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THE SITUATION ROOM

Lawmakers Call on Senator Craig to Resign; 'Children of the Storm'

Aired August 29, 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, fellow Republicans turning on a scandal-plagued senator, several lawmakers now openly calling for Senator Larry Craig to resign, Presidential candidate John McCain tells us Craig's arrest in a men's bathroom, I'm quoting now, "was disgraceful".

Plus "Children of the Storm", two years after Katrina the director Spike Lee and young hurricane survivors turning a lens on the slow and painful recovery process, tonight a first glimpse of a CNN exclusive report.

And they are heroes in Cuba, convicted spies right here in the United States. Do they deserve to be in prison right now? Tonight, a powerful debate on their case and their fate.

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

Tonight, many Republicans are simply running away from Senator Larry Craig and the scandal surrounding him and several are ready to shove him out the door. Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's in Craig's home state of Idaho tonight. The floodgates are open. People are suggesting this guy simply will not be able to survive.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That certainly is what it appears and looks like, Wolf. You know, today three of Senator Craig's colleagues, Republican colleagues back in Washington called on him to resign. Those colleagues include Senator and Republican presidential contender John McCain, Senator Norm Coleman from Minnesota and Congressman Pete Hoekstra from Michigan. And Senator McCain spoke exclusively to CNN's John King.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe that he pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent, so I think he should resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BASH: Now, in addition to that, Craig's own leadership in the Senate made very clear today that they view him as a liability. They sent him a very blunt message by stripping him of the title and position of ranking or top Republican on the committee, that committee that he sits on. You know, Wolf, when you get enough seniority one of the perks is having that position of ranking Republican on the committee. It means that you wield tremendous influence and what his colleagues in the Senate are clearly trying to say is they don't think he deserves that kind of influence in Washington, in the Senate right now. Wolf?

BLITZER: We're going to have a lot more from John king's interview with Senator McCain. That's coming up later, Dana, but tell us about some new information you're getting about that the sting operation that the Minneapolis police conducted at the men's room over at the airport in Minneapolis?

BASH: Well a source at the Minneapolis airport, Wolf, tells CNN producer David Stick (ph) who is in Minneapolis that Senator Larry Craig was not targeted. That is not why he was arrested. He was not the target of an operation.

In fact, CNN is told that at least 40 people, 4-0, 40 people since May in the last three months have been arrested for this kind of behavior. This is something that apparently according to the source at the Minneapolis airport, the number has gone up of people arrested because of complaints about behavior in that airport, in those bathrooms and that's why they invested plain clothes police officers to try to investigate what's going on.

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

The White House clearly very unhappy about this situation as well. Today it put out its first public reaction. A spokesman saying and let me quote, "we're disappointed in what's going on. It's a matter for the senator and the Senate Republican leadership to address."

Scandals involving sex and politicians are touching both political parties, but they're causing increasing problems right now for Republicans. Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. She's joining us.

One person's problem, especially an influential Republican senator can hurt an entire party.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Oh you're right about that and you notice Senator Craig is finding himself alone. Fellow Republicans are scattering calling his action's disgusting because Craig's bathroom bust is not only hurting Craig, but his party.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SOUNDS)

COSTELLO (voice-over): It has become a tough summer for the grand ole party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not gay.

COSTELLO: After a disbelief over the unusual news conference held by Republican Senator Larry Craig...

(SOUNDS)

COSTELLO: ... came a night of witty derision. Comedian Jay Leno spent three minutes and 13 seconds poking fun at the conservative lawmaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I think it's the hottest day of the year, isn't it?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was 105 today. People were sweating like the men's room attendant when Senator Larry Craig walked in.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: Despite the jokes, at least one influential conservative leader thinks the Republicans can get out of this mess.

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: If you take a snapshot it looks pretty bad, but if you look at the overall panorama of the political landscape there are ups and downs and I think the Republicans are in a valley right now. It doesn't mean they cannot get out.

COSTELLO: But right now it is a deep valley. Values voters are also reeling from Florida State Representative Bob Allen who was arrested for soliciting sex for money at a public restroom. He says he's not guilty. Senator David Vitter whose name turned up on a call girl's phone list, he apologized for, quote, "a very serious sin".

And Thomas Ravenel, a South Carolina state treasurer accused of distributing cocaine. He says he's not guilty. Summer of 2007 now seems a long way from the summer of 2000 when a victorious George W. Bush dismissed a philandering Bill Clinton with promises of a more moral road ahead.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our generation has a chance to reclaim some essential values to show we have grown up before we grow old. They had their chance. They have not led. We will.

(APPLAUSE)

COSTELLO: And although Democrats have been caught with their pants down, too, like Los Angeles Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa and his extra marital affair and New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey resigning from office to come out as a gay American, sex scandals seem to affect Republicans more because social conservatism has become part of their brand.

MICHELLE LAXALT, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Here we find ourselves virtually every single time getting whacked because of what is perceived to be a hypocrisy factor. The Republican Party needs to have some very serious introspection and return to the values that started us out and that is individual liberty and a live and let live policy when it comes to people's private lives.

COSTELLO: Republicans say they're still optimistic about winning back Washington in '08. The election is still a long way off and voters tend to have very short memories.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COSTELLO: And of course, maybe Craig will be ousted or maybe he'll just go, but even if that happens in this political climate, no one is likely to be breathing easier, just waiting for the next scandal to come along.

BLITZER: You know there always will be one. Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He has got "The Cafferty File" in New York. Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the United States is the most heavily armed country in the world. A new report finds we have 90 guns for every 100 citizens in this country. American citizens own 270 million of the world's 875 million known firearms. About 4.5 million of the eight million new guns made around the world every year are bought here.

After the U.S., the report found Yemen is the second most heavily armed country with 61 guns per 100 people followed in order by Finland, Switzerland and Iraq. Many poorer countries that are often associated with violence like Nigeria, for example, ranked much lower in the study. The director of the Small Arms Survey says firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world.

"The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons, these images are certainly misleading." That's a quote. It's believed that only about 12 percent of civilian weapons are registered with the proper authorities.

So here's the question. Do you see anything wrong with the U.S. having 90 guns for every 100 citizens? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- stick'em (ph) up, Wolf.

BLITZER: People have very strong opinions on this issue of...

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: ... as you well know.

CAFFERTY: Absolutely.

BLITZER: All right.

We'll see what our viewers think. Thanks very much.

Coming up, a CNN exclusive, Spike Lee, he is speaking out about Katrina fatigue as he is calling it. Have Americans moved on before the city's been rebuilt?

Plus Jim Carrey gets serious. The funnyman makes an impassioned appeal for the release of a Nobel Prize winner under house arrest.

And the Cuban spy case, five Cuban men behind bars here in the United States. They say they were getting information on potential terrorists in Miami. The U.S. government says they were playing a deadly game of espionage.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It could be a White House surprise with a huge price tag. While many Americans want U.S. troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible, the Bush administration could be readying itself to do something a lot of people won't like. Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story and all this comes just before a new report is about on to be released on the status of those troops in Iraq.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It sure does, Wolf. The White House seems to be getting more confident of an optimistic assessment next month on this counter offensive and may be getting ready to put that confidence on the line with Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): More than $2 billion a week to fund the war in Iraq, and now sources on Capitol Hill tell CNN they expect the president to ask Congress for more around the time General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker deliver their assessment of the new offensive in mid September. "The Washington Post" reports the president could ask for as much as $50 billion more to keep troop levels going through next spring. White House and Pentagon officials will only say this.

GEOFF MORRELL, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: I think we have signaled to Congress that we may indeed be coming to them shortly for additional monies to fight the global war on terror, but I think at this point in terms of numbers and when that will happen, we're ahead of the game.

TODD: Still, top Democrats are ramping up their no blank check argument.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the Congress should do when they come back next week is make it absolutely clear, no timetable, no funding.

TODD: But Democrats tried to attach conditions to war funding earlier this summer and lost a veto showdown with the president.

JOHN ULLYOT, FORMER SEN. ARMED SERVICES CMTE. SPOKESMAN: What's difficult for the Democrats in that debate is that fundamentally no one wants to -- of any party, wants to be in a position politically of blocking funding for troops in the field. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: And for that reason if the president does ask for more money he'll likely get it, but analysts say there's a cost to Republicans too. This will give the Democrats more ammunition to talk about an unpopular war heading right into the primary season -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story -- thanks, Brian, very much.

It's been exactly two years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and almost dead on the city of New Orleans. It became the worst natural disaster in American history. Tonight CNN brings you a special event on this, the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

"Children of the Storm" Team CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien with the filmmaker Spike Lee -- Soledad is joining us now in New Orleans. We spoke earlier exclusively with Spike Lee. He's part of this documentary we're going to be seeing tonight very soon. Tell us a little bit about what Spike Lee was hoping to accomplish.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You know, we wanted to hand out cameras and really figure out what the story was for the second year anniversary and so we armed the kids with cameras and told them go out and shoot your story and be very, very honest. Don't hold back, so I told them shoot and shoot and shoot and shoot. We spoke to Spike earlier and he's working in Rome and one of the things we asked him is he felt that if the people in America basically had forgotten about the people in New Orleans -- and some people have said that to us. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPIKE LEE, FILMMAKER: I think the American people gave, Americans gave more for Hurricane Katrina than they did for September 11th, but there's a thing called Katrina fatigue and a lot of Americans said, come on, let's move on. And, you know, we have a very short attention span as Americans. I'm including myself in this as I am American and we're on to the next thing. Paris Hilton, whoever it is, "American Idol", you know it's like, boom, boom, boom, and the stuff that's substantial gets left you know in the muck. No pun intended.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

S. O'BRIEN: Well in the efforts to make sure that people don't forget, they're holding a day of presence today here, right in front of the convention center. This little girl you're looking at is 7- year-old Tionne Johnson. I mean look at that voice -- listen to that voice. But then we sat down with this lovely and talented little girl and I asked her you know what kind of things was she thinking about on the second anniversary. She wants to get back in her house. You know she's 7 years old, Wolf, and listen to what she told me.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIONNE JOHNSON: I focus on money, mullah, money.

S. O'BRIEN: Money for?

JOHNSON: Money for my house.

S. O'BRIEN: To rebuild your house.

JOHNSON: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: Do you think that's kind of a tough thing? You're only 7 years old and you're worried about the money for your house.

JOHNSON: Well, not just that. I worry about the people who lost -- well -- I think -- I just can't explain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

S. O'BRIEN: Wolf, I've got to tell you, that breaks my heart, 7 years old and she's worried about the people who she didn't get to say good-bye to who died in the storm and literally trying to get money so her mom can rebuild her house. She's seven. That's the story of people. Struggling still two years later is the focus of our documentary tonight as well.

It's called "Children of the Storm". I hope that everybody will watch. It's a truly remarkable documentary done by some truly remarkable young people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It's coming up right at the top of the hour, 8 p.m. Eastern. Good work, Soledad. Thanks for doing it. I think our viewers are going to learn something. They're going to enjoy this on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

We're closely watching the fallout right now from the scandal surrounding Senator Larry Craig's men's room arrest. Now a prominent colleague has a very strong message for Senator Craig. John King interviewed the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain. You're going want to hear what Senator McCain had to say.

Plus, we'll have the story of five Cuban men hailed in their country as heroes in the fight against terrorism. So why are they serving long prison sentences right now in the United States?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Don't laugh. The comedian Jim Carrey wants you to know about a situation that's very, very serious, the story of one truly remarkable woman. Our State Department correspondent Zain Verjee has more -- Zain.

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Jim Carrey wants to make one woman a household name in the U.S.-- for him, it's no joke.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SOUNDS)

VERJEE (voice-over): This time the funnyman isn't looking for laughs on the big screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pet detective!

VERJEE: He's turned serious, right on your computer screen on YouTube.

JIM CARREY, ENTERTAINER: I want to tell you about a hero of mine. Her name is Aung San Suu Kyi.

VERJEE: Jim Carrey says Suu Kyi is often compared to Gandhi or Nelson Mandela. She's standing up to vicious rulers in Burma with no violence, only votes. The Burmese military refused to accept her election victory in 1990.

CARREY: She was locked away by a military regime and has been held for 11 years under house arrest.

VERJEE: She's separated from her children and wasn't allowed to see her dying husband. Carrey says the military's tyranny goes beyond its treatment of Suu Kyi.

CARREY: They have also raped thousands of women and recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world.

VERJEE: Sixty-two-year-old Suu Kyi has U.S. heavyweights championing her cause like past and present Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Even First Lady Laura Bush is using her clout hosting a roundtable on Burma last year and calling for Suu Kyi's release in a recent "Wall Street Journal" column.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: She is such an example of courage and she really wants to have a non-violent reconciliation in her country.

VERJEE: Suu Kyi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. Jim Carrey says he wants Americans to remember her name and her fight for freedom.

CARREY: And let's face it the name's a little difficult to remember. Here's how I did it. Aung San sounds like unsung as in unsung hero. Aung San Suu Kyi is truly an unsung hero.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

VERJEE: The Burmese government says they keep her under house arrest for her own protection -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain. Let's hope she's free soon. Thanks very much -- Zain Verjee reporting.

For Senator Larry Craig, the handwriting may be on the wall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime then you shouldn't serve.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Whatever Senator Craig did or didn't do in that bathroom and afterward some fellow Republicans are now clearly abandoning him. We're going hear directly from Senator John McCain. He has a tough message for his Republican colleague.

And to some people they're spies, but to Cubans, they're heroes. We're going have a debate about the group that they call in Cuba the "Cuban Five". Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: In our look around the world, right now depending on who's talking, there are either brave patriots who wanted to defend their country against terrorism or they're shady figures determined to inflict damage on the United States, five Cuban men in prison here in the United States, some serving life sentences. Some people are calling them the "Cuban Five". Their country holds them up as icons.

CNN's Morgan Neill explains from Havana -- Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, federal appeals judges in Atlanta are going over spy cases barely made the back pages of the paper. Here in Cuba the smallest details of the case are front-page news.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NEILL (voice-over): In Cuba they're known on a first-name basis, Gerardo, Ramon, Antonio, Fernando, and Rene.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: They're called the Cinco Heros (ph), the five heroes, and they're the center of a long running government-sponsored campaign.

(SOUNDS)

NEILL: Their case doesn't provoke the passions of the Elian Gonzalez saga the Cuban boy at the center of an emotional cross-border custody battle in 2000, but even school kids on the island know the case of the Cinco inside and out.

(MUSIC)

NEILL: Eight years ago the five men were arrested in Miami on spying charges. All were convicted of acting as unregistered foreign agents and conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States. Three were also found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: Cuba says the men weren't spying on the U.S. government, but on what Cuba calls terrorist organizations run by exiles out of Miami.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: The president of Cuba's national assembly says they're heroes, in his words, whose only fault was to fight against terrorism. Cuba said it was impossible for them to get a fair trial in Miami, three of the five received life sentences, the other two, 15 and 19 years, now they await a new ruling on whether the evidence in their case supports their convictions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: We met with Olga Salanueva whose husband Rene Gonzalez is serving a 15-year sentence. She was deported from the United States two years after his arrest and has been denied a visa ever since.

OLGA SALANUEVA, WIFE OF CUBAN INMATE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: The last time I saw Rene was the day I was detained, she says, August 16, 2000. It's been seven years since I saw him.

(MUSIC)

NEILL: When we arrived, Olga is at a reunion of her husband's flight school classmates.

(SOUNDS)

NEILL: Then her phone rings. It's her husband calling from prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: She passes the phone so we can talk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

NEILL: From the start it was a political show, Rene tells me. We were simply defending our country. To this point, the courts have not agreed.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NEILL: Now these men have been behind bars for some nine years, but they're definitely not forgotten here in Cuba. In fact they're so well known, billboards here read simply, they will return and everyone knows who "they" are -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Morgan Neill our reporter in Havana with some background on this story. Joining us now two guests, Leonard Weinglass is an attorney representing the so-called "Cuban Five" and Orlando Gutierrez is co-founder of the Cuban democratic director and he's joining us from Miami. Mr. Weinglass, these men were all convicting of conspiracy to commit espionage. Why should the U.S. government go easy on them?

LEONARD WEINGLASS, ATTORNEY FOR "THE CUBANS": Because they never were able to prove that there was a conspiracy to commit espionage. This was one of the longest trials in the United States at the time it occurred and the evidence fell short. These were men who came here to monitor the activities of groups in southern Florida who were leading attacks against their country in Cuba.

BLITZER: If they were never approved they're convicted, they're all serving lengthy jail sentences. Why are they serving jail sentences if they weren't convicted, if the evidence didn't prove it, at least before those courts?

WEINGLASS: The first federal appeals court that heard their case in August of 2005 concluded they never received a fair trial. That decision was set aside, but now in 2007 we are arguing for the first time, six years after their conviction, that the evidence failed to prove a conspiracy to commit espionage.

Wolf this, is the first case in our history where not a single page of classified document was introduced into evidence. The government conceded they didn't have it. Admirals testified. Generals testified for the defense, not for the prosecution. Even the presidential adviser, Ricardo Nuncio, the adviser to President Clinton testified on behalf of the defense. There has never been an espionage case like this one.

BLITZER: All right. Let's get the other side of the story from Orlando Gutierrez. Why do you think Mr. Weinglass is wrong?

ORLANDO GUTIERREZ, CUBAN DEMOCRATIC DIRECTOR: Mr. Weinglass is wrong because these men were not just convicted of espionage. They were also convicted of participating in the murder of U.S. citizens who were shot down of an unarmed aircraft over international wars. The purpose of the network was to infiltrate the United States. They infiltrated U.S. military insulations in Boca Chica and their purpose was to supply information on U.S. military installations to provide information on U.S. national security and also to spy upon and even attack in the case of the murdered members of the rescue to kill U.S. citizens who were somehow involved the promotion of human rights in Cuba. The fact is these men came to the U.S. at the behest of the longest dictatorship in Latin America to prevent non-violent, peaceful democratic change from taking place in Cuba.

BLITZER: All right. Mr. Weinglass, those are serious charges. Do you want to respond?

WEINGLASS: The attempt to change the government of Cuba could hardly be called non-violent. Over 3,000 people have died in 40 years. Tens of millions of dollars in damage was done. An Italian tourist was killed in a lobby and as for the charge of murder, that also is unprecedented. After 25 incursions over Cuban airspace by a group called Brothers to the Rescue, Cuba finally did what any country would do. It defended its airspace and it shot down two of the aircraft. Unfortunately, killing four people and that led to a charge against one, not the five, but against one of the conspiracy to commit murder. That charge the government conceded at the end of trial it failed to prove.

BLITZER: Mr. Gutierrez?

GUTIERREZ: The fact is that the movement for democracy in Cuba inside and outside the island is imminently nonviolent. Organizations like brothers to the rescue, publicly embraced nonviolent struggle based upon the principles of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and the fact is that the government of Cuba has incarcerated thousands of Cubans over 48 years simply for their beliefs and has executed thousands of Cubans, more than 10,000 Cubans have been executed by this regime which is a totalitarian state which controls all of the media and an extensive secret police network that spies on Cubans on a daily basis.

The fact is that these men came to the U.S. to penetrate the community, everybody from the chamber of commerce to humanitarians like Brothers to the Rescue and the Cuban democratic directorate with the purpose of perpetuating Castro's hold on power. During that time the dissident movement in Cuba, in spite of harassment and persecution brought a coalition to bring about peaceful change in Cuba. Castro needed to crush that movement and to top stop the exile movement from supporting them.

BLITZER: Mr. Weinglass, the argument is made that these five individuals were officers, were agents, represents of the Cuban intelligence community. They came to the United States in effect, under false pretenses. The U.S. government found out about them one way or another and arrested them and now they're serving a jail sentences.

The argument is made if the CIA set five individuals under false pretenses to Cuba and were caught, engaged in espionage or conspiracy to commit espionage. The Cuban government or any other government would arrest them as well. What's wrong, if anything, you think with that argument?

WEINGLASS: There were five Cuban men who came to the United States after groups from southern Florida had attacked Cuba. The airport was bombed. Hotels were bombed. An Italian tourist was killed. Busses were bombed. The Cuban government protested each and every one of those attacks. It was only when the United States failed to respond that five unarmed men came here without explosive, without weaponry, harmed no one, to monitor the activities of the groups that were attacking their country. That is recognized under international law as a legitimate response and even under American law, under the doctrine of necessity, having exhausted all efforts to peacefully resolve what was going on in Cuba, the Cuban government acted to protect its own people.

BLITZER: Let me get back to the question. If the Cuban government picked up five CIA officers who were clandestinely operating for whatever purpose in Cuba, you would expect them to arrest them as well, wouldn't you?

WEINGLASS: If there are CIA officers operating in over 80 countries around the world. They're trying to stop terrorist attacks against American targets. The international community has no complaint with that. But these were groups from southern Florida that were involved in terrorism. That was found in footnotes in the 93- page opinion of the federal appeals court. Three federal judges found that to be true and called these groups terrorists. So it's a far different scenario than the one that you're painting.

BLITZER: All right. Let me let Mr. Gutierrez respond to that. And the argument is made that these Cubans came to protect Cuba by trying to infiltrate, trying to observe what was happening in the exile, elements of the exile community in south Florida, Mr. Gutierrez. Similar to what CIA officer dos if they go to Pakistan, for example, or Afghanistan and are clandestinely looking for terrorists, Osama Bin Laden or others. That's the argument that the Cuban government has made. Mr. Weinglass has made that argument. I wonder if you want to respond to that argument.

GUTIERREZ: Well, first of all, CIA officers are defending a democracy. These men are defending a 48-year-old dictatorship which has killed and continues to kill people for their beliefs.

Number two, these men did not infiltrate terrorist groups. They infiltrated public human rights organizations based in Florida who were supporting dissidents in Cuba. Let's repeat that. These men were infiltrating organizations that were legitimate, public and engaged in human rights work and their purpose as found in the papers that were declassified during the trial, based on the communications that were intercepted by the FBI was that the purpose of these men was to infiltrate these groups that were linked to nonviolence struggle inside Cuba. And not only that, as part of their work in the United States, these men were infiltrating U.S. military installations. They were supposed to spy on members of the U.S. Congress. They were instructed by their control agent in Havana to find drop points along the Florida coast so that arms and explosives could be brought into the United States from Cuba. These men were working against the security of the United States.

BLITZER: We're out of time but let me just let you just respond very quickly, Mr. Weinglass to that point. In addition to spying on Cuban exile groups in Miami and the south Florida area were they also spying on U.S. military installations in the area?

WEINGLASS: The charges in this case accused Antonio Guerrero, my client, of being on a navy training base, Boca Chica in southern Florida. He was there for five years and sent back 395 reports which the FBI did have. Not a single one of those reports dealt with classified, secret information. And so that's why we're asking a federal appeals court to set this aside.

BLITZER: When do you think we'll get that decision?

WEINGLASS: It should be probably by around the end of the year, but it's very difficult to say. BLITZER: All right. Mr. Weinglass, we have to leave it there. Leonard Weinglass representing these Cuban five and Orlando Gutierrez, with a very different perspective, the co-founder and the Cuban director. Let me thank both of you for coming in.

WEINGLASS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator John McCain isn't cutting his colleague, Larry Craig, any slack. Coming up, senator McCain tells our John King it's time for Senator Craig simply to go away as the scandal surrounding him intensifies. Will straight talk help McCain's White House hopes?

Later, scandal and spectacle with late-night jokes thrown in. Jeanne Moos with a most unusual story on the Larry Craig follies.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Tonight Senator John McCain is trying to show he's still a straight talker on this, his 71st birthday. Our chief national correspondent, John King, sat down with Senator McCain earlier today to discuss a wide range of issues including the Larry Craig scandal.

John, at least in part of this interview it seemed vintage McCain.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Wolf. He's had a horrible few months politically watching his standing in the republican race decline significantly, yet he was in very good spirits and not afraid to tell it like it is, whether the issue be Iraq, immigration or his colleague Larry Craig.

Flashback 40 years, Lieutenant Commander John McCain under interrogation by the North Vietnamese.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lieutenant commander of the navy.

KING: This new video is part of an effort to revive McCain's struggling presidential campaign and in this interview with CNN, he was blunt about several pressing political challenges including the scandal enveloping a senate colleague.

Should Larry Craig resign his job and let the republican governor send someone to replace him?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Yes.

KING: Do you believe he should not return under any circumstances?

MCCAIN: I believe that he pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent. So I think he should resign and that's not a moral stand. That's not a holier than thou. It's just a factual situation. I don't try to judge people, but in this case it's clear that it was disgraceful.

KING: A very good friend of yours republican John Warner says the president should make a down payment in drawing down troops, perhaps 5,000 by Christmas. One, to show the American people we're not there indefinitely and two, to show the Iraqi government that we're not there indefinitely. It's is that a good idea?

MCCAIN: It's a bad idea, terrible idea and I'll fight it every step of the way. John Warner and I are very close friends but that sends a signal to al Qaeda and the bad people in the region that we're leaving and that's not our position. Our position is we are going to succeed, and the strategy present strategy is succeeding.

KING: He has slipped significantly in the polls and his campaign is struggling to raise money, but on his 71st birthday the senator voiced confidence he will turn it all around.

How does a man who is 71 years old, would be the oldest president to take office, even older than Ronald Reagan, convince the country that you are fit and ready to serve and that someone of your generation and your age is the change they want and need?

MCCAIN: Well, because the people of this country want experience. They want knowledge and they want leadership, and I've been involved in that all my life. I'm the most prepared to take on the transcendent challenge of the 21st century and that is radical Islamic extremism. I need no on the job-training.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Overall, he was remarkably upbeat, Wolf, despite the struggles of the last few months. Chastened is the word I would use on the issue of immigration. Remember, just weeks ago it was the McCain Kennedy bill that would give legal status to millions who entered the United States illegally. Senator McCain says, "We got the message." Conservatives, of course, killed that bill in the senate, significantly hurt the McCain presidential campaign. What he says has to be done now, Wolf, is improve border security first and deal with anything else later.

BLITZER: A different line now than then. We'll see how that impacts his presidential prospects. Thanks very much for that. John King reporting.

Senator Larry Craig's problems, as you know, are no laughing matter except on the internet, on TV comedy shows. Mostly every place else that Jeanne Moos has been looking. Stay tuned to see if any of the jokes are all that funny.

Plus Jack Cafferty, guns and your e-mail thoughts on his question which is, do you see anything wrong with the U.S. having 90 guns for every 100 citizens?

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: We'll check back with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with the Cafferty File.

Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Somebody did the numbers, Wolf and came up with this number that for every 100 people in this country, there are 90 guns. We're one of the most heavily armed nation in the world. We asked if you see anything wrong with that.

Al in Lyndeborough, New Hampshire writes, "It sure beats the moronic notion that only criminals will carry guns.

Laurie in New Hampshire, "I'm a nonviolent person but I am beginning to understand why the founders gave us the right to bear arms. Right now we have a government that's completely dysfunctional. Our representatives no longer do what they're supposed to do in representing us. We one day may discover that our democratic process has eroded to the point that we citizens will once again have to take up those arms in order to get our country back.

Sarah in North Carolina, "Very wrong. We should do something to take guns away from mental patients and from people with criminal records. Like driver's licensees have to be renewed periodically, we should do something similar for gun owners. People shouldn't be allowed to possess guns unless they have a valid license as a gun owner."

John in Oklahoma, "Jack, a gun in the hand is worth far more than a cop on the phone."

Amos writes, "I love Americans owning guns. It's what makes our country free. It gives power to the people. We have the power to protect ourselves from criminals. Keep our government in check and enjoy a very wonderful American past time."

William writes, "Well, I just think of all the school shootings, the murder of those three students in Newark and the drive-by shootings in California, all of these were certainly not done with sling shots. You be the judge."

And Francis writes from Rutland, Vermont, "We have the most guns, the most cars, the most money and the most Starbucks. Big deal."

If you didn't see your e-mail here go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. There are more of them online along with video clips of the Cafferty File. Big deal.

BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much for that. See you back here tomorrow.

Check this out though before you go. He's been traveling with the president and while Karl Rove was away, someone at the White House was cooking up a surprise.

The Deputy White House Chief of Staff had left his jaguar in the private driveway next to the west wing. He returned this evening to find it festooned with plush eagles, a plush toy elephant and an "I love Obama" sticker. To finish off the handy work, the trickster wrapped the car entirely in plastic wrap.

Wearing a big grin, Karl Rove unwrapped his car tonight with the help of some children who had come to the White House to watch the president's helicopter land in the south lawn. Rove retires, as you know, in two days. He's pointing the finger at some other aides over at the White House. Jack, a little fun. Those guys are wild and crazy over there at the White House.

CAFFERTY: What does that is a about the security? He said he was parked in the private driveway in the west wing of the White House.

BLITZER: Between the west wing and the old executive office building. They call it the Eisenhower building and there's a driveway where the big shots can park their cars there. That's where he was. It's almost like Halloween.

CAFFERTY: And all those security people just must have turned a blind eye while they trashed his car.

BLITZER: They've got to investigate. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: Absolutely. Have hearings, immediately.

BLITZER: The ethics committee, let's get them going.

CAFFERTY: Get on the list.

BLITZER: You're going to get another chapter in your new book. That we're going have to write -- that you're going have to write after this when the hard cover comes out.

CAFFERTY: I know. It's hard to keep up with all of the shenanigans going on in Washington, but we try. It will be out September 10th. It's called "It's Getting Ugly Out There." It's available on all of the web sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble and I hope people pick up a copy and check it out.

BLITZER: I just saw it. It's featured right now on the main page of Amazon. Good work, Jack. The frauds, the bunglers, the liars, the losers, who are hurting America, "It's Getting Ugly Out There," by Jack Cafferty. See you tomorrow.

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Larry Craig's bathroom bust is anything, but a bust for the late-night comics. You can bet our own Jeanne Moos will make the most out of the latest you have to see it to believe it scandal. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Sex scandals are certainly nothing new here in Washington, but Senator Larry Craig's arrest in a men's restroom is giving new meaning to the concept of bathroom humor.

Our Jeanne Moos says the political spectacle is truly most unusual.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's hard to hear this.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I am not gay. I never have been gay.

MOOS: Without being reminded of this.

JAMES MCGREEVEY, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: I am a gay American.

MOOS: The Craig affair has sure led to a lot of late-night gayety like Jimmy Kimmel's unintentional joke of the day.

CRAIG: Thank you very much for coming out today.

JAY LENO: We have a clip of the press conference. Show the press conference.

CRAIG: Thank you all very much for coming out today.

MOOS: Never have the nation's newscasts spent more time, literally, in the toilet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's with the hand signals?

MOOS: But there's something about the toe tapping part of all this that media folks can't resist tapping into.

You expect it on You Tube.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After 16 hours he started with the foot tap.

MOOS: On a TV station in Sacramento did its own recreation of the Craig men's room incident and the colleague even provided a homemade stall divider.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The senator allegedly started tapping his foot like this. Apparently that's a sign they're interested in having relations.

MOOS: If it's high quality production you're after, check out the recreation at the website Slate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was able to see Craig's blue eyes as he looked into my stall.

MOOS: Slate used verbatim quotes from the arresting officer's reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Craig moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area. At 12:17 hours, I saw Craig swipe his hand under the stall divider for a few seconds.

MOOS: And a You Tuber posted this guide to men's room signals.

Senator Craig denies anything rude took place allegedly tells police his wide stance explains his foot placement. The scandal is generating plays on words and puns. It's causing commentators to tell personal stories you'd never expect.

MSNBC's Tucker Carlson described how he was once bothered in a men's room.

TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC: I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the -- and grabbed him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And did what?

CARLSON: Hit him against the stall with his head, actually.

MOOS: Carlson later said the man physically grabbed him first.

It's almost too hot a story for reporters to handle.

Comedians to the rescue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tappy, tappy on the tootsie. A little peek a boo through the crack in the door. Hell, I can't keep up with all them signals. When I want to get some I just go down to the bar and wait for the first woman to fall off the stool and tell her hair looks nice.

MOOS: At least that won't get a senator arrested.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Can't top Jeanne Moos with that. Thank you Jeanne.

That's it for us. Thanks very much for watching.

Remember, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. Eastern and then back for another hour at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Until tomorrow, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, in Washington.

Up next, CNN's special investigations unit, "Children of the Storm."

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