's being reported, now, at least by the owners here, that there were about 105 people in that particular building. So they're actually crediting a quick-thinking security guard who went around, alerting people to the danger. But here is some of what the witnesses saw and heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were windows breaking everywhere. One of the security guards ran up and was evacuating people, barging into their rooms. One woman was sitting in the tub and the tub just levitated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: That is a remarkable image. That woman could actually only grab a pair of shorts and dash out. Many people did just that, leaping out of windows, because doorways became blocked. But as we say, everyone was able to get out. The problem now is they won't be allowed back in. And many of them left behind everything they had, from their clothes to their medical prescriptions to the car keys to their vehicles, but that building is considered unstable and may never be considered safe for people to go back inside and retrieve anything -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What a story this is. All right, thanks very much. Martin Savidge on the scene for us. Up next, compensation for victims of the Asiana Airline crash. We have details of how much the airline is now offering each passenger. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: So imagine traveling from San Francisco to L.A. in only about 30 minutes. It could be possible with a new transport system, just unveiled a little while ago. It's called the hyperloop. CNN's Rene Marsh is here. She's got details of the hyperloop. What's going on?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And you have to be really hyper when you say it.
BLITZER: I'm hyper already.
MARSH: So imagine, Wolf, you're traveling at speeds in excess of 700 miles per hour, in a steel tube, over the highway. Would you do it? Taking too long to answer there.
MARSH: You wouldn't do it? OK. So if billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has his way, you will be able to do this in another 7 to 10 years. Now, the superfast transportation system Musk has dreamed up is called the hyperloop. And we just got images of what it would look like. Each car fits 28 passengers. The tube would be mounted on shock-absorbent posts designed to withstand earthquakes and passenger cars would be launched through the tube with electric motors.
Now, to reduce the resistance and the friction, the air would be pumped from the front to the bottom of the capsule, which would essentially cause it to float on compressed air. Just think of an air hockey table, and that's the kind of effect that you get there. So if you're a passenger on one of these things, what would you feel? Well, we asked him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELON MUSK, ENTREPRENEUR (via telephone): It would actually feel like being in an airplane. So there would be initial acceleration, and once you're traveling at speed, you really wouldn't notice the speed at all. So you would just feel extremely smooth, like you were riding on a cushion of air, really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARSH: All right, well, Elon Musk is the billionaire behind Paypal, Spacex and the electronic car company, Tesla. So Wolf, as far out as this may seem, he has a track record, so people are willing to listen and say, well, maybe one day.
BLITZER: It's amazing stuff. All right, thanks very much, Rene, for that.
Take a look at this final note, Asiana Airlines now offering $10,000 to the passengers aboard the jet that crash landed in San Francisco last month, 291 passengers were on the plane when it hit a seawall at the end of the runway, 180 were hurt and three people died. That's it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.