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THE SITUATION ROOM
Is U.S. Military Stretched Too Thin?; Salt Lake City Mayor Calls for Impeachment of President Bush
Aired March 19, 2007 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, troops and equipment worn down by war. As the fight in Iraq begins its fifth year, the president asks for more time and more money.
But is America's military already stretched too thin?
Amid the shouts and the chants as protesters rally against the war, a top politician makes a stunning call -- to impeach, yes, to impeach the president. I'll speak about it with the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson.
And the president's top adviser a top target for Democrats. Now he's tied to a new scandal.
But does Karl Rove have a Teflon coating?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As the war in Iraq enters its fifth year, President Bush today is pleading with the nation for patience and asking Congress for funds that will let him pursue the war with no strings attached.
But is the U.S. military already stretched too thin?
CNN's Michael Ware is standing by live in Baghdad.
But first, let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, top military commanders are already looking ahead, wondering if they can cope if another conflict were to break out.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
STARR (voice-over): After four years in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, troops are exhausted and much of the equipment is worn out or even destroyed.
So now, if war broke out on a third front, could the U.S. win? Defense Secretary Robert Gates says absolutely. Yes. But...
ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We might not be able to respond according to the time lines we would wish.
STARR: General Peter Pace, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, secretly upgraded to "significant" the risk of being able to respond to a new threat. He said any new fight would require what he called brute force.
GENERAL PETER PACE, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: But you need precision intelligence to drop precision munitions. And a lot of our precision intelligence assets are currently being used.
STARR: The chief of the Army worries that troops back home aren't really ready.
GEN. PETER SCHOOMAKER, ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I am not satisfied with the readiness of our non-deployed forces.
STARR: Today, nearly half of the Army's combat brigades are already tied up fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the Army wants billions of dollars for the 18,000 additional improved armored vehicles urgently needed in Iraq.
The Marine Corps commandant also is concerned.
GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Suffice it to say that we have examined other war plans and our capability to respond to those plans and we see that we are lacking in some areas with our ability to do so.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
STARR: You know, Wolf, the top military brass continues to say yes, that they could and would win any third new fight. But it all might turn into another long, hard slog. That's something the former defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, had long warned about -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Barbara, thank you.
And heading into this war, now in the fifth year, the war in Iraq has already taken a very heavy toll, and there's no end in sight.
The war has already cost the United States $351 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The death toll is rising. The war has taken the lives -- take a look at this -- 3,220 U.S. troops dead. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths start at around 59,000. But by some accounts, they go up way, way higher than that.
Joining us now from Baghdad is CNN's Michael Ware.
He's covered this war from the very start -- Michael, as you look into the start of year five, what do you see?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is going to be yet another difficult year. Indeed, if the American public thinks it's seen the hard yards already, my great fear is that they are, in fact, yet to come.
What we're seeing is a level of attacks against coalition forces that's still almost -- that is more than two times than what they were two years ago.
We're seeing an array of forces opposing American troops that were not opposing them before.
We're seeing new mutations. And, indeed, we're seeing ever increasing sophistication among the insurgents.
Now, there may be splits and spats and factions within all of America's enemies, but nonetheless, at the end of the day, it is Iran and al Qaeda who thus far have been emboldened by this war.
BLITZER: We heard from the president earlier today, Michael, with a best case scenario that over the next few months or several months, things will begin to fall into place.
But you're there on the ground.
What's the worst case scenario for the next year?
WARE: The worst case scenario is that the civil war reignites to the fever pitch that we've been experiencing up until lately; that al Qaeda, you know, consolidates its stronghold, at least politically, in Western Anbar Province. There, we're seeing the Americans siding with rather brutal tribes in any bid to tackle the al Qaeda threat there.
But worst among all fears would be an increase, a step-up, a rise in the tempo of Iranian intervention in this country, directly targeting U.S. troops and significantly undermining the political gains that the U.S. mission here is desperately hoping to achieve.
BLITZER: We're also being told -- you're there on the scene -- that the Iraqi government has now asked the U.S. to hand over the former Iraqi vice president, a top aid to Saddam Hussein, Taha Yassin Ramadan, for execution as early as tomorrow morning your time, which would be in a few hours from now.
They didn't exactly do a great job executing Saddam Hussein or another top Iraqi official.
What's your assessment of what's going on?
WARE: Well, it's hard to say. I mean certainly there's no official comment at this stage. But we've become accustomed to that for a host of reasons. Obviously, these events, these executions are shrouded by a cloud or a veil of tight, tight security.
So it's no surprise that people will not be advertising this.
However, what we're hearing from is one of the defense lawyers that represented Saddam and some of the other co-defendants. This particular individual has been accurate in the past. What he is saying is that the former vice president, Taha Ramadan, has contacted his family and he has said to them that I am going to die at dawn on Tuesday morning.
And, Wolf, that is just a few hours away.
BLITZER: And have they learned how to do it?
Because the other two executions clearly were botched. We saw the cell phone video and we saw, in one of the hangings, obviously, a head actually be severed.
WARE: Yes, well, that's two issues that we have.
Firstly, during Saddam's execution, secret video taken on cell phones was secreted out or smuggled out of the execution chamber and quickly received wide play.
So after the first one, there had to be a security crackdown.
Then, at the second series of executions, two individuals, one of them was decapitated during their hanging.
So, again, measures had to be taken to address that.
At this stage, we honestly don't know what steps, if any, have been taken, how they're to be implemented or in what way, if any, that this will be different.
BLITZER: Michael Ware on the scene for us today.
Thank you, Michael.
Other news we're following, a suicide bomber targeting an American convoy in Afghanistan. We have some exclusive pictures from the scene.
Our senior international correspondent, Nic Robertson, is in Kabul -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the attack happened fairly early this morning. A suicide bomber driving a car full of explosives drove toward a U.S. Embassy convoy, targeting, it appears, a large black SUV in that convoy. It appeared to detonate its explosives almost as it was touching that vehicle.
The vehicle, the SUV, very heavily damaged. The windows blown out, according to embassy officials. One American in that convoy seriously injured. Several others receiving minor, minor injuries.
We now know that that American who was badly injured is now in a stable condition.
Police at the scene say right afterward, they discovered several unexploded artillery shells. And it's not clear if those were intended as a secondary explosion or if they were part of the suicide -- suicide driver's bomb in his vehicle that failed to go off.
The police also say that three people were killed in the attack. U.S. Embassy staff say that they realize that there may have been some Afghan deaths and casualties, people nearby at the scene, but they don't have details. They say, however, that they do offer their condolences.
But this is a road that has been targeted by suicide bombers in the past.
There's been no claim of responsibility so far. It is believed the Taliban were behind the attack. They have vowed to continue to attack in the future and this particular road is a road that's used heavily by NATO, ISAF troops and by U.S. personnel as they move between Kabul and the U.S. air base at Bagram, north of the city -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson on the scene in Kabul.
Let's go to Jack Cafferty.
He's in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as we enter the fifth year of the war in Iraq, it's worth noting a couple of things.
In May of 2003, President Bush stood in front of a banner that said "Mission Accomplished" and told us that major combat operations in Iraq were over.
The truth is almost four years later, we're a very long way from "Mission Accomplished." And combat operations go on there everyday.
Here's some of what has been accomplished.
Three thousand two hundred twenty U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and more are dying there every day.
Tens of thousands more have been wounded.
We have spent hundreds of billions of our dollars on the war and there is no end in sight.
Four years after we invaded Iraq, instead of bringing our troops home, we're sending thousands more over there to be involved in what has become an all out civil war.
A new poll of Iraqis shows 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in the U.S. and coalition troops -- 18 percent.
Eighty-six percent of Iraqis are concerned that someone in their household will be a victim of violence.
I wonder what that percentage was under Saddam Hussein?
Meanwhile, President Bush keeps giving the same version of the same speech over and over again -- got to stay the course, we have to be patient, it's important for the war on terror, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The U.S. wasn't involved in World War II this long and we won that one.
So the question is this -- is it too late to ask Americans to be patient when it comes to the war in Iraq?
E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.
Now, this morning, the president was saying well, this new strategy is going to take months, Wolf, to see whether or not it's even working. I'm -- I don't know. I'm -- I'm getting tired of it all.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
BLITZER: You're going to be interested in this interview we have this hour, because coming up, the mayor of a conservative American city says it's time to punish President Bush for the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ROCKY ANDERSON, SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: Because there's never been a time when impeachment was more appropriate than now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: My interview with the outspoken mayor of Salt Lake City. That's coming up.
Also, Karl Rove linked to a new scandal.
Can the president's top adviser survive this one?
Plus, Iran's president coming to America. First, he has a new message for the world. Find out what he's promising us now.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Top presidential adviser Karl Rove linked to this new scandal.
But some insiders are predicting he'll come out of it unscathed once again.
Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.
He's keeping an eye on this part of the story -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, those predictions stem from Rove's track record of knowing just how far to push the political envelop.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
TODD (voice-over): That sound Karl Rove hears from up the street could be the political knives being unsheathed for him yet again.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Karl Rove was in the middle of this mess from the beginning.
TODD: E-mails linking the president's top political adviser to the firings of U.S. attorneys have some Democrats believing they've got him this time.
But do they?
None of the e-mail puts the firings squarely at Rove's feet. And CNN's contributor William Bennett says this effort to get Rove in front of Congress is part of a Democratic obsession with the man who's credited with engineering Republican victories in two controversial presidential elections and one mid-term.
WILLIAM BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I know him. I've worked with him. He's a very smart guy. I can tell you, not everything originates with him.
TODD: But Rove was involved in the CIA leak scandal, acknowledged by journalist Robert Novak as one of his sources for the identity of former operative Valerie Plame Wilson.
VALERIE PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name and he still carries a security clearance to this day.
TODD: But leaking a covert operative's name is not illegal if you don't know they're undercover. Rove went before a grand jury five times to clarify what he knew, who he spoke to and when -- even clearing up previous misstatements -- and he was never charged.
JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: Love him or hate him, the guy is a shrewd tactician, a shrewd politician. And I think he knows how he can, you know, keep himself at a far enough distance from some of these activities so they do not hurt him or backfire on him and Bush politically.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: One former colleague says Rove may have a problem if it's discovered that he was involved in firing U.S. attorneys who were investigating Republicans. But this person does not believe they have Rove this time either. After all, the former colleague says, Rove was not among those who misled Congress about the firings -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, there are some people who are remembering that back in Texas, he testified under oath before the Texas legislature and that was not necessarily a pleasant experience for him.
What do you know about that, Brian?
TODD: Well, that's correct, Wolf, he did do that.
I spoke with Wayne Slater, who's written about two books on Karl Rove. He recalled an episode in Texas back in 1991. Rove had been appointed to a university's board of regents and when he was called to testify for confirmation, Democratic state senators pretty much went off on him, grilling him about his tactics in previous elections, including his relationship with an FBI agent who had investigated opponents of Rove's clients.
Slater says Rove and George W. Bush remember that very well and they likely won't let it happen again. Others also say it's like the president will exert executive privilege to keep Rove from testifying, as is his right to do.
BLITZER: All right, thank you.
We'll continue to watch this story with you, Brian.
Betty Nguyen is joining us with a closer look once again at some other important stories -- Betty.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, Wolf.
Well, prosecutors in Queens says -- or say, I should say -- three New York City police detectives are now charged in the shooting death of an unarmed man just hours before his wedding. Two of the detectives are facing felony manslaughter charges in the death of Sean Bell, who died in a barrage of 50 bullets.
Now, the detectives said that they thought Bell and two friends were planning to retrieve a gun from their car.
Check this out, though. The world's largest passenger airliner making its American debut. Not one, but two Airbus A-380s landed in the U.S. today. This one in Los Angeles, another at New York's Kennedy Airport.
Now, both airports have spent millions of dollars to build special gates to accommodate the giant planes, which can hold up 550 passengers. Today's flights were just demonstrations.
And the bottom line on Wall Street, news and rumors of mergers helped fuel a rally, pushing all three major indexes higher. The Dow climbed more than 100 points, gaining about 1 percent, along with the Nasdaq and the S&P. So it's not a bad day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Betty, thank you for that. Coming up, an exclusively behind the scenes look at some training for one of the most dangerous missions of the war in Iraq. We're going to show you how it's done and what's at stake.
Plus, Senator Arlen Specter right here live in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I'll ask the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican if he thinks Alberto Gonzales should be fired.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: It's among the most dangerous wartime missions -- combat search and rescue.
CNN's Alex Quade shows us how very close calls are helping train new pilots.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
ALEX QUADE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Downed air crews...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sandy 1, this is Mud Hog 5-1.
QUADE: ... looking for cover, isolated in the middle of a war zone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you guys threatened right now?
QUADE: ... desperate for rescue before enemy insurgents find them first.
Training based on the real thing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That's what happened to these soldiers -- their Chinook in a sandstorm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were on a resupply mission. Dust in the sand. The aircraft started to roll. We really didn't have time to think. We hit the ground. The aircraft rolled over onto its right side.
QUADE: Two combat search and rescue helicopters, known as "Jollies," responded. The pilot, call sign "Shrink."
(on camera): They worried that they -- that you would come get them because of the sandstorm.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That crashed helicopter is like a beacon. The insurgents -- they will definitely descend on that. They would have became POWs.
QUADE (voice-over): So "Shrink" and the second Jolly, piloted by "Shepp (ph)," flew into the same sandstorm that took the Chinook out.
(on camera): How difficult are the conditions?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of like being in a heavy rainstorm without the windshield wipers on.
QUADE (voice-over): The soldiers, injured but alive, waiting for the pararescumen, or P.J.s, just like they've learned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The P.J.s run out armed, you know, to the teeth. They kind of drag them back to the aircraft, you know, because we need to go.
QUADE: They now face an insurgent ambush, the event sketched by one of their copilots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were being engaged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: With multiple missiles fired from shoulder insurgents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Course crude missiles come up. I kind of brake to the right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was being shot at. And the only thing I knew to do at that time was to turn back into it and put as many rounds in that area that I could. We evaded the missiles, broke hard, banked, caught our breath and flew the rest of the way back to our base and delivered the five individuals to the hospital.
We know that we're going to go through some hard stuff and -- but that's why we do it.
QUADE: They're doing it in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they say the two soldiers have been recovered. The crash site has been secured.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both of the soldiers were recovered.
QUADE: Combat search and rescuemen, ready for the next call.
STARR: There is a recover operation going on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it happened once, there's a very good chance it could happen again.
QUADE: Alex Quade, CNN, Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And tomorrow, Alex shows us front line rescue stories from the water.
Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, the mayor of a big American city accusing President Bush of abuse of power, breach of trust and misleading the country into war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: I think all of that together calls for impeachment and certainly would communicate to the rest of the world, that is not who we are, as the American people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'll talk to the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson, about his call to impeach President Bush.
Plus, killer pet food -- Mary Snow has been monitoring new information coming in right now from the FDA. Find out if the cans in your kitchen could be deadly to your pets.
Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Iraq's former vice president now only hours away from execution. An attorney for the family of Taha Yassin Ramadan saying he'll be hanged at dawn tomorrow for the 1982 deaths of 148 men and boys in the Iraqi town of Dujail.
Also, Tommy Thompson about to join the already crowded field of Republican White House hopefuls. The former secretary of Health & Human Services and former Wisconsin governor set to officially announce his candidacy April 4th.
And a New Jersey couple coming forward with the other winning ticket worth half of the record jackpot in the Mega Millions lottery. A Georgia man won the other half of the prize. They're all a lot richer.
I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
As the war in Iraq enters its fifth year today, U.S. troops are getting reinforcements and gearing up for a longer, harder fight against a very deadly foe.
Our chief national correspondent, John King, is in Baghdad -- John.
JOHN KING, CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, to visit Iraq at the four year mark is to see case after case of lesson learned the hard way. Back at the beginning, you would see Humvees here with canvas doors, in some cases no doors at all.
Now, though, to drive a Humvee off base, you must have this -- and upgraded armor package that starts right against the frame and comes out through the door, including ballistic glass in here to make them more resilient to IEDs. We're also seeing more and more of these armored security vehicles providing convoy security. They are designed in a way that the troops say makes them much more resilient to IED and EFP attacks. Because of that, the troops say they love these.
Critics back in Washington, of course, say, what took so long?
(voice-over): This urgent work says it all: additional armor being installed on Humvees in Baghdad. For troops facing an enemy far more resilient and resourceful than their leaders anticipated, it's absolutely vital.
This shop in Baghdad processes roughly 30 Humvees a day, welcome upgrades to troops like these Michigan National Guard military police patrols.
SERGEANT KYLE HABERMAN, MICHIGAN NATIONAL GUARD: I'm seeing everything out there. You see EFPs. You see IEDs, regular IEDs. You see homemade ones. Under-the-ground ones, those are the worst ones right now.
KING: While the progress in providing advanced armor is welcomed, the urgent need is a reminder of what critics call four years of mistakes and miscalculation, from bad intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs to unarmored vehicles vulnerable to attack.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, if history was giving its verdict today, I believe history's verdict would be that this was an unwise choice, badly implemented.
KING: Four years ago, even two years ago, the administration expected troop levels would be sharply down by now. Instead, more troops are flown into Iraq, forcing more repeat deployments, and stretching the military supply and equipment lines.
HAASS: History will show the administration underestimated what could go wrong.
KING: Some troops grumble about the strain of second and third deployments. But, when asked about growing opposition to the war back home, the response is fairly standard.
HABERMAN: I'm out on missions doing what I do, and I don't really have anything to say about that.
KING (on camera): Like the troops, the commanders say they also can't worry about the political debate back in Washington. On this base three years ago, anyone here was living in tents. Now it is a growing city of housing complexes, warehouses, and repair facilities for everything from Humvees, to helicopters, even unmanned aerial surveillance drones.
It is clear now that a military criticized at the beginning of this war for not having a long-range plan is stockpiling supplies and resources with the expectation of being here in Iraq for some time to come -- Wolf. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: All right, John -- John reporting from Balad, the U.S. military base in Balad in Iraq.
From Florida, to New York, to California, there were more rallies against the war in Iraq today, after thousands gathered in protests across the country over the weekend.
One big-city mayor joined demonstrators here in Washington on Saturday and made a stunning declaration. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROCKY ANDERSON (D), MAYOR OF SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH: Our love for our nation, our regard for our Constitution brings us here today to call for the impeachment of a president who has done and continues to do such tremendous harm to our beloved country.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And joining us now is the mayor of Salt Lake City, Rocky Anderson.
Mr. Mayor, thanks very much for coming in.
ANDERSON: Hi, Wolf. It's my pleasure.
BLITZER: When I heard your speech on Saturday -- I was watching C-SPAN -- I was pretty shocked to hear that the mayor of Salt Lake City is calling for the impeachment of the president.
Why should this president be impeached?
ANDERSON: Well, this is a unique time in our nation's history.
I think, if impeachment were ever justified, this certainly is the time. This president, by engaging in such incredible abuses of power, breaches of trust with both the Congress and the American people, and misleading us in to this tragic, unbelievable war, the violation of treaties, other international law, our Constitution, our own domestic law, and then his role in heinous human rights abuses, I think all of that, together, calls for impeachment...
BLITZER: All right.
ANDERSON: ... and certainly would communicate to the rest of the world, that is not who we are, as the American people.
BLITZER: Here's what the Constitution says, Article 2, Section 4: "The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for and conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Let's go through these specifics. I assume you don't believe he -- he engaged in treason?
ANDERSON: No. We're talking about high crimes and misdemeanors. And what the founders and those who engaged in the ratification debate had clearly in mind -- and this was derived from the British -- is that these are political crimes, abuses of power.
During the debate, they even talked about a president lying to Congress would constitute grounds for impeachment. So, what this president has done, in violation of our laws -- they -- they never contemplated it would have to be a violation of the criminal law, but abuses of power injurious to our nation.
ANDERSON: And we have got it in spades. There's never been a time when impeachment was more appropriate than now.
BLITZER: You say he's lied to the American people; he's lied to Congress.
What are you referring to specifically?
ANDERSON: Well, he misled us into this war. The president...
BLITZER: Well, it's one thing to misled. But it's another thing to say he lied.
ANDERSON: Well, he knew. He had the national intelligence estimates where the State Department's own intelligence agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told him that they completely disagreed, as did his Department of Energy, with this whole notion that those aluminum tubes that Saddam Hussein was acquiring could be used to build a nuclear capability.
The State Department's own intelligence bureau made clear four months -- this was in an October 1, 2002, national intelligence estimate, said that there is no compelling evidence he's building up a nuclear capability.
BLITZER: But he points out -- he points out, Mr. Mayor, that the then director of the CIA, George Tenet, when he pressed them and said, are you sure that there are weapons ever mass destruction stockpiles in Iraq, the then CIA director told him, "It's a slam-dunk, Mr. President."
So, if you hear that from the head of the CIA, and you're president, what are you supposed to do?
ANDERSON: Well, what I would do is, if I had the State Department's own intelligence agency telling me just exactly the opposite, and they put it in writing, and they said that they found it highly dubious -- those were their words -- this whole notion that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger, if I had that information, I would feel like I have either got to clear it up and get everybody on board, make sure we have consensus, or you have got to disclose that to Congress and the American people.
BLITZER: Why do you believe the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has taken impeachment off the table?
ANDERSON: I think it has more to do with politics and a very short-term look at what they need to do. And I think that they have got 2008 clearly in view.
I think the Democratic Party, frankly, has been incredibly timid, and I think that there's a lot of culpability certainly with Congress and certainly with many of the Democrats in Congress.
BLITZER: You're really going after not only the president and the vice president, but some of your fellow Democrats. You are basically saying, they don't have the guts to step up and impeach the president.
ANDERSON: Well, I think that's -- I think that's clear beyond anybody's speculations.
It's -- the fact that anybody would say that impeachment is off the table, when we have a president who has been so egregious in his violations of our Constitution, a president who -- who asserts a unitary executive power, that is absolutely chilling.
BLITZER: Rocky Anderson is the mayor of Salt Lake City.
Mr. Mayor, thanks for coming in.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Wolf. Good talking to you.
BLITZER: And up ahead tonight: almost a dozen dogs and cats killed, their deaths linked to their food. Now officials are warning it could get worse.
And coming up in our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour: an Iraqi who took part in an iconic moment in Iraq's history, why he now says he regrets taking Saddam Hussein's statue down.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The FDA has just given an update on a story that has millions of pet owners worried and frightened, that massive recall of dog and cat food linked to the deaths of at least 10 animals so far.
Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York. She's watching this story.
A lot of nervous pet owners out there, Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf.
And FDA officials, just a short time ago, said that they expect the number to increase beyond the nine cats and one dog that have already died. The FDA says they're focusing on wheat gluten as a likely source of contamination, but they still are not 100 percent certain.
Investigators are looking at one supplier it didn't name. As the FDA searches for answer, vets are fielding a flood of questions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lincoln Square Veterinary. This is Ellen (ph).
SNOW (voice-over): This small animal hospital in New York is getting a steady stream of calls from anxious pet owners. Cat and dog owners are worried they could accidentally kill their pets by feeding them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What type of food do you feed him?
SNOW: Menu Foods, which is based in Ontario, has recalled its cuts-and-gravy-style pet food, after some animals died and others became sick with kidney failure.
The products are sold under many different brands throughout North America, and they're sold at major retailers, like Wal-Mart, Safeway and PetSmart. Of the brands recalled so far, 51 are for dogs and 40 for cats.
DR. DONALD SMITH, CORNELL UNIVERSITY: Because there are so many brands and labels involved, people need to check to the Web sites to identify whether or not they have in their possession those brands or labels that have been recalled by Menu Foods.
SNOW: A spokeswoman for Menu Foods says the company expanded its call center to field calls. And she says the company is vigorously investigating the cause with the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pet food.
Investigators say they are testing food and tissue samples for clues. Vets say it's important for pet owners to act quickly, since kidney failure can be treated if it's detected in time.
DR. ANN HOHENHAUS, THE ANIMAL MEDICAL CENTER: There's nothing that you could see on the outside of the cat that might give you a clue that it had kidney failure.
SNOW (on camera): So, how would you know that the cat is sick?
HOHENHAUS: Not eating, maybe a decreased water consumption or an increased water consumption, a little vomiting, a little diarrhea, just general malaise. (END VIDEOTAPE)
SNOW: Now, a list the of the affected products is listed on Menu Foods' Web site. Menu Foods, by the way, is located on -- in Ontario, Canada -- the Web site address, www.menufoods/recall.
Now, the Food and Drug Administration also has posted some information on its Web site as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I know a lot of our viewers are going to go there and -- and make sure they have this information they need, Mary. Thank you for that.
Let's check in with Betty Nguyen once again for a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Betty.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.
Cincinnati-based Chiquita Banana is pleading guilty today to doing business with terrorists. The company is agreeing to a $25 million fine for paying paramilitary groups, rebels, to protect its farm in Colombia. But that may not be the end of the case. Colombia's president says he is in favor of extraditing company officials to face trial in his country.
Well, a terror confession at Guantanamo Bay to tell you about -- according to the Pentagon, Waleed Bin Attash told a military panel there that he was responsible for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Seventeen U.S. sailors died in that attack. Bin Attash also says he was behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The confessions are revealed in Pentagon transcripts released today.
The State Department is clearing the way for Iran's defiant anti- American president to come to the U.S. Officials say they are using -- or issuing a visa for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to travel to New York to speak to the United Nations Security Council. It's poised to discuss new sanctions against Iran for its refusal to stop enriching uranium. Ahmadinejad, who will traveling with the delegation, also needing visas, is tentatively scheduled to meet with the council on Wednesday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Betty, thank you.
And, by the way, the Iranian leader is blogging -- yes, blogging -- about the war and President Bush. And he had harsh words for U.S. policy in Iraq as the war enters its fifth year.
Jacki Schechner is checking in with that blog -- Jacki.
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: That's right, Wolf.
The blog launched last August, and it's not updated very often. But the latest post did show up over the weekend. The post starts with what is allegedly a letter from an American mother who lost her son fighting in the war in Iraq. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expresses his sympathies for this alleged mother, and says Iran would not initiate any war. He goes on to accuse the United States of paranoidal bullying and expansion policies, and also says that the U.S. government keeps its people in absolute censorship, a state of absolute censorship. He also says that he hopes that there is an early withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Now, there is no way for CNN to confirm that it's actually President Ahmadinejad blogging, but that is what this has always purported to be -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you, Jacki.
Up ahead, Jack Cafferty responds to the president's plea for patience in the war in Iraq. We will -- we will get to Jack and "The Cafferty File."
Also: Should the attorney general be fired over the firing of those eight federal prosecutors? I will ask the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter. He's standing by live.
We will be right back.
BLITZER: The attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, has apologized for the way he handled the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. But is that good enough? Some members of Congress say Gonzales himself should be fired.
Joining us now, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. He's the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R-PA), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE RANKING MEMBER: Nice to be here. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: A lot of Democrats -- some Republicans -- say he should be fired.
What do you say?
SPECTER: I want to see how these two inquiries come out on the national security letters and on the requests for resignations from the U.S. attorneys before making a judgment on that.
BLITZER: You want White House officials to come before your panel, the Judiciary Committee, and testify under oath?
SPECTER: I think that they should.
There are many precedents for having people in similar situations. Some of the information is just factual information about hearing complaints, for example, about a U.S. attorney and transmitting that to the -- to the Department of Justice. I don't think they should be asked about the advice they gave to the president. But factual matters, I think they ought to come forward.
BLITZER: Here's what the chairman, your friend Pat Leahy, said yesterday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEAHY: I want the answers. They can either supply the answers voluntarily, or we will subpoena them. It's as simple as that.
The American people deserve accountability. They know that the story changes every single day when you pick up the paper from the White House. They deserve accountability. We will get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You agree with him on that? If they don't come voluntarily, including Karl Rove, the president's top political adviser, you should subpoena them?
SPECTER: I think we may yet be able to work it out, Wolf.
When there have been these conflicts between the president and the Congress, there's frequently been an accommodation, and I'm not prepared to say until we hear what the president is going to say. There may be no controversy.
BLITZER: What if they say, he's not coming up, Karl Rove?
SPECTER: Well, maybe they will say, we will let him appear and give statements on an informal basis.
Maybe they will...
BLITZER: The chairman doesn't seem to be happy with that.
SPECTER: Well, we haven't discussed it.
And I think, until we have the president's position, and have a chance to talk about it, I'm not going to make a final commitment on it.
BLITZER: But, if you were the chairman right now of the Judiciary Committee -- and you were until the elections in November -- what would you want, at a -- at a minimum, in terms of Harriet Miers, Karl Rove, and others?
SPECTER: I would want to know what the facts are, which, so far, not very many people are looking at.
I want to know why these men, and woman, were asked to resign. And then I want to make a judgment about it, as to whether it was proper or not.
Yesterday, Senator Schumer said on Sunday's show that four U.S. attorneys were asked to resign either because they didn't want to prosecute somebody who shouldn't have been prosecuted, or they were restrained from prosecuting somebody or investigating somebody who should have been investigated or prosecuted.
I would like to know the specifics. I'm writing to Senator Schumer to ask that. He's in the middle of a campaign as chairman of the Democratic Campaign Committee -- and it sounds like it -- as opposed to an objective investigation to find out what the facts are.
BLITZER: He was asked about that yesterday, the suggestion by you and others that he has a conflict, because he's very much involved in trying to get Democrats elected. At the same time, he is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Here what he said in response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS")
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Yes. This is much too serious to be about politics. And the bottom line is, our committee is simply looking into the misdeeds in the executive branch, in the Justice Department, in the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He says there's no conflict, in his words, whatsoever.
SPECTER: Well, I think it is much too serious to be involved in politics.
But I saw him on your screen a few minutes ago calling it a mess. I hear him talking about it as a purge. I see him putting Senator Domenici's picture on the Web site of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
I think he's doing a spectacular job of making it a big political issue to win Democratic seats.
BLITZER: In fairness to Senator Schumer, though, Senator Gordon Smith, Republican of Oregon, Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, they, too, have called on Gonzales to resign.
SPECTER: Well, that's a little different than putting Senator Domenici's picture on a Web site and urging his defeat in an election.
Talking about the attorney general is very, very different.
BLITZER: Is there smoke -- I mean, there's smoke here, but is there fire? You have been around Washington for a long time. Give us your assessment.
SPECTER: I want to know what the facts are.
I want to know what the reasons were for asking these men and the one woman to resign. And, so far, we haven't gotten at the facts. And, as soon as we know the facts, we can stop all the conclusionary statements, that it's a big mess, that it's a purge, without really knowing exactly what happened. And, when we do know, I will speak up.
BLITZER: I know you will.
Senator, thanks for coming in.
SPECTER: Nice being with you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And still ahead: Jack Cafferty. He wants to know, is it too late to ask Americans to be patient when it comes to the war in Iraq? Jack with your e-mail -- when we come back.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack Cafferty and "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: As we enter the fifth year of the war in Iraq, President Bush wants Americans to be patient. We asked this hour if it's too late to ask Americans to do that.
Joseph in California writes: "It was too late months ago, when the civil war started. President Bush is in such a bubble of denial, that he no longer can be trusted. Furthermore, the Iraqis have demonstrated they don't deserve any form of democracy. Does anyone wonder why only Saddam could keep all those Muslim nutcases in check?"
David in New Mexico: "Jack, George W. Bush only wants Americans to remain patient long enough for him to slip out the back door of the White House and retire to his ranch in Texas. History will judge him and his administration as the most corrupt in the short life of our nation. At this point, Bush, like Nixon, is only hoping to put us off long enough to stay out of prison."
George in Pennsylvania: "Most of the people who aren't patient are you people in the liberal media. You put your cut-and-run slant to everything that happens in Iraq. We can and will win this battle, especially if you libocrats would just shut up and support our mission and our troops."
Nathan writes from Austin, Texas: "I was once a supporter of the war in Iraq. I made the mistake of believing my government knew better than me. I made the mistake of believing that the Iraqi people wanted a democracy. It's very plain to see they don't. How can President Bush ask us to be patient? What about the families of those soldiers who die protecting people that don't want our protection?"
And Vicki in Crystal Lake, Illinois: "It's way too late to ask the American people to be patient with this war. Bush is just trying to run out the clock and hand over the worst foreign policy disaster in our history to the next president, who will be a Democrat. It's not too late for impeachment, though."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, where you can read of these online -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Did you see the interview we did with Rocky Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake City, in which he says the president should be impeached? This is the mayor of Salt Lake City, not the mayor of Berkeley, California.
CAFFERTY: He's not the only person in this country that feels that way, I don't think.
BLITZER: I know you get a lot of viewers who write to you about that, as well.
Jack, thanks very much. See you back here in an hour.
We're back, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
Let's go to "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" -- Kitty Pilgrim sitting in for Lou tonight -- Kitty.
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