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THE SITUATION ROOM

Alleged Russian Agents Arrested; Supreme Court Nominee Testifies

Aired June 28, 2010 - 18:00   ET

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


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now: There is breaking news.

An alleged Russian intelligence ring is broken up with arrests in several cities. Now, the suspects are accused of taking the identities of dead Americans to carry out deep-cover assignments.

Supreme Court Elena Kagan says justices should be even-handed and impartial, so that every American can get a fair shake. But at her confirmation hearing, Republican senators question just how impartial Kagan would be.

And he came very close to brokering a Middle East peace deal, but it's been downhill ever since. Should Bill Clinton be asked to try again? Wolf has an exclusive interview with the former president.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Suzanne Malveaux. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We want to begin with breaking news. There's a wave of arrests in several cities, as an alleged Russian intelligence ring carrying out deep-cover assignments in the United States is now busted, that word coming from the Justice Department, which says that 11 people are charged in two separate criminal complaints.

I want to go straight to CNN's Deborah Feyerick in New York.

Deb, this sounds like something from a spy novel. It's really quite extraordinary.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it certainly does, absolutely.

And when you read the complaint, it actually reads like one. The spy ring was allegedly operating out of the Northeast, with secret agents living in Boston; Arlington, Virginia; and suburbs in New York and New Jersey.

Their goal was to blend in, to gather information for Russia, and recruit people either in government or those who had access to policy- making, according to the criminal complaint. Now, there was basically an intercepted -- an intercepted memo that was sent out. And it says that you were sent to the U.S. for long-term service trip. Your education, bank accounts, car, house, et cetera, all these serve one goal: Search and develop ties in policy-making circles in the U.S. and send intelligence reports to the center -- that's a center in Russia.

Now, 11 people are charged. They used phony names like Murphy, Foley, Heathfield, Lazaro. And there was also just a number of ways of high-tech communications.

MALVEAUX: Deb, what was the kind of high-tech communications? How did they actually talk to each other?

FEYERICK: Well, you know, in one case, a secret agent by the name of Anna Chapman, she exchanged coded messages electronically on a special computer that was set up to communicate directly with a similar computer.

And the complaint says that the spy set up her computer on one occasion at a coffee shop near Times Square, another time at a Greenwich Village book shop. She then made contact with a Russian official from the mission to the United Nations who was nearby. And the pair of laptops effectively were swapping encrypted information.

Days ago, apparently, she met an undercover FBI agent posing as a Russian who set up an urgent meeting asking her to deliver a passport. This was her first person-to-person mission. But it never happened, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right. Deb, thank you so much.

I want to bring in our CNN contributor Thomas Fuentes. He's a former assistance director of the FBI.

Thank you for joining us here.

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Obviously, this is a story that's just breaking. It's just developing. Do we know how high up the food chain these guys were who have been busted?

FUENTES: Well, it's not so much how high, because they report all the way back to mother Russia. So they're high enough.

The idea for them is to come in here, assume identities, assume a deep-cover, long-term-cover position in the United States. And that's the normal tradecraft, to be very patient, to put them in a position where down the road, whether it's in five years or 10 years, they're able to get secrets from the U.S., whether it's industrial secrets, military, technology, any number of ways that they can try to penetrate us.

MALVEAUX: So, from what we're learning with the latest report from the Justice Department, they're saying that this was a long-term operation, that these guys were here, and that this was a long-term assignment. Why would the Justice Department go after them now? Is there a significance to the timing?

FUENTES: Right.

I don't think there is. They have been working on this case and this crew for many years, more than a couple of years, as a matter of fact. And I think it's just at point where they haven't obtained a state secret yet that they're aware of. They have identified the network. They have identified their communication mechanism and their bosses all the way back up to SVR in Moscow and felt that it was time to take it down.

MALVEAUX: Do we know how much damage that these -- this...

(CROSSTALK)

MALVEAUX: .. has done.

FUENTES: That's the idea. They have not done damage, which is why they're not charged with espionage. They're charged with being agents of a foreign government, which is Russia. They're charged with money-laundering, which is actually the funneling of money that went to support their operations, their rent, and their food and travel expenses, things like that.

So, they haven't actually been successful yet, but it's a matter of time. And I think they felt that it was time to take the case down before it went too far.

MALVEAUX: We saw the Russian president at the White House just a couple of days ago. So this is quite extraordinary when you think of this development. Obviously, the Justice Department announcing this today. The Cold War is long over. Why do we have folks like Russia and allies still spying on each other?

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: It certainly might have had a negative impact on the hamburger summit had they arrested them back then. But, yes, the Cold War is kind of a misnomer. The spying going on with a number of countries, including the Russian Federation and against the United States, has been ongoing even since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Soviet intelligence services reorganized, basically. The KGB was dissolved, but other agencies like the SVR and a couple of other agencies in Russia have assumed ownership of foreign intelligence- gathering.

MALVEAUX: So why are they still spying on the U.S. if we're supposed allies?

(CROSSTALK)

FUENTES: Well, they're trying to steal our technology, save themselves all of the research and development costs of trying to obtain whether it's technology or whether it's industrial technology, as well as what are the intentions of the U.S. government. If they can find places to penetrate that are within the State Department or within other agencies and get an idea of what are our intentions, what would we tolerate in terms of their activities overseas, there's a number of issues that they would like to learn about. And that's what espionage is all about.

MALVEAUX: So, burger summit aside, obviously.

FUENTES: Right.

MALVEAUX: Now, I understand there is one person that is still at large that the Justice Department is still looking for.

FUENTES: Right.

MALVEAUX: What do we know about the status of that individual?

FUENTES: I haven't heard anything new on that this afternoon.

MALVEAUX: Do we know why he's still at large and the others were captured?

FUENTES: No. I think it's just that they got as many as they could get at one time and feel it's a matter of time, that they will pick up the other person.

MALVEAUX: OK. Tom, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

FUENTES: You're welcome.

MALVEAUX: Thank you, Thomas Fuentes.

A major Supreme Court decision on the right to own guns, one side is cheering the result -- details of what it means for every American.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File."

Hey, Jack. What are you working on?

The incumbents are already running for the hills, fearing the wrath of the American voters.

Poll after poll shows how fed up the public is with Washington, with incumbents, with the direction the country is headed, with a whole list of stuff.

So, "The Washington Post" decided to find out if "angry" is the best way to describe how voters feel headed into the midterms in November.

The answer is mixed.

On the one hand, pollsters say that describing voters as "angry" is too narrow because there's actually a whole range of other emotions mixed in with the anger, things like dissatisfaction, anxiety, frustration, pessimism, doubt, et cetera.

One Republican pollster says most voters are "anxious." He thinks the key voting bloc in November will be the 25 percent of voters who backed President Obama in 2008, say they will vote this fall, but don't plan to vote for a Democrat.

Other polling experts say describing voters as angry is too broad.

Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting in the November midterms probably because lots of them want to kick Democrats out of office.

We've also seen an unusual level of energy and excitement among the Tea Party branch of the Republican Party.

The midterm elections historically have low turnout, so any kind of passion is helpful. And this time around, it seems like the Republican Party is getting ready to benefit from that passion.

Here's the question: Is "angry" the best word to describe how you feel about the midterm elections?

Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog. Keep it clean -- Suzanne.

(LAUGHTER)

MALVEAUX: All right. We always keep it clean here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: That's it. Family show.

MALVEAUX: Family show. But it is cable.

While BP struggles to contain the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant faces more controversy over what critics say is a risky drilling project in the far reaches of Alaska.

Our Brian Todd has been digging into that.

And, Brian, this is a story that has a lot of legs.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It does.

MALVEAUX: And there's a lot of questions about it. What do we know?

TODD: Suzanne, serious questions tonight about the process by which this was reviewed by the U.S. government and questions about the controversial drilling method that BP is going to use in a region where, just like the Gulf, wildlife hangs in the balance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): The stark landscape of Alaska's Beaufort Sea. An area populated in winter by polar bears, and massive chunks of floating ice.

This is where BP is pursuing one of its most ambitious drilling plans ever. Undeterred by its disastrous bill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Arctic project is called Liberty. It's not covered by the government's temporary ban on deep water drilling, because the rig is on an artificial island made of gravel. An island developed by BP just a couple of miles from shore.

(on camera): So technically, it's not in deep water. Only about 22 feet from surface to floor. But then BP plans on drilling another two miles down into the earth, then angling horizontally another six to eight miles to hit the liberty reservoir, where the company believes there's more than 100,000,000 barrels of oil. This technique is called Extended Reach drilling. It's been done before, but never this far.

TODD (voice-over): And there's debate over the risks. A 2004 document from the federal Minerals Management Service says ERD wells are more prone to kicks and lost circulation problems, than more conventional and vertical wells.

That refers to gas kicks, which occur when drilling mud can't overpower gas in the pipes. That could've been a key factor in the Deep Water Horizon blast. BP officials, and some outside experts, tell us extended reach wells are not more prone to gas kicks than standard wells. But environmentalists say what a gasket does occur in a horizontal drill:

DAVID PETTIT, NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL: The problem is that it's harder to detect. That is, the gas comes up the pipe more slowly.

A BP official we spoke to says that's not the case. And analyst Bill Murray from the group Energy Intelligence, agrees.

BILL MURRAY, ENERGY INTELLIGENCE: The longer the reach goes, you're going to have the indicators and sensors out where ever the pipe is laid.

But Murray has other questions about how the Liberty Project was allowed to go forward.

TODD (on camera): What's your main issue with the project though? Is it the regulation, and the lack of oversight here?

MURRAY: What we see is, you know, the regulations indeed have been a bit outsourced towards the companies. As MMS, some of the federal scientists involved have said. Then it is a problem. You can't really allow any industry to self regulate.

TODD: He points to documents from 2007.

MURRAY: It's pretty click and paste to me.

TODD: That's when federal regulators allowed BP to write an environmental review of the project, and let that stand on its own, without doing their own report. That was first reported in the New York Times.

We did our own comparison of those documents. The environmental review from the Minerals Management Service is almost identical to BP's, which was published six months earlier.

Michael Bromwich, newly installed to reform MMS under a new name, says its standard for companies to write their own reviews, but that MMS should've done its own independent study.

MICHAEL BROMWICH, BUREAU OF OCEAN AND ENERGY: I am troubled by the suggestion that that was not done here. That is what I'm going to get to the bottom of.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: At the same time, Michael Bromwich and his agency will be watching the Liberty Project going forward. A spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior issued us a statement saying -- quote -- "In light of the BP oil spill in the Gulf and new safety requirements, we will be reviewing the adequacy of the current version of the Liberty Project's spill plan."

BP officials we spoke with say they are committed to taking every safety precaution in this project to prevent a blowout. And they say, by doing this horizontal extended reach drilling, they are minimizing their environmental footprint in that area of Alaska. BP officials tell us they hope to start extracting oil from that well early next year, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: So, I'm not a technical expert on any of this stuff, but why would BP decide to drill horizontally, as opposed to the standard drilling from just above the well site?

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: A lot of it depends on the climate up there. Experts tell us it's a matter of cost. Ice floes in that region, especially in the wintertime, can really damage an offshore rig.

If you have drilling from an island, you just take it right from the island, you don't have to worry about pulling your rig back to shore, which costs a lot of money. You have a longer drilling season, you can continuously drill in the wintertime. You don't have to keep pulling your rig back and then sending it out again, which saves money if you don't have to do that. So, it is a matter of cost. They're saving a lot of money by just drilling from that island continuously.

MALVEAUX: OK. Brian, thank you so much.

TODD: All right.

MALVEAUX: Appreciate it.

Well, a major Supreme Court decision on the right to own guns. One side is cheering the results -- details of what it means for everyone. And could former President Bill Clinton salvage the Middle East peace process? Wolf Blitzer talks about it with him in an exclusive interview.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Immigration reform on the agenda at the White House this afternoon -- President Obama met with grassroots leaders to talk about it. And a source involved in the talk says that the federal government's challenge to Arizona's controversial new crackdown was also on the agenda.

Now, the president plans to meet tomorrow with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus at the White House to talk about immigration reform.

Well, could he bring Israelis and Palestinians back together? Bill Clinton came close when he was president. Should he try again? Well, it's part of Wolf's exclusive interview.

And nominee Elena Kagan promises a restrained Supreme Court role. But is that going to satisfy her Republican critics?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Now to Wolf Blitzer's exclusive conversation with former President Bill Clinton, the setting, a global forum in South Africa, the topic, how to bring about a peace deal in the Middle East. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: When you left office, you were very close to a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, but, if the president of the United States and the Israelis and the Palestinians said to you, President Clinton, get back involved and negotiate a deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, would you accept that challenge?

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me answer you this way.

Anything I say about that is a loser for -- my whole life now in terms of my public utterance is to cause no problem for the president or the secretary of state.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: And, believe me, there's a significant price if I do that.

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: I -- but, look, I would do anything I could to help there. But that's not really what's going on. I mean, my involvement would not make that much difference one way or the other. They have known -- since I offered an agreement in great detail in 2000, and the then government of Israel headed by Ehud Barak took it, and the Palestinians basically didn't say yes or no, they continued their negotiation-by-non-negotiation strategy, in the most colossal diplomatic error in my lifetime.

Now, I know there are all these apologists who say there was something else going on. It's just not true. And there are people in Arafat's entourage, including Arafat, who told two Arab leaders they were going to take the deal. And he told me he was desperately determined to make a deal before I left office. Otherwise, it would be five years before he could take one.

And, instead, they took the bait and started the second intifada when Ariel Sharon went up on the Temple Mount. And we're living with it.

Now, let me say what I think here. Prime Minister Netanyahu is a highly intelligent man who understands the historical stakes. Even though he's not supported by 59 percent of Israel, 59 percent of the Israelis have said in poll after poll that they would support virtually any peace agreement he agreed to, because even the people that don't vote for him think that he wouldn't do anything to endanger Israel's security.

President Abbas and his prime minister, Mr. Fayyad, on the West Bank have become good partners for Israel on security. And Fayyad has done a great job of running that government. It's the strongest, most competent, least corrupt government the Palestinians have ever had in their own home ground.

The problems are -- and, by the way, one other thing that they have got that I didn't have is, all the Arab leaders would -- they would give me an attaboy privately, but they never wanted to get out there publicly and say, we're going to be for this.

Now you've got the king of Saudi Arabia has gotten more than 20 other Muslim countries, including -- well, more than 26 others, I think, now, but most of -- and all the countries in the area, except for Syria and Iran, to say, if you make this peace with the Palestinians, we will immediately proceed to have a diplomatic, political, economic and security relationship with you.

They're worried about Iran. They don't want Israel to kick around anymore. They don't need it anymore. But they can't make up with them unless there's a Palestinian state. So, that's all -- that's the good news.

The fundamental thing that has happened since I left office is -- well, basically twofold. Number one, Israel is different. It's different. There are now a million Israelis that they call from Russia that came from Russia and other places in the former Soviet Union. They have very little since of the historic -- any historic obligations of the Palestinians and they're highly territorial, so that, on domestic political issues, they might vote left-of-center, but they don't think they ought to give up any land.

They're invited by -- Natan Sharansky, the great human rights activist, was in the Netanyahu Cabinet in 1998. When I made a deal with them at Wye River, Sharansky was the only one who wouldn't support it. He said, I come from the biggest country in the world to one of the smallest. And you, pointing at me, wish me to cut it in half. No thank you.

In other words, don't tell me about the history. Don't tell me about the Palestinians being here 2,000 years. Don't tell me about nothing. It's ours. Why should we give it up?

That complicates Israeli politics enormously.

The other thing that I warned Arafat about is the pressure to expand the settlements. In 2000, when we offered this peace agreement, you could get 97 percent of the West Bank settlers on 3 percent of the land, which meant it was an easy deal to work a land swap out with Israel acre for acre, so they got in effect 100 percent of the West Bank.

Today, you have to give up 6 percent of the land to give up -- to get just 80 percent of the settlers. And going to get the other 20 percent means there will be hell to pay. So, the politics of this are much more difficult, mostly because of changes which have happened in Israel.

The Palestinian problem obviously is the division between Hamas and Fatah on the West Bank and Gaza. But at least -- unless this blockade imbroglio has changed it, you -- you all need to remember, Hamas refused a request to have an election just in the last few months, because those people in Gaza know how well Fayyad has done in the West Bank.

And if they had an election, with just one Fatah person and one Hamas person running for every single seat, Hamas would lose a free election on the West Bank, unless the embargo stuff has changed it. So that's what I think.

Basically -- and finally, right now, Israel is doing great economically. They're going to have 100,000 people in electric cars pretty soon. They'll probably be the first country in the world to have all electric fleet. They feel secure. They feel they've got a security partner on the west bank. They don't feel the pressure that is surely going to be there. Now, I think that it's the lull before the storm. Keep in mind. It won't be long before Israel will no longer be a majority Jewish country if they hold the West Bank and guys like Yitzhak Rabin are worried about that and I think they should worry about it because the problems they've got in international legitimacy today will pale compared to what the world will think then, if they try to hold on and basically disenfranchise huge numbers of people and they claim the land.

The second problem that no one ever talks about is the missiles. Do you remember when the missiles went from Gaza into Israel? There was a lot of sympathy when Israel said we're going to go clean that out. Keep in mind, there were a lot of missiles that killed a few people. One thing is that never changes is the trajectory of technology. It's only a matter of time when those missiles have GPS missiles on them. Then you have a few missiles killing a lot of people. No matter how good their security is, they may -- there may never be a time when they can fly 400 missiles again but now maybe they only need four for all hell to break loose. So I still think they should do this but they don't need me. They know what the deal is within two or three degrees. Nothing has changed and Netanyahu can make the deal if he can figure out a way to survive politically and if he believes that it should be done.

I think what we all ought to do is keep saying, make the deal, make the deal. And try to hold the Arabs where they are. Their fear of Iran has driven them into almost pleading for a partnership. Not just Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the rest of the UAE and Bahrain but also in Saudi Arabia where there are now more women than men in institutions of higher education where the first coeducational institute has been built where men and women not only go to class together but the women don't have to be all covered up when they go to class. There's a sense in the Arab world they need to take a different turn, but they know they can't get there without making peace with Israel and they know they can't make peace with Israel until the Palestinian have their state.

BLITZER: I recognize the sensitivity, but I think the president of the United States and secretary of state would be grateful if you could broker a deal.

CLINTON: Well I don't know if the Israelis want me to. The public trusts me because they know I would never do anything to imperil their security, but the current government would probably, you know, rather drink contaminated water than have me do it. And I consider Prime Minister Netanyahu a good friend of mine. I have a good open totally honest relationship with him but we just see the world differently. I'm desperately concerned about Israel's future if they stay on this path. I'm committed to the Palestinians but I actually believe it's part of my religious as well as my philosophical convictions that they should share the holy land. And we're moving to a point where there will be more and more people on both sides that don't believe that anymore. And that bothers me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: Elena Kagan faces her critics. The president's nominee vows a modest Supreme Court role. But is that good enough for Republican senators who came out swinging? And on a lighter note, what happens when singers get all choked up? Jeanne Moos finds it most unusual. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: The president's Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan faced her critics today and she promised a modest restrained Supreme Court role. But is that going to satisfy Republican critics? They came out swinging at the start of her confirmation hearing today. CNN's Senior Congressional correspondent Dana Bash joins us. You've obviously been watching this very closely. You've gotten a sense of the mood, the tone of all this. Where do you think this is headed?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: One Democratic senator told Elena Kagan today he doesn't want to take the suspense out of her hearings but he said things are looking good for your confirmation. That wasn't exactly a news flash, but still, it did not stop Republicans from trying to, as one put it, make this a confirmation, not a coronation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: In Elena Kagan's brief opening statement, her middle of the road message was clear. She quoted famous words carved on the entrance to Supreme Court, equal justice under law.

ELENA KAGAN, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: What this demands of judges is even handedness and impartiality. What it promises is nothing less than a fair shake for every American.

BASH: But before Kagan spoke, Republicans laid down their arguments against her, warning she won't be able top shed her liberal politic whence she dons her Supreme Court robe.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: In many respects, Ms. Kagan's career has been consumed more by politics than law. And this does worry many Americans.

BASH: GOP senators seized on memos Kagan wrote as a Clinton aide and earlier as a clerk to Justice Thurgood Marshall. In one she called a lower court decision on abortion ludicrous, but still suggested the high court not review it.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: To do otherwise she wrote would likely create some very bad law on abortion and/or prisoners' rights. This kind of naked political judgment appears frequently throughout Ms. Kagan's work as a judicial clerk.

BASH: Most Democrats tried to turn GOP criticism about Kagan's activism on its head. If you want to see activism look at the current conservative court and its ruling allowing unions and corporations to spend freely in federal elections.

SEN. RUSS FEINGOLD (D), WISCONSIN: By acting in such an extreme and unjustified manner, the court badly damaged its own integrity. By elevating the rights of corporations over the rights of the people, it damaged our democracy.

BASH: One Republican suggested Kagan can pull free from her deep Democratic roots.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I look forward to trying to better understand how you will be able to take political activism, association with liberal causes, and park it when it becomes time to be a judge.

BASH: The other GOP knock on Kagan is she's never been a judge.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Ms. Kagan has less real legal experience of any nominee in at least 50 years.

BASH: Several Democrats called that a plus, since all other justices came from the federal bench.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: The biggest criticism I've seen out there is that you've never been a judge. Frankly, I find this refreshing.

BASH: But for other Democrats, a cause for concern.

SEN. HERB KOHL (D), WISCONSIN: We have less evidence about what sort of judge you will be than on any nominee in recent memory. Your judicial philosophy is almost invisible to us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: Now, that so-called invisible judicial philosophy on hot button issues from abortion to executive power worries liberal activists in the president's own party as well as their conservative counterparts. When the committee reconvenes, senators in both parties will begin pressing Kagan for answers about her relatively unknown judicial approach.

MALVEAUX: I know white house officials so far are happy with the way things are going but obviously you'll be watching every step of the day as we all do tomorrow.

BASH: Thanks Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: Much more on the Kagan confirmation hearing. The best political team on television is standing by with insight and analysis you won't find anywhere else.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MALVEAUX: Let's get a closer look at the Kagan confirmation hearing. CNN's John King, CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and a pair of CNN political contributors Roland Martin and GOP strategist Ed Rollins. Thank you so much to our panel for being here. Obviously today when you take a look at what we're dealing with Elena Kagan there's about 160,000 pages we've got over the four years when she was in the Clinton administration, about half of that e-mails or so. But in light of that, and in spite of that, there's a thin paper trail. It either works for or against her. We've seen this play out today. I want you to take a listen. This is Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KYL: Despite this relatively thin paper trail, there are warnings signs she may be exactly the results-oriented justice President Obama is working for.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: So on the one hand, the less we know about her is a good thing or the less they know about her, the more they can attack her. How does this work? Is this going to help her or hurt her that we just don't have a lot on her judicial philosophy?

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: She wins by not losing, meaning that she has the votes right now. She wins if she doesn't lose any votes in this process. The question, when it gets tough tomorrow and people start reading those e-mails and the back and forth. Today was just opening statement day. The Republicans laid down their line. She laid down her general view. When they start reading the e-mails, what did you mean? Why did you urge President Clinton to act in this way? Why did you want to press that case? She's going to have to make a decision whether she will, a, say something, that was a conversation with the president, you have the email, I'm not going to discuss it more or b, I worked for the president of the United States. That was my view then as his attorney, as his counselor, as his adviser. How personal does she get? How much does she give her views? You can bet, today it would be a safe bet to say probably not that much.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I agree. I don't think there's going to be a lot of new information come out. She's going to say that these e-mails represented her work on behalf of a president who had a set of policies that she was -- that he was advancing and she was trying to help. Sonia Sotomayor had lot more criticism, a lot more criticism and she got 68 votes. I think Elena Kagan is probably in that range at the moment of 68 and you only need 51.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely irrelevant. Nice political theater, democrats control the senate, they control this committee, they control this whole row of boats. The bottom line is she wins. They can sit here and say all they want to. I doubt very seriously Senator Sessions is going to lead some kind of filibuster against Elena Kagan. At the end of the day she's going to get confirmed. That's what happens when you win the presidency, you appoint who you want.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: We Republicans obviously know who she is. And she's the kind of judge we expect President Obama to nominate. The key thing for Democrats, we had a judge named Suitor that never voted with us ever. I think Democrats will press very hard to find out who she is. But they won't vote against her.

MARTIN: That's important. Understand, if you listened to Senator Menendez with Candy Crowley on Sunday, he kept saying she's a centrist. You never hear a Republican nominee being called a centrist. Conservatives have done a good job of forcing Democrats of not appointing strong liberals but forcing them to appoint someone who is from the center or left of center or right on center because that's the way the process plays.

TOOBIN: What conservatives really have done is an excellent job of controlling the current Supreme Court. Look at the decisions today. Gun control is now illegal throughout the United States because of the second amendment, a reading of the second amendment that was novel and crazy according to people in the 1980s. But after Ronald Reagan and Edwin Meese came to Washington, they set out to change the federal judiciary and they have had a tremendous success.

MALVEAUX: What about the liberals? Obviously white house aides are quietly trying to reassure liberal groups, we're talking about the NAACP, the National Bar Association, organizations that have complained quietly that she hasn't done enough when it comes to civil rights that she is on their side. Do we think it's going to remain this kind of quiet discomfort or is this going to spill out tomorrow in some sort of way?

KING: I think you'll get some tough questions from the Democrats tomorrow on these very issues, on civil rights, on presidential powers, which is an area where liberal groups think she defended essentially Bush administration policies before the Supreme Court. I think you will see tough questions but to Jeff's point, the white house is trying to make the argument that this is a very intellectual fire power consensus builder, somebody you want in there whether debating the next time around 5-4. It won't tilt the ideological court on this case, but if there's one where Justice Kennedy maybe can be pulled over to the other side, can Elena Kagan make that case maybe better some of the other left of center justices? That's what this white house hopes. You might not agree with her on everything or might not know a lot about her on some of her issue, but this is our person who can wage the fight.

MARTIN: Suzanne it's not quiet. Bottom line is the white house were ticked off at me when they criticized her record at Harvard. My point is don't stand here and say how she played a critical role in bringing in conservatives but being she played no role in bringing in minorities. Bottom line is she needs to answer those questions and they need to step up and own up to NAACP as well as the national bar association, because they deserve the answers.

ROLLINS: 30 years or more, she's going to be up against the lead in of Roberts and can she compete in elections with them. That's going to be the question.

MALVEAUX: Got to leave it there. Thank you so much all of you for joining us.

Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail and then on a lighter note, singing through the tears or not, CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.

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MALVEAUX: Time to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Hey, Jack.

Suzanne, the question this hour is angry the best word to describe how you feel about the mid it term elections.

Luke in Pittsburgh, "Angry? No. Curious is the word that strikes my fancy. I'm curious how many incumbents can survive the open season on their heads. Those that survive will certainly be admired for their tenacity."

Tom in Maine writes, "The motivated voters are the people losing their jobs, homes and unemployment benefits. Do you think for a second they don't know Republicans killed their benefits? Voters see Republicans shedding tears for BP and not for them. The Republican pollsters need not ask for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for them."

Dave in New Hampshire writes, "Jack, I would say disgusted or sickened are better adjectives to describe what I'm feeling. When a U.S. senator has served since the 1950s and has to die in order to be replaced. They will replace him, right? Something is very wrong with the way they run this country."

Carol writes, "I'm not angry, I'm determined, determined to keep the right wing conservatives from derailing progress that has already started the economic turnaround."

Mark writes from Boston, "No, a better phrase would be apathetically nonchalant. What difference does it make anyway? In the final analysis we'll have to tell our creditors we can't pay them."

Miles writes, "Angry? I would describe it as bliss. Why angry about the opportunity to throw idiots out of office."

And Sarah writes from Denver, "Yes, angry works. I'm way past all of those emotions that imply I'm willing to cut Washington some slack. I'm fresh out of slack."

If you want to read more on midterm elections or whatever, go to the blog, CNN.com/Caffertyfile and while away the evening hours.

MALVEAUX: We'll check it out, Jack. Okay.

The record setting career of Senator Robert Byrd, a look at the impact and the controversies at the top of the hour on "JOHN KING, USA."

And a most unusual combination, crying and singing, CNN's Jeanne Moos is next.

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MALVEAUX: Here's a look at hot shots. In Kabul, Afghanistan, a boy covers his mouth as he fights through a cloud of dusk. In Hong Kong, Greenpeace environmentalist use fake radioactive barrels to protest nuclear power following a recent leak in China. In New Delhi, India, protesters seek to carve out a separate state and in London young people cool off in a fountain as high summer temperatures sweep through much of Western Europe. Hot shots pictures worth a thousand words.

Sometimes you want to sing, other times you want to cry and sometimes entertainers do both. Our CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a most unusual look.

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JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: First he danced. Then he cried. When Chris Brown broke down at the B.E.T. awards performing a tribute to Michael Jackson, it was one of those try to sing but nothing comes out moments. Brown isn't the first singer inspired by Michael Jackson to get choked up paying tribute to him. Usher was singing to Michael's casket at his memorial service. Stevie Wonder was likewise rendered momentarily mute in the middle of "The Way You Make Me Feel." The way he made everyone feel at this HBO rock and roll hall of fame event was sad. The way you make me feel

We're more accustomed to the singer making the viewer cry or Bette Midler singing to Johnny Carson as the last guest on Carson's "The Tonight Show." But when the singer cries like Beyonce or Fantasia on "American Idol," they have the audience eating out of their tear stained hand. A performer doesn't have to be sad to cry. Sometimes the biggest meltdowns are just caused by nerves. After heading for a shoulder to cry on, all she wanted was a chance to start over again on "Britain's Got Talent."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't have time to do it again I'm afraid. I'm not trying to upset you.

MOOS: They found the time. Some performers cry a lot. Think Celine Dion. She cries so much she's developed dramatic techniques for wiping away her tears. There's the backhand, the two-handed fling. And the two-handed fling with eyes raised to the heavens. Sure beats Kleenex.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

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MALVEAUX: I'm Suzanne Malveaux in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING, USA" starts right now.