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About-Face On Missile Shield; Decision on Troops "Premature"; Some Dems Don't Like It Either; Angry Words could Turn Violent; Fears Afghan President Stole Election

Aired September 17, 2009 - 16:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Happening now, the Obama administration denies caving in to Russia on a matter of grave national security. This hour, the decision to overhaul a Bush era missile defense program. One ally is calling the move -- and I'm quoting now -- "catastrophic."

Also, my exclusive interview with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

Would he accept a runoff election with the man accusing him of massive voter fraud?

I'll press President Karzai about the political turmoil and the military threats in Afghanistan right now. Stand by for this exclusive.

And authorities drop rape charges against four men after their accuser says she lied. The case prompting outrage and fierce debate on a college campus and across the nation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics and extraordinary reports from around the world.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

The Obama administration insists it's improving America's missile defense system, not scrapping it. But critics fear the president is sending dangerous messages to U.S. adversaries and to its allies, as well. A lot of questions right now about why the Bush-era program is being overhauled and what the consequences really will be.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, has been looking into this sensitive issue -- Jill, what are you finding out?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.

Stronger, smarter, swifter -- that's how President Obama describes his new plan for defending against potential missile attacks from Iran. But the criticism has been swift, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DOUGHERTY: (voice-over): In a major foreign policy decision likely to calm Russian anger, President Barack Obama pulls the plug on a Bush-era missile defense plan based on Poland and the Czech Republic, claiming the threat of long-range missiles from Iran has changed.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have updated our intelligence assessment of Iran's missile programs, which emphasizes the threat posed by Iran's short and medium range missiles.

DOUGHERTY: The new approach, with its new technology, the president says, will use ships with sensors and interceptors and eventually land-based systems throughout the region.

As the president faced the cameras, he was facing fire from Republicans for what they call a rushed and wrong decision.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I believe the consequences of this decision may be -- albeit unintentionally -- to encourage further belligerence on the part of the Russians and a distinct lack and loss of confidence on the part of our friends and allies in the word of the United States.

DOUGHERTY: In Poland, palpable anger from a former president, Lech Walesa saying: "It's not because we needed this missile defense system so badly, it's all about a way of treating us. It has to change."

OBAMA: I've spoken to the prime ministers of both the Czech Republic and Poland about this decision and reaffirmed our deep and close ties.

DOUGHERTY: But from Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev, who had attacked the missed plan as a threat to Russia, praises what he calls "Mr. Obama's responsible moves."

The two leaders meet in New York at the U.N. General Assembly next week and Mr. Obama is hoping Mr. Medvedev will back stronger sanctions on Iran to stop its nuclear program. But in this three- dimensional diplomatic chess game, Medvedev's praise could backfire for Obama, creating the impression he's caving in to the Russian pressure.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

DOUGHERTY: But the Obama administration is adamant it still thinks there is a threat from Iran. And as Defense Secretary Robert Gates puts it, those who say we're scrapping missile defense in Europe are wrong -- Wolf.

BLITZER: He insists they're simply wrong.

Thanks, Jill, very much.

President Obama is also facing growing pressure today to reveal his plan for the faltering war in Afghanistan. The vice president, Joe Biden, and other administration officials are asking for patience as they privately review a report from the top U.S. military commander on the scene and a request for additional troops.

Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's been doing some great reporting on this story -- Barbara, what are you picking up?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, as my colleague Jack Cafferty likes to say, today's question -- today's question is whether political concerns are suddenly overriding military concerns in Afghanistan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: (voice-over): The latest suicide car bomb attack in the heart of Kabul -- another day when insurgents made clear the capital city is not safe. But suddenly the Obama administration and the president's top military advisers are split on the urgency to fix Afghanistan's security problems, just days after the top military officer said...

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: A properly resourced counter-insurgency probably means more forces.

STARR: The president said not so fast.

JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A decision on additional resources is premature and it's a distance off.

STARR: In an exclusive interview, Vice President Joe Biden told CNN's Chris Lawrence no more troops will be sent until the current 21,000 troop increase is in place and the Afghan election results are finalized -- all still weeks away. But a senior U.S. military official tells CNN General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander, has now decided how many more troops he needs, but he has been told by Washington, don't send that request until you're asked for it.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There's been a lot of talk this week and in the last two or three weeks about Afghanistan. And -- and, frankly, from my standpoint, everybody ought to take a deep breath.

STARR: The reason may be the White House is not ready to hear what the general has to say. All indications are McChrystal now believes he needs 30,000 to 40,000 additional troops. Military sources tell us they worry it's a huge decision the White House does not want to get in the way of other issues like health care.

But senior military officers have long signaled they can't wait too long given Afghanistan's collapsing security.

MULLEN: I think it is serious and it is deteriorating and I've said that over the last couple of years, that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

STARR: And McChrystal's plan may not remain under wraps for long, Wolf. There are growing indications that Republicans on Capitol Hill want to hear from him directly about what he needs and indications from the U.S. military that if the administration doesn't put out that request asking for McChrystal's ideas on more troops, McChrystal may just put that request in the mail to the Pentagon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow! This debate is really, really heating up, but the stakes are enormous.

Barbara, thanks very much.

Allegations of massive voter fraud leveled at the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, they're certainly complicating America's war strategy.

Coming up, my exclusive interview with the Afghan president. I'll ask him who's to blame for the political uncertainty and the division hanging over his country right now.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty right now.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, all Americans would be required to buy health insurance as part of the proposal making its way out of the Senate Finance Committee. Those who don't could face steep fines -- up to $3,800 annually per family or $950 for an individual. People who can't afford their premiums, however, would not be fined.

It's all part of the plan that some see as the best hope for getting some kind of reform through Congress.

The problem is when committee Chairman Max Baucus introduced this thing yesterday, he didn't seem to have much support -- anywhere. Republicans aren't backing it, saying the plan's still too expensive and too intrusive. A lot of Democrats are unhappy with the proposal, too. Some are disappointed it doesn't include the public option. Others say it doesn't go far enough to make health insurance affordable for the poor.

Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller is concerned that a tax on expensive insurance plans would wind up hurting middle class workers because the increases would simply be passed along by the insurance companies. And those workers include union members, such as the coal miners in Rockefeller's state. And even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Baucus' proposal is not good enough for his home state of Nevada. Reid worries that Nevada won't be able to increase Medicaid spending like the bill requires states to do.

Meanwhile, a new Gallup Poll shows that 60 percent of Americans -- almost two-thirds -- say they don't think the president's health care plan will accomplish what he wants -- covering all Americans without raising taxes or lowering the quality of our health care.

So here's the question -- should people be forced to buy health insurance?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf. BLITZER: A great question, Jack.

Thank you.

It's turning into a full-fledged political revolt over President Obama's so-called czars. Now even a high profile Democrat is joining the naysayers. Stand by for our Strategy Session. That's coming up.

Also coming up, an arrest in the murder of a Yale graduate student whose body was found stuffed in a wall. We'll have all the latest. We're going live to New Haven.

And the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, is warning critics not to degil -- delegitimize, that is -- delegitimize his country's presidential election. I'll confront Mr. Karzai with allegations of voter fraud in our exclusive interview.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Important developments up on Capitol Hill today involving health care reform. It could be a turning point right now.

Let's go to our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bush.

She's watching all of this unfold -- Dana, people on both sides don't seem to like what the chairman of the Finance Committee has come up with.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Look, I mean the reality is, you're right, that Senator Baucus' proposal is more centrist than the more liberal plan that took such heat, especially from the Republicans, in the August recess. But because it is more centrist, it is at the center of many of the criticisms we're hearing. And that is also coming from some of his fellow Democrats.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: (voice-over): Forget about Republicans, even Democrats like Jeff Bingaman, who spent months negotiating with Max Baucus, isn't ready to support his health care proposal.

SEN. JEFF BINGAMAN (D), NEW MEXICO: I have favored having a public option available and voted for one in the Health and Education Help Committee bill. So I hope we can do that.

BASH: In fact, outside a closed meeting of the Senate Finance Committee, almost all the Democratic senators we talked to said they wanted to change what their Democratic chairman, Max Baucus, calls a consensus plan. One huge issue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affordability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affordability.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Affordability for middle class families.

BASH: Concern that Americans would not get enough financial help buying the health insurance they would be required to have.

SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: This has to work for families. And I understand all of the trade-offs. But the trade-off can't be that a middle class family can't afford the insurance in this bill.

BASH: Are you prepared to vote against this?

SEN. MARIA CANTWELL (D), WASHINGTON: Yes. I can't support a plan that doesn't have the affordability of health care and doesn't have the affordability for my constituents in it.

BASH: (voice-over): And many Democrats don't like the way Baucus is paying for his health care overhaul -- taxing insurance companies for high cost plans. It was John Kerry's idea.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Yes. It was my idea originally.

BASH: But even he now opposes it, saying the way Baucus structured the tax, it penalizes too many Americans.

KERRY: We need to make it fairer to working people so that working folks don't get dragged into this at a -- at a level where -- where they just don't have the incomes that support it.

BASH: Meanwhile, Olympia Snowe is still the one Republican Democrats think they can still persuade.

SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: It has to be practical, achievable and doable.

BASH: In fact, Baucus stood by listening carefully as Snowe spoke to reporters and then told us...

BAUCUS: Whatever Senator Snowe wants to do, I -- I'm for her.

BASH: (on camera): Whatever she wants?

BAUCUS: Whatever she wants.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

BASH: In all seriousness, Senator Baucus did tell us he is willing to make changes to this proposal with regard to questions of affordability and whether or not it could have some taxes on the middle class. He knows, Wolf, that he has to in order to get support from his fellow Democrats when this goes for some votes in his committee next week.

BLITZER: All right, Dana. Thank you.

Americans certainly have listened as the tone of the health care debate has gotten nastier. People still are talking about Congressman Joe Wilson's shout "You lie" during the president's televised address last week. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says she worries the angry rhetoric could incite violence.

Listen very carefully to Nancy Pelosi's emotional answer, as she was asked about all the bitterness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: How concerned are you about the tone of the political debate in terms of people talking about anti-government rhetoric and so on and the possibility of violence?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I have concerns about some of the language that is -- is being used because I saw -- I saw this myself in the late '70s in San Francisco -- this kind of rhetoric was just -- was very frightening. And it gave -- it created a climate in which we -- violence took place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: She was referring to anger over gay rights that led to the murder of the San Francisco supervisor, Harvey Milk.

Let's talk about this with our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger -- is the shouting, Gloria, louder than usual?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's always shouting that's loud in politics, Wolf. But I think the difference that we see now is that, really, there seemed to be no boundaries. When you shout directly at the president of the United States, who is a joint -- addressing a joint session of Congress, it shows that you -- there's no decorum. There's no respect for the person serving in -- in that office. I know we did have, a while ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling George W. Bush a liar. And that was a bad thing, too.

But it's a lot more than a C-SPAN moment, right, when you do it when the president is addressing millions of people?

And members of Congress cannot complain about raucous town hall meetings when some of them are doing the same thing on the floor of their own chamber.

BLITZER: Yes. And you wrote a column this week saying maybe the Republicans should call the president's bluff.

What did you mean by that?

BORGER: Well, what I meant is that we hear politicians on both sides, Democrats and Republicans, saying, look, we agree on 80 percent of health care. So my point was to the Republicans, if you're serious about writing a piece of legislation, you don't want to be obstructionist, as 61 percent of the American people think you are, then go to the president and say, OK, here are the things we agree with you on and we'll guarantee you our votes.

Now, that's, unfortunately, not going to happen, because a political calculation has been made that they're doing pretty well in the polls because people don't seem to like lots of parts of the president's health care plan. So they've made a short-term calculation.

But in the long-term, wouldn't we be better off if there were a bipartisan bill coming out of the Congress?

People agree. There's no doubt about that.

BORGER: Yes.

BLITZER: And it doesn't look like it's going to happen.

BORGER: Nope.

BLITZER: But wouldn't it be nice?

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

BORGER: Sure.

BLITZER: A college student kills an intruder with a samurai sword. We reported this yesterday. Here's today's development -- should he be charged for defending himself in his own home?

Wait until you hear what the police are now saying.

And it's the home where Ferris Bueller started his day off. It's now said to be in danger.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Brooke Baldwin is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Brooke, what's going on?

BALDWIN: Wolf, a lot of people are learning this name today, Raymond Clark. He is the young man who has been arrested and charged today with the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. Clark worked as a technician in that very same lab where the Yale graduate student was found strangled and stuffed into a wall the day she was to be married. Bail has been set for $3 million.

Baltimore police say a college student "had no intent to kill a man" he struck with his samurai storm. His name is John Pontolillo. A student at Johns Hopkins grabbed the sword as he confronted an intruder on his own property. And police say she slashed once at Donald Rice, a man with a long police record, we understand, after Rice apparently lunged at him. Rice bled to death at the scene. And prosecutors now are just investigating as to whether or not charges will be filed against that particular student.

And we're taking a look at some money news here. Mortgage rates are heading down. Freddie Mac says the average rate for a 30 year fixed mortgage is now sitting at 5.04 percent. That is very close to the record lows of last spring.

And those are some of the stories we're keeping our eye on for you tonight.

BLITZER: It might encourage some people to buy some homes that are pretty...

BALDWIN: Finally.

BLITZER: ...reduced their prices already to begin with.

BALDWIN: I know.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Brooke, for that.

Pimps, prostitutes and politics -- you've seen those embarrassing videotapes, heard lots of claims about the liberal activist group, ACORN. But there's also things you need to know about the people who shot the video. Stand by.

And claims the president of Afghanistan stole the presidential election -- President Hamid Karzai, he speaks exclusively to us. That's coming up in an interview.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: The Afghan people turned out and voted. And I can assure you that the vote was true and fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Happening now, a twist to a shocking story we reported to you yesterday -- a female college student accused four young men of gang rape on a college campus. But the truth -- the young men are innocent. You're going to find out what the victim now says.

A CNN exclusive with the vice president, Joe Biden. He was in the Senate for more than 30 years. Does he think the Senate will pass health care reform?

Stand by for our exclusive interview.

And because President Obama is not white, Jimmy Carter says some criticize the president. Republicans cry foul.

What does the civil rights activist Al Sharpton think?

He's here today.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Who's the rightful winner of the presidential election in Afghanistan?

That question is being asked around the world, as the vote is marred by claims it was not fair. Results of the completed count give President Hamid Karzai 54 percent of the vote, but the numbers won't be certified until authorities investigate widespread allegations of irregularity.

And joining us now from Kabul, the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai.

Mr. President, thanks very much for joining us.

KARZAI: Thank you, Mr. President.

Good to talk to you.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk a little bit about this election -- widespread allegations of massive fraud in Afghanistan. The European Union -- the observers suggest that perhaps one third of the ballots cast for you were, in their words, suspicious.

How can you lead Afghanistan if your own people suspect that you stole the election?

KARZAI: It's not our own people that suspect that. It's unfortunately, mainly in the international community that these allegations are coming and unfortunately, also mainly through the part of the international media.

In spite of that, my friend, the Afghan people turned out and voted. And I can assure you that the vote was true and fair. Of course, as in all other elections, more so in Afghanistan, because of the -- the new experiment, there's bound to be difficulties. There's bound to be irregularities. There's bound to be, also, cases of fraud.

BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a moment and get to some specific examples, because it's not simply the news media that's making this up. These are allegations coming in from respected U.S. and European international observers, as well as people -- Afghan citizens themselves.

I'll give you a few examples. For example, we -- we have a photo and we're going to show it to our viewers of a 13-year-old walking in to a -- and voting. You're supposed to be 18 years old to vote. He admitted to being only 13. He doesn't look 18. We showed the picture. This is just one example. But there are a lot of example of this kind of stuff going on.

Who do you blame for this?

KARZAI: Well, if a 13-year-old Afghan boy came to cast his vote, that's neither his fault nor the fault of the Afghan people nor the fault of the Election Commission. It is the fault of circumstances. It is the fault of our collective inability to implement the age limit for election as we have described. And it is not fraud.

Fraud is when someone in authority or a candidate plans it ahead of time and implements it during the election on the election day. Now, if we, the international community, are talking about that, that is fraud, that has to be investigated.

BLITZER: I have in my hand a press release released from the Afghan Electoral Complaint -- Complaints Commission which says in the Kandahar Province, they have invalidated ballots in 51 polling stations -- stations right there -- because of irregularities. You're familiar with this allegation. That's -- this is from your own people.

KARZAI: That is -- that is possible. That is possible in parts of the country where there was no security, where there were rockets coming the whole day long.

Now, you mentioned Kandahar. Kandahar, from early morning until 1:30 in the afternoon, received 21 rockets. An 8-year-old girl was killed just next to my brother's house in Kandahar. And people were intimidated the whole day long.

But, even then, women turned out for the election early in the morning. People turned out for the election. They tried to vote to the best of their ability. I would speak of that.

Irregularities, in circumstances like that in Kandahar, or in other parts of the country where there was insecurity and attacks, it's very much likely and possible. That is, again, neither the fault of the Afghan people, nor the fault of the election process.

If we could not provide security to the Afghan people to vote the way the law describes, then we cannot blame them or the election itself, but the circumstances and our lack of ability to provide security, that is, the international community and the Afghan government.

BLITZER: Maybe I'm missing something, Mr. President, but what does security have to do with the possibility of ballot stuffing or voter fraud?

KARZAI: It has a lot to do with that. This means you don't have observers. This means you don't have international observers. This means you don't have observers from the candidates. This means the site is not secure. This means things like that can be done. BLITZER: Your chief political opponent, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, was interviewed by me last week. And he -- he suggested that this alleged fraud had been in the works for a long time.

I want to play for you what Dr. Abdullah, your former foreign minister, said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He has already tried to steal the elections. And it has been a state (INAUDIBLE) massive fraud prepared. In the past two years, preparations were made for this. I have absolutely no doubt about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He charges you personally with planning this fraud, in his words, for the past two years.

KARZAI: Well, he's a fellow Afghan and a candidate. I'm not going to go into a quarrel with a fellow Afghan over the election.

Once the election is over, once the independent election commission and the -- the complaints commission have given the results, investigating all the -- the -- the allegations of irregularities, of fraud, Afghanistan will go back to its normal life, like you did in the United States after the election.

And we will be fellow Afghans and -- and will live together. He, as an Afghan, will have a future in this country, will continue to be active in this country. So, I see that more as an election-time complaint, rather than something lasting. And -- and I'm not going to get into a dialogue or complaint exchange between two Afghans.

BLITZER: You could end this controversy right now on this program, Mr. President -- our viewers are watching in the United States and around the world -- if you agree to a runoff against Dr. Abdullah.

Are you prepared to accept that there should be another election, a runoff election between the top two candidates?

KARZAI: That has not -- that has not been my authority to do. That's no individual's authority to do. That's no foreign government's authority to do.

That has to be decided by the vote of the Afghan people. If the vote of the Afghan people is -- is inconclusive and in the direction of -- of a runoff, then, legitimately, that's what the Afghan constitution is asking for.

But, if that is not the case, taking it to a second round or a runoff by engineering it in that direction, that's in itself fraud, and not the right thing to do. And it's against the Afghan constitution. So, we -- we're -- we cannot -- we cannot claim a wrong and then commit another wrong in order to make a right.

BLITZER: Because if -- because if a third of the three million or so ballots that were cast for you are suspicious, in the words of the European Union observers, that would put you well below the 50 percent mark, which would require a runoff.

KARZAI: Well, we -- we -- we are investigating this by the European commission. The European commission itself, the configuration of that commission, the people in that commission are also being -- being studied as to who they are, where they come from.

This is something very serious. On both sides, we have to investigate as to what they have said.

BLITZER: Are you prepared, when all the dust settles, to form a national unity government, bringing in your political rivals, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah?

KARZAI: As a compromise -- if the premise is that the election was wrong, so let's have a compromise to correct it, that in itself is a great atrocity against the Afghan people. No.

If the election is wrong, then it has to be redone all over again. But, as a national decision based on a legitimate election to take the country forward in harmony and to a better future of peace and stability, I have done that in the past. I will continue to do that.

I was accused, as a matter of fact, in the past seven years of being too much of a compromiser. And now I'm being asked to be more of a compromiser. That's a good thing, and I will continue to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: All right, that was part one of the interview -- part two of the interview coming up during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour. We go in-depth, take a look at how many more U.S. troops he wants to be deployed in Afghanistan, among other subjects.

Meanwhile, we're digging deeper into the allegations that a grassroots liberal group offered advice on setting up a prostitution business. Is the filmmaker who broke the story an investigative journalist or a political activist himself?

Also, the backlash against President Obama and the so-called czars he's appointed -- are they being held accountable?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The House of Representatives today approved an amendment that calls for halting government funding to the community organizing group ACORN, a congressional aide telling CNN there is currently no direct funding for ACORN in any spending bill from Congress.

This comes amid those videos now splashed in the headlines claiming to show illicit behavior by some ACORN workers.

Do you know who's really behind the videos, though?

We asked our national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, to take a closer look.

Jessica, what did you find out?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We took a closer look, Wolf, and we found the videos were made by two amateur filmmakers who are supported by the conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart.

Now, Breitbart tells us the two were inspired by idealism and righteousness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If Tom Jones is going...

YELLIN (voice-over): These are the hidden camera videos that triggered a firestorm over grass routes activist group ACORN. Behind the videos, two 20-something, Hannah Giles, seen here posing as a prostitute, and James O'Keefe pretending to be her pimp.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The young woman pretending to be the prostitute says she wants to traffic in to the United States a dozen underage girls from El Salvador.

YELLIN: The two are conservative filmmakers. According to her Web biography, Giles is the daughter of conservative writer Doug Giles. Now an Internet sensation, she's appeared on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)

HANNAH GILES, CONSERVATIVE FILMMAKER: As I sat there, I was like I cannot believe they're actually falling for this, and not necessarily falling for it but, what can we get them to say next?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: O'Keefe says he's a filmmaker dedicated to exposing corruption he believes the mainstream media ignores. Here he's in his pimp outfit on FOX News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS)

JAMES O'KEEFE, CONSERVATIVE FILMMAKER: I think this is the future of investigative journalism, and it's the future of political activism.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: The two have gotten results. Since these videos were posted, the U.S. Senate has voted to cut off some of ACORN's funding, and media outlets, from "The Washington Times" to Jon Stewart, are asking:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART")

JON STEWART, HOST, "THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART": Where were the real reporters on this story? You know what, investigative media? Camera three. Where the hell were you?

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: It's not the first time agenda-driven activists have made headlines with hidden camera reports. The animal rights group PETA makes them all the time, and political campaigns have driven news with videos like this.

Remember macaca?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. GEORGE ALLEN (R), VIRGINIA: Macaca, or whatever his name is.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

YELLIN: That remark, considered racially offensive by some, took down an incumbent senator.

Experts in investigative journalism say, reporters are wise to be cautious about posing as fake characters and using hidden cameras to get a story.

ROBERT ROSENTHAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING: You really have to weigh, again, how important the information is, how important the story is to society, your community, and is there any other way to get at it, because I think it does raise questions of fairness and the credibility of the media.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

YELLIN: And, Wolf, CNN spoke with one of the ACORN employees who was secretly taped. She says she told the two that ACORN would not support illegal activities, but the filmmakers edited that part out.

Now, transcripts of the tapes are posted online. And ACORN, Wolf, it says it plans to sue the two filmmakers for violating the privacy of its employees.

BLITZER: We will see what happens, the fallout continuing, and the House of Representatives taking action today as well.

Thanks very much for that.

President Obama appointed so-called czars to help him solve some of his problems, but now those powerful advisers are creating some problems for him. Ed Rollins and Donna Brazile, they are taking a stand on the czar controversy. That is coming up in our "Strategy Session."

Another legacy of the Bush era undone by President Obama -- will an overhaul of the missile defense shield leave the U.S. more or less secure? We're checking the facts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: They're some of the most powerful people in Washington right now, but you may not necessarily even know their names. They're men and women around the president, and they're facing a political backlash.

Let's bring in CNN's Lisa Sylvester. She's working the story for us.

Lisa, What's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is one of those issues that has been continuing, with Republicans talking about this issue, pressing the issue. They have introduced legislation that would withdraw funding from these czars.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER (voice-over): There are about 30 so-called czars watching over everything from Afghanistan to the economy. Some lawmakers complain these advisers have bypassed the Senate confirmation process, answering only to the president, and can't be forced to testify before Congress.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: This formation of a shadow Cabinet that in fact is more than twice the size of the real Cabinet is a danger to the very question of who's advising the president and on what basis.

SYLVESTER: Representative Frank Wolf says the czars have not been put through full security screenings, unlike cabinet members who have had to go through a lengthy vetting process.

REP. FRANK WOLF (R), VIRGINIA: The FBI said they do a background check, but it's the same background check they would do for an intern at the White House. But they do not do a security clearance.

SYLVESTER: Green job czar Van Jones stepped down after controversial statements he made surfaced. And President Obama's car czar, Steven Rattner, without explanation resigned amid reports the New York attorney general was investigating an investment company linked to him. The White House defended itself saying the practice of appointing czars is nothing new.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: These are positions that date back at least to, you know, many, many administrations where there may be policy coordination between many different departments in order to make governmental responses more efficient.

SYLVESTER: The Democratic National Committee followed up saying -- quote -- "Most telling of the credibility of these attacks is that they come from the same Republican Party that didn't utter a peep about the 47 documented czars in the Bush administration."

But it's not just Republicans bothered by the czars. This week, Democratic Senator Russ Feingold who chairs the Senate Constitution subcommittee asked the White House to disclose more information, who are the individuals, what are their responsibilities and whether and how these positions are consistent with the appointments clause of the Constitution.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SYLVESTER: And lawmakers are calling for congressional hearings. And, this week, a resolution of disapproval was introduced in the House of Representatives -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank very much.

Let's talk about this in our "Strategy Session" with two CNN political contributors. Donna Brazile is Democratic strategist, and Ed Rollins is a Republican strategist.

Ed, when you worked for Ronald Reagan in the White House, there were a lot of political appointees that didn't go through the Senate confirmation process and had specific jobs for the president, right? So, what's new now?

ED ROLLINS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you -- first of all, I was assistant to the president, which is the highest level in the White House. And there were about eight or nine of us that headed up various divisions in the White House. And we went through everything other than the Senate confirmation.

You had the full FBI field check. And I assume that most of these people have had that -- that very similar type thing.

I think my issue with this is, who -- why aren't you using your Cabinet officers? If you have Carol Browner, the former EPA administrator, who's your czar for the environment, you have an environmental administrator at EPA who basically should be the person responsible for that. I -- I just see it clunking up their system and making too many people in the process, and not making the president get the best counsel.

He needs to use his Cabinet. That's what the car czar -- he has a Transportation Department. Why can't the secretary of transportation be the one giving the advice and the counsel?

BLITZER: Well, that's a -- it's a fair point, Donna. What do you think?

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, the -- President Obama is continuing a tradition that goes back to 1957, when President Eisenhower appointed the first missile czar.

President George Bush had 35 czars, including an abstinence czar. Many of these czars are holdovers, not -- not that individual, but the -- the posts and the positions are holdovers from the Bush administration.

And several, at least nine or 10, have been already appointed -- confirmed by the United States Senate. So, I think this is just a canard. President Obama has -- has reached out to get people to come back into government, Ambassador Holbrooke, George Mitchell, the former Senate leader, to help on very important policy issues, Afghanistan, the Middle East.

And I think the -- the members of Congress should focus on what these so-called policy people are doing to help the country, and get away from the politics.

BLITZER: Because I remember Bill Bennett, our contributor, Ed, he was the drug czar in a Republican presidency. He wasn't confirmed by the Senate.

ROLLINS: Historically, what has happened is, when we created czars, which was an energy czar under Nixon and obviously a drug czar, we created Cabinet posts after that. And Bill ended up being a Cabinet officer. Energy became a department.

I just argue that you're really overlapping. A president is entitled to whoever he wants. My issue is not what the Senate's issue is. But I think, to a certain extent, you're -- you're filling up the Old Executive Office Building with a whole bunch of people without staff or resources. And it has to be very confusing.

Having worked in a couple of White Houses, I know how the decision process is done. And I think, if you have got 35 more people in the room than you need, you don't get good decisions.

BLITZER: Yes, but Bill Bennett became the education secretary. He wasn't in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency, for example.

ROLLINS: Well, he was -- he had both jobs. He had three jobs. He was the National Endowment, which is a -- which is a post Cabinet level. He was the drug czar under Bush, and he was the education secretary also.

BRAZILE: And, Wolf, I think it's important to point out that many of these individuals are reporting also to Cabinet secretaries.

Ambassador Holbrooke, George Mitchell, the two individuals I -- I spoke about, they're reporting to Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state. So, again, I think the -- the members should get their facts straight before they just go out on another political tangent.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, guys, we're getting some breaking news -- maybe fortunately.

We have got to leave it there. Stand by.

ROLLINS: Great.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: Want to go right back to Brooke Baldwin.

There's been a -- a verdict in that -- in that case involving a coach who was dealing with some young people on his team.

What happened? One of them died.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One of them did die, Wolf.

Max Gilpin, he was the student, he was the football player who died, apparently, as they were -- because of heat, basically, during this practice. This was August of last year. So, his coach, now a former coach, at this high school, a former Pleasure Ridge coach David Jason Stinson, he was charged two counts here in this heat- related death, two counts, reckless homicide, wanton -- wanton endangerment.

A jury just coming out today in this courtroom in Louisville, Kentucky, coming out not guilty on both counts.

Let's listen in.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Under instruction number one, reckless homicide, we, the jury, find the defendant, David Jason Stinson, not guilty under instruction number one.

Verdict under instruction number two, wanton endangerment in the first degree, we, the jury, find the defendant, David Jason Stinson, not guilty under instruction number two.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: As you can imagine, emotional reaction in the courtroom. Let's listen in -- pictures coming in from our affiliate WAVE out of Louisville.

Just a little bit of background here, during this whole trial, prosecutors were arguing that Stinson, this former coach, now acquitted, ran a brutal practice, ignored signs that players were getting sick, weren't getting water during this day.

But you see the reaction there in the courtroom, a tremendous victory for this former coach, David Jason Stinson in Louisville, Kentucky.

Wolf, what a day.

BLITZER: Not -- not guilty on both counts.

BALDWIN: Not guilty on both counts.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that, Brooke. President -- former President Jimmy Carter says racism is driving attacks on President Obama. I will ask the Reverend Al Sharpton to weigh in on that. And his answer, what he has to say, may surprise you.

And President Obama's about-face on Bush era defense programs, will it improve America's security, or will it put America at risk?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get right to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour is, should people be forced to buy health insurance? Under the bill coming out of the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, families would be fined up to I think it was $3,800 if they make more than $66,000 a year if they would refuse to purchase health insurance.

Dave in Brooklyn writes: "No one should be forced to buy anything they don't want to buy. Having said that, I hasten to add that, if you choose not to do something for your own good and you get hurt, don't expect the rest of us to pay for your stupidity and bad luck. If you don't wear your seat belt, don't sue me for your injuries. If you don't have health insurance, don't go to the emergency room, or do so with cash in hand, lots of it."

Julia writes: "Absolutely. As a nurse, I see many, many people who refuse to buy insurance and take care of themselves. They expect everybody else to care for them, when they can't be bothered to care for themselves. Enough is enough. It's irresponsible not to have health insurance."

William in Los Angeles: "No one should be made to do anything that pertains to their own health. The First Amendment gives us all the right to be stupid. And I have steadfastly held on to that freedom most of my life. Not wanting health insurance is stupid. Making it affordable for all of us is necessary."

Jeff writes: "There's no way to end restrictions on preexisting conditions without also mandating coverage. Otherwise, people will simply wait until they're sick before they buy insurance coverage."

Jeff in Hawaii: "Jack, while focusing -- forcing people to buy health care sounds like a good idea, without a public option to help drive down premiums, it's just a windfall for the insurance companies. A $950 fine" -- which is what they would assess single people who refuse to buy insurance" -- is less than half of what I pay a year for my health insurance.

And Diane writes: "You have a car, you buy car insurance. You have a body, you ought to buy insurance for it. Would you pay for my car repairs? Of course not. So, why would you accept paying from my body repair? You know what I mean. It's common sense. In fact, it's a conservative principle. It's all about individual responsibility."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile. Check it out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank, Jack.

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

Happening now: relief mixed with shock at Yale University, as a school employee is arrested and charged with the brutal murder of graduate student Annie Le. We're live on the campus this hour with new developments.

Charges of racism at the heart of some of the most bitter attacks on President Obama -- the Reverend Al Sharpton is here this hour. Does he agree with the former president?

And an exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden -- why he's optimistic Congress will pass a health care reform bill. But will there be any -- any -- Republican support?

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

They were the same age. Each was engaged to be married. She was a promising Yale graduate student. He was a technician in the campus lab where she did her research. Now Raymond Clark is charged with the murder of Annie Le. Police say DNA evidence links him to the crime scene.