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"Catastrophic, Historic" Storm Predicted for Southeast; Clinton, Lewinski Getting Attention with New Book, Senator Comments; Mafia Crime Family Take Down in Italy; CIA Ordered bin Laden Photos Destroyed; Loud Music Trial Update

Aired February 11, 2014 - 13:30   ET


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Clearly, Democrats are concerned about him, and they want to try to continue to knock him down. But this is going to be a moment that we are -- we haven't seen in a long time.

Again, the public -- in private, raising a lot of money throughout the day here for Republican Governors Association -- Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Dana, thanks very much.

Once he starts taking questions, we're going to monitor what he is saying of this economic forum. If he addresses the bridge scandal, we'll break in so we can all hear his latest comments on that.

Other news. Millions of people across the southeast right now are hunkering down due to a winter storm that forecasters are predicting could be, in their words, "catastrophic and historic." The headline in the "Atlanta Journal Constitution" saying it all: "Here we go again," in reference to the crippling snow and ice two weeks ago that caught Georgia unprepared, left thousands stranded on highways. Right now, getting rain. But the suburbs to the north are already starting to see snow. This photo was taken just a short time ago by CNN staffer in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Our meteorologist, Chad Myers, is in the CNN Severe Weather Center right now.

Power companies, Chad, as you know, and you've been warning for the past 24 hours, they're warning customers, get ready. Hundreds of thousands of you are about to lose electricity. How bad is it going to be?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It will be worse than the storm in 2000 that put down about 350,000 people without power. Significantly worse than there.

And here is another issue. It's going to be an issue for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina. So all of those states that could or sometimes do send a mutual aid to Georgia to put our power lines back up, will have their own problems.

Wolf, I know you said 100,000. But easily, in my opinion, if this happens, like I forecast, it will be millions of people without power. And many of them will be without power for a long time. Because you can't put two million power lines back up that quickly.

There will be millions of trees down. Augusta, you're right in the middle of this bulls-eye. There's usually a golf tournament in Augusta. Think how many thousands of trees will fall with the ice? We could see an inch of ice on every tree. Trees can't handle that kind of weight.

So the warnings, from Texas all the way to North Carolina, into New Jersey, as well. The storm comes in tonight. Although it's raining now, it's the raining at 35. It starts to ice after midnight tonight badly. And it rains and ices in Atlanta, in Charlotte; Augusta; Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina is the scariest forecast I've ever seen: Two inches of liquid water raining at 30 degrees. Your only hope is that it's sleet, Wolf, and that when it hits the ground or the tree, it bounces off or bounces off the house. Because if that's all liquid water and it all freezes on trees, every tree is going to have some type of damage.

Then the storm hits you, hits Washington, D.C., with a snowstorm as it continues to develop and move up east coast. That white area there, that's at least three-fourths to one inch of ice. That purple area there, for you, that's between eight and 12 inches of snow. I don't know where D.C. puts 12 inches of snow on the Beltway.

It's going to be a rough couple days. It's coming to you in a couple. It's coming to us tonight -- Wolf?

BLITZER: So you're saying I should get out of here when? By Thursday?

MYERS: Where are you going to go?

BLITZER: I don't know. I'll go someplace.



MYERS: We're staying at the hotel.


MYERS: -- there's no chance.

BLITZER: 12 to 14 inches of snow in Washington, moving up towards New York City. Thursday, is that what we're talking about?

MYERS: Absolutely, yeah, Thursday afternoon. It even starts probably 9: 00 tomorrow night, but that's light. You can still get around tomorrow night. But by Thursday, the city, if the storm goes in this track, is crippled.

BLITZER: All right. We'll stay in very, very close with you, Chad. Thanks very much.

MYERS: You're welcome. BLITZER: Other news we're following, including a new book on Hillary Clinton hitting bookstores today. And her political opponents are bringing up once again the Monica Lewinski. Our newest commentator, Michael Smerconish, he's standing by live on whether the extra scrutiny will hurt Hillary Clinton's chances for the 2016 presidential nomination.


BLITZER: For all of us who are political news junky, it's never too early to talk about the 2016 presidential race. A lot of attention is on Hillary Clinton right now. She is clearly considered by many an early favorite for the Democratic nomination. Right now, CNN producers, by the way, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, poring over boxes and boxes of documents from the Clinton family friend that offers a certain glimpse into Clintons' private moments so many years ago. On top of that, the new book, "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton," hitting bookstores today.

One of co-authors says if Hillary Clinton does run for the White House again, it won't be like 2008.


AMIE PARNES, CO-AUTHOR: In 2016, you're going to see her embrace the fact she is a woman candidate more, which is something she didn't really do in 2008. And I think she heard from aides there was an arrogance at the top and people weren't really telling her what she needed to it hear. You're going to hear more of that from her -- or she is going to get some truth-tellers. And I think you're going to see a different ball game when it comes to technology. She really learned her lesson. She felt like Barack Obama ran circles around her campaign. And I think she is going to see a lot -- you're going to see a lot more of that.


BLITZER: Let's welcome our newest CNN contributor, Michael Smerconish, who is getting ready to launch a brand-new show Saturday mornings here on CNN.

Welcome, Michael, to CNN. Glad you're on our team.

Let's talk about Hillary Clinton, and the Monica Lewinski name, all of a sudden, resurrected over the past few days, in part, by Senator Rand Paul and Senator Paul's wife. So do Clinton's opponents believe she is vulnerable on this front?

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think it plays well for a primary audience, but I don't think it grows the tent one iota for a general election. If you're Rand Paul, Wolf, if you're Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and you're courting that very conservative constituency, within the GOP, the mere mention of the Clinton name is a fundraising magnet. But I don't think this wins you support among Independents when the rubber meets the road in a November general election. BLITZER: Because in 2008 when she was running for the Democratic presidential nomination, I don't remember any significant discussion of the Monica Lewinski affair in her bid to win the nomination. She obviously lost to the then-junior Senator from Illinois, Barack Obama. Do you remember any serious discussion at that time?

SMERCONISH: No. And why, if you were an opponent of Hillary Clinton, would you ever want to bring it up you? All it does is reinforce a very sympathetic portrayal of the former first lady. I'm sure her numbers rise at the mere mention of Monica Lewinski's name. People are acting as if this is news because she spoke ill of Lewinski. News would be if Hillary Clinton said something complimentary about the woman who carried on a relationship with her husband.

BLITZER: Yeah. So -- but I think you're right. I think as far as in a Republican primary or caucus, among the base, this presumably could help someone like Rand Paul, who is not only doubling down but tripling down on this whole frontal attack. But in a general election, probably not so much. What's your sense? I'm curious, because you studied this. You have taken a close look. Assuming she is healthy and she is -- and she has no more problems with blood clots in her brain or anything along those lines, I assume you agree with me, she is going to run.

SMERCONISH: It sure looks like she is going to run. I suspect he wants her to run, perhaps even more than she wants to run herself. But it's hard to see anyone denying her the nomination if she does go. Although, you know, it's very easy to look at her numbers when there is no opponent in the race and see that they're awfully high as compared to other Democrats. If she makes the run, it will be a tightening of the race, whether it's in a primary or in a general election. So I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that she skates all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But it's very hard to see who on the Republican side of the aisle can give her a strong run in the end.

BLITZER: Who do you -- who are the three or four who seem, at this point, from your perspective, Michael, the most formidable? We could take Chris Christie, at least for now, out of that mix.

SMERCONISH: Well, it certainly wouldn't be any of the usual suspects. I don't think that someone who is nominated from the very conservative quarters of the GOP ultimately could give her the run. So I think it's probably a Republican governor and someone who is not so identified with the Tea Party movement. That doesn't leave many people. I don't think it's Rubio. I don't think it's Cruz. I don't think that it's Rand Paul. It's going to be someone who today is perceived as being on a second level, who then emerges as they all fight for that very hard-core support.

BLITZER: Yeah. I hear you suggesting maybe someone like Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio. Maybe even Paul Ryan from Wisconsin. Those names seem to be gaining some momentum.

SMERCONISH: I think any of the three is as likely as anyone else to win the nomination as things stand today. But, you know, the Republican Party has got to decide whether they want to win primaries or win general elections. They have not yet altered the rules sufficiently, I think, to control that fringe factor. And that could be devastating in terms of the nomination.

BLITZER: What about the Democrats holding on to their majority in the Senate in November? The Republicans need a net gain of six. And it is certainly within reach.

SMERCONISH: Well, it is within reach. And I don't blame you for not bringing up the House because I see no possibility that the House is going to change hands. The question on the House side is whether that GOP margin increases. I think it's going to be very close. And I think history dictates that that six-year election out for the incumbent's party is a very tough race, a very tough year. So I don't know that the "D"s are going to be able to hold it. I think it will be within a whisker or two. And I think it will be determined by whether you see a GOP repeat of a nomination process of, Wolf, say, you know, the Christine O'Donnell's and the Richard Murdochs and the Todd Akins. That will be the saving grace of the "D"s holding control of the Senate. If more moderate influences are able to break through, I think the Republicans have a real shot.

BLITZER: I think you're probably right.

All right. Michael Smerconish, welcome to CNN.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BLITZER: You'll be a frequent visitor for sure.

Thank you for joining us.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

BLITZER: As her scandal ripples back to the surface, so does the question, where is Monica Lewinski? Shortly after Bill Clinton left office, Lewinski was everywhere. She wrote a book, appropriately entitled "Monica's Story." Then there was a stint as a weight-loss spokeswoman. Also a reality TV host. But since around 2006, she has been out of the spotlight. She moved to London, went back to school, got a master's degree in social psychology. Then around 18 months or so ago, reports surfaced she was planning to write a tell-all book for some $12 million. So far, though, no word on that book, no word on that contract. We're going to have more on this part of the story coming up later today in "The Situation Room."

We'll be right back after a short break.


BLITZER: Republicans investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya concluded the U.S. consulate was an easy target because there was no imminent threat. The White House failed to comprehend the threat or ignored it completely. Four Americans died in the September 11th attack, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. You could easily mistake it for a plot in a Hollywood film. FBI agents teaming up with cops in Italy to take down mafia crime families. Police raids targeting drug smuggling operations.

Our justice correspondent, Evan Perez, joins us with the latest.

Tell us about these arrests and this latest operation. It's pretty dramatic.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is dramatic, Wolf. Members of the Gambino family, among 24 people arrested in Italy, and in New York. In Italy, there was 17 arrests. In New York, there were seven. They are charged with drug trafficking and organized crime. This all ties into a family down in the southern part of Italy, the Lou Chassis (ph) family. It's an old-time mafia family. And according to the FBI and according to the Italian police, they're involved in everything from shipping drugs from South America to Italy and the United States and into Canada. But lately, they have also gotten into the heroin drug trade in Asia. BLITZER: So, as dramatic as this raid may be, does it really put much of a dent into the mafia's operations here in the United States?

PEREZ: You know, we don't have as many big headlines on the mafia as we did in the 1980s. But according to the FBI and Italian police, this is still a huge problem. They say this operation shows that the mob in Italy is very much still tied in to the mob families in New York and along the east coast of the United States. Recently there was an arrest in an old case, the "Good Fellas" heist from 1978. A 78-year-old member of the Lou Chassis (ph) family was arrested. So it goes to show the FBI is still this because they say it's still a major problem.

BLITZER: Always makes for good films.

PEREZ: That's right.

BLITZER: But it's a serious subject.

Evan, thanks very much.

Coming up, fight over photos of Osama bin Laden. Did the Pentagon break any laws when they issued orders on these personal pictures? Stand by. New information coming in.


BLITZER: More than two years after he was killed, there are still no public pictures of Osama bin Laden's body. Now we have a little more insight as to why that is.

Brian Todd is looking into the story for us.

So, do these pictures even exist?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They probably do exist, Wolf, and the CIA probably has them. The group Judicial Watch, right after bin Laden's death, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the public release of those photos. That was denied. About 11 days after that, after bin Laden's death, the group filed a lawsuit seeking release of these photos. That was kind of stalled, but just six hours after they filed that lawsuit, we now have the contents of an e-mail. When you see these redactions, you know you're on to something. Judicial Watch got this e-mail from a Freedom of Information Act request. This is an e-mail Admiral William McRaven, the Special Ops commander. You've interviewed him. He was in charge of the bin Laden raid. This was on May 13, a few hours after that lawsuit was filed. And in the e-mail, he's saying to some people -- we don't know who he's saying this to -- but he says, "Gentlemen, at this point, all photos should have been turned over to the CIA. If you still have them, destroy them immediately and get them to the --." And that is redacted. What the Judicial Watch said this means is that Admiral McRaven and the military are trying to cover up the fact that they wanted some of the photos destroyed, which would be the violation of the law if they're not preserving those photos, Wolf

This is Tom Fitton, of the group Judicial Watch, and what he says about this.


TOM FITTON, JUDICIAL WATCH: The troubling part of the McRaven directive is there was a lawsuit, many requests for these documents, and he's giving his people the option to destroy them. That isn't the way the law is supposed to be. And certainly if the records were classified, as the government suggests these were, there were other rules that may have been broken.


TODD: Tom Fitton saying that under the Freedom of Information Act, Wolf, you have an obligation to at least preserve these documents and not destroy them. No word yet from the Pentagon on this. No comments from McRaven on any of this. So we'll work that for later.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. I know you'll have more coming up on "The Situation Room" later today.

That's it for me this hour. I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

There are new developments happening in that trial in Florida. Ashleigh Banfield is standing by.

Ashleigh, update our viewers on what is going on.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, it has been a very busy morning here in Jacksonville.

I'm live at the Duvall County courthouse right now where Michael Dunn has been undergoing, at first, some pretty easy questioning from his own lawyer, on direct examination, and then the sparks began to fly under cross-examination.

This is the same attorney that you're going to hear, John Guy, who did a lot of the prosecution's case in the George Zimmerman trial. If the voice sounds familiar and face sounds familiar, it's because it should.

He is, right now, grilling Michael Dunn, which I should add for context, all morning long, has been very, very stoic. And very, very clear. And there's been very little inconsistency, if any, from this witness stand.

Let's listen in live as the judge, Russell Healey, from the bench, continues to monitor the proceedings. Again, this is cross examination of this defendant.

JOHN GUY, PROSECUTOR: -- about whether or not you told Rhonda Rouer there was a gun?

MICHAEL DUNN, ON TRIAL FOR MURDER: I wrote in here that "I cannot recall if I ever conveyed the details of decision making to you."

GUY: Is that your letter?

DUNN: Yes.

GUY: OK. Is it -- it hasn't been altered, has it?

DUNN: I wouldn't know. I don't have the original.

GUY: OK. Well, you wrote it, right?

DUNN: It appears to be.

GUY: OK. Fair and accurate copy?

DUNN: Sure.

GUY: Judge, can I move this in as state's 202?

RUSSELL HEALEY, JUDGE: I think it is 202.

Mr. Strolla?

CORY STROLLA, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: No objection, your honor.

HEALEY: That will be received as state's exhibit 202.

GUY: Thank you.

Now you've got 202 in front of you. I ask you to turn your attention to the front page. Did you not write, in passing -- he mentioned in passing that "I made no mention of a gun to you."

DUNN: Right. So what's your point? Is that what it says?

GUY: Is that not what it says?

DUNN: Uh-huh.

GUY: OK. So you didn't tell Rhonda Rouer about a gun?

DUNN: That's not what this says. This says somebody else. Somebody else told me she didn't remember me mentioning the gun. That's a lot different than me mentioning the gun to her.

GUY: So you're going to stick with the fact that you didn't -- that you told her about a gun?

DUNN: Pardon?

GUY: So you're going stick with the account that you told her about the gun multiple times?

DUNN: Yes.

GUY: OK. And to be sure, you were not injured that night, right?

DUNN: Correct.

GUY: Your car was not damaged?

DUNN: Not to my knowledge.