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Pilots' Training Getting 2nd Look; Pet Chimp Mauls Woman; President Obama's Message to Canada

Aired February 17, 2009 - 17:00   ET


BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Won't you?

BLITZER: Definitely.

See you in a few moments.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a critical ally in a complex war -- President Obama reaching out to Canada, hoping to persuade it to keep its troops in Afghanistan as the U.S. prepares to deploy thousands more. The president's interview with the CBC, plus my interview with the journalist who conducted it.

Also, new questions right now about the crash of that Continental Airlines flight near Buffalo.

Is the cockpit's crew's relative lack of experience a factor?

And a major part of Donald Trump's empire is crumbling. Casinos are filing for bankruptcy protection.

Is the mogul feeling the pinch of the recession?

Donald Trump is standing by to join us live.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


President Obama calls it the beginning of the end of the worst financial crisis to rock this country since the Great Depression. His massive stimulus package now the law of the land. And a pipeline pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy is now officially open.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is here working the story for us.

A pretty significant day -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely is -- and a big win for Barack Obama. And this certainly culminates it for the president. It took less than a month and a lot of Washington- style politicking for this rookie president to get it out of Congress. But when he signed the stimulus bill, President Obama was way outside the Beltway, giving a speech that was part warning and part promise.


CROWLEY (voice-over): The president of the United States was in Denver when he signed the most expensive economic bill in history.


This is about you. Stick with me.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today does mark the beginning of the end -- the beginning of what we need to do to create jobs for Americans scrambling in the wake of lay-offs -- the beginning of what we need to do to provide relief for families worried that they won't be able to pay next month's bills.

CROWLEY: When he was pushing Congress for the stimulus plan, President Obama used distinctly dark language to describe the economy. But as he signed the bill pushing $787 billion into the gasping U.S. economy, there was a distinct upbeat to the rhetoric.

OBAMA: We have begun the difficult work of keeping that promise. We have begun the essential work of keeping the American dream alive in our time.

CROWLEY: The president repeatedly cautioned there will be hazards and reverses along the way, not to mention the things still on his to- do list -- help for the flailing financial industry, decisions about the teetering auto industry. And tomorrow in Phoenix the president will unveil a $50 billion plan to help people in danger of losing perhaps the biggest part of the American dream -- their own home.

OBAMA: The road to recovery will not be straight. We will make progress and there may be some slippage along the way. It will demand courage and discipline. It will demand a new sense of responsibility that's been missing from Wall Street all the way to Washington.

CROWLEY: If this is the beginning of the end of the nation's economic problems, it is, as well, the beginning of something else. By pumping $787 billion of taxpayer money into the economy, the president has begun to own the problem. His political fate is wrapped up in the success of this and what comes next.


CROWLEY: The president said the stimulus bill was supported far and wide, but not so much in Washington. Republicans beg to differ with the president. The Republican National Committee issued a statement, saying: "Congressional Democrats wrote the legislation behind closed doors and came up with a bill that will not deliver the jobs promised." And, in fact, they say will increase the debt burden on future generations.

BLITZER: Well, we're going to -- pretty soon we're going to find out if that is true or not.


CROWLEY: Somebody is wrong here.

BLITZER: Yes. Somebody is going to be wrong and we're going to find out soon enough.


BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy, for that.

There are new developments in the case of that plane crash near Buffalo the other day.

Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is working this story -- Allan, I take it there are questions being raised about the crew's relative lack of experience.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, it is true. The crew that was flying Flight 3407, they really didn't even have a chance. Now perhaps -- perhaps, pilots say, if they had had more experience with that aircraft, it might have made a difference.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): In the 26 seconds that Flight 3407 tumbled out of control, probably no one could have saved the aircraft, say veteran pilots.

KIRK KOENIG, EXPERT AVIATION CONSULTING: At that point in the flight, I don't think it matters if Neal Armstrong and Chuck Yeager are flying the airplane. The outcome would not have been any different.

CHERNOFF: But it's possible a more seasoned crew, noting icy conditions, might have taken the precaution to turn the autopilot off and take manual control of the aircraft, which did not happen. The crew of Flight 3407 was relatively inexperienced.

STEVEN CHEALANDER, NTSB BOARD MEMBER: We'll be looking at their training. We'll look at their training records, how they did in training.

CHERNOFF: Captain Marvin Renslow had only a few months of experience in the Q400 turboprop cockpit -- 110 hours of flight time. First Officer Rebecca Shaw had 770 hours in the Q400. They both had just a few thousand hours of total flight experience.

Compare that to the 20,000 hours that Captain "Sully" Sullenberger had logged when he safely landed a US Airways flight in the Hudson River last month.

KOENIG: Experience certainly matters. Usually experience has to do with you've seen this before. You've recognized the situation. CHERNOFF: Renslow and Shaw were flying for Colgan Air, a regional airline that serves Continental, as well as United and US Airways. Their modest experience is not unusual, as regional airlines pay far less than the majors. Yet a growing number of American travelers are flying regional airlines like Colgan Air, since major carriers have contracted out many of their short haul flights to the regionals to save money.

Colgan Air did not respond to CNN's repeated requests for comment.


CHERNOFF: It's too early to say that pilot inexperience actually had a cause in this crash. But aviation experts do agree that the more experienced the pilot is, the better he or she is able to handle an emergency -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff, thanks very much.

He's in Clarence, outside of Buffalo.

Jack Cafferty has got The Cafferty File.

He's joining us now live -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, there's a growing chorus of voices who now want to take a closer look at how Roland Burris was appointed to the U.S. Senate by the now ousted Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich.

An affidavit recently filed by Burris shows that he had more extensive contact with the former governor's people, including the governor's brother, than he previously acknowledged during the hearings into whether or not he should get the Senate seat.

The affidavit shows that Burris spoke on several occasions with Blagojevich's brother, who hit him up for $10,000 in campaign money. Burris says he didn't raise or donate any money after June. And he insists there's nothing inconsistent in what he said during Blagojevich's impeachment trial and the affidavit.

Horse pucky.

The Illinois senator says he has absolutely nothing to hide, that he'll testify in front of anyone to prove it.

Except he left this part out during his testimony -- well.

But that might not cut it. Illinois Republicans started calling for a perjury investigation by a county prosecutor. And now Democrats are getting in on the action, too. The Democratic attorney general is calling the affidavit "a particularly frustrating revelation." He wants a deeper investigation into his actions.

And the Democrats on Capitol Hill have probably had their fill of this side show in Illinois. Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate apparently knows about this affidavit and is looking into it. Reid's office says: "Clearly, it would have been better if Burris had provided this information when he first testified."

No kidding.

Burris was appointed by Blagojevich three weeks after the Illinois governor was arrested on corruption charges, including an attempt to sell Obama's Senate seat, which Burris now has.

So here's the question -- should Roland Burris resign from the U.S. Senate?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jack.

Thank you.

A pet chimpanzee goes on a rampage, seriously injuring a woman.

Were warning signs ignored?


DON MECCA, NEIGHBOR: He hated me. He would storm up to the cage and just bump up -- you know, punch with his fists against the cage and I'm this far away.


BLITZER: Here's a question -- was it even a good idea to keep the animal as a pet?

Was it legal?

We have new information.

Also, President Obama is preparing to deploy thousands more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, even as Canada is scheduled to pull its troops out. Now the president getting ready to appeal directly to the Canadian people. The CBC's Peter Mansbridge -- he interviewed President Obama this morning. Peter is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And Alex Rodriguez faces the news media after revealing his steroid use. The highest paid player in baseball explains why he did it before growing -- becoming so emotional. And he couldn't even speak during part of that news briefing. We'll share it with you, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: We want to go right to CNN's Mary Snow.

She's in New York working that story of the chimpanzee -- a chimpanzee that once starred in some TV commercials. It got loose and mauled a woman. And there's new information coming in. It's pretty disturbing.

What do we know?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, a 55-year-old woman tonight is listed in critical condition at Stanford Hospital. This after she was mauled by a 200 pound chimpanzee that belonged to a friend of hers.


SNOW: He was no stranger to residents Stamford, Connecticut. This is Travis -- a pet chimpanzee, seen here in 2003 when he escaped and wreaked havoc on the streets. But it was nothing compared to Monday's attack, when the chimp escaped his owner's house, went into a frenzy and attacked a 55-year-old woman who arrived at her friend's home to help settle the animal down.

CAPT. RICHARD CONKLIN, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT POLICE: It jumped on her and began biting her and mauling her.

SNOW: Police say the owner, Sandra Herold, couldn't calm the chimp and called 911 before stabbing it with a butcher knife and hitting him with a shovel. Even that wasn't enough to subdue Travis. Police say the animal then attacked a police officer in a cruiser, who opened fire, killing the 14-year-old chimp.

Travis was viewed as a family member by its owner.

MAYOR DANNEL MALLOY, STAMFORD, CONNECTICUT: This is, to a large degree, her child, who is now dead.

SNOW: Not all neighbors were comfortable with the chimp living in this residential area.

MECCA: Dangerous. Totally. One hundred percent dangerous -- a dangerous animal. He hated me. He would storm up to the cage and just bump up -- you know, punch with his fists against the cage like this far away.

SNOW: The question is, was it legal to have the animal here?

A Stamford police captain says yes.

CONKLIN: The law has been tightened up in recent years. But from what we understand, that this woman can own the chimpanzee because she owned it long before that law. And it was kind of grandfathered in, her ownership of the chimpanzee.

SNOW: Animal expert Jeff Corwin says these animals should never be pets.

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: Look, we're attracted to these animals. There's clearly a kinship that human beings share with our close cousins, chimpanzees. But we shouldn't be keeping them in our homes as pets.


SNOW: As to why the chimp went on the attack in the first place, a Stamford police spokesman is quoted in some reports as saying that the chimp's owner had given the animal tea with Xanax in it in an effort to calm him down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary.

Thanks very much.

By the way, keeping a wild animal as a pet is not necessarily illegal. The regulations vary state by state. The Humane Society says of the United States says in Connecticut, where this attack happened, some primates are allowed, including chimpanzees. People can also own wild birds like caged hawks or owls and certain snakes, like a Burmese pythons. But owners must have a permit for these animals.

Connecticut does not allow big cats, such as lions, tigers and cheetahs.

President Obama is about to make his first official foreign visit to Canada. He needs the country's help in Afghanistan. Now he's taking his case directly to the Canadian people. And we'll share with you what he's saying.

Plus, Sarah Palin's teenage daughter -- now a mother herself and at odds with the former candidate over sex education. Bristol Palin speaking out in a brand new interview right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama makes his first presidential trip outside the country on Thursday. And that would to be Canada. He'll meet with the prime minister, Stephen Harper. They'll talk about trade, border security, the economic crisis, the war in Afghanistan and a lot more. The president has just ordered thousands more U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan.

Canada, however, is scheduled to pull out its forces over the course of the next two years.

Ahead of the trip, President Obama sat down with the CBC chief correspondent and anchor of the nightly newscast in Canada, "The National," Peter Mansbridge.

He's joining us now live here in Washington.

Peter, thanks very much for coming in.

A very important visit and an important interview he granted you earlier today.

I want to play this little excerpt and then we'll talk about it.

Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: The Canadian contribution has been extraordinary. And for all of the families who have born the burden in Canada, I think, we all have a heartfelt thanks.

I'm in the process of a strategic review of our approach in Afghanistan. Very soon, we will be releasing some initial plans in terms of how we are going to approach the military side of the equation in Afghanistan. But I am absolutely convinced that you cannot solve the problem of Afghanistan, the Taliban, the spread of extremism in that region solely through military means. We're going to have to use diplomacy. We're going to have to use development.

And my hope is that in conversations that I have with Prime Minister Harper, that he and I end up seeing the importance of a comprehensive strategy and one that, ultimately, the people of Canada can support, as well as the people of the United States can support, because, obviously, you know, here, as well, there are a lot of concerns about a conflict that has lasted quite a long time now and actually appears to be deteriorating at this point.


BLITZER: Peter, correct me if I'm wrong, but I suspect he's pretty popular in Canada right now and what he says could affect the public opinion there in a very different way than his predecessor, George W. Bush, might have had an impact in Canada.

PETER MANSBRIDGE, CBC CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: Oh, there's no doubt right now he's extremely popular. I think the favorability ratings are running like 80 percent in Canada for his job as president of the United States so.

But this is a very touchy issue, Canada and Afghanistan. The country is split roughly 50/50 on this one, in terms of a combat role. Canada's been performing a combat role since it got in there in late 2001. Now it wants to withdraw from the combat role -- still stay in Afghanistan, but work on the redevelopment side.

So what President Obama has to say and what he said today is of obvious interest to a lot of Canadians.

BLITZER: There's enormous impact of whatever happens in U.S./Canadian relations on the economy in both countries. A lot of Americans, as you know, Peter, they simply forget that Canada is the largest trading partner of the United States. And so many millions of jobs are at stake in the United States on the nature of this U.S./Canadian relationship.

So I assume that's going to be at the core of this meeting on Thursday.

MANSBRIDGE: That's right. Two things aside from Afghanistan, for sure. One is the effect of the stimulus package and, in particular, the "buy America" clause. A lot of concern in Canada that's going to cut Canadian firms out, especially in the steel area.

The other question is energy -- the oil sands in Northern Alberta and whether or not they're considered dirty oil by the U.S.

BLITZER: And Canada being one of the major energy suppliers for the United States -- I believe the largest energy supplier for the United States.

How did he impress you?

You sat down with him today.

What did you think?

MANSBRIDGE: Well, you know what he's like. He's pretty -- he's a pretty impressive figure. He clearly knows the file on the Canadian issues. He's ready for that visit, which is quite remarkable considering he's traveling every day pushing his stimulus package.

But it was a fascinating interview -- 10 minutes only. You know what the deal is there. That's still a lot of ground covered.

BLITZER: And I'm sure that's the first of several for you in the next few years. No doubt about it, Peter.

Thanks very much for coming in.

MANSBRIDGE: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Check one item off the president's to-do list -- President Obama's signature clearing the way to spend nearly $800 billion.

Up next, help for some homeowners.

But when does the money well dry up and which projects won't get paid for?

Plus, what does it say about the economy when Donald Trump's company, at least the casino portion of it, files for bankruptcy protection?

I'll talk to "The Donald" about that directly.

He's standing by live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And it's been 31 years since the famous Hollywood director, Roman Polanski, got entangled in a child sex scandal. Now there's a new development. We'll share it with you.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, it appears investors are concerned President Obama's nearly $800 billion economic stimulus plan can only do so much. The Dow dropping 297 points today. Analysts say it's because it appears it will take awhile for the country to pull out of recession.

Plus, the final days in the White House reportedly left Dick Cheney fuming.

What caused the rift between the former vice president and George W. Bush?

And all those personal pictures and details you post on Facebook -- don't think they're gone once you delete them. A change to the fine print you may have missed.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


All that coming up. But let's go out to our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, right now.

He's working a really important story, what's happening in California -- an enormous budget crisis unfolding with a lot of ramifications, because, as all of our viewers know, Bill, what happens in California often spreads elsewhere.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, there's one word from California. The word is dysfunctional.





SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Arnold Schwarzenegger is the last action hero.

Can he save the State of California?

ALAN HOFFENBLUM, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: Our state government, as it exists, is dysfunctional.

SCHNEIDER: The state is taking drastic measures to deal with its budget crisis -- state workers furloughed, income tax refunds delayed, government offices closed, work suspended on hundreds of public works projects, the state legislature in lockdown.

The last action hero was elected to knock heads -- force Republicans inside Democrats to work together.

So where is the action? Schwarzenegger did forge a compromise with legislative leaders -- a mixture of spending cuts, tax hikes and new borrowing -- something for everyone to hate.

DAN MITCHELLS, UCLA ECONOMIST: When you are a schoolteacher who's laid off, you're certainly going to feel the pain.

If you are a person with a disability and now you have problems getting a health care provider. So, yes, you're going to see -- you're going to see real pain in a lot of these programs.

SCHNEIDER: The legislature can't quite bring itself to pass the plan.

The problem -- the governor can't deliver his own party. Almost no Republicans will vote for a plan that includes tax increases.

HOFFENBLUM: When they first ran for office, they signed a pledge that under no circumstances would they vote for tax increases.

SCHNEIDER: And if the budget doesn't pass?

Holy Toledo. Make that holy Sacramento. The state government could virtually shut down -- prisons open, parks closed, highway patrols gone.

Don't they remember what happened when Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress allowed the federal government to shut down in 1995?


SCHNEIDER: Republicans are the minority party in California.

Can they really do this?

Well, yes, because California requires a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. The Republican minority has veto power -- even over their own governor, the last action hero himself -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And California, by the way, Bill, is not alone by any means. Right now, 46 states are dealing with money problems. But California tops the list of states with the biggest percentage of budget shortfalls. It's followed very closely by Arizona, where President Obama will unveil his housing rescue plan tomorrow, in Phoenix.

Four other states also have deficits larger than 20 percent. But there are some bright spots. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and West Virginia all have balanced budgets. The populations in those states not very large, though.

Let's bring in our Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor, Paul Begala, and our Republican strategist and CNN contributor, Ed Rollins. What happens in California, Paul, often happens elsewhere.

How worried are you that we're only at the beginning of this economic crisis out there?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I'm very worried. I think Bill Schneider's report was fascinating and very accurate. Here's Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican governor, but a pragmatic guy. You know, he's obviously a partisan Republican. But I think he's trying his best to reach across that party line. And that sort of stalemate is going to compound itself, I think, in other states.

The Republicans seem to be united around one principle and that is no new taxes.

Well, fine. We're all against new taxes. But, my goodness, at the price of opening up the prisons and closing down the state parks?

We've got to get real here. You know, I would caution -- I would caution those Republicans to look at Mark Warner, now a senator from Virginia.

When he was governor of Virginia, he cut spending in a bad time to balance the budget. But then when he had to, he pushed through a tax increase. And he left office the most popular governor in modern Virginia history. And now he sits in the United States Senate.

BLITZER: And -- yes, I was going to say, Ed, that even a state like Kansas -- Kansas, right in the middle of the country, apparently having difficulties paying tax refunds to the folks out there.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I'm a Californian and grew up in California and started my politics in the state assembly. And I think the reality is they got very severe problems and more important this is a governor who's very, very unpopular with Republicans and very unpopular with Democrats.

The task is very difficult because states -- 49 out of the 50 states have to balance their budget. They don't have the luxury of doing what the federal government can do which is borrow money from other places. So they've got to make it work. And it's not difficult -- it's very difficult in this time of shortfalls everywhere. Places like Kansas.

The states you put up on the board as being balanced are pretty small states. And that doesn't diminish the task they have. But I think the big states are going to have severe problems.

BLITZER: All right. Let's shift gears and talk a little bit about the secretary of state, Paul, Hillary Clinton. She's on her first trip to Asia right now. It comes at a time when North Korea, Kim Jong-il threatening to launch -- to test another long-range missile, potentially a missile that has the range of hitting the United States, Alaska specifically. Maybe even the west coast.

Remember Biden, the vice president, Joe Biden, he was warning that this president could be tested early on in a new administration. It often happens.

How worried are you right now that the new administration, potentially by North Korea, is about to be tested?

BEGALA: Well, I think it's a very good point. This president inherits a crisis in the economy here at home but also lots of potential crises around the world. You know, eight years of belligerence and bellicosity from George W. Bush got us a nuclear- armed North Korea.

I think that Secretary Clinton is doing a very good job. She's over in Japan today, met with families, Japanese families who had loved ones kidnapped by the dictatorship in North Korea. Big issue in Japan. Same time, she said if North Korea does test that Taepodong-2 missile, it would be very unhelpful. Those were her words. Diplomatic but firm.

Next, she'll go to South Korea and I think help to reassure our allies in South Korea. So I have been impressed that -- you know, everybody thought it would be a team of rivals, the secretary of state and the vice president and Secretary Gates and General Jones at the national security. So far, it's been a remarkably cohesive group on foreign policy. And you've got to give the president very high marks for that.

BLITZER: It's only been a month or so. So -- it's still pretty early. What do you think, Ed?

ROLLINS: Well, first of all, the crises are exactly as Paul laid them out. I don't think North Korea, no matter who was in there, was going to basically go try and get a nuclear weapon. And we can't let that happen, just like we can't let the Iranians get a nuclear weapon, because they are more than just a threat to their neighbors. They are a threat by selling or making and they have shown the path they're sort of rogue nations.

At the end of the day, I think that this president has faced as many crises as any president, incoming president. He's tackled the first one. Obviously, there's differences of opinion on where we're going. I don't think there will be severe differences of opinion on the foreign policy.

Historically, we pretty much are consistent in our foreign policy, whether it's Democrat or Republican. I think, realistically, the Republicans will be more supportive of him in the efforts that he makes on the foreign policy.

BLITZER: I suspect you're right on that front. Here's what Eugene Robinson, a columnist, wrote in "The Washington Post" today. A column entitled "President of Everything."

"This is a presidency on steroids. Barack Obama's executive actions alone would be enough for any new administration's first month. That the White House also managed to push through Congress a spending bill of unprecedented size and scope, designed both to provide an economic stimulus and reorder the nation's priorities is little short of astonishing."

The fact is, Paul, there are so many issues out there. The economic stimulus only one of them. But this president of the United States faces an agenda that is mind boggling when you think about it.

BEGALA: And it is. And he gave an interview when he first took office that said, I didn't come here just to occupy this beautiful office. I came here to do a job. And some of my friends, and they are my friends like Andy Card, the long-term veteran chief of staff for President Bush, criticized the new president, some of his staff, because they took their coats off and they worked in their shirt sleeves in the oval office.

Well, you know, they're cleaning up a whole lot of mess that Mr. Card's boss left them from the past administration. So I can't blame them for rolling up their sleeves and getting to work. And I got to say, this has been, I think, the most audacious, comprehensive, bold and so far successful new presidency than we've seen since probably Ed Rollins' old boss Ronald Reagan or probably all the way back to FDR.

BLITZER: People are making comparisons to your old boss, Ronald Reagan, Ed.

ROLLINS: Well, both came in with big agendas. And I think both reversed the direction of the country -- Reagan on a conservative front. Obviously, Barack Obama and his people want to move more to progressive -- I don't like the terms left and right and liberal and -- but I think a more progressive, more of a spending.

Obviously, a lot of it is what's out there in front of them. And it's -- the issues are big. I'm very concerned about Afghanistan. I think that's a very severe task for any new president or any old president. I think the stimulus bill, which was passed very quickly, obviously, we have to see whether that can get jobs created and whether it will work.

At this point in time, I think, you know, a lot of us have some serious doubts about it but we want it to work. We don't want to have spent a trillion dollars and not have it work, but I think there are serious doubts on that front.

BLITZER: Ed and Paul, guys, thanks very much.

Donald Trump's casinos falling on some hard times. They are filing for bankruptcy protection. So what's the impact on the mogul himself? Donald Trump standing by to join us live.

Plus, a new twist in that sex scandal that rocked Hollywood more than three decades ago. Will exile director Roman Polanski be able to clear his name?

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


BLITZER: A huge baseball star says he was young and stupid. Today Alex Rodriguez to the "New York Times" answered questions about his use of performance enhancers. The infielder says he let his cousin inject him with an over-the-counter drug from 2001 to 2003 and he says he didn't even know what the substance was.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: If you didn't think it was wrong, why were you so secretive and reluctant to ask for assistance with what you were doing?

ALEX RODRIGUEZ, NEW YORK YANKEES INFIELDER: That's a good question. I knew we weren't taking Tic Tacs. You know, I knew that it was -- potentially could be something that perhaps was wrong, but I really didn't get into the investigation. Perhaps like I would have. I mean, I wouldn't imagine thinking of doing something like that today, obviously. It's a different world. It's a different culture.

But again, when you're 24 and you're 25 and you're curious and you're ignorant, you know, there's a lot of things you really don't tell a lot of people. And that's just that. I mean you don't want to share everything you do with the public or whatnot. And that was just one of those things that I really decided not share with anyone.


BLITZER: Rodriguez spoke to reporters while at spring training today in Florida. He says he wants to continue playing baseball and understands he has to earn trust.

There's another story developing out on the west coast right now. I want to go to CNN's Drew Griffin of our Special Investigations Unit. He's working on a story about the film director Roman Polanski.

Drew, there are new developments. He's trying to clear his name after, what, three decades?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT: Yes, 31 years since he was charged in this crime. A real Hollywood shocker. It was back in 1977, Wolf, that film director Roman Polanski accused of drugging, raping and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl in the hot tub of Jack Nicholson's home.


GRIFFIN (voice over): It was supposed to be a photo shoot, but the girl told the grand jury Polanski gave her champagne and a Quaalude then forced her into sex. Polanski would plead guilty to one charge, unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. But before sentencing, Polanski fled to France where he has lived as a fugitive ever since.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was going to be a real circus.

GRIFFIN: This latest documentary is the latest attempt to have the celebrated film director cleared of or at least no longer threatened by his guilty plea. The film raises questions of misconduct between a prosecutor and the now dead judge.

Polanski's attorneys argue the prosecutor pressured the judge to ignore a plea deal which would have let Polanski go free for time served. Polanski's friends have been trying for years to clear the director's return to the U.S. most recently in 2003 when Polanski's film "The Pianist" was up for an Oscar. But the Los Angeles district attorney's office remained firm saying any attempt to modify sentencing must first require Polanski to show up in court in Los Angeles to answer fugitive charges.

He hasn't. Fearing the court would throw him in jail. Even though the victim herself in 2003 told our Larry King the case should end.

SAMANTHA GEIMER, VICTIM: Well, I got over it a long time ago. I mean it's been a long time, and I wasn't prepared to carry a lot of bad feelings with me, and further damage my life and continue, you know, the -- just the trauma of all of it.


GRIFFIN: And Wolf, Samantha Geimer's attorney was in court -- is in court right now out in Los Angeles along with attorneys for Polanski asking that this whole case be dismissed but the prosecutor standing firm saying, look, he drugged and raped a child. He plead guilty to that crime and he hasn't answered for it yet because he skipped out on the sentencing.

BLITZER: And to his -- his main desire, correct me if I'm wrong, is he wants to get back into the United States and not face arrest?

GRIFFIN: Not face arrest. Not do any more time. And because what they are arguing is a corrupt judge now, that judge has passed away, they want the entire case dismissed, stricken from his record.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Drew.

The Palin family back in the news right now. This time it's not Sarah Palin who's grabbing headlines. Why her daughter, the teenage mom Bristol, says Sarah Palin's advice on teen sex isn't realistic.

And one of Donald Trump's companies filing for bankruptcy protection. But what will that do to the Trump empire, if anything? I'll ask him. He's standing by live.

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


BLITZER: Daughter of the governor of Alaska is now speaking out about her new baby and what happened.

Let's go to Brian Todd. He's working the story for us. She gave an interview, Bristol Palin. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: She did, Wolf. And when the -- the news first broke, as you recall, the media was asked to respect the family's privacy. But now Bristol Palin is speaking out about her unintended teen pregnancy.


TODD (voice over): The daughter of Alaska's governor is warning youngsters do as I say, not as I do. Bristol Palin talks about teenage pregnancy in an interview with FOX News.

BRISTOL PALIN, DAUGHTER OF ALASKA'S GOVERNOR: I hope that people learn from my story and just like -- I don't know, prevent teen pregnancy, I guess. I wish it would happen in like 10 years so I could have a job and an education and be like prepared and have my own house and stuff, but he brings so much joy. I don't regret it at all. I just wish it would have happened in 10 years rather than right now.

TODD: The news of Bristol Palin's pregnancy at age 17 rocked the campaign trail last summer. It was just days after Governor Sarah Palin had been selected as the Republican vice presidential candidate and was embraced by social conservatives. The news touched off a debate about whether teens should be taught about birth control in schools since Palin's running mate, John McCain, advocated abstinence only education.

But Bristol Palin tells FOX she has doubts about that approach.

PALIN: Everyone should be abstinent, but it's not realistic at all.

TODD: Governor Palin has supported funding for abstinence only education and opposed explicit sex education in schools but she said last October she's never opposed all sex ed in the classroom.

Teen pregnancy may have been an early distraction on the campaign trail, but the author of a new biography says it may not cloud Sarah Palin's political future.

LORENZO BENET, AUTHOR, "TRAILBLAZER: AN INTIMATE BIOGRAPHY": I think the fact that Bristol chose life and the fact that Governor Palin advocates choosing life and almost every circumstance that a woman might find herself in, I think that kind of strengthened her foothold.


TODD: Now the last time we spoke to Governor Palin after the election, she did not rule out a future run for higher office. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Brian Todd here in Washington.

Let's check back with Jack. He's got the "Cafferty File."

Jack? JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's very enlightening stuff, isn't it? Kids' thoughts on teenage pregnancy.

The question this hour, should Roland Burris resign from the U.S. Senate?

Pablo in Texas, "Jack, not quite yet. Almost certainly there is more fertilizer about to hit the ventilator. Let us not rush to judgment. Senator Burris should be given a chance to dig himself out or in a little deeper."

Mike in Arkansas says, "No, he should just go sit in the corner and do what he's told until the next election when Illinois can elect someone to replace him. We have other important things to worry about and this is but a blip on the screen that only Republicans and old newscasters like you worry about."

Jim in Las Vegas, "Who would you replace him with if he does? With the exception of honest Abe Lincoln, there's never been a non- corrupt politician to come out of that state especially since prohibition."

Jack writes from Lancaster, Ohio, "Jack, I don't know who he is but I support any of their resignations. We're woefully behind on elected official resignations. We need to catch up and catch them before they do any more damage. It would be a shovel ready project."

Beverly in New York writes, "Jack, he ought to resign, but he won't. The truth will come out. None of the participants seems overly bright. It's like the Keystone Cops do politics.

And Tom in Desoto, Texas, "I've never been to Chicago. I've heard it's a nice city. The state of Illinois appears to be run like a third world country. Perhaps it could be sold to South America."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there among hundreds of others.

BLITZER: Ouch. Ouch.



BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

Trump's casino file for bankruptcy protection, but Donald Trump has already quit those companies. So what's going on? The real estate mogul is standing by to join us live.

And Facebook changes the rules outraging many of its loyal users. Details of the new terms that have so many people upset, right now.


BLITZER: What was once a very significant and highly publicized part of Donald Trump's empire is crumbling. Trump Entertainment Resorts which operates his Atlantic City casinos has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection. And the mogul and his daughter have both quit the company's board.

Donald Trump is joining us on the phone right now from New York.

All right, explain, Donald, what is going on? Because a lot of our viewers out there must be confused.

DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN & PRESIDENT, THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Well, we quit before it filed. And what you have to understand, Wolf, is we were not, and I was not involved with the management of the company. It represents less than -- substantially less than 1 percent of my net worth and has for quite some time.

And my attitude was, that if I'm not involved in the management, what's the purpose? I made an offer to buy the company. I wanted to buy the company. But the world has changed a lot in terms of Atlantic City and other places, obviously. There's been a big change.

So I left the board, I left the company. I'm not involved in the company. And it did a filing. I mean the one bad thing is it's got my name on it, which I'm not exactly thrilled about. But...

BLITZER: Is that going to stay? Is your name going to stay on it?

TRUMP: Well, we're looking into that right now. And if I can avoid that, I probably will avoid that. But it's got my name on it and that's too bad.

BLITZER: Because it is embarrassing, your name on those casinos in bankruptcy protection.

TRUMP: Well, I don't know. Look, I think most people understand. I think you understand, even though you're trying to make it a little bit dramatic, but that's OK because that's why you're ratings are good, Wolf. The fact is that, the company itself is not run by me. It represents a very tiny fraction of my net worth, much less than 1 percent.

And, you know, it's one of those things. You can't have everything. This world is crazy. We're big buyers. I'm buying jobs all over. I just bought a big one in Washington, a big project in Washington, and we're doing a lot of buying because I think this is a great time to buy.

The problem is, there's so many opportunities out there today, more than I've ever seen, that you have to focus where the opportunity is the best.

BLITZER: Because the economy, as you know, is horrible right now. But what I hear you're saying, Donald, correct me if I'm wrong, is that the rest of the Trump empire, shall we call it, is it in good shape or you've got other problems elsewhere? TRUMP: No, the company is in very good shape. We just bought something very, very big, and we're trying to buy other things. We have got a lot of cash and we're trying to buy other things. And I think this is a great time to buy.

BLITZER: Tell us why it's a great time to buy, because a lot of investors out there, they just want to buy some T-bills and keep their money safe as opposed to making investments in an economy that's got a lot of questions out there.

TRUMP: Well, Wolf, it's a good time to buy because prices are low. I mean I'm seeing prices that I haven't seen in many, many years.

BLITZER: But some people say they're going to be even lower six months from now or a year from now.

TRUMP: Well, they may be or they may not be. But I can tell you, they're a hell of a lot lower than they were a year ago or two years ago. And this is just great opportunity. And if you get something really prime, really good, eventually it's going to be worth a lot more than you paid.

I used to tell people two years ago, don't buy real estate and I used to preach it hard. And now I'm saying, I think that this is a good time. Whether you hit the exact market or not, I can't tell you. But I think this is a great time to buy. If you have cash, this is the great time to buy.

BLITZER: Because I hear a lot of people saying something similar, they're worried about long-term inflation coming back. And it's a good thing to hold on to some real estate, some real property as opposed to simply cash.

TRUMP: Well, I hear more and more about inflation coming back. I don't see it right now because if you look, everything's going down, not up. But if inflation does really come back, then I'm right about buying. I think this is a great time to buy really, really prime real estate. And that's what we're doing.

BLITZER: What about the president of the United States? How is he doing?

TRUMP: Well, he's having a little bit of a tough time. I have great respect for him. And I love the way he ran the campaign. He's having a few stumbles now and then. But I think he's going to be really terrific. I certainly hope he's going to be great. And I think he will be.

BLITZER: And you like this economic stimulus package? The banking package? The home foreclosure package? God knows, there's so many economic issues out there.

TRUMP: Wolf, it's a step. And it's a big step. But relatively speaking, it's not very much money when you look at the overall economy. But it is something he inherited, a total mess from Bush. And you know, we have to remember, he didn't cause this problem. He's trying to fix the problem. It's not going to be easy. It's very deep seeded, and it's even beyond this country.

Whether this country -- you know, you listen -- I listened the other day to somebody from another country, way, way far away, and they're blaming the United States for their country's problems. So I don't know whether or not that's true. But he inherited a mess. He's trying to fix it up and hopefully he'll be able to do that.

BLITZER: We -- let me switch gears because we only have a minute left. You got your show, "Celebrity Apprentice", starting on March 1st, 9:00 p.m., it's a Sunday. Tell us a little bit about why this "Apprentice" is different than the other "Apprentice.

TRUMP: Well, I think it's going to be great. We've always gotten really terrific ratings on the "Apprentice." And I think this one is going to be great because we have Joan Rivers and Flint Black and Dennis Rodman and lots of other people on the show. They're fantastic characters.

We've just finished a lot of the shooting. And it's amazing television. And it's going to be on Sunday night. It's actually going to be a two-hour show on Sunday nights, every Sunday night.

BLITZER: An eclectic group, just to put it mildly.

TRUMP: It's going to be very interesting. Very much like politics.

BLITZER: We'll be watching it, Donald. Thanks very much. Good luck.

TRUMP: Thanks a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Let's get an update now on those two former Border Patrol agents whose case has gained national attention. The debate over illegal immigration. They were convicted of shooting an unarmed illegal immigrant and then covering it up. Today the former agents are free from prison.

Let's go to Lou Dobbs. He's got a little preview of what's coming up on his show in an hour from now. But this, this has been a significant story for you and a lot of our viewers, Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Absolutely, Wolf. And a travesty. A miscarriage of justice, the likes of which most of our viewers have never seen. One of the worst in my lifetime.

Two former Border Patrol agents in prison convicted on the testimony of an illegal alien, a drug smuggler, who had given immunity by the Justice Department, and smuggling drugs while at the same testifying against those two agents. It was on his testimony that they were convicted.

We'll have a lot more on the newly signed economic stimulus bill as well tonight and the president's plan to help homeowners. All of that is going to be announced by the president tomorrow.

Well, as -- Wolf, you just said, we'll have the very latest for you on the release of those two Border Patrol agents, Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, finally home with their families after President Bush on the last full day in office commuted their long prison sentences.

We'll be talking about that. And we'll have all of the day's news, of course. Coming up tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" right here on CNN.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: We'll see you in an hour, Lou. Thank you.

DOBBS: You got it.

BLITZER: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.