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McClellan Testifies Under Oath; Chemical Facilities at Risk; Disaster Along the River; Major Lead in Salmonella Case; Ice Found on Mars
Aired June 20, 2008 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, the former White House press secretary testifies under oath and says Vice President Cheney should do the same thing. Scott McClellan saying Cheney has information that has not been shared publicly about the outing of a CIA covert officer.
A massive show of strength. Israel sends dozens of jet fighters hundreds of miles out over the Mediterranean.
Is it a practice for a potential strike against Iran's nuclear sites?
And it will soon be three years since Hurricane Katrina struck. And after a CNN investigation, FEMA is finally following through with truckloads of supplies for hurricane victims.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Scott McClellan's tell-all book stunned the Bush administration. Today, the president's former press secretary told all on Capitol Hill, as a Congressional panel investigates the outing of a CIA officer.
Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Elaine Quijano. She listened, she watched. It was pretty dramatic at times.
There was a lot of finger-pointing, Elaine, as you saw. Update our viewers -- what happened?
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Wolf.
Well, there was a lot of finger-pointing and also a lot of questions raised at that hearing today with Scott McClellan -- questions that McClellan says the White House could have cleared up a long time ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And nothing but the truth.
QUIJANO (voice-over): Testifying under oath before the House Judiciary Committee, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said he does not believe President Bush knew about a White House effort to leak CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.
SCOTT MCCLELLAN, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I do not think the president in any way had any knowledge about it, based on my conversations with him back at that time.
QUIJANO: But McClellan could not say the same of Vice President Dick Cheney.
MCCLELLAN: In terms of the vice president, I do not know. There is a lot of suspicion there.
QUIJANO: And asked about former Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, McClellan did not hold back.
REP. ARTUR DAVIS (D), ALABAMA: Would you trust Mr. Rove, if he were not under oath, to tell the truth?
MCCLELLAN: Well, based on my own experience, I could not say that I would.
ARTURO: And, in fact, if Mr. Rove were under oath, would you have complete confidence that he would tell the truth?
MCCLELLAN: I would hope that he would be willing to do that. And, as you point out, it doesn't seem that he is willing to do that. But based on my own experiences, I have some concerns about that.
QUIJANO: Democrats lauded McClellan as a truth-teller.
REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: I compliment you on what you're doing, what you've done.
QUIJANO: While Republicans blasted his motives.
REP. LAMAR SMITH, (R), TEXAS: Scott McClellan alone will have to wrestle with whether it was worth selling out the president and his friends for a few pieces of silver.
MCCLELLAN: No one else is challenging the themes or perspectives in the book. They're trying to attack me personally.
QUIJANO: As for the White House, a spokesman dismissed the testimony, telling reporters: "I think Scott has probably told everyone everything he doesn't know."
QUIJANO: Now for his part, McClellan challenged other former and current administration officials to testify, including Vice President Dick Cheney. But with a Democratically-led Congress, as you know, Wolf, that is something that the White House has so far refused to allow -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Elaine, very much.
His story was shopped around until one publisher took a chance that Scott McClellan's book might be a bombshell. McClellan received $75,000 as an advance to write the book. The first print run of 65,000 copies was simply snapped up. That was quickly supplemented a second print run of 125,000 copies. McClellan's book is now number two on "The New York Times" best-seller list for hard cover fiction.
How much damage could terrorists do if they attack a factory or even a research library that deals with deadly chemicals?
Federal authorities have been trying to weigh the risks. And they're about to notify thousands of sites across the country of the potential danger.
Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena. She's watching this story for us.
What's this all about -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, here's the deal, Wolf. The Department of Homeland Security had 32,000 chemical plants and other facilities provide a slew of information, like how close the plants are to highly populated areas, what kinds of chemicals they use, the quantities and how those chemicals are stored and handled. Then DHS came up with a list of 7,000 facilities that they're calling high risk, which means that an attack on those facilities would be devastating.
Now, it doesn't have anything to do with security at those facilities. DHS says there's no intelligence that any of them is a specific target. It just means that because of the types of chemicals or their proximity to populated areas, that the impact of an attack would be the worst.
Now, these facilities will be notified next week, Wolf. The list, of course, will not be made public, for obvious security reasons. The next step will be for DHS to review their security measures -- the security measures at those facilities -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Why now? What about the timing? Why is DHS getting around to this now?
ARENA: Well, you know, they previously required chemical companies to assess the vulnerabilities, to address them.
What they're doing now is sort of the second phase of that -- a more systematic approach that will allow the department to focus on the plants that are the biggest concerns.
But this is all part of a process that's been ongoing -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kelli, thanks very much.
Kelli Arena reporting for us.
Let's go back to Jack. He's got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack. (AUDIO GAP)
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we don't have Jack ready yet, but we will go back to Jack shortly.
Let's talk about what's happening in the Midwest, the flooding right now. The waters keep rushing on. Some two dozen levees have failed along the Mississippi River. Many, many of them may be at risk. Farms and homes in Missouri are being inundated by floodwaters, but while residents of some towns are bearing the brunt of the busted or overtopped levees, those breaks and spillovers are easing the pressure on communities downriver, including St. Louis, where the flood crest is now expected to be well below record levels. More rain is forecast for much of the flood zone, meaning more misery could lie ahead for the stricken Midwest.
North of St. Louis, one levee failed near Winfield, Missouri, but another is holding, helped by volunteers who have filled tens of thousands of sandbags.
CNN's Reynolds Wolf is on the scene for us. He's watching this story.
What's the latest -- Reynolds?
REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, Wolf, right now things are relatively quiet here at Winfield High School. Earlier today, there was a lot of people moving a lot of this sand, putting them in these bags with these shovels.
Take a look at this video from earlier today. As you can see, it was a community effort. You had people here of all ages, people from all across the spectrum, not just here in Winfield, but across St. Louis, across the state, across the Midwest, all coming together to lend a hand to put these bags together. And my goodness, what a job they did.
Now, if you come back to me, you can see the expanse of these bags. You've got plenty of them back over here. Over to my right hand side, you see plenty of them here, too.
Although at this point, there is really no major issues in this particular area, we are still under a flood watch. And there's always the possibility that we could have some issues with some of these levees beginning to break, not just in this area, but a little bit farther downstream. There's always that kind of worry.
And until that worry passes later on this weekend and into next week, when the water begins to drop, they're really not going to let down their guard.
But for the time being, they've been stockpiling the bags. They're ready to send them out at a moment's notice. In fact, over here, if you look at this Caterpillar -- rather, this small little Bobcat is loading up some bags in the back of this truck. They're going to send them off where they might be needed. But if the threat of flooding gets a little bit bigger, if we have that additional rainfall, if the waters continue to rise a bit more, you're going to see this place get very busy very quickly. They're very, very serious here in the Midwest. They really they respect the river. And when flooding issues occur, they react very quickly.
That's the latest we've got for you -- let's send it back to you, Wolf, in the studio...
BLITZER: All right, Reynolds Wolf.
WOLF: ...in the nice air conditioned studio.
BLITZER: Make that point.
Reynolds Wolf, keep up the good work. Thank you.
Now let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It looks like they're getting a little bit of a respite out there and boy, could they use it.
BLITZER: Yes. We hope so.
CAFFERTY: Two weeks and a few days after the end of the Democratic primary season, Barack Obama has now jumped ahead of John McCain in three key swing states -- Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida. According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Obama was defeated in the primaries by Hillary Clinton in all three of these states. Clinton made the point at the time that she was the only candidate who could defeat John McCain in November because she was winning the so- called battleground states.
The fact that support for Obama has increased so quickly in these states could be taken as a sign that the Democratic Party is beginning to come together behind its nominee despite that long and at times bitter primary fight between Obama and Clinton.
Obama has never campaigned in Florida because its primary was disallowed, you'll recall, by the Democratic National Committee. Clinton easily won the white, working class voters in both Ohio and Pennsylvania, considered critical for a Democratic victory in November.
The election, of course, still almost five months away. Obviously, anything can happen. Polls that are done this far ahead of time are often not indicative of what happens on election day. It's simply a snapshot of what's going on now, early in June.
Historically, the public doesn't even begin to get really focused on the election until after the party conventions are over later this summer. But the record turnouts during the primaries indicate that there is an unusual amount of interest across the country in this election. And there's no doubt the states in question are crucial. Florida clinched the presidency for George Bush in 2000. Ohio did the same for Bush in 2004.
So here's the question: What does it mean that Barack Obama is already leading John McCain in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. You can post a comment on my blog.
We should point out, he's got a pretty big lead -- double digits in Pennsylvania, a smaller single digit lead in Ohio and a smaller lead yet in Florida. I think it's four or five points. But he's ahead nonetheless -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.
See you in a few moments.
Barack Obama defending his decision to reject public financing of his general election campaign. We're going to get Republican reaction. The deputy chairman of the Republican Party, Frank Donatelli, he's standing by live. Immediate reaction to what we heard from Obama.
And a major new development in that salmonella outbreak tied tomatoes that made hundreds of people in dozens of states very sick. Now we're closing in on the source.
Plus, they're a mixed marriage and they're not alone. Find out how Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver overcame their political differences, especially right now on this presidential campaign.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Barack Obama has been taking some heat -- lots of heat, in fact, for his decision not to take public funds for his general election campaign. Just a short while ago, the Democratic candidate spoke out on that issue, defending his decision. Others insisting he made a mistake, including some Democrats and liberal groups, editorial page writers in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" today.
Let's get a response right now from the McCain campaign.
Frank Donatelli is deputy chairman of the RNC, a close adviser and friend of John McCain's, as well.
Frank, thanks very much for coming in.
FRANK DONATELLI, DEPUTY CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Well, we heard also from David Axelrod in the last hour.
I guess the question is if you were in Barack Obama's shoes -- and you're a very sophisticated political guy -- and you had a chance of either running with $300 million or $85 million, what would you do?
DONATELLI: Well, I think you have to put this in context, Wolf. This is something that Senator Obama has talked about for two years. This was not an idle promise. He's gone back two years on the record and said again and again and again it was a matter of principle to him that he support the campaign finance system. And when it became convenient to opt out, he did so.
It just calls to mind that he's morphing into a Washington politician right before our very eyes.
BLITZER: But it sort of makes sense politically. I think you've got to admit, grudgingly, that he does have this impressive ability to raise funds from millions of people, relatively small donations. It's a pretty impressive -- a pretty impressive record that he's achieved over these past several months.
DONATELLI: It's an impressive record. He also has an impressive record of changing his mind. As I say, this was -- he said, not me -- he said an article of faith that he wanted to support the campaign finance system and now he's broken it. He's also changed his mind on trade just this week. He said that he was for renegotiating NAFTA when it was convenient, during the Ohio primary. And now he's in a general election and he it convenient to say he's now for free trade.
When you become somebody that changes your mind, it raises the question of whether you have any core convictions or not. And if you don't have core convictions, you're nothing special. Senator Obama is becoming, as I say, unfortunately, a typical Washington politician.
BLITZER: Although we've heard several Democrats over the past 24 hours say that McCain doesn't exactly come to this debate over campaign fundraising with clean hands, since he changed his mind on accepting the so-called matching funds during the primary season.
DONATELLI: Yes, thank you for letting me address that.
When it comes to the primary season, I think everybody agrees that the campaign finance system is broken. For the last two cycles now, all of the major candidates on both sides of the aisle rejected primary funding. And that's because we have more primaries and the season is much longer.
The general election is different. This is two months. Senator Obama is saying $85 million is not enough money to make his case to the American people. Again, I just think that this calls into question his judgment and his credibility, if he can't keep a promise on something that he himself said is a core issue.
BLITZER: Listen to Senator Obama go against -- going against John McCain for his decision today on the venue, for example, on where he went out to speak on free trade.
Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESUMPTIVE NOMINEE: It's interesting to me that he chose to talk about trade in Canada instead of in Ohio or Michigan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Presumably, he made that reference to Ohio and Michigan because, as you know, NAFTA is not exactly all that popular in some of those blue collar areas where manufacturing jobs have been lost.
But go ahead and respond.
DONATELLI: Yes, well let me -- let me just instruct Senator Obama on this. Senator McCain has gone to Ohio. He has talked to unemployed steelworkers and he has said that free trade is the way to go, that protectionism does not hurt -- does not help the United States in the long run.
What Senator McCain was trying to say in Canada was that if we renegotiated NAFTA, as Senator Obama favored just a couple of months ago, that would put in jeopardy our ability to import energy from Canada. He says, Senator Obama says that he's against excessive energy imports. But we rely on Canada for a lot of our imports. And if were to -- if we were to try to renegotiate NAFTA, that would put into question our ability to continue to import from both Canada and Mexico.
So it's just the old story that protectionism is a bad idea. I'm glad Senator Obama has finally come over to the free trade side, but it's a very convenient time to do that.
BLITZER: And Canada is our biggest trading partner, by far.
Let me get a quick reaction, politically, to you. A.P. is just moving a story from Omaha, Nebraska. I'll read you the lead. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said Friday he would consider serving as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's running mate if asked, but he doesn't expect to be on any ticket.
What do you think about that?
DONATELLI: Well, Senator Hagel's a fine fellow. And, you know, he is a friend of Senator McCain's. Senator Hagel would have to do what he thinks is the proper thing to do. I would think it would be an odd choice for Senator Obama, him being so far to the left and Senator Hagel being more on the conservative side. But he's a fine fellow. We'll just have to see what happens.
BLITZER: Frank Donatelli, thanks very much for joining us.
DONATELLI: OK. Thanks, Wolf.
Nice talking to you.
BLITZER: All right. We'll have you back soon. Coming up, Martha Stewart banned from Britain. You're going to find out why U.K. officials are telling the homemaking star she can't go to London.
What is going on?
Plus, is Barack Obama opening himself up to charges of hypocrisy for refusing public campaign money?
We'll talk about that and a lot more.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Carol Costello has the day off.
Brianna Keilar is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
What's going on -- Brianna?
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, can you believe it, Martha Stewart has been banned from Britain. The "Daily Telegraph" reports she's been denied entrance because of her 2004 obstruction of justice conviction, which sent her to prison for five months. Stewart was scheduled to speak at the Royal Academy in London and had planned a series of meetings.
And a new twist in the search for a fugitive hedge fund manager. Police believe Samuel Israel faked his suicide just before he was to start a 20-year prison sentence for fraud. Well, now they have arrested his girlfriend, who admits that she helped him pack an R.V. just before he disappeared. She was charged with helping a fugitive and released on $75,000 bail.
A spike in teen pregnancies at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school -- and the principal thinks he knows why. He tells our sister publication, "Time" magazine, that a group of girls, none of them older than 16, made a pact to have babies. Seventeen girls got pregnant this year, but Gloucester's mayor doesn't buy it, saying there is no evidence of a pregnancy pact -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brianna, stand by.
We're going to get back to you shortly.
There's been a major break in a nationwide scare. We're just getting information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Investigators think they're closing in on the source of those tomatoes linked to a salmonella outbreak that's now spread to 32 states.
Also, we're getting new information on Israel flexing its military muscles in the sky. You're going to find out what may be the real reason behind a very dramatic show of force. Plus, an amazing discovery on Mars. We'll show you what the Phoenix lander dug up that has scientists cheering. Our Miles O'Brien is standing by with a story you're going to want to see right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, John McCain fires the first shot of what promises to be a new campaign battle over free trade. You're going to find out what he said that has Canadians cheering. Also, he's for McCain and she's for Obama. We'll explore the political divide between California's first couple, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.
And $85 million worth of supplies finally arrive for Hurricane Katrina victims almost three years after the storm. It's the direct, yes, the direct result of a CNN special investigation.
We're going to have the latest. Stand by for that.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Barack Obama is defending his decision to reject public financing of his campaign. He talked about it at a news conference just a little bit more than an hour or so ago.
We're going to talk about that and more now with Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Paul Begala, and Republican strategist John Feehery. They're here.
What do you think?
You know, you're a straight shooter, Paul.
What do you think about Obama's decision to forgo that public financing and funding for his general election campaign?
And he's getting some grief from liberal groups, as you well know.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. But he's also getting hundreds of millions of dollars from citizens in small donations. You know, Gandhi said we must become the change we want to see in the world, right?
And so instead of waiting for a new law, waiting for a Supreme Court ruling, waiting for the Federal Election Commission, Barack Obama has already revolutionized financing and cleaned it up without any changes in the law. So, office, I think politically it's smart, because he can -- he has more supporters than John McCain who can give him 10 or 20 or 30 bucks. And ethically, it's preferable to taking taxpayers' money. It's the cleanest money you could take, people who want to give it to you, but want -- you give Barack 50 bucks, you're not getting an ambassadorship.
BLITZER: All right, John...
BEGALA: So good for Barack Obama.
JOHN FEEHERY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, David Brooks had a very interesting column. It said that -- today, about this whole -- David, "The New York Times" columnist. He said that this shows that Barack Obama really is absolutely ruthless. He'll throw anything under the bus. He threw Jeremiah Wright under the bus. He threw Tony Rezko under the bus. Now he's throwing this campaign finance system under the bus.
He absolutely does not have anything that he truly believes in, the core beliefs of this change we believe in. What he really believes in is himself and the ends justifies the means.
BLITZER: He also suggested in that column that -- and that may be just what the United States needs, a president like that who's willing to do whatever it takes to fight Al Qaeda, to fight Kim Jung Il, to go after tyrants around the world.
FEEHERY: Well, we don't know what he believes in on anything. And that's precisely the point I that think David was pointing out. We don't know if he's going to raise taxes on the middle class when he says he's not. We don't know what he's going to do with Al Qaeda. We don't know what he's going to do.
And that -- and what people want in this campaign more than anything is authenticity.
BLITZER: What do you think?
BEGALA: Well, we know what he's doing. He's not taking money from oil companies. He's not taking money from lobbyists. He's not taking money from public action committees.
John McCain is. John McCain is the one who preaches reform but then refuses to practice it in his own life. He's taken the dirtiest money he can to finance his campaign, and, frankly, he's taking their dirty positions on the issues.
BLITZER: But John McCain is going to take the $85 million in public, taxpayer money and limit himself to that $85 million, as opposed to Barack Obama, who's going to raise hundreds of millions of dollars.
BEGALA: From small donors.
FEEHERY: Well, a lot of them...
BLITZER: Not necessarily all. There will be plenty of fat cats who will give him money.
BEGALA: That's -- and I disclosed it when I donated to Hillary. You should know, I donated to Barack, too.
FEEHERY: (INAUDIBLE). BEGALA: I've given him the max the law allows. That's because CNN pays me so much. I'm a fat -- fatter than I should be cat. But the huge, 90 percent of the 1.5 million people who have contributed to Barack Obama have given small donations, less than $200. You're not going to get a special loophole for that.
Senator McCain is the one who's been taking all this money from the lobbyists. He's got 133 lobbyists helping to run his campaign. I mean that's the most corrupt enterprise you can imagine.
FEEHERY: The difference is, John McCain has people in Washington, and Barack Obama has all these Chicago politicians. Chicago politicians isn't exactly the paragon of -- I'm from Chicago, I know that. Paul Begala, you maxed out to Barack Obama. A lot of people, your friends have maxed out to Barack Obama. The fact of the matter is --
BLITZER: When you say maxed out, that's $2,300 for the primaries, another $2,300 that you can give per person for the general election campaign. Is that right?
BEGALA: I just gave for the general. I didn't support him in the primary. As you might have noticed in our conversations.
FEEHERY: But the fact of the matter is, Barack Obama is showing himself in little glimpses that he's just another conventional politician and people can expect more of the same.
BLITZER: But John McCain is doing something that some suggest is counterintuitive right now. He goes to Canada today and supports NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, something you supported strongly when you and Al Gore and Bill Clinton worked very hard to beat Ross Perot. You remember that debate over NAFTA in the 90s. He's going out there and saying, this is good for the United States, neighbors in Canada, and Mexico, major trading partners, creating a lot of jobs in the United States. Although it's unpopular with some blue collar sectors out there, as you know.
BEGALA: Very unpopular. Those kind of industrial belt states could be the swing states in this election. NAFTA has become very unpopular in places like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania --
BLITZER: John McCain by doing it in a state like Ohio or Pennsylvania or Michigan, yet he believes in free trade. Does he deserve credit for having the guts to say so?
BEGALA: I guess it's like Joe Lewis said to Billy Chaun, he can run but he can't hide. I mean he's been a supporter of NAFTA and all of these trade agreements, as President Clinton was as well. But they're a lot less popular now after the Bush economy has exported our manufacturing base overseas to China, to Mexico, to the rest of the world. And so I think the situation we face in the '90s is very different from the situation we face now.
I think politically this is likely to be a big liability for John McCain. It's interesting he goes to Canada to tell them how great NAFTA is. If he had real courageous, he would have stood in Flint, Michigan and told them how great NAFTA is.
FEEHERY: Which of course, he's done. He's gone to Michigan. He's gone to Ohio. He's got a lot of courage here. The fact of the matter is that NAFTA, Paul, is a net winner from NAFTA. And also, you know, your ex-boss, President Clinton, pushed through trade with China, which you're not particularly talking about. The fact of the matter is that ...
BEGALA: And McCain supported.
FEEHERY: Absolutely. McCain thinks that we need a growing pie, not a smaller pie. You do that through trade. Most economists actually agree with that including times who worked in the Clinton White House. Then I think that that's the point that has to be hammered by Mr. McCain. And Senator Obama actually is changing his mind on NAFTA. He said when he was running in Ohio and Pennsylvania that he was against NAFTA but if you look at closely what he's saying, he's like well, we'll take a look at it. And the fact of the matter is that the Canadians are freaking out about this. They don't want to renegotiate. But we'll have a real problem with the energy market.
BLITZER: The Canadians certainly liked what they heard from John McCain today. But then again I don't know how many Canadians actually vote in the elections that are coming up here.
BEGALA: That's a good point. It's odd that he went up to Canada to give the speech. McCain, it didn't it look like he was -- like he's being over political. He did not do for example what President Bush did in Israel where he essentially attacked Barack Obama. To McCain's credit, he showed more class.
FEEHERY: It's not very good politics.
BLITZER: Thanks for coming in.
There's been a major announcement from the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, important new clues in one of the biggest outbreaks of its kind. Government investigators now think they know where the tomatoes linked to hundreds of salmonella cases came from.
Let's go to Brian Todd. He's working this story for us.
It's got a lot of ramifications. What are you hearing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, CNN spoke late this afternoon with officials from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control. They're zeroing in on two places as possible sources of those bad tomatoes.
This weekend the FDA is sending inspectors to parts of Florida and Mexico to find out where the contamination occurred. Teams of investigators are heading to certain farms there, as well as to pathways that the tomatoes traveled on. So all distribution points between the farms and stores or restaurants where consumers may have gotten contaminated tomatoes.
Another update here, the toll of salmonella poisoning cases has gone up. It's now 552 people who have gotten sick from eating tainted tomatoes. People in 32 states and Washington, D.C. have been affected. But here are the hardest hit states; Texas with 265 cases, New Mexico with 73, Illinois with 34 and Arizona, 29 cases.
There have been no deaths reported yet from this outbreak. But the FDA and CDC say these are the kinds of tomatoes you should watch out for. Red Roma tomatoes, they're also called plum tomatoes. They're a little smaller in size, and round red tomatoes that are a little bit bigger than that. They say the ones that are safe to eat are called cherry and grape tomatoes, tomatoes that are grown on vines, and homegrown tomatoes.
Wolf, it's very important they think they may have zeroed in. But it's not all of Florida, 19 counties in Florida have been excluded from consideration here. So it's parts of Florida, parts of Mexico. They're going after it this weekend.
BLITZER: Are officials concerned that the number of cases has gone up, Brian?
TODD: They are concerned. But a lot of this is from incremental reporting of cases. So there's no hard indication of a spike up right to 552 say in the last couple of days. Also, they're helped by the fact that this type of salmonella, called salmonella St. Paul, is a very, very rare strain, and that's helped them zero in on these two locations as possible sources.
BLITZER: All right. Let's hope they resolve this quickly because a lot of people out there, myself included, love tomatoes. And they're very good for you as well.
Brian, thanks very much.
TODD: Thank you.
BLITZER: A massive show of strength, Israel sends dozens of warplanes, hundreds of miles. Is it practice for a potential strike against Iran's nuclear sites? Barbara Starr working this story.
Barack Obama taking heat for not taking public campaign funds. I'll speak about that and more with his chief strategist, David Axelrod.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Hundreds of planes take off from Israel in a major military show of muscle. That's coming up. We'll explain what's going on.
And later, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton going on the campaign trail together. We're talking about that, and more with a top Obama campaign official. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Around the world. Was it a show of force, or was it a rehearsal for a potential strike against Iran's nuclear facilities? Israel recently sent much of its air force, warplanes like these, far out into the Mediterranean. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's working this story for us.
What are you hearing because I got a lot of significant ramifications?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Wolf.
In fact, early today a U.S. military official confirmed to CNN that back on June 2nd, Israel conducted a major military exercise in the eastern Mediterranean. That may have been an Israeli message that that country is ready and capable of attacking Iran. The Israelis have not confirmed any of this, other than to say they regularly train, but U.S. officials say they saw the whole thing, and it involved dozens of Israeli warplanes, including F-15s, F-16s, and aerial refueling tanker aircraft.
Let me show you on a map here exactly what happened. According to U.S. officials, the plane flew an estimated 900 miles into the eastern Mediterranean. That's of course so they were over open air space but what's really interesting, Wolf, is U.S. officials calculate when you look at the map, that it was roughly the same distance into the Med than it would have been if they were flying in the other direction into Iranian air space, especially if the Israeli warplanes were going after the Natanz enrichment plan or other Iranian nuclear facilities, buried deep underground, that it would have taken these warplanes to attack.
The map shows you some of the nuclear sites in Iran. The U.S. believes clearly this Israeli exercise was aimed at sending a message. Intelligence services around the world saw it, they understood what was happening and they know that the Iranians saw it and they believe the message was delivered.
BLITZER: What is the Israeli government saying now that it's been reported out there? What's their reaction?
STARR: Well, the Israelis, as you can well imagine, are being very reticent to talk about this. So far, the only statements have been that the Israeli military regularly trains against potential threats. It is the U.S., we must say, that believes this was a message being sent by the Israeli government.
BLITZER: A lot of people remember when they flew hundreds of miles in 1981, the Israelis, to destroy the Iraqi nuclear reactor at that time. And more recently they flew into Syria, a suspected nuclear site there. Any reaction, what the Iranians are saying?
STARR: At this point, not in particular. You know that government continues to very much take the public view that it has the right to do what it chooses to do on this matter. BLITZER: All right. Barbara thanks very much.
Barbara Starr reporting.
Now you see it, and now you don't. NASA scientists, that can only mean one thing, ice on mars.
Let's go to our space correspondent Miles O'Brien. He's joining us with details.
Miles, tell us how significant this is.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: It's a big deal, Wolf.
We're talking about the Mars Phoenix Lander, which arrived on Mars Memorial Day weekend. It has been busy using this scoop device to scratch beneath the surface in the arctic regions of Mars.
Take a look at this image out there. That is Mars, and you would think, what a god forsaken place. I want you to look in the side here and you can see there's a scoop full of dirt there. Inside that dirt, may be some clues, Wolf, to the story of life past or even present on Mars.
Let's look at the next image. When you scratch the surface of Mars, instead of that rusty red, look what you get. You get that kind of white effect there. What was it? Scientists thought maybe it might be a salt deposit or some other kind of mineral. They weren't sure.
Take a look at this image. I just want to show it to you, because it gives you an idea of how deep things have gone as they've dug in. The bluer is the deeper portion. They've named all of these trenches after fairy tales, like Goldilocks and Neverland and that kind of thing.
In any case, take a look at this image. This is dirt image got scientists really excited. If you look at it, it's a loop. That's not the image, but there's a loop that shows an image over a four-day period. They call them sauls (ph) on Mars or days. From day 20 to day 24, you notice a distinct difference. There's that image. Look at those pieces right there. They are disappearing, or seeming to disappear on that loop.
The question that scientists wanted to know was, what were those dice-sized crumbs, if you will. Well, what could disappear over a four-day period?
Not rock, not salt, not stones, it has to be ice, water ice. So now, they will continue the process of scooping things up. But it's not so easy, Wolf, because as it gets into that scooper, and this is an actual size version of it, it's very clumpy. So they have to turn on a drill and cause it to vibrate. And then sprinkle the dirt into an oven. And they cook that stuff in there, with those ice crystals in there. They may, just may, discover the organic material they're looking for. That would be a clue that there was life on Mars, or maybe is.
BLITZER: Interesting stuff. Fascinating stuff. We'll watch it with you, Miles. Thanks very much.
When we come back, they're California's first couple, but they're supporting two very different candidates. Coming up, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver and the dueling lawn signs at the governor's mansion. You'll find out what's going on.
And something you have to see to believe. We'll have the video right here. Our own Larry King. There he is. He's jamming backstage with the band Motley Crue. We'll explain. Larry will be here.
BLITZER: Check back with Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour is: What does it mean that Barack Obama is already leading John McCain in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida?
Gary writes from El Centro, California: "Too early to put a lot of stock in the polls, but it does seem to shoot downhill Hillary's argument that Obama is unelectable. I do believe that Obama has a chance not only to win but win in a land slide. These early polls suggest McCain surprisingly weak in areas he should be strong in and Obama surprisingly strong in areas where he was perceived as weak."
Venia in Philadelphia: "It means this, that over 370,000 jobs lost since January, 1 million homes in foreclosure, more than 4,000 troops dead from the senseless war, the world hating us, gas at $4.10 and rising daily, we cannot afford John McCain and people are finally waking up to that fact. I will never forget the British newspaper the day after the 2004 election when we reelected Bush. The headline read, how can 54 million people be so dumb? Well, it looks like they got educated."
Scott in Pennsylvania says: "Doesn't mean a thing. There's still a lot of time left. We haven't even gotten to the October surprise yet."
Ben in Iowa: "It means the people of those states voted for Hillary Clinton, and not against Barack Obama, like the talking heads have been babbling about. Now they're voting for Obama. Surprise, surprise, the talking heads inaccurately interpreted the common man's actions yet again."
Joanne says: "Obama's lead in these three states mean nothing. Don't let the polls fool you. I'm more convinced than ever that Obama is not the person to lead this country in these difficult times."
Harry in Kentucky writes: "Now you and Wolf have something to talk about for another week."
And Karen says: "It means that Obama will probably win Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the Supreme Court will give Florida to McCain."
If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to my blog at CNN.com/CaffertyFile and look for your e-mail there, among hundreds of others that we post -- Mr. Blitzer.
BLITZER: I love these people. They're great.
CAFFERTY: Pretty good, aren't they? Not too shabby.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
Hurricane relief after almost three years; three years after Katrina, you're about to find out how our own CNN special investigation finally got the victims in New Orleans the supplies they're supposed to have.
Plus, retracing the steps of a five-year nightmare. Our John King is in Vietnam right now. He's walking in the footsteps of John McCain and his P.O.W. ordeal.
Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: As they say, better late than never. After a CNN investigation, truckloads of household supplies from FEMA are finally reaching hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana.
Let's go to our correspondent Abbie Boudreau. She's working this story for the special investigations unit.
Give us the good news. Abbie, what happened?
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: OK, Wolf. I am standing in a warehouse, it's actually Unity's abandoned - it's an old abandoned church where they have all their old supplies, some old sheets, some old pots and pans and all that good stuff. Here's what we really want to show you is the new stuff. Follow me this way. This is what was delivered today. We have 1,500 new boxes of pots and pans, just like this. And it's only the beginning.
BOUDREAU: Just one week ago, CNN uncovered FEMA had given away $85 million worth of brand-new hurricane supplies that had been sitting in warehouses for the past two years. FEMA declared the items surplus, offering them up to federal and state agencies. But Louisiana said no, thanks. A state official there claimed no one had told him the supplies were needed.
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: I don't know what FEMA was thinking when it gave away $85 million of taxpayer items. They need to start thinking straighter about this.
BOUDREAU: After our story, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu took immediate action, her office able to locate thousands of supplies in Texas, where they had not yet been distributed.
Today in New Orleans, trucks rolled in with some of those FEMA supplies, household items victims say they desperately need.
And what do you think when you watch all these items coming off this truck?
DEBRA REED, KATRINA VICTIM: I think I'm going to get a new pot set.
MARTHA KEGEL, UNITY OF GREATER NEW ORLEANS: These supplies represent hope for people who have completely lost hope. These supplies represent the way in which people will get their lives back together.
BOUDREAU: The senator and the Recovery Authority Executive Director Paul Rainwater now promised policies will change, saying it's time FEMA be held accountable.
LANDRIEU: It's just a shame that this link collapsed in this chain of help. But we've seen this over and over again with FEMA. They're improving, but not fast enough.
PAUL RAINWATER, LOUISIANA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: There's got to be a better way to do this. And that's what we're going to work towards. We're going to put calls in place, so people like Ms. Reed don't have to go to CNN and say, please find us something. So CNN, thank you for what you did as well.
BOUDREAU: Wolf, we're already learning that other federal agencies are starting to step up. Those agencies that received some of these supplies from FEMA are saying, we have items that are unused. We'll go ahead and hand them over to the people of Louisiana. We also learned just moments ago that next week, Wednesday, Unity is supposed to get even more supplies.
It really is just the beginning -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Abbie, good work. Thanks very much. A lot of people are going to be happy thanks to you and our special investigations unit -- excellent.
Let's go up to New York. Lou Dobbs is standing by. I want him to react to comments that Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, made today in Florida.
And they involve you, Lou. I'll play a little clip. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: What it needs is elected officials to stand up and stop this business and say to Lou Dobbs, what you're saying is just not true. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's referring to immigration, illegal immigration. Go ahead and, I know you'd love to respond to Mayor Bloomberg.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Respond, hell, you know, "Bloomberg Rips Lou" there I see in the lower third.
The mayor's a built of a twerp when it comes to immigration policy, and not very smart to sit there and call me out. I don't know what he's trying to do here. But the fact is, he's wrong. He's the one who said a year ago that it was time to end illegal immigration. He had agreed with me a year ago. Now he's suddenly I'm the problem not the problem, not illegal aliens that are coming into this country somewhere between 12 and 20 million of them?
He understands the economics. If he would like to demonstrate what I've said is untrue, that illegal immigration is a horrible problem for this country and that we've got to stop the illegal employers of those illegal aliens. I would debate him.
BLITZER: He said this Lou, he says, "There are 5,000 undocumented people in New York City. They have a lower crime rate than people who are here legally and have lived here for generations."
DOBBS: Let me just tell you two things. One, he doesn't know how many illegal aliens are here because nobody is counting them.
No. 2, he doesn't know what the crime rate is because no one is following up that knows what illegal aliens are doing because it's against the law to find out their citizenship status. It's all bunk and bull. This is part of an agenda between on the left, special interest groups, and on the right, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and fat cast elitists like Mayor Bloomberg who should be spending more time not in Florida talking on the behalf of Barack Obama but doing his George Bush.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.