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THE SITUATION ROOM

Senator Larry Craig: I'm Not Gay; Threat of Nuclear Holocaust

Aired August 28, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Christine.
Happening now, Senator Larry Craig declares he's not gay and never has been. But tonight Republican leaders want answers about Craig's arrest in a men's bathroom and about the guilty plea he says he now regrets. We're going to let you hear from the senator himself. We'll show you new details also from the arrest report. We're investigating contradictions in Craig's story and the possible consequences for him and for his Republican Party.

Also this hour, the threat of nuclear holocaust, President Bush delivers a dire warning as tensions with Iran ratchet up even higher.

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

Tonight, Senator Larry Craig says he made a bad decision when he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in a public men's room. That decision forcing him to come forward today to deny he's gay and to deny he did anything wrong in Minneapolis at that airport bathroom. Listen to some of what the Idaho Republican said just a few hours ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. And for that, I apologize.

In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel either from an attorney, staff, friends or family.

That was a mistake. And I deeply regret it. For eight months, leading up to June 11th, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the "Idaho statesman". If you saw the article today, you know why. Let me be clear. I am not gay. I never have been gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go right to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's on the ground in Boise, Idaho, for us tonight. Some major contradictions, Dana, in what the senator is now saying as opposed to what the police alleged back in June. DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And a contradiction, Wolf, as well between what the senator is now saying and what the senator admitted in a plea deal just earlier this month. And you just heard the senator point his finger here at this newspaper, his hometown newspaper, the "Idaho Statesman".

He said that it is this newspaper because of a six month investigation into allegations that the senator is gay and questions about whether or not he engaged in misconduct, inappropriate sexual behavior in public places, this newspaper actually issued the report in the paper today. He said it is that witch hunt, as he called it that made the senator do something that he should not have done in this plea agreement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): He pleaded guilty hoping no one, not even his wife, would find out. Senator Larry Craig insisted that was his mistake, not the lewd conduct he admitted in a court of law.

CRAIG: That overreaction was a mistake, and I apologize for my judgment. Further more, I should not have kept this arrest to myself and I should have told my family and my friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway, because I am not gay.

BASH: Standing in the hot Boise sun, Craig was trying to explain what happened June 11th in this public bathroom in the Minneapolis airport. An undercover police officer said Craig went into the men's room known for sexual activity and used several suggestive signals. Craig tapped his right foot, the arresting officer reported.

I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to my foot. Craig was arrested, fingerprinted and photographed. At the time of arrest, according to the police report, Craig denied the officer's account.

But nearly two months later, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid more than $500 in fines. Now he says both the police officer's report and his own sworn statement are false.

CRAIG: I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away.

BASH: Craig's explanation came nowhere close to satisfying disappointed conservatives in the state he's represented for a quarter century.

BRYAN FISCHER, IDAHO VALUES ALLIANCE: I believe he should resign, because I believe character is an extremely important qualification for public service. And I believe the senator by his own admission has acknowledged that he's fallen short of the standard that we should expect from public servants.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BASH: That seems to be the general sentiment here among Craig's fellow Republicans in Idaho, that his explanation today simply was not credible. I spoke with one influential Republican who has known Senator Craig for decades who said he watched the statement with a bunch of movers and shakers, if you will, in Republican politics here in Idaho and that the sentiment in the room was, as this person put it, quote, "Larry Craig's political career is probably over" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So based on what you're hearing from people in Idaho, Dana, especially conservative Republicans, they simply want him to go away, I take it?

BASH: Well, that is -- this particular Republican who I spoke with, he said he would not be surprised, Wolf, if a group of Republicans got together in the next 24, 48 hours, and approach Senator Craig and did say, look, it's time for you to go, because you have so many different things at issue here. You have of course the political controversy and the challenge that he has to convince the people of Idaho and around the country that he really did make a mistake in pleading guilty, not in the actual actions.

Then you also have a big legal controversy, as you can imagine here, Wolf. This is a man who is elected to uphold the laws of the land and he signed a plea agreement in a court of law saying that there's no way he's innocent. Now he's saying he's going to go back and try to overturn that. That is something that is simply monumental to try to overcome legally and of course politically.

BLITZER: Dana Bash on the ground for us in Boise, Idaho -- Dana, thanks.

He's a strong proponent of a traditional agenda as it is called, to this turn of events involving Senator Craig, no doubt has a lot of people on Capitol Hill here in Washington as well as back in Idaho puzzled to put it mildly. Let's go to Carol Costello. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. You've been looking at this, the notion of who is the real Larry Craig?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: That's a really tough question to answer, Wolf. I mean there are plenty of people wondering that. And allegations about Craig's sexuality, they've been swirling for two decades.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO (voice-over): Gay rights groups call Senator Larry Craig the worst kind of Jekyll and Hyde, conservative in public but something very different in private. That he was arrested at a men's bathroom and convicted of disorderly conduct comes as no surprise.

MATT FOREMAN, NATIONAL GAY AND LESBIAN TASK FORCE: I just thought, here is another one of these anti-gay bigots that's caught with his pants down and it's just such a recurring pattern, I'd like for it to end, frankly.

COSTELLO: Senator Craig has voted against same-sex marriage and against extended protection for gays against hate crimes. He describes himself as a traditional family man, yet that bathroom incident. Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz says in general people who exhibit split behavior are conflicted about their sexuality, anguished about it, especially if they were raised to believe it's wrong.

DR. GAIL SALTZ, PSYCHIATRIST: Then the only way to make this acceptable, so to speak, to deal with the anxiety of thoughts that you may be gay, is to say to yourself, I am so not gay. I am the utter opposite of it.

CRAIG: I am not gay. I never have been gay.

COSTELLO: Senator Craig has repeatedly denied he's gay and he has denied it again, saying his plea of guilty was a mistake caused by stress from media scrutiny.

CRAIG: In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress the "Idaho Statesman" investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho.

COSTELLO: But rumors surrounding Senator Craig's sexuality have swirled for more than 20 years. In 1982 responding to questions about homosexual contact between congressmen and pages then Congressman Craig told NBC News...

CRAIG: I have always been aggressive and up front with what I believe in. And when I have people telling me that a whole series of false accusations are made against my character, frankly, it makes me mad as hell.

COSTELLO: Despite his anger, the accusations continued, making their way to a liberal blog written by Mike Rogers. It's dedicated to outing politicians.

MIKE ROGERS, BLOGACTIVE.COM: I think it's important that we expose this kind of hypocrisy in government where elective legislators want to live their lives one way and expect people to live by a different set of rules.

COSTELLO: Craig surely knew his reputation was on the line. So why plead guilty to disorderly conduct in a public bathroom, knowing his admission would become public record? Dr. Saltz has a theory.

SALTZ: There is something that will drive that need to be found out, be punished and have to pay a price because in fact they do feel very, very guilty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And as you heard Dana Bash say, Senator Craig now plans to hire a lawyer and try to get that guilty plea overturned.

BLITZER: Easier said than done. We're going to talk about the legal ramifications with Jeff Toobin later. Thanks very much, Carol, for that report. If you'd like to read, by the way, the full arrest report on Senator Craig, just go to CNN.com. You can see all the details of the arrest and the complaint as they were filed by the police officer. Just go to CNN.com for that.

Jack Cafferty is joining us now from New York with "The Cafferty File". You can't make this kind of stuff up, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You know who the happiest guy in the country is tonight about this Senator Craig story?

BLITZER: Who's that?

CAFFERTY: Michael Vick, got him off the front page. Once again, we have a trusted official who disappoints. And it seems the ones who don't are becoming scarcer every day. In this latest bit of outrage we have a sitting U.S. senator, Idaho Republican Larry Craig, busted for what police said was an attempt to engage in lewd conduct in a men's toilet in an airport in Minneapolis.

After trying to throw his weight around by telling the arresting officer, quote, "I'm a United States senator. What do you think of that?" In your case, Senator, not much -- after that, he did plead guilty to a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. And then he went blithely on his way and didn't bother to tell anybody about it, not his wife or his family, his Senate colleagues or, God forbid, the people he purports to represent in the state of Idaho.

No, he kept the whole thing secret. Why? Of course when it eventually came out, as it always does, the senator said he made a mistake pleading guilty. Made a mistake? You're either guilty or you're not. And the implications for a sitting U.S. senator of being busted in a public toilet trying to solicit sex from an undercover cop, well, they're just staggering.

Now this rather pathetic clown went before the press today to announce that he's hired a lawyer to try to overturn his guilty plea and he told the world that he hasn't made up his mind whether to run for reelection next year. Senator, you won't have to. That decision is going to be made for you. And my guess is fairly soon.

Here's the question. How would you describe Senator Larry Craig's political future? E-mail CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. A fiction writer could never come up with this stuff, Wolf.

BLITZER: I know. It's amazing what's going on. All right, Jack. Thanks very much.

Senator Craig's statement, as Jack just pointed out, certainly very, very bizarre. But some say it will make history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In a pantheon of bad political press conferences this one is going to have an exalted place on the wall. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We're going to let you decide for yourself. We're going to play for you Senator Craig's entire statement. You'll hear exactly what he said. If you missed it earlier here in THE SITUATION ROOM stick around for that.

Also, President Bush says the entire world should be afraid of Iran. He says its leaders are putting U.S. troops at risk in Iraq and he's talking about a possible nuclear holocaust -- those words from the president. But in a twist, Iran is now saying it just really wants to help out in Iraq.

And insane or not -- there are new revelations about the astronaut caught up in that bizarre love triangle. Find out her latest position on pleading temporary insanity.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In today's "Strategy Session", Democratic strategist James Carville and Republican strategist John Feehery. The subject, Idaho Senator Larry Craig who spoke out today publicly insisting he's not gay and did nothing wrong in an airport men's room earlier in the summer, this despite his arrest and conviction on charges stemming from complaints of lewd behavior.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: How does a senator in a situation like this deal with the enormous problem he clearly has?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Not like he did today. In a pantheon of bad political press conferences, this one is going to have an exalted place on the wall. I don't know if it's going to be one, two or three, but it's going to be up there. And then he said, well, I did it because the "Idaho American Statesman" made me do it and it was just one kind of excuse after another, completely unsatisfactory.

He answered no questions. We were watching it before and I was -- before the thing I was actually starting to feel a little sorry for the guy, a little sympathy for him, but not after that. I mean he's going to have a really tough go...

BLITZER: John, you worked for the speaker. You worked in the House for a long time. What do you think of that performance?

JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: First of all, I feel really bad for his family. I feel really bad for his staff, who all staff care very deeply for the senator. I think this is a tragic situation. You saw the Republican leadership move very quickly to try to establish some sort of an Ethics Committee investigation.

I think that's to protect themselves and try to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible. I don't know what the truth is. I wasn't there. I've never been to Minnesota's airport. But I think this whole situation is really tragic for Larry Craig and his staff.

BLITZER: Someone -- all of our viewers know you advised Bill Clinton. He had a sexual scandal that all of us remember involving Monica Lewinsky.

CARVILLE: Right.

BLITZER: What you have advised Larry Craig in a situation like this? How do you deal with the fallout from pleading guilty to a disorderly conduct at a public men's room at the Minneapolis airport, allegations of lewd behavior?

CARVILLE: I certainly wouldn't advise him to blame the "Idaho American Statesman", whatever the newspaper is out there. That would have been number one. Number two...

BLITZER: "The Idaho Statesman"...

CARVILLE: The "Idaho Statesman," I'm sorry. The "Idaho Statesman" -- number two, I certainly wouldn't have walked out of there without taking any questions or anything like that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and number three, he's a United States senator. He knew what he was signing. And the idea that this policeman made this whole thing up is -- I'm not saying policemen never make anything up, but that story doesn't look very good to me.

BLITZER: Yes, John.

FEEHERY: Pleading guilty was one of the biggest political blunders in the 20th Century, 21st Century...

CARVILLE: Well maybe he was guilty.

FEEHERY: Well, pleading guilty right away, not talking to your lawyer, I think these are just some various mistakes.

BLITZER: The only thing I can assume he thought that nobody would notice and it would just go away. The incident occurred back in June. The guilty plea and all that didn't happen until early August. Didn't take very long, though, for word to surface what was going on.

CARVILLE: Let me flat say I don't -- and I suspect that most people don't believe he never talked to a lawyer. I just don't believe it.

BLITZER: Well he also says he never spoke to his family about it...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: ... about what was going on.

CARVILLE: I believe that. FEEHERY: People think they can get away with things. I've seen this time and time again in the House where a scandal doesn't break until three months, four months, five months until after it happened. And by that time, you don't tell anybody. That's a big mistake. It happens time and again. It happened in the Foley case. This is one of those things that just is tragic.

CARVILLE: I agree. I feel sorry for his staff. And I know they put a lot of hard work in. I feel sorry for his wife and his family. I don't feel sorry for him after today not one bit.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: James Carville and John Feehery in our "Strategy Session".

There are also other details the senator did not want to come out, but they are now very, very public. You're going to hear some of these details. They're eye-raising from the police report made after an officer busted Senator Craig in a men's bathroom.

And President Bush today suggesting all of us should be very afraid. He's warning certain acts could plunge the entire Middle East into an even more nightmarish scene. The president saying Iran could be to blame.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In stories from around the world today, tensions between the United States and Iran clearly ratcheted up. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's been following this story -- lots of developments on the U.S./Iranian front, Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Iran's president is again signaling Iraqis that America won't be looking out for them in the months and years ahead, this comes as we get more signs of confrontation in Iraq between the U.S. and Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): A raid in Baghdad's darkness and more tension between the U.S. and Iran. Among those arrested by U.S. troops at a hotel, according to Iran's government news agency, several members of an Iranian trade delegation. This just hours after an ominous boast from Iran's president, America's power in Iraq is collapsing, he tells reporters. When it falls apart completely...

PRES. MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, IRAN (through translator): We are prepared to fill the gap with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia and with the help of the Iraqi nation.

TODD: An Iranian official at the United Nations tells CNN his country does not intend to intervene militarily in Iraq, only to work with other powers to bring stability. But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comment draws fire in the U.S., the president saying Iran already has an unacceptable military presence in Iraq, helping Shia militias kill American troops and Iraqi civilians.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Iranian regime must halt these actions and until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops. I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran's murderous activities.

TODD: Activities Iran has always denied. Analysts say when he talks about filling a power gap Ahmadinejad has designs well beyond Iraq.

TRITA PARSI, AUTHOR, "TREACHEROUS TRIANGLE": It's more about taking over American role in the Middle East as one of the strongest nations in that region.

TODD: Western officials believe that also means pursuing a nuclear weapon, which Tehran also denies. Iran may have a new adversary in that chess game, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who warns there are no good choices if the Iranians don't curb their nuclear program.

PRES. NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRANCE (through translator): An alternative which I call catastrophic, an Iranian bomb or the bombing of Iran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: One French official told me Sarkozy is not threatening any action by France, just warning of an escalation. Either way Ahmadinejad is brushing it off, quoted as saying Sarkozy is inexperienced, maybe doesn't understand the meaning of his own words and is only saying that for political consumption in France -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story for us.

And there's more. President Bush warning flatly today that Iran's nuclear pursuit threatens what he's calling a possible nuclear holocaust threatening the security of the entire world. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush also saying actions by Iran put American lives, military lives at risk in Iraq.

A senator busted in the men's room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away. I am not gay. I never have been gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Senator Larry Craig speaking out now for the first time since his arrest and conviction were made public. We're going to hear precisely what he had to say. We're going to play for you his entire statement, his reasons for why he didn't tell his wife or the American people about what happened. And we have the police report in our hands as well. You're going to find out what the cops say happened in that bathroom stall.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It has the makings of a classic and damaging Washington scandal, a United States senator stepping before the cameras and flatly declaring he's not gay and has never done anything wrong.

The Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig speaking out today about his arrest in an airport men's bathroom and his decision to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, listen precisely to Senator Craig's full statement in Boise, Idaho, earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (D), IDAHO: First, please let me apologize to my family, friends and staff and fellow Idahoans for the cloud placed over Idaho.

I did nothing wrong at the Minneapolis airport. I did nothing wrong, and I regret the decision to plead guilty and the sadness that decision has brought on my wife, my family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans. And for that, I apologize.

In June, I overreacted and made a poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in hopes of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel either from an attorney, staff, friends or family. That was a mistake. And I deeply regret it.

Because of that, I have now retained counsel and I am asking counsel to review this matter and to advise me on how to proceed.

For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11. For eight months leading up to June 11th, my family and I have been relentlessly and viciously harassed by the "Idaho Statesman." If you saw the article today, you know why.

Let me be clear. I am not gay. I never have been gay. Still, without a shred of truth or evidence to the contrary, "The Statesman" has engaged in this witch hunt. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress "The Idaho Statesman" investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho. Again, that overreaction was a mistake and I apologize for my judgment. Further more, I should not have kept this arrest to myself and I should have told my family and my friends about it. I wasn't eager to share this failure, but I should have anyway, because I am not gay. I love my wife, my family. I care about friends and staff and Idaho. I love serving this great state. Over the years, I have accomplished a lot for Idaho, and I hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that.

There are still goals I would like to accomplish, and I believe I can still be an effective leader for our state. Next month, I will announce, as planned, as many of you have already been told, whether or not I will seek reelection.

As an elected official, I fully realize that my life is open for public criticism and scrutiny, and I take full responsibility for a lapse in judgment I made in an attempting to handle this matter myself. It is clear, though, through my action I have brought a cloud over Idaho. And for that, I seek and ask the people of Idaho to forgive me.

As I mentioned earlier, I have retained counsel to examine the matter and from that I will make no further comment.

This statement will go up on my website today at craig.senate.gov. Any additional comments will be on the website. I'm sure this is an issue that is not yet over, and I will respond accordingly to all of you in the press. As I have always appreciated your willingness to accommodate me, I hope you appreciate my openness to all of you. Thank you very much.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And Senator Craig refused to answer any questions from the reporters who assembled there in Boise, Idaho. The incident involves his arrest in June at the Minneapolis airport. There, says an undercover police officer, the senator made overtures that could be interpreted as solicitation for sex in an airport bathroom.

Let's bring back Carol Costello. She's here. You've had a close look at the arrest warrant, what this police officer wrote down at the time. And I want you to share with our viewers some of those details.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I actually have it right here, Wolf. It's very detailed.

Undercover cop, Dave Karsnia, is sitting on the john in a bathroom stall looking for men using known signals asking for sex. Officer Karsnia writes in this police report, "I could see an older white male with gray hair outside my stall." That turned out to be Senator Craig. He said, "Senator Craig would look down at his hands, fidget with his fingers and look through the crack of my stall." He was able to see Craig's blue eyes as he looked into the stall. Then the officer says Craig entered the stall beside him and placed his roller bag against the front of the stall door. From the officer's seated position he could observe the senator's shoes and ankles. And then, according to the officer, Craig tapped his toes several times and moved his foot closer to the officer's. The officer says he moved his foot up and down slowly. He says the presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the officer's left foot, which was within his stall area. Then the officer writes, "I saw Craig swipe his hand under the stall divider for a few seconds. I was only able to see his fingers on my side of the stall divider. I could also see Craig had a gold ring on his ring finger as his hand was on the stall divider. I held my police identification down by the floor so that Senator Craig could see it," and Craig then supposedly said, "No" as the officer moved to arrest him. Craig showed the officer his business card and said, "What do you think about that?"

Now, all of that was in the police report. This is the plea agreement Craig signed admitting to his guilt. There are five things Senator Craig admits to. One, it says he has reviewed the arrest report. Number two says he understands the charges. And number five says, I now make no claim that I am innocent of the charge. In other words, he's guilty and Craig clearly signed it. So, Wolf, either he admitted guilt to what happened in that rest room or he perjured himself.

BLITZER: So let's be clear and I just want to reiterate. That entire police report with all those graphic details, those code signals, if you will, what was going on in that bathroom, he read it and by signing this plea agreement, this affidavit, effectively he acknowledged that he wasn't disputing any of those allegations.

COSTELLO: That is absolutely true because number three said that he read the police report and he's saying he's guilty specifically to what happened in the rest room in that airport.

BLITZER: And that's part of the affidavit that he signed. We're going to have legal analysis coming up with Jeff Toobin. Thanks very much, Carol Costello, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Larry Craig told the judge one thing, but is he now telling the American people something else? We'll talk about that with our legal analyst Jeff Toobin, the contradiction between Larry Craig's guilty plea and his statement today. Coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: An arrest, a guilty plea, a denial of guilt and, in all likelihood now, a senate ethics committee investigation. Senator Larry Craig's predicament has major legal ramifications as well. Let's go to our senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin. He's joining us on the phone.

What do you make of his latest statement? We just played the whole thing, Jeff, for our viewers, saying that he made a mistake in acknowledging and conceding that he was guilty of this misdemeanor.

JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It is bewildering and bizarre and very unlikely to have any impact on his legal situation because it is almost impossible in Minnesota or any other state to withdraw a guilty plea, because judges go through great care in explaining the implications of a guilty plea to a defendant. And certainly a United States senator should be expected to understand that. He signed a document explaining -- asserting that he understood the rights he was waiving. So I don't see any way that he's going to be allowed to withdraw this guilty plea.

BLITZER: So the fact that he's now saying he's hired a lawyer to take a closer look at his legal options right now saying he made a huge mistake by pleading guilty, the prospect of overturning that guilty plea, you're saying, are pretty slim.

TOOBIN: Virtually nil, as far as I can tell. The only time guilty pleas are allowed to be overturned is if there are some circumstances where the defendant didn't understand English properly, was physically coerced, that is, threatened with physical harm if they didn't plead guilty. Those situations almost never apply. And with a United States senator, who can certainly be expected to understand the simple language of a guilty plea, I can't imagine any court in Minnesota or anywhere else allowing him to withdraw this plea.

BLITZER: Because, obviously, he's a highly educated man and he's got no problem with the English language. The only thing I can assume is he thought if he pleaded guilty, maybe nobody would notice, it would going away and he'd be scot-free, if you will, even though he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

TOOBIN: I think that's exactly right. In fact, he said as much in his news conference, that he pleaded guilty because he thought that was a way of making the whole situation go away. But you, you know, too bad. This is a sworn proceeding, a guilty plea. The system presumes that people take it seriously. So Craig's statement that he perjured himself in pleading guilty is unlikely to fall on sympathetic ears either in an actual court or in the court of public opinion.

BLITZER: He's got many legal problems ahead of him as well. The story obviously not going away. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much.

I want to go back to Carol Costello. She's monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What do you have, Carol?

COSTELLO: A couple of things, Wolf.

Former NASA astronaut Lisa Nowak reserving the right to plead temporary insanity at her upcoming trial on charges she assaulted and tried to kidnap a romantic rival. That's according to court documents filed by Nowak's attorney. Now the papers say Nowak has been diagnosed with more than a dozen psychiatric disorders including severe depression, obsessive/compulsive disorder and insomnia. Nowak pleaded not guilty in March. She could face up to life in prison if she is convicted.

In South Dakota tonight, the first public appearance by Senator Tim Johnson since a life threatening brain hemorrhage last year. The democrat came out from behind a curtain in a wheelchair and then stood up and gave a prepared speech that lasted about 15 minutes. He spoke slowly. See him standing up there. He slurred some words, but he sounded strong and determined.

SEN. TIM JOHNSON (D), SOUTH DAKOTA: Hard work is something in which I take great pride. So let me say this tonight going forward. I am back.

COSTELLO: And he will be back. Johnson says he will return to the senate for votes as early as next week.

And Cuba's ailing leader is weighing in on the U.S. presidential race. In an editorial published today in Cuba's communist party newspaper, Fidel Castro says a Hillary Rodham Clinton/Barack Obama ticket would be, "unbeaten." Both candidates have publicly pushed for democratic reforms in Cuba but Castro says they have to do that to get the support of the Cuban exile community in strategically important in Florida.

BLITZER: I'm really happy that Senator Tim Johnson is back, a really nice man. He has a lot of problems, a lot ahead of him. But he's back and thank God for that. Appreciate it Carol very much.

Jack Cafferty is getting a ton of e-mail right now on the political future of Senator Larry Craig. You're going to want to hear what some of that e-mail is saying.

Also, it's the beauty pageant comment heard around the world. A hopeful Miss USA hopeful stealing the spotlight. Her rambling take on geography is a You Tube hit but she's not the first to slip up and have it captured for everyone to see.

Jeanne Moos standing by with a most unusual story.

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BLITZER: Since Senator Craig's arrest was reported 24 hours ago or so, the online community has been buzzing with discussion, posting videos about the Idaho republican among a lot of other stuff. Let's go to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton. She's watching all of this. Some amazing stuff online, Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORT: Wolf, this is what people have been doing the last 24 hours, digging through Senator Larry Craig's voting history and also anything he might ever have said. And the e- trail is all there online. This from the liberal blog Talking Points Memo posted this on to You Tube. From 1999, Senator Larry Craig talking on "Meet the Press" about Bill Clinton, then President Bill Clinton, in the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

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CRAIG: The senate certainly can bring about a sensor resolution and it's a slap on the wrist. It's a bad boy, Bill Clinton, you're a naughty boy. The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy. I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state who, in the majority, think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TATTON: One of the many things we found there online today. A lot of blog buzz about this story. I can just say that we've been looking around all day and especially since the statement that was given this afternoon by Senator Larry Craig. It's hard to find anyone left or right, any voice out there that thinks that the senator has much of a political future.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. A lot of stuff happening online.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. He's getting a ton of e-mail. I guess it's the hypocrisy factor at play, even in part.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I love that piece of tape Abbi found. That's a very revealing sound bite. Yes, it's a lot about hypocrisy. The question is how would you describe Senator Larry Craig's political future?

Larry in Pocatello, Idaho, the senator's state, "I was born and raised in Idaho. Frankly the senator's actions stun me. I would never vote for that man again and can see no reason why anyone else would either. I think his career in this state is over and he is just unwilling to admit it."

Cheryl writes from Arizona, "Love it, just love it. Hypocrisy made public. Personally, I could care less about his preferences, sexual or otherwise. But to tout traditional values and act like a freak is a sickness that needs to be treated. Craig's political career is over."

Claudia in Hawaii, "Senator Craig may be history but the media are sure beating this story to death today. Aren't you breaking some law about abusing a corpse?"

Laura in Tucson, Arizona, "Either he was guilty and pled guilty and thought it would go away. In which case he is stupid and is now lying. Or he did nothing and pled guilty, in which case he was stupid and lied to the court. Either way he is a liar and he is stupid." Not senate quality or, unfortunately, maybe he is.

Elaine in Arizona, "I'm glad Mr. Craig is admitting he is not gay. I am and I don't think I know of any other gay person in my life that would act so stupidly."

Eric, in California, "In the toilet, that's where his career is, and I bet you get 100 e-mails saying the same thing." Try about 300, Eric.

Kathy in Georgia writes, "His political career has the life expectancy of Michael Vick's dogs. He won't last until the end of the week. How long now before he finds rehab or Jesus?" And Mary writes, "Maybe Senator Craig just had restless leg syndrome."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File. Restless legs syndrome, you get that Wolf?

BLITZER: That tapping underneath the stall. All right Jack. See you tomorrow. Thanks very much.

Let's see what's coming up right at the top of the hour. Rick Sanchez standing by. Hi, Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Janelle, your producer says you've been talking too much and as a result I have to pay for it, that I have to shorten this thing. You ready to go? This is the police report in the Craig case. We're going to share it with you. We're going to be talking about accusations of Muslim profiling. And then Martin Luther King's statue, talk about outsourcing, this thing is being made in china. Those are the big stories, Wolf. Janelle, how did I do?

BLITZER: Janelle is always saying I'm talking too much, Rick. That's a fact.

Coming up, embarrassing moments in this era of You Tube. Nothing is private anymore. A beauty queen's long-winded non-answer is an internet sensation. Jeanne Moos with a most unusual story.

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BLITZER: The answer at a beauty pageant is getting international attention. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There you are, a model and beauty queen. And all of a sudden, you're --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big loser of the day?

MOOS: Labeled the ditsy chick just because you had a little troubling handling the message why can't a fifth of Americans find the U.S. on a world map.

JAY LENO: Follow her answer.

LAUREN CAITLIN UPTON, MISS TEEN SOUTH CAROLINA: I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps and --

MOOS: And from there, it went downhill. Even worse than hearing Miss South Carolina USA Teen's answer is seeing it in a subtitle someone added on You Tube. She was even mocked by a doll.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally believe -- MOOS: And I personally believe you say something dumb these days, you end up getting over 4 million hits on You Tube, 4 million and counting. Someone calling herself Miss West Carolina mapped out her own meandering monologue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So nowhere else knows where everywhere else is.

MOOS: And so Miss Teen South Carolina joins a storied list of dumb moments spread globally on the internet, from the New Jersey guy lip syncing to a Romanian pop song, to the "Star Wars" kid. He ended up suing and reaching an out of court settlement, school mates who first circulated the video. Then the worst interview ever, a novice filling in on ABC News Now interviewed actress Holly Hunter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holly, thanks so much for joining us.

All right. Holly, thanks so much for joining us.

MOOS: It turns out the anchor's ear piece malfunctioned and she couldn't hear her interviewee. At least Miss Teen South Carolina got a do over on the Today Show. They asked why is it that a fifth of Americans can't find the U.S. on a world map over again.

UPTON: Well personally, my friends and I we know exactly where the United States is on our map.

MOOS: By the way, we couldn't find any credible study that said a fifth of Americans can't find the U.S. on a map. Once during a geography story, we did meet this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This boot is the United States if I remember correctly, right.

MOOS: That is South America.

The next thing you know they'll be asking Miss Teen South Carolina to find her own state.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

BLITZER: Jeanne Moos, she does the most unusual stories for us every night right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. See you tomorrow.

Up next, Rick Sanchez with "OUT IN THE OPEN."

Rick.

SANCHEZ: Wolf, thanks a lot. Good job as usual. By the way, we're going to be keying in on Senator Larry Craig's words and you've seen the mug shot.

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