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THE SITUATION ROOM
Rod Blagojevich Convicted on Single Count; Millions Homeless in Pakistan
Aired August 17, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The breaking news this hour comes from Chicago, a federal courthouse in Chicago, where Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, was found guilty of one count, making false statements to the FBI. That's a felony, potentially enabling the government to send him to jail for five years.
But on 23 other counts, there was a deadlock, a hung jury, the jurors unable to reach a decision on some very, very serious charges against Rod Blagojevich, the prosecution, the federal government saying they will go for a retrial, another trial, against the former governor of Illinois on these other 23 counts, a dramatic development in Chicago, mixed results for Rod Blagojevich, unable, the federal government, to convict him on 23 counts, but they were able to convict him on a count saying that he made false statements to the FBI.
David Gergen is with us, Lisa Bloom, the criminal defense attorney, Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst.
Let me start with you, Jeff. Set the scene for us. Give us some perspective on what happens now.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the government has announced that, of the 23 counts where the jury failed to reach a verdict, they will retry him.
So, this, I think you have to say, was a definite victory for Rod Blagojevich. It may be only a temporary victory. If he gets convicted at the end of the day of racketeering, of extortion, he could still be going to prison for a very long time.
But in a world, especially in federal court, where the government wins convictions in the vast, vast majority of cases, to have a case where 23 of the 24 counts do not result in a conviction, I think the only fair analysis of that is that this is a victory for Rod Blagojevich.
BLITZER: It must be, David Gergen, a huge disappointment for Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, and his prosecutors. They worked really hard on all of these other charge. They were unable to convince the jurors to issue a guilty verdict.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I am sure it is a big disappointment they didn't get that far. And they must be curious about what happened to that second count, that the jury had sent word out that they had reached agreement on two counts, as we just heard from Andy Shaw, and they only come back with one. So I am sure that the prosecutors are going to want to look at that.
I think they're going to also want to know -- and we are going to hear leaked out of this -- how the jurors did come down on these, the 23 -- 11-1, 10-2? Where was it? That's going to make a big difference I think on how the public reacts to this.
But we cannot walk away from this. Even though, yes, Rod Blagojevich beat the charges on 23, he is still a convicted felon.
BLITZER: He is a convicted felon and he potentially could serve five years in prison, convicted of making false statements to the FBI, count number 24.
Let me read that count to you. Blagojevich allegedly lied to the FBI during a March 16, 2005, meeting, willfully and knowingly making false statements that he tried to maintain a firewall between politics and government, that he does not track or want to know who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him, guilty on that count, no decision, hung jury on 23 other counts, including charges, serious charges, racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, attempted extortion and conspiracy.
All of these charges, the jurors were unable to reach a decision on.
Let's bring in our political analysts, Roland Martin, Mary Matalin. They're both here.
Roland, first to you. How surprised were you by this since you live in Chicago and you have been watching this trial very closely?
ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it has been startling because this trial has gone on for only about 30 days.
Typically, if you look at the trial of former Governor George Ryan, who was convicted of taking money from one of his campaign donors, that trial went on for months, and so this thing was sort of on speed dial, if you will.
Then all of the sudden, when we saw the jury, you know, day after day not reaching a decision, it was sort of like, in Chicago, hey, what in the world is going on? Now they come back, only convict him on one count, hung on 23. It also begs -- you know, look, the FBI is going to be in for some tough questioning as well, because, remember, they arrested Rod Blagojevich and it was stated before a deal actually commenced.
They felt that something was about to happen as it related to the U.S. Senate seat of former Senator Barack Obama in terms of Blagojevich making that appointment. And don't be surprised. If they are unable to send him to prison beyond this one count, they might say, wait a minute, did you move too early before something happened, because again they have tapes and everything else, but if they were unable to convict him with even those tapes, what does that actually mean?
BLITZER: Mary Matalin is with us as well.
Mary, I want to get your reaction. We are just getting a statement, by the way, from Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. And he says this reacting to the verdict. "Unfortunately, the pain and embarrassment that this whole situation has caused our great state will not come to a complete close today. As for me, I repeat what I have said all along. My interest in the Senate seat was based on years of public service, not some improper scheme with Blagojevich or anyone else. I look forward to continuing to work hard on behalf of the people of the 2nd Congressional District of Illinois."
He got his name dragged into this, as you will remember. Mary, correct me if I'm wrong. Aren't you from Chicago originally as well?
MARY MATALIN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I am. And my brother is still there. I still have family there.
BLITZER: So you know what is going on in Chicago. You have watched this. Were you surprised that he was convicted on only one of these 24 counts, the one count, the conviction, on making false statements to the FBI?
MATALIN: Yes. Well, given what the government put out there, how much time, how many resources, all these big brains, the heavy hand of the government in there, it is shocking.
Everyone is talking about Blagojevich's victory. His victory will be dependent on what he does with this. And he is right, my colleague there is right that he wants to be a reality TV star, so this is victory for him, but it's a huge defeat for the government.
They did not make their case, whether it was hung or a mistrial, on 23 counts. They have far more resources, far greater brain power, every tool available to them, and they lost on 23 counts. And whoever made this point earlier, I think very smart David Gergen made, the government has to be careful on appearing to be heavy-handed in this case.
The jury has spoken.
BLITZER: You know this U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, Mary Matalin. You know him in the sense that he is the same U.S. attorney who was involved in the Valerie Plame, the outing of the CIA and the eventual -- the conviction of Dick Cheney, the former vice president's chief of staff.
You know how determined Patrick Fitzgerald, how dogged he can be.
MATALIN: And I also know this from 30 years in Washington. As one of the famous lawyers there said, you can indict a ham sandwich if you want. But when the entire weight of the government comes down on you and they are squeezing you and they want somebody, it is a terrifying, a terrifying experience. Their heavy-handedness would be about the only thing that could make a sympathetic character out of Blagojevich, who is otherwise a clown. But he is the kind of political clown that people think all politicians -- who committed the crime that people think all politicians commit, which is he is horse trading. That is not a crime. That is just their business is what people think.
I'm not condoning him. I'm not defending him. I am just saying it really disturbs people when the government can bring that kind of heavy-handedness to bear on a private citizen.
BLITZER: Are you in agreement with Mary, Roland?
MARTIN: Well, I think she is absolutely right in terms of what the perception is, because we see this every single day.
You know, we hear stories, people who have worked on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures, in city halls all across the country where folks sit here and say, hey, I will support your bill, you support my bill.
There is an expectation that people out there who support somebody running for office likely will be appointed to these various positions. People who give money to people who are running for president all of a sudden end up being ambassadors to various countries.
That is something that didn't happen just by happenstance. It is an expectation. But, also, the defense of Blagojevich was very interesting. They focused from the outset of here is a guy who runs his mouth, comes up with all kinds of crazy stuff, but nothing ever came out of this.
I think that is going to be a difficult issue once we begin to hear how the jury came down as to whether or not they actually thought he went through on a lot of the schemes. They made it seem like it is just a bunch of talk from a madman and he has used that to create himself this whole persona beyond political office of being a reality star.
BLITZER: Guys, stand by. I want to bring in David Gergen back into this conversation.
Top officials from the Obama administration, David, they did not have to go to Chicago and testify, including the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, or Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president of the United States, David.
But if there is a retrial -- and Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney, says there will be a retrial on these 23 other counts -- they may not necessarily be spared the next time around.
GERGEN: They could easily be called. And I think that is what the lawyer for Robert Blagojevich was trying to say. He doesn't know which way this is going to break. But I think it is in particular on that, that Fitzgerald is going to have some very compelling reasons why he would suddenly now bring somebody from the White House in on the second time around, because it goes to this question of heavy-handedness. He has to be -- I think it is very, very important what happens in the next day or two when we learn whether those jurors were basically a majority of them came down on Blagojevich's side on each one of these counts or whether the majority of them actually thought he was guilty and a minority held out against it.
That is going to make a big difference in how we interpret this retrial and how heavy-handed we think the government is and, by the way, how guilty we believe Blagojevich may be.
BLITZER: Dramatic developments in Chicago on this day. Guys, thank you very much.
We will continue to get reaction. If Rod Blagojevich or his attorneys show up at the microphone, we will go there live. We will hear what they are saying. We will hear what Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago, might say. Let's see if he comes to the microphones outside the Chicago federal courthouse.
We will stay on top of this story. We will share with you all the information coming in.
But there is other important news we are following here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well, including the rising violence in Iraq right now. What happens after thousands of U.S. troops leave at the end of this month? I will talk about that and much more. The Iraqi ambassador to the United States is standing by live. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Also, flooding leaves millions homeless and now desperation is turning to violence in Pakistan. We are getting new details directly from the disaster zone.
BLITZER: Just to recap the breaking news, Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, convicted on one of 24 counts, convicted of a count, count number 24, making false statements to the FBI, a deadlock, a hung jury on the 23 other counts, much more serious counts. He is convicted, though, on that one felony charge which potentially could put him in jail for five years.
We are standing by outside the courtroom. If Blagojevich or his attorneys show up at the microphone, we will hear what they have to say. Also, we will hear what the U.S. attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald, what he might say if he shows up at the microphones as well.
That is the breaking news we are following, be there is other news we are following as well, including major new information on the Gulf oil disaster. And what happened to all that crude oil? Some was collected. Some washed ashore, but a considerable amount has been unaccounted for until now.
Researchers have made a very disturbing discovery on the ocean floor off the Florida coast and they shared their findings exclusively with CNN's Ed Lavandera.
He is joining us now from St. Petersburg in Florida.
Ed, what did you see? What did you learn?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this team of scientists from the University of South Florida have just returned from a 10-day mission in the Gulf waters. They checked out an area northeast of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
And for the first time they say they have found waters so toxic that it is infecting and damaging some microscopic marine life that could affect the food chain in the Gulf waters.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): A team of University of South Florida scientists is already poring over the latest scientific data coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. And for the first time they are finding marine life infected by toxic waters.
DAVID HOLLANDER, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: We did find that subsurface waters appeared to have a toxic response. There was repression in the phytoplankton. The phytoplankton are marine plants. Those are the base of the food web, the foundation of the food pyramid in the marine system. That certainly will have a consequence.
Water in here was collected from 50 meters.
LAVANDERA: David Hollander was one of the lead researchers on the mission. CNN was there as the Weatherbird II returned from its 10-day mission studying the Gulf waters, 14 scientists pulling their newfound data off the ship.
(on camera): Do you feel like you are kind of on the verge of really getting a better understanding of what is going on underneath the water?
HOLLANDER: Oh, I think we are adding to the puzzle. We are adding to the pieces of the puzzle.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Hollander and another expert on the journey, John Paul, sat down with CNN for an exclusive review of their findings. The USF scientists say they found toxic levels of oil and dispersants affecting marine organisms just 40 miles south of Panama City, Florida. The organisms, called phytoplankton, and other microscopic bacteria in the ocean are the foundation of the food chain.
JOHN PAUL, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA MARINE MICROBIOLOGIST: What feeds and fuels the ecology of the ocean. And if those guys are in trouble, then the ocean is in trouble. LAVANDERA: So far, federal government scientists have downplayed the impact of microscopic oil making its way up the food chain. This is what the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said earlier this month.
JANE LUBCHENCO, ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION: Fish will degrade that oil and process it naturally. And so, it doesn't bio-accumulate. So, it's not a situation where we need to be concerned about that. Over time, it will be broken down.
LAVANDERA: USF scientists tell CNN that is a short-sighted view of the danger. NOAA officials haven't responded to these latest scientific findings.
The 10-day mission in the Gulf of Mexico was a rocky voyage. The scientists were battered with 12-foot seas and strong storms, taking them within 25 miles of the Deepwater Horizon spill site. All along the way, they found microscopic droplets of oil on the ocean floor.
HOLLANDER: Right here is a sedimentary record from an area that is about 1,500 meters water depth right adjacent to the Deepwater Horizon.
LAVANDERA: Using U.V. light on the sediment, the microscopic oil stands out easily.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can see the oil spread out all over. There's no reflection. Some of those were before, but this is all speckled. And when you turn of the light completely, it looks like the southern sky.
LAVANDERA (on camera): Yes, it looks like a constellation of stars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a constellation of stars.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): But most troubling to David Hollander is evidence that the submerged oil is making its way through a region of the Gulf of Mexico known as the De Sotomayor Canyon. The canyon stretches from just east of the Deepwater Horizon spill site to an area south of Panama City.
(on camera): So, the concern is not only that you found the droplets of oil widespread, but where you found it.
HOLLANDER: Yes, it is becoming now into these areas that are critical marine protected areas, critical habitats for commercial and recreational fishing.
LAVANDERA: And, Wolf, BP officials told us they have not had a chance to review some of this latest scientific data coming back, but they did tell us that they welcome all of this kind of information as they have committed some $500 million to the long-term study and the impact on marine life. Meanwhile, these scientists here at the University of South Florida will remain in the lab poring over this new data for the next couple of weeks. And they are planning another trip for later in September -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Ed Lavandera reporting for us from St. Petersburg, Florida -- thanks, Ed. Thanks very much.
A country underwater, potentially millions of lives in ruins -- the latest from flood-ravaged Pakistan and how the world is taking its time to respond to the disaster.
And violence on the rise, but Iraqi troops not at fully ready yet. Is the U.S. withdrawing too quickly from Iraq? I will ask the Iraqi ambassador to the United States. He is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Around the world, desperation is giving way to violence looting in Pakistan right now.
According to the United Nations, hungry mobs living along roads are blocking aid convoys, overrunning loaded trucks, and clashing with police.
CNN's Sara Sidner remains on the ground for us in the flood- ravaged country, where conditions show absolutely no signs of improving any time soon.
SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Floodwaters are still punishing Pakistan's infrastructure, this road washed out like many others and bridges as well.
One of the issues with that is that distribution of aid is nearly impossible in some places, so a lot of the struggling trying to get food, water and shelter to those who were left homeless.
Now, the other big issue here is economic. They are estimating about 17 million acres of the most fertile ground here in Pakistan has been washed out, covered in floodwaters, so the price of fresh fruits and vegetables are skyrocketing and the price of meat up about 20 percent.
A lot of concern that these floods are going to have a lasting economic impact on this country.
Sara Sidner, CNN, Sindh Province, Pakistan.
BLITZER: The numbers associated with Pakistan's disastrous flooding are simply staggering. Listen to this. Two million people are homeless. More than 1,400 people are dead and health officials fear that number will rise from waterborne diseases.
And there's the money. The U.S. has pledged $76 million in aid. The Pakistan Humanitarian Forum says $150 million have been received from around the world, but it says another $105 million is desperately needed just to provide food and shelter to millions of flood victims.
The United Nations has called for $166 million for clean water and medical care, but has received only $25 million so far.
If you want to help flood victims in Pakistan, you can. Go to CNN.com/Impact. There is a list of agencies you can contact to offer aid and much-needed funds. You can Impact Your World. And I think you should.
We are following the breaking news here in the United States, the former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich convicted of one felony count, but the jury deadlocked on 23 other charges.
Also, the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about the rising violence in his country and what happens after thousands of U.S. troops leave in the coming weeks.
And the embattled Congressman Charlie Rangel up close as he fights for his political life. This is a CNN exclusive with Soledad O'Brien. That's coming up.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: Let's get some more on the breaking news coming from Chicago right now, where a jury has just found the former Governor Rod Blagojevich guilty of one count of making a false statement or representation to the FBI, but the panel is deadlocked on 23 other counts stemming from charges that Blagojevich tried to sell the Illinois Senate seat that was once held by President Obama.
Joining us now on the phone is Lynn Sweet of "The Chicago Sun- Times" and PoliticsDaily.com.
Were you surprised by this, Lynn?
LYNN SWEET, COLUMNIST/WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE CHICAGO SUN- TIMES": Not at all. Not at all.
BLITZER: Tell us why.
SWEET: Because the charges had to do with attempted extortion, attempted conspiracy. And these are just very tough charges to prove.
BLITZER: So, the prosecution, the federal U.S. attorney is saying he is going to go and seek another trial right now for these 23 other counts. Are you surprised that he is moving that quickly?
SWEET: No, because I think that they had an inkling that they were in trouble, Wolf, earlier this week, when, if nothing else, that the deliberations took so long.
But here is the tremendous irony. The conviction on count 24, giving false statements, it was for something that if Rod had told the truth was a perfectly legal act. He was -- so he was convicted for telling a federal agent that he maintained a firewall between politics and government and that he does not know or want to know who contributes to him.
Wolf, these are perfectly legal political enterprises that politics run. You report on it every day, as I do. He could have just said, of course I am involved in my political life.
BLITZER: And it is so ridiculous when you think about it, because I am reading that count 24.
BLITZER: He lied to the FBI during a March 16, 2005, meeting, willfully and knowingly making false statements that he tried to maintain a firewall between politics and government.
And then it goes on to say that he does not track or want to know who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him.
BLITZER: As far as I know -- and I have covered politics, like you, Lynn, for a long time -- there is nothing wrong with knowing who contributes to your campaign.
SWEET: There is nothing wrong.
SWEET: Isn't this yet another -- it is -- and I was in count the day that this -- that this count was being -- being testified to - and the federal prosecutors had put on this stand some of Blagojevichs' former fund-raisers who talked about meetings they had and conferences and obviously, he was involved in it, but what is President Obama doing yesterday and today and tomorrow? He's doing political fundraisers. Of course, he knows where he is going. Of course, you have an interest in your political life. It is allowed.
BLITZER: That was obviously --
SWEET: Of all of the serious stuff he was charged with, this is what he got in trouble for and convicted of.
BLITZER: He was charged as you know Lynn with racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, bribery conspiracy. Those are very, very serious charges. The jurors could not reach a verdict on any of them, but the federal government, the U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald will retry him on those 23 other counts. Lynn, thanks very much.
I want to bring in Andy Shaw right now. He's the executive director of the Better Government Association in Chicago. He was in the courtroom when all of this unfolded. I think that there are a whole bunch of losers here, Andy, and correct me if you think I'm wrong, Blagojevich loses because he was convicted of one felony count. He could serve five years in prison even though there was no decision on the other 23 counts, but the U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is a loser, too, because he could not convince these jurors that these 23 other counts were worth convicting him on.
ANDY SHAW, EXEC. DIR. BETTER GOVT. ASSN.: Well, there are two other obvious losers today. Patrick Fitzgerald had Rod Blagojevich arrested at his home in the north side of Chicago in December of '08 because of in Fitzgerald's words he had to stop a quote crime spree, that would have made Abe Lincoln turn over in his grave, but that alleged crime spree never made any of the 12 jurors turn over in their seats. So at this moment, Patrick Fitzgerald looks like he has serious egg on his face. Here is something that really bothers a government like ours, the defense in the second trial will be paid for by Illinois taxpayers, because Rod Blagojevich is broke. He used almost $3 million from his campaign fund to pay the lawyers in the first trial. He has no money left. He has $200,000 in credit card debt. So that means that we, Illinois taxpayers, are going to pay the bill to defend him in the second trial and whether the taxpayers like him or don't like him and think he should have been found guilty or not guilty, no one will want to pay that $3 million for the second trial. So we are losers, too.
BLITZER: And it could be more than $3 million if it goes on and on and on and there were appeals, Andy. So, Andy, am I hearing you saying that the U.S. attorney should drop it right now and let him serve time or go to jail for that one count in which he was convicted and forget about these 23 others?
SHAW: I am sure that there are some taxpayers that would believe that, but we are not going there, because this is a prosecutorial decision. They have all the evidence. They have the firepower to put on a second case, and let me tell you, your national CNN audience may find it much more entertaining the second time around, because this time around, we are very likely to see Rahm Emanuel, and Valerie Jarrett, and Tony Resco, the fixer who sold Barack Obama get a house at a low price in Chicago way back when. That second trial could be a lot more feisty than the first one. We could even see Blagojevich on the stand. So, maybe more theatrics, and as you point out, maybe higher cost as it goes to the appeal level which it invariably will.
BLITZER: And I hear what you are saying, Andy. All right Andy thanks very much. Andy Shaw was in the courtroom when those decisions were announced.
We are standing by, if Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor shows up at the microphone, we are told he is still in the courtroom and we will go there live and we'll hear what his attorneys say. If Patrick Fitzgerald, the attorney, the prosecutor in the case, shows up at the microphones, we will go there as well. Standby, and we will stay on top of the story.
There is other very important news we are following today in THE SITUATION ROOM including in Iraq. As the U.S. gears up to pull out of Iraq, the violence though is ratcheting back up at least on this day. Horrible stuff going on in Baghdad. Is the Iraqi military ready to take on the role of security? I will go one-on-one with Iraq's ambassador to the United States. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We will go to the federal courthouse in Chicago with Rod Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor showing up at the microphones with his attorneys and his family. He is convicted of one count and no decision, no verdict on the other 23 counts. When he goes to the microphones we will go there. In fact, we are told he is walking out right now. There is Rod Blagojevich and attorneys and his wife they're walking out. Let's see if he stops off at the microphones and makes a statement to the American public, see if he goes out. He is walking outside of the courtroom right now. The microphones are right outside. We will see what if anything he says. As we pointed out repeatedly over the last hour and hour and a half, no verdict on racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion, bribery, extortion, conspiracy. He is a convicted one-count of making false statements to the FBI, and in other words, lying to the FBI, and that is that one count. It is a felony conviction. He could serve up to five years in prison for that one count. The prosecutor of the U.S. attorney in Chicago says that he will retry on the other 23. Here is Blagojevich.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: OK? OK. Let me begin by first and foremost thanking my legal team and you know who they are Sam Adam Senior, Sam Adam Junior, my friend Sheldon Sharoski. Let me go down the list, Lauren and Elliot Reedman and Aaron Goldstein and Michael Gillespie who has a torn hamstring, Mark Martin who the guy was very good with the legal books. I want to thank them. I want to thank Jerry Wallace for being her, Keenan Salters (ph) and all of the other young attorneys who worked hard on our behalf.
Let me also express my appreciation to the men and women who served on the jury, and thank them for their hard work for giving up their summer. They did their duty as citizens. They deliberated and they took their time and I want to thank them for their hard work and for their deliberation and for the sacrifice that they made as our citizens.
Let me also say to the people from Illinois, that from the beginning when this all happened, I told them I did not let them down. I didn't break any laws. I didn't do anything wrong. The government, the federal government and this particular prosecutor did everything he could to target me and prosecute me, persecute me, put pressure on my family, try to take our home, take me away from our kids, arrest me in the early morning hours of December 9th, with Patty and me in the bedroom and our little Annie in bed with us, a sitting governor and that very prosecutor said he was stopping a crime spree before it happened. Well this jury just showed you notwithstanding the fact that this government and the power and the resources they bring to bear, this jury just showed you notwithstanding that the government threw everything but the kitchen sink at me that on every count except for one and every charge except for one they could not prove that I did anything wrong, that I did break any laws except for one nebulous charge from five years ago, a conversation that I had with the FBI, where the FBI and I agreed to that interview, refused to allow me to have a court reporter in the room. I want the people of Illinois to know that I did not lie to the FBI.
I have told the truth from the very beginning. This is a persecution. We have police officers who are being gunned down on the streets and children who can't play in front of their homes in the summertime, because they might get gunned down and we have a prosecutor who has wasted and wants to spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to keep persecuting me, persecuting my family, taking me away from my little girls as well as take my home away from us.
But I want to thank the men and women of the jury for what they came up with. Most people say you can't fight city hall and most people have said from the very beginning, when the federal government and these prosecutors come after you like they did me and they threw everything they could at me 24 charges that I have said from the beginning are false and the jury agreed that the government did not prove its case, and let me also point out -- and let me also point out that we didn't even put a defense on and the government could not prove its case.
So Patty and I are going to continue to fight, because this fight is a lot bigger than just me and my family. This is a fight for the very freedoms that we as Americans enjoy. The right to be able to be innocent, the right to be able to do your job and to not be lied about. So we will continue to fight, and again, I just want to express my gratitude to the men and women of the jury and remind the people of Illinois, I did not let you down. The jury has shown to the government who could not prove that I did anything wrong. We will appeal that lying decision, and we're hopeful that the laws are on our side with regard to that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor, will you testify in the second trial?
BLITZER: There he is Rod Blagojevich, the former governor of Illinois, very defiantly insisting he is innocent including that one count in which he was convicted of lying to the FBI, making false statement. Rod Blagojevich saying he is going forward despite all of the government's efforts, they were unable to convict him on those 23 other counts. Let me get Jeff Toobin's quick reaction to what we just heard from the former governor. Jeff is our senior legal analyst -- Jeff?
TOOBIN: Well, you can understand why he is crowing a bit, because this was a failed prosecution. Now it may ultimately succeed, but this case sure failed. And he had some new legal options available to him. He can appeal the one count on which he was convicted. He can learn a lot by how the jurors tell him, and tell the government and tell presumably the press how they reacted to the case, but the truth is, this case was a failed prosecution so far. And Blagojevich is crowing for a good reason.
BLITZER: He doesn't have to worry at least for the moment for those 23 other counts, including racketeering, wire fraud, attempted extortion. No decision, the jury was deadlocked on those 23 counts. They could only reach a unanimous decision on that one count, count 24 making false statements to the FBI.
All right. We will stay on top of this story. We will continue to cover it, much more coming up.
Also, what is going on in Iraq right now? The Iraqi ambassador to the United States is here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We will talk to him when we come back.
BLITZER: The death toll has now risen to at least 48 in the suicide attack targeting the army recruits in Iraq. The bomber waited in line for hours with hundreds of other men who are recruitment center at Baghdad before detonating his vest full of explosives. At least 129 people are injured; many of them very, very seriously. All of this coming weeks before thousands of U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq.
Let's discuss what is going on in Iraq right now with the Iraqi ambassador to the United States, Samir Sumaida'ie. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for coming in. My deepest condolences to you, to all the people of Iraq of what is going on. I'm very worried that the longer it takes to form a new government in Baghdad right now, and there has been no new government for five months since the elections, the more these kinds of terror incidents will occur, because there is an opening. Am I wrong to be worried about that?
SAMIR SUMAIDA'IE, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: You are not wrong to be concerned, Wolf. All Iraqi people are concerned for the lack of government at the moment, but it is going to take time. We have to be realistic, but in the meantime, while the government is being formed and while political deliberations are taking place, the government, the current government functioning. Security forces are functioning.
BLITZER: There is a caretaker government.
SUMAIDA'IE: There is a caretaker government. The organs of the state are in place and they are functioning.
BLITZER: The U.S. is supposed to be down to 50,000 troops. At the end of this month, all combat forces are out. The 50,000 are supposed to be training the Iraqi military and then all U.S. troops are supposed to be out by the end of next year. Is that realistic?
SUMAIDA'IE: Absolutely. This is because an agreement was signed in November 2008 between the United States and Iraq to schedule a gradual withdrawal of the United States' forces. We have been going on schedule at every point of this agreement.
BLITZER: But listen to what the chief of the Iraqi military said the other day, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari. He said that the Iraqi military won't be in his words fully ready to defend the country until the year 2020.
SUMAIDA'IE: We have to distinguish, Wolf, between internal security, that is keeping peace inside Iraq and policing it and combating terrorism. That's on the one hand, and on the other hand, defending the borders of Iraq. They are two separate issues. On the defense of the border and the skies, the chief of, military chief is absolutely right. Because you need time to build an air force, and even if you order private planes, it could take several years to be delivered and the same with the navy, but this is different from keeping the country internally secure. I think that on internal security, our security forces have been demonstrating --
BLITZER: Even though there was a lapse today --
SUMAIDA'IE: There will be other lapses, I'm afraid. This kind of attack, cowardly attack --
BLITZER: Is there al Qaeda in Iraq?
SUMAIDA'IE: -- it has the footprints of al Qaeda.
BLITZER: And will they --
SUMAIDA'IE: Whether they have or not, their fingerprints are all over it. The reality is this, the kind of violence that we see today, Wolf, is very different from the violence which we saw in 2006, 2007 which were wholesale violence targeted --
BLITZER: So, you believe that the U.S. military surge that General Petraeus implemented worked?
SUMAIDA'IE: It absolutely worked. And we must remember that since June of last year, the American forces have been out of towns and cities, and the security has been kept by Iraqi forces, and they are able to keep security increasing over time.
BLITZER: Is Iran playing a positive role in Iraq right now, your neighbor, Iran, or a negative role?
SUMAIDA'IE: Well, Iran is, of course, saying that they are nothing to do with internal affairs of Iraq. They are not interfering, but let's face it, Wolf, all our neighbors have an interest in what kind of Iraq emerges out of this, so all of them weighed in when the elections came -- was conducted in March. All of them supported favorite groups within Iraq.
BLITZER: Is it possible --
SUMAIDA'IE: But Iraqis -- let me just finish this. Iraqis have demonstrated a strong resistance to outside interference. Iraqis are independent-minded and are making up their minds even with their friends, the United States; they are saying to everybody that we are going to decide on our future.
BLITZER: Let me just pick your brain while I have you here on a totally unrelated matter. You're an ambassador from an Arab country to the United States, a Muslim. How is this debate over this Muslim center and mosque in New York near ground zero playing in the Arab and Muslim world?
SUMAIDA'IE: Well, I haven't followed how it is playing. I've read the Arab newspapers about it. There is an interest in it, but, frankly, we don't -- I don't see any hysteria over it. I don't see any excitement over it. It is viewed as an internal American situation, an interesting debate to watch, but there is no strong feeling about it, and I think it is going to be left to the American Muslim community and the local governments and the American governments to sort it out.
BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, good luck to you. Good luck to all the people of Iraq. We hope this project works. The United States has invested so much.
BLITZER: In the security and prosperity and democracy of Iraq. We hope it works.
SUMAIDA'IE: Wolf, I am confident we'll come through and Iraq will be a good ally of the United States.
BLITZER: As we say in Shalah.
SUMAIDA'IE: In Shalah. Yes.
BLITZER: Thank you very much Mr. Ambassador.
SUMAIDA'IE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Soledad O'Brien is coming up. She has an exclusive interview with Congressman Charlie Rangel right after this.
BLITZER: He's been through this 20 times before but this time this campaign is unlike any other for Democratic Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York. It comes as he defiantly faces charges by the House Ethics committee as long with challengers and changes in his own home district. That's where Rangel gave Soledad O'Brien exclusive access as he campaigned and celebrated a milestone. This is the first report in Soledad's new "In America" series, "See How They Run."
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On his 80th birthday Representative Charlie Rangel didn't look a man facing 13 charges of ethics violations. He did not look like a guy who was facing ethics charges.
REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: I'm the best 30 second dancer --
O'BRIEN: Is that what the secret is, keep it to 30 seconds.
RANGEL: You got to know when to start and know when to stop. How are you doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
O'BRIEN: To Charlie Rangel, everyone calls him Charlie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the greatest.
O'BRIEN: Now is not the time to stop. With the investigation, is it going to hurt your chances of re-election?
O'BRIEN: Not at all?
O'BRIEN: Why not?
RANGEL: Why would any intelligent person scream for an investigation if he thought it was going to embarrass his family or the Congress or the country?
O'BRIEN: Well, Rangel may be causing headaches on Capitol Hill, the lion of Lenox Avenue still roars defiantly in Harlem where we had exclusive access to Rangel for three days as he campaigned for re- election while staring down an ethics investigation. Do you think it's going to impact the election?
O'BRIEN: It is. How?
RANGEL: I'm going to get a larger turnout and heavier vote.
RANGEL: This is great.
O'BRIEN: What became clear is that his reelection may depend less on the ethics allegations than on whether he's kept pace with Harlem's changing demographics. The capital of black America is now majority Latino.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the legacy of the Congressman is really how he has embraced, how he has represented all of those diverse group. He has been there fighting on their behalf as immigrants, as Latino, as African-Americans, as Asians.
O'BRIEN: The 15th Congressional district also has rising numbers of gay white men like Cator Sparks who is a block association president. CATOR SPARKS, WEST 11TH ST. BLOCK ASSN. PRESIDENT: People just want people in office here to get things done and, you know, we've looked over a lot of different politicians' problems in the past when they've done pretty horrible things and I don't think Charlie Rangel has done such horrible things considering his whole entire record.
O'BRIEN: The avenue nearby is named for Adam Clayton Powell Jr. who Rangel defeated 40 years ago. Powell also faced ethics charges. Now Powell's son is running against Rangel in the Democratic primary.
ADAM CLAYTON POWELL IV (D), NEW YORK CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: The fact that he's done himself a great service to his constituents of the 15th Congressional district a great service and to this nation a great service by stepping down by allowing us to turn the page and move forward because otherwise he's going to be labeled as a crook.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These allegations are very troubling.
O'BRIEN: President Obama has said he hopes Rangel's long career ends with dignity. There are people who read his remarks on CBS as saying time for you to go.
RANGEL: Let me tell you, the president's a politician like everybody else. He obviously didn't mean what people thought he meant. There's no one probably except Nancy Pelosi that he calls more to thank him for what he's done. He would have to know that people in my district know the role I played with them. And I may not be the best Congressman in the world but there's no one better than me running.
O'BRIEN: Rangel says his constituents will see the charges as politically motivated. Why do you have so much support?
RANGEL: Because they see themselves --
O'BRIEN: What do you mean?
RANGEL: And the unfairness of this whole thing. Seldom in America do you find someone screaming before hearing or a trial not getting it by the press or by even your colleagues. It's a very, very unusual situation.
O'BRIEN: So when you say --
RANGEL: Except African-Americans have felt this before.
O'BRIEN: He refuses to contemplate a deal and demands an open Congressional hearing. Is it racially motivated? You, Maxine Waters, is ethics at its core or is in some way --
RANGEL: I think the numbers look odd in terms of the number of African-Americans that have been brought before the ethics committee.
O'BRIEN: Rangel says his constituents know all about fighting back. RANGEL: I'm not going anywhere. You can depend on that.
O'BRIEN: Unless the voters or the House Ethics Committee decide otherwise.
O'BRIEN: Walking down the street we were constantly interrupting people saying we support you. Don't let them get you down. Here's one reason he's so successful. Rangel's district is the smallest geographically in the nation. It's all vertical. It's all high rise and Rangel says in spite of the changing demographics, Harlem remains black in culture and in spirit and he'll tell you he's been working hard to embrace the Latinos and the white newcomers who share his politics. Wolf?
BLITZER: Soledad O'Brien, thanks very much the first in a series that's going to be airing right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Appreciate it very, very much.
O'BRIEN: You bet.
BLITZER: That's all the time we have today. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. "JOHN KING USA" starts right now.